1 Day in Playa del Carmen: Complete 1 Day Itinerary

1 Day in Playa del Carmen

Planning to spend a day in Playa del Carmen?

Excellent choice!

In order to help you plan your stay, I have prepared for you the perfect itinerary to visit Playa del Carmen in 1 day.

It’s a charming seaside town that offers a mix of sunshine, miles of beaches, turquoise seas and fun.

If you only have one day to visit Playa del Carmen, you’re probably wondering how to get the most out of it. After all, it’s one of the most popular and vibrant destinations in the Riviera Maya, and there’s so much to see and do!

But don’t worry: I’ve been there many times and I’m here to help!

I know how difficult it can be to choose what to do and where to go and that’s why I wrote this article: the perfect one-day itinerary in Playa del Carmen.

Here you’ll find the best things to do during your 24 hours in Playa del Carmen, my tips for making the most of your time, and my accommodation suggestions for all budgets.

1-Day Playa del Carmen Itinerary

Morning: Have Breakfast and Enjoy the Beach

To make the most of your day in Playa del Carmen, get up early!

1. Eat a good breakfast

Playa Del Carmen offers plenty of opportunities to satisfy your appetite. Here you will find local and international cuisine, from traditional Mexican dishes to vegan and gluten-free dishes.

Here are some of the best places to have breakfast :

  • Tortas del Carmen  is one of the best places for a cheap breakfast in Playa del Carmen. They offer excellent Mexican tortas (sandwiches), with different fillings, such as ham, cheese, chicken and pork, as well as vegetarian options.
  • Que Huevos : For a more touristy but still affordable breakfast, this establishment on Quinta Avenida offers chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, omelettes and burritos.
  • La Cueva del Chango : This is my favorite place to have breakfast in Playa del Carmen. It has it all: friendly service, a beautiful garden and a varied menu with plenty of options. I especially like their chilaquiles (a traditional Mexican breakfast dish).
  • Chez Céline0 : This is a famous French bakery that serves pastries, croissants, baguettes, omelettes and quiches.
  • Choux Choux : If you are looking for a warm and colorful cafe for your breakfast or brunch, Choux Choux is an excellent choice. It offers a wide variety of dishes, such as eggs Benedict, pancakes, waffles and sandwiches. I really liked the Benedictine eggs with salmon, but when it comes to pastries, Chez Céline really has the best
Playa del Carmen itinerary
Choux Choux Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen itinerary
Chilaquiles, Cueva del Chango, Playa del Carmen

2. The beach

After breakfast, it’s time to hit the beach and enjoy the sun, sand and sea. Playa del Carmen has some of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico, with its soft white sand and its crystal clear water.

Playa del Carmen is a beach lover’s paradise, with plenty of options to suit all tastes.

If you want to be close to the heart of the action, you can choose from the beaches that run from Parque Fundadores to Playa Mamitas, passing through Playa Constituyentes. There are many beach clubs, such as Lido Beach ClubZenziMamita’sCoralina.

Playa del Carmen itinerary
Lido Beach club in Playa del Carmen

For more peace and fewer tourists, you can explore these beaches (from the closest to the farthest from the center): Playa Avenida ColosioPlaya ParaísoPlaya 88 or Punta Esmeralda.

Playa del Carmen itinerary
punta esmeralda beach playa del carmen

3. Excursion

If you prefer a bit of action rather than sunbathing on the beach, there is plenty to do in Playa del Carmen!

Just click on the link to book your favorite activity:

Tips for your Playa del Carmen itinerary:

If you are looking for thrills, you cannot miss Xplor Park.

It’s an adventure park with ziplines, amphibious vehicle driving and swimming in underground rivers – book your all-inclusive Xplor tickets here!

Playa del Carmen itinerary
xplor amphibious vehicles

Afternoon: Fifth Avenue

After enjoying the beach, explore Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue), which is the main street parallel to the beach.

It is reserved for pedestrians and is bordered by a multitude of shops, cafes, restaurants, bars, art galleries with street artists.

