Best Things To Do in Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is one of the central cities of the Mexican Caribbean and there you can not only enjoy the best beaches but also visit some of the most visited attractions in Quintana Roo. Here's what you can see and do during your visit.

Matías Rodríguez

Matías Rodríguez

9 min read

Best Things To Do in Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen, Mexico | ©Kamil Kalbarczyk

Playa del Carmen, located in front of Cozumel Island, is one of the most popular destinations in the Mexican Caribbean for the beauty of its beaches but also for the proximity of the city to the best attractions of the Riviera Maya, which you can discover on tours and excursions from Playa del Carmen

From archaeological sites to paradisiacal cenotes to theme parks and excursions to the Mayan Jungle, there are multiple activities to see and do in Playa del Carmen. Here are the best alternatives for you to discover the most representative city of Quintana Roo.

1. Visit some of the best beaches in the Mexican Caribbean

Playa del Carmen| ©philiproyle
Playa del Carmen| ©philiproyle

Playa del Carmen is home to some of the best beaches in the Mexican Caribbean and you can discover them in areas that are easily accessible from downtown. Playa Mamitas is one of the most famous and is characterized by a wide open view of the Caribbean Sea, with white sands and crystal clear waters.

Punta Esmeralda is also a well-known beach in the city because in addition to white sands and turquoise waters it has a cenote, which is considered one of the best in the Riviera Maya, and being a quiet beach is ideal if you are visiting Playa del Carmen with children. There you can also do kayaking and kite surfing activities.

If you want to get away from Quinta Avenida you can visit Xpu-Há, which is an ideal place to live one of the best snorkeling experiences in Playa del Carmen, and Xcacel, which is located 45 kilometers from the city and is considered a virgin beach with cenotes and sea turtles.

Book a snorkeling experience in Playa del Carmen

2. Swim in a cenote and live a snorkeling experience

Nohoch Nah Chich Cenote| ©BubblingUnder
Nohoch Nah Chich Cenote| ©BubblingUnder

One of the natural alternatives to discover Quintana Roo is to live a Cenotes experience in Playa del Carmen. In total there are more than 3000 and it is considered that many others are still undiscovered, but among the best you can visit Cenote Azul, Cenote Cristalino, the Garden of Eden and the Gran Cenote.

Cenote Azul is one of the best to visit with children, as it has clear water, shallow water areas and a dock to rest, but it is also surrounded by vegetation and offers one of the best snorkeling experiences in Playa del Carmen.

Cenote Cristalino, on the other hand, has deep water and a more crowded environment, making it an ideal place to swim and visit in a group. Nearby, the Garden of Eden Cenote is surrounded by forest and vegetation and allows you to dive through its subway caves.

El Gran Cenote is far from the central area of Playa del Carmen, very close to Tulum, but there you can walk along walkways in a limestone cavern, snorkel and dive and swim among sea turtles.

Book a cenote tour in Playa del Carmen

3. Visit the archaeological site of Chichen Itza.

Chichen Itza| ©Luiz Eduardo
Chichen Itza| ©Luiz Eduardo

The Mayan city of Chichen Itza is the main archaeological site of the Yucatan Peninsula and also a site considered sacred with more than 1500 years of history that was chosen as one of the new seven wonders of the modern world. It is located a few kilometers from Playa del Carmen and it is possible to visit it on full day guided tours.

Chichen Itza is composed of several buildings in a space of five hectares but among the constructions stands out El Castillo, which is the most famous Mayan temple and is also known as the Pyramid of Kukulkan.

Excursions to Chichen Itza usually also include a visit to the Sacred Cenote, which stands out for its almost 60 meters in diameter and vertical walls that reach 15 meters.

Excursions to Chichen Itza from Playa del Carmen have an average cost that starts at 70 euros per person, including round trip transfers, entrance fees to the ruins and the assistance of the local guide and can last between 10 and 12 hours.

Book a day trip to Chichen Itza from Playa del Carmen

4. Take a day tour to Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres| ©Lau_Sqz
Isla Mujeres| ©Lau_Sqz

Isla Mujeres is one of the most visited destinations by tourists vacationing in the Riviera Maya, especially since Playa Norte was chosen as one of the 10 best beaches in the world. You can visit Isla Mujeres on an excursion from Playa del Carmen to marvel at its coral reefs and crystal clear waters ideal for water sports.

During your visit to the island you can also visit the Isla Mujeres Sculpture Space, which is located on the southern tip of the island and leads to a lookout point from which you can see the entire Caribbean Sea.

The island also has a shopping area near Playa Norte, so it is common for some excursions to Mujeres to include a stop with free time to browse the stores.

Excursions to Isla Mujeres from Playa del Carmen start at €141 per person and usually include hotel pickup with round-trip transfer, local guide assistance and snorkeling and diving equipment to enjoy the area's coral reefs. These excursions are full day trips and you should note that they usually do not include the island's port fee which is around 15 euros per visitor.

Book a day tour to Isla Mujeres from Playa del Carmen

5. Visit Xcaret theme park

Xcaret Park| ©Beth and Anth
Xcaret Park| ©Beth and Anth

Xcaret theme park is one of the main attractions in Playa del Carmen where you can discover the labyrinths of the Mayan jungle, participate in ceremonial rituals in the lagoons, snorkel in the clear waters of the Caribbean and also see a rich natural habitat of birds and chimpanzees.

On an excursion to Xcaret in Playa del Carmen you will see one of the best sunsets in Quintana Roo and have access to music shows that pay homage to the Mayan culture and history of the region. This is an ideal plan if you plan to visit Playa del Carmen with your family or children.

Xcaret tours usually last a full day and include roundtrip transfers from your hotel and entrance fees to the theme park. These tours include reduced rates for children.

