Playa del Carmen lies on a stunning coastline and makes for a fantastic family holiday
There are plenty of baby and toddler friendly hotels and restaurants in the area. There are also loads of activities which will keep toddlers entertained. Playa del Carmen is starting to feel like a mass-tourism destination, but it retains its European chic.
The area is known for its palm-lined beaches, coral reefs and scuba diving. It’s Quinta Avenida pedestrian thoroughfare runs parallel to the beach, offering loads of shops and restaurants. The town is ideally located: close to Cancún’s international airport, but far enough south to allow easy access to Cozumel, Tulum, Cobá and other worthy destinations. The reefs here are excellent, and offer diving and snorkelling close by. You can spot rays, moray eels, sea turtles and a huge variety of corals.
The closest airport to Playa del Carmen is the Cancún International Airport . One can also fly into Cozumel International Airport and take a ferry across to Playa del Carmen. Cancun has the cheapest flights, but occasionally deals to Cozumel can be better. You can fly to Cancun’s airport from a host of US and European cities. See ‘Cancun’ for more information.
You can take a bus or taxi from the airport to Playa del Carmen. Buses will have space to stow strollers. Car seats are not mandatory in Mexico so you should either bring your own or pre book one from a private transfer company.
Because the layout of downtown Playa is a rectangular grid, getting around is very easy. Playa del Carmen is pedestrian friendly and you can basically walk to everything. This is ideal if you are bringing a stroller. A bike is a fun alternative to walking; there are a number of bike rental shops at the north end of 5th Ave, some with trailers/ child seats appropriate for toddlers. 5th Avenue is stroller friendly, albeit a little bumpy due to the cobblestones. The streets other than 5th may be a little harder to navigate as the sidewalks here are not consistent and have random drops in elevation.
Car rentals are readily available at a number of locations at the north end of 5th Ave. Large companies, National, Hertz, etc. are convenient, as well as local agencies, which are generally less expensive. You can also rent a car at the airport. Remember to pre book a car with a car seat if you are not bringing your own in order to ensure availability.
5th Ave. (‘Quinta Avenida’ or ‘5ta Av.’) is a pedestrianized street and taxis are available at various intersections along its length. Taxis are reasonable so if you are sightseeing in the region, hiring a taxi for a day might be a good option as it will ensure your transport is waiting for you when you need it.
There are scheduled bus services to destinations in the region (e.g. Xcaret, Xel-ha, Tulum, Cancun airport, Cancun, etc.) and beyond depart from Playa bus station at southern end of 5ta Avenida and Avenida Juárez, which is near the Ferry terminal to Cozumel.
An alternative to the buses is to catch a “colectivo” van. These leave/return at Playa del Carmen from a location on Calle 2 between Av 10 and Av 15. Colectivos are cheap, government regulated, air-conditioned vans which transport people on Hwy. 307, which runs north/south along the coast between Tulum and Cancun.
Organized bus tours are also available from a variety of companies that cross the Riviera Maya & Yucatan. Ask at your hotel for details.
There are nearly 75 restaurants in Playa del Carmen offering foods of every type and price range. There are also some excellent family friendly restaurants, though the more touristy places are more expensive. La Cueva Del Chango with its turtle pond and patios is a great family friendly option that won’t break the bank. There are also various pizza stands with prices ranging from $10-20. As is the case in much of Mexico, the street food is not to be missed. Simply walk south down fifth avenue until you reach the pier and taxi stand. There are generally five or six carts there serving tacos of various types. Every seafood taco is generally outstanding, along with the carnitas, pollo, and chorizo. Also, try the stuffed poblano tacos. Tacos are typically in the US$2-3 range. For the best and freshest tacos arrive mid-morning before the lunch rush as the carts are setting up.
Baby & Toddler Essentials
The bigger hotels in the Mayan Riviera may have the basics in hotel gift shop but if you are staying in Playa del Carmen or planning on heading in for shopping, you can pick up most things you will need. In the major supermarkets (Mega, Wal-mart, Soriana & Chedraui) you will be able to find diapers, wipes and food. Mexican Gerber Baby food is a popular brand here. You may not be able to find the same brands or organic options you are used to at home so if your child is fussy or if you are concerned then it is best to pack your formula and food. Almost all the baby food in Mexico has extra added sugar.
If you need to, you can rent baby equipment from Baja Baby Gear.
If you are taking a tour or planning explore the surrounding with excursions or tours, some are better for kids than other. The best excursion for kids is Xcaret and the stroller will definitely come in handy there (see ‘What to Do’).
Car seats are not mandatory for infants or children and will not be provided on airport transfers, although rental is normally available for a fee. Same goes for car rental, if you need child seats, bring your own, or arrange for rental in advance.