Browse the various shops and boutiques that sell everything (taking advantage of the air conditioning :-D) : souvenirs, handicrafts, clothes, jewelry and works of art. You will also find some of the best local and international brands, such as Zara, H&M and many others.

Quinta Avenida is also a great place to experience the local culture and vibe of Playa Del Carmen. Here you can admire street art and murals that decorate the walls and buildings.

Playa del Carmen itinerary
Street art in Playa del Carmen

In the Evening: Delicious Dinner

After a long day of sightseeing and enjoying Playa del Carmen, you’ll probably be hungry and ready for dinner.

Playa del Carmen has a slew of restaurants to suit all wallets, and you’ll easily find some great options as you wander the streets. Here are my personal recommendations:

  • For good authentic Italian food, head to Romeo Trattoria Pizzeria or Osteria de Roma.
  • Chester is another good option for Italian food (not very authentic, but good), with large portions at reasonable prices. My only disappointment is that they don’t serve alcohol, so no wine to go with the pasta.
  • For a unique experience, you cannot miss Alux located inside a natural cave. They serve Mexican and international cuisine with a touch of gastronomy. There is also a bar and a lounge – It is necessary to book in advance
  • For authentic Mexican cuisine, you can head to El Fogón or try the best street food in Playa del Carmen : tacos al pastor at Tacos El Ñero, tacos carnitas at Carnitas Teresitaelotes at the corner of Calle 2 Nte and Avenida 15 and, for dessert, a Marquesita  (at the corner of Calle 6 Norte and Avenida 10 Norte) with different toppings such as cajeta, jam, chocolate or cheese.

Tips for your Playa del Carmen itinerary:
If you’re a foodie, I really suggest taking the Playa del Carmen Food Tour (click here!) and discovering the flavors, stories and customs of the local food culture!

Playa del Carmen itinerary
Cheester, Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen itinerary
Corn, Playa del Carmen

At Night: Discover the Nightlife

After dinner, you might want to experience the nightlife of Playa Del Carmen.

The city has some of the best nightlife in Mexico, with bars, clubs, lounges, live music venues and you’ll find plenty of options around Quinta Avenida and Calle 12 Nte.

For a unique experience, I recommend going to Coco Bongo : more than just a club, it’s a great show around pop culture, with acrobats, impersonators (The Mask, Michael Jackson, etc.) , dancers, balloons, etc. – Buy your tickets here!

Playa del Carmen itinerary
Coco Bongo

Accommodation in Playa del Carmen – best hotels

  • Che Playa Hostel & Bar Adults Only : ideal hostel for meeting other travelers and partying, roof terrace with bar and small swimming pool, several activities offered. Clean, good wifi and great welcome. From only €9 for the dormitory or €35 for the private room!
  • Hotel Lunata : charming hotel with hacienda-style decoration, which is hidden on Quinta Avenida, very close to the beach. Quiet, with garden, rooms with balcony, very friendly service. From just €66 a night!
  • Porto Playa Condo Beach Club : here is a spacious apartment ideal for a family close to Quinta Avenida with fully equipped kitchen, living room and terrace. On site there is a large swimming pool, gym and restaurant. From €160 per night!
  • The Reef 28- Adults Only : all-inclusive hotel in the center of Playa del Carmen, spacious rooms, superb roof terrace with sea view, swimming pool and jacuzzi. Gym, spa, excellent buffet breakfast. From €225 with all-inclusive formula
  • Hotel Xcaret Mexico All Parks All Fun Inclusive : this is definitely the best hotel in Playa del Carmen! Ideal for couples and families with children because this luxury hotel offers an exceptional formula that includes meals and access to its parks (Xcaret, Xplor, Xplor Fuego, Xenses, Xoximilco, Xel-Ha and Xenote). From €626 per night all inclusive

How to get to Playa del Carmen from Cancun?

Playa Del Carmen is located approximately 68 km south of Cancun International Airport (CUN), which is the main airport for the Riviera Maya region.

