things to do in playa del carmen

The Ultimate Guide To What To Do In Playa Del Carmen​

What to Do in Playa Del Carmen - 2023 Guide

You’ve booked your tickets, packed your bags, and are ready for an unforgettable Caribbean escape to Playa del Carmen. Set along the stunning turquoise waters of Mexico’s Riviera Maya coastline, Playa del Carmen offers the perfect combination of natural wonders, culture, nightlife, and adventure for an epic getaway. Whether you’re looking to lounge beachside with a margarita in hand, explore ancient Mayan ruins deep in the jungle, or dance the night away at a beachfront bar, Playa del Carmen has something for everyone. Over the next few minutes, get ready to discover all the exciting possibilities that await you in this tropical paradise. The ultimate guide to living it up in Playa del Carmen starts now!

Explore the Stunning Beaches of Playa Del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is a beach lover’s paradise, with miles of pristine white sand and turquoise waters. Here are some of the best beaches you absolutely must experience!

Mamitas Beach is the most happening beach spot in downtown Playa del Carmen. Grab a drink at the popular Mamitas Beach Club, lounge on a beach bed, or go dancing at night. This lively beach has it all.
Xpu-Ha (pronounced ‘ish-poo-ha’) is considered one of the best beaches in the area, just 20 minutes from downtown. With soft white sand and usually calm waters, it’s perfect for swimming, snorkeling or just relaxing. You can rent kayaks, paddleboards or beach beds and spend the whole day enjoying this secluded paradise.

Playacar Beach is arguably the most beautiful beach in Playa del Carmen. Just a short walk from the ferry terminal, this beach stretches for miles with powdery sand and shallow turquoise waters. It’s also very family-friendly, with playgrounds, picnic areas and beach activities for kids.

With so many gorgeous beaches to choose from, you’ll want to stay an extra week in Playa del Carmen just to experience them all. Get ready for sun, sand and the time of your life in this beach lover’s paradise! What are you waiting for? Your tropical beach adventure awaits!

Go Scuba Diving or Snorkeling in the Mesoamerican Reef

You simply can’t visit Playa Del Carmen without experiencing its crown jewel – the Mesoamerican Reef! As the second largest reef system in the world, it’s teeming with tropical fish and marine life.

Go Scuba Diving

Strap on an oxygen tank and dive deep into the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean Sea. You’ll come face to face with angelfish, parrotfish, sea turtles, and maybe even dolphins! The reef has over 65 species of coral and 350 species of fish. How many can you spot? Most dive shops offer guided scuba and snorkeling tours for all experience levels.

Snorkel the Reef

If scuba diving isn’t your thing, reef snorkeling in Tulum or reef snorkeling Puerto Morelos is a perfect way to discover the wonders of the Caribbean sea. All you need is a mask, snorkel and fins to peek into the underwater world. The Mesoamerican Reef’s shallow waters make it ideal for snorkeling, especially for families with kids. You can rent gear or book a snorkeling excursion with one of the many tour companies along the beach.

Visit Akumal Bay

For an up-close encounter with sea turtles in their natural habitat, head to Akumal Bay about 30 minutes from Playa Del Carmen. The shallow, seagrass-filled bay is a favorite feeding spot for green sea turtles, loggerheads and hawksbills. Swim with turtles tours provide snorkeling gear, but you can also rent gear and snorkel on your own. Early morning is the best time to spot these gentle giants munching on seagrass.

What an amazing underwater playground! Don’t miss the chance to discover the natural wonder of the Mesoamerican Reef. The memories will last long after your Playa Del Carmen adventure comes to an end.

boat at tulum reef
Reef Snorkeling in Tulum
Snorkeling with turtles, tulum Mexico
Swim with turtles, Akumal Bay

Take a Day Trip to Nearby Mayan Ruins Like Chichen Itza or Tulum Ruins

A trip to the ancient Mayan ruins should be at the top of your Playa del Carmen bucket list! Only a short drive away, you can discover relics of one of the most advanced civilizations in the Americas.

Chichen Itza

This world wonder Chichen Itza is only 2 hours from Playa del Carmen and will transport you back in time over 1,000 years. Marvel at the massive El Castillo Kukulkan pyramid, climb the steps of the Temple of the Warriors, and learn about Mayan culture in the museum. The sound and light show at night is a spectacular sight with the ruins illuminated in a sea of colors.

Tulum Ruins

For a closer option, head to the Tulum Ruins only 45 minutes south. Perched on a cliff overlooking the turquoise Caribbean, the walled city of Tulum was an important Mayan port city. Stroll down the main street, peek inside the temples, and soak in the picturesque beach views. Arrive early at Tulum ruins to beat the crowds and catch the sunrise!

Other options include:
-Coba Ruins: Admire the 120 steep steps of Nohoch Mul, the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan at over 130 feet high! Whether you take on a guided tour to Coba or venture independently, make sure rent a bike-tricycle is included, enabling you to fully explore the expansive archaeological site.
-Ek Balam Ruins: A smaller site featuring an enormous restored Acropolis pyramid you can climb for panoramic vistas of the jungle canopy. Fewer visitors make it feel undiscovered.

