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34 BEST Things to do in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

34 BEST Things to do in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

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With its amazing scenery, rich culture, and delicious food, Playa del Carmen is one of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations. And honestly, it’s easy to see why!

Playa del Carmen is a vibrant coastal town located in the heart of the Riviera Maya. Filled with stunning white-sand beaches, lively nightlife, and an array of activities and attractions – there is no shortage of things to do in Playa del Carmen.

From swimming with whale sharks to exploring Mayan ruins, you’re sure to have a great time in Playa del Carmen!

But with so much to see and do, Playa del Carmen can become a little overwhelming. I mean, there must be hundreds of activities one can do in the area.

To help plan your trip and narrow your houses down, here are the 34 BEST things to do in Playa del Carmen.

Fun Things to do in Playa del Carmen

1. Visit Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza, Mexico main temple
How cool is Chichen Itza, Mexico?

Without a doubt, the most popular of all of the Mayan ruins in Mexico is Chichen Itza. This UNESCO world heritage site is a bucket list place to visit and a must for those headed to Playa del Carmen!

The archeological site is most well known as the home of El Castillo – the main temple at the site. It’s a true show of the Mayan peoples’ knowledge of the earth and planets. However, Chichen Itza is also home to The Great Ball Court. This is the largest in Mesoamerica and is 168 by 70 meters (551 by 230 feet.) The game played here was called Pitz. Overall, it’s one of the coolest sites I have visited and a must-do activity while in Playa del Carmen.

Visiting is best done either with a rental car or on an organized tour. If you can drive yourself if you’re renting a car in Playa del Carmen, it’s around a 2.5-hour drive each way, so be prepared for a long day. The entrance fee is 571 MXN ($30 USD) for adults, and the site is open from 8 am to 5 pm. Right now, it’s best to book your tickets in advance as they have a cap on visitors of 3,000 per day.

For those without a rental car or who don’t want the hassle of driving so far, consider booking an organized tour. This specific tour is a top choice and includes all your entrance fees (most don’t), breakfast, lunch, an English-speaking guide, and hotel pick-up in Playa del Carmen and outside areas such as at all-inclusive resorts.

The full-day tour departs very early in the morning before dawn; this way, you can make the most of the day while in Chichen Itza. Oh and explore the ruins before the thousands of visitors arrive! You should book this Chichen Itza tour in advance to avoid missing out.

Make sure you bring comfortable shoes, your camera, sunscreen, and some cash.

For more info about visiting Chichen Itza – read our complete guide!

Related read: Want to check out more ancient ruins? Check out the best things to do in Palenque!

2. Go shopping!

Bailey poses for a photo at a gift shop in Playa del Carmen
Shopping in Playa del Carmen is especially fun!

One of the best things to do in Playa del Carmen is to go shopping. Fifth Avenue is lined with shops, boutiques, and markets, where you can find everything from souvenirs to designer clothes. There are also plenty of places to eat, drink, and people-watch.

For some budget shopping, head to the Playa del Carmen Flea Market, where you can find everything from handcrafted jewelry to vintage clothing. It’s the perfect place to pick up cheap gifts and typical local crafts.

If you’d prefer to spoil yourself, head to Quinta Alegría Shopping Mall for some supermarket shopping. You can find a huge range of stores here, including Pandora and American Eagle Outfitters.

The truth is, you can’t really make a turn in Playa del Carmen without there being an opportunity to shop. It’s a shopper’s paradise, and I guarantee you won’t leave empty-handed!

3. Explore the best cenotes

Cenote Suytun at Valladolid, Yucatan - Mexico
One of the most famous cenotes is Suytun Cenote!

Cenotes are one of the most popular attractions on the Yucatan Peninsula. You’ll find them dotted all over the Yucatan, from as far south as the border with Guatemala all the way to Merida. Thankfully, there are a ton of cool cenotes to check out near Playa del Carmen – you just have to know where to look.

But first, what exactly is a cenote? A cenote is an underground cave carved by water, and most are connected to the ocean through this underground river system. This is why many cenotes have a top layer of fresh water and a bottom layer of saltwater.

Some of the most famous cenotes to visit in Playa del Carmen are:

Cenote Chaak Tun – This cenote is located only a short taxi from downtown Playa del Carmen making it a top choice. The cenote can only be visited on guided tours, which cost $40 USD per person and involve exploring the underground cave system. Tours are available from 9 am to 3 pm.

Cenote Azul – Located around 20 minutes from Playa del Carmen, Cenote Azul is one of the most popular cenotes to visit. This large open cenote is the perfect place to spend a few hours enjoying the beautiful weather. It costs 150 pesos ($7.50 USD) per person to enter, and a taxi from Playa del Carmen will set you back around 400 pesos ($20 USD). The cenote is open to visitors from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.

Cenote Kantun Chi – This is actually a place with 5 cenotes and is a great place to see multiple cenotes at once. The cenotes are located 30 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, and they offer a range of different tours, from an underground river experience to a snorkeling tour. The basic cenote tour is $44 USD per person and includes lunch. The cenote is open from 9 am to 5 pm.

