Top 10 Best Things to do in Playa del Carmen
As a top travel destination for beach lovers, expats, and digital nomads, you’ll find some of the best things to do in Playa del Carmen. Just ask the national and international visitors who fall in love with its lush jungle landscapes and trendy, cosmopolitan atmosphere.
If you’re planning an upcoming trip to Playa, you likely have questions regarding its location and the top tourist attractions. In this mini guide, we’ll answer some of the most common questions travelers have about visiting and give you inside information on the top things you don’t want to miss while you’re here!
Where is Playa del Carmen?
Playa del Carmen is located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, in the eastern part of Mexico known as the Yucatan Peninsula. It’s one of the main tourist attractions in the Mayan Riviera and is south of Cancun.
What is the best way to get to Playa del Carmen?
The best way to get to Playa del Carmen is to fly to the Cancun International Airport. Playa is approximately a 45-minute drive away. The Cancun airport has various transportation options including certified airport taxis, shuttle buses, and luxury vehicles.
Most travelers book a private transfer van or purchase an ADO bus ticket at the ADO airport bus station.
How to get around Playa del Carmen?
Since most of the best things to do in Playa del Carmen are near the beach and the downtown area, it’s possible to get around on foot. While the city does have a public transportation system, the majority of routes go into residential neighborhoods.
If you plan to visit any sights that aren’t within a reasonable walking distance, taxis are widely available. If you’re staying with Casai, we recommend you speak to our concierge team for information on standard taxi fares.
The best things to do in Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is a paradisiacal gem in the Caribbean Sea. This alone let’s you know that you’ll have a blast while you’re here!
1/10 Spend a day at the beach
If your idea of a day well spent is lounging on the beach as you sunbathe under the hot Caribbean sun, you’ve come to the right place. Playa offers some of Mexico’s best beaches. These are some of our recommendations:
Xpu-Ha: Mayan for “the morning dew”, this iconic beach is one of the best in the area. It’s approximately 20 minutes from the downtown area and the beautiful views you get make you feel like you’re in a Caribbean postcard.
Xpu-Ha beach has the idyllic white sand, turquoise waters, and feels uncrowded most of the time. This is an ideal spot for swimming, snorkeling, and playing volleyball.
Playa Mamitas: As one of the more popular beaches, you’ll always find a crowd eager to have fun. The proximity of the Playa Mamitas Beach Club tends to attract younger visitors. Stop by if you’re in the mood to listen to electro music, dance, and have a drink.
Many events are hosted at Playa Mamitas year-round like DJ Fest, Riviera Maya Jazz Festival, and Corona Sunsets Music Festival.
Playa Akumal: Just south of Playa del Carmen, Playa Akumal, which is Mayan for “turtle land”, is a dream paradise. Its gentle currents and overall quiet atmosphere give visitors the opportunity to snorkel with sea turtles.
If you’re interested in this unique experience, we recommend you hire a tour guide who can supply all of the equipment you’ll need and instruct you on necessary safety precautions.
2/10: Visit the Quinta Avenida
The Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue) is a three mile pedestrian walkway that has become an iconic destination for all travelers in Playa. When you’re here, it’s colorful and lively atmosphere make it impossible not to stop by and take a look.
Lined with a number of trendy shopping and souvenir stores and restaurants specializing in diverse cuisines, it’s pretty easy to spend a whole day here. If you’re looking for more than a shopping experience, visit the Fundadores park and enjoy Mexican folklore performances or watch street performers as they entertain passersby.
3/10: Go scuba diving and snorkeling
Playa del Carmen is home to the Mesoamerican Reef System, one of the largest barrier reef systems in the world. Its ideal location in the Caribbean Sea makes it one of the best scuba diving spots in North America. If you love nature and seek adventure, going scuba diving and snorkeling is a must.
Play at the 3D Museum of Wonders
The 3D Museum of Wonders is a unique spot for vacationers looking for an entertaining indoor activity. Home to more than 60 pieces of jaw-dropping art, these works of illusion allow visitors to interact and “become a part” of the images they are photographing.
Entrance fee for adults is 27 USD and 22.50 USD for children.
5/10: Visit the Xaham-Há archaeological site
If you’re a history buff, you’ll want to pay a visit to the hidden ruins of Xaham-Há. Mayan for “Northern Water”, this important part of the Riviera Maya was once a pre-Columbian settlement and home to the temple dedicated to Ixchel, goddess of love and childbirth.
This archaeological site is small in comparison to the more popular ones like Chichen Itzá and Tulum, but still worth a visit. To visit Xaham-Há, you’ll need to head to Playacar, an exclusive residential community south of Playa del Carmen. It is the only Mayan site in the country that is free to the public.
6/10: Take a ferry to Cozumel island
Cozumel is an island approximately 29 miles away from Playa del Carmen. The only way to get to it from Playa is on a 45-minute ferry ride. There are two companies in charge of transporting tourists to and from these locations: Ultramar and Winjet. Both options are family-friendly and pet-friendly and offer drinks and snacks on board.
7/10: Take a swim in a cenote
Cenotes are natural underwater sinkholes that permanently contain water. These natural wonders were significant to the indigenous peoples of the area because they supplied their communities with fresh water.
Today, cenotes are a primary tourist attraction in Playa del Carmen and there’s a lot of them to choose from. Most of them are open to the public and others are only accessible by paying an entrance fee to the resort or park that houses them. As a great alternative to the beach, visitors can swim, snorkel, and scuba dive in them.
From riding daring zip line circuits across the park, crossing luscious jungle roads and flooded caverns on amphibious vehicle courses, or using a raft to paddle through a centuries-old cenote. Come lunchtime, dine in the park’s all-you-can-eat buffet filled with various cuisine options.
The Xplor park is open Monday-Saturday from 9:00 am-5:00 pm. Stop by Xplor Fuego Monday-Sunday from 5:30 pm-11:30 pm. Admissions fees will vary.
If you’re looking for an authentically Mexican experience, this is it! Tequila Academy offers private tequila tasting events for weddings, birthdays, rooftop parties, and team building events.
On their website, you can choose from various packages that offer different perks with the choice to upgrade the variety of spirits available at your tasting party. While Tequila Academy is still a small business, it’s five star ratings indicate their excellent service.
10/10: Enjoy a Cirque du Soleil show
Joyà is the first show Cirque du Soleil performs outside of the U.S and the first resident show in Mexico. Inspired by Mexican culture, this event delights the eye as it does the taste buds. Spectators can enjoy an exquisite culinary experience consisting of a 3-course meal while they watch the show.
Showtimes and tickets will vary depending on availability, so be sure to consult the event’s official website.
Armed with a list of the best things to do in Playa del Carmen, it’s time to consider where to stay. Casai offers beautifully designed apartments in one of the best neighborhoods in Playa. Feel like you’re home while you’re a few steps away from the top attractions.
Book a Casai in Playa del Carmen