We fell in love with this Mexican beach town on our first visit and actually moved to Playa del Carmen for six months shortly after, and now we return at least once a year for a month at a time.
This article was by real people who have really been to Playa del Carmen and have a love for the destination and can’t wait to share it with you.
You can spend all day soaking in the sun on the beach or do you want to go do & see things? There are a ton of things to do in Playa del Carmen to keep you busy.
Playa del Carmen is the perfect Mexican beach vacation, but it can be so much more with all of the great activities right from town.
There is no better way to visit Chichen Itza, a cenote, and Valladolid (one of our favorite towns).
Visit Tulum Ruins, go snorkeling, includes lunch buffet, swim in a cenote, and visit Xtun Cave. This is an action-packed day!
Explore the Mayan jungle by ATV, then jump in a cenote for a little swim before heading off to the zipline!
Getting from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is 35 miles/55 km from the Cancun airport. It roughly takes 55 minutes. There are several ways to get from Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen, make sure to click here for our complete guide.
- Private Driver – 60 minutes, Direct door to door, $60 Book Online in advance for the cheapest price here
- Cancun Shared Airport Shuttle – 75 minutes + (varies on waiting for a full van and the number of stops), Stops multiple places, $29 per person
- Rent a car – 60 minutes, Direct, Click here for our renting a car in Cancun guide
- ADO Bus – 75+ minutes (varies on when the next bus is, and the number of stops), Goes to the ADO bus station in Playa del Carmen. You’ll need to taxi from here, Average $10 + Taxi Fare
We’ve rented a car 20+ times in Mexico. The roads are in decent shape, it is much easier than you think, and then you have the freedom to explore on your own and save on tour costs. We always rent from Discover Cars, it is super easy, and they have the best prices.
Top 20 Best Things to Do in Playa Del Carmen Mexico
1. Shopping & Entertainment on 5th Ave
5th Avenue, or Quinta Avenida, is your one-stop shop for dining, drinks, and entertainment.
Stretching five miles down the coast of Playa del Carmen, this pedestrian-only street is the beating heart of the city and is teeming with shops, restaurants, and cafes.
You’ll find big international brands as well as smaller markets where you can haggle for handicrafts and artwork. Not only is this the best place to purchase souvenirs, but it’s also bustling with street performers, musicians, and live performances practically every hour of the day.
TIP: When buying souvenirs in Playa del Carmen from street vendors, make sure to shop around and negotiate the price. Their starting prices are often inflated by 25%+.
We find you’ll get the best prices if you have exact change or if you purchase several items from the vendor and pay in Pesos.
2. Eat your body weight in Tacos
No trip to Playa del Carmen would be complete without indulging in a few mouthwatering tacos.
From our favorite Al Pastor tacos to succulent shredded pork tacos – even freshly grilled seafood tacos. You’ll have no problem finding a delicious taqueria to satisfy your appetite.
Hands down, the best tacos in Playa del Carmen are at El Fogon. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu.
We always get Al Pastor tacos, queso fundito con chorizo (melted savory Oaxaca cheese with chorizo), guacamole, and margaritas.
They have four locations in Playa del Carmen. The most popular is on Constituyentes (Calle 18) and 30 Avenida, right across the street from the “Mega” grocery store.
Another popular place for tacos in Playa del Carmen is Carnitas Teresita. Their house specialty is braised pork shoulder, otherwise known as carnitas.
Try the beef brain tacos at Taquerias El Nero or the stuffed chili pepper tacos at El Gran Taco for something more adventurous. Read more about the best restaurants in Playa del Carmen here.
If you’re a taco-fanatic consider going on a taco tasting tour with a local, you can book such a tour here on Get Your Guide.
3. Enjoy the Beach
One of the things we love about Playa del Carmen is how the city is right on the beach. Unlike other Mexican beach destinations, the city and the beach feel like one.
The sand is powdery white, and the water has 3 or 4 shades of blue and green.
Playa Del Carmen Beaches
Our favorite stretch of beach is from the Pier at Consituientes north to Calle 46, where the beach ends. Here, you’ll find a nice deep beach with plenty of places to lay your towel.
The section of the beach right on the water is public, and anyone is free to use it. Further from the water is private for the hotels located on the beach. There has been some beach erosion on the southern end of the city, and they haven’t been as nice lately.
The beaches in front of Playacar are also public, and they are arguably nicer. However, for us, they are further away and don’t have the same vibe as bars and beach clubs. If you are looking for a quiet and relaxing beach, you might want to head here.
4. Rooftop Bars
Soak in the sun with a few tropical drinks at one of Playa del Carmen’s trendy rooftop bars. The rooftop bars have panoramic views of the city and the Caribbean Sea, and many also have pools.
