Image of a church, taken looking upward to the top of the building. In front of the church are colourful streamers

A guide to Valladolid, Mexico with kids (2024)

I’ll be honest – I only booked four nights in Valladolid for us because a) I didn’t fancy the long day trip to Chichen Itza from the Yucatan coast and b) it looked like a way cheaper place to hang out for a few days after a week in Playa del Carmen. Turned out to be a pretty good bit of travel planning! We LOVED Valladolid; after the tourist hectic-ness of Playa del Carmen it was a welcome change to be in a small, beautiful little Mexican town. And it’s gorgeous! Brightly coloured buildings, a lovely little central square and cathedral, all very walkable – it was a fab stop for all of us. If you’re planning a trip to Mexico with kids then Valladolid is a great addition to your itinerary!

Image of a long colonial style building at sunset, with the lettering 'Hotel Maria de la Luz' across the top of it. Fairy lights are strung along the upper level and the building has archways along it.

Where is Valladolid and how do you get there?

Valladolid is right at the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula, about 2.5 hours from Cancun and basically sitting about halfway between Cancun and Merida. It’s also only around an hour from Valladolid to the famous ruins of Chichen Itza, which makes it a great stop on any Yucatan itinerary.

The ADO buses in Mexico are comfortable, safe, affordable and reliable. They are also super easy to book online or in-person at any bus terminal. We took an ADO bus from Playa del Carmen to Valladolid which took around 2.5hours and cot a total of £31/$660MX for the four of us.

If you have a rental car, Valladolid is just off the 180 and 180D highways so is a fairly straightforward drive from Merida, Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum.

Image of two doorways, one shut and one open and filled with light, on a bright pink building with crumbling paint

Where to stay in Valladolid

We stayed in a little budget place called Hotel San Clemente, right on the corner of the town square. It was a beautiful, crumbly old building set around an inner courtyard with a pool. I’d read very mixed reviews online and was a bit wary of what the place might be like in real life but I was really pleasantly surprised. Yes, the rooms were dated and the bathroom definitely needed a lick of paint, but everything worked, the beds were comfy and the pool/courtyard area was a lovely little spot to hang out/swim/homeschool.

Courtyard with pool to the left in small hotel. There are sunloungers by the pool and tall palm trees around the edge of the courtyard

The only real downside was that the wifi didn’t work in the room, but that just forced us to move homeschooling/travel planning down to the lovely area by the pool which was not exactly much of a hardship!

It was also, however, extremely loud, thanks to the fiestas in the square that were on every single night of our stay. In many ways this was great – we all enjoyed hanging out watching the bands and the parade, eating churros and marquesitas. 

It did also however mean that we had the world’s loudest fireworks (and I mean literally, the loudest bangs I have ever heard in my life) going off for several hours every evening and church bells ringing from 7am. There was even a marathon on the Sunday of our stay that started at 5am (including the bands and the commentary on the loudspeakers). 

It was definitely atmospheric! If you’re looking for a budget stay in a great location then this is a good spot for a trip to Valladolid, Mexico with kids. It gets mixed reviews on TripAdvisor here but if you have budget-level expectations then it’s fine!

Image taken from above looking down into a hotel courtyard at night. The courtyard has a fountain with a statue in the middle of it and there are string lights stretching across the space

Chichen Itza

One the the genuine reasons we opted for Valladolid was it’s proximity to Chichen Itza, which I had earmarked as a pretty awesome bit of home/world schooling for the boys. Chichen Itza is only about an hour from Valladolid so is an easy round trip in a day.

I’ve written a whole separate post about visiting Chichen Itza with kids – if you’re planning a trip, make sure you check it out here.

Visiting Chichen Itza, Mexico with kids (2024)

Man stands at the base of El Castillo, the giant Mayan pyramid at the centre of Chichen Itza in Mexico. He is wearing a backpack and looking upwards to the top of the structure

Visiting the cenotes around Valladolid with kids

The other brilliant thing about Valladolid is it’s proximity to cenotes – including one right in the middle of town. There are cenotes all over the Yucatan peninsula and we LOVED hanging out at them.

Cenote Zaci

Cenote Zaci is a part-closed cenote that you go through a bit of a cave to reach, and is a wonderful spot for a few hours respite from the heat. Again, the boys loved this – there were a couple of little ledges to jump in from (so that was Angus sorted for about three hours) and a mighty high jump from higher up in the cave (that Steve braved once; the boys wisely turned this one down).

You did have to wear lifejackets at this cenote, which we were a bit wary of at first but actually was great as it made it much easily to float around.

The entry fee for Cenote Zaci was £8.50 (MX$180) in total for the four of us (including lifejackets).

You can check out the reviews and other info on Cenote Zaci here on TripAdvisor.

Young boy swims under water in a cenote, wearing goggles and with his arms stretched behind him
Cenote Samaal

We also spent the day at Cenote Samaal, which is inside the Hacienda Selva Maya, about ten minutes taxi ride out of town. This one is a favourite spot for tour buses so it did get a bit busy at times, but then there was a glorious 30mins or so when we had the place entirely to ourselves which was absolute heaven (see pic below of me absolutely living it up in my own private cenote!).

WOman drifts on her back in the middle of an underground cenote. The water is a green blue colour and the wall are sheer drops of rock

Again, there were platforms that the boys could chuck themselves in to the water from (at a couple of different heights – I managed the high one once!). The water here wasn’t quite as clear as at some of the other cenotes but you could still snorkel and see lots of fairly big catfish swimming around. It was also FULL of blue dragonflies, buzzing around everywhere. Plus the (man-made) waterfall bit was lovely to swim through too.

The hacienda offers a pass that includes a buffet lunch and we went for that option so spent a bit more time hanging out here during the afternoon. The food was fab and there was loads of choice, so a great options if you’ve got the time to spare.

The entry fee was £65 (MX$1,360) in total for the four of us, which included lifejackets, lockers, entry to the cenote and the unlimited buffet lunch. The taxi came in at £5.66 (MX$120) each way.

For more info on Cenote Samaal and lots of reviews, check out the page on TripAdvisor here.

Woman and two children stand at the top of an underground cenote looking down past the wooden railings.

Taking a day tour – Chichen Itza plus cenotes

One of the popular ways to visit Valladolid, Chichen Itza and Cenote Samaal is to book a day trip. This is a good option if you’re short on time. Or if you just want to save the hassle of sorting out your own transport!

There are lots of options on GetYourGuide such as this one, which includes time at all three places.

Chichen Itza, Cenote and Valladolid Tour

Valladolid – the verdict

All in all, Valladolid was a great stop for a few days – chilled, easy with the kids, loads of options for food and things to do (if a bit loud in the evenings when we were there!). It really had the feel of an authentic Mexican town, something we’d been craving as we didn’t feel like we got this at all from the tourist destinations on the Yucatan coast.

It was also much cheaper to eat out and get around than Playa del Carmen and Cancun so was good for the budget too!

Planning a family trip to Mexico?

If you’re planning a trip to Valladolid, Mexico with kids, why not check out some of our other posts on where to go in Mexico and what to do:

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