Travel with Children
The sights, sounds and colors of Mexico excite kids, and Mexicans love children, who are part and parcel of most aspects of life here. There are many child-friendly attractions and activities for kids of all ages, and with very few exceptions, children are welcomed at all accommodations and at almost any cafe or restaurant.
Best Regions for Kids
- Yucatán Peninsula
Cancún, the Riviera Maya and nearby islands are geared to giving vacationers fun. The area is full of great beaches offering every imaginable aquatic activity, hotels designed to make life easy and attractions from jungle zip-lines to swimming in cenotes (sinkholes). Other parts of the peninsula are great if your kids will enjoy exploring Maya ruins.
- Central Pacific Coast
The Pacific coast offers all conceivable types of fun in, on and under the ocean and lagoons. There's a vast range of places to base yourself, from sophisticated Puerto Vallarta to easygoing Zihuatanejo and countless smaller spots.
- Mexico City
The capital keeps kids happy with a world-class aquarium, a hands-on children’s museum, a first-rate zoo, dedicated kids entertainment and activities, and parks and plazas full of space and fun.
Mexico for Kids
Children may be less keen to experiment with exciting Mexican flavors than their parents are, but Mexico has plenty of places serving up familiar international fare. Italian restaurants are plentiful; foods such as eggs, steaks, bread, rice and cheese are available everywhere, and fresh fruit is abundant. Simpler Mexican snacks such as quesadillas, burritos and tacos, or steaming corn cobs straight from a street cart, are good options for introducing kids to local flavors. Restaurant staff are accustomed to children and can usually provide high chairs or an extra plate for dish-sharing, or prepare something that’s not on the menu, if requested.
Mexico has some excitingly different places to stay that will please most kids – anything beachside is a good start, and rustic cabañas (cabins) provide a sense of adventure (but choose one with good mosquito nets!). Many hotels have a rambling layout and open-air space – courtyards, pool areas, gardens. Beach hotels countrywide are geared to families.
Family rooms and accommodations with kitchens are widely available, and most hotels will put an extra bed or two in a room at little extra charge. Baby cots may not be available in budget accommodations. Most accommodations have wi-fi access, and in the midrange and top end there will often be child-friendly channels on the TV.
Try to do your traveling in smallish chunks of a few hours, maximum. Many Mexican buses show nonstop movies (in Spanish), most of which are family-friendly and can help distract kids from a dull trip. If you’re traveling with a baby or toddler, consider investing in deluxe buses for the extra space and comfort.
Car rental and, on some routes, flying are alternatives to buses. If you want a car with a child safety seat, the major international rental firms are the most reliable providers.
In northern Mexico most kids love riding the 'Chepe' railway (Ferrocarril Chihuahua Pacífico or Copper Canyon Railway).
Health & Safety
Children are more easily affected than adults by heat, disrupted sleep patterns, changes in altitude and foreign food. Take care that they don’t drink tap water, be careful to avoid sunburn, cover them up against insect bites and ensure you replace fluids if a child gets diarrhea.
Don’t hesitate to go to a doctor if you think it may be necessary. In general, privately run hospitals and clinics in Mexico offer better facilities and care than public ones. Adequate travel insurance will cover the cost of private medical care.
On & in the Water
- Learn to surf Kids as young as five can take classes at many spots with gentler waves along the Pacific coast, including Mazatlán, Sayulita, Ixtapa, Puerto Escondido and San Agustinillo.
- Spot turtles, dolphins and whales Boat trips head out from many places along the Pacific coast and in Baja.
- Snorkel tropical seas Many beaches on the Caribbean coast and islands, and some on the Pacific, provide calm waters and colorful marine life for beginners.
- Ride a gondola Cruise ancient Aztec canals at Xochimilco, Mexico City.
- Uyo Ochel Maya Float down centuries-old, Maya-built canals through mangrove swamps filled with flowers and tropical fish.
