If you’re planning a vacation to Playa del Carmen, odds are you’re looking forward to many a day spent tanning and sipping margaritas on the beach. And while you wouldn’t be disappointed— Playa has some seriously luxurious beaches— any visitor would be remiss to not throw their sandals on and explore the rest of what Playa has to offer. Our top ten things to do in Playa del Carmen will take you from the beach to the ruins and the jungle and back— all in a manageable day (or half-day!) trip.
10) Take a Riviera Maya Helicopter Tour
When we hear the phrase “Caribbean beach,” we all imagine those white sand beaches, dense jungles, and cerulean waters, right? Playa del Carmen is absolutely picturesque, and there’s nothing like getting a birds-eye view to make you fully appreciate the town’s beauty.
While there is plenty to see on the ground and under the water (read more below!), a helicopter ride over Playa guarantees a completely unique and unforgettable experience, complete with a 360-view of Playa’s beaches, reefs, and jungles. Added bonus? Guests are free to take as many pictures and videos as they like, so this is sure to be an experience you won’t soon forget.
9) Visit Akumal Beach
At just half an hour south of Playa del Carmen, Akumal is a must-see for nature and animal-lovers. Imagine the quintessential palm trees, white sand, and clear surf— and then add in droves of sea turtles. Akumal is known for its Green Sea Turtles, Hawksbill Turtles, and Loggerhead Turtles, which visitors can swim with just off shore. The beach fills up quickly, so going earlier in the day is always best. Come prepared with your own snorkel or dive gear, or rent some on the beach. Either way, plan to enjoy the sun, the surf, and some quality time with the friendliest turtles you’ll ever meet.
You can book a private tour and transportation service to take you and your group for much less than any other transportation service. You can keep the driver for the day to explore near by areas or just a drop off and pick-up.
8) Rent a Boat in Playa del Carmen or Tulum
Party it up, cruise, snorkel, swim, tan and relax. Explore Playa’s coast, scope out hidden beaches, find an isolated spot to cast anchor, get your tan on on-deck, have a party onboard with your friends, or go for a fishing trip; no matter what you do, renting a small yacht for the day will make for a truly luxurious day in Playa del Carmen.
Playa is world-renowned for its deep-sea fishing, and you can expect to see tuna, barracuda, and reef fish year-round. Whether you’ve come equipped with fishing gear or simply want to borrow some snorkel gear and take a dip, this tour’s expert crew knows where to find exactly what you’re looking for, Sound like a perfect day on the water?
Book your boat for a great crew, low price, and a one-of-a-kind Playa experience. Includes Captain & assistant, shuttle to and from and bring all the food and alcohol you want.
7) Visit the world’s best eco-parks
This region of Mexico is known for its wildlife, from the reefs to the inland jungles. For exploring Playa’s wild side, you have a few options:
• Xplor: If you like theme-parks, this is at the top of our list as far as adventure eco-parks go. Full of excitement, adventure rides, zip-lining, underground rivers, caves and much more. If you are traveling with family, make sure to go there in the morning and park will close at 4pm. However, if you are young and wild, make sure you check-out Xplor-Fire, which starts at 5pm and goes on until around 10 or 11pm. A much more excoriating experience. While the “fire”version which is in the evening is not recommended for kids, it is the best time for young people and older adventurous folks to attend. Best of all, you can go to a nightclub the night before and sleep in, and wake up late, and still have a day full of adventure by attending Xplor Fire.
• Xcaret: is a sort of Mexican tropical themed eco-park that deliver a wide variety of attractions. It is filled with wildlife, provides a fantastic view into colorful underwater gardens and marine habitats, land gardens that are filled with exotic a colorful plants, butterfly pavilion, allows you to observe or swim with dolphins, swim with sharks if you feel confident, relax in white sand hammock beach and so much more.Many say that this experience is very unique due to the fact that the experience cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world. It also enhances the vacation atmosphere most travelers are searching in Playa Del Carmen. It is beautifully designed, clean and well maintained.
• Xel-Ha: Reknown worldwide, you are sure to have one of the best experiences out of visiting Riviera Maya in this one of a kind eco-park. River tours, caves, cliff diving, zip-lining, caprices, mangroves, mayan runis, gardens, cenotes, bike rides, meliponary and good eats is just some of the things you will find at this incredible place. Very well suited for all ages and the whole family. This is for sure an attraction for a whole day as there is too much to do and you will probably not even cover it in 1 entire day. Do not plan just a half-day, as you will not get to experience everything that i has to offer.
• Xenses: So you are one of those people who simply want to be blown away and all their senses stimulated. You live for the moment and the experience. And you want to always do something unforgettable and different, and you are easily bored. This eco-park is sure to blow you away and get you exactly what you want. You are in for a treat! There are over 15 activities for nature lovers, where you can learn about and explore 15 different activities through air, land and water. Some of the activites that you can look forward to are: Pinwheel / Way of Dwarfs and Giants / Xensatorium / Underground Arteries Labyrinth / The Eden / Xítric Garden / The Heartbeat / Town / Picture This / The Breather / Slip / Bird Flight / Riverlaxing / Sludgerie / Rain / Marblelous. You can expect the total duration to be around 5 hours, however it can be a bit longer or shorter depending on your own abilities.
• Xoba: Breaking it down to you plain and simple. This is the oldest pre-colombian mayan civilization discovered to date with an imposing 130 foot main pyramid. It may not sound like a great height for today’s standards, specially if you are visiting from a major metropolitan city. However, let me tell you, the Yucatan Peninsula is as flat as a landscape can be. Therefore, this pyramid is quite substancial and once you climb it, you can see as far as the weather and horizon will allow you. You will see above all the trees and vegetation and this is honestly a must do activity. You can choose in between the others, however this one, you can’t miss. This tour is for people who want to relax, and have everything included in an easy package.
