Planning a trip to Mexico? Here are some tips on our favourite activities in Playa del Carmen, where we stayed for over a month. In this article we will look at sunbathing on sandy beaches, swimming in natural lakes, exploring ancient ruins and many other activities.
Playa del Carmen is a beach town in the Riviera Maya region of the Mexican island of Yucatán, about an hour south of Cancún. As well as endless beaches, bars and fried churros, Playa del Carmen is also the gateway to the island of Cozumel.
Even though it is a ”touristy” city, except for the main 5th Avenue and the area around Playacar, you won’t encounter tourists.
We spent a whole month in Playa during our spring stay in Mexico and we rode our bikes all over it. We’ll give you advice on where to go, what activities to try and where to eat.
Each of these activities is no more than a two-hour drive from Playa del Carmen. Using the map at the end of the article, you can see all the places and easily plan your entire holiday day by day.
1) Swimming in cenotes: natural caves and caverns with clear fresh water
(after the ancient Mayan name cenote) are karst caves filled with underground and rainwater. They often have sunken ceilings, creating beautiful deep freshwater pools that are popular places to spend an afternoon.
The Yucatán has just over 6,000 cenotes and we can swear to you that we have never seen more beautiful and clear water in our lives. In addition to swimming and snorkeling, you can also dive in Cenote, but you will need a basic PADI diving license.
All cenotes are easily accessible by Collectivos minibuses, which run almost every minute on the main roads.
2) Day trip to Cozumel Island
Cozumel is a small island about 40 minutes by ferry from Playa del Carmen. Its beautiful beaches attract giant cruise ships, which often dock here.
A cheap way to get around the island is to rent bikes or scooters. There is a taxi service all over the island, but it can cost more than 1000 CZK to get from the ports to one of the more remote beaches.
Stay on the island all day and return to Playa del Carmen on the sunset ferry.
A tip for a great beach:
When you arrive on the island, hitch a ride north and get dropped off at the hotel
. The hotel’s beach club is open to the public and there is no charge for beach access. For the price of a Coca-Cola, you’ll have the perfect afternoon.
3) Playa del Carmen beaches
For several years, all the beaches of the Riviera Maya have been plagued by problems with the sargassum seaweed, which arrives from the open ocean and rolls onto the beaches for several weeks a year (for a forecast of its occurrence, see
But that doesn’t mean the beaches of Playa del Carmen aren’t worth a visit. On the other hand, if you go to the less touristy beaches, you’ll enjoy the perfect atmosphere with locals who come to the beaches to dance salsa and eat tacos.
All the beaches in Playa del Carmen are public and access is free, but a sunbed can cost as little as CZK 100 per person or as much as CZK 1,500. We found the cheapest sunbeds right by the ferry to Cozumel. Just go down to the beach on the left and choose the beach bar you like.
A tip for the beach in Playa del Carmen: A few kilometres north of the most touristy beach is Playa Punta 88. Only locals come here, there are free showers and toilets, and this is where you’ll find the true Mexican atmosphere.
4) Evening stroll along 5th Avenue
A walk around ”La Quinta” is a must for anyone heading to Playa del Carmen. Like any beach town, Playa has its own pedestrianised main street, so 5th Avenue is home to a wide variety of shops, bars, cafes, restaurants and vendors selling all sorts of goods.
In the dark, all the shops glow and play with bright colours. There are people dressed as superheroes walking the street, Mexicans playing typical folk songs with sombreros on their heads, and every other vendor inviting you to a free tequila tasting.
5) Mayan ruins
The ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum can be found south of Playa del Carmen. Tulum was an important trading centre until the 15th century, the Mayan ruins can be found perched at the foot of the cliff and after exploring the ruins you can take a dip on the adjacent beach.
Tulum is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Riviera Maya, so we recommend that you head to Tulum in the morning. The ruins of Coba are also a short walk from Playa, there are fewer tourists and unlike Tulum you can climb one of the pyramids.
Around two hours’ drive from Playa del Carmen, you’ll also find one of the Seven New Wonders of the World, the ruins of the Mayan city of Chichen Itza, with a thousand-year history.
6) Swimming with sea turtles
Tourists from far and wide flock to Akumal beach to see the sea turtles. This unique place, bordered by a coral reef, is a paradise for sea turtles that feed on the algae that grows on the bottom of the bay.
However, the sea here has extremely fine sand and groups of tourists gradually stir it up so that the turtles are hardly visible. We therefore recommend that you set off for Akumal early in the morning. By 10 a.m. the water is crystal clear.
7) Don’t watch the pounds and eat everything you see
You won’t find tacos as good as the Mexicans make anywhere else in the world. From small stalls on the streets to upscale restaurants, everyone makes tacos a little differently and it’s a sin not to try them all.
For vegetarians we recommend the delicious lasagne in
and if you’re vegan, be sure to head to
for a great vegan burger and to
which was one of the first vegetarian restaurants in Playa.
8) Coco Bongo Nightclub
Playa del Carmen is a smaller city than Cancun, so the nightlife is not as exuberant. There is one curiosity, though: a nightclub
Coco Bongo offers an all-night showcase of movie characters, fake music stars and acrobats. They take turns on the stage and provide great entertainment.
Entry to the club will set you back $75 to $135, but each ticket includes unlimited alcohol until 3am. Imagine the scene where you’re drinking alcohol from a giant bucket and Spiderman is running around on stage!
9) Ride with Colectivo
The backbone of local transport is the Colectivo minibuses, which run one after another on the roads. Figuring out which one is going where is fun in itself.
We recommend a ride with Colectivo to everyone, besides the very cheap transport (from Cancun to Playa del Carmen for 40 pesos) it’s a great way to experience a piece of local life.
If you like diving, then Playa del Carmen is a paradise on earth.
In addition to diving in the cenotes, you can also go to several renowned sites, including Pared Verde Ledge and Tortugas. In town you will find countless shops and schools for divers. If you don’t have a PADI license, Playa del Carmen is a great place to get one.
Where to stay in Playa del Carmen
Looking for the perfect place to stay in Playa del Carmen? Here are our recommendations with your budget in mind.
Best accommodation in Playa del Carmen
We have selected four specific accommodations that we would choose from if we were to go to Playa del Carmen again.[lgc_column grid=”33″ tablet_grid=”33″ mobile_grid=”100″ last=”false”]
Looking for more long-term accommodation? We recommend
on AirBNB (700 CZK discount). We stayed there for a whole month and you will find our exhaustive description in the reviews. Recommended for those who plan to rent a car, you can’t get anywhere on foot.
How to get to Playa del Carmen
From Cancun, they go to Playa del Carmen
that leave from the main bus station. It will cost you 120 pesos and you have to buy a ticket for a certain hour.
We recommend the slightly more adventurous Colectivos minibuses. It departs roughly every minute from the Soriana Super SM 2 supermarket and the ride costs 40 pesos.
How to get a taxi in Playa del Carmen
In Playa, taxi drivers do not use meters and should correctly follow the zonal meter. But they rely on tourists not having a map of the zones and asking for more than they should.
The map divides the city into different zones and you can easily calculate how much you will pay for your trip. Getting around Playa by taxi is not expensive. You can always find the latest map
Tips and tricks for travelling around Playa del Carmen and the surrounding area
What to pack
Take a look at our
Where to get tickets
Reservation of accommodation
Don’t forget about insurance
Travel insurance is an absolute must. For shorter journeys, choose AXA (
Recommended Lonely Planet Yucatanguide