Friday, September 30, 2016

Family Vacations in Mexico

Story and Photos by Jim Foreman

Mexico is a fantastic vacation destination. Every day, over 100,000 people are presently visiting Mexico.

Mexico is a draw for many reasons. With the current exchange rate, the value for the US or Canadian family is, by far, the best in North America. Mexico’s beaches are warm and sunny when it’s cold and raining back home. Mexico’s cultural and natural history far predates the US and Canadian history with many spectacular sites throughout the country. Finally, Mexico caters beautifully to all age groups and has something for everyone.

Ok, most people reading this far probably already know most of this. 

For couples and newlyweds, few can argue with the luxury and amenities of the resorts near Cancun, all the way down the coast to Tulum, if a resort is desired.

For families wishing to travel together, airfare and ground transportation costs along with tourist priced meals can restrict many budgets.

Alternatively, a family can opt to jump into the family car and drive to their destination. A significant portion of the US population is within one day's drive to Mexico.

For many travelers to Mexico, the thought of driving within Mexico is completely foreign. The reality is that it’s easy, fun and as long as good sense and simple safety precautions are observed, quite safe.

Cabo San Lucas

One idea to consider for a family road trip is Cabo San Lucas on the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula. All along the southward journey, there are interesting sites and destinations worth enjoying. 
For example, a half-day spent in Guerrero Negro during the whale migration season can provide a very close encounter with these magnificent beings. Small skiffs can take you right out to touch the whales. The official whale watching season is December 15 to April 15. Book your whale-watching reservations in advance from a reputable operator.

Further south is Santa Rosalia which features a steel church thought to be created by Gustav Eiffel. Yes, the same Gustav Eiffel who built the Eiffel Tower in Paris. From Santa Rosalia, Mulegé and Loreto are excellent stopping points. 

Loreto has the distinction of being a Pueblo Magico. A designation for towns that are culturally preserved and significant, historically.
From Loreto, it’s about six hours drive to Cabo San Lucas. At Cabo San Lucas, one can enjoy a day of sportfishing or tanning on the beach, while kids can take surfing lessons. If planned with minimal thought, one can enjoy one set of sights going, and others returning making it a fabulous trip for everyone, both ways.

Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta

Both Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta make excellent family holiday destinations. Arguably, Puerto Vallarta has a wider variety of activities and attractions.  Fortunately, by car you can easily do both.
Mazatlán is approximately 11 hours driving from Laredo, TX or 14 hours from Tucson, AZ. If leaving from Laredo, TX, an overnight in Durango is not a bad choice. 

Durango features a very walkable colonial city center with many culinary options unique to the area. From Durango, the new highway takes you through a dozen tunnels and over the world’s tallest cable-stayed bridge on your way to Mazatlán. You’ll fell like you were transported to Austria while driving this road. 

From Tucson, Arizona, plan an overnight in San Carlos. It’s about an hour south of Sonora’s Capitol, Hermosillo. San Carlos features breathtaking terrain, in a tranquil setting. The water is shallow and warm in the Sea of Cortez. 
Malecón in Mazatlán

Once in Mazatlán, a cost conscious traveler will book a stay along the Malecón rather than the resorts along the Zona Dorado. The resorts are a bit crowded though they often feature some beautiful pools. On the Malecón, the beaches are typically less noisy. The smaller hotels offer the incredible views at a significantly lower price.

Mazatlán is known for fresh and tasty seafood.
Puerto Vallarta Malecón at night (Photo:Alejandro Cartagena)

Puerto Vallarta is about half-a-day south of Mazatlán. One can drive the main highway all the way down, but a wise traveler will veer off the main road before Tepic onto Highway 74 to San Blas. From San Blas, enjoy a scenic stroll southbound to Puerto Vallarta. Several stretches along the Riviera Nayarít feature small intimate resorts many Latin American celebrities frequent when on holiday. Typical sights of beaches all to oneself are common here.

Puerto Vallarta has two distinct sections. On the north end are the airport, cruise ship terminals, and luxury resorts. Further south, you find the charming old-town which features a great malecón or boardwalk and beach along with the charm of a real old-town. Walking about the streets is full of wonderful surprises.
Besides the beaches, mesmerizing nightlife on the malecón, and warm weather, Puerto Vallarta has some of the best canopy zip-line tours in all of Mexico. Just 45 minutes south of town is the Los Veranos Canopy Tour. It’s legendary and also features a natural river with waterslides you can jump into and swim in along with a charming restaurant.

Another tour one can book independently is a trip to Islas Marietas. Islas Marietas is a series of islands about an hour away by boat. One of these uninhabited islands features a hidden or secret beach. One has to swim through a cave to find this beach with the top of the cave open to the sun. Tours to Islas Marietas was recently halted due to damage caused by too many visitors. It’s since re-opened, but with a limited number of people who can visit on Saturdays only. This is one tour you must book well ahead of time.

There are considerably more destinations in Mexico that are family friendly.  They will be covered in future stories including Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon).

To travel safely in Mexico, only drive during daylight hours. Don't be tempted to push further into the night, as you can in the US. Road hazards and livestock are impossible to see at night. Don't do it. Also, unless otherwise directed, stay on the main highways. Most of the are toll roads. For further information about Safety in Mexico, please read this informative article.

Family road trips don’t have to be arduous or stressful. There is plenty to see and do along the way. The shared overland experience, along with the discovery and understanding of a warm and vibrant culture make for lifelong memories.

To travel by car into Mexico, each member of your party must have a passport or passcard. Passports are not an option. Also, make sure to get appropriate visas and if traveling outside of Baja California or the Hassle-Free Zone in Sonora, your Temporary Vehicle Import Permit (TVIP). Get your TVIP at the same place you get your visa.

Lastly, you must have quality Mexican auto insurance. The best place to shop, buy, and print your policy is Mexican Insurance Store.
©2016 Jim Foreman All Rights Reserved

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