family travel guide: tulum, playa del carmen, cozumel

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School starts so early these days for us (first week of August!) and we were already missing summer so we decided to pull our oldest kids (ages 8 and 5) out of school and take them on their first trip outside of the U.S and head to…Mexico! It was so hard to leave our baby Crosley but as the trip went on I realized it really was so much easier with the older kids than it would have been with the babe.

We booked our stay in Playa Del Carmen at the Mahekal Resort if you search for the resort on google they show you which website has the lowest price in the sidebar and I also recommend checking travel zoo and trevago etc to double check if you have the best deal! I fell in love with the Mahekal online with its thatched roofs and jungle feel of the hotel grounds and it really was even better in person! It was the perfect middle ground with kids because we wanted the authentic Tulum vibes that we got when we stayed at the “Be Tulum” a few years back but most of those spots in Tulum were adults only. So this still gave us lots of pools for the kids to chose from etc. without a super “touristy, mega-resort” feel. They provided breakfast and dinner everyday and it worked out perfectly because we actually really loved the food (I think it was honestly my kids favorite part of the trip haha) and it was the part I was honestly the most worried about!

DAY 1

We rented a car before we left through EuropeCar (we have used Sixt also and it was a little cheaper with the add on of insurance which we wanted and recommend in case anything happens to the car.) The insurance we bought through EuropeCar was another $200 dollars but we are so thankful we ended up buying it because they found dents and stuff when we returned that were covered with the insurance. We saw people thoroughly videoing the car up close also so that could be an option if you want also! 

Once we landed in Cancun we took a EuropeCar shuttle over to their rental location and got all settled with our car and drove about 45 mins from Cancun to the Mahekal in Playa Del Carmen. I couldn’t believe how amazing it was to get there and explore the hotel, get our hammocks all hung on our porch and Marleys favorite climbing Palm Tree was on the beach so she would climb up it and jump off. We ate our first dinner in Mexico at the hotel next to the pool overlooking the water and then headed to bed!

DAY 2:

We woke up, headed to  breakfast and then took off to explore Tulum! We headed to the city center first and bought a few things from the market: they have pretty hammocks and leather goods and got some cute handmade wool stuffed animals and little jumper for Crosley, a woven purse, a Mexican dress for marley, a carved wooden shark for lennix and a few other little trinkets. Then we drove a tiny bit further to the hotel strand along the beach and got some iced coffees at a cute little roadside shack called the matcha mama and the kids got gelato at an ice cream stand. We explored a few hotels in Tulum that Ive been dying to see also which i’ve pictured below:

  • Coco Tulum: This is a fun black and white swing bar where we got chips and salsa and drinks and played on the beach

  • Playa Playa Project: We did the jungle art walk after relaxing on the beach for a bit and found a little sign that said “be what you dream” where you write out your dream on a little piece of paper and attach them to the trees in the jungle. The kids wrote “ that they dream that everyone in the world be happy”. This place also has hundreds of cats that roam which the kids liked looking at from afar too!

  •  The Azulik: giant nets suspended over the jungle with pretty views and amazing wood stick ceilings, it has a restaurant also that looked amazing but this place was adults only so Bryan hung outside with the kids while explored a tiny. So beautiful, and definitely a must see.

  • Pablo Escabars Mansion: these curtains! And they usually have couches on these swings but they had to bring them in because it started raining!

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 Day 3:

We wanted to see different Mayan ruins than we saw on our last trip to Tulum, so we decided to head out to Chichen Itza. It was almost a two hour drive but we found some amazing cenotes on the way to break up the drive a bit. We took some bread and meat from our breakfast at the Mahekal and got to-go containers and made little lunches for a picnic along the way. Our first Cenote we stopped at was called Cenote Suytun. It was THE most beautiful underground cenote with crazy rock formations and this amazing light beam that shot through the dark cave and illuminated everything. The water felt super light and full of minerals. We brought snorkel stuff and there were a few tiny fish in there for the kids to swim around looking at. 

 We packed up and drove the rest of the way to Chichen Itza and explored the ruins, it was thunder storming and the skies were a little and moody so it was a very cool, almost eery experience to look up at these giant ruin formations. We were wishing we had done a tiny research before to make the experience a little more informative for the kiddos also so that could be my little tip on doing the ruins with kiddos! 

We headed out to our last Cenote of the day, a little more populated and touristy but still soo worth it. We stayed until closing and it cleared out a TON! This spot has you shower off before you enter to keep  the water more clean and then they have a jump spot if you want to jump off the high rock into the cenote, which our daughter Marley loved and our son, Lennix took a hard pass on haha. 

Day 4: 

We decided to take a little 25 min fast boat over to the island of Cozumel. We bought tickets from a local right next to the ticket booths on the pier because they get a local discount and sell them for a bit cheaper so for our family of four to island hop we spent about $30 bucks roundtrip. The boats leave about every 30 mins. Cozumel was BEAUTIFUL. The water is amazingly turquoise and clear and the snorkeling was stunning. We were wishing we could have spent a little more than a day there and maybe taken a snorkel cruise or something! We rented a car for $55 bucks for the day through a car rental company called ISIS (that name though ahahaha… but they were really nice and had great reviews) We drove the car along the coast near the hotels and stopped off at the San Franciscan which was really fun for the kids and had a big inflatable waterpark that’s free if you order drinks or food! The pier there was super pretty to jump off of and snorkel and the water was so beautiful! We headed down to Playa Palancar which was a beautiful beach with turquoise water and pretty stretches of beach. 

Day 5: 

We spent this last day just relaxing at the Mahekal and enjoying the pool and resort. We ordered drinks and played before heading home. We were sad to leave but so excited to see our baby! It was really cute to see how much the kids really missed him and talked about him 24/7. They really loved getting some time to hike and explore and be on the go without a babe though.