This year over the Christmas holidays, we spent 6 days in the Cancun area with our 4 and 6-year-old. We rented a car and stayed in an Airbnb to take advantage of traveling around the area to see Mayan ruins and different beaches. Hope this post is helpful if you're planning a trip to the area. Share with any friends who may be taking a trip to Cancun and learn from our mistakes!
Playa del Carmen:
Our Airbnb was in Playa del Carmen which is a nice place to call home in the middle of all the attractions. We stayed just a few blocks from public beach access and there was a pool on the rooftop. (It was a little cold to swim in, but a nice option for kids.) Our place was also off of Quinta Avenida, the famous walking street through all of Playa del Carmen. We were about 10 minutes driving from the busiest area of Playa del Carmen and that was just perfect for us as we enjoyed the quieter end. Restaurants and coffee shops were within walking distance and plenty of covid-testing centers as well if you need to get a test to fly back to the US.
From Playa, you can easily catch the ferry to Cozumel, which we opted out of this trip as it was just a bit too much with our kids this time around. There’s great nightlife if you are looking for it and beautiful beaches and places to stay in Playa del Carmen.
Our Airbnb was beautiful and perfect for the four of us, with free parking as well.
Wouldn't necessarily recommend planning a 20,000 step day with a 4 and 6-year-old, but it is one of the Seven World Wonders so I guess it was worth the blisters, tears, and "memories" to get the pictures by these pyramids. 🤪
But for real, Chichen Itza is pretty amazing....and so was walking around Mayan ruins that are 1500 years old.
-Get there early. Like when it opens, we made the mistake of not arriving until 10:30 am and tour busses had already arrived. It was very busy and we had to park a ways away which only added to the many steps we took during the day.
-Wear good walking shoes.
-Bring Sunscreen and lots of water.
-Ask which direction to walk so you don't walk extra steps in the wrong direction.
-Also we went on Sunday which is free for Mexican residents....that also meant that thousands of other people had the same idea.
-If you are a teacher or Mexican citizen, there are also discounts every day with your ID.
-PSA: selfies are difficult to capture the whole pyramid, and never trust that a stranger actually takes a good picture. 😂
On our way back to Playa del Carmen from Chichen Itza, we stopped in Valladolid a cute little colonial town to grab a bit to eat and break up the two-and-a-half-hour drive for the kids. There are lots of yummy restaurants in the area, many owned by Argentinians. We found one via Google Maps that had good ratings and the food was excellent.
“Yerba Buena del Sisal” was delicious with fresh options for the whole family, they have yummy smoothies and vegan options as well. The cathedral downtown is worth a passing by as well as the ex-Convento that’s outside this restaurant.
was fun for the whole family.
From swimming through underground rivers to seeing huge turtles, beautiful parrots, dolphins, sharks, and all sorts of tropical animals to watching the big show about Mayan and Mexican history, our day was packed full of memories. We’d definitely recommend this for you and your family.
-If you want to stay for the huge show from 7-9 pm, get there around 11 am otherwise your kids will be too tired if you start your day at 8 am.
-Bring water bottles with you - there are places to fill them up all over the park.
-If you want to take pictures in the river, buy the waterproof case for your camera before you go in. It's half the price outside the park entrance compared to inside.
-Wear your swimsuit and bring clothes to change into.
-If you are traveling with kids, bring a stroller. We had our cheap umbrella stroller and it saved us a lot of whining from our 4-year-old as it is a BIG park and there’s a lot of space to walk
-Bring a towel or two for your family.
-Swim the underwater river - it was so cool! And a word to the wise, put all your things in a big bag and they will carry it to the end of the river for you. We did not pay for a locker and all our things were fine.
-Ask the employees for help if you aren't sure where to go, they are super friendly and the park is created with different colored lines of stone throughout to make sure you find what you're looking for.
-Buy your tickets at least 20 days in advance for a discount.
-If you are a Mexican resident, use the code PromoMex for an additional discount. Kids 4 and under are free!
-We didn't buy the Plus tickets and found that a couple of restaurants with beach views were cheaper than the $35 USD/person buffet options.
We drove to Tulum one day to see the picturesque Mayan ruins on the coast of the Yucatan with the perfect turquoise water setting the scene. These ruins may be my favorite as you really can’t beat the view.
After checking out the ruins, we drove down to the coast, found a place to park, and walked to a yummy little Mexican restaurant called Mateo’s before walking down to a small beach with natural tide pools, rocks to climb, and little waves for the kids. Our kids honestly didn’t want to leave this spot and made friends with some other kids while we sipped a margarita and corona under a thatched umbrella.
It was a perfect, low-key day with kids. If we were traveling without kids, we probably would have beach-hopped or found a few other places, but sitting still for our last full day in the area suited us well.
(Many people love staying in Tulum, there are eco-friendly hotels in Tulum....which give you a sort of glamping experience and many people rent bikes or scooters to get around the area. It’s very hipster and trendy in Tulum with elevated prices on a lot of the food and drinks).
-Get there early, once again we arrived around 11 am and it was HOT, like there’s no shade sort of HOT. And there were sooooo many people.
-Wear comfy shoes as you do have to walk about a kilometer to get to the ruins.
-Bring your IDs if you are a teacher or Mexican and you’ll get free admission. We only paid for my husband and it was $80 pesos. ($4 USD).
-We wore swimsuits under our clothes as we knew we were gonna find a beach to swim in after the ruins and it was easier that way.
-Bring hats and sunscreen, and remember to apply the sunscreen to yourself as well as your kids.
-Buy water, Gatorade, Corona, or whatever you need at the 7-Eleven before you start walking to the ruins.
On this trip with kids we didn’t do any of the big hotels in Cancun, there are beautiful beaches there and the all-inclusive hotels are fun, but with kids and wanting to explore the ruins and area, we found Playa del Carmen to be a great fit for us.
On our next trip to the area, we want to check out Merida and Bacalar. More to come, cheers my dears!
If you like this post, please share it with your friends who may be traveling. And check out my other posts on travel around Mexico with kids.