Playa del Carmen is a fun beach town on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, part of the Riviera Maya. Smaller and less touristy than Cancun, it’s becoming a popular travel destination for people looking for travel experiences.
So what to do in Playa del Carmen? ...
1. Cenote Diving/Snorkeling.
Cenote is an underground cave filled with fresh water. The Yucatan has tons of them — sinkholes that open up into underground rivers with the clearest water you’ve ever seen.
If you have your PADI license, you can go scuba diving in these caves with a guide. Because there’s daylight near the entrance a more technical cave diving license isn’t required. Some good ones include : Cenote Dos Ojos, Cenote Azul, Garden of Eden, Gran Cenote, and more.
2. Visit Mayan Ruins.
The ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum are located South of Playa del Carmen in the town of Tulum. A must-visit if you’re in the area. Tulum was once a small but important port city for the Mayans. Along with impressive structures on the edge of a cliff, it has a beach below where you can swim too.
Because Tulum is so popular, it can be crowded unless you arrive early in the morning. Coba is another Mayan site near Playa del Carmen which sees less visitors. You can still climb the pyramid there too.
3. Swim With Sea Turtles.
Akumal is home to pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, untouched natural areas and hundreds of turtles who stay in the area because they are protected by the national authorities.
Akumal Bay is becoming more and more popular by the day due to the opportunity to swim alongside Green Turtles, Hawksbill Turtles and Loggerhead sea turtles in the wild.
To visit Akumal, the cheapest way is to take a colectivo taxi headed for Tulum from the stand located on Calle 2 Norte between Avenida 15 and 20 in Playa del Carmen.
4. Boat Trip To Cozumel.
Cozumel is a small island off the coast of Playa del Carmen known for it’s pristine beaches. Normally a stop for cruise ships, you can take a 45 minute ferry over on your own from Playa del Carmen.
An easy & cheap day trip is renting a scooter and driving it around the island where all the best beaches are. Or, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can try hitchhiking around the island instead.
As long as there isn’t a cruise ship in port, you’ll have those white sand beaches to yourself. Plenty of stops on the way for lunch & photos. Jump on the last ferry back to Playa del Carmen around sunset.
The area's golf courses are picturesque and challenging. The most popular courses are the Golf Club Playacar, the Grand Coral Golf Riviera Maya and El Camaleón Mayakoba Golf Club. Golf Club Playacar is praised for its well-kept grounds and exemplary service; Grand Coral wins favor with golfers thanks to its fair rates and beautiful design, though some say the greens could use a bit of improvement; and El Camaelón Mayakoba is heralded as a "gem" of a PGA course with well-manicured greens.
Green fees vary by course, but some offer twilight specials and golf packages for vacationers to save on rates. You'll find Golf Club Playacar in southern Playa del Carmen, Grand Coral Golf Riviera Maya in the center of town and El Camaleón Mayakoba at the northern end. For additional information on rates, opening times and more, visit the individual golf courses' websites.
Both experts and travelers say that Xcaret is a sort of Yucatán-style Disneyland, a large outdoor "eco-park" filled with an aviary, a dolphin aquarium, a turtle sanctuary and a beach perfect for swimming, diving or snorkeling.
The park also offers various excursions like dolphin interactions, stingray encounters, shark swims, snuba tours and speedboat rides. Stay the day at Xcaret then enjoy the evening events, which include performances exploring the area's Mayan past. Xcaret is home to a few dining venues as well.
7. La Quinta Avenida.
Playa del Carmen's main street, La Quinta Avenida, runs parallel to the shore and serves as a pedestrian walkway for travelers and locals. The avenue is lined with an assortment of restaurants, hotels, hostels, condominiums and bars, making it one of the best nightlife spots in the city.
High-class restaurants and local bars dominate the nightlife scene of La Quinta. There are plenty of souvenir shops. La Quinta Avenida begins at the intersection with Avenida Juárez and runs north about 4 miles north to the edge of the Grand Riviera Maya Golf Club.
8. Rio Secreto.
Often lauded as one of the best-kept secrets on the Yucatan Peninsula, Rio Secreto (or Secret River) is an underground river and collection of caves. The bright turquoise water contrasts with the caramel- and mocha-colored rock formations within the caves, which include stalactites and stalagmites. Visitors can swim in the river, climb through the caves and enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
Recent travelers said this adventure was the highlight of their trip to Playa del Carmen, noting that the tour was fascinating and that they learned a lot about the Mayans and the land's natural history. Many also said this is a great rainy day activity since most of the exploration occurs underground.