Playa del Carmen Travel Guide

Mexico  #3 in Best Beaches in Mexico
Credit

Courtesy of Jeremy Woodhouse/Getty Images

Best Things To Do in Playa del Carmen

Most activities revolve around Playa del Carmen's renowned beaches, a handful of which are located just minutes from the main thoroughfare, La Quinta Avenida. At the nearby marina, you can charter either a fishing boat or a diving boat and explore nearby Cozumel and the Caribbean Sea. Just a few miles south, the popular Xcaret eco-park showcases the Mayan Riviera's animals and marine life. And throughout town, you'll find some appealing golf courses. If you're interested in sampling Playa's nightlife, check out the Coralina Daylight Club.

How we rank Things to Do
  • #1
    Things to do in Playa del Carmen
    View all Photos
    #1 in Playa del Carmen
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Your hotel or resort will likely occupy a stretch of pristine white sand, but if you feel like venturing off the property to explore more of Playa's shore, you'll find a bevy of alluring beaches.

    You'll likely walk past the beach at Parque Fundadores while strolling La Quinta Avenida as it sits parallel to the bustling thoroughfare. You'll know you're in the right place when you see the massive arch sculpture that's erected at the beach's main entrance. According to past visitors, this beach is always crowded with both tourists and locals, but it's also chock full of amenities and conveniently located near the ADO bus terminal and the ferry to Cozumel. It's also home to a playground – perfect if you're traveling with kids. The beach is free to access, but lounge chair or equipment rentals will cost you extra.

  • #2
    La Quinta Avenida
    View all Photos
    #2 in Playa del Carmen
    Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    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 street performers, restaurants, hotels, hostels, condominiums and bars, making it one of the best nightlife spots in the city. There are plenty of souvenir shops as well selling trinkets and mementos. Some visitors do caution that street vendors can be aggressive hawking their goods along the avenue. Simply ignore their sales pitches and continue on your way and they'll get the message. 

    Should you need amenities beyond a quick meal or a kitschy souvenir, check out the intersecting Avenida Juárez, the commercial district's main thoroughfare equipped with banks, grocery stores and gas stations. Keep in mind: Because this thoroughfare attracts a large number of tourists, prices at restaurants and bars will be higher compared to other areas of Playa.

  • #3
    Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
    View all Photos
    #3 in Playa del Carmen
    Sports
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sports
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Playa del Carmen offers access to some of the best diving spots in the Western Hemisphere, especially just offshore near Cozumel. Travelers say you can't come to Playa del Carmen without taking a dip under the sea to explore its colorful population of fish. Many diving companies have set up shop in Playa: One of the most popular is the Playa-based Reef Quest Divers, which caters to amateurs and experts alike. Reef Quest has a variety of dive charters including reef dives and local cenote dives. Playa Scuba Dive Center is another well-reviewed company that organizes scuba tours. The variety of options and staff members at both companies received praise from previous divers. Meanwhile, those looking to snorkel can borrow equipment from their hotel, buy equipment in town or try an excursion with Reef Quest, The Snorkel Shop or Playa del Carmen Tours.

    Dive costs and equipment fees vary by company, but expect dives to start around $55 for a one tank ocean dive. For specific tour options and costs, visit each individual company's website.

  • #4
    Rio Secreto
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    #4 in Playa del Carmen
    Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    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. One gripe among reviewers: Visitors are not allowed to bring their cameras. Though a staff photographer is following you around and you have the option to purchase photos at the end of the tour, travelers said the photos are overpriced. If you don't have a wetsuit or water shoes, you can rent them through the company that runs the attraction.

  • #5
    Xplor
    View all Photos
    #5 in Playa del Carmen
    Recreation, Sightseeing, Swimming/Pools, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Recreation, Sightseeing, Swimming/Pools, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Similar to Xcaret, this all-inclusive park is an outdoor playground with adventures that range from zip ling to rafting to spelunking. Among the park's offerings are two circuits of seven zip lines, amphibious vehicles, river rafting, underground river swimming, caves and caverns, and an unusual hammock ride that ends in a cenote.

