Itinerary with Top 30 Things to Do in Playa del Carmen
To visit Playa del Carmen is to enjoy a city on a human scale which is located in the heart of the best tourist attractions of the Riviera Maya.
With its long beaches, theme parks and magnificent cenotes, it is a festive city where there is a lot to do and see.
In order to help you not miss anything during your visit and prepare your stay well, here is my ultimate guide to Playa del Carmen.
I present all the must-see places of interest and the best activities to do with family, friends or as a couple.
I’ve also included my top restaurant and hotel recommendations for all budgets, as well as all the practical information about money, and how to get there.
So what to do and see in Playa del Carmen?
1. South Fifth Avenue
La Quinta Avenida is a must-see street in Playa del Carmen.
It is a lively and colorful pedestrian street of 5km, lined with a multitude of shops, souvenirs, cafes, restaurants, exchange houses, agencies, an ADO bus station and the famous Parque de los Fundadores .
In addition, it allows access to the beach by taking the small streets that cross it.
Start by locating it arriving because it will be your best reference point! 🙂
PS: If you are looking for Mexican handicrafts, go to Textiles Mayas Rosalia. There you can find quality textile craftsmanship designed by a cooperative of women from Chiapas.
2. Founders Park
The Parque Los Fundadores is located on Quinta Avenida, facing the sea and the beach, a stone’s throw from the colorful letters of Playa del Carmen (to take pictures!) and from the wharf to take the Ultramar ferry to the island of Cozumel.
It is one of the oldest parks in the city, where all kinds of events take place, and where we find the Portal Maya statue which has become the symbol of the city.
Besides, I really recommend seeing the Voladores de Papantla during the day (a ritual declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and the pre-Hispanic dances in the evening. Both are free!
3. Swim in a cenote
Cenotes are natural water wells that exist in their thousands throughout the Yucatan Peninsula.
They were considered by the ancient Maya as the gateway to the Xibalba, the world of the Dead.
Today, hundreds of cenotes have been developed to safely receive visitors who come to swim and snorkel in the clear water.
For example, a must-see cenote in Playa del Carmen is the Chaak Tun underground cenote ( just 10 minutes from the center), whose 2h30 guided tour allows you to snorkel while exploring several magnificent caves.
Another interesting option is to go to Chikin Ha which allows you to discover a cenote in a cave, swim in the clear water of an open cenote and go ziplining in the jungle.
If you are visiting Playa del Carmen with the family, you can head to Cenote Azul, Cenote Cristalino and Gran Cenote which are ideal for young children.
4. Spend the day at an amusement park
Xplor is the perfect place for active people (families, friends, etc.) who love adrenaline with 14 zip lines, 4×4 in the jungle and caves, rafting, suspension bridges, etc. Buy the Xplor All-Inclusive Pass now!
Xcaret is a large park focused on nature and Mexican culture. Personally I love it because there are so many activities that it is impossible to do everything in one day. Purchase admission to Xcaret – with lunch, over 40 activities and the unmissable Xcaret Mexico Espectacular!
Xel-Ha is an eco-friendly water park ideal for those visiting Playa del Carmen with the family, with cenotes, caves, snorkeling, biking, etc., with a special section for children – Buy the Xel Ha All Inclusive Pass with 20 activities, breakfast and lunch.
Xsenses is an interactive park, a little surreal, with activities aimed at families with children (ideally from 6 years old) where all your senses are stimulated through different scenarios and ecosystems. Ideal for half a day. Buy entry to Xenses now!
Tips for your Playa del Carmen itinerary:
The best way to enjoy the parks is to stay at Hotel Xcaret
In addition to meals, you will have full and free access to all the parks! (Xcaret, Xplor, Xplor Fuego, Xenses, Xoximilco, Xel-Ha and Xenote)
5. Discover the Best Beaches
Of course there are plenty of beautiful beaches in Playa del Carmen!
We must mention the essential Playa Mamitas and the beach of Parque Fundadores which are very easy to access (and very busy) since they are in the heart of the tourist area.
But here are, in my opinion, the best beaches to visit in Playa del Carmen:
- Punta Esmeralda : treasure hidden, and free. There is a small cenote that joins the water of the sea forming a natural pool. Ideal for families and accessible to people with reduced mobility.
