Recently I wrote about my holiday in Tulum and added some recommendations regarding hotels and restaurants. During our holiday we didn’t only stay in Tulum, but also made a city trip to Valladolid. A beautiful, vibrant and colorful city in Yucatan that has stolen our hearts. The city still breathes authenticity and has yet to be discovered by mass tourism. Are you planning a trip to Valladolid with your family but aren’t quite sure yet what the city has to offer? I’m sure my recommendations can help you make a decision!
What to do in and around Valladolid
In Valladolid: Calzada de Los Frailes
Valladolid is an old colonial city in Yucatan, Mexico’s peninsula. It’s full of vibrant, colorful streets, but there’s one that pops out: Calzada de Los Frailes. This shopping street offers not only amazing Instagrammable houses and shops, but also many places where you can have a delicious lunch or dinner (more on that later). In the evening they make the street inaccessible for cars, making it great for a nice stroll.
At the end of this street you can find a small playground, providing a perfect break to children from sightseeing.
In Valladolid: the Valladolid letter sign
If you walk further down the Calzada de Los Frailes, you get to Parque Sisal. In this parc you can find the Vallodolid letter sign and the imposing, old monastery Convento de San Bernardino de Siena. It’s a great area to walk around and explore. There’s a lot of space for children to run around too. Go in the morning when it’s still quiet, as you can expect Chichén Itza tourists later in the afternoon.
In Vallodolid: Iglesia de San Servacio
In the middle of the city centre you can find Iglesia de San Servacio, a beautiful church dating back to 1545. The church is situated next to another parc, Parque Principal Francisco Cantón Rosado, which offers benches in the shade and a fountain. Get yourself some locally produced coconut ice-cream, relax on one of the benches and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere the city has to offer.
Around Valladolid: Cenote Suytun
Located on a 15-minute drive from Valladolid is Cenote Suytun. This cave or sinkhole, is filled with shallow, clear water and offers amazing views. Before entering the cenote you have to take a shower, to wash off any sunscreen as this can damage the environment in the cenote. Additionally, you get a life vest which you have to wear inside, both adults and children. You enter the cenote by taking stairs down to the cave. The stairs can be a bit slippery, so we walked barefoot (we didn’t bring water shoes).
As we were travelling still during covid restrictions, the cenote wasn’t busy and we managed to take some great photo’s. You can also avoid the crowds by going early in the morning.
Around Valladolid: Ek Balam
You can’t visit Yucatan without visiting Maya ruins! Near Valladolid you can find two big Maya ruins: the world famous Chichén Itza and the smaller Ek Balam. We were very much hesitating where to go, but in the end we chose Ek Balam. Why? Ek Balam is one of the only Maya Ruins that you can still climb on (and enjoy the amazing view over the jungle!) and it is less touristic. Additionally, visiting Chichén Itza is much more expensive and you’ll most likely have to get a tour to understand it’s significance. When travelling with small children there’s no use to go on a long guided tour of 3 hours as they will be bored to death and you will not be able to pay attention to what the guide is saying. So we decided to go to less touristy, smaller Maya ruins: Ek Balam. Of course I don’t know what kind of experience Chichén Itza has to offer, but I can tell you that Ek Balam offers a great one!
At the center of Ek Balam you can find a huge structure called “Acropólis”, which is currently the largest structure and is believed to contain the tomb of Ukit Kan Leʼk Tokʼ, an important ruler in Ekʼ Balam. You can take the stairs all the way up and have an amazing view over the jungle. It’s also possible to take a walk around the back of the temple, which gives you an idea of the state they have found the temple in (completely overtaken by the jungle). We went to Ek Balam as soon as it opened, to avoid the heat from the sun and possible crowds. Our 4 year-old son really enjoyed it, exploring the area and climbing (respectfully) on the structures.
Fun fact: only the centre of Ek Balam has been excavated, the original city is much larger and it covers at least 16 square kilometers.
Where to eat in Valladolid
As mentioned in my previous blog, my family and I don’t eat gluten, dairy and soya. We also try to avoid refined sugar as much as possible. During our stay in Vallodolid we weren’t able to cook our own meals, but we did find a few amazing restaurants that catered our needs. We were amazed by the possibilities and I’ve written down our favorite ones for you to visit.