Cenote Suytun – Located 2 hours from Playa del Carmen, Cenote Suytun is arguably one of the most popular cenotes in Mexico. The cenote became famous on Instagram and now requires you to line up the get the photo above. Thankfully, the entrance fee is only 150 pesos ($7.70 USD) in person and 130 pesos ($6.70 USD) online. The cenote is open from 9 am to 4:30 pm, and to avoid the crowds, go early!

In order to visit the best cenotes, I highly suggest renting a car for at least one day. This way, you can even head down to Tulum and explore the cenotes there too (more info about this further down in this blog on #18.)

Related Read: Visiting Cenote Suytun is also one of the best things to do in Valladolid.

4. Visit the best beaches in Playa Del Carmen

Relaxing at the beach in Playa del Carmen
Take a wander out of the main area and it’s easy to find a place without the crowds!

Some of the best beaches in Mexico are in Playa del Carmen! Spending a day soaking up the sun from the comfort of a beach lounger or on a towel is a must-do when you’re in town.

The top 4 best beaches in Playa del Carmen are:

Mamitas Beach

For a taste of the local scene, head to Mamitas Beach, located in the heart of Playa del Carmen. Here you can find plenty of sun, sand, and people! There are plenty of beach umbrellas and sun loungers to relax on, as well as a number of restaurants and bars nearby if you get hungry or thirsty.

You may not want to head to Mamitas if you’re looking for a quiet, relaxing beach experience – it is usually very crowded and loud!

Playacar Beach

If you’re staying in the Playacar Resort area, then you’ll definitely want to check out Playacar Beach. Playacar runs from the south side of the ferry dock of Playa del Carmen all the way down to Puerto Aventuras.

While Playacar Beach may not be as well known as some of the other beaches on this list, it’s definitely worth a visit. The water is crystal clear, and there are plenty of beach umbrellas, sun loungers, and palapas (thatched roofs) to relax under.

This beach is a bit more secluded and therefore less crowded than Mamitas Beach. Plus, it’s right next to the resorts, so it’s super convenient. The beach is lined with palm trees, making it the perfect place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of Playa del Carmen.

Note: Playacar does not have public restaurants on the beach, so bring your own snacks and water!

Parque Fundadores Beach

Parque Fundadores is a public beach that’s located in the heart of town. This beach is ideal for people-watching, as there are always plenty of locals and tourists alike enjoying the sun and sand. Parque Fundadores is the widest beach in Playa, so there’s plenty of room to spread out.

This beach is also great for swimming, as the water is usually very calm. There is also a full-sized volleyball court on the sand, which is perfect for a game with friends or with kids! Unlike most other beaches in Playa del Carmen, there are no beach clubs at Parque Fundadores, so you’ll get an authentic beach day experience spread out on the sand.

Calle 10 Beach

Calle 10 is the main street that runs through the heart of Playa del Carmen. Along this street, you’ll find plenty of bars, restaurants, and shops. But what makes Calle 10 so special is its beach access. This street is lined with beach clubs, each with its own pool, bar, and sun loungers.

If you’re looking to spend a day at the beach without having to worry about finding a spot on the sand, then Calle 10 is the perfect place for you. Just pick your beach club and enjoy!

If you’re looking for a more laid-back feel, skip the beach clubs and head to the public beach of Calle 10. Due to the abundance of beach clubs on Calle 10, the actual beach is usually fairly quiet and empty.

5. Xplor Adventure Park

People ride ATVs at Xplor Adventure Park, Mexico
Riding the side by sides is so much fun! Photo credit: MariaKray Depositphotos

After an epic adventure in Playa del Carmen? Look no further than Xplor Adventure Park, a huge theme park of the Xcaret Brand.

A single day here is one to remember, soaring the trees on over 14 different zip lines covering a massive 2.4 miles on two circuits. Additionally, with swimming/rafting through caves with stalactites and driving a four-wheel buggy through flooded caves and jungle scenes, it’s a day of excitement!

Entrance to the park costs around $130 USD, which includes lots of activities such as ziplining, waterfalls, driving ATV vehicles, swimming through cenotes, and lunch. The best way to get to Xplor is to drive yourself, but hotel pickup and transportation are available through organized tours.

The park is open from 9 am to 5 pm Monday to Saturday and is located just off the Tulum/Cancun highway, only 109 minutes from Playa del Carmen.

To ensure you get a ticket, you can book this all-inclusive Xplor package in advance. The package costs $133 USD but includes your entrance fee, lunch, and a ton of extras not included in standard admission. There is also Xplor Fuego which is a fun night experience I have yet to try – I’ll add it to my Playa del Carmen bucket list.

6. Be Playa Rooftop Pool 

People enjoy the pool at Be Playa Rooftop Pool, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Photo credit: Be Playa
Two chairs and a table sit in the pool at Be Playa Rooftop Pool in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Photo credit: Be Playa

For stunning views of the ocean (and an Instagram-worthy photo op), head to the Be Playa Rooftop Pool & Bar. This adults-only rooftop pool (sorry kids) is located on the top of a boutique hotel in the middle of Playa del Carmen.

The pool itself is small, but it’s a great place for a dip to cool off. 

Plus, the lounge chairs and daybeds are the perfect place to relax and soak up the sun. And of course, don’t forget to enjoy a drink or two from the bar while you’re there!

Guests of the Be Playa Resort can enjoy free access to the rooftop pool during its hours of operation, 10 am to 10 pm. For outside visitors, the pool opening hours are from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm and require a minimum consumption of $200 MXN ($10 USD) per person.

