Family-Friendly Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
There's no shortage of fun things to do with the family when visiting Playa Del Carmen, but we've gathered some of our top favorites to help you when planning your itinerary. All of these activities can be enjoyed during a week of vacation but you can also go slow and enjoy them longer if you have the time.
Enjoy Family Fun On The Beaches
Surely no trip to Playa Del Carmen is complete with at least some time on the beach. You can choose to relax or make it full of adventure and energy or a nice combination of all of it!
Here are a couple great places to spend your time on the sand or in the water:
Mamita's Beach Club
This is the place you'll want to go if you are planning to spend a few hours at the beach and want to be comfortable the whole time. What I mean is that, here you'll be able to eat a nice meal and have access to a very nice, clean beach and facilities. If you'd rather no eat, you can rent the beach chairs and umbrellas and just lounge, maybe with a cool beverage of your choice, too!
I know a lot of people may think of Mamita's as the party place because it has beach club as part of its name. While it may be true at night, during the day, it is a very family friendly spot.
The location is not too far from the famous 5th Avenue and very walkable if you are in Playa Del Carmen Centro area.
We paid a fee that allowed us to use a portion of what we paid towards food. Our plan was to have a nice meal in the restaurant and then just chill on the beach. It went really well. The food was better than expected with the most dazzling view of the beach and sea.
If the day had ended there we would have had no complaints. However, after we ate, we grabbed a couple of lounge chairs on the sand under an umbrella and Petra fell asleep while we just relaxed. After her nap we splashed in the water and spend some time with friends who joined us.
It ended up being a great day at a beautiful beach. This is a definite MUST DO when in Playa Del Carmen!
There is a public beach at Playacar just after the pier that is worth walking over to. While many choose to just hang out at the main beach in Playa Del Carmen, that can also mean it can get crowded. There are a bunch of beach clubs on that beach and the amount of actual sandy beach is pretty limited at times (not to mention worse when there is seaweed washed up).
If you just walk down 5th Avenue going south you'll eventually go through an upscale neighborhood of condos and resorts with a nicer beach behind them. If you're looking for a quieter and bigger beach area to hang out at, this would be a great place to get to.
We walked down one afternoon and had a nice couple of hours just playing in the sand. A nice bonus was that we were able to have an impromptu photoshoot during sunset!
Take A Day Trip
Chichen Itza - One Of The World Wonders
I once read something someone wote on social media about Chichen Itza that really dissappointed me. I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion and everyone experiences places differently so their comment may well be valid for them. They said something along the lines of this places being underwhelming and that the fact that there are vendors there takes away from the experience.
My first thought at this was 'are there any touristy sights in the world without vendors?' If it has been discovered and people are visiting it, there are sure to be people trying to make their share of the money by selling something there. The fact that bloggers go to places and write about them in order to monetize from the web traffic makes them EXACTLY the same as the vendors that are physically there.
So this is just a fact of life on this planet. To me, when visiting a popular sightseeing location (like when you go to Rome), I see past all the normal things like the vendors. I usually try to get a guide or, at least, an audio guide that can tell me the story behind the place. In, a way that helps me "transport" to a different world and get more immersed in the history and idea behind the place.
Having said that, I would definitely recommend getting a guide at Chichen Itza. By all means, you can wander around on your own and take it all in as well. having a guide helped us understand where we were a bit better as well as helped manage our time there. Our guide included a ride to Chichen Itza which saved us having to drive ourselves the 2.5 hour distance from Playa Del Carmen. Since we were not used to driving in Mexico, it also helped us see how the driving and roads were before we rented our own car. We learned that the roads are pretty descent and safe.
There are also rest stops with bathrooms and minimarts for snacks and drinks about 10 minutes before getting into Chichen Itza.
The main pyramid at Chichen Itza is absolutely magnificent. It's no wonder that is the most photographed building. However, there are loads of structures to see. I would suggest really paying attention to the small details and carvings. There's so much to see.
The Castillo (there is apparently two or more pyramids within this one) in the center of these Mayan ruins is built on top a cenote and they have found that each side of the pyramid has a cenote a short distance away. The Ball Court is also a huge area worth taking some time at to see. If you do have time (we had to get back for Petra's sake) go and check out the nearest cenote called Cenote Sagrado which is walking distance from the Castillo.
Valladolid - Pueblo Magico
Valladolid was a nice last minute addition to our itinerary. We had not previously heard of this town and were introduced to it by our Chichen Itza guide. It takes less than two hours to get to Valladolid from Playa del Carmen so it can be done as a day trip if you just want to pop in. We actually went and stayed there for a couple of nights just so we could go slow.
Valladolid is on the way to Chichen Itza so, if you're really ambitious, you could stop by on your way there. If you are going with kids, though, the better option may be just spending the day and staying the night in Valladolid and then heading to Chichen Itza the next day.
If you do make a it a day trip, some of the top spots to stop would be the Cathedral and the main square as well as Casa de los Venados (someone's house where they actually live and let you see their collections like a museum!) and Cenote Zaci.
Cool Off With A Dip In One Of The Cenotes
Cenotes are one of the top things to see for anyone visiting the Yucatan Peninsula. The historic natural phenominon that occurred created some of the coolest natural swimming pools all around. We have some back home in Texas near Austin but these are just something else!
Sink holes of all sizes and shapes are sprinkled in this area making it easy to find one to enjoy. The closest one to Playa del Carmen would probably be Cenote Azul which is just about a 20 minute drive out of town.
We never actually planned to visit this cenote, but randomly decided to stop on the way to Akumal after seeing the sign for it off the freeway.
It's an easy and convenient cenote to get to. The area that the cenote covers is quite large area compared to some so even on a busy day, it is easy for people to spread out and have a great time in one of it's sections.
