The beaches and jungles of southern Mexico beckon on this adventurous, two-week family vacation. Start in Chiapas with the kids in tow to explore lost Maya cities, paddle across jungle lagoons, and join in the crafts and rituals of the native Lacandon people. Then it's on to the Yucatán Peninsula to cool off in turquoise swimming holes and tour colorful colonial cities before ending your trip on the white sands of Holbox Island.

Highlights

  • Explore the spectacular Maya ruins of Palenque, Uxbal & Chichén Itza
  • Let the kids learn to make their own traditional arrows & rainsticks 
  • Dive into the secret cenotes (swimming holes) of the Yucatán Peninsula
  • Take a delicious tour through the history of chocolate in Mexico
  • Build sandcastles on the white sand beaches of Holbox Island

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Villahermosa, Transfer to Palenque Palenque
Day 2 Discover Ancient Palenque, Visit the Roberto Barrios Waterfalls Palenque
Day 3 Transfer to Nahá, Lagoons of the Lacandon Jungle & Fire Ceremony Nahá
Day 4 Nature Excursion & Arrow Workshop in Nahá, Transfer to Palenque Palenque
Day 5 Transfer to Campeche via Cenote Azul Campeche
Day 6 Campeche: A Fortress City Walking Tour Campeche
Day 7 Transfer to Uxmal, Eco-Tour Immersion & Jícara Engraving Workshop Uxmal
Day 8 Explore Uxmal, Visit the Choco-Story Museum, Transfer to Merida Merida
Day 9 Free Day in Merida Merida
Day 10 Transfer to Chichén Itzá via Izamal & Yokdzonot Chichen Itza
Day 11 Visit the Maya Wonder of Chichén Itzá, Transfer to Holbox Island Holbox
Days 12 & 13 Relax on Holbox Island Holbox
Day 14 Ferry to Chiquilá, Transfer to Cancun & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Villahermosa, Transfer to Palenque

The ruins of ancient Palenque
Palenque is best known for its lush jungles and Maya ruins

Welcome to Mexico! Upon arrival at Villahermosa Airport, your private transfer will take you to your accommodation in Palenque—home to the ruins of a spectacular pre-Hispanic Maya city.

Day 2: Discover Ancient Palenque, Visit the Roberto Barrios Waterfalls

Cool down with a visit to the Roberto Barrios Waterfalls
Explore the lesser-known archaeological site of Palenque today, where you can see how quickly the jungle can re-absorb an entire city. Once a center of civilization until the 7th century, the now-abandoned Palenque was taken over by the forest until its recent rediscovery. These days, the ruins are one of Mexico's most interesting Maya sites, with plenty of artifacts that shed insight into its people's myths, rituals, beliefs, and lives. Children and adults alike will be fascinated by the stories and mysteries shared by your guide as they lead you through this jungle fortress's highlights and hidden corners.

Afterward, you'll head an hour outside the town of Palenque for a relaxing adventure at the Roberto Barrios Waterfalls. The falls are famed for their beautiful turquoise waters, which cast a refreshing spray into the surrounding air (perfect for cooling off!) Look around when you reach the falls—you might be able to spot fish in the clear water, monkeys in the trees, or even toucans, parrots, or motmots (clock birds) in the canopy above you. Spend a couple of hours enjoying the scenery, going for a refreshing swim, and relaxing by the water before heading back to town.

Day 3: Transfer to Nahá, Lagoons of the Lacandon Jungle & Fire Ceremony

Look out over the lagoons of Metzabok
Look out over the lagoons of Metzabok

Your driver will meet you this morning for the transfer to Nahá, located deep in the Lacandon jungle. The four-hour journey will take you down dirt roads and through amazing rainforest landscapes, stopping en route for a visit to the lagoon system of Metzabok. Considered a natural wonder and included in UNESCO's World Network of Biosphere Reserves, Metzabok extends along the banks of southern Chiapas with 8,322 acres (3,368 hectares) of rainforest ecosystem—home to flora, fauna, bodies of water, and spectacular scenery.

This vast territory has been carefully guarded for hundreds of years by the Lacandon Maya, who preserve and protect its beauty as it thrives as an eco-tourism destination. Explore its wonders with a boat trip to one of the lagoons, where you can discover trails leading to Maya ruins, cave paintings, and even human remains from hundreds of years ago.