- Playacar : superb beach with calm water in a very exclusive area. If you don’t sleep there, it’s not accessible by car… but you can get there on foot via the ferry dock to Cozumel 🙂
- Xpu Ha: one of the most beautiful public beaches in Playa del Carmen just 25 minutes from the center. Fairly quiet, without any rocks in the water, rental of deck chairs, umbrella, snorkeling, kayaking, restaurants.
- Xcacel: a dream place to visit only if, like me, you like virgin places! It is an absolutely magnificent beach, clean, with white sand, ideal with friends or as a couple but not necessarily with children since there is nothing there.
- Playa Maroma : 20km from Playa del Carmen is the beach of Punta Maroma, an exclusive beach where you can snorkel in its coral reef, catamaran, jet ski, etc. Perfect for the whole family.
6. Relax in a Beach Club
There are several beach clubs in Playa del Carmen if you are looking to enjoy the beach in comfort.
The Lido Beach Club is a classic! You will probably even come across it while walking randomly on the beach. Excellent service, very good dishes (with vegetarian options) and nice atmosphere facing the sea. It is better to arrive early because it fills up.
There are of course several other beachclubs in Playa del Carmen such as Kool Beach Club, Mamita’s Beach club, Martina’s Beach Club, Coralina Daylight Club, etc. There is something for all tastes and budgets!
You can just walk around and make your choice, but be careful to ask for the price (and find out if the cost of entry can be used as credit at the restaurant/bar) because it can go up very quickly.
7. Go Scuba Diving
With its transparent water and its proximity to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (which is the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world! ), there are several wonderful places to snorkel and dive in the Riviera Maya !
To snorkel in the Playa del Carmen area, I recommend:
- Akumal to see corals, rays, anemones, and especially sea turtles! – You can book the excursion to swim with the turtles here!
- Puerto Morelos
- Puerto Aventuras
- Cozumel which is considered one of the best places in the world for diving and snorkeling – Book the Cozumel snorkeling excursion, ideal for the whole family 😉
- Of course, don’t forget the cenotes like Jardin del Eden
For diving , just 20 minutes from the city you will find several reefs of different levels (Barracuda, Tortugas, Sabalos, Jardines, Pared Verde, Moc Che)
There is also the Mama Viña wreck, and Cueva del Pargo where crabs, lobsters and fish hide in several cavities.
8. Discover an Underwater Museum
The MUSA is not just any museum, it is the largest underwater museum in the world!
These are 500 sculptures which were placed between 4m and 8m under water in order to offer a new habitat to the aquatic fauna and flora which suffered from the disappearance of the corals.
There are three “Showrooms” in Manchones, Nizuc, and Punta Sam, which can be explored by snorkeling, scuba diving, or simply by glass-bottom boat.
While it’s true that Cancun is known as Mexico’s top party destination, Playa del Carmen is certainly no slouch.
For example, you can go dancing at the famous Coco Bongo Club (with circus show, theatre, music, etc.), Mandala, La Vaquita, or Club 69 which is a gay club.
For a drink, I really recommend the Trujillos Cantina de Selva , which is magnificent, especially at night, when you are in a tropical garden, with a beautiful atmosphere, good cocktails and an interesting menu with some vegan options.
- The majority of bars are on Quinta Avenida, Calle 10 and Calle 12, so you can just wander around to take your pick.
10. Take a Free Guided Tour
Free Walking Tours or “free walking tours” are widespread in many tourist destinations around the world.
These are tip-based guided tours that offer an overview of the major attractions. So it’s a good way to discover a city when you arrive!
I suggest you take the free guided tour of Playa del Carmen with Estacion Mexico : departures at 10am and 5pm daily, in front of the Quinta Avenida ADO station (English and Spanish).
I did a few tours with them in Mexico City and really liked it!
11. Swim with Whale Sharks
Swimming with whale sharks is a must do activity in Playa del Carmen as it is a one of a kind experience!
Although its name is rather intimidating, the whale shark is the largest fish in the world and feeds on plankton and microorganisms.
We are therefore fortunately quite far from Jaws, but it is still very impressive because it can measure up to 20m in length!
- Good to know: the activity can be done from May to September
12. Find the Most Beautiful Murals
We realize while walking on Quinta Avenida that street art is quite present on the facades of Playa del Carmen, which makes the center of the city even more lively and colorful!
The city has been welcoming Mexican and international artists for several years, and especially since the establishment of the Dreamers Art Festival in 2015.
It’s one of my favorite things to do in Playa del Carmen, and 100% free!
13. Mayan Temazcal
Temazcal means “house of sweat” in Náhuatl.