For a spot on the sunbeds, you’ll want to plan to spend a minimum consumption of $1000 MXN pesos ($50 USD) per bed. Not bad considering I often spend a lot more than that when I visit!

A visit to Be Playa Rooftop for a day of relaxation is the perfect addition to your trip to Playa del Carmen.

7. Go on an ocean cruise

A drone shot of a cruise onboard a catamaran in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
How dreamy does this look!? Photo credit: Cancun Travel Experience

One of the best ways to see Playa del Carmen is from the water! There are plenty of cruises available that will take you to secluded beaches and beautiful bays to swim in the pristine Caribbean waters.

You can choose a cruise that lasts a few hours or opt for an all-day or overnight cruise. There are even cruises that include stops at nearby islands, such as Cozumel.

I ended up choosing this luxury sailing and snorkeling cruise because not only was it great value for just $129 USD, but it included transport (and I planned on having a lot of drinks!) The cruise was the perfect way to spend a day in Playa del Carmen, and you’ll get to sail on a beautiful French-made catamaran, relax on the deck, and enjoy stunning views of the coast.

The cruise includes stops for snorkeling and swimming, where you’ll get a chance to spot stingrays, sea turtles, and tropical fish among the coral reefs. You also enjoy a delicious gourmet lunch onboard the boat, as well as plenty of cocktails (it’s an open bar!)

This is definitely a Playa del Carmen activity that you won’t want to miss. You should book online in advance to secure your spot, numbers are limited.

8. Relax (or party) at Mamita’s Beach Club

A dj plays at Mamita's Beach Club in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Photo credit: Mamita’s Beach Club
Mamita's Beach Club drinks in hand at the pool
Photo credit: Mamita’s Beach Club

Mamitas Beach Club is one of the best beach clubs in Playa del Carmen and my favorite place to enjoy a daytime party. The club is well equipped with a large pool, lounge chairs, and an electric atmosphere! Manitas is a great place to relax with a cocktail while the DJ spins some electronic tunes. 

This beach club is also the perfect place to watch people, as it’s always full of beautiful people. If you’re looking for a party atmosphere, Mamitas Beach Club is the perfect spot for you.

Keep in mind that Mamitas Beach Club is one of the most popular beach clubs in Playa del Carmen, so it can get pretty crowded, especially on weekends. If you want to avoid the crowds, plan to visit during the week.

Mamitas Beach Club is open daily from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm, and you should check out what events they have on before your visit!

9. Cirque du Soleil® JOYÀ

Two performers on ropes during a show at Cirque du Soleil JOYÀ in Cancun, Mexico
The show is so exciting to watch! The things they do defy gravity!

If you want to do something you won’t forget in Playa del Carmen, Cirque du Soleil JOYÀ is an excellent activity.

Everybody has heard about this entertainment company and its amazing shows. The Yucatan show, JOYÀ, is the only Cirque du Soleil dinner theater in production. This production wants to appeal to all five senses by offering several amenities with the show.  

Dinner, aperitif, and champagne are all part of it. This whole dinner entertainment option is a memorable activity for couples, and Daniel and I loved it! 

This show takes place in the Vidanta theater, between Playa del Carmen and Cancun, which is only 20 minutes from Playa del Carmen. If you don’t have a rental car, be sure to organize transport and book your tickets in advance! There are several options, including VIP, dinner only, drinks only, and both. I didn’t think VIP was worth the price, but dinner and drinks are a must!

Related Read: The only dance show that compares to JOYÀ is the Rythms of the Night Show – one of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta!

10. Party at Coco Bongo 

Coco A show at Bongo Playa del Carmen
The shows at Coco Bongo are out of this world! Photo credit: Coco Bongo

Coco Bongo is one of the most popular nightclubs in Playa del Carmen. This club features live music, acrobats, and a party atmosphere that will keep you dancing all night long!

Coco Bongo regularly changes their shows so although I have been multiple times, I continue to visit every year. It’s just so much fun and everyone I take loves it!

Coco Bongo is always jam-packed with people, and lines can get pretty long, so be sure to arrive early and book your tickets in advance. If you’d prefer not to wait, this gold member ticket allows you to breeze past long lines and enjoy VIP access and 15 free drinks in one of Playa del Carmen’s hottest nightclubs. It’s actually great value for $149 USD and includes pick up and drop off at your hotel.

Coco Bongo is open every day from 9:00 pm until 4:00 am. Admission starts at $90 USD per person for the most basic entry. Guests must be 18 years or older to enter the club.

11. Day trip to Cozumel 

couples feet at a beach in Cozumel
What a perfect place to relax!

Cozumel is a popular tourist destination located just offshore from Playa del Carmen. This island is known for its clear turquoise waters, beautiful beaches, and coral reefs. Because of its close proximity, Cozumel is often considered one of the best day trips from Playa del Carmen.

There are plenty of activities to keep you busy on Cozumel including scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, and kayaking. You can also explore the island’s many shops and restaurants.

There are several ways to get to Cozumel from Playa del Carmen including ferry, catamaran, or private boat transfer. The ferry is the most popular and affordable option, with tickets starting at $200 MXN ($10 USD) for a round-trip ticket.