We really loved the fact that we could find our own little part of it and not have to fuss too much. That is what made it so nice to be there with a baby. We took turns getting in the water while the other hung out with Petra on the rocks. Rob did a couple of jumps and I went for short swims.
There are loads of fish in the water and the color of the water is as the name implies, turquoise blue and very clear! It was one of the prettiest cenotes we visited as far as the nature around it and the quality of the water. If we were staying longer, we would certainly have gone back.
We were fortunate to get invited to spend a day at Cenote Elvira. This cenote is on private property and is rentable for events and gatherings.
You don't necessarily need to rent it out for a bit event like a wedding or engagement, you can simply reserve it for a fun day out with your close friends. The fee to enjoy this cenote and all it has to offer is very reasonable, especially if you split the rate with your friends.
The cenote has very comfortable facilities and offers loads of amenities. There are grills for barbequing, a fridge and kitchen area with a bar and dining area, but there are also areas with hammocks and lounge chairs for some relaxation as well.
The cenote is just perfect for a small group to have all to themselves, taking turns to jump in and cool down in the water. It's nice that the cenote is in a jungle-like setting providing lots of shade that helps keep you cool for an all day comfortable experience.
We went to Cenote Elvira with a rental car after having breakfast in Playa Del Carmen. While you can grill there, we decided to bring sandwiches just to keep things simple. It was a very memorable experience for our family to have this cenote just for us for the day. Petra even took a nap there after floating around in the water with us and plenty of time playing around the property.
Dine On International Foods
One of the things we were pleasantly surprised about during our stay in Playa Del Carmen was the availability of top-notch international foods. We thoroughly appreciated the variety of restaurants in this town and were equally impressed by the quality and authenticity of each of them.
It was nice have so many options for where to eat and what type of food based on our cravings. To top it off, they are all within a manageable walking distance!
Some of of favorites included (not limitd to):
- Yum Yum - Asian Fusion
- Kaxapa Factory - Venzuelan
- Los Culiados Mariscos - Seafood (best ceviche)
- Eat Bar - Mediterranean
- Belmonte - Portuguese
- Sakura Ramen - Japanese
- El Fogon - Mexican
While the restaurants are absolutely amazing, you must not miss trying some street snacks as well. The elote (cream corn in a cup) and marquisita (similar to crepe but crunchy) are the BEST!
Sightseeing and Fun Around Town
Xaman Ha Ruins
It's hard to believe that there are Mayan ruins still in such close proximity to the very rapidly developing town of Playa Del Carmen. The "little" ruins sometimes referred to as the Playacar Ruins could easily be missed by even those who venture out of the hustling and bustling area around the center of town. Playacar is an area a bit off the beaten path but surprisingly a short walk to get to.
There is a nice beach here as well as a few high-end resorts and condo community that is possibly home to many expats.
We were able to walk down to the ruins from our airbnb in the Centro in a bout 25 minutes. We were able to do it easily and casually with a stroller and a one-year-old, so it's not a difficult path. It's nice to see the transition from the busy-ness to the more "local" and quiet part of town.
It doesn't take a whole lot of time to see this archaeological site, but it's a nice visit, especially with kids. There's usually not many people around and it's a beautiful, shaded, nature area to be enjoyed on an afternoon out of the sun.
We made the trip with some beach time planned at the end. It worked out nicely for us to get some good beach time in as well as a great sunset to wrap up our day!
If you're into shopping when on a trip, you'll be happy with what Playa del Carmen has to offer. Not only are there shops and boutiques all around town but you have a few great spots with a collection of stores to get whatever you need.
- 5th Ave - This is the major tourist walking street with everything from boutiques to trinketselling souvenir shops. There are also loads of street vendors so it gives that outdoor market vibe, too.
- Quinta Alegria Mall - It's located along 5th Avenue so you won't miss it if you are strolling along. The mall has teh option to get out of the sun and into some big name stores.
- Paseo del Carmen Shopping Mall - This is more like an outdoor mall or shopping plaza. It is at the end of 5th Avenues towards Playacar. It's a bit less busy on this side of town so this shopping experience will be less hectic in some ways.
We were not able to really take advantage of Founders Park during our visit mainly because it was under renovations. Towards the end of our stay in Playa del Carmen, we were able to see it coming along quite nicely so I think that it is a much improved version of what it used to be.
I know there used to be some sort of acrobat show there previously so I hope that it will return (with much more). I would say it's worth going just for the views, plus, this is one of those free things to do so why pass it it up?!. It also seems like it would be a great place for kids to just run around and have some fun.
If you really want to get away from all the touristy vibes, make your way over to Calle 38 Norte. This street is beautiful to stroll through thanks to the shade provided by trees on both sides as well as all the awesome restaurants lining each side.
While, I would not say that you get a "local" vibe here, you do get more of a "classy" feel on this side of town. It just feels more "grown up" and less "I came here to party." We loved hanging out in this part of the city and would consider staying around here on our next visit as well.
Resources to plan your trip:
About the Author
Hi! I'm just a California girl addicted to travel and adventure with a passion for art and dance on the side. Born in Iran, but I consider myself a citizen of Earth, adhering to the belief that "The world is but one country and mankind its citizen." I strive to make a positive impact on everyone I meet and learn as much as possible from them. My degree out of college is in Marketing. However, I entered the hospitality business at an early age and worked my way up to hotel management. After about 13 years in that industry (5 of which I was a hotel assistant manager), I made the decision to move to Thailand and leave the 9 to 5 grind behind. My husband and I set off for a life of living abroad and hopes to continue traveling the world, just 3 months after our wedding. It all started with the two of us, along with our cat, together in Thailand. Can't wait to see where life takes us next!