Explore Playa del Carmen
Quinta Avenida, also referred to in English as 5th Avenue, is the main tourist thoroughfare in Playa del Carmen. It runs parallel to the beach and is pedestrianised and spans approximately 20 blocks. This is ideal if you are travelling with a stroller or a toddler who might want to stretch their legs. Watch out for cars on intersections with other streets. Quinta Avenida gets busy in the evenings, especially during December and January, and we found it a bit stressful to walk with our little ones then. However, during the mornings and afternoons, and anytime during low season, it was a great walk.
There are loads of restaurants, both indoor and outdoor on this Avenue which are ideal for families and there are also some great shops.
The beach has been widened recently and is perfect for a play or a paddle and there is a large kid’s park next to the beach. Other good options for kids include Parque Fundadores (Founder’s Park). There is also a shaded playground at Calle 22 and Avenida 40. If the weather is rainy or too hot, there are indoor playgrounds in the Burger Kings at Calle 15 and Juarez and on 20th Avenida, and also at the McDonalds near the Chedraui grocery store (Calle 1 Sur). There is an imaginative playground at Parque la Ceiba. Parque la Ceiba also houses a small art gallery, a small walking path and an open air cafe (located at Calle 1a and Sur y Diagonal 60).
Playa del Carmen also has a number of air conditioned malls. Centro Maya mall and the Plaza las Americas are the largest and are very family friendly. Kids will love the miniature train rides and the affordable and fun arcades. Centro Maya mall and Plaza las Americas also have movie theaters but most movies are dubbed in Spanish.
Xcaret is a great option for toddlers and babies. This massive eco park is great because you can set your own schedule and pace. If you do not have a stroller, you can rent one at approximately $15 for the day. Kids under 5 are free. The eco-park has aquarium’s, giant turtles, birds, monkeys, a butterfly sanctuary and you can also observe dolphins, stingrays and nurse sharks. There are various shows from the Flying Men, to a Mayan show and a Charro show with horses. The colorful costumes and live music will keep the kids interested. The buffet has lots of choices and kid-friendly options for the pickier eaters. The evening show starts as soon as it gets dark, so 6pm in the winter and 7pm in the summer and lasts approx. 2 hours. The show is visually interesting for the younger ones, and even if you can’t stay for the whole thing, it’s worth trying to experience a little bit.
Xel Ha Water Park
If your kids love the water, this is a awesome option. Snorkel to your heart’s content at this natural aquarium. Children’s equipment is available, and there are fish in every corner. The water is calm, great for beginner’s to try snorkeling (age 3+). The lazy river offers double inner tubes, so you can pair up with your toddler and float down the river together. If you’re traveling with a baby, you can enjoy the glass bottom boat. Xel Ha also has a children’s park on site, a tree house type area, and a splash pad for the little ones. The buffet offers lots of options, and has an ice cream machine. Kids under 5 are free. A great option is to do a tour of Tulum and then go to Xel Ha. Tulum is an ancient Mayan city with majestic ruins to climb and explore. The tour takes about 2 hours.
This is a small conservationist, interactive zoo located in the Riviera Cancun. It’s a small zoo by North American and European standards, but you are able to interact with the different species and hold a few of the animals. The tour is 60-75 minutes. You will find animals native to the area such as monkeys, crocodiles, lizards, birds, deer and coatis. Kids under 5 are free and you can save 10% if you book online. It is recommended to get a feeding bag. They do charge a little extra but it is fun and exciting for your kids to get to feed the animals. A taxi from Playa del Carmen is the best way to get there.
Jungle Place Spider Monkey Sanctuary
The Jungle Place spider monkey sanctuary offers food, shelter and medical care to injured spider monkeys. 100% of proceeds go to the care of the monkeys. The Jungle Place is 15 minutes south of Playa del Carmen. You must make advance reservations, and the minimum donation for a tour is $80 per person.
(age 2+) If your children fearless and willing to zipline and snorkel, this is a great option. At the Xtreme jungle ranch, you have the chance to zip line and snorkel in a cenote. You will even get 2 additional snorkels at Akumal beach, one to see the reef and one to see the sea turtles. Child sized equipment available and activities are optional so you can opt in and out depending on your interests. A buffet lunch and non alcoholic drinks are included.
Turtles and Cenotes
Cenotes are freshwater pools and make a great day trip. You can swim, snorkel and even scuba dive their remarkably clear depths. Since some are often quite deep, toddlers, children and poor swimmers should take a life jacket with them. Playa del Carmen has an abundance of cenotes about 20 minutes south on the highway to Tulum. There you can find cenotes Azul, Jardin, Eden, Cristalino, Chikin Ha and Kantun Chi all almost within walking distance. Gran Cenote, Cenote Azul and Cenote Cristalino have especially child friendly access. You can go with a tour, or visit independently. Chaak Tun (with two caves and a waterfall) is also close by. Some of the cenotes offer high diving platforms and even rope swings for the more adventurous. Most are filled with colorful little fish that are sure to delight even the youngest children.
Take a Catamaran Tour
Fun for the whole family. The Fat Cat Catamaran is a nice 4 hour tour that leaves from the Puerto Aventuras Marina. If you are between Playa del Carmen and the Akumal area, the travel time with be kept to approx. 30 minutes. The 45 foot luxury catamaran has spots on board for strollers, and the ambiance is fun and friendly. Although you can enjoy a few drinks on board, it is not a booze cruise and there is water and fruit juice onboard. The picnic lunch is simple enough that kids will be pleased with their sandwich, bag of chips and dessert.
The first stop is a snorkel in shallow waters will allow even the beginner snorkelers to give it a go. The second stop is in a protected area for swimming. You can jump off the boat, use the ladders, or even wear the Fat Cat Nappy. Kids under 2 are free and kids from 3-11 are 78$.
Cancun Wet & Wild
The largest water park in the area is Wet n Wild. If you are staying in the Cancun hotel zone, it is easily accessible with the local bus. If outside the Cancun hotel zone, enquire about the taxi fare. The 18 acre park offers water slides, a wave pool, a lazy river, a kids park and an all inclusive plan with unlimited drinks and food. Kids 0-3 are free, kids 4-11 are $43, 12+ is $49. However, they often have discounts available.
Visit the Mayan Ruins
The Mayan ruins at Tulum, set on a cliff overlooking the clear Caribbean water, are a short hour drive or bus ride away from Playa del Carmen. The ruins are definitely more for parents but if your kids are bored by the ruins, they’ll love the many iguanas running around.The ruins are fairly spread out and you should be able to see them in an hour or two. It can be hot so bring lots of water, and plan on a few breaks under the trees. Large strollers may be tough to negotiate up and down stairs and a baby carrier or lightweight stroller will be easier. The town of Tulum is a 10 minute drive from the ruins, making it an easy stop for meals. The beaches, south of the ruins) have perfect white sand. There are a handful of beach clubs on Tulum’s beaches that offer beach chairs and a place to stop to eat and play.
Parc La Cieba, Calle 1 Sur / Diagonal 60
This park run by a non-profit organization, is a local cultural hub. With educational programs in place, the park itself is a conservation area and greenhouse and offers different types of classes to the community. The playground is made of recycled materials. There are many types of birds and an area with turtles. The cafeteria has snacks and drinks. Every second Saturday of the month, there is a market, with crafts, home made goods, natural products and more. Entrance is free unless there is a special event and donations are accepted in the cafeteria. Bring biodegradable insect repellent or buy some onsite.