- Parque de Aventura Barrancas del Cobre Kids adore the Copper Canyon Adventure Park with its spine-tingling seven zip-lines carrying you halfway to the canyon floor from its lip at 2400m. There’s rappelling, climbing and a cable car, too.
- Selvática Award-winning zip-line circuit through the jungle near Puerto Morelos, with its own cenote for swimming.
- Boca del Puma Zip-lining, horseback riding and a cenote to dip into, near Puerto Morelos.
- Cobá This jungle-surrounded ancient Maya site near Tulum has pyramids, a zip-line and bicycles for pedaling around the network of trails.
- Cuajimoloyas Horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking and a spectacular 1km zip-line in the mountains near Oaxaca.
- Huana Coa Canopy Popular series of zip-lines in the forested hills near Mazatlán.
- Teleférico de Orizaba Ride Mexico's second-highest cable car to a mountain-top playground.
- Acuario Inbursa This world-class mega-aquarium in Mexico City wows kids with manta rays, piranhas and crocodiles, while the Soumaya and Jumex museums just across the road will entertain the parents.
- Baja whale-watching See massive gray whales and their calves off the coasts of Baja California – usually requires several hours in a boat, so best for older kids.
- Zoomat The zoo at Tuxtla Gutiérrez has 180 species, all from the state of Chiapas, including several types of big cat.
- Playa Escobilla See thousands of turtles crawl out of the ocean in a single night to lay eggs on this Oaxaca beach.
- Crococun Interactive zoo in Puerto Morelos with crocodiles and wild monkeys.
- Museo Nacional de Antropología The carvings, statues and skulls inside Mexico's best museum are a huge hit with kids.
- Papalote Museo del Niño There are two of these fun, hands-on, children’s museums – one in Mexico City, one in Cuernavaca. Good for kids up to about 11.
- Museo Interactivo de Xalapa Themed rooms on science, ecology and art, and an IMAX cinema.
- La Esquina: Museo del Juguete Popular Mexicano Stunning museum in San Miguel de Allende where kids can see what toys were like before the digital revolution!
- Museo de Historia Natural Small museum in Morelia directed at children has everything from fossils (including a mammoth's tusk) and dissected animals to a cactus garden.
- Voladores This indigenous Totonac rite involves men (fliers) climbing up a 30m-high pole then casting themselves off backward, attached only by ropes. Performed regularly at El Tajín and at Mexico City's Museo Nacional de Antropología.
- Pirate Show Campeche recalls its pirate-battered past with Disney-esque spectaculars in an old city gate.
- Folk dance Highly colorful, entertaining shows are given regularly by the Ballet Folklórico de México in Mexico City and Guelaguetza groups in Oaxaca, and at Mérida's Plaza Grande.
- Bear in mind that few kids like traveling all the time. They’re usually happier if they can settle into a place for a while, make friends and do some of the things they like doing back home.
- See a doctor about vaccinations at least one month – preferably two – before your trip.
- It’s a good idea to book accommodations for at least the first couple of nights.
- Diapers (nappies) and sunscreen are widely available, but you may not easily find wet wipes, other creams, baby foods or familiar medicines outside larger cities and tourist towns.
- For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
Documents for Under-18 Travelers
Carrying notarized written permission from a parent or guardian is required by Mexican law for Mexican minors (under-18s, including those with dual nationality) or foreign minors residing in Mexico, if departing from Mexico without a parent or legal guardian. There have been cases of other minors being asked to show consent forms, especially when leaving Mexico by land borders, even though the law does not require them to do so. The US embassy in Mexico therefore advises all minors traveling without both parents to carry notarized consent letters. Check with a Mexican consulate well in advance of travel on what needs to be done.
Need to Know
- Babysitting Child-minding services are easily arranged by most resorts and numerous hotels.
- Transport Under-13s travel half-price on many long-distance buses, and if they’re small enough to sit on your lap, they usually go for free.