There are two companies that operate the route, Ultramar and Transcaribe either are fine and both offer a similar service and price. The ferry ride takes about 45 minutes each way and leaves from the terminal in Playa del Carmen.

Alternatively, you can join a full-day guided tour to Cozumel. This particular tour includes your roundtrip ferry transfer to Cozumel as well as a buggy tour once you arrive. You’ll visit some of the most popular attractions on Cozumel including Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park, Playa El Cielo, and Faro Celerain Ecological Reserve. The tour also includes snorkeling!

12. Swim with turtles at Akumal Beach

Swimming with turtles at Akumal Beach, Mexico
How cool is this?!

Akumal Beach is one of the best places in Mexico to swim with turtles! These gentle creatures are often seen swimming close to the shore, so you don’t even need to go far to see them.

Akumal is located around halfway between Playa del Carmen and Tulum and is a great place to relax and enjoy the clear turquoise waters. There are plenty of beach umbrellas and sun loungers available for rent, as well as restaurants and bars.

The easiest way to get to Akumal is by taking a Colectivo (shared van) or renting a car. Parking at Akumal for the day will cost you less than $3 USD, and entrance to the beach will cost around $6 USD.

You have to join a tour to go snorkeling here because of the rules in place to protect the turtles. You can join one on the day at the beach, but we think it’s best to book one online before you go. 

If you’d prefer a more organized trip with a guide and transportation included, you’ll save some cash by pre-booking this half-day Akumal snorkeling experience for $109 USD. This private tour includes round-trip transportation from your hotel, snorkeling gear, a boxed lunch, and a tour guide. Enjoy your day diving into cenotes and swimming next to sea turtles, stingrays, and tropical fish – it’s one of the best things to do in Playa del Carmen!

13. Salsa Dancing At Zenzi 

people dancing at night at Zenzi Bar in Playa del Carmen
This is the place to be once the sun goes down! Photo Credit: Zenzi

Playa del Carmen is the perfect place to learn how to salsa dance! And what better place to do it than on the beach at Zenzi Beach Club.

This open-air beach club offers live music every evening and various DJs throughout the week, as well as Salsa Night every Sunday! The dance floor is open to everyone from seasoned sala dancers to absolute beginners, and swapping partners is definitely encouraged.

Admission to Zenzi Beach Club is free, but there is a charge for beach beds and umbrellas. You can also order food and drinks from the bar and restaurant. Salsa Night starts at 9:00 pm and goes until 1:00 am.

There’s no better way to spend a Sunday night in Playa del Carmen!

14. Go scuba diving 

A lady scuba diving in Mexico
Bailey scuba diving in Playa del Carmen!

The clear turquoise waters around Playa del Carmen are perfect for scuba diving and snorkeling! There are many dive sites to choose from, with something to suit all levels of experience.

If you’re a beginner, we recommend taking a discovery dive with an experienced instructor. This way, you can be sure to stay safe while exploring the underwater world. Discovery dives include two dives in two different locations, where you’ll learn the basics of diving and try out your skills in a pool before heading out to the open water. The best part is that no certification is required.

For those who want to get PADI certified, there are plenty of options for that too! You can choose to do a 3-day certification course or an intensive 5-day course. This 3-day PADI certification course includes two days of diving and one day of academics and includes all the necessary equipment and a certification card upon completion. 

After completing the course, you’ll be qualified to dive anywhere in the world up to 60 feet!

If you’re already a certified diver, there are plenty of tour companies that offer day trips to different dive sites around Playa del Carmen. You can also choose to go on your own, but we recommend going with a guide who knows the area well.

This two-tank dive for certified divers takes you to two different dive sites, where you’ll see a variety of fish, turtles, eels, and more. You can also opt for a night dive or a wreck dive if you’re looking for something different! This two-tank dive experience includes all the necessary equipment and is a unique way to explore the underwater world around Playa del Carmen.

15. Have dinner at Alux Cave Restaurant  

A set table inside Alux Cave Restaurant , Playa del Carmen, Mexico
This is the most unique place to enjoy a meal in Playa del Camren! Photo credit: Alux Cave Restaurant  

This unique restaurant is located inside a cave and is the perfect place to enjoy a meal with a view! Alux Cave Restaurant is located just outside Playa del Carmen and offers stunning views from the inside of a real cave.

The menu features traditional Mexican dishes with a modern twist, and there is also a wide selection of international wines available. Some of the most popular dishes at Alux Cave Restaurant include the salmon tartare, pork belly tacos, and the Surf n Turf.

If you’re looking for a truly unique dining experience, be sure to add Alux Cave Restaurant to your list. Make sure to make a reservation in advance, as this popular restaurant gets booked up quickly!

Note: There are many amazing restaurants in Playa del Carmen to choose from – be sure to dine at a few!

16. Day trip to Cancun   

Playa Delfines on a beautiful day in Cancun, Mexico
Come first thing in the morning and Cancun is so quiet. By 9 am, the beaches are packed!

Playa del Carmen is the perfect base for exploring the surrounding area. Cancun is just a short drive away, and there are plenty of tours and activities to enjoy in Cancun.

Start your day with a visit to the ancient Mayan ruins of El Rey, where you can learn about the history and culture of the Maya people. Then, head to the nearby beach for a spot of sunbathing and swimming.