It is a traditional steam bath, used for a very long time by the peoples of Mesoamerica to purify body and mind.
It is a small round hut with an opening that serves as an entrance, and the space is heated with wood or stones, water and medicinal herbs.
Before entering the temazcal you are purified with copal , a resin that is burned like incense, then you sit inside to form a circle with the other participants, and the temazcalero will accompany you throughout the ceremony with songs.
As its practice has become popular with travellers, it is now found in certain spas and hotels such as the Pixan or the Hilton’s SpAzul.
For a more traditional experience, I recommend Pueblo Sacbe, a jungle community on the edge of Playa del Carmen that offers different ceremonies, a meditation spot, and a few cenotes. It’s a great place to disconnect and clear your mind!
14. Go on a Buggy Adventure
If you like adrenaline and get off the beaten track, here is an activity not to be missed in the Riviera Maya!
The guide will give you your goggles and you will spin aboard your all-terrain vehicle on 29km of jungle trails before leaving to cool off in a cenote with transparent water.
You can book the buggy tour with pickup from your Playa del Carmen hotel here.
- L’excursion dure 3h
- It is a perfect activity for the whole family, but not recommended for pregnant women and children under 4 years old
15. Visit a Museum
The 3d Museum of Wonders is an interactive museum to do with family, friends or even as a couple to have an entertaining time taking pictures!
It is an initiative of the artist Kurt Wenner who dotted the floor and the walls with paintings with a play of perspective that represent all kinds of different scenarios and art classics.
His optical illusion technique is also explained by a projection at the beginning of the visit, it’s surprising!
In addition, it’s the ideal place to spend 1h30-2h if it’s raining or even if it’s too hot!
In another genre, the Frida Kahlo Museum is a colorful museum that presents the life of Frida, her art, her imagination, her relationship with Diego Rivera.
There’s also an on-site restaurant, still Frida-themed, with a playful side and typically Mexican-inspired cuisine.
16. Go to the Fish Spa
As you walk down Quinta Avenida, you’ll see several places that display a ” Fish Spa ” sign with chairs and ponds filled with tiny fish.
We sit comfortably, wash our feet and then place them in the water while the fish eat the dead skin. Personally, I felt like I was in a foot bath filled with sparkling water!
It’s a perfect activity to do in Playa del Carmen to relax after walking in the sun, and it’s pretty fun to do with friends.
On the other hand, it is better to check 2 things before choosing: the quantity of fish (I saw almost empty ones!) and the price because it varies enormously.
I suggest the one on the corner of Quinta Avenida and Calle 1 which is the cheapest I found at 250 pesos for 1 person or 400 pesos for 2 for about 20 min
17. Rent a Jet Ski
You can easily rent a jet ski in Playa del Carmen and elsewhere in the Riviera Maya. In general the prices are around 70-80$usd for 30 min, so take full advantage!
If you like outdoor activities, you can also take an excursion that combines jet skiing at Playa Maroma and a quad ride. It’s the best way to enjoy a good dose of adrenaline at sea and on dry land 🙂
Book the jet ski and quad bike tour with pick up from your Playa del Carmen hotel and snack here.
18. Take a Culinary Tour
There is one thing that has always a little surprised me in Playa del Carmen, it is the lack of markets while it is undeniable that it is a strong cultural symbol in Mexico.
I’m talking about a real market, chaotic, with little ladies who challenge you next to their products “que se le ofrece güerita?”, “pásele güerita!”…
I’ve been very attached to this local side since I lived in Mexico and that’s why I jumped at the chance when a friend told me about taking a culinary tour in Playa del Carmen!
We followed Alma, a local chef, who took us to buy fresh ingredients at her favorite addresses, then she welcomed us to her home to prepare several typical Mexican dishes.
All the food was really tasty, but I especially loved the relaxed atmosphere and good mood. It must be said that a cold margarita always helps!
19. Fly over the Caribbean Sea
Imagine parasailing over the jungle and Punta Maroma, which is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Riviera Maya!
It is an activity not to be missed in Playa del Carmen because it is the opportunity to be carried by the wind and to see from the sky the long beach of fine sand and the turquoise water.
Here you can book the parasailing flight with pick-up in Playa del Carmen, snack and refreshment.
Tips for your Playa del Carmen itinerary:
Have you ever done a parasailing? Be aware that this is a slow climb and not a thrill activity.
In addition, there is nothing to fear because the safety rules are followed to the letter and you wear a life jacket and a harness.
20. Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is one of the most beautiful islands in Mexico!
You can easily spend a day there from Playa del Carmen, snorkeling in the 2nd largest coral reef in the world and enjoying Playa Norte, considered one of the best beaches in the world.
You can spend the morning at Garrafon de Castilla Park , stroll through Punta Sur Sculpture Park , discover its colorful streets, taste Tikin Xic fish on Lancheros Beach and much more!
- To know everything about Isla Mujeres, here is my Top 21 of the best activities to do in Isla Mujeres
- To get there, you must first go from Playa del Carmen to Puerto Juarez (1h) then take the ferry to Isla Mujeres (20 min)
Spaces on the ferry are very limited, I strongly recommend that you reserve them as soon as possible!
To book your return ferry ticket to Isla Mujeres (return valid for 6 months after your outbound date) here.
Tips for your Playa del Carmen itinerary:
To fully enjoy Isla Mujeres without worrying about transportation, you can also take this tour with pick-up from your hotel in Playa del Carmen.
It includes buffet breakfast and lunch , 45 min of snorkeling, open bar (yes, we come to party!), and free time in Isla Mujeres to enjoy Playa Norte. To book here.
21. Contoy Island
Contoy is a small paradise island that hosts one of the most beautiful beaches in the Riviera Maya.
In order to protect this important nesting ground for turtles and seabirds, only a few biologists and coast guards inhabit the island, and visits are limited to 200 people per day. That is why it is mandatory to go there with an organized excursion!
I took an excursion to Isla Contoy from Playa del Carmen (which I had never heard of before) and it turned out to be, by far, my best experience as I really felt like to be in one of the last corners of paradise on the Riviera Maya, which has become very touristy.
It’s a very complete day that includes pick-up at your hotel, breakfast, boat transport with some drinks, snorkeling at the Ixlache reef, free time at Isla Contoy with lunch, and free time (1h30 ) on Isla Mujeres on the way back.
- To learn all about this beautiful island, here is my Complete Guide to Isla Contoy!
- As access is limited to only 200 people per day, I recommend that you do not wait until the last minute to book
22. Go Quad Biking in the Jungle
I had already done quad biking in the forest in Quebec and I found the experience incredible, I wanted to try again the experience in the jungle of the Riviera Maya.
So I convinced my friends and their teenagers to accompany me and in the end, everyone loved it!
At times we manage to go quite fast, but it’s up to you to keep the pace that suits you. What is certain is that it is safe and the quads are easy to drive
We traveled about 30km of trail, some in single quad others on a two-seater quad. Then we were taken to an underground cave filled with stalactites with a cenote where we could swim for about 30 minutes to cool off.
The only thing we could have criticized for the activity is that it was too short (2h30-3h)!
Book the Jungle Quad Bike Tour with hotel pickup in Playa del Carmen, Cave Visit and Cenote Swim here.
- Expect to get a little dirty since these are dirt roads and depending on the season there can be a bit of mud. But it makes the activity even funnier. 😀
23. Explore the Caves of Rio Secreto
Here is one of the most beautiful places to see in Playa del Carmen, in addition to being an unforgettable activity to do with family or friends.
Voted best nature reserve in Mexico and Central America at the World Travel Awards , Rio Secreto offers the opportunity to discover part of its great underground world.
It is a 1h30 visit where you follow the guide with a helmet and headlamp, as well as a thermal suit to discover its magnificent caves and cenotes with transparent water.
Book here your tickets to Rio Secreto which includes lunch, choosing the pick-up option at your hotel if you wish.
24. Discover the Island of Cozumel
Declared a Biosphere Reserve thanks to its rich marine and terrestrial biodiversity, the island of Cozumel is considered one of the best places to go diving in the world!
It’s true that there are a lot of things to do because it’s a big island, but you can easily visit Cozumel in one day from Playa del Carmen!
To make the most of the day, I suggest two options:
Option 1 : discover the best snorkeling spots in Cozumel, including El Cielo known for its many starfish – Book the snorkeling excursion here with hotel pick-up and lunch!
Option 2 : take a jeep excursion in the Punta Sur reserve with snorkeling, free time at the beach, lunch in a beach club and tequila tasting! Book the Punta Sur excursion as a small group or private tour.
Visit Cozumel from Playa del Carmen
- Ferry without car: 45min-1h by ferry from Terminal Maritima Navega with Ultramar or Winjet Fast Ferry
- Ferry with car: by ferry from Punta Venado to Calica with Transcaribe or Ultramar Carga
- Many excursions in Cozumel include pick up from your hotel, be sure to check!