With laid-back lounge music and a crystal clear infinity pool, the Purobeach Rooftop Club at The Fives Downton Hotel is an excellent option for those looking for an upscale venue.
Purobeach Rooftop Club has a minimum consumption for the use of chairs & beds. The prices can easily be met with a few drinks & snacks.
If you want something more lively, check out 3B, the Roof Club at The Palm at Playa hotel. They charge an entry fee, and you can eat & drink as much or as little as you’d like.
*When looking for the best price and biggest selection of hotels, check prices on Booking.com. We’ve found they are the best option and have a great cancelation policy.*
5. Spend a Day at one of the Playa del Carmen Beach Clubs
Enjoy a fun and relaxing experience by spending the day at a beach club. The beach clubs in Playa del Carmen have sun loungers, bathrooms, and on-site restaurants, so you can make the most of your day in the sun.
There are dozens of beach clubs to choose from, each one with its distinct vibe and style. Some cater to younger visitors and have live music, dancing, and cheaper drink options. Others are more upscale and have a laid-back and trendy lounge vibe to them.
One of the most popular beach clubs in Playa del Carmen is Mamita’s Beach Club. They offer basic sun beds, lounges by the pool, and VIP beds by the beach or pool.
The prices vary based on the type of chair/bed, but on average, two sunbeds are $800 pesos, which includes $500 pesos in food and beverage credit. VIP sunbed $2,000 pesos for two people, which includes $1,700 in credit for food and beverages.
6. Visit Nearby Cenotes in Playa del Carmen
Head out of the city and visit one of the many Cenotes that are located around Playa del Carmen. These cavernous sinkholes are usually located deep in the heart of the jungle and attract visitors looking to escape the bustle of the city.
Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted with turquoise waters and lush surroundings. Although most people go to the cenotes for swimming, some of them are also ideal for snorkeling or scuba diving.
If you’d like to visit several cenotes, consider this cenote tour, which visits four cenotes.
Nearby Playa del Carmen Cenotes
- Cenote Jardin Del Eden – 22 minutes
- Cenote Azul – 23 minutes
- Dos Ojos – 45 minutes
Must Read: Our full guide to renting a car in Cancun
7. Visit The Jungle Street (Calle 38 from 5th Ave to the Beach)
Check out the Quiet Side of Playa del Carmen on Calle 38 or, as we unofficially call it, “the jungle street.” This is hands down our favorite street in the city. Sure, 5th Ave has it all, but this is more our kind of street.
On Calle 38 from 5th Avenue down to the beach, they have left all of the old bayan trees and natural plants intact, and restaurants and shops have popped up around them.
Some of the best restaurants in Playa del Carmen can be found here, and they all just seem to blend in with nature. I wish all of the streets in Playa were this way.
A few musts on Calle 38 are Cueva del Chango (great for breakfast/brunch), Chela de Playa for a local craft brew, and Amate 38 for lunch or dinner.
8. Try Mexican Street Food
One of the best parts about being in Playa del Carmen is being able to sample the wide variety of Mexican street food.
From tacos to tortas, street food is the perfect way to taste some of the authentic local flavors of the region. Best of all, it’s also considerably cheaper, which is great if you’re on a budget.
As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to track down the restaurants that cater to locals. Many of the street food stalls don’t even have names, as they are just set up on the corner of the street.
Once you find one of these hidden gems, you won’t want to eat anywhere else!
One of the best places for street food in Playa del Carmen is at the corner of Calle 40 and Avenida 30 by the Super Aki grocery store. Every night, 10+ food vendors are selling all sorts of Mexican street food for you to try. Make sure to bring small bills and pesos.
Also, don’t miss the tamales from the street vendors selling a variety of tamales wrapped in corn husk from the large street-side metal steaming pots. The best place to find tamale vendors is also 30th Avenida between Calle 10 and 18. Look for the large metal pots.
9. Alux Restaurant
Alux restaurant is easily one of the most unique restaurants to eat at, not just in Playa del Carmen but possibly in the entire world.
Located in an underground cave, you’ll be able to dine surrounded by limestone stalactites and stalagmites.
The Mexican fusion food at Alux is also just as impressive as the unique venue itself. From the menu, choose between dishes like Duck Magret Fantasy, Luscious Beef Steak, and King Crab Devotion.
- Average meal price: 800 – 1300 pesos per dish
We’ve eaten here many times, but dinner can be a little pricey, so you can opt to just have drinks. There is an entrance fee to Alux of 200 pesos that includes one drink.
On our last visit, we chose to have drinks only. We had a margarita and a gin & tonic. It’s a little pricey for one drink, but it’s worth it. After your drink, you can walk through the underground cave and check out the restaurant should you wish to dine there another day.
