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Family Mexico: A self-drive adventure

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Our family holiday to Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula is jam packed with fun things to do and exciting, educational opportunities to boot. It’s a perfect destination for families, with plenty of sunshine, sandy beaches and jungle ruins. Hotels have facilities and attractions for family members of all ages. Exploring by self drive hire car is not only economical; it gives you the freedom to travel at your own pace, stopping wherever your family would like a better look, but with the security of a pre-planned itinerary and accommodation booked. 

The Yucatán peninsula offers you sunny Caribbean beaches on the Mayan Riviera offering both water sports and the ruined pyramids and temples of the Maya shrouded in jungle. Following a direct flight from the UK you collect your hire car and set off on good, well-signed roads to explore - distances between attractions are relatively short, there are service stations to fill up your car and a huge range of eateries to fuel yourselves on.

From Cancún airport you set off in your car to discover the peninsula. There, you’ll find vestiges of the once supreme Mayan civilisation. Sites replete with temples and pyramids festooned with sacred carvings were, once abandoned, swallowed up by a rapacious jungle but are now gradually being revealed. There’re all rather Indiana Jones. You’ll visit the best known sites, Chichén Itzá and Uxmal, both easily accessible; your guides will explain the history while the children climb the pyramids. 

You’ll also be based at the friendly Spanish colonial town of Mérida, a friendly place with street markets, restaurants of all types and lively entertainment. You will drive up to the Gulf coast for your beachtime, at laid-back but up and coming Holbox. 

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Cancún. Collect hire car and drive to your hotel not far from the centre of town.

Day 2

Drive to Chichén Itzá, Mayan archaeological site.

Day 3

Explore Chichén Itzá.

Day 4

Drive to Mérida, lively colonial and Mayan city..

Day 5

Guided tour to sisal hacienda Sotuta de Peón.

Day 6

Guided explorations of Mayan site Uxmal.

Day 7

Drive to Chiquila and Holbox island.

Day 8

Relax on Holbox island; optional swimming with whale sharks.

Day 9

Day at leisure on Holbox.

Day 10

More time on the beach on Holbox.

Day 11

Drive to Cancún airport for international flight home.

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What our experts say

A visit to the leggy flamingos of Celestún, spotting tropical fish whilst snorkelling on the Riviera Maya, ogling at the sheer brilliance of an underwater sculpture gallery and visits to many a Mayan site make this holiday perfect for the whole family. With direct flights to Cancún, and no journey more than a couple of hours by road and full to the brim with exciting activities, excellent accommodation and first class excursions so all you need to worry about is making some incredible family memories.

Hannah

Hannah Waterhouse

Travel Consultants

Places visited on this holiday

Family Mexico: A self-drive adventure

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Caribbean coast: Riviera Maya and Holbox
Tulum

On Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, the Caribbean Mayan Riviera refers to the stretch of uninterrupted pale golden sands running south from the purpose-built resort of Cancún to Tulum, home to the celebrated cliff-top Mayan ruins. The coastline is followed by a close-to-shore barrier reef rich in undersea marine life; offshore are leisure-destination islands such as Isla Mujeres and Cozumel. Small resorts and former fishing villages cater for visitors, notably the family-friendly Playa del Carmen. There is plenty to see and do on the Riviera Maya, including outdoor activities, marine parks and diving opportunities. Within easy reach are several ruined Mayan cities buried away inland in rainforest, including the grand pyramids of Cobá.

Isla Holbox is only about 75km from Cancún, but worlds away from the glitz of that burgeoning resort. If even super-chic Tulum is a bit too trendy for your liking you can head for Isla Holbox, a low flat new-agey island separated from the Mexican mainland on the tip of the Yucatan peninsula by a shallow azure lagoon which attracts migrating flamingos. With virtually no vehicles permitted on the island, the streets in the lazy village are made of sand, and you get around in golf buggies. There’s a virtually uninterrupted stretch of powder white beach on which to sunbathe, but there is scope for other activities: whale-shark viewing is some of the best in the world (Jun-Sep) and the island is popular for kite-surfing.  Because it has not been readily accessible, the island’s tourist infrastructure is in its infancy but new establishments are creating possibilities for yoga retreats and spas. The island is a good choice for everyone from romantic couples to families.  