Tulum is a must-see destination in the Riviera Maya with its famous ruins facing the sea, its long white sand beaches, its magnificent cenotes and its bohemian atmosphere.
The good news is that it is only 1 hour from Playa del Carmen and you can therefore easily make a round trip in one day after having had time to visit these main attractions.
To visit Tulum in one day from Playa del Carmen: in the morning visit the archaeological site of Tulum, then go cool off in a cenote. In the afternoon, take a walk on the Beach Strip of Tulum then enjoy the beach (ex: Playa Paraiso, Las Palmas).
If you prefer to take an excursion to Tulum from Playa del Carmen, I recommend this one which includes the ruins of Tulum (guided tour and free time), visit to a cenote and air-conditioned transport from your hotel . To book here.
26. Chichen Itza
The most important city of the Yucatan Peninsula in its time, Chichen Itzá is today classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and elected among the 7 new wonders of the world.
In 2h-3h of visit you will be able to see El Castillo which is the main pyramid of the site, the astronomical observatory El Caracol, the great Mayan pelota playground, and many other buildings.
- To know all the attractions, Tips for your Playa del Carmen itinerary: and practical information, here is my Complete Guide to Chichen Itzá!
Visiting Chichen Itza from Playa del Carmen:
- By ADO bus (3h40), one bus per day – departure 8am and return 4.30pm, 380 pesos per ticket
- By car (3h30), take highway 307 which runs along the Riviera Maya, then highway 180D. 80 pesos for parking
- It’s one of the most touristy places in Mexico, so I suggest you buy your skip-the-line tickets to Chichen Itzá to avoid the long queues! ✌️
Another option to not worry about transport (still 7h drive in the day!) is to take an excursion with pick-up from Playa del Carmen. I recommend:
- The excursion to Chichen Itzá with guided visit, cenote Ik Kil, buffet lunch and break in Valladolid – Book here!
- Or the morning excursion to Chichen Itza to avoid the crowds, guided tour and lunch – Book here!
27. Climb the tallest pyramid in Yucatan
In the Yucatan jungle , surrounded by toucans and monkeys, is Cobá, which was a great rival of Chichen Itzá and one of the most important cities of the Mayan world.
In order to easily access the different structures of the site, it is best to rent a bicycle (60 pesos) at the entrance.
There is the Nohoch Mul which is the highest pyramid in the state of Quintana Roo and the 2nd highest in the entire peninsula!
If you have some time to spare (and have a car), there are also 3 cenotes in Coba: Tamcach Ha (or Tankach-Ha), Multun Ha and Choo-Ha.
Tips for your Playa del Carmen itinerary:
For the full experience, you can take this excursion to Coba and Tulum with hotel pick-up.
It includes the guided tour of Cobá, a traditional lunch with chocolate tasting in a Mayan village, swimming in the cenote Dzonot Wayak and ends with a visit to Tulum!
28. Swim with Turtles
Akumal is recognized as the best place to swim with turtles in the Playa del Carmen area … and even in Mexico!
There is no need to worry about the turtles: they are protected species so the activity is done responsibly by respecting certain strict rules so as not to stress them.
It is also mandatory to go there with a guide who will take you to the area where they feed in Akumal Bay.
You can book here your excursion to swim with the turtles in Akumal which also includes pick up at your hotel, the visit of a cenote and a cave.
- To learn all about Akumal, here is my Guide to the 17 Best Things to Do in Akumal!
29. Puerto Morelos
Puerto Morelos is a quiet little town just 30 minutes from Playa del Carmen where you can spend half a day or a day.
It is an ideal place to visit with the family because you can snorkel in the Puerto Morelos Reef National Park and discover several cenotes on the famous Route of the Cenotes.
In addition, there is the best adventure park in Latin America (all the details in the next point) 🙂
- For all the best things to do in Puerto Morelos, here is my Ultimate Guide to Puerto Morelos
30. Enjoy one of the best adventure parks
It is a dream place to live the adventure in the jungle with the largest zip line circuit in the peninsula, suspension bridges, bungee, quad, cenote, etc.
My favorite? The Tarzania which is a kind of roller coaster which extends over 700m, to be covered by zip line!
You can of course also go there on your own or book your entrance tickets to Selvatica with hotel pick-up here. The ticket includes zip lines, Tarzania, safari truck ride to the cenote and lunch.
