I kind of regret accepting this assignment. How am I meant to boil down Yucatán’s incredible beauty and fun into five of anything? It’s just too hard. I’ve been roaming across this state for five years and I’m neither bored nor done with my exploring. The only answer is to take a few liberties in my interpretation of “five.” It’s the only way. You have been warned.
1. Best cenote
El Corchito, just outside Progreso, gets my vote for the best child-friendly cenote experience. Not only do you begin with a small boat ride, which the kids love, but the three cenotes are entirely outdoors and feel very safe for first-timers. If your kids are bigger and you’re looking for more adventure, then Santa Bárbara near Homún offers a wonderful three-cenote option (with lifeguards on-site). Cenote Sac-Aua, near Valladolid, is my wild cenote pick. Hire a kayak and paddle around this beauty of a cenote, the only one on the peninsula with a natural island in the middle, apparently.
2. Best beach
I think Sisal steals my heart as the best beach in Yucatán. My kids love spending a lazy weekend in this small and beautiful pueblo. The beach never feels crowded, the water is generally clear, calm, and shallow, and the sunsets are astounding. Rent a palapa, take your hammock, and a picnic (or order from one of the beach restaurants), and settle in.
If you prefer utter silence and solitude on your beach days, Chuburná Puerto in winter will work for you. And if you’re more into activities, beach snacks, and souvenirs, head straight for Progreso.
3. Best park
“But what are you looking for?” I whine. “Do you want activities and snacks, an eco-park, what do you waannnnnt?” My kids most often ask to go to Las Americas, Mérida’s most famous park. We go for evening fun, Marquesitas, and people-watching. If we’re picking a park for a nature walk then we choose Parque Arqueoecológico de Xoclán in Mérida. Here we can march through the forest, stumble over the remains of a pyramid, and marvel at nature, all without leaving Mérida.
4. Best archaeological site
Mayapán. Just forty minutes from Mérida, near the small town of Telchaquillo, this site is rarely busy and makes for a great spot to spend an hour or two climbing, running, exploring, and playing. Climb the Temple of Kukulkán (yes, it shares a name with the main pyramid of Chichén Itzá) to soak up the views then seek out the carved faces by the Templo Redondo (Round Temple). Absolutely let the kids play because by playing they both learn and develop a joy of visiting historical sites, but if they’re old enough, a conversation about how this site was the last great city of the Maya in Yucatán and what that means is also worth considering.
5. Best active activity
If you’re an active family with bigger kids then kayaking in the pink lagoon at Xtampú from Sayachaltún, just outside Telchac Puerto, is one of the most fun things you can do in Yucatán. Rent kayaks for an hour, grab your paddles, and off you go! If you’re lucky you’ll see flamingos. If you’re more into caving and ziplines, head down to Tekax where the whole family will love exploring the caves at Gruta Sartenejas or Parque Ecoturístico Kaalmankal.
Editorial by Cassie Pearse
Freelance writer and blogger, born in the UK. Cassie has a BA from Oxford University and an MA from SOAS, University of London. She lives in Mérida and loves exploring Yucatán with her family.
Photography by Cassie Pearse, Yucatán Today, Claudia Améndola, and Violeta H. Cantarell for its use in Yucatán Today.
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