In the afternoon, take a tour of the Cancun Underwater Museum, where you can see over 500 sculptures that have been submerged in the sea. This unique museum is home to a variety of marine life and is a great place to learn about the ecology of the region.

End your day with a visit to one of Cancun’s many nightclubs in the Cancun Hotel Zone, where you can dance the night away!

Related Read: If you’re flying into Cancun first, you’ll want to have a plan to get from the Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen! Make sure to check out the best Cancun Airport shuttles that can take you directly here!

17. Walk 5th Avenue (Quinta Avenida) 

people walking on Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Fifth Avenue is one of the most popular places to visit in Playa del Carmen. Photo Credit: kmiragaya on Depositphotos

One of the best things to do in Playa del Carmen is simply to walk around and explore! Fifth Avenue (Quinta Avenida) is the main pedestrian street in the center of town and is lined with shops, restaurants, and bars.

There’s no better way to experience the vibrant atmosphere of Playa del Carmen than by spending a day strolling down Fifth Avenue. It’s the perfect place to people-watch and soak up the atmosphere of this lively town! Be sure to pop into some of the shops, where you can find anything from handmade souvenirs to designer clothes. You can even find many well-known shops here like H&M, Zara, and Forever 21.

If you get hungry, there are plenty of restaurants to stop for a bite to eat or a refreshing drink, serving everything from Mexican food to international cuisine. And if you want to keep the party going, there are plenty of bars and clubs to keep you entertained into the early hours of the morning!

18. Day trip to Tulum

A view of the Tulum Ruins over the beach in Tulum, Mexico
The Tulum Ruins!

The small town of Tulum is one of the most popular places to visit in Mexico. This trendy town offers a wide array of options when visiting. Just plan a one-day trip to the area and have an amazing adventure.

Whenever visiting Tulum, you cannot miss the chance to visit some of the nearby cenotes. Cenotes are a system of underground rivers, caves, and sinkholes that flow through the Yucatan Peninsula. This system is unique since the rivers are connected to the sea. Some of the best cenotes in Tulum are Dos Ojos, Cenote Calavera, and Cenote Zacil-Ha. 

Some other awesome things to do in Tulum include visiting the Tulum Ruins, one of the coolest archaeological sites in the area; drinking craft beer at Cervecería Tulum; and exploring Laguna Kaan Luum. There are also lots of amazing bars and restaurants in Tulum well worth checking out.

If you don’t have a rental car, you have two options. The first is this full-day tour to the Tulum ruins and Cenote Zemway. This tour includes transport and a guide who will make your visit to the ruins that much more interesting.

If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, you can just take the bus all the way there from Cancun downtown. This is a budget-friendly adventure since the bus to Tulum is only $9 USD from Cancun. If you are staying in the hotel zone, take a bus to Cancun downtown, then get off at Ado Bus Station. Although cheap, this is a lot more time-consuming since the buses stop frequently. 

Related Read: Tulum is also one of the most popular day trips from Cancun!

19. Parque Los Fundadores  

Parque Los Fundadores, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Parque Los Fundadores is a beautiful place to relax!

This park is the perfect place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of Playa del Carmen. Parque Los Fundadores, or “Founding Fathers Park,” is a large, lush park located in the center of town and is home to a variety of trees and plants. It is located just outside the ADO bus station on 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen, so you can easily find it from Quinta Avenida!

There’s plenty of green space to enjoy a picnic or take a leisurely stroll, and you can also rent bikes if you want to explore the park in a more active way. The park also has a playground for children, making it the perfect place to spend a day with the family.

If you’re looking to escape the heat of the midday sun, be sure to visit the Parque Los Fundadores, where you can enjoy some time in the shade of the trees.

20. Swim with Whale Sharks

Swimming with Whale sharks in Mexico
Just beautiful!

When traveling the Yucatan, you always hear about its amazing nightlife, crystal-clear waters, white-sand beaches, and of course, tasty margaritas. But have you ever heard about swimming with whale sharks?

Did you know that whale sharks aren’t technically sharks, they’re actually the largest fish in the world! So it should come as no surprise that swimming with these HUGE fish is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many, and the best part is that you can do it from Playa del Carmen!

Unfortunately, you won’t find these beautiful creatures swimming in front of Playa del Carmen Beach, so you will need a boat ride to reach them. That means that a tour is the only way to go on this adventure!

This full-day whale shark tour picks you up at your hotel, whether you’re in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or anywhere on the Rivera Maya. The tour includes an expert biologist guide who speaks both English and Spanish – it’s the perfect way to interact with whale sharks and learn about them!

On top of that, you’ll get a delicious lunch and use of snorkeling equipment, and a life jacket. The best part is that the lunch is served off the coast of Isla Mujeres. This way, you can have two amazing experiences in one day.

Whale shark season in Playa del Carmen runs from the 15th of May until the 17th of September, with the best time being in the middle of that. During this time of the year, whale sharks gather on the northern coasts of the Yucatan. If you are lucky, you could also catch a glimpse of a Manta ray swimming along with the whale sharks. 

Don’t let their size intimidate you, either. Whale sharks are friendly and harmless to humans; they are on a strict plankton-only diet! 

21. Eat authentic tacos

An authentic taco stand in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
One of my favorite styles of tacos is Birria Tacos that come from these large traditional pots. It’s slow-cooked beef!