When to go

It’s hot and fairly humid all year round, with a risk of tropical storms and hurricanes Sep-Nov.

Language

Spanish

Getting local currency

Mexican peso. Notes can be withdrawn from the ATMs in Cancún, Playa using a UK credit or debit card. You may have ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK, and amounts are limited to about £100. There are also banks and money exchanges (casas de cambio) here, and money exchanges in Tulum. Holbox has just one ATM, best not to rely on that.

Time difference

GMT -6 hours.  

Combines with

A visit to almost anywhere else in Mexico: the domestic flight network is comprehensive and roads are good.  Mexico City is less than 2hrs’ flying time away. Havana, Cuba, is also just 2hrs away from Cancún by air.

Getting there

There are direct flights from London to Cancún (10.5 hours) and routes via hubs in Europe and the USA. Holbox is a 2-2.5hr drive from Cancún to Chiquila followed by a 20 minute ferry ride. It's just 1-1.5hrs by the new toll motorway 305 from Playa del Carmen to Chiquila (1.5-2hrs from Tulum). 

Key events

Riviera Maya Jazz Festival: Mamitas beach, Playa del Carmen, late Nov annually.

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Yucatan Peninsula
El Castillo, Chichen Itza

The states of Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo form the huge wedge of low-lying, forest-covered territory of Mexico’s south-east. It is here that vestiges of the Mayan civilisation loom out of the undergrowth at every turn. Sites replete with temples and pyramids festooned with sacred carvings were, once abandoned, swallowed up by a rapacious jungle but are now gradually being revealed. The best known sites, Chichén Itzá, Uxmal, Tulum are easily accessible and have been spruced up for visitors. There are lesser-known sites rising from an untouched natural setting including Edzná, a huge ceremonial centre featuring the 30m high Temple of the Five Storeys, and Calakmul, the biggest archaeological area in Mesoamerica with 7,000 buildings in the central zone. 

There are some pretty Spanish colonial towns too, the arched colonnades of Izamal and Mérida, a  bustling  place where colonial churches and mansions cram the grid of streets;  plazas host markets and impromptu musical and  theatrical performances. 

The Riviera Maya spans the peninsula’s soft-sand Caribbean coast with its resort hotels and fishing villages, while the coastal mangrove-draped marshes at Sian Ka’an host a biosphere reserve heaving with wildlife.


When to go

It’s hot and fairly humid all year round, with a risk of tropical storms and hurricanes Aug-Nov.

Language

Spanish

Currency

Mexican peso. Notes can be withdrawn from the ATMs in major towns throughout the peninsula using a UK credit or debit card. You may have to authorise with your bank before you leave homefirst, and withdrawals are limited to about £100. There are also banks and money exchanges (casas de cambio) here.

Time difference

GMT -6 hrs.

Combines with

A visit to almost anywhere else in Mexico: the domestic flight network is comprehensive and roads are good.  Mexico City is less than 2 hrs’ flying time away. Havana, Cuba, is also just 2 hrs away from Cancún

Key events

Carnival, many places on the peninsula, Feb-Mar annually, preceding Ash Wednesday and Lent. In Cozumel and Cancún the holiday has a festive atmosphere, with processions, street parties and parades.
International Gay festival, Cancún, May. A 5-day celebration with eating, drinking, mariachi music and beach parties.
Festival de las Aves de Yucatán, Mérida, Nov, annually. Bird-watching sessions, workshops, and exhibits. 
Riviera Maya Jazz Festival: Mamitas beach, Playa del Carmen, late Nov annually.

Getting there

There are direct flights from London to Cancún (10.5 hrs) and routes to Cancún and Mérida via hubs in Europe and the USA.

Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today.

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Family Mexico: A self-drive adventure

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