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The 6 Best Public Beaches in Playa del Carmen

Our recent family trip to Playa del Carmen was our first time staying outside of an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. We were excited about a more authentic Mexico trip, but we worried about the quality of the public beaches in Playa del Carmen beaches. I’m happy to report that this concern was unfounded and we enjoyed our time at many of the best public beaches in Playa del Carmen. 

Here are our favorite Playa del Carmen public beaches: 

The public Xpu-ha beach is the best beach in Playa del Carmen

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Public Beaches in Playa del Carmen

1. Punta Esmeralda Beach

Because we were traveling with two small kids, Punta Esmerelda was easily our favorite public beach in Playa del Carmen. It’s on the north-east end of town in a non-touristy part of town.

Punta Esmerelda is still considered a ‘locals’ Playa del Carmen beach, but my bet is that it won’t be for long. There were plenty of tourists on Punta Esmerelda each time we visited and we felt safe and welcome each time.

What makes Punta Esmerelda special is that there is a cenote in the middle of the beach. You can actually see the spot where the fresh water bubbles up into the small beach cenote, where it eventually turns into a small stream that snakes through the sand into the ocean. 

Enjoy a swim in a fresh water cenote at Esmeralda Beach in Playa del Carmen

Our kids loved the Punta Esmerelda public beach! We know this as they barely touched their beach toys the whole time we were there. Our kids loved being able to walk through the cenote, which was shallow enough in most areas for them to walk without issue.

Our kids also had fun playing in the stream, climbing up the high sand walls, then sliding or jumping back down into the stream.

Our 4 year old daughter also liked practicing her swimming in the Punta Esmerelda cenote as it was consistently shallow enough for her to do so safely. (Note: the current in the stream is noticeable in parts, so be sure to keep a close eye on your kids.)

The stream and cenote at Punta Esmerelda beach makes it one of the most kid-friendly beaches in Playa del Carmen

Most beachgoers at this Playa del Carmen public beach (including us) play in the cenote and not the ocean. The ocean floor had some rocks and seaweed in spots, but it still looked reasonably hospitable for entry. If you’d like to go in the ocean, bring some water shoes.

Punta Esmerelda is partially protected from the open ocean, hidden nicely by a point jutting out in the ocean, which helps make the waves quite small as they come to shore. The water also stays shallow for a long time, making Punta Esmerelda a kid-friendly public beach in Playa del Carmen.

The facilities at the Punta Esmerelda public beach include a playground, public bathrooms (10 pesos) and a permanent food truck with a large seating area.

How to Get to Punta Esmerelda Public Beach

Another benefit of coming to the Punta Esmerelda public beach is the chance to drive through the part of Playa del Carmen where the locals live. It’s a 15-20 minute cab ride from the main ferry pier in town. 

If you drive there, take 10 Avenida Nte, turn right on Calle 112 and then right on Calle Quinta Avenida. Drive for a few blocks and then turn left on the access road towards the beach. There is a small parking lot at the end of the road, or you can park alongside the access road.

Punta Esmerelda Map

Punta Esmerelda beach is a family-friendly beach in Playa del Carmen

2. Playa Mamitas Beach

Come to Playa Mamitas if you like to be close to the action. Playa Mamitas is a popular Playa del Carmen beach, with music playing at the nearby beach club and lots of activities going on. 

Mamitas Beach Club is a large facility just behind the public beach which offers sun beds for rent, food and a family area with a kid’s pool.

A child plays in the sand in front of mamitas beach club playa del carmen mexico

The Playa Mamitas beach is one of the best public beaches in Playa del Carmen. It’s really nice with deep sand and no rocks to be found on the ocean floor. The water was warm and calm on the day we were there.

public beaches in playa del carmen with kids

Ours kids had fun playing on this kid-friendly Playa del Carmen beach with their beach toys and going into the deeper water with a parent. 