What to do when it rains in Playa del Carmen
Your plans for the day fell through? Do not panic, Playa del Carmen offers some good alternatives:
- Swim in a cenote : many cenotes are underground, so this is an ideal activity to avoid the rain in Playa del Carmen!
- Visit a museum : in addition to the many art galleries, you can spend 1h30-2h at the 3D Museum of Wonders, or go to the Frida Kahlo museum
- Going to the cinema is always a good option with the family , and you can take advantage of the air conditioning . For example at Cinemex in Centro Maya or Cinepolis in Plaza las Américas
- Go to the spa : you don’t have to wait for the rain to enjoy a massage or a treatment with natural products, but it’s always a good option! 🙂
- Go shopping : there are plenty of shops on Quinta Avenida, it might be a good time to buy some souvenirs! To really avoid the rain, you can also go to the Centro Maya, Plaza Las Américas or Quinta Alegría shopping malls .
Accommodation in Playa del Carmen
- 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
Playa del Carmen without Sargassum
It’s a reality: the Riviera Maya is sometimes invaded by banks of brown algae called sargassum.
This is a subject that we hear more and more about because these accumulations have increased in recent years due to global warming and pollution.
The big problem is that we can’t predict the date or the place of their appearance and we often find ourselves faced with a fait accompli.
But then, how to avoid sargassum ? What is the best time of the year and the best place to enjoy the seaweed free beach ?
There is no magic answer, but there are solutions!
The first thing to do is consult the Red Monitoreo del Sargazo page where you will find maps that show the state of the beaches.
If Playa del Carmen is yellow, orange or red, here are some alternatives to consider:
- Cozumel : it is a safe bet because there is never any sargassum on the west coast of Cozumel which faces Playa del Carmen (40 min by ferry).
- Isla Mujeres, Holbox and Isla Contoy : these islands are much less affected by seaweed than the Riviera Maya coast (although it does happen)
- Caleta Tankah in Tulum : a small beach club with a cenote and a cove on the beach where seaweed does not fit
- Bacalar : it is a large and magnificent lagoon where the algae of the sea cannot enter
- Swimming in a cenote : there are a lot of cenotes in Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya and there is never any seaweed in a cenote!
- Take advantage of a swimming pool : there are several nice ones open to the public. I recommend Las Hijas Beach Club (no entrance fee), the Be Playa hotel (250 pesos min consumption) or even Thompson Playa del Carmen for a more luxurious atmosphere with a view of the sea.
- Go to a theme park: Xcaret, Xel Ha, or Xplor
Tips for your Playa del Carmen itinerary:
In principle, the season of sargassum in the Riviera Maya extends from April to September. So if you ‘re traveling to Playa del Carmen around this time, it’s more likely to see some, but that doesn’t mean you absolutely will.
How long does it take to visit Playa del Carmen?
Playa del Carmen is a paradise of fine sand, adventure and culture, and you could spend weeks here without getting bored.
But if you only have a few days in Playa del Carmen, don’t worry: I have good suggestions for visiting Playa del Carmen in 1, 2 or 3 days.
1 Day Playa del Carmen Itinerary
If you only have one day in Playa del Carmen, follow this program:
- In the morning, enjoy the beautiful beaches of Playa del Carmen like Mamitas, Playa 88, Punta Esmeralda
- For a bit of adrenaline, you can try parasailing , a catamaran ride, a buggy tour with cenote, or a quad and speed boat adventure
- Stroll down Quinta Avenida, the city’s main pedestrian street, where you’ll find lively bars and restaurants, boutiques
- Discover the nightlife of Playa del Carmen. For an impressive show, you can go to Coco Bongo – Buy your tickets here!
2 Days Playa del Carmen Itinerary
If you want to visit Playa del Carmen in 2 days, follow the program above for the first day.
And for the second day, I offer you two options:
Option 1: spend the day in Tulum
- In the morning, visit the ruins of Tulum, one of the best-preserved Mayan sites, and take in stunning views of the Caribbean Sea
- Relax on the beaches of Tulum and take a walk on the Beach Strip, where you will find many restaurants, beach clubs and chic shops, as well as the famous wooden sculpture “Ven a la Luz”.
- Explore the cenotes of Tulum, such as Cenote Dos Ojos, Gran Cenote, Cenote Calavera or Cenote Zacil-Ha.
