With some of the best beaches on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, Playa del Carmen is a perfect destination for rest and relaxation on white sand near stunning turquoise waters.
However, this beach destination has much more to offer than just a handful of resorts. Here you’ll find cenotes, caves, unmatched natural beauty, water sports, and so much more. Its privileged location allows you to enjoy the city and the main attractions of Quintana Roo.
In this ultimate guide to the best things to do in Playa del Carmen, we’re covering some of the top attractions Playa del Carmen has to offer, as well as more off-the-beaten-path ideas for ways to enjoy your time here. Keep reading for more Playa del Carmen travel inspiration.
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How to Get to Playa del Carmen
Most visitors arrive to Playa del Carmen via the Cancun airport; the easiest way to get to Playa del Carmen is a Cancun to Playa del Carmen Shuttle, which are quick and leave throughout the day.
However, you can also check options for transportation from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen, as they run various promotions throughout the year. It will also be the ideal option if you want to get to your accommodation directly and affordably.
The Cancun airport also offers ADO bus service and shared transportation; however, these usually take 30 to 45 minutes longer than a regular transfer and leaves passengers in central Playa del Carmen, rather than directly at your hotel.
Best Things To Do in Playa del Carmen
1. Stroll Down Fifth Avenue
Strolling along Fifth Avenue is one of the main activities in Playa del Carmen, and a great way to get a taste of this beach town. This long pedestrian street runs parallel to the beach in the center of town.
Here you’ll find multiple restaurants, stores, bars, boutiques, art galleries, crafts, and souvenirs for all tastes and budgets. Start exploring from a small square on 10th street, connecting with “La Quinta.”
A little after the plaza is the Parque los Fundadores and the Capilla de Nuestra Señora del Carmen chapel.
Read More: 10 Unbelievable Fun Facts about Mexico
2. Visit The Yucatan’s Famous Cenotes
With its location on the Yucatán Peninsula known for having countless “cenotes,” or, natural sinkhole pools, Playa del Carmen is a fantastic place to swim in some of these beautiful and serene natural wonders.
A favorite activity in Mexico, visiting cenotes is one of the best things to do in Playa del Carmen.
While some of the cenotes are accessible by public transport, to best access a few of them you can hire a car rental service to get around to cenotes surrounding Playa del Carmen. There is an exceptionally high concentration of cenotes between Tulum and Playa del Carmen.
Visiting one – or a few – for a swim is perfect for cooling down from a hot and sunny day.
It is said that all cenotes are connected below the ground through underground rivers that do not have current but are always in constant motion, which is why no algae are created inside the cenotes.
Located right outside of Tulum, Gran Cenote is one of the most famous cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula that consists of several cave systems where you can swim and snorkel. The entrance to Gran Cenote costs 500 Pesos, and you can also rent a life vest, snorkeling gear, and a locker for additional rates.
Keep in mind that this is a famous cenote that gets busy. For the best experience, visit early morning between 8:00 and 9:00 AM, before most people arrive, or later in the afternoon when everybody starts to leave.
You can get to Gran Cenote by taxi or bicycle from downtown Tulum, or add it to a cenote tour if you’re visiting some of the many cenotes between Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
Cenote Dos Ojos
Cenote Dos Ojos is one of the best cenotes in the Riviera Maya for divers. As the name suggests, it consists of two main pools made of stunning crystal-clear waters, connected by an underground third gallery only accessible to divers.
This cenote is also a great place to go even if you are not interested in diving, as it is an extremely beautiful location. Cenote dos Ojos is located by the main road that connects Playa del Carmen to Tulum, about 51 km away from Playa and 22 km from Tulum. The regular adult ticket currently costs 350 MXN (approx 17 USD).
One of the best things to do in the Yucatan Peninsula is visit Rio Secreto. You can swim and hike in a cave full of impressive stalactites and stalagmites. This cenote is so close to Playa del Carmen that you can get there in 15 minutes by car.
Rio Secreto is open from 9:00 am with the last entry slot at 2:00 pm. Admission costs $79 and includes a tour. However, it is worth combining a visit to Rio Secreto with other nearby attractions, whether in Playa del Carmen or Tulum.
Take a dip in the crystal-clear emerald waters of Casa Cenote as it meanders through the surrounding mangrove forests. This natural swimming hole is located just a 45-minute drive (60km) south of Carmen del Playa, and possible to reach via Mexico’s public transportation system as well.
Visitors can rent kayaks and life jackets on site; Casa Cenote is an easy snorkeling area or beginner dive destination for those who want to explore the underwater world. The entrance fee is 150 pesos. However, no other facilities are available at the cenote besides a parking area.
3. Soak Up The Sun at Mamitas Beach
Considered one of the best beaches in Playa del Carmen, Playa Mamitas is a great choice for a beach day in central Playa del Carmen. Mamitas Beach is located on 28th Street next to Kool Beach; it’s easy to get to from anywhere in town.
