Finally, we reached the destination we were so excited about – Mar del Plata in the province of Buenos Aires. Not everyone knows that this is one of the most beautiful and unique places in Buenos Aires, mainly because it has an amazing coast and stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. But also, because it is the closest resort to Buenos Aires city – only 5 hours by bus departing from Retiro Bus Station or 6 hours by comfy train (the option we prefer when traveling with our little baby, Teo!). If you wish to do a lot of swimming, sunbathing, camping, water activities, etc., you should definitely visit Mar del Plata Buenos Aires with kids.
That said, if you come to visit only Buenos Aires for a week or so, I recommend hopping on a bus or train and enjoying the beautiful coast, sea lions, surfing, paragliding, absolutely delicious seafood, shopping, and much more in Mar del Plata.
Our excitement was justified by the fact that we were going to visit all our Argentinian family, relatives, and friends, as this is exactly where Santi was born (Check who we are here!). This was our first time after Teo was born, plus we went for a special occasion – my brother-in-law’s wedding. Big deal! So, we were spoilt so much with the attention that the first week in London seemed to us super extra boring.
Personally, I have already been to Mar del Plata twice, though both visits were limited in time (only one weekend each time), plus we were already expecting a baby. Definitely, I was not in a mood traveling around during my first trimester, so I saw nothing but the city center with a coast view.
This is exactly why this time I was blown away with its beauty and a variety of things to do in Mar del Plata with kids. Below are my best picks.
Buenos Aires Mar del Plata
1. City centre
Let’s start from the beginning. Mar del Plata is famous for its coast and its luxurious casino, one of the largest in the world.
Anywhere you go, you will observe a vast stretch of sea line that offers beaches and a range of leisure activities (actividades en Mar del Plata). Some of the beaches are private, meaning you have to buy a membership or pay for a single entrance. You will then be given some privacy, a personal tent, where you can store your belongings and not worry about being robbed. Some of these private beaches also offer a swimming pool which does make sense if you are coming with kids – a perfect reason to visit Mar del Plata with a baby. It is quite windy, and water sometimes might seem cold for your little one.
City Centre is just a regular center for me, to be honest. There’s a huge pink casino which is a hotel now too. And there’s a statue of Sea Lion, which is a symbol of Mar del Plata (see below why). This place is called La Rambla. You can find a tourist pedestrian road to walk, enjoy shopping and see what locals are capable of in order to earn some money. However, be careful with your belongings. My Argentinian husband was so annoyed with me every time I tended to get my GoPro or camera out (Check out travel gear selection here!). This is definitely not the place you’d like to show what you have got. So, again, be careful!
Unless otherwise, it is always important to get insurance for the entire family that works worldwide.
At last, the city center is also where you can change the currency if necessary. You can do this in special places, called “Casa de Cambio” (Currency exchange service). Due to the fact that the economy is changing there faster than you blink, sometimes you can get a very good deal on the change.
2. Main city areas and places to visit in Mar del Plata
Apart from the city center, I’d highly recommend the following places:
2.1. Playa Grande
You will see a fabulous view of the coast enjoying luxury houses and villas around. There’s an amazing area filled with cafes and restaurants. And…wait for it! The best ice cream hides in this area too. See below the names of two famous places for ice cream in Mar del Plata.
This is considered to be the most expensive city area. However, not if you are a foreigner. You can find high-end quality garments here, souvenirs, and any consumer goods. Most of the garments are made in Argentina. I couldn’t resist the fabric and got two pieces. After converting the Argentinian Peso to Pound Sterling I realized I made a good deal out of it anyways.
But Güemes isn’t only for shopping, it also has amazing restaurants, bars, and pubs. Here you can get a real experience of Argentinian cuisine and dance up to the early morning. We went to a lovely place, where for one price of ARS$ 250 you get as many pizzas and fried papas with cheese as you want + “get one buy one” deal on drinks.
2.3. Avenida Constitucion
This large avenue will surprise you with a quantity of pretty good restaurants and bars for a very decent price. “Baum” has an excellent deal on seafood and fish plates that you can order for 2 or 4 people. We had there our first night-out date. Woot! Woot!
Due to location, this type of dish is miraculous in Mar del Plata. Obviously! You can see lots of ships in the sea fishing all night long to feed their customers the next morning craving for fresh sea morsels.
Also, at the beginning of the avenue, you will find “Museo de Arte” (Art Museum). Right in front of it, there is a giant statue of a sea lion designed by one famous Argentinian artist named Marta Minujín. Do you wonder what is so unique about it? Nothing, excluding the fact that the entire statue is made out of 80 thousand tiny “Alfajores” – a traditional confectionery found in Argentina.
3. Best beaches to visit
- Playa Grande
- The ones that are passing the Lighthouse to the South direction.
Your choice of the beach in Mar del Plata will depend on a few factors, such as solo or family travel; public or private beach; availability of toilets and shower space, etc. Also, surfers will usually check the wind of different beaches to see where it is best to go.
Also, important to note: be careful with the Argentinian sun, especially when visiting Mar del Plata with a toddler. You might not feel the heat as it is windy, however, a few things I realized were so important to take for us and our little nug: sunscreen and mosquito repellent (for lakes and mountains). Check out our selection of kids’ essentials for travel, including the category “Protection”.