My favorite choice for the Tulum excursion (click here to find out!) includes transport from your hotel, guided tour of the ruins, exploration of a secret cenote, lunch in the jungle and snorkeling with the turtles in Akumal Bay!
Option 2: take a trip to Cozumel
If you love nature, Cozumel Island might be the perfect option for you, with its gorgeous beaches, crystal clear waters and amazing coral reefs. You’ll never run out of fun things to do in Cozumel:
- The Punta Sur Eco Beach Park is my favorite place on the island and the largest ecological reserve in Cozumel. You can enjoy the beach, Laguna Colombia, Celarain Lighthouse (with stunning views!) – Book the Punta Sur jeep tour here!
- For families: I recommend visiting Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park (buy your tickets here!) or Playa Mia Grand Beach Park
- Cozumel is a paradise for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts , with its incredible coral reefs and seabed. You can’t miss Palancar Reef and El Cielo, a sandbar with starfish in the sea – book the snorkeling excursion here!
3 Days Playa del Carmen Itinerary
With three days in Playa del Carmen, you can enjoy the must-sees:
- follow the program for day 1
- visit Tulum on day 2
- and Cozumel on day 3, as explained above!
Where is Playa del Carmen?
The city of Playa del Carmen is located on the Caribbean coast , in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico – more precisely in the center of the Riviera Maya between Cancun and Tulum, facing the island of Cozumel.
It is strategically located at the intersection of the Tulum – Cancún/México 307 highway which runs along the Riviera Maya and the Kantunil-Cancún/México 180D highway which leads to the interior of the peninsula: the ideal place to get around easily!
How to get to Playa del Carmen by plane?
It is necessary to go to the international airport of Cancun because there is no airport in Playa del Carmen.
It is a large airport that receives many flights from Europe and North America, with the big known companies (Air Transat, Air Canada, Iberia, Aeromexico, Interjet, KLM, etc.). It will therefore be very easy to find tickets on the date that suits you.
How to get to Playa del Carmen?
Playa del Carmen is 1 hour from Cancun, 1 hour from Tulum and 1h50 from Valladolid.
- From the center of Cancun: it takes about 1 hour – by car, by ADO bus from the Cancun terminal or by colectivo Playa Express (in front of the ADO station)
- From the hotel zone of Cancun: 1h15 by car, or to get there by public transport you will first have to go to the ADO terminal in the center (by taxi, or by local bus Ruta 1 or Ruta 2)
- From Cancun Airport: The majority of travelers arrive in Playa del Carmen from Cancun Airport. Check out the next section, where I have it all detailed!
- From Tulum: 1h – if you don’t have a car, you can take an ADO bus or a colectivo from the center of Tulum or the entrance to the ruins
- From Valladolid: 1h45 by car via Kantunil-Cancun/México 180D and México 305D, or 2h05-2h55 by ADO bus (preferably choose a direct bus )
Travel between Playa del Carmen and the Surrounding Area
Whether by car, bus or colectivo (shared vans), it is very easy to reach Cancun, other destinations in the Riviera Maya (ex: Tulum, Puerto Morelos, Akumal, water parks) or even the cities located inside the peninsula (ex: Valladolid, Mérida, etc.).
The colectivos : whatever the destination, they all leave from the station located in front of the Chedraui near Avenida Benito Juarez, more exactly Calle 1 Sur x Avenida 45 norte
They are parked according to the destination: on the left for Tulum and on the right for Cancun. Anyway, you can ask without problem.
How to get from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen?
The trip from Cancun to Playa del Carmen takes 1h20, here are the different options:
- By car : If you are going to rent a car in Cancun, the journey is very easy to Playa del Carmen. Just join and follow Highway 307 Cancun – Chetumal
- Bus ADO: several departures per day from terminals 2, 3 and 4. No need for reservation, you can buy your ticket on arrival (216 pesos). It leaves you on Quinta Avenida.
- Official taxi from the airport : approximately 1200 pesos
- Private transport: for more comfort, this is a very good option, especially if you are traveling with others, since it is an air-conditioned van that can accommodate up to 8 people.
When to visit Playa del Carmen?
The best time of year to go to Playa del Carmen is from late October to mid-December because there are not many tourists and the temperature is pleasant.
The high tourist season extends from the end of December to March-April, with particularly busy periods around New Year’s Day and the famous American Spring Break .
If you are wondering when to go to Playa del Carmen , the most important thing is to take into account the rainy and hurricane season which extends from June to October, and especially during the months of August (end), September and October .
