Every year, Mexican beach and resort towns such as Cancun, Cozumel and Los Cabos flood with tourists eager to soak up sunshine and relaxation. Meanwhile, several areas of interior Mexico and less-traveled coastal regions go relatively undiscovered by those tourist throngs, though they still have plenty to offer to intrepid family travelers seeking authentic cultural experiences, tasty cuisine and a great vacation value. Here, the most underrated Mexico family vacation destinations to add to your bucket list.
1. Mexico City
Mexico’s capital city has definitely been gaining traction among U.S. visitors for the past couple of years. Even so, Mexico City is a place that still might not be on your family radar. But it should be, given the eye-popping amount of activities you can choose — all of which are educationally enriching in addition to being just plain fun. For starters, the number of museums alone could easily eat up a sizable amount of your itinerary: the National Museum of Anthropology, the Museo Soumaya, several art museums (including Frida Kahlo’s house), and even an Antique Toy Museum. Take a day trip to Teotihuacan and wear your kids out climbing all the steps. If your kids like animals, head to Farm Tio Pepe to experience hands-on farm life, milking cows, riding horses and tending animals. KidZania, a next-level dress-up and pretend attraction, also gets rave reviews among parents. And if you’re sports fans — or maybe even if you’re not — take in a soccer (futbol) game to see what all the fuss is about.
Recommended Resort: The St. Regis Mexico City
The southern Mexico state of Oaxaca offers an excellent off-the-beaten path itinerary for families. Oaxaca’s city center offers plenty of attractions, as well — a simple stroll through the walkable city will yield plenty of interesting sites and questions from your kids, from the colorful mercado (with baskets of dried grasshoppers) to the brightly painted buildings. There’s a stunning library just for kids, Biblioteca Infantil. Day trip options include pre-Columbian site Monte Alban and Hierve el Agua, natural mineral springs with rock formations that resemble a waterfall frozen in time. And, fun fact, the town in which Disney’s “Coco” takes place was inspired by Oaxaca! If you’re looking for a beach vacation, check out Vivo Resorts and Residences in Puerto Escondido, offering a relaxing trip that you can also fill with educational and cultural experiences. The resort offers ocean and mountain views, plus a kids’ club with planned activities throughout the day. You can take day trips to surf or tour the lagoon or go whale watching. There are also turtle release programs offered, which guests are invited to observe right on the beach at the resort.
Recommended Resort: Vivo Resorts
3. Todos Santos
Todos Santos, located on the Baja California Peninsula, is generating a lot of buzz among travelers seeking a more laid-back, quiet alternative to rowdy, touristy Mexico coastal hot spots. This area is known for its surf spots such as Las Palmas and Cerritos beaches; just be careful with the ocean’s riptides. Check out Todos Santos Eco Adventures for excursions that will get you and your kids up close to whales and sea lions.
Genevieve Stolz, who writes the blog It’s a Necessity, currently lives in Todos Santos with her husband and two daughters. One of her favorite things to do with her kids is go on a “paleta tour” of town, sampling the best frozen treats on a stick. She recommends several kid-friendly restaurants in her blog. Stolz also recommends checking out some of the turtle release programs available for kids’ participation run by local conservation organizations.
Recommended Resort: Los Colibris Casitas
4. San Miguel de Allende
Located in central Mexico in the state of Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende attracts a lot of attention during its renowned Day of the Dead festival in early November. But it offers plenty for families who love art, music, food, history and culture year-round. “The city of San Miguel is charming and safe,” says Amy Sztupovszky, who is helping to plan the Family Adventure Summit in San Miguel de Allende in 2018. “You’ll walk through colorful streets full of flowering trees and unique architecture, often to the sound of mariachi bands playing while giant mojiganga (giant puppets) dance to the music.”
Families enjoy walking through the centro, nibbling on churros con chocolate, visiting the city’s iconic Pink Church, swimming in nearby hot springs or visiting the ruins at Canada de la Virgen. Be sure to check out Museo la Esquina, a toy museum that’s interesting enough to entice older kids, too.
Recommended Resort: Rosewood San Miguel de Allende
Called “Zihua” for short, this Pacific coastal resort town in the state of Guerrero, with views of the Sierra Madre Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, is tailor made for families, and just a bit more under-the-radar than nearby Ixtapa. Walk the boardwalk, Paseo de Pescador, to peruse the fresh catch of the day, go horseback riding, or spend your time finding just the right beachside restaurant. If you’re interested in staying in Ixtapa (which is still less “spring-breaky” than other Mexican coastal towns), one of the best family friendly all-inclusive resorts, Club Med Ixtapa Pacific, offers an onsite kids’ club and La Sirena, a kids-only restaurant. Families can play tennis, go sailing or practice archery, or even take a turn on the trapeze — lessons are offered daily, and babysitting service is available for date night. Other family friendly resort options include Azul Ixtapa and Barcelo Ixtapa Beach. Elsewhere in the region, you can book excursions to ride ATVs or swim with dolphins at the area’s aquarium, Delfiniti.
Recommended Resort: Club Med Ixtapa Pacific
6. Rincon de Guayabitos
A quaint fishing village in Nayarit, Rincon de Guayabitos offers a quieter alternative to nearby Puerto Vallarta. Its name translates to “corner of little guava trees,” and though it’s slowly coming on more travelers’ radars, the town’s charm and family-friendly atmosphere still endures. The beach is the main attraction, and you’ll find several options for resorts, hotels and rentals on or near the sand and surf. During the day, beach vendors may tempt you with coconut drinks, grilled fish or shrimp on a stick — freshly caught and prepared. The town has several mercados (markets) offering fresh produce and foods, as well as locally made handicrafts and clothing. One of the most popular activities in Guayabitos is the Tianguis open-air markets, which are held weekly during the winter, and feature hundreds of locally made items, including jewelry, linens, Oaxacan rugs and indigenous artwork. Visitors can also participate in the turtle releases during nesting season.
Recommended Resort: Las Cabanas del Capitan
7. Isla Holbox
This area looks like a clipped nail on the fingertip of the Yucatan Peninsula north of Cancun, and to get to it, you’ll take a ferry from the town of Chiquila. Tulum and other destinations in Yucatan are filling with tourists seeking Mayan historical sites, which you can see in the numerous ruins easily accessible throughout the area, as well as cenotes, natural pools that are refreshing and beautiful. But despite the trendy reputation of Tulum, Holbox offers a laidback family-friendly vibe. What to do once you get here — relax on the beach and look for iguanas. Rent a bicycle and explore the quaint town and its colorful murals. Book your family for a whale shark swimming excursion when they migrate to the area between May and November.
Recommended Resort: Hotel Puerto Holbox
More From Family Vacation Critic:
10 Cheap Mexico Family Vacations
10 Best All Inclusive Mexico Resorts with Water Parks