Discovering Marrakesh with Teens: Family Spring Break Adventure Guide

A Taste of Adventure, Pampering, Shopping, Culture & Food - Morocco has it all!

By Jamie Ratner, CEO of Macaroni KID April 5, 2024

This year for spring break, I wanted to push our family outside our comfort zone and try visiting somewhere totally different, which led us to Marrakesh, Morocco. A friend of mine went and raved about it; and when researching, it checked a bunch of boxes. 

The boxes I was trying to check were: (1) direct flight that was not too long; (2) warm weather at spring break time; (3) a place where the dollar had good value; (4) a trip that was not museum-focused with fun activities besides sitting at a pool/beach all day; and (5) good food!

However, I was very nervous about going (seriously 50/50 until 2 weeks before!) because there seemed to be little reliable information available to help me feel comfortable taking my family. I was using TikTok to research because my typical review sites really didn’t have much! I promised myself if we had a great experience, I would write this article after the trip to help other families understand what they were signing up for and feel a bit more comfortable making the leap. 

I visited Costa Rica over 2 decades ago, before it became a family travel hotspot, and predict that Morocco is headed in this direction and will become way more commercialized for travel in the decade ahead. I love hitting these spots when they are still raw, authentic and inexpensive!  

This trip was UNBELIEVABLE and ranks high on my list of places I have traveled! We had an incredible time and it really was a combination of adventure, pampering, culture, uniqueness, and discovery! My teens were thrilled with the trip which isn’t always an easy task to accomplish!

Our Itinerary: Keeping It Simple, But Exciting

Morocco is in Africa, but the flight only takes 6 hours to get to Casablanca, Morocco, and 7 hours returning. Then it is a 30-minute flight to Marrakech. We decided to skip sightseeing in Casablanca, but you could consider starting the trip there. Royal Air Maroc flies direct from Washington, DC. The planes are old and do not have wifi or any frills, but 6.5 hours is not bad at all for a trip to a place so off the beaten path, and the flight cost was comparably low.

My plan was to spend 3 nights in a Riad in the city center, then go to a desert adventure for a night of glamping, and then come back to the city and spend 3 nights in a more luxurious western hotel. My research showed most people go to Marrakech, then do a 3-day trip out to the Sahara Desert, and then go to Fez and fly home. I originally worked on a plan like this, but the more I told my family about all the driving, the more they were disliking my plan. I decided I wanted it to be more fun and relaxing for them, so I went with this simpler itinerary after stumbling on a pseudo desert experience much closer. After experiencing our limited driving outside the area and the poor road conditions, I was so glad we did not take the 10 hour journey to the Sahara Desert.

Finding a Cozy Place to Stay: Our Marrakesh Homes

Let's talk about where we stayed first. I feel like this really made the experience. I broke our stay up between 3 places — a traditional Riad, glamping in the desert, and a luxurious hotel. I loved that the costs of these stays were so inexpensive so we could happily pay for 2 rooms (vs. cramming into one), and even do a royal suite! All the places included lavish, delicious breakfasts, which made it an even better deal! Some of the below average 3 star hotels we stay at for soccer tournaments have been double the cost of some of these rooms!

Leg 1: Traditional Riad

Our first stay was at the riad called La Maison Arabe. They were waiting for us with a sign when we arrived at the airport, providing convenient transportation. Riads are like these gorgeous, cozy guest houses with beautiful courtyards and comfy beds. It was like staying in a fairytale! We stayed in a massive, private 3-floor suite and were treated like royalty from the moment we walked in the door. We were greeted with welcome cocktails and had a fruit platter and champagne waiting for us in our room.

Our kids stayed on the ground floor in 2 single beds and had their own bathroom. we stayed on the middle floor, and the top floor was a rooftop with a jacuzzi tub, lounge furniture, and a beautiful city view. It felt warm and cozy inside and the rooftop was super exciting for the kids.

La Maison Arabe is just spectacular. My daughter wanted to take pictures in every room. They offered tea time every afternoon as well (included) with mint tea and pastries. There is a pool which is heated and my kids loved it. The service was wonderful and they were as helpful as can be and kind. A great way to get situated in the country for sure!