    Recent travelers loved this park, calling it adventurous and fun. While kids will love the park, Xplor advises it's best for children 5 and older. Reviewers recommended bringing sunscreen, bug spray and towels.

  • #6
    Playa del Carmen Golf Courses
    View all Photos
    #6 in Playa del Carmen
    Golf, Sports
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Golf, Sports
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The area's golf courses are picturesque and challenging – in addition to drawing Playa del Carmen travelers, many Cancún vacationers venture south to play a round on the links. The most popular courses are the Hard Rock Golf Club, the Iberostar Golf Club Playa Paraiso, the Grand Coral Golf Riviera Maya and El Camaleón Mayakoba Golf Club. Hard Rock is praised for all-inclusive perks and challenging course; 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 and excellent service. Meanwhile, Iberostar Golf Club Playa Paraiso is a hit with golfers for its tough fairways and attentive staff.

    Green fees vary by course, but some offer twilight specials and golf packages for vacationers to save on rates. You'll find Hard Rock in southern Playa del Carmen, Grand Coral Golf Riviera Maya in the center of town and El Camaleón Mayakoba at the northern end. If you're up for the drive Iberostar Golf Club Playa Paraiso sits about 25 minutes north of Playa. For additional information on rates, opening times and more, visit the individual golf courses' websites.

  • #7
    Xcaret
    View all Photos
    #7 in Playa del Carmen
    Beaches, Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    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.

    Past visitors were big fans of Xcaret, noting that the park was filled with attractions, things to explore and activities to enjoy, though some do say it can get very crowded. Some do note Xcaret's admission fees are expensive but most say it's worth it, calling out the well-maintained exhibits and beach and the pleasant staff. Past visitors recommended setting aside at least one full day to take advantage of Xcaret's attractions and experiences. In fact, some said you could spend two days here and not see the same thing twice. Travelers also note you can save money by purchasing your tickets in advance online. 

  • #8
    Xel-Ha
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    #8 in Playa del Carmen
    Natural Wonders, Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Natural Wonders, Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    In the Mayan language, Xel-Ha means "where the water is born." So, expect a trip to Xel-Ha to include plenty of time underwater. Xel-Ha is a natural aquarium centered on an inlet and lagoon that visitors can swim and snorkel through, accompanied by schools of tropical fish, dolphins and turtles. Opinions are split on the benefits of visiting, particularly given that Playa del Carmen's Xcaret eco-park offers virtually the same experience and is closer to town. Several say your preference will probably be determined by which park you hit first. Before you pick, consider that Xcaret's exhibits are man-made, whereas Xel-Ha's are natural. Or on the flipside, keep in mind that Xel-Ha is strictly an aquatic park while Xcaret also includes an aviary and a small zoo, among other attractions. Still can't decide? There's always the option of visiting both thanks to build-your-own packages.

    Recent travelers were impressed with Xel-Ha, describing it as "amazing" and "beautiful," and many recommended booking a package deal that allows you to experience both the Mayan ruins in Tulum and the water activities at Xel-Ha in one day. Visitors warn that the prices are steep but well worth it.

  • #9
    Coralina Daylight Club
    View all Photos
    #9 in Playa del Carmen
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Swimming/Pools
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Swimming/Pools
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Drawing on inspiration from Las Vegas pool parties and Ibiza beach ragers, Coralina Daylight Club offers party-hungry travelers a chance to dance, listen to music and day drink in the heart of Playa del Carmen. Coralina features several pools, direct beach access, private cabana areas and a restaurant with seating – and it's the place to see and be seen in this resort town.

    Past travelers loved the party vibe and club atmosphere here, adding that the service staff is top-notch, too. Some do note that prices for cabanas and drinks can be steep.

  • Tequila Academy
    View all Photos
    Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

  • 3D Museum of Wonders
    View all Photos
    Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

  • Chichen Itza
    View all Photos
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

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