Personally I recommend avoiding this period , especially for a short trip of 1 or 2 weeks in the Riviera Maya . Especially since it is impossible to predict in advance whether a storm will develop into a hurricane.
- Note: I have already traveled in October to the Riviera Maya, without a hurricane, and with little rain, so it is also a matter of luck!
What is the temperature in Playa del Carmen?
The climate of Playa del Carmen is hot and humid with an average of 26°C all year round, and a good sea breeze which makes the atmosphere pleasant.
With water whose temperature is around 25°C-29°C, there is no doubt that it is an essential destination in Mexico for enjoying the beach and swimming !
But a tropical climate always comes with a rainy season. As I mentioned above, this season runs from April to October (or even mid-November).
During the months of September and October, the rains are more abundant and the risk of hurricane is higher.
It is cooler (read: more pleasant) from November to March. This is the best time to visit, especially if you plan to do more than just the beaches!
Money in Playa del Carmen: know everything!
What is the local currency?
The Mexican Peso (MXN) is the official currency of Mexico.
Can we pay in US dollars?
The short answer is: yes, many places accept US dollars (tour agencies, restaurants, shops).
But it is important to know that the rate is never favorable and that it is much better to pay in Mexican pesos.
If you are Canadian – like me – above all do not change your money twice ($cad-$usd-mxn). It’s no use! Keep your Canadian dollars and change them directly into pesos once there.
Can we pay in Canadian dollars?
I’ve been told that some businesses on Quinta Avenida accept Canadian dollars, but I haven’t seen them personally. And anyway, the rate will not be favorable, be sure!
Are euros accepted?
Euros are rarely accepted in Playa del Carmen. Above all, do not change your euros into American dollars, you can change them directly into Mexican pesos without any problem.
Where to change the money?
First, avoid changing in your home country. You will get a better rate at an exchange house in Playa del Carmen.
The do’s and don’ts of changing your currency in Playa del Carmen:
At the airport
It is better to avoid changing at Cancun airport on arrival, but it can be a good option if you need a few pesos when you arrive, to pay for your transport to Playa del Carmen , For example.
At the airport, it is better to withdraw money from an ATM rather than going to an exchange house.
Tips for your Playa del Carmen itinerary:
Don’t forget that you can also pre-book your transport from Cancun to Playa del Carmen to avoid having to pay anything on arrival .
In the hotel
Sure, it’s very easy to change at your hotel, but usually the rate is pretty bad. It’s convenient when you need to be repaired quickly, but avoid changing a large sum.
You will find plenty of exchange houses on Quinta Avenida (casas de cambio), compare them and make your choice.
I found one of the best rates at the corner of Calle 2 Norte and Quinta Avenida (a green banner, diagonal from Ah Cacao). Another good option is the Cibanco right next to the ADO station, opposite the Mcdo.
But ultimately the rates are quite similar so unless you have a large sum to change, I don’t think it’s worth wasting too much time to save just a few pesos. 😉
Some banks like Banco Azteca offer a good rate, but don’t forget your passport which you will need to present. It is the only foreign identity document accepted.
The big advantage is that it is very safe, so very practical when you want to change a larger amount.
The disadvantage in my opinion is that there are far fewer than exchange houses and that depending on the time, the queues can really get longer in Mexico. It is best to arrive early.
Do you have to tip in Playa del Carmen?
I know that in Europe tipping is not very common, but Mexico is a country in North America where it is completely normal to tip, and even more so in touristic places.
We must not forget that people have low salaries and rely on this tip (even more so with the Covid crisis which has severely affected tourism)
You can calculate 10% at the restaurant or even 15% if you really enjoyed your experience. Of course some give more, but it’s at everyone’s discretion, also according to your means.
- Warning: it is unacceptable for someone to ask you for a tip, it will always remain voluntary.
Where to buy souvenirs?
Walking down Quinta Avenida there are lots of shops selling colorful souvenirs of all kinds: key chains, magnets, mugs, t-shirts, etc.
Tips for your Playa del Carmen itinerary:
If you want to pay less for your souvenirs, go straight to Walmart.
Let’s be honest: it’s exactly the same, but at least we don’t get screwed so much because the prices at Quinta Avenida have gotten too high.
If you want to find something a little different, it gets more complicated!
Upon entering, I noticed that you could see through the ground: it’s a cenote! And you can also go behind the shop to see the garden. It’s like an oasis in the center of Playa del Carmen.
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