A trip to Playa del Carmen is not complete without trying some of the delicious tacos! There are many taco stands and restaurants around town, so you’ll have no trouble finding somewhere to enjoy a tasty meal.

If you’re looking for an authentic experience, be sure to try one of the street vendors selling tacos de canasta (basket tacos). These tacos are made with fresh, handmade tortillas and are typically filled with chicken, potatoes, and refried beans.

For something a little different, try the tacos al pastor at El Fogon. These tacos are made with marinated pork and pineapple and topped with fresh onion and cilantro. Absolutely delicious!

Birria de la 30 is one of the most popular places to eat tacos in Playa del Carmen, and we can see why! Birria de la 30 is a small restaurant located on 30 Avenida that specializes in birria tacos. Birria is a traditional Mexican dish made with slow-cooked beef and served with a delicious broth for dipping. The tacos at Birria are served with a variety of toppings, including onions, cilantro, and salsa, and are sure to hit the spot!

Related Read: Want to try the best food in Mexico? Be sure to check out Oaxaca, Mexico!

22. Or, go on a food tour!

Tacos cooking on a food tour in Playa del Carmen
Crunchy tacos are hard to find but we tried them on our food tour!

If you want to try a little bit of everything, we recommend going on a food tour! Playa del Carmen offers a variety of different tours, each with a different focus.

This walking street food tour is the perfect way to try some of the best tacos in town and other street food favorites like tamales and elotes. You’ll get an insider’s glimpse at the Playa del Carmen food scene and learn about the different dishes and ingredients used in Mexican cuisine.

Eat your way through the city while learning about its history and culture – what could be better?

Related Read: One of the best things to do in Mexico City is a food tour! In fact, you’ll try some of the best tacos in the country!

23. Hire a private boat for the day

A birds eye view of a private yacht in PLaya del Carmen, Mexico
Hiring a private yacht is so much fun if you’re traveling with a large group! Photo credit: Playacht

If you’re looking for a truly unique experience in Playa del Carmen, why not hire a private boat for the day? Playa del Carmen is located on the Caribbean Sea, so there are plenty of options for boat tours and rentals.

A private boat allows you to customize your own experience and visit the places that interest you most. You can choose to anchor in a secluded cove for a swim or snorkel, visit the nearby island of Cozumel, or even go fishing!

Whatever you want to do, a private boat is a perfect way to do it.

If you’re interested in renting a boat, we recommend this private yacht charter from Playa del Carmen. Spend the day snorkeling, swimming, and relaxing on the boat with your friends or family before heading back to the marina. It’s sure to be a day you’ll never forget!

Although expensive at $1,400 USD, you can take up to 12 guests and it includes lunch, drinks, and snorkeling equipment.

24. Drink craft beer at Chela de Playa 

Craft beer at Chela del Playa in Playa del Carmen
Craft beer at Chela del Playa in Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is home to a growing craft beer scene, and Chela de Playa is one of the best places to try it! This small brewery is located on 5th Avenue and offers over 36 different beers, from IPAs to lagers and everything in between.

If you’re not sure what to order, ask the staff for a recommendation – they’re always happy to help. In addition to beer, Chela de Playa also has a small food menu with items like tacos and quesadillas.

So, whether you’re looking to try some new craft beer or just want a bite to eat, Chela de Playa is the perfect spot.

25. Eat the best steak in Mexico at Harry’s Prime Steakhouse & Raw Bar

A T-Bone steak at Harry's Prime Steakhouse & Raw Bar
How good does that T-Bone look? Photo credit: Harry’s Prime Steakhouse

If you’re in the mood for a delicious steak, look no further than Harry’s Prime Steakhouse & Raw Bar. This upscale restaurant is located on 5th Avenue and offers a variety of steak cuts, as well as seafood, pasta, and vegetarian dishes.

The steaks at Harry’s are some of the best in Mexico, and they’re cooked to perfection. Whether you like your steak rare, medium, or well-done, you’re sure to enjoy every bite.

In addition to the great food, Harry’s also has an extensive wine list and a beautiful outdoor patio. It’s the perfect spot for a romantic dinner or a night out with friends.

26. Visit Akumal Monkey Sanctuary

A cute monkey at Akumal Monkey Sanctuary, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
How cute is he?

If you’re looking for something a little bit different, why not visit the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary? This sanctuary is home to a troop of howler monkeys, and it’s located just a short drive from Playa del Carmen.

At the sanctuary, you’ll learn about the monkeys and their habitat, as well as get the chance to see them up close. The monkeys are very friendly and love to interact with visitors, so don’t be afraid to say hello!

There are also a variety of animals living at the sanctuary including birds, snakes, ostriches, and even zebras! Many of these exotic animals were donated to the sanctuary by their previous owners after Mexico passed a law banning the use of animals in shows.

The sanctuary is a great place to learn about the animal kingdom and get up close and personal with some of its residents and a great activity for animal lovers of all ages!

27. Enjoy the watersports at the beach 

Parasailing in Playa del Carmen
It’s a little scary at first!

Playa del Carmen is home to some of the best beaches in Mexico, and there’s no better way to enjoy them than by participating in some of the many water sports on offer.

There are plenty of companies that offer rentals and lessons for activities like surfing, wakeboarding, kitesurfing, and more. 