• Xoximilco: This is definitely a spot for young people that want to have a romantic afternoon and evening in a party that is Mexican Styled while visiting Riviera Maya. Located in Cancun, the trajineras are the main attraction. This eco-park is themed after the real city of Xochimilco by Mexico city. Which is the original attraction and a Mexican version of the Venice, Italy like experience. Live music, marimba & mariachis and Mexican cousin are sure to place you at the center of experiencing the Mexican culture.
• Xenotes: If you enjoy or ever wanted to do Rapper, Kayak & Ziplining deep in nature, this is what you want! An activity with a setting in the Cenotes, which are unique to the Yucatan Peninsula region, will sure leave an impression on you. As you will never find such a setting anywhere in the world to connect with nature and do these fun activities. It is a truly magical environment that promise exciting experiences. This is definitely an activity for the active crowd who like to be physically active and like to explore. Refreshments, snacks and a picnic setting are included.
• Xichen: When visiting any city or town in the Riviera Maya, a must go attraction is Chichen Itza. You can make this trip on your own if you rented a car. However if you are looking for an easy all-inclusive solution that includes the Pyramids, Cenotes, guided explained tour and food, then look not further. Xichen is the the solution to an great experience where it is stress free, follow-along and everything is provided for you. Just relax and have fun. This tour is ran by Experiencias Xcaret tours, same people who manage and built the eco-parks. So you can’t go wrong! They have a few options and levels, so make sure to check it out and choose the ones that suits you best.
• Book transportation to and from Eco-Parks. This is the most economical option!
6) Make the most of your nights in Playa
There are plenty of family-friendly things to do in Playa del Carmen, but for those who are enjoying their vacations without kids in tow, the nightlife in Playa is a huge draw. Saturday is every day here, and Playa is rich with bars, nightclubs, and live music, whether it’s electronic dance music or salsa you’re itching to dance to.
If you’re heading out in the afternoon, make your way to Mamitas Beach Club to rent a beach umbrella and lounge chairs for the day ($100 pesos for guests, $200 pesos for non-guests) and take full advantage of the beachside service. Looking to party a little later into the night? Calle 12— or “la dolce,” as it’s affectionately called— is your spot, lined with rows of lively bars and nightclubs.
Book transportation to and from Nightclubs anywhere in Riviera Maya.
5) Climb the ruins at Cobá
Trek through the jungle, swim in a cenote and climb the highest Mayan pyramid in the Yucatán at Cobá. At about an hour and a half outside of Playa del Carmen, Cobá and its surrounding environment warrant a half-day trip at the very least.
You can book your trip to Cobá, and expect to enjoy round-trip transportation with air conditioning, a guided tour of the pyramids, a visit to the cenote, a Mayan community visit, and a complimentary buffet lunch and water bottles.
4) Visit the ruins at Tulum
While Cobá is unique for being the tallest pyramid in the Yucatán—and the only one visitors can climb—the Tulum ruins are unique for being the only ruins directly overlooking the ocean.
At two hours south of Playa del Carmen, Tulum boasts some of the best beaches in the world— with the beach below the ruins being among the most pristine in the area— as well as an amazing selection of beachfront restaurants and spas and a downtown area perfect for kicking back with a mojito and listening to some live music. For the full experience, book your trip to Tulum with transportation, water, a guided tour of the ruins, and a stop at the beach included.
3) Explore Chichen Itzá
Any way you look at, Chichen Itzá is an impressive site. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, to name just two of its accolades. Here’s another one: it’s the second most visited site in all of Mexico.
The main pyramid at Chichen Itzá is a physical representation of the Mayan calendar, and during the spring and fall equinoxes the sun casts the shadow of a serpent moving along its stairs. Although visitors can no longer climb the pyramid, Chichen Itzá remains a world famous site that is not to be missed.
To enjoy your visit with transportation, water bottles, a guided tour of the ruins, a buffet lunch and, of course, a visit to the cenote, book your trip to Chichen Itzá here.
2) Go Snorkeling and SCUBA Diving
Playa del Carmen and Cozumel are internationally recognized as some of the best dive locations in the world, with a plethora of tropical fish and a national reef park just offshore of both, and a wealth of cenotes— underground freshwater caves— further inland. For the best diving in Mexico, take the ferry from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel and spend a day exploring the reefs.
For a completely unique experience, you can dive in one of Playa del Carmen’s many cenotes, with the guidance of a certified cave diver. Snorkeling more your speed? Not to worry— many of the cenotes offer entrance to snorkelers, and there’s plenty to see offshore, as well. To make the most of your snorkeling trip, book with a National Geographic Approved Vendor.
1) Experience Mamitas Beach
If you’re going to Playa del Carmen, you’re going to want to spend some time on the beach and Mamitas Beach is, by far, the place to be. Located on Calle 28, Mamitas is lined with restaurants and hotels.
It’s worth noting that food is always going to be more expensive on the beach, so if you’re looking to save money be sure to stop somewhere on your way to and from the playa.
Our top recommendation: Hangover Bar, just a block away from the beach. Stop in for tasty (and cheap!) food and drinks, and stay for the company. Once you make your way to the beach, consider stopping by Mamitas Beach Club to rent beach chairs for the day, or to Coralina Daylight Club to relax on the beach with a drink, great music, and reliably wonderful service.