Le’ Kaat is a vegan and vegetarian restaurant situated in the colorful street Calzada de Los Frailes. It has an open plan with a garden and fountain, but you don’t notice the noise from the street at all. It has a relaxed, cozy atmosphere and the staff is very friendly. One evening they also played live guitar music. Le’ Kaat has a wide variety of options on the menu and the food was delicious. I personally loved the falafel (even though it contained gluten). This restaurant was our absolute favorite and we loved it so much that we even had dinner there twice during our 3-night stay.
This vegan restaurant serves lovely fresh food and smoothies. One of the salads we ordered was one of the tastiest vegan salads I’ve ever had! Fresh with a hint of Mexican spices. The interior design of the restaurant is minimalistic but comfortable and it actually reminded me a bit of boho-Tulum style. We sat upstairs, near a balcony that overlooked one of the streets in the city centre Valladolid. This was great for our son as he could have a look at all the cars and people buzzing around while waiting for our food. The ambience was calm and they played some nice jazz music. We also got served a little appetizer, which was a pleasant surprise!
Tresvanbien is a small café that serves empanadas, fresh juices and other lunch options. It’s cozy with a lovely outdoor place where you can relax and cool down after doing some exploring. At Tresvanbien it’s possible to eat all-vegan and gluten free, but we decided to try the more locally empanadas since we hadn’t yet. (Little did we know the empanadas are actually Argentinian!) The empanadas are super fresh, being served straight from the oven and are definitely worth trying.
Elala Organic Vegan Café Y Restaurant
This was actually this first café we ran into when looking for a place for lunch after our trip to Cenote Suytun. We found it by accident on Google Maps, but I’m glad that we tried it! Everything this café serves is vegan, except for the use of honey as a sweetener in some dishes. It’s a small but comfortable place and we felt really at ease. The staff was very friendly, providing us with information on the ingredients that they use, but they also gave us sight-seeing tips in Valladolid. We had some cacao bliss balls, tea and golden milk with sesame milk made from their own house-grown sesame seeds. They also sell cacao so you can organize your own cacao ceremony at home (we bought a package but haven’t used it yet!).
Where to stay in Valladolid
We stayed in Valladolid for three nights. At first we wanted to book a hotel in the city center, but after doing some research on the distances to sights we wanted to visit, we realized it didn’t really matter if we stayed in or outside of the city center. As we stayed in the same hotel during our trip, I can only give you one recommendation – but one that is absolutely worth it!
Hacienda San Miguel
This hacienda is a traditional Mexican farm dating back to the 1700’s. It has survived numerous wars and has recently been reopened as a hotel for guests to stay. They recently painted the hacienda from brick-red to yellow, which gives it a very friendly feeling (and we were just amazed by its beauty!).
Upon arrival we were greeted by the temporary hotel manager, Juan, who is very friendly and gave us lots of information on the surrounding area. He told us that the hacienda is working with the nearby Mayan community and employs mainly locals. I personally believe it’s of great value that our stay is contributing to the local community.
The property of Hacienda San Miguel is located in the jungle. It’s beautiful and quiet, which makes it perfect to relax after a long day of sightseeing. The hacienda has a lovely swimming pool and as it is set in the middle of the nature, the grounds are great to explore for children. It even has its own small, idyllic church.
The rooms at Hacienda San Miguel are quite traditional but convenient. Our room had two double-beds, a bathroom with shower and a small terrace. The amenities in the bathroom are organic and produced by the hacienda itself. They were replaced daily so we were never out. The rooms come with air conditioning, but during our stay it wasn’t necessary to use it as the nights in February are quite cool. The Wi-Fi was good everywhere, so it’s possible to work or watch Netflix in the evenings when you’re not out.
The hotel offers breakfast only, including a traditional Mexican dish with beans and fresh orange juice. Some might say the selection of breakfast options are limited, but we realized quickly that they only make use of organic, locally grown food. In the evening you are able to have drinks on the porch, which we also very much enjoyed. All in all a great experience!
Beautiful and authentic Mexico
These were my recommendations for a family friendly city trip to Valladolid in Mexico. I hope this blog has given you enough reasons (and convenience) to travel to this beautiful and authentic city. And I hope it will give you enough confidence to travel there with children. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to contact me via social media or e-mail. Have a great trip!