Located along the Yucatán Peninsula's Riviera Maya strip of Caribbean shoreline, Playa del Carmen is a coastal town in Mexico that has a great mix of fun, adventure, culture, and cuisine.
Popular for its all-inclusive resorts, great weather, and party culture, this vacation destination is one of the most-visited in Mexico.
Once a fisherman’s village, Playa del Carmen has grown exponentially over the years to become one of the fastest-growing cities in Mexico.
The beauty and laid-back feel of this town have attracted expatriates from over 40 countries and throngs of tourists every year to experience its renowned beaches, buzzing nightlife and historical sites in Tulum, Coba, and Chichen Itza.
Is Playa del Carmen Safe?
Is it safe to travel to Playa del Carmen?
Good news: the region around Cancun and the Riviera Maya is a safe haven for tourists traveling alone or with family. There are no existing travel advisories for this area[*].
9+ Things to Do in Playa del Carmen
If you’re planning a trip to Playa del Carmen, here are some of the best attractions.
#1. Visit the Tulum Ruins
The Tulum Ruins are situated on top of a 12-meter cliff above the Caribbean Sea and surrounded by massive thick walls.
This breath-taking 13th-century walled city, which was one of the last cities inhabited by the Mayans, will give you a glimpse of the majesty of the once-prosperous civilization.
Take some time to marvel at the Mayan Pyramid and mysterious paintings in the Temple of the Frescoes and you may just uncover the magic of the Mayans.
#2. Check out the Coba Ruins
The Coba Ruins provide an entirely different experience than the Tulum ruins.
Visitors are permitted to climb on some of the site structures for a totally different encounter.
Make sure to take the chance at climbing Ixmoja, the largest pyramid at Coba which stands 42 meters tall, the view from the top is well worth it.
#3. Explore Chichen Itza
Take a trip to Chichen Itza, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, also ranked as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Located about two hours away from Playa del Carmen, this Mayan site continues to fascinate many with its remarkable architecture, complex building techniques, and massive build-up.
Key highlights are the 30-meter tall Pyramid of Kukulcan, Mesoamerica ballgame courts and the Mayan calendar stone that is 25 meters in width.
Dated as far back as the 7th-century, Chichen Itza’s history is mysterious, especially with the unexplainable decline of the Mayan civilization in the 9th-century that eventually resulted in the collapse of the once-powerful tribe.
Perhaps hiring a professional guide will help you to uncover some Mayan truths that are hidden from the public eye.
#4. Discover Cenotes
Cenotes are sinkholes that open to underground pools that are filled with fresh water. These cenotes were also known as “sacred well” by the Mayans because they were precious sources of water during dry seasons in ancient times.
There are thousands of cenotes in the Mexican peninsula. Swimming, snorkeling or diving into them are must-try activities when you’re in Playa del Carmen.
Explore Gran Cenotes near Tulum or Cenote Tankach-Ha if you have a penchant for dare-devil cliff diving.
For seasoned divers, visit the Cenote Angelita for a unique aquatic experience that can go as far as 60 meters down under.
#5. Challenge Your Senses at the Xenses Park
Spend half a day provoking your senses at this unique outdoor amusement park that will put your auditory, tactile, visual and olfactory faculties to the challenge.
At Xenses, visitors will be guided on an interesting journey through two paths of unique activities and fantastic scenarios.
Some exciting activities include exploring the Xensatarium in darkness, getting inside the Earth through the Labyrinth of Underground Arteries and rejuvenating your skin with a secret recipe of organic mud at the Sludgerie.
The activities at Xenses are developed to induce body awareness that may be unfamiliar to most, but that is the fun of it all!
You may just get topsy-turvey for a moment before finally enjoying the multi-sensory experience.
#6. Adrenaline Rush at Xplor
If you love adventure, Xplor is an attraction that’ll get your heart pumping.
At Xplor, visitors can enjoy the thrill of flying across the sky on zip-lines, going through the paths of the jungle on amphibious vehicles and swimming in underground rivers!
For those who prefer to get the adrenaline rush by night, visit Xplor Fuego which opens from 5.30 pm to 11.30 pm where the jungle will be lit up with fire torches.
To commence your nocturnal venture, cross a ring of fire as the sun sets over the highest zip-lines in Playa del Carmen and you will be all set for a night of adventure.
#7. Take a Rio Secreto Underground River Tour
Take a tour around the Rio Secreto and you will quickly be in awe of the ancient underground river systems and caverns.
Exploring this eco-park is like venturing through a magical journey into the deeper sanctuary of the Mayan underworld.
Located about 25 meters underground, Rio Secreto, also translated as “Secret River”, is a rare underground river system that is still in great condition for tourist activities.
At the tour, you will be guided to walk through caves, swim in crystal clear waters and marvel at the extraordinary site that is adorned with stalactites and stalagmites.
For many, this is a once in a lifetime experience to come up close and personal with the Mayan underworld.
#8. Take a Day Trip to Cancun
No visit to Playa del Carmen will be complete if you don’t take a day trip to Cancun.
Cancun is a landmark of the Riviera Maya and it is just 40 minutes away. Travelers often make the comparison between Playa del Carmen and Cancun because both are popular destinations close to each other.
Cancun is known for its party scene and if you’re looking for nightlife, Cancun offers plenty of options.
Shop till you drop at Cancun! Cancun is a much bigger city than Playa del Carmen hence it also offers a wider range of international merchandise and chain stores.
It also has a long list of beautiful beaches where rare marine life can be spotted. Sea turtle species such as Loggerhead, Hawksbill, and the rare Leatherback can often be spotted near Cancun beaches.
#9. Visit Local Markets
There is no better way to experience native products and people than visiting Playa del Carmen’s local markets.
You’ll find authentic local cuisine, art, culture, and lifestyle.
- Visit the Kava Kasa market on Tuesdays to find local baked goods, a wide array of jewelry and colorful Mexican handcrafted items.
- Visit El Jardin de Todas Market on Friday morning for an eco-market that promotes barter trading as a way to support people without the need for money.
- On Saturdays, visit El Arbol Playacar Market for delicious vegan fare, fresh bread and a variety of organic products.
- Try Parque La Ceiba where you can experience local art and culture of Playa del Carmen.
Markets are the perfect way to spend half a day.
Playa del Carmen: An Ideal Destination for a Great Vacation
Vacationing in Playa del Carmen can be the perfect way to relax, unwind and get some sunshine.
With a great line-up of adventures, historical expeditions, beautiful beaches, and an exciting party scene, there is definitely something for everyone.
Keep an open mind, because the magic of the ancient Mayans may just take you on a journey that you will not want to forget.