A day exploring the mysteries of the Mayans is an adventure you’ll never forget. Playa del Carmen’s proximity to such historical treasures is what makes it a world-class destination. Dive into the ancient past and unlock the secrets of these magnificent ruins!

Girl tourist in a hat stands near the pyramid in Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza - Kukulkan Pyramid
Tulum temple of the wind
Tulum Mayan Ruins

Shop in Trendy La Quinta Avenida

La Quinta Avenida, or 5th Avenue, is the heart of Playa del Carmen and one of the top things you absolutely must do during your trip!

This pedestrian-only street is lined with shops, restaurants, and nightlife for over 20 blocks. You could easily spend an entire day strolling up and down 5th Avenue taking in the sights, sounds, and smells.

Shopping along 5th Avenue is an experience in itself. You’ll find everything from handcrafted goods by local artisans to name brand stores like Zara and H&M. Pick up a bright maxi dress or breezy top to beat the heat. Hunt for the perfect souvenir like colorful blankets, hammocks, or decorative tile work. Don’t miss popping into one of the many jewelry shops to find sterling silver pieces with gemstones like turquoise for a fraction of the cost back home.

When your arms are loaded with shopping bags, stop for a refreshing margarita at one of the many open-air bars and simply people watch. Grab an outdoor table and enjoy the warm ocean breeze while chatting with friends. The energy of 5th Avenue at night is electric! Take in a show at the Blue Parrot bar, or just dance the night away at one of the hopping nightclubs like La Vaquita.

No trip to 5th Avenue is complete without indulging in some delicious food. With options from tasty street tacos to upscale fusion cuisine, your taste buds will be tantalized. Be adventurous and try local Yucatecan specialties like cochinita pibil, sopa de lima or tres leches cake. Or play it safe with pizza, sushi or a juicy burger. Either way, you really can’t go wrong!

5th Avenue embodies the laid-back yet vibrant spirit of Playa del Carmen. The shopping, dining, nightlife and people watching on offer will fill your time with fun memories to last long after you’ve left this Caribbean paradise. So get out and explore – you won’t regret a single moment!

Discover the Mysteries of the Yucatan's Cenotes

One of the top things to do in Playa Del Carmen is visit the nearby cenotes. Cenotes are natural sinkholes filled with crystal-clear turquoise water. These natural wonders are some of the most stunning places you’ll ever swim. Just 30 minutes from Playa del Carmen, an intricate network of underground rivers and caverns await your exploration. Whether you’re looking for an easy swim in an open cenote or an exciting adventure rappelling and zip lining through a cave system, the adventures you’ll have and memories you’ll make discovering the cenotes will stay with you long after your vacation ends.

The cenotes are best experienced by swimming, snorkeling or scuba diving in them. You can see small fish swimming through the submerged tree roots and rock formations. The fresh spring water stays at a refreshing 72 F year-round. Whether you visit the cenotes on your own or book a guided tour, discovering these natural wonders should be at the top of your Yucatan adventure list. A cenote tour offers an escape into a mysterious underground world that you’ll never forget.

The Best Cenotes to Visit From Playa Del Carmen

The Yucatan Peninsula is home to thousands of cenotes, underground caves filled with crystal-clear turquoise water. On a private cenote tour from Playa del Carmen, you’ll get to experience some of the best.

Two of the top cenotes for snorkeling are Chikin Ha and Eden, only 30 minutes from Playa. At Chikin Ha, you’ll float through an open-air cavern with beams of light dancing through holes in the cave ceiling. Eden features underwater arches and tunnels you can swim through, with schools of little fish flitting about.

For adventure, head to Cenote Dos Ojos, a flooded cave system with stalactites, stalagmites, and winding passages. You can snorkel or scuba dive here, exploring two “eyes” – cenote entrances – and connecting cave tunnels. It’s a true underwater playground.

Other popular cenotes include Cristalino, Escondido, and Carwash, each with its own unique characteristics like rope swings, zip lines, and waterfalls. No two cenotes are alike.

Whether you choose to go solo or book a private tour (read our article about pros and cons), get ready for an unforgettable adventure exploring these natural wonders. 

chikin ha cenote
Chikin Ha Cenote
dos ojos cenote in mexico
Cenote Dos Ojos

You will be back!

You’ve reached the end of your adventure in Playa del Carmen, but this magical place will live on in your memories. From swimming in underground caves and snorkeling with sea turtles to dancing the night away at beach clubs, you’ve experienced all the wonders this Caribbean paradise has to offer. Now it’s time to head home with sun-kissed skin, a relaxed vibe, and stories you’ll be telling for years to come. Playa del Carmen gave you the perfect combination of natural beauty, culture, food, and fun. Even though your trip has come to an end, the joy of exploring this special spot will continue to inspire you. Start planning your return visit now – Playa del Carmen is calling you back already!


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