Have you decided to move to Mexico with your family? Great choice! Playa del Carmen is a great spot to be with the kids, especially if you’re looking for a community of both expats and locals.
I’ll always tell you to first visit and see if you like the place. Then rent for a few months to see if you didn’t just get charmed with the place and long-term reality looks different. Only then proceed to buy a place.
Lifestyle in Playa del Carmen with Kids
Playa del Carmen has a large expat community. In some spots 2/3 of the population are expats, but I always recommend not closing yourself to just an expat community.
Some say that Playa has no culture, but I disagree – those who don’t bother to learn the language and only hang out with expats might say that, but it’s just like anywhere else in Mexico if you enter the local community. All places like Playa del Carmen, Cancun, or even Tulum has a tourist site and local site.
Living in Playa del Carmen is pretty quiet overall. You might think that it’s a party town when you’re a tourist, but as a local, you’ll notice that there are no events like Christmas markets, big parties or fairs. It’s more of a “jungle beach life” but with amenities like supermarkets, nice apartments, and shops. Not too commercialized thankfully.
On the bright side there are plenty of things to do in the area. You can pop into cenotes for a few hours, stroll through the beach, head to the jungle, find lakes, or head to Cancun to get the big city life… anything you want really.
There aren’t many playgrounds in downtown areas (centro), because locals mostly venture to places where tourists don’t. But, if you ask around you’ll notice that it’s not like they’re non-existent.
The weather is normally warm, but it can get rainy and cold during hurricane season. We always left Playa and went traveling during that time, to be honest.
Playa del Carmen is pretty safe for families, incomparably safer than Tulum in fact.
Overall, you’ll have more time to spend with your family due to lower costs of living and access to more amenities that will free up your time if you’re coming on a foreign salary (eg. housekeeper, babysitters, maintenance). That’s also why various single parents make a decision to move to Mexico with their child as well.
Cost of Living in Playa del Carmen with a Family
This depends on what kind of place do you want to live, age of your kids, your necessities, and various other factors. The minimum I recommend for a family would be at least $1500-2000.
If you have a baby and skip babysitters and school, only stick to walkable places in the centro and don’t eat out much then you can probably survive on $1000 a month.
However, that’s forgetting the cost of health insurance which most expats ignore and that’s a dangerous thing to do – travel insurance won’t work for many things, especially if you’re coming from the US (why not is. atopic for an entirely separate post).
If you’re planning on working locally you won’t make the same as you were elsewhere, but you will be able to afford the necessities.
Buying a Car in Playa del Carmen
Once you sort your residency out you can proceed to buy a car. Do you need a car in Playa del Carmen? It depends on some factors.
If you’re just a tourist you can totally get away without it by living in centro and biking around. I know families who were able to get away without a car even with kids. However…
I will say that most likely you need a car unless you’re single. Better schools might be further away from you. It’s much more convenient going to bigger shops like Costco or Mega with a car than dragging it all with a taxi.
There is public transportation such as collectivos. They don’t go everywhere and it’s not everyone’s preferred form of transportation with little kids.
Many places where actual expats (not occasional expats that stay 2-3 months) live aren’t in the center. To get there and around you need a car. With a car, you’re also able to explore more and take day trips on your own rather than being doomed to taxis (which are very frustrating and expensive during high seasons).
Shipping a Car to Mexico
If you’re thinking of shipping your car to Mexico (or driving it if you’re in the US) it’s possible in some situations. You can drive and register your car in Mexico with a temporary residence permit.
If you’re coming down to Mexico with a permanent residency straight away then you won’t be able to register your car in Mexico as the law requires you to purchase a car locally.
In most cases, it’s really not worth bringing your car. Don’t get too attached to your vehicle as you may need to pay import and sales taxes and other fees associated with bringing a vehicle into Mexico. It’s cheaper to sell and buy locally.
Healthcare in Playa del Carmen
Most minor medical issues can be handled by local hospitals and clinics. There are also free walk-in clinics at pharmacies you can use if you speak Spanish.
You can also go to Cancun to handle more serious issues. I gave birth in Cancun while living in Playa del Carmen.
Babysitting in Playa del Carmen
There are various babysitting agencies and private people. I personally recommend Kangaroo the Babysitting Crew – everyone I met was lovely and always made it fun for the kids.
It’s super easy to arrange other things for kids like swim lessons, sports clubs and language teachers. Most things spread through the word of mouth and don’t really have a website (or it’s a bad one), so don’t be surprised that everything is handle on WhatsApp.