A parasailing trip is a great way to get a bird’s-eye view of Playa del Carmen and the surrounding area! Fly over sandy beaches and take views of the expansive sea as you fly over the sea. You can also take a jet ski out for a spin or go snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters for an adventurous day in the sun.

If you’re looking for a more relaxing experience, you can rent a paddleboard or kayak and explore the coastline at your own pace. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced water sports enthusiast, you’ll find something to enjoy. There are endless possibilities when it comes to enjoying the water in Playa del Carmen!

28. Trip out at the 3D Museum of Wonders 

3D Museum of Wonders Playa del Carmen
Photo credit: 3D Museum of Wonders Playa del Carmen

The 3D Museum of Wonders is a one-of-a-kind museum located on 5th Avenue. This museum features over 50 different optical illusions, each of which has been expertly painted to create a realistic 3D effect.

As you walk around the museum, you’ll be amazed at the detail in each painting and how realistic they appear. You can even take photos with the paintings to create a fun and unique souvenir! Play with interactive exhibits and enjoy optical illusions as you’ve never seen before on a trip to the 3D Museum of Wonders.

The 3D Museum is a great activity for families, groups of friends, and anyone who loves to have fun and take photos. You can book your tickets in advance and they cost $32 USD.

29. Visit Puerto Morelos

Puerto Morelos Beach and lighthouse in Mexico
Puerto Morelos is a sleepy fishing village and my good friends have a house here!

Puerto Morelos is a small bohemian fishing town, located 22 miles (35 kilometers) north of Playa del Carmen. The beach is very beautiful with lots of all-inclusive properties located there. This is a very quiet beach with no crowds, clear water, and white sand beaches. 

This town has a very different vibe. The hotels are small but very intimate and comfortable with accessible prices. They offer delicious local food and other water sports services, like kayak rental. 

Remember this is a small town, with almost no tourist facilities and little English spoken.  

The food in Puerto Morelos is very good; you can have Yucatan cuisine traditional food like Cochinita and Lechon (steamed pork). Traditional food is very delicious and different from the food you can have in the Playa del Carmen resort area, you must try it. The Lechon sandwich is just AMAZING.  

If you go to the main port there are several places offering tours and water activities, like a day trip fishing on a small boat. We also highly recommend scuba diving in Puerto Morelos as the water is so clear and there’s a ton of marine life around here.

A reef snorkeling tour is a fun activity for the day. Boats sail from the downtown port, and the prices are very reasonable, ranging from $45 to $70 USD. This is a very different reef tour; the local fisherman will take you to an amazing untouched reef called Mesoamerican Barrier Reef – it is one of the largest coal reefs in the world and extends for over 966 kilometers (600 miles).

Capacity for this tour is limited to 10 so you don’t have to worry about it feeling overly crowded. If you love snorkeling it’s definitely not a tour you want to miss out on!

If you choose to rent a car to visit Puerto Morelos, you can also visit La Ruta del Cenote, which is just a few minutes from this fishing town. 

30. Xcaret

Xcaret, Mexico
Xcaret is such a fun place to visit!

When visiting a resort in Playa del Carmen, you may wonder if the only thing to do there is to lie by the beach and get sun-kissed while enjoying frozen margaritas.  

Don’t get me wrong, we all love frozen margaritas and piña coladas, but occasionally we feel like having an adventure.

Well, Xcaret Waterpark is the best option if you want to enjoy a fun day out of the resort while still feeling like you’re at a resort. And don’t worry if a waterpark isn’t you’re thing, this place is more than that. Xcaret is an archeological eco-water amusement park if you want to get into specifics.  

This eco-water park is near Playa del Carmen area and offers you a wide array of activities like snorkeling, swimming at the Caleta, visiting Mayan pyramids, enjoying live performances, an aquarium, and an aquatic park.  

You can even swim with dolphins, manta rays, or sharks for a surcharge. 

Suppose you don’t feel like spending all day long doing water activities? In that case, you can visit the Mayan Pyramids located inside the park or enjoy one of the performances available all day long.  

There are many ways to get to this place from Playa del Carmen. The first is to drive yourself and book your ticket in advance. If you have a rental car in Mexico, this is super easy. If you don’t have a car, just get a cab, they will only cost around $12 USD.

If you like a bit more comfort then book this shuttle bus run by Xcaret that also includes the price of your admission in the ticket.

I recommend booking the Xcaret Plus service since it includes access to the lunch buffet and other amenities like lockers, dressing rooms, and snorkeling equipment. You’ll need to eat while you’re there and you save money booking it together. 

31. Go deep-sea fishing

Posing with our catch after fishing in the Yucatan
We caught so many fish!

The fishing off the coast of Mexico is really good, and Playa del Carmen provides the perfect opportunity to go deep-sea fishing. 

There are a lot of tours available, including full-day private tours such as this one. These tours will take you out to catch a variety of fish, and on the tour I did, we caught a ton! Although it wasn’t marlin season, we still got lots of fish, and our crew was super fun and knowledgeable.

32. Play a round of golf

Playa del Carmen is home to some of the best golf courses in Mexico! If you’re a fan of the game, be sure to add a round of golf to your Playa del Carmen itinerary.

