family vacations in tulum mexico?
December 23, 2007 2:30 PM   Subscribe

Family and extended family vacation in Tulum area of Mexico?

Apologies in advance, I tend to ramble a bit with questions.

We had the idea to go on a vacation with our little family (myself, wife, and ~2 year old daughter) and also invite some of the grandparents, siblings, and other kids along (specifically, 3 6 year olds). Probably around 7 adults and 4 kids total.

The idea being to go somewhere beachy with other options, let everyone do what they want, take advantage of free family baby sitters as needed. I've been weighing renting a house versus getting a large villa/cabana/suite in a hotel (and having any extra adults who don't fit spill over into other rooms in the hotel). Either option would really work fine.

I had thought the Tulum area of mexico might be nice -- we've got some people who don't want beach every day, and the ruins, nearby "eco theme parks" like xel-ha, etc seem like they might be good choices. Also seems to be a reasonable distance from an airport.

I've never been to Tulum myself, but it was highly recommended by friends. It also has the advantage of being an easy trip from Houston, TX, where a lot of the family is coming from.

Complicating factors:
-We've got kids, we've got a couple older adults who wouldn't appreciate anything even resembling "roughing it". Whereever we stay needs amenities (dependable electricity, etc). Is Tulum still too rough for these sorts?
-On the flip side, I'm really trying to avoid the spring break beer guzzlers and total tourist trap nature of cancun and the like.

I've looked through books and web sites, and 99% of the stuff seems to be centered around romantic honeymoon getaways(not us) or super rustic tents on the beach (also not us). Budget isn't the primary concern, but we're not looking to go bankrupt either.

I realize this is sort of a tall order, but I'd appreciate any advice people may have on where to stay. Or maybe if we should think about another part of the Cancun/Playa del Carmen/Quintana Roo region.
posted by malphigian to Travel & Transportation around Tulum, Mexico (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The problems you mention with Tulum -- "honeymoon getaways(not us) or super rustic tents on the beach (also not us)" -- are exactly its strengths. Cancun, along with Cabo on the other coast, are the younger, hipper, more active destinations. The more family-oriented and mature places are south (Acapulco) and especially west (Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan).

If I were you, with such a diverse group of people and a desire for the mix of beach/activities, I'd pick one of those all-inclusive places (PV would be the first choice, as it's least expensive). There are very very very inexpensive packages that include meals, pools and such, and they're aimed right at the family with kids market. They're almost always hotelitos on the beach, which gives you that option if you like, and they usually have daily optional jaunts into the jungle for a guided tour, to the pyramids, out shopping or such. They also have babysitting and lifeguards and such, and even things like daily yoga or crafts workshops for both kids and seniors. They definitely try to give you many many things-to-do options, rather like a cruise does.

It's a bit plastic, but you can choose your own level of contrivance -- you're not obligated to eat there, for example, (though of course, it's free and usually quite good) and the fact it's a semi-organized affair with a front desk and tour coordinators would let your subgroups wander off on their own in a controlled way.
posted by rokusan at 3:48 PM on December 23, 2007

They got hit by Hurricane Dean this year. I'm not sure how much damage they got, but if it was major, I would stay away, since the cleanup is not fun as a tourist. Lots of earthworks to fix the beaches, and lots of hotel renovations to use the insurance money. And a lot of the picturesque palm trees get knocked down.
posted by smackfu at 3:54 PM on December 23, 2007

You should aim to rent a villa. There are loads of these down in Playa del Carmen and further down the coast. Tulum is a bit fragmented. Lots of the places don't have electricity. Tulum will probably be too rough for your older folks.

The way we've done it in the past is to look to rent people's vacation homes. You're likely to end up with something pretty modern that's owned by Americans or Mexicans from Mexico City. They're usually in biggish developments with a communal pool and beach access. Not an isolated tropical paradise, but a supermarket nearby...

To take a different tack: There are plenty of luxury villas on the west coast (eg Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta) if you want something intimate - though these tend to be pretty far from hotels for the rest of the family. You'll get all your food cooked, your drinks served, your own pool and plenty of attention from your own staff. But not much to do in terms of ruins and culture.

I've not had good experiences with all-inclusives. They're pretty cheap but indistinguishable from an OK hotel in Miami.
posted by TrashyRambo at 5:29 PM on December 23, 2007

I would look at Playa del Carmen and immediate vicinity instead. I think all the beach hotels in Tulum (you don't want to stay in town) are on generators or alternative power*, and as such only have juice in the evening. has a ton of information on area hotels, condos, and villas. Getting to Xel-Ha, Sian Ka'an, and the other parks is pretty easy from PdC. There's also little day trips (for adults and older kids, I highly recommend the ATV tour) that are based out of Playa that are much harder to arrange from Tulum since the beach road is really kind of out in the boonies. Taxis are up and down Boca Paila 24/7, but it's $10 to Tulum and $50+ to Playa. Because they can.

*Now that I think about it, I think there may be a couple of places that technically have power all day, like Copal (but Copal has clothing-optional-ish areas, which may not be what you're looking for), but I'm not sure that extends to the actual guest rooms. It is certainly beautiful out there, and there aren't a lot of beach hotels in PdC as most of them are a block up on the main drag. But finding A/C is a lot easier in Playa, so it'll depend on your priorities. There are restaurants every 10 feet on 5th Avenue in Playa; no need for all-inclusive if you stay in town. It's a heavily Italian-influenced part of Mexico, so expect as many European restaurants as Mexican.

The Mayan Riviera is definitely the shortest major beach-vacation hop from Texas. I do have a soft spot for Puerto Vallarta, which skews older and has (I think) better quality restaurants, but it's just about twice the flight for us.

I like to split up my trips between Playa and Tulum, since the beaches in Playa are so packed with bodies you can barely roll over, but that might be logistically a nightmare if you're with a large group.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:25 PM on December 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I have not been out there myself, but I have friends who have stayed all-inclusive in Puerto Aventuras and were very pleased. Day trips are still harder, since they do all base out of PdC, but it's not far and the beaches are very nice.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:27 PM on December 23, 2007

I stayed in Tulum in July this year and I loooooooved it, but I really wouldn't recommend it for anyone who doesn't enjoy roughing it a bit. There are some fancypants all-inclusive resorts with (gasp!) 24-hour electricity on the way down to Tulum, and I think any of those would be a better bet for a kids and older adults, while still keeping you close to beautiful beaches, cenotes, xel-ha (so fun!), and other activites in the area. I've heard good things about Dreams Tulum, the previously-mentioned Puerto Aventuras, and Gran Bahia Principe. I also found this private cabana/house rental but it probably won't fit everyone in your group.
posted by logic vs love at 10:38 AM on December 24, 2007

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