Best Schools in Playa del Carmen
Most parents opt for private schools for their little ones. The good news is that in Playa del Carmen there are many great schools.
Mexican children don’t tend to go to bed early during weekends and school vacation periods, so you’ll frequently see children out late enjoying themselves with their parents. Most schools start at 9 am.
Here are a few recommended options:
Kookay – preschool and early education camps. Eco jungle school almost entirely outside.
Ak Lu’Um International School – Waldorf school in the jungle.
Colegio Ingles – bilingual accredited school with lots of extracurricular acitvities.
Colegio Montessori – bilingual Montessori school.
Comunidad Educativo El Papalote – from preschool to high school. Multicultural Waldorf school.
El Arbol Green School Playacar – green eco-school for all ages.
Yits’Atil – Preschool to secondary. Right downtown.
What About Other Towns Nearby?
What about Tulum? Raising kids in Tulum is absolutely the worst idea. While Tulum is a popular Instagram location in reality it’s full of issues.
Tulum is getting overrun by foreign investors who don’t care about infrastructure. As a result, the place is not only pushing locals away from it but also canalization is close to non-existent and things get dumped into the ocean, new roads cannot be built and internet connection is just awful.
As a result, Tulum is getting more and more dangerous, less local which means fewer things to actually do and schools are pretty bad, and awful for longer stays.
Moving to Merida is a popular option in the area for families and retirees because it’s safe and significantly cheaper than other spots on the Yucatan Peninsula. You can get a fantastic villa with various bedrooms and a pool for less than 300k.
There are a ton of great schools, good beaches nearby and it’s safe for kids.
Before you buy, visit Merida, especially in warmer months – February or the summer. For me, personally, it was awful due to the number of bugs and humidity and I wasn’t the biggest fan of food over there and found people not as warm and welcoming as in other places in Mexico. But, various of my friends like it.
Monday 13th of March 2023
We are looking at moving to Playa this year and we’re trying to get more info on schools. Would you say there is a particular school that would be best for a 1st grader that doesn’t speak English?
Thanks in advance!
Monday 13th of March 2023
Kids will adapt without language knowledge so I wouldn't worry about that part... just make sure you get on the waitlists, because some schools have very long ones so you might not be able to get into your first choice anyway.
Friday 2nd of September 2022
Hi Anna Any tips on a short-term (perhaps 4-6 weeks) school/camp/activity for a 6-yr-old during the Fall/Winter period? Thanks!
Saturday 3rd of September 2022
Most schools will have waitlists and usually don't accept students for short periods of time, but Yits’Atil does a lot and deals with a lot of seasonal families. Otherwise, I know some parents join forced and create some homeschool camps themselves - check Mommy Mafia group on Facebook.
Wednesday 24th of August 2022
Thanks for the article!
We will be in mexico permanently starting October. We really had our hearts set on playa or merida, but are thinking the heat may be too much. Not to mention the tourism in playa. Im a water baby at heart and love love love the waters in Quintana Roo. We might fly into Puerto vallarta and live there for a few months before heading east.
How do you feel about the weather over in playa? Im certain the weather in merida will be a bit too much. I love doing outdoor activities and can't see myself running from one air conditioned spot to the next.
Cheers! The Greenwoods
Wednesday 24th of August 2022
I'd advise against Merida in your case for sure. We're very used to heat (lived in Utah where it was 105 for months) because in Merida the heat is awful with the humidity, add the bugs and it's a nightmare. Plus, it's not really close to any beach unless you live by the coast.
In terms of temperatures in Playa del Carmen or Puerto Vallarta they're comparable... but the ocean is colder on that coast while in Playa it stays nice and warm all year round. It's never too hot to do stuff in Playa I'd say... it's much cooler than a lot of places in the US, to be honest (UT, AZ, CA, NC, FL - all these places are much hotter and if you add some European spots like Italy or Spain, Playa del Carmen is actually pretty cold at times). I've been to Vallarta a few times and I never fell in love, the beaches alone just don't cut it for me, but some people love it. But if you're afraid of the heat then both places will be too warm... but again, I don't think I've ever had 100 degrees there... 90 maybe and it doesn't last the whole day - it's usually like 80-85.
One thing you do need to think about when moving to Mexican coast is that if you're an AC-loving person who sets it to like 68-70 you'll have to start adjusting, because your electricity bill would be awful. We only use AC sometimes set at 76 at the lowest, and never have it on all night and a bill for a 2-bedroom apartment is usually around 5500 mxn monthly. Friends who run AC lower and all the time pay over 9000 mxn, so many people just slowly get used to fans and everyone is outside enjoying the weather. Don't worry!