The location is perfect as you can walk to all the city sites and markets super quickly. However, it is also tucked away in an alley which keeps it quiet and private. I highly recommend that if you go to Marrakech, you must stay at La Maison Arabe.

Leg 2: Luxury Camp

Next is where it got super exciting, as we were picked up by a driver from Kalyptus Luxury Camp, who did not speak much English, but was super sweet and tried to use his phone to translate some words and drove us an hour into the desert. I was SO nervous for this leg of the trip because there were so few reviews or information and it was really in the middle of nowhere. However, the communication over email was great and I decided to give it a shot, which I am SO happy we did because it was the highlight of the entire trip.

When we arrived at the Kalyptus Luxury Camp, we couldn't believe how stunning the setting was, surrounded by snow capped mountains and desert. The camp is set up in the middle of nowhere and is so unique it will blow your mind. The owner greeted us warmly with a cocktail (virgin — no alcohol here) and went over our activities for our visit. They arrange everything for you! (Below in the activities section are more details on quad biking, camel rides, and a private yoga experience they set up for us! I am scared of heights, but the balloon ride also sounded amazing.) 

After our tour, we were taken to our cabins. We had 2 cabins next to each other. They were not typical cabins, but beautiful suites with full bathrooms, showers, and heating systems and they felt so fun to sleep in, like you are camping but in a luxurious tent. They even provide fun, traditional sleepwear! There is a gorgeous pool and a salon which has wifi if you need it.

We had all our meals at the Kalyptus Luxury Camp and they were outstanding….I am a foodie and I was thrilled with the choices and quality. They were some of the best meals of our trip. They cater to you and will bring you meals in bed or by the pool.  

Leg 3: Resort Hotel

Kalyptus Luxury Camp drove us to our third hotel, Movenpick Hotel Marrakech. This was outside the city and was more fancy and felt more like a resort. I do not recommend this particular hotel (as we had some issues with their service), but I do recommend the concept of a similar 5 star resort hotel, as there are many options! We had 2 spacious rooms at this hotel, which was great. There is a massive swimming pool and gym, which made this leg of the trip feel a bit more like a typical Spring Break trip where you can spend the day leisurely soaking up the sun and relaxing. It was a perfect way to end the trip!

Having Fun Around Marrakech: Cool Things We Did

Now, let's talk about all the fun stuff we did.

I am a total shopper and loved these busy markets called souks, where we found all kinds of cool and original things to buy. It is all about bargaining here (it is expected) which I think I enjoy more than even making the purchase, as it feels like a fun game, and for the most part, no one is pushy or annoyed…it is all just a fun process! My kids got a kick out of it.

There are tons of delicious foods and drinks to try in the souks from fresh juices (pomegranate, peach, kiwi, strawberry, orange, etc.), Moroccan pastries, olives, and lots of nuts and dates (the vendors will let you taste the different varieties).

Outside of China, I found the most, and best, knock off vendors while shopping in Marrakech. They have full on shoe stores that look like real shoe stores, but they are all knock offs (from Gucci shoes to YSL bags). 

The traditional Moroccan goods you will see are products they make such as lots of leather (shoes, purses, etc.), carpets/rugs, gold/metal goods, lamps, scarves, jewelry, linens, and more. They also really push the argon oils, spices, these green lipsticks that change to your lip color, and teas. You could spend hours and hours wandering the streets…it just goes on and on like a maze and is so stimulating to all your senses!

My favorite purchase was some art we found, which we love to decorate our house with from our various trips. Below is the artist and work we found in the souk. I can’t wait to hang it in our house to remember our trip!

My other favorite purchase was traditional Moroccan linen pajamas, which our whole family got. They are so comfortable and we have all lived in them since we got them.

The two fun activities we did in the desert were quad bike riding and camel riding. I was so scared to ride the bikes, but after experiencing it, I can say it was a huge highlight of the trip and I felt the guide took us at a good speed, and the conditions and views were incredible. We saw so many animals and different terrains on our ride!

