We just returned from an early February family getaway in Mexico that took us about 1 ½ hours south of Cancun to the idyllic towns of Tulum and Akumal. While there are many advantages to a resort vacation when you have children, we opted for a more independent option, renting a condo from friends along the southern end of the Yucatan Peninsula, more commonly-dubbed the Mayan Riviera. For families, the flexibility of a rental can be incredibly appealing…in our case we got the benefit of a stylish two bedroom, two bathroom space with its own rooftop garden complete with hot tub, private loungers and an outdoor dining area – for a fraction of the cost of an all inclusive resort stay.
Renting a car is quite easy and relatively inexpensive in Mexico. Immediately outside the Cancun Airport departure area you’ll find a number of well-known options, including Budget, Hertz and Dollar. For the past 3 years we have rented from Dollar, choosing an affordable, comfortable, air-conditioned Nissan Sentra (with unlimited mileage), that easily fit our family of four (complete with 2 car seats and luggage!).
The trip down highway 307 is an easy, straight shot drive that takes you through Playa del Carmen and directly down to the beautiful beaches of Akumal and Tulum.
Along the way, we always stock up at one of the modern supermarket options located by the highway in either Playa del Carmen, Puerto Aventuras, or Tulum. The Chedraui chain is a shopping experience just like home – and, even better, the majority of produce is fresh and local (avocados ripe and ready for homemade guacamole!!).
Most of our week was spent waking up to a lazy breakfast in our condo before hopping in the car and heading to the Tulum beach. Once there, the options are numerous, from basic public beach access, to the slightly more luxurious option of hanging out at one of the casual beach clubs or restaurants that allow all-day use of beach loungers, palapa huts and the endless stretch of white sand and glorious ocean surf that makes Tulum the crown jewel of the Yucatan peninsula.
For our two boys (6 and 4), the joy of playing in the sand and running through the water at the Ana y Jose Beach Club kept them (and us) occupied for hours on end.
Of course, it is nice to break up the vacation with some other activities, and a must-stop on our family trip agenda was Xel-Ha, a natural aquarium activity park just north of Tulum with abundant snorkeling, tubing, ziplining, and other activities.
Although on the slightly more expensive side, it gave us a day of fun-filled activity and a taste of the all-inclusive experience with its unlimited dining (and drinking!) options.
Other diversions down around this area include a visit to the Mayan Ruins at Tulum (with its breathtaking oceanfront vistas, it’s no wonder the Mayans settled here!).
Photo Source: www.travelhouseuk.co.uk
As well as more adventurous excursions exploring some of the local cenotes – natural water-filled, limestone sinkholes perfect for a refreshing swim or snorkel.
While we love the independence of organizing our own activities and staying in a private residence, there are also many fantastic accommodation options for those who prefer a more traditional vacation experience. Along the stretch of beach in Tulum are a number of small, simple bungalow and boutique hotel options. While Ana y Jose is a favourite of many (thus why the price has increased quite a bit over the years), there are other more affordable options like the Hotel Playa Azul (loved the breezy, beachy family vibe here) and Casa Violeta bungalows. And, of course, Tulum is already very well-known for its ‘eco-chic’ and yoga retreat properties like the amansala resort and mayatulum resort.
If your perfect family vacation is an easy breezy, let-someone-else-take-care-of-the-details approach, then you can always opt for one of the family friendly all-inclusives along the Mayan Riviera like the three AZUL resorts by Karisma that cater to families with kids, offering specialty suites, family activities & amenities, kids clubs and parent support services. Another unique benefit of the Karisma resorts is their focus on Gourmet Inclusive® which involves a high quality a la carte dining approach that is an appealing alternative to the typical low-grade all-inclusive buffet eating experience.
Whatever your cup of tea, when planning a vacation with kids to a sun destination, Tulum and the Mayan Riviera should be at the top of your consideration list. We’ve been home for less than a week and Oliver and Simon have already asked twice how long it is before our next trip to Mexico.
If you love a good family getaway, but cringe at the thought of all the luggage, then the Guava Family Inflatable GoCrib may become your next best friend! Aside from the nice design and compact look, this portable crib sets up quickly and packs easily, which means you can take it just about anywhere.
It’s easy to use, with a dual action pump that inflates in seconds and a rounded structure that’s both soft and super lightweight – only 7lbs versus the Pack’n Play which weighs over 20lbs. Comfy too, with a cushioned foam mattress pad for support. But best of all it’s super portable. Stuff it into a backpack like a sleeping bag and you’re ready for the next big adventure (even if it is only to Grandma’s house!)