4. Sea lions at Puerto
Puerto means port in Spanish. And, surprisingly, it is one of the highlights of our journey, especially when traveling with kids. You can admire tons of sea lions lying on the beach trying to conquer their own space. These creatures love to fight for their spot, but the weird thing is they tend to lie one on another instead of getting a free space a couple of meters away from them.
The place is quite noisy as sea lions never stop fighting. My son, Teo, loved watching them roar and in the end started to run around roaring like one of those mad sea lions.
You will find only male sea lions though, there are no females. This is made for a special reason. When fighting with other males they obtain the magic of conquering the heart of the beautiful female sea lion. So, when they master this trick, they swim down to Uruguay, make their job done quickly, and get back. I must say these creatures are super lazy. 90% of their lives is rest, while 10%….wait for it! The rest 10% is devoted to scratching themselves and eating. What parent wouldn’t dream to have at least one day like this?!
To conclude, there are 450 thousand species of sea lions in the world, and 130 thousand are concentrated in Argentina. Booya!
The port is not only about sea lions, but it is also about incredibly delicious and always freshly made seafood. My husband was in Buenos Aires to proceed with some paperwork when we went to visit the port, you should have heard him crying in jealousy realizing we are having lunch there.
There you can have a nice walk admiring colorfully painted boats and some sea lions sunbathing with no fence. I wouldn’t recommend touching them though. Nice souvenir shops surround this little area and fishmongers where you can get fresh fish to cook.
In addition, you can drive around and see south and north breakwaters, the place where all ships enter. There are loads of fishermen too.
An interesting piece of information: Back in time, Mar del Plata has received lots of Russians, Ukrainians, and other post-soviet nationalities. It turns out the day the Soviet Union has fallen apart, some Russian ships just reached the port of Mar del Plata. Just like in the movie “Terminal” with Tom Hanks, they got locked up and couldn’t return to their homes. They sold everything they could for a pittance, in the end, receiving a local ID, passport, and nationality of Argentina. Until today, there are lots of Russian-speaking immigrants that were forced to stay but happily live in Mar del Plata working and taking care of their new families. Learning this story, I just realized how tragic it was back then to lose everything in a split second and build your life from scratch learning a new language, culture, and environment.
5. Camping Mar del Plata: visit lakes and mountain ranges
Want to do something different that you wouldn’t have thought of doing? Camping is actually quite a common leisure activity for Argentinians, and the best place to camp is in Mar del Plata. It has a lot to offer. The nearest one is called “Sierra de Los Padres”. It is about a 30-minute drive, where you can enjoy a lake (no swimming! It is very dangerous to swim as it is filled with swirls). The best part for me was to drive into that little town and admire local art and craft shops. Also, the view was a blast!
The second place we went for the whole weekend was “Laguna La Brava”. That’s a camping area 40 minutes away from the city. The place was gorgeous with a pool and little wooden houses. It is super child-friendly with literally everything you need. The next day we went to walk around the lake (again, no swimming! The same issue!) I was surprised that property dogs were walking us to everywhere we went. For me, it felt like I had personal guardians. The food we tried was incredible! I must say, I became a connoisseur of Argentinian food.
6. Surfing, kitesurfing, and paddling
For all water lovers out there: Mar del Plata has amazing waves!
Surfing is a must to try if you are into this. I have never surfed in my life, it was sort of my dream. Guess what? It came true! Of course, in my case, I was brought nowhere near to the real waves. But it didn’t matter, as waves are everywhere even in the shallowest spot. I loved it so so so much that now I am seriously thinking to relocate to one of the surfing places.
Apart from surfers, there were more paddlers and kite surfers into the sea. One paddler has almost bumped into me. I didn’t try these sports, but locals definitely know what they are doing.
7. Paragliding and kayaking
Another activity worth trying is paragliding. It takes 15 minutes to fly over the sea and the city with an instructor behind your back, so no worries! 1600 ARS$, why not?
Kayaking is good too. It is best to try it when camping or visiting lakes and mountain ranges.
If you are traveling with your kids, it is a shame to miss on Aquarium. A place where you can enjoy various types of birds, flamingos, parrots of any color; seals, and sea lions. There are some events at special hours where you can feed penguins too. But the most amazing part is the dolphin show. This is one in a lifetime. What kid won’t love it?!
Though, we did miss it. I knew about it only when we were on the way to Buenos Aires. It turned out my Argentinian family is against zoos, aquariums, and any places captivating animals, so they kept it a secret.
9. The best ice-cream is here!
Well, “the best” might sound like an overstatement, but, trust me, it will be one of the most delicious experiences in your life.
Argentinian ice cream is famous for being handmade. Two places I can recommend to try out in Mar del Plata:
It is my favorite place. It has over 50 different tastes, including Kinder Bueno which is the best!
9.2. “Helados ITALIA”
It is famous for its “cannoli” – an Italian type of ice cream. Cannoli in ice-cream form equals the greatest dessert ever! Crushed graham crackers or ice cream cones work great in a pinch! In “Helados Italia” you will find all kinds of types.
We wish you to have the best experience of traveling around Argentina!
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