A toddler plays on Playa Mamitas - one of the best beaches in Playa del Carmen

How to Get to Playa Mamitas Public Beach

It’s a 15 minute drive or a 22 minute walk to the Playa Mamitas beach from the main ferry pier. Given the relative indifference on time, you may as well have an enjoyable walk along the pedestrian-only Calle Quinta Avenida. To access Playa Mamitas beach, turn right on Calle 28 Nte.

Playa Mamitas Map

3. Coco Beach

If you need a break from the throngs of tourists, Coco Beach is a good place to escape for a while. This is a true local’s Playa del Carmen beach, where we didn’t see a lot of other tourists. Again, we felt very safe and welcome during our time here.

Kid-friendly Playa Coco beach in Playa del Carmen

The Playa del Carmen beaches immediately south of Coco Beach are super crowded with tourists. The reason Coco Beach is so quiet is because the Reef Coco Beach Resort is at the south end of this Playa del Carmen public beach; it juts out into the water, forcing beach walkers south of the resort to turn around and go back.

Coco Beach is backed by jungle, so there are no resorts behind you. While this is great in many ways, the one downside is there is no resort staff to clean the garbage and seaweed off the sand. We found Coco Beach was a little dirty in spots, but nothing horribly bad. The waves were quite calm while we were there. 

How to Get to Coco Beach Public Beach

You’ll likely want to take a taxi to Coco Beach as it’s a 40 minute walk from the Playa del Carmen ferry pier. Ask your cab driver to go to “The Reef Coco Beach”, on the corner of Calle 48 Nte and Calle Flamingo.

How to get to Coco Beach in Playa del Carmen without staying at the Reef Coco Beach Resort

There is a guard and a gate at the entrance of Reef Coco Beach resort, but don’t be put off. Simply walk along the pathway on the left, past the guard to the end of the parking lot. A pathway headed east towards Coco Beach will reveal itself.

Coco Beach Map

4. Central Playa del Carmen Beach

I’m not sure if the main Playa del Carmen public beach even has a name, but it’s the main beach near Playa del Carmen, stretching from the ferry pier to Calle 10 Nte.

Given its proximity to the main tourist part of Playa del Carmen, this public beach is as busy as you’d expect. Despite the crowds, we found this public Playa del Carmen beach quite clean thanks to the staff at the hotels and restaurants which line the beach. You can plunk your towel down at any spot along this central Playa del Carmen beach, but here are a few locations worth noting:

Public Beach near Fundadores Park

Fundadores Park is immediately north of the main Playa del Carmen ferry pier. It’s the only spot where we could find a real playground in Playa del Carmen. If you are looking for non-beach things to do with kids in Playa del Carmen, this playground is a nice alternative.

The best Playa del Carmen playground in Park Fundadores

When your kids get bored of the playground, the public beach is right next door. The main Playa del Carmen beach is really deep, which makes it feel less crowded.

Kid-friendly beaches in Playa del Carmen - Fundadores Park

The large, looming Playa del Carmen ferry pier doesn’t make for the best scenery, but I found it surprisingly relaxing watching the Cozumel ferries coming and going – perhaps it was watching the commotion of all the tourists coming and going that made sitting on the beach extra relaxing?

Some of the best beaches in playa del carmen are in front of Fundadores park

Occasionally the Cozumel ferries make big waves, but other than that the water was tranquil. The surface under the water was smooth sand, with only occasional rocks.

Beach Between Calle 4 Nte and Calle 6 Nte 

There is a spot on the public Playa del Carmen beach in-between Calle 4 and 6 Nte where there is a large rock jutting out of the water onto the beach. This was our favorite spot along the main public beach in Playa del Carmen, which we came to several times.

public beaches playa del carmen

We parked ourselves on this public Playa del Carmen beach just SW of the rock as it was next to a nice, quiet restaurant and it was rarely crowded. The water was great, the sand under the water was perfectly soft and no one else parked on the beach nearby us.

best public beaches playa del carmen - our favorite spot in town

The kids enjoyed playing in the tide pools and chasing away the small fast-walking birds that like to congregate around the tide pools. 

