Mexico: Beyond the Big Resorts
August 2018 | By Christina Newberry | 3 minute read
With spectacular beaches, incredible food, and great travel deals, Mexico is a favorite destination for families. The big resort cities of Cancun and Puerto Vallarta have plenty to recommend them, but head just a few kilometers out of town and you’ll find smaller communities with a completely different feel.
Instead of Cancun, try…
If Cancun has a Las Vegas feel, Tulum is more like southern California. The laid-back vibe here calls you to rent a cruiser bike and roll slowly along Boca Paila Road, stopping to shop in boho boutiques and sip inventive cocktails in roadside gardens under strings of Edison bulbs.
Explore the stunning seaside Tulum ruins first thing in the morning, before the tour busses arrive, or head into the jungle to climb 120 steps to the top of a Mayan pyramid at nearby Coba.
For a look at the area’s incredible biodiversity, head to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to spot manatees, turtles, monkeys, and flamingos – maybe even a jaguar.
Best known as a day-trip destination, Isla Mujeres is worth a longer look. The best way for families to explore the seven-kilometer-long island is by golf cart. Rent one near the ferry port and then putt-putt your way from glittering North Beach to the stunning seaside cliffs of the south end, stopping to snack and swim along the way.
Centro offers great souvenir shopping, a hopping town square, and a surprising array of top-notch restaurants, while the colonias in the middle of the island offer a glimpse into real Mexican life, and some of the best tacos and fresh-caught grilled fish you could hope to get your taste buds on.
Instead of Puerto Vallarta, try…
If you’re looking for a luxury family vacation, this is it. This private, gated peninsula is a favorite vacation spot for celebs, and with good reason – surrounded on three sides by stunning beaches, the peninsula features 15 kilometers of unspoiled coastline and guaranteed privacy.
When you crave a more local feeling, Punta Mita offers easy access to both Sayulita, a hippie-chic town where surfers mingle with local Mexican families and bohemian artists, and Bucerias, a cobblestone-streeted fishing town that’s a popular home base for Canadian expats and snowbirds.
Rincon de Guayabitos
A world away from Punta Mita’s high-end luxury, Rincon de Guayabitos offers cheap and cheerful family fun. The sheltered bay here provides warm, calm waters that are great for kids just learning to swim. The beach is popular with local Mexican families, and you can experience a full range of local foods without leaving the sand, as vendors offer barbecued shrimp, fried bananas, or sliced fruit topped with chili powder, along with the requisite fresh coconuts sliced open on the spot. The town itself is quiet and peaceful, with plenty of local restaurants, markets, and shops to explore.
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