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Upon arrival in Nahá, the whole family can participate in one of the ancestral rituals of the Hach Winik (Lacandon Maya in the native language) culture. Don Antonio Chankin, one of the settlement's oldest men, will guide you through this experience. With a blend of Mayan chanting, clay censers, and burning copal and xate palm, he'll give thanks, present offerings, and ask for protection from Hach Akium (one of the Maya Lacandon gods). All of this will happen in his K'unah temple and will end with the presentation of a protection token for you and your loved ones.

Day 4: Nature Excursion & Arrow Workshop in Nahá, Transfer to Palenque

Spot fish and other aquatic species as you cross Lake Nahá
Spot fish and turtles as you cross Lake Nahá

Head deep into the jungle today as a Lacandon guide accompanies you on a 2.5-hour tour through the remarkable Nahá Reserve. Listen as they share their knowledge of the different species of local flora and fauna, and board a boat to navigate across the tranquil waters of Lake Nahá. Disembark for a short jungle trek near the shore, where, with some luck, kids will be able to spot a variety of local wildlife, including turtles and crocodiles. 

Afterward, take part in a fun, hands-on workshop that offers insight into the history and culture of the Lacandon people. During the hour-long experience, all ages can learn how to turn a dry cane into a light and balanced arrow while discovering how the Lacandon Maya used handmade bows and arrows to hunt and feed their families. After feathering the top and adding a tip made with different stones, it's time to test your creation with some archery lessons! In the afternoon, your private driver will be waiting to pick you up for the journey back to Palenque. 

Day 5: Transfer to Campeche via Cenote Azul

One of the Yucatán Peninsula's many spectacular cenotes
Take a dip in one of the Yucatán Peninsula's many spectacular cenotes 

Your driver will pick you up this morning for a transfer to the walled city of Campeche. On the way, you'll stop for a visit to one of the most famous natural attractions of the Yucatán Peninsula. Cenotes, baptized by the Maya as dz'onot or "water caverns," are formed by the erosion of the region's limestone, creating countless swimming holes and sinkholes that dot the landscape.

You will have plenty of free time to enjoy these natural wonders, diving into the stunning Cenote Azul or walking a trail that leads to two other scenic cenotes surrounded by beautiful flora and fauna. If you're feeling adventurous, you can enjoy a variety of family-friendly activities, such as kayaking or admiring the view from a zip line located 278 feet (85 m) above. At the end of your visit, your driver will continue to the coastal city of Campeche, where you will spend the night.

Day 6: Campeche: A Fortress City Walking Tour

Explore Campeche's historic cobbled streets 
Today, you will join your guide for a walking tour through Campeche's storied past. More than 2,624 feet (800 m) remain of the fortifications built to protect the city from various pirate attacks. La Puerta de Tierra, the reconstructed Puerta de Mar, seven of the eight bastions, three batteries, and the two forts are just some of today's highlights. Along the way, you'll pass through Pirate's Alley, the formerly fortified entrances to the city, and the main square (el zocalo—the animated center typical of most Mexican cities).

Day 7: Transfer to Uxmal, Eco-Tour Immersion & Jícara Engraving Workshop

Learn to carve jícara & "palo de lluvia" (rainsticks) on today's family-oriented excursion 

Your private driver will take you north toward the pre-Maya city of Uxmal. Upon arrival, meet your guide in the nearby community of Muná for a family-friendly hike through the jungle and a visit to a scenic lookout point. This community project combines nature conservation and traditional Maya culture for a memorable and authentic experience. At the trail's end, you'll find the grotto of the Maya aluxes. According to Maya mythology, these beings inhabit the jungle, coming to life at night to take care of its owner's property, the animals, and the jungle itself. The guides will also share stories about the legend of Xtabay and the meaning of Xibalba, the underworld.

Afterward, spend some time visiting a local community renowned for its conservation of nature and traditional Maya cultural artwork. The locals will invite you to participate in a workshop on engraving jícara—a fruit grown in the Yucatán Peninsula and used to store food or water for thousands of years. You'll also see a local craft workshop and an ecological museum. This activity can easily be adapted for children, who can make a craft called palo de lluvia, a musical instrument used in rain ceremonies.

Day 8: Explore Uxmal, Visit the Choco-Story Museum, Transfer to Merida

Marvel at the intricate stepped pyramids of Uxmal
Marvel at the intricate stepped pyramids of Uxmal

Start today at the archaeological site of Uxmal, where your guide will tell you a little more about this impressive landmark. Meaning "thrice built" in Mayan, the name refers to the site's crowning glory: the Pyramid of the Magician. Built atop the existing pyramids, legend has it that this monumental structure was constructed in a single night. Yet, this is unlikely as it consists of several structures from different eras! This city stands out for its grand architecture and decorative art in the Puuc style, with low, horizontal palaces built around patios. The detail and quality of indigenous art is incredible.