A family of sand mermaids on a Playa del Carmen public beach near Calle 4

5. Playacar Beach

Playacar is a gated Play del Carmen community south of the main ferry terminal. It’s a nice, quiet residential neighborhood with million-dollar homes, intermingled with some vacation rentals and large beach-front hotels.  

We parked on a quiet side street and walked right on to Playacar Beach. The stretch of Playacar Beach in front of the houses was very quiet, with only a few other people there with beach towels. There is, however, a decent amount of pedestrian traffic from the nearby resorts.

Playacar beach access is along any of the residential streets

What made Playacar Beach one of the best beaches in Playa del Carmen is that it actually had lots of seashells in the sand for our kids to pick up. Our daughter loved finding seashells so much she filled one of her sand buckets full. None of the other public Playa del Carmen beaches had anything more than an isolated shell here or there.

Lots of seashells make Playacar beach a kid-friendly Playa del Carmen beach

Also worth noting, despite not being in front of a hotel, this Playa del Carmen public beach was being cleaned by a clean-up crew. I imagine the Playacar homeowners pay for this service, so I certainly appreciated it!

Playacar Beach Access

Playacar Beach is immediately south of the main ferry pier, so it’s an easy 15-20 minute walk or 4 minute cab ride. Based on suggestions we read online, we lied to the guard at the gate and told him that we wanted to see the Xaman Ha Mayan ruins (which reside inside the Playacar gated community) and he waved us through with no issues.

Playacar Beach Map

family-friendly beaches in Playa del Carmen - Playacar

Public Beaches Near Playa del Carmen

6. Xpu-ha Beach

We’ve been to Mexico seven times and we feel Xpu-ha is the best beach in Mexico – public beach or not. Xpu-ha is a long, beautiful walkable beach along a subtle cove. Despite there being a couple of resorts on Xpu-ha beach, it felt practically deserted compared to the busyness of Playa del Carmen beaches.

Xpu-ha is clearly one of the best beaches near playa del carmen

The waves were typically quite small at Xpu-ha beach, even on windy days, and the water remains shallow for a long time. Our kids enjoyed the novelty of being so far from shore and still being able to touch.

Small waves make Xpu-ha a very toddler-friendly beach near Playa del Carmen

A nice sign of the natural health of Xpu-ha is that crabs still live there. They are just small ones which wouldn’t hurt anyone, but to be honest, I didn’t see a single crab on any other public Playa del Carmen beach the whole month we were there. 

The lack of crowds gives you an opportunity to leave all your stuff on the beach and go into the water as a family – something I’d never do on a super busy Playa del Carmen beach. 

Xpu-ha is one of the best beaches near playa del carmen for kids

Despite the lack of crowds, there are equipment rental stands along Xpu-ha beach. The waves were tranquil enough here for Celine to try Stand-Up Paddleboarding for the first time. 

How to Get To Xpu-Ha Beach

Xpu-ha beach is a 25 minute drive from Playa del Carmen. Drive until you see the Kantun-Chi eco-park, then once you pass the Pemex station (scam warning), take the “returno” (U-turn lane) to turn around.

Get into the far right lane then take your third right – watch for the sign in the pictures below. Despite the fact this is a free public beach near Playa del Carmen, you will need to pay a small fee to the landowners for the right to use their road to get to Xpu-ha beach. The toll is 30 pesos ($~2usd) per adult and kids are free.

Access to the public Playa Xpu-ha beach is along a private road

We hope you enjoy the best public beaches in Playa del Carmen as much as we did!

DON’T MISS: If you are currently in the Mayan Riviera or are planning a trip there, don’t miss our blog post, Plan the Best Family Trip to the Mayan Riviera. It’s packed full of planning tips, exciting family activities and links to all of our Mayan Riviera blog posts. It’s sure to help make your family trip a memorable one!

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