One of the most popular courses in the area is Gran Coyote Golf. This course offers stunning views of the Riviera Maya and is perfect for all skill levels. This 18-hole course is masterfully crafted through the coastal jungle landscape of Playa del Carmen.

Gran Coyote Golf is open daily from 6:30 am to 7:00 pm. Green fees start at $295 USD per adult for 18 holes. Guests at Gran Coyote can have access to practice fields, the pro shop, clubhouse facilities, and an on-site restaurant and bar, Coyote Grill. Club rentals are also available for an additional fee.


33. Tesmacal Ceremony

A Temazcal in Mexico
You do rituals outside before entering the Temazcal

A Temazcal is basically a pre-hispanic sauna used for hundreds of years by the indigenous people. The term “Temazcal” actually translates to “house of heat.”

One of the big differences between a Temazcal and a sauna is that it’s more of a spiritual journey led by a Sharman. It’s about cleansing the body, and the rituals can last hours. Of course, you won’t spend hours in the sauna, but there are some rituals before and after.

Temazcal tours are becoming very popular all around Latin America (I did one in Guatemala.) From Playa del Carmen, you can do this organized tour that takes you on a spiritual journey to cleanse and rejuvenate your body.

34. Drive a buggy to a Mayan Village

two people riding in a buggy in Playa del Carmen
So fun! Photo Credit: Buggy Tour Playa

This tour is a mix of thrilling, adventure, and culture in a natural jungle setting. If you want to get away from all the tourists in the city and on the beaches then this buggy adventure will lead you straight to the non-commercialized parts of Mexico. You can pick between a 2-seater and a 6-seater which is typically used for families.

After you go over your safety briefing you’ll get riding on the different off-road jungle trails over different terrain. I hope you aren’t afraid of mud and dirt because you’re probably going to end up covered in it!

That’s where the next stop comes into play – an underground cenote with bright blue waters! Rise off here for a bit before hopping back in your buggy and driving to a Mayan-style residence. These people aren’t very well off but they they are super welcoming and kindhearted people who may even cook a dish for you to try! Seeing how they live is sure to be a humbling experience.

It is definitely worth the cost of $107 USD for an activity that will be almost impossible to forget about!

My only tips would be to wear clothes and shoes you don’t mind getting dirty and some earplugs for the ride if you don’t like constant loud noise.

Where to Stay in Playa del Carmen

Bailey relaxes at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico near Playa del Carmen
Me relaxing at just one of the resorts I have stayed at in Playa del Carmen!

Choosing a place to stay in Playa del Carmen can often be overwhelming – trust me, I’ve been there. The selection of hotels is huge and cater to all sort of trips, budgets, and ages. I won’t be able to mention every place I love, but I do have some favorites, depending on what you’re looking for.

For budget travelers, Che Playa Hostel and Bar is one of the best hostels in Playa del Carmen. The hostel is located in the heart of town and comes with a small rooftop pool and bar, a social atmosphere, clean facilities, and helpful staff. The rooms are cheap, and you can book them on Hostelworld or

When I’m traveling on a moderate budget and want a nice place, not in a resort, I love Soho Playa Hotel. The hotel has a fantastic location, a pool, free breakfast, a restaurant, and a really clean and modern design. Honestly, for the price, this place is a gem! If it’s not luxurious enough, I also like The Palm at Playa, which is in a similar price range.

For luxury travelers, The El Taj Oceanfront and Beachside Condo Hotel offer a great central location that’s still secluded. The hotel is oceanfront, has a pool, is located in the heart of town, and they offer a huge variety of rooms, including one, two, and three-bedroom apartments.

Renting a Car in Mexico

Bailey and Daniel in a rental car in Mexico
Bailey had to drive at first because Daniel is used to driving on the other side!

Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to get around Mexico is in a rental car. 

I struggled to get around by bus and taxi for the longest time. But after renting a car in Cancun in 2019, I never looked back. It allowed me to explore the country without worrying about tours or taxis. It was why I fell in love with Mexico and eventually decided to live here periodically. 

I refuse to use local services whenever I rent a car in Mexico. The truth is they sometimes can’t be trusted or come with hidden fees (or costly insurance that doesn’t make sense.) There are even rental car scams! So instead, I use Discover Cars, the company most experienced travelers or ex-pats in Mexico recommend. 

The rates on Discover Cars are cheap, too, with the average rental costing around $25 USD per day. Full coverage insurance can be added for an extra $10 USD a day too. 

Driving in Mexico also only requires a driver’s license using the Roman alphabet. If yours uses another like Japan and China, you simply need an international driving permit. 

Insurance is required, but if you book with Discover Cars and get the full coverage, that’s all you need! Oh, and being over 18 is required, and if you’re over 25, your rental will be much cheaper! 

Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!

If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!

SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.  

We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!)

It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!

Thanks for reading!

Dan and Bailey from Destinationless Travel take a selfie on San Pancho Beach, Mexico
Thanks for reading!

Playa del Carmen has always been a favorite travel destination of mine. The friendly people, fantastic activities, delicious food, and pristine beaches just keep me coming back for more. I hope that, like me, you thoroughly enjoy Playa del Carmen and find the above list helpful!

If you do find this guide helpful, be sure to browse around at more of our Mexico blogs, such as:

Things to do in Mexico

Best things to do in Mexico City

Where to stay in Puerto Escondido