Playa del Carmen Vacation ideas
Beach lounge chairs

Located in the heart of the Mayan Riviera, Playa del Carmen is anything but a typical resort town. While it does offer many ‘traditional’ activities that one would expect in a Caribbean beach town, the fun doesn’t end at the beach.

In fact, this eclectic and cosmopolitan Mexican city boasts a diverse assortment of family-friendly boutique hotels and attractions, with something for shopaholics, outdoor adventurers and everyone in between. It’s friendly, authentic and touristy with low-rise condos and B&Bs tucked between waterfront beach clubs. What you won’t find are the isolated all-inclusive family resorts that line the eastern coast of Quintana Roo’s Yucatan peninsula, just south of Cancun.

Unique Shopping around La Quinta Avenida

Anyone visiting must spend time on La Quinta Avenida, a vibrant avenue and pedestrian-only main street. There are upscale European boutiques, craft stores and even Western shops such as Lacoste and Tommy Hilfiger. The shopping in Playa del Carmen definitely permits you to have a shop til’ you drop experience.

Here, you’ll also find traditional huipiles, which are blouses with colorful handmade trim that make for unique gifts. Moving away from this main avenue, you can find small, quaint little shops owned by local artisans selling souvenirs and figurines, many made from wood and conch shells.

Eating Out in Playa del Carmen

In Playa del Carmen you can also surely indulge your taste buds.

Traditional Mexican food can be found on every block, featuring Yucatecan cuisine such as cochinita pibil (pork marinated in orange juice served with rice and red onion) as well as fresh, daily-caught seafood seasoned with local spices.

And you won’t have to make Mexican the routine, as there are plenty of international restaurants serving Italian, French, and even Argentinean cuisine.

Family Activities on Playa’s Surf and Turf

If your family likes to explore, there are numerous outdoor adventures to embark on. Seven miles north of Playa del Carmen is a subtropical recreation area, Parque Ecologico Tres Rios. Here you can observe over 100 species of animals and plants and kayak through the tranquil mangroves.

Just west of the city is Zona de Cenotes where you can dive and snorkel through the cenotes (sinkholes) or ponds connected to underwater river systems. The Great Mayan Reef, which runs along the shore, also allows for underwater frolicking, with beautiful coral and vibrant tropical fish to swim amongst. For guided snorkeling tours, try out The Snorkel Shop, which offers tours of both the reef and cenotes.

For the thrill-seekers, there is kite surfing at Plaza la Marina. This exhilarating water sport combines surfing and parasailing, challenging you to stand on a board while being pulled by a large kite. PDC Kiteboarding is a local shop that provides equipment rental or lessons.

Trip Planning Details for Your Playa Vacation

With its sandy beaches, charming semi-urban lifestyle and exciting outdoor activities, Playa del Carmen is an eclectic yet perfectly family-friendly Caribbean town. Air-conditioned, quality public buses run up and down the coastal road between Cancun and Tulum, making many excursions cheap to do.  It’s a good base for families who are looking beyond the all-inclusive resort experience for an affordable home base to explore the region.
For more information on attractions and dining, check out the Visit Mexico – Playa del Carmen tourism information site. For ideas on where to stay, check out Family Travel Forum’s reviews of Riviera Maya and Playa Del Carmen famly-friendly resort hotels.

This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.