This beach has several distinct areas, including a relatively peaceful section with lounge chairs and umbrellas for relaxing. Another, called “Beach Club Mamitas” has DJs in the afternoon for a more party-like atmosphere.
Access to the beach club is free, but you’ll need to purchase at least 70 pesos worth of food and beverages to use their chairs and umbrellas. Not the best choice of beach if you’re backpacking Mexico or traveling on a budget, but a great option if your budget allows for it!
4. Visit Xcaret Group Theme Parks
Within a short distance of Playa del Carmen you’ll find up to seven theme parks, all a part of the Xcaret group, and a great place to visit for the day.
Each one of these great parks has different attractions, although all of them will make you spend an incredible day full of fun. These are the top 3 worth your time in Playa del Carmen.
The first park to launch near Playa del Carmen, Xcaret highlights the folklore and culture of Mexico. It’s best known for its incredible night show, where performers celebrate Mexican history through dance.
A favorite among all the rest, Xelha is home to a natural aquarium and countless cenotes, filled with fantastic marine species that make for unforgettable snorkeling.
In this park, visitors can enjoy fun and exhilarating activities like zipline circuits, exploring ancient caverns and subterranean rivers, and exploring the land via all-terrain vehicles.
5. Visit the Frida Kahlo Museum
A relatively new museum in central Playa del Carmen, this tribute to Playa del Carmen allows visitors to immerse themselves in the history and passions of Frida. This small, nine-room museum has visual and audio displays, personal objects and the paintings of Frida Kahlo.
The museum is also home to a delicious restaurant, a good choice for a meal in the center of town.
6. Stroll Through Parque Los Fundadores
Along the oceanside next to Playa del Carmen’s Fifth Avenue, the Parque Los Fundadores is a central spot in town you can’t miss on your visit.
Here you’ll find the Playa del Carmen sign, where you can take an obligatory picture, as well as walk along the causeway, visit the small chapel in the heart of the park, and take in the sites. Here you can enjoy the traditional Veracruz show “Voladores de Papantla,” a traditional Mexican dance combined with aerial tricks.
7. Visit La Ceiba Park
A lovely ecological park in the heart of Playa del Carmen, La Ceiba Park is a must-visit destination in Playa del Carmen for nature lovers and one of the best things to do in Playa del Carmen for families.
The park has programs for the conservation of plants found in these areas, as well as activities and playgrounds for kids and interactive displays to learn about environmental protection.
Check out this park around the time of your visit, and look into its activities – the park occasionally hosts open-air movie nights and shows, which can be a fun and inexpensive evening activity in Playa del Carmen.
8. Visit the Xcacel Xcacelito Turtle Sanctuary
This beautiful natural area with over 360 hectares of flowers is a protected area where more than 100,000 thousand hatchlings of different species of beautiful sea turtles are born every year.
On one of the most untouched beaches in Riviera Maya – located 45 kilometers south of Playa del Carmen – a visit means a peek at one of the most beautiful spots along the coast.
You’ll also see important species of flora protected here, including the Kuká palm and the Yucatán peninsula mangrove.
9. Marvel at the Playacar Ruins
Also known as the ruins of Xaman-há, many tourists are unaware of these incredible ruins because of their location in Playacar, a residential beach neighborhood in the very center of downtown Playa del Carmen.
These Mayan ruins are fascinating and important in the history of Mexico: some researchers think that this site was the first that the Spanish found upon their arrival to Mexico.
The site is free to visit and within walking distance of the rest of the town.
10. Enjoy The 3D Museum of Wonders
The new museum of Playa del Carmen has more than 60 works by Mexican artists. Each has three-dimensional illusions, which the visitor walks through as if they were a part of the artwork. The museum is very interactive, which can be fun for kids and families, but makes for a memorable visit no matter your age.
11. Take a Day Trip to Cancun
Just over an hour away from Playa del Carmen, Cancun can make a nice day trip, and there is plenty to see and do here as well.
Whether you plan to enjoy the lovely beaches, party the night away, or make a visit to Isla Mujeres, you’ll love getting to know this beautiful spot as well.
To get to Cancun, you can take the shuttle service from Cancun to Playa del Carmen – it’s the easiest way to get between the two cities comfortably and regularly runs every day of the week.
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12. Take a Day Trip to Tulum
Right next door to Playa del Carmen is Tulum, a hotspot with travelers in the Yucatan Peninsula and a popular city for digital nomads in Latin America. You’ll find plenty to do in Tulum that is unique from anything you’ll find in Playa del Carmen.
While the beautiful beaches are mostly the same, there are tons of special spots in town, including plenty of lovely (if relatively expensive) beach bars, restaurants, and cool cafes.
Tulum is worth a visit, especially if you’re heading out of Playa del Carmen to visit a few cenotes, as there are dozens of beautiful cenotes between Tulum and Playa del Carmen.
Spend a night at one of these unique destinations for glamping in Tulum, a totally unexpected but incredible accommodation experience in Mexico.
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.