Quick Itinerary Guide: Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Any destination can be family-friendly. Below you’ll find family-friendly itinerary suggestions for a trip to Playa del Carmen and the greater Quintana Roo region of Mexico.

Before you dive into the guide, you may want to first read Understanding a Quick Itinerary Guide. This will provide you with details on our trip planning philosophy, why it’s a quick guide, and what resources we use to plan. It also details what we mean by family-friendly, and further explains each of the sections included in a Quick Itinerary Guide.

Our trip details

  • Length of stay: 7 days, 7 nights
  • Accommodation: Panama Jack Resorts Playa del Carmen
  • Type of trip: family travel with kids (4-month-old & 2-year-old)
  • Month visited: May
  • How we got in/out: fly in, fly out
  • How we got around: Canada Transfers to/from airport, walking, rental car

Family-Friendly Itinerary Ideas for Playa del Carmen, Mexico

  • Playa del Carmen downtown – busy concentration of shops and restaurants, open during the day, but more popular to stroll at night
  • Secret beach and cenote – a hidden local spot with a small river-like cenote (shallow for kids), read tips on how to access it here
  • Parque Los Fundadores – beachfront park right near Playa del Carmen ferry dock
    • Take a photo with the Playa del Carmen colorful letters sign
    • Capilla de Nta Señora del Carmen – church with beautiful views of the ocean
    • Portal Maya – iconic arched sculpture framing the beach
    • For kids – ship playground
  • Take a ferry across and discover Cozumel
    • Winjetor Ultramar both operate frequent ferries, buy your tickets in advance or in-person 
    • Wander downtown Cozumel
    • Boat trip out to El Cielo – known for its clear electric blue water, snorkeling and starfish (El Cielo was closed part of 2019 because of excessive reef damage – research whether it is currently open before making plans)
    • Paradise Beach Club – beach, restaurant, water sports, inflatable floating water park
  • Xcarat – an eco-archaeological park that offers a wide array of activities and attractions for everyone
  • Cenote Azul – family-friendly cenote with multiple pools
  • Xpu-ha Beach – gorgeous beach with restaurants and beach clubs renting loungers
  • Cenote Dos Ojos – diving, snorkeling, climbing cenote experience in a stunning cave (not good for young kids)
  • Cenote Dos Osos – open circular river cenote with an adventure park – slides, kayaks, snorkeling and more
  • Chichen Itza – famous Mayan ruins complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World
  • Cenote Ik Kil – natural pool 80’ below the ground with long hanging vines, about 10-minute drive from Chichen Itza
  • Valladolid – a colorful and charming Colonial-era city that sits between Playa del Carmen (1hr 45mins)/Tulum (1hr 30mins) and Chichen Itza (45mins) 
  • Cenote Suytun – picturesque and mysterious cenote inside a stunning cave, about a 15-20 minute drive from Valladolid
  • Coba – ancient Mayan ruins site, climb Nohoch Mul Pyramid for impressive views of the Yucatan, about 1hr 30mins drive from Playa del Carmen (or about 1hr from Valladolid, about 45mins from Tulum)

Food Ideas for Playa del Carmen, Mexico

  • El Fogon – locals favorite known for al pastor tacos
  • Chiltepin – Mexican/Latin American cuisine with a focus on seafood
  • Kaxapa Factory – Venezuelan arepas and breakfast
  • Zenzi – beachfront restaurant and bar
  • PapaCharly – cozy, eclectic Italian restaurant
  • Restaurante El Atrio del Mayab – Yucatan/Mexican cuisine with a great garden patio (in Valladolid)

Top Tips for Playa del Carmen, Mexico

  • There are thousands of cenotes in the Yucatan peninsula, do a little research to find something that fits your needs and specific location. Some of the cenotes are very similar and others are unrecognizably different. We intentionally visited three very different cenotes to get a feel for the variety. 
  • You’ll find countless tour providers offering day trips to many of the areas top attractions. There should be plenty of options to find something that works for you or do it yourself.
  • There are endless options for where to stay in the Riviera Maya district of Mexico. I’ve returned to this area numerous times and have stayed in all different spots. If you want to get outside your resort and explore all the Yucatan Peninsula has to offer, Playa del Carmen is a great location. You’re in the middle of it all and able to go any direction to explore something fun – North to Cancun, West to Valladolid and Mayan ruins, South to Tulum, East to Cozumel and everything in between. 

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