The Magic of Mexico for Families
I have just returned from a truly magical two-week adventure exploring the Riviera Maya and Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico with my husband and two boys aged 3.5yrs and 18 months. Mexico might not be the first place Europeans think of for a family holiday but for the more adventurous amongst you, looking for a little culture and most importantly, as we shiver through spring, good weather from December to May, then Mexico should certainly be on your shortlist.
For those who don’t know, the Riviera Maya is on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, with beautiful white sandy beaches and crystal clear sea. The coast forms part of the second largest barrier reef in the world and is renowned for its wildlife and amazing scuba diving. Inland, away from the luxury hotels and white sand, some of the most famous Mayan ruins can be found as well as a gateway into rural Mexico. Flights are direct from London to Cancun and take between eight to ten hours depending on the tail wind!
Before I get too carried away telling you about what an amazing holiday Mexico can offer, it comes with a small health warning that you need to know. The Riviera has, for good reason, become a very popular holiday destination with Americans given its proximity to The States and, with that, hotels and resorts have sprung up to cope with demand. It pays to know where the gems lie and the selection below are the favourites we discovered which individually, or better still, combined, will make for an unforgettable holiday.
This 50-acre private estate was originally built for an Italian duchess and later became a charming boutique hotel, on the most beautiful beach on the Riviera Maya between Tulum and Playa del Carmen. Twenty nine suites and two pool villas are dotted around tropical gardens where the resident iguanas roam the winding paths that lead up to the Main House overlooking Xpu-Ha Bay. Not a resort in sight, Esencia is a coastal paradise. The hotel oozes sophistication without being pretentious. It works well for couples and honeymooners but families are welcome with open arms. There is no kids’ club, however the delightful babysitters couldn’t be happier to look after your children, giving parents some time to themselves during the day or evening. The poolside restaurant offers delicious and simple meals for children, and Michelin style cooking for adults. There are two swimming pools, one for families and the other for adults, giving all of its guests the space that they need. If a family wants a bit more privacy, the pool villas are a great option where all meals can be served directly in the villa yet villa guests can make use of all the hotel facilities, including the extensive spa, morning yoga sessions and afternoon tea served in the sitting room.
This luxury family friendly hotel, conveniently located only 15 minutes from Cancun airport, is the perfect place to start your holiday. Nizuc is very private and has been beautifully designed, the rooms are modern, spacious and have wonderful sea views. They are a short golf buggy ride from the reception area which is a spectacular building with panoramic coastal views, wonderful high ceilings and a true feeling of luxury. It has its own beach that cannot be accessed by guests outside of the hotel. The kids’ club offers all sorts of entertainment for the young from 4 to 12yrs old and the children’s pool is knee deep and perfect for splashing around. Babysitters are available at the kids’ club for under 4s. There are six restaurants serving exceptional cuisine, three bars, free activities each day including yoga and wine tasting, an extensive spa certified by ESPA, paddle boarding, snorkelling and tennis courts – the hotel has plenty on offer to keep both children and adults amused for at least some if not all of your holiday.
3. Ana y Jose
Located in the heart of Tulum town, a short walk away from cafes, shops and restaurants, this beach-front family friendly hotel has only 24 suites with garden or ocean views decorated in Mexican palapa style. The pool and restaurant are at the centre of the property and look onto the pristine beach in front of the hotel. Children are warmly welcome here but there is no kids’ club. Entertainment for children in Tulum consists of lots of beach and swimming pool time, a trip to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve for snorkelling and eco-tourism and Punta Laguna Nature Reserve to see monkeys and maybe a jaguar or puma if you are lucky! Ana y Jose is by far the most upmarket choice for a family hotel in Tulum. The sister hotel, Coral, which opened recently, also takes kids but you won’t find cots or high chairs very easily.
4. Hacienda San Jose Cholul
Travelling three hours from the coast you arrive at Hacienda San Jose, 20 minutes from Merida and on the outskirts of the very attractive historical town Izamal. The journey from Cancun takes you via, should you wish, the spectacular Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, well worth a visit if you get there early before the tour buses arrive. For the more adventurous family, there is also the option of swimming in the underground sink holes, known as cenotes – the perfect place to cool off and experience something truly unique.
Hacienda San Jose is a truly magical colonial hacienda offering a very different experience to the international hotels found along the coast, but certainly without any compromise to luxury. The Hacienda was privately owned until the mid 90s when it was bought by Starwood Hotels and transformed into a five-star hotel. The old colonial house, so wonderfully preserved, gives you the feeling of true Mexico. The buildings are linked by cobbled stone pathways, bougainvillea-clad archways and avenues of sky-high palm trees offering shade from the heat. We were welcomed by huge smiles and a refreshing glass of home-made lemonade. The staff loved the children and with the gardens to explore and a truly beautiful pool, they were never bored.
5. Rosewood Mayakoba
Back on the coast between Cancun and Playa del Carmen, the Mayakoba Estate houses three resorts all attracting a different type of clientele. Rosewood Mayakoba – the exclusive option at the top end, Fairmont Mayakoba – mid-range and Banyan Tree – a luxury option with Asian influences. A fourth is currently being built, The Hyatt Andaz, projected to open sometime in 2015. All the resorts are surrounded by jungle and beautiful beach and linked by fresh water lagoons and estuaries leading out to sea.
If you are looking for an all-singing and all-dancing family resort to make your holiday completely carefree, enjoyable and relaxing, Rosewood Mayakoba might fit the bill. Not only is it utterly luxurious with 130 massive suites spread around the 1600 acre estate, private plunge pools, some of the finest dining options in the region, exquisite beach and tip-top service, it also caters for every parents’ needs. The resort includes adjoining suites, Erbaviva baby skincare products, wireless baby monitors, baby baths, cots, non-slip mats, bottle warmers and even children’s spa treatments! Furthermore, the Rosebud programme offers a wide range of activities for the youngsters including yoga, eco tours, scavenger hunts, cooking classes, themed nights and Spanish lessons amongst other things.