There are several ways to get to Playa Del Carmen from the Cancun airport :

  • Bus (cheapest option): You can take the ADO bus from Cancun airport to Playa Del Carmen bus station (1h). The bus runs every 30 minutes from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

I recommend that you buy your tickets on arrival (and not on the ADO website ), because you never know exactly what time you will be free (after customs, etc.)

Playa del Carmen itinerary
ado bus cancun airport
  • Taxi : You can take a taxi from Cancun airport to Playa Del Carmen, but it’s not the best option because you always have to bargain and they tend to overprice tourists.

I guess they are taking advantage of the fact that Uber is banned so there is less competition and regulation for taxi drivers!

Also, I don’t trust taxi drivers because many times they lied to me and my friends that the bus was not available, just to charge us for their service.

Luckily we already knew that was a lie, but I still think that’s dishonest and unnecessary if you’re offering good service at a fair price.

Playa del Carmen itinerary
cab in cancun
  • Shuttle (the best option): You can book a shuttle from the Cancun airport to your hotel in Playa Del Carmen.

This is the best alternative to a taxi, as it takes you directly to your hotel, but at a more decent price.

You must book your shuttle online in advance. If you already have your dates, you can do it directly here.

  • Car rental: You can rent a car at Cancun airport and drive to Playa Del Carmen (45 min on highway 307)

How to get to Playa del Carmen from Tulum

If you are already in the Riviera Maya, you will find that it is very easy to travel between the different towns and attractions.

There are different ways to get from Playa Del Carmen to Tulum, depending on your budget, time available and preferences. Here are some of the most common options:

  • Colectivo (cheapest option) : This is a shared minibus that shuttles between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum. It costs around 45 pesos per person and takes 1 hour (departure on the main highway in Tulum).

The colectivos leave when they are full and they fill up fast. They run all day, from early morning. The colectivos are not very comfortable, but they are a great way to experience the local culture.

Tips for your Playa del Carmen itinerary:
If you have a suitcase rather than a backpacktake the bus rather than the colectivo as space is limited and the driver might turn you away anyway.

Playa del Carmen itinerary
riviera maya collective
  • Bus : you can take an ADO bus between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum (1h). It’s a comfortable and reliable option, with air conditioning and reclining seats.

As this is a popular route (Tulum-Playa del Carmen), it can get crowded and it is best to buy your tickets online (click here) instead of just before departure at the bus station.

  • Car Rental : Driving from Tulum to Playa del Carmen takes 45min-1hr (depending on traffic).
Playa del Carmen itinerary
Rent a car in Cancun

My Tips for 1 Day in Playa Del Carmen:

1. Plan ahead: this is very important because you don’t have much time! It’s best to have a clear idea of ​​what you want to see and do in Playa Del Carmen and book your hotel, tickets, tours and transportation online to save time.

2. Bring the essentials : Playa Del Carmen is a sunny and tropical destination, so you’ll need to pack accordingly. Some things to bring include: sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, bathing suit, towel, bottle of water, camera, cash (pesos) and comfortable shoes.

You can also pack a light jacket or sweater for the evening or if you plan to visit indoor venues with air conditioning. Pay attention to the air conditioning after being under the sun!

3. Use pesos instead of dollars : Although many places in Playa Del Carmen accept US dollars, you’ll get a better exchange rate and avoid confusion if you use Mexican pesos instead.

You can change your money at a bank or ATM, or use your credit card if it does not charge fees on foreign transactions. Avoid changing money at the airport or at street vendors, as they usually offer unfavorable rates.

Also be sure to have some cash for tips, taxis, colectivos and street food.

4. Be aware of your surroundings : Playa Del Carmen is generally safe, but like any tourist destination, you should watch out for pickpockets – Always keep your wallet and bag close to you and avoid walking alone at night or in the dark streets.

5. Avoid drugs and alcohol abuse: Without wanting to lecture anyone,  I’ve heard a few (not very funny) stories lately. Playa Del Carmen has a very lively nightlife and you should take advantage of it, but always be careful, never accept drinks from strangers and don’t leave your drink unattended.