In addition to Xcaret you can also visit the theme parks of Xel-Ha, Xplor and Xplor Fuego, which is characterized by its night tours through the Mayan Jungle by ATV and natural pools.

Reserve your tickets for Xcaret Park

6. Get to know the Mayan Jungle in an all-terrain vehicle

Buggy, Playa del Carmen| ©baffalie
Buggy, Playa del Carmen| ©baffalie

One of the best excursions outside of Playa del Carmen is a tour of the Mayan Jungle in a buggy, monster truck or all-terrain vehicle. On these excursions you will get to know one of the natural paradises of the Riviera Maya.

The Mayan Jungle is, after the Amazon, the largest tropical forest in America and also the largest green lung in Mexico. It is the natural habitat of numerous native species and is also home to some of Quintana Roo's most famous subway caves, including Sac Actun and Nohoch Nah Chich, which were recently discovered.

On a full day buggy tour in Playa del Carmen you can discover an alternative attraction to the idyllic beaches and theme parks of the Riviera Maya and immerse yourself in the local flora and fauna on an unmissable adventure tour.

Book a buggy tour in Playa del Carmen

7. Visit the Tulum Ruins on an organized tour

Day to visit Chichen Itza| ©Kirt Edblom
Day to visit Chichen Itza| ©Kirt Edblom

Chichen Itza is the best known archaeological site in Mexico but the walled city of Tulum is the most advanced of the Mayan constructions, as it was built almost ten centuries after the Pyramid of Kukulkan and based on the concept of four corners, which refer to the cardinal points, has all the features of a planned city.

Located about 70 kilometers from Playa del Carmen, the Tulum Ruins constitute one of the greatest legacies of the Mayan culture and is considered by archaeologists as a sacred space related to cosmology. In addition, the central building, which is called El Castillo, is located on a cliff that leads to Playita Tortuga, one of the most beautiful beaches in Tulum.

From the cliffs you can also observe the Temple of the God of the Wind, which is a sanctuary with an altar that served as the main religious building during the Mayan occupation of Tulum.

You can discover the Tulum Ruins on a day trip from Playa del Carmen, in a tour that has an approximate initial cost of 59 euros with round trip transfers with hotel pick up and entrance fees to the archaeological site included. These tours last approximately 6 to 8 hours.

Book an excursion to Tulum Ruins from Playa del Carmen

8. Tour the Rio Secreto Nature Reserve on a day trip

Rio Secreto Nature Reserve| ©KKJhetos
Rio Secreto Nature Reserve| ©KKJhetos

The ecological park of Rio Secreto Natural Reserve has one of the most beautiful landscapes in town, as it is a direct trip to the heart of the cenote and subway limestone caves surrounded by stalactite and stalagmite formations millions of years old.

At the Rio Secreto cenote you can swim in the crystal clear waters and take a guided tour with a local expert guide to learn about the caves and also the surrounding jungle, which is one of the lushest in Quintana Roo. In this reserve you can learn about the local flora and fauna and swim in one of the cenotes inside the ecological park.

These excursions to Rio Secreto Nature Reserve in Playa del Carmen usually include entrance fees to the Nature Reserve and transfers to and from your accommodation.

Book an excursion to Rio Secreto Nature Reserve in Playa del Carmen

9. See Cozumel Island on a boat tour

Cozumel Island| ©Baptiste Maton
Cozumel Island| ©Baptiste Maton

Cozumel Island is one of the most picturesque islands in the Mexican Caribbean and, along with Isla Mujeres, the most visited island destination by tourists coming to Quintana Roo. Cozumel is home to a popular cruise ship port that contributes to its fame, but you can also discover some of Mexico's best beaches and the National Reef Park.

Snorkeling and scuba diving experiences are Cozumel's most famous attractions, as well as Jeep and ATV adventure tours. The island is also home to the archaeological zone of the pre-Columbian ruins of San Gervasio and in the vicinity of its coasts there are wrecks of pirate ships and presumed buried treasures, so Cozumel also has a mythical history of secrets.

You can visit Cozumel Island on a day trip from Playa del Carmen by ferry from the local port, on tours that cost approximately 100 euros per person, with round-trip hotel pick-up and drop-off and boat ride included.

These excursions usually last approximately 12 to 14 hours, so keep this in mind if you are planning a short stay in Playa del Carmen.

Book a full day excursion to Cozumel Island from Playa del Carmen

10. Take a shopping tour and enjoy the local gastronomy at Quinta Avenida

Coastal Mexican tacos| ©Los Muertos Crew
Coastal Mexican tacos| ©Los Muertos Crew

Quinta Avenida is the main artery of Playa del Carmen that runs parallel to the beaches of the pier area and with its restaurants, stores, cafes, jewelry stores and spa centers is the starting point of the fishing village that became a global city thanks to tourism.

Fifth Avenue has something for all tastes and budgets, making it the Holy Grail of consumerism in the Riviera Maya. There you can find gift and souvenir stores, international clothing brands and the Paseo del Carmen, the square that begins the tour and leads to the Parque de los Fundadores and the Chapel of Our Lady of Carmen, which gives its name to the city.

This artery also contains the best bars, restaurants and nightclubs in Playa del Carmen, so in Quinta Avenida you can taste the best flavors of local and international cuisine and it will become the place to visit during your stay in Playa del Carmen.

Keep in mind that despite being one of Mexico's main centers for global tourism, it is forbidden and punishable with a fine to litter in the street and it is not allowed to consume alcohol in public, a recommendation that all hotels make to their guests to avoid inconveniences with the authorities. A good way to close your visit to Playa del Carmen is to have dinner and a toast in one of the restaurants on Quinta Avenida.