Image of a rooftop swimming pool at Hotelito del Mar, a great option for stretching your budget per day in Mexico

Budget per day for a family trip to the Mayan Riviera, Mexico (2024)

Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula was the first stop on our family gap year. And what a beautiful place to start! It’s no secret that Cancun and the surrounding area can be REALLY expensive, but what kind of budget per day do you need for this part of Mexico?

In this blog post we’ll breakdown exactly what we spent for a budget week in Playa del Carmen. Including information on what a budget per day can look like on the Mayan Riviera, Mexico.

Where is the Yucatan Peninsula?

Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is the heart of tourism in the country. It’s long stretch of Caribbean coastline makes this an incredibly popular destination for all kinds of travellers. Families, couples, backpackers and everyone in-between! 

The main gateway to this region is Cancun, which has international flights to all over the world. There are also plenty of domestic flights to other locations in Mexico This can be a great place to start your Mexican adventures as it’s so well-connected.

Most of the main holiday resorts and towns are strung along a stretch of coast between Cancun and Tulum known as the Mayan Riviera.

Where to stay on the Yucatan Peninsula with kids

Many of the big (and we mean BIG) family-oriented hotels and resorts are located in the Zona Hotelera in Cancun. This is essentially a thin strip of sandbar packed to the rafter with resorts, bars and restaurants. This makes for a great – but pricey – family holiday. A stay here will really stretch your Mexico budget per day!

If you fancy something a bit quieter (and a bit more budget friendly) then head down the coast slightly. Around a 45min drive South from Cancun will bring you to the smaller tourist towns of Puerto Morales and Playa del Carmen. Don’t get me wrong, Playa del Carmen and Puerto Morales still have more than their fair share of pricey resorts but there are also some gems to be found that will go a bit easier on your daily budget.

We opted to stay at Hotelito del Mar in Playa del Carmen. We loved this little hotel – far enough away from the madness of the main strip in Playa del Carmen but only a ten minute walk to the beach. Each of the little apartments came with a kitchen (a must for saving cash by self catering!). Plus there was a gorgeous rooftop pool, which we had to ourselves for most of our stay.

We paid a total of £433 for seven nights in a two-bed apartment with a kitchen (c.£63 per night).

Read more about our stay in Playa del Carmen in our blog post here.


Budget-friendly activities on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

There are a LOT of amazing-sounding but VERY expensive activities and days out on the Mayan Riviera. You might choose to splash out on some of these, even if you’re trying to stick to a budget. 

The two big-hitter natural waterparks are Xel-Ha (£89 per adult, £67 per child aged 5-11years) and Xcaret (£101 per adult, £76 per child aged 5-11years). These are the cheapest prices if you book online in advance. Amazing days out but not easy to justify if you’re trying to keep your budget per day relatively low in Mexico!

Instead, here are a few *slightly* more budget activities to opt for on the Mayan Riviera:

Explore the local cenotes

Cenotes are basically limestone sinkholes that appear all over the Yucatan Peninsula. Many of them have stunning, crystal clear waters that you can spend hours swimming and snorkelling in. Entrance to Cenote Azul – the outside Playa del Carmen – is MX$150/£6.50 per adult and MX$80/£3.50 per child (aged 4-8 years).

For a full guide to the cenotes on the Yucatan, see this fabulous post.

Visit Ventura Park

Not as big and shiny as Xcaret or Xel-Ha, but comes in at half the cost and has some fab water slides, ziplines, go karts and arcade games. Read our full review here.

Chill out in Puerto Morales

If you’re looking for a more mellow vibe, take a wander around Puerto Morales. There are loads of cute little eateries, a smattering of shops and a gorgeous beach to relax on.

We also opted to take a snorkel tour out to the reef; this cost us around £57 in total.

Take a trip to Cozumel

The ferry to Cozumel runs right from Playa del Carmen so this is an easy day trip. Cozumel is a stunning island with a laid-back Caribbean vibe; you can wander through the little streets and eat in one of the lovely restaurants in the main town. The return ferry costs MX$580/£25 per adult and MX$480/£20 per child.

If you do have the extra budget, I would highly recommend a snorkelling tour off Cozumel. We prioritised this over other expensive activities as the boys are big fans of snorkelling and love seeing any form of marine life. And we were lucky enough to see turtles, stingrays and a whole array of colourful fish. We booked this one through Viator and would recommend it!

You can read all about our snorkelling trip to Cozumel in our blog post here.

Where is cheap to stay on the Yucatan Peninsula?

In short, most of the accommodation along the Mayan Riviera will not be especially cheap. However, if you head inland you’ll find that prices drop fairly dramatically. 

We wanted to include a visit to Chichen Itza with the kids during our trip so we opted for a few nights in Valladolid. You can read all about our stay in Valladolid in our blog post here. In short, we loved it and it was much cheaper! We paid £33 per night for a family room in Valladolid. If you want to balance the tourist feel (and prices!) of the Mayan Riviera with some time in a more traditional Mexican small town I would highly recommend a few nights there. Your budget per day will stretch much further in this part of Mexico!

How much did we spend for a week in Playa del Carmen, Mexico?

We spent £433 on accommodation and then a further £853 on everything else. So a total of £1,286 for a family of four for seven nights. 

This included:

  • Eating out: MX$3,238/£141
    (including three meals in casual restaurants, ice creams, tacos from food stalls and pancakes)
  • Public Transport/Taxis: MX$1,370/£60 (including the bus from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen)
  • Food Shopping: MX$1,584/£69
  • Car hire and petrol: MX$1,690/£80 (two days)
  • Laundry: MX$70/£3 (one load)

Plus the following days out/activities:

  • Ventura Park: MX$3,530/£154 including day passes with lunch/ice creams, locker hire and Star Wars Racer Pods
  • Puerto Morales Snorkelling: MX$1,200/£57
  • Entry to Cenote Azul: MX$530/£23
  • Cozumel Snorkelling Trip: MX$4,077/£180 including Marine Park tax and tips
  • Return ferry from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel: MX$1,980/£86

You can see that the activities were by far the biggest chunk out of our budget. You can easily save on these if you are happy to just soak up the sun, sea and sand and spend most of your time chilling on the beautiful beaches. 

What budget per day do you need for the Mayan Riviera, Mexico?

In total our spend per day for a week in Playa del Carmen, Mexico came in at c.£185 per day. This included all of the above activities. For us, this worked out pretty well – we did four ‘days out’ and had three days to just chill by the pool or on the beach. 

If you want to really save your cash, whilst chilling out in a beautiful spot, you could get by on a budget per day of £115 per day for a family of four in this part of Mexico. 

On this budget you’d be staying in a small hotel with pool, eating out 2-3 times during the week (plus buying the odd coconut/ice cream/cold drink each day) but mostly self-catering. You’d only be doing free activities such as chilling on the beach or by the pool.

If you wanted to eat out at a budget restaurant once a day, you would need a budget per day of closer to £130 for this region of Mexico. This wouldn’t include any days out or activities. 

Top tips:

  • Make sure you book accommodation that comes with kitchen facilities – being able to self-cater will really help keep costs down
  • Think very carefully about which activities you all REALLY want to do and build this in to your budget. It’s easy to get swept along by the tour guides trying to sell you all kinds of trips so if you go in with a plan and a budget it will help to make sure you don’t overspend.
  • Further from the beaches you’ll find food stands offering lunches like tacos – these can be really tasty AND very cheap!


Planning a family trip to Mexico?

If you’re thinking of planning a family vacation to Mexico – and are looking to do this on a budget – then check out our other posts below for inspiration, advice and tips.

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