Is One Day Enough in Playa Del Carmen?

A day in Playa Del Carmen is enough to get a glimpse of the city, but it’s not enough to explore all it has to offer.

If you have more time, I recommend staying at least 3 days in Playa Del Carmen to fully enjoy its beauty and charm.

You can also use Playa Del Carmen as a drop-off point to visit other nearby destinations such as TulumAkumalPuerto MorelosHolboxIsla Mujeres, etc.

Check out my other helpful guides to Playa del Carmen here:

Here is an overview of the other attractions to see from Playa del Carmen:

1. Tulum : This is a charming town located south of Playa Del Carmen. You can visit the ancient Mayan ruins overlooking the sea, the beautiful beach of Tulum and the trendy town of Tulum with its shops, restaurants and bars.

Playa del Carmen itinerary
The archaeological site of Tulum facing the sea

2. Xcaret Park : This is a huge park that celebrates nature and Mexican culture with over 40 different activities!

Before leaving the site, you absolutely must attend Xcaret Mexico Espectacular in the evening, a wonderful spectacle with 300 artists who present the history of the Mayans.

Choose the ticket that best suits you here (all tickets include the night show and the buffet):

Playa del Carmen itinerary
The Xcaret park

3. Chichen Itza : in addition to being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and recognized as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, it is one of the most impressive Mayan archaeological sites in Mexico!

Here you can admire amazing structures such as the Temple of Kukulkan, the Observatory, and the Great Mayan Ball Court .

To get to Chichen Itza from Playa del Carmen, you can either drive for 2.5 hours or take the bus (only 1 per day – departure at 8 a.m. and return at 4:30 p.m.).

The most convenient way to visit Chichen Itza is to book an excursion from Playa del Carmen (click here!) with transport, a guided tour of Chichen Itza, swimming in the cenote Ik Kil and free time in the colonial town of Valladolid.

Tips for your Playa del Carmen itinerary:
To organize your visit well, do not miss My Guide to Chichen Itza! 

Playa del Carmen itinerary
The famous site of Chichen Itza in the state of Yucatan

4. Cenotes : These are natural water wells where you can swim, snorkel, dive or just admire the rock formations.

If you are looking for great cenotes near Playa del Carmen, you should visit Cenote AzulJardin del Eden and Cenote Cristalino. You can also explore the incredible Chaak Tun, an underground cenote hidden in Playa del Carmen.

Playa del Carmen itinerary
The Chaak Tun cenote, the Playa del Carmen cenote.

5. Cozumel Island: This is a beautiful island located off Playa Del Carmen, surrounded by beautiful coral reefs .

You can take a ferry from Playa Del Carmen (near Parque Fundadores) and explore the beaches, reefs, parks, and more. from the island.

Here are some of the best excursions and activities in Cozumel :

Playa del Carmen itinerary
Chen Rio Beach in Cozumel

6. Isla Mujeres : This is a small island located north of Cancun with a laid back vibe, white sand beaches, crystal clear water and colorful coral reefs.

You can spend a day in Isla Mujeres and enjoy its incredible attractions: dive into the second largest coral reef in the world and relax in Playa Norte, visit the Garrafon de Castilla park, explore the Punta Sur sculpture park and admire its colorful streets.

From Playa del Carmen, you must first travel to Puerto Juarez in Cancun (1h), and take the ferry to Isla Mujeres (20 min): Click here to book your return tickets (valid for 6 months after the date of departure)

Tips for your Playa del Carmen itinerary:

If you want to fully enjoy Isla Mujeres, you can also book this snorkeling tour which includes hotel pick-up, open bar, breakfast and buffet lunch, with free time in Isla Mujeres.

Playa del Carmen itinerary
Part of Playa Norte at Isla Mujeres. Photo Dronepicr

Are you going to Mexico? Read also

All our articles on Mexico are here:  Find all our guides on Mexico!

Camille L.

Passionate about foreign languages, cooking and writing. I wish to share with you the places, the meetings and the gastronomic discoveries which gave relief to my travels.

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