Camel riding was a very cool experience for my kids. We did the sunset ride which was beautiful.

The next fun experience you have to do in Morocco is go to the spa and have a Hamman. These spas are all over and some are super luxurious. For under $100, you can spend hours and have multiple treatments done from massages, facials, blow drys, etc. 

However, the key thing you have to experience with the package is a Hamman. So basically they separated me and my daughter from my husband and son and took us in pairs to separate rooms where they hosed us down and scrubbed us until our skin was super soft. They wash your hair too. My daughter and I have never laughed together harder in our lives as we had no idea what was going on! It was quite an experience! 

We did one at the La Maison Arabe and I recommend it. I also recommend booking in advance one of the super fancy ones like Mamounia or Marajah Spa as well because they were all booked up and looked incredible.

Trying Yummy Food: Our Tasty Adventure

Okay, now let's talk about the best part — the food! Marrakech has the tastiest food ever, and we tried all kinds of yummy stuff. From tagines to couscous, we ate it all! My favorite was the crepes for breakfast (with a nut butter they specialize in and honey), dishes with eggplant (my fave!), and the delicious dates you can find everywhere on the streets to buy and snack on. There was also a lot of Mediterranean food (hummus, falafel) which was amazing! We did not have time to do a street food tour or cooking classes but these are widely available and would be fun to add to your itinerary.

Besides the actual food, I have to say the restaurants are some of the coolest I have been to in the world. Not only are they incredibly gorgeous in the setting and decor, but there are tons of rooftop options to be found. They are really unique and fun experiences, besides just offering delicious food. From belly dancers and entertainers to musicians, they have it all to keep you engaged for hours with your dining experience. With teens, this means more time to talk since meals seem to be the one time I can get mine off their phones!

Some of my recommendations for dining are:

Safran Marrakech - This place was beautiful and a great place to grab a traditional Moroccan meal.

La Maison Arabe’s Restaurant - Whether you stay here or not, make sure to get a reservation and eat here. The food was outstanding, as well as the service and the setting around a pool in a garden-like atmosphere.

La Trattoria - This Italian restaurant is where we celebrated my daughter's birthday. It is absolutely spectacular with an indoor pool setting and the food is delish. It is a nice change of pace from Moroccan food. This one cannot be missed!

Le Loft - We were told this French restaurant was the place to hit for steak and fries and it did not disappoint! 

Le Jad Mahal - This place was dark with a club-like environment and really great entertainment including belly dancers, mimes, and singers. I would skip it though and pick a different option if you can because the service was a bit lacking and it is quite expensive for Morocco. But it is trendy and a place you could probably spot a celebrity, so if you’re into that, maybe you’ll enjoy it!  And make sure to dress up because my son got sent home to change for wearing sweats. No “sports” pants allowed.

Mazels - We loved this casual lunch spot near the souks for Mediterranean food. It is cute and the staff is wonderful.

Tips for Your Own Marrakesh Adventure

Add another city. Our itinerary was focused on keeping it low key with minimal travel. You might want to add in a visit to another city to explore such as Fes, which I heard is less touristy.

Check the calendar. If you are going over Spring Break, check the calendar for Ramadan. It was Ramadan when we were there so some stuff closed or had different hours. You will also hear the prayer bells and praying early in the morning and then at night. Overall I don’t think it should prohibit you going, but just be aware.  

Be careful. I did a lot of reading ahead of time on what to watch out for where you might be taken advantage of as a tourist. Things like the taxi drivers trying to charge you more and people trying to steal from you in souk. I was on high alert, so it helped us have an issue-free trip. However, I can see how you could experience issues if you aren’t careful.

Have patience. We did not run across many English speakers…lots of French speakers. It was a bit complicated to communicate at times but it is manageable.

Make reservations. This is where I screwed up since I waited until 2 weeks to pull the trigger on this trip. The spas, restaurants, gardens, and museums all need to be booked ahead of time.

Final Thoughts  

Marrakesh is such a unique and awesome place with so much to see and do, wonderful people, and just a perfect place to make memories with your family! Do your research ahead of time so you too can have an incredible experience like no other!