Nestled on the coast of the Yucatan peninsula, is the coastal city of Playa del Carmen. For anyone considering planning a trip to Mexico, this stunning town has recently become a hotspot for adventurers who are seeking an exotic and exciting travel experience along the Caribbean sea. Due to its location along the Riviera Maya and easy access to Cancun airport transportation, Playa del Carmen is among the fastest-growing cities in Mexico. It isn’t hard to see why. If you are seeking breathtaking views, adventure, relaxation, culture & history, or exciting nightlife, then Play del Carmen has it. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular things to do in Playa Del Carmen for travelers.
Explore “La Quinta” (5th Street)
La Quinta is the main street that runs through the Playa Del Carmen (5th street in English). As the main street, it is the central vein for food, nightlife, and shops that draws locals and visitors alike every day of the week. The street runs parallel with the beach shore and is full of things to do at any time of the day. Here you can find a variety of local and even some chain shops. From clothes, art, trinkets and accessories to souvenir shops, there’s plenty of browsing to be done in and around the La Quinta area.
You’ll also find a number of restaurants in this area, including some with great outdoor patios. From casual street tacos and burritos to finer dining establishments. There are also a number of bars and nightspots nearby as well. While it may be bustling and busy (maybe even a bit touristy), it’s definitely an exciting and fun experience to wander this street while visiting Playa Del Carmen.
Taste Traditional Foods
Being in the Mayan heartland allows you the unique opportunity to try traditional foods that are more exotic, and local to the region. The traditional tlayuda, papas bravas, are definitely worth a try, and even more exotic foods featuring grasshoppers! But if grasshoppers aren’t for you, there are plenty of other incredible Mexican dishes to try.
Even though burritos, tacos, and enchiladas seem like something you can get back home in the States, there’s just something about being in Mexico that makes them taste even better. But one way to experience the local cuisines is to go on a walking food tour in Playa Del Carmen where you can enjoy aguas frescas, tamales, tostadas and other treats from local street vendors and family-run restaurants.
Explore Ancient Mayan Ruins
The Mayan civilization is one of the most mysterious, and exotic cultures from the ancient world. The Yucatan peninsula was the heart of the Mayan civilization, and visiting the ruins of these great people is an activity that everyone visiting Playa del Carmen should do.
Just a short day-trip away from Playa Del Carmen you will be able to explore the famous Mayan ruins of Tulum, Coba, or the stunning Chichen Itza. Immerse yourself in these ancient worlds while walking the ruins that the Mayans walked over a thousand years ago.
** Book a day tour to visit Tulum, Caves, and Sea Turtles from Playa Del Carmen!
Enjoy the Beach
The word ‘Playa’ means ‘Beach’. So going to the beach is quite literally a way of life for those who live in Playa del Carmen. However, many of the beaches in the city have become overrun with resorts and expensive private events. However, the Lido Beach Club is totally free to visit beach club that allows anyone to come lounge and enjoy the white sand and clear blue water. It’s definitely the most accessible and fun beach club in the city! Plus, there are tons of options for margaritas and beers to keep you cool.
Go Cave Diving in Rio Secreto
Just a small trip outside the city is a complex of caves called Rio Secreto. Visitors can go on a tour of Rio Secreto to explore all the underground and swim in the underground caverns. In fact, Josh and I did this tour when we visited Playa Del Carmen and while we were concerned that it would be a bit too touristy…we actually had a blast! It was really one of the highlights of our trip.
We loved exploring the caves in Rio Secreto, and they provided wet suits, footwear, life jackets, helmets and lamps. The water felt so soft and warm, and guides were knowledgeable and even with the group we still really enjoyed ourselves. For those who are seeking an experience that is unlikely to be found anywhere else, taking a cave tour of Rio Secreto is an absolute must.
This is one of the most dreamy experiences to be had in the Yucatan. A ‘cenote’ is an underground swimming hole that forms when underground springs erode the bedrock. This process opens up the underground spring, and gives way to a gorgeous little swimming spot. There are thousands of cenotes all over the Yucatan region surrounding Playa del Carmen.
Swimming in a cenote is definitely an activity you are never going to forget. Some of the most popular cenotes near Playa Del Carmen include Cenote Azul, Cenote Dos Ojos, and Gran Cenote. If you rent a car in Mexico, then it’s really easy for you to go out and explore some of these cenotes on your own. However, another option is to go on a cenote day tour from Playa Del Carmen where they take you to some of the coolest cenotes that are ideal for swimming!
Water Adventures in Playa Del Carmen
Have you ever wanted to go parasailing, snorkeling, jet-skiing, or anything of the kind? Well, Playa del Carmen is a haven for water adventures! Whether you are an extreme water sports aficionado, or a rookie thrill seeker, this area is ripe with sea adventures. Going on a wave runner tour adventure is always top on our list when we are in the Caribbean!
Swim or Dive with Sea Turtles in Akumal
Akumal beach is a site roughly 30 minutes by car south of the Playa Del Carmen. You can rent a car, or take a taxi, but the trip is definitely worth it. Not only is Akumal a stunning site in its own right, but the chance to swim with the majestic and breathtaking sea turtles in the water is one that can’t be missed.
Swimming with sea turtles is the closest thing to seeing real-life dinosaurs anyone is likely to ever get. We actually stayed near the Akumal area in Paa Mul at a dive resort and it was our first time scuba diving! While I wasn’t very successful in my first attempt at scuba diving, Josh got the hang of it like a pro and he was able to swim deep in the water among these beautiful sea turtles! We even got to save a baby sea turtle that hatched on the beach and was going to fall in our swimming pool!
Check Out Some Museums
La Quinta is filled with more than just restaurants and shops. There is also quite a fair amount of culture and history to see as well. For example, the Frida Kahlo Museum. This museum, which is dedicated to one of Mexico’s most famous artists, is a great opportunity to experience the history of the local culture and arts in the region.
Outdoor Adventure Parks
If you are seeking big adventure, then definitely don’t miss one of the big outdoor adventure parks that are located nearby Playa Del Carmen. Xcaret, Xplor and Xel-Ha are major parks that offer visitors anything from zip line adventures, swimming with sea life, and even underground rivers for snorkeling or floating. These ‘eco-parks’ are like jungle playgrounds that will thrill you and satisfy any adventure itch you may have.
Go Geocaching in Playa Del Carmen!
Do you like scavenger hunts? Geocaching is a GPS game where you follow clues in the search for a hidden cache. We like to go Geocaching during our travels as a way to get to know the local area in a unique way, because it takes us on a little “treasure hunt.” And we actually had one of the most fun experiences geocaching in Playa Del Carmen because it took us on a tour all over town, and we even stumbled upon a tasty Venezuelan restaurant with a lovely owner with so much personality who just made our day!
See a Cirque du Soleil Show
If you have never seen a Cirque du Soleil show, then you are in for a treat! And there is actually a lovely Cirque show in Playa Del Carmen called JOYÀ, based on a traditional Mexican story about an alchemist and his granddaughter who set out together to discover the secrets of life. Have yourself some dinner and a drink and enjoy a lovely show full of some talented people!
So Many Things to do in Playa del Carmen During Your Trip!
With clear blue waters, ancient ruins, and jungles full of wildlife & hidden adventures, Playa del Carmen is a must-see destination in Mexico. Regardless if you are seeking rest and relaxation, or non-stop thrills and adventure, Playa del Carmen has just what you need. It’s a great home base if you are visiting the Yucatan region of Mexico, or just as a part of a larger Yucatan travel itinerary.