Then it's on to Uxmal's Choco-Story Museum to learn about a fundamental ingredient of Mexico's history. This interactive, kid-friendly experience immerses you in the history of cacao, from its origins, distribution, and worldwide uses to its ancient Maya roots. The museum is divided into six different rooms, each representing an essential aspect of the history of cocoa. During your stay at the museum, you will be able to try a delicious chokoj ha drink, prepared traditionally, and take part in a Maya ceremony in honor of the god Chaac.

Besides the museum journey, you can also visit the botanical garden with cocoa trees and stop by the animal shelter, where native animals are rescued and rehabilitated. Children will also enjoy a visit to the meliponario (beehives) and the nearby playground.

Day 9: Free Day in Merida

Sunset over Merida's Plaza Grande
Sunset over Merida's Plaza Grande
Get to know Merida today as you explore the beautiful capital of Yucatán at your own pace. The main areas of interest are the Centro Histórico and Paseo Montejo. Here, you will find the traditional barrios (neighborhoods) and markets, grand homes, several museums, and historical monuments, which are ideal for exploring in the morning and afternoon. One of the most iconic places to visit is Paseo de Montejo. You'll find many hotels, cafés, and restaurants that line the streets here. Another great option is the old neighborhood of Santa Lucía—one of Centro Histórico's most popular areas, with a past that's full of history.

Day 10: Transfer to Chichén Itzá via Izamal & Yokdzonot

Stone path leading up to the entrance of the San Antonio Convent
A stone path leading up to the entrance of Itzamal's San Antoni de Padua convent

Meet your driver this morning for the journey east toward Chichén Itzá. Along the way, you'll stop to explore the colonial town of Izamal, known as the "City of Hills." Nearly all the buildings are painted an egg-yolk yellow, and cobblestone streets and colonial lamp posts complete the scenery. An important landmark is the Franciscan convent of San Antoni de Padua, which was built from (and over) one of the Maya pyramids. Be sure to make time for plenty of food stops: Izamal is renowned for its delicious Yucatecan cuisine.

Continue to Yokdzonot, where a group of women from the rural community has converted their village's beautiful cenote into a unique eco-tourism site. Cenotes were once the main water supply in the middle of the jungle and served a sacred function for the Maya. This quiet swimming hole is not as frequented by tourists, and its peaceful waters have the perfect temperature to feel refreshed from the heat. After enjoying a cooling swim, you and the family will sit down for a delicious lunch before returning to your accommodations in Chichén Itzá.

Day 11: Visit the Maya Wonder of Chichén Itzá, Transfer to Holbox Island

Chichen Itza's towering pyramid of Kukulcan
Chichén Itzá's towering pyramid of Kukulcan

Today you will meet your local guide to explore the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá, one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this indigenous city was once the most revered center of worship and pilgrimage in the Yucatán Peninsula. Its most iconic attraction is the stepped pyramid of Kukulkan (El Castillo), built in honor of the feathered serpent god. Children can let their imaginations run wild as they learn about the life of the Maya through their architecture, accompanied by your guide's fascinating stories.

Afterward, you'll journey north to the coast, where a ferry awaits to take you to the island paradise of Holbox—your base for the final three nights of your vacation.

Days 12 & 13: Relax on Holbox Island

Holbox Island's shallow, warm waters are perfect for families 

The following two days are free to spend however you like on the peaceful island of Holbox. Choose one of the many beautiful white sand beaches to soak up the sunshine, swim in turquoise waters, and recharge your batteries. As cars are not allowed on the island, you can rent a bicycle or golf cart to travel around and explore the less crowded areas. Other great options include walking around town, browsing the street art for souvenirs, or simply relaxing at one of the many cafés.

If you prefer to get out on the water, book a boat tour to Cabo Catoche for an afternoon of snorkeling and to enjoy the underwater world. Catch the sunset from Punta Coco, view the starry sky from the beach, or enjoy a show of bioluminescence in the waters.

Day 14: Ferry to Chiquilá, Transfer to Cancun & Depart

Sunset over Holbox Island

Enjoy a leisurely final morning on Holbox Island. At the scheduled time, you will take the ferry back to the port of Chiquilá, where your private driver will be waiting to take you to the Cancun International Airport. ¡Buen viaje!

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Map

Map of Family Trip to Chiapas & the Yucatán Peninsula - 14 Days
Map of Family Trip to Chiapas & the Yucatán Peninsula - 14 Days