10. Parque Fundadores
There’s always something happening at Parque Fundadores. During the day, you’ll find souvenir stalls and street vendors selling every sort of handicraft you can imagine.
You can also stop for lunch at one of the many restaurants lining the park or grab a fresh coconut and head straight for the beach.
At night, the atmosphere of Parque Fundadores really starts to buzz. You’ll see many different street performers and even traditional Mayan dancers wearing bright, colorful costumes.
Whether you’re coming for the food, the shows, or simply to people-watch, you’ll always find something to keep you entertained at Parque Fundadores.
11. Take the ferry to Cozumel
Are you eager to check another island off your bucket list?
Well, the Cozumel ferry from Playa del Carmen makes it easy to visit Cozumel, one of the most picturesque islands near the Yucatan Peninsula. Boats leave every hour and take roughly 45 minutes each way.
On Cozumel, you’ll have a plethora of outdoor activities to participate in. Swim with dolphins, explore ancient ruins, or simply relax on the white-sand beaches.
The coral reefs surrounding the island are teeming with tropical fish, which makes snorkeling and diving a few of the most popular activities in Cozumel.
Once there we highly suggest renting a car in Cozumel for the day. The island is bigger than you think, and to make the most of your trip, you’ll need a car to drive around the island. Cars are super affordable but often sell out.
Make sure to reserve in advance. We suggest booking on Discovercars.com they have the cheapest prices and free cancelation.
12. Xcacel Beach
Playa del Carmen is home to many tropical beaches, but Xcacel Beach might be one of the most stunning. Not only will you have miles of untouched coastline, but you’ll also get to see some of Mexico’s most adorable residents – sea turtles!
From April to October, hundreds of turtles arrive at Xcacel to breed and nest. If you’re lucky, you might be able to see the babies crawling toward the ocean.
There’s also a hidden cenote tucked away just steps from the beach. The lush, jungle-like atmosphere and cool refreshing waters are a welcome break from the ocean on a hot day.
- Highway 307 Between Chemuyil and Xel-Ha, Cancun Mexico
The most popular beach to swim with sea turtles is Akumal Beach. Which is another great spot. Every time we’ve been, we’ve always been able to swim with sea turtles
Parasail high above the sparkling ocean for one of the best views in all of Playa del Carmen. With a speedboat pulling your parasail and the warm breeze blowing through your hair, you’ll feel like you’re flying over one of the most beautiful places in the world!
There are plenty of parasailing companies and boats to choose from, and many of them allow you to fly into the air without touching the water. You can either go by yourself or in tandem with another friend or family member.
- Average price: 1500 – 1800 pesos per person
Don’t book online. The best prices can be negotiated in person on the beach.
14. Coco Bongo
For a memorable night out on the town, stop by the famous Coco Bongo Show and Disco.
Located one block away from 5th Avenue, Coco Bongo is a non-stop festive party filled with free-flowing alcohol, jaw-dropping acrobatics, and extravagant live performances from the city’s top singers and dancers.
Described as a cross between a Las Vegas nightclub and a Cirque du Soleil show, Coco Bongo is ideal for anyone who wants to party until the early hours of the morning.
It’s guaranteed to be one of the craziest nights you’ll have in Playa del Carmen!
15. Jet Ski
The high-powered thrill of riding a jet ski through the Caribbean Sea is a must-do activity for any adventure lover. Get your heart rate pumping as you blast through the waves at 60 miles per hour!
There are plenty of options in Playa del Carmen in terms of jet ski rentals. If you’re just hopping on a jet ski for the first time, you can choose a short 30-minute or one-hour rental.
There are also several jet ski tours where you can combine an exciting jet ski ride with a snorkeling excursion.
- Average price: 900 – 3,000 pesos per person
Don’t forget your insurance! You never know when you’ll need it. We suggest getting travel insurance with Safety Wing. Which coverage includes medical, trip interruption, lost luggage, and more. Often rates are as low as $12 a week.
16. Rent a bike
One of the best ways to explore the city streets of Playa del Carmen is by bike. Weave up and down the streets of Playa del Carmen and discover some of the city’s off-the-beaten-path attractions while getting a bit of exercise in, too!
With a bike, you can also cruise down to the beach while soaking in the unparalleled ocean views of the Caribbean Sea.
Remember, it’s always important to lock up your bike when you’re not using it. Bike theft can be a significant issue in Playa del Carmen, so make sure to rent from a company that includes the use of a lock.
Note: Bike Riding is not allowed on the beach, nor would it be a great beach to ride since the sand is rather loose.
17. Diving in Playa del Carmen
Diving is one of the most popular activities to do in Playa del Carmen. Depending on your interests, there are dozens of dive sites to choose from.
Whether you’re diving to the bottom of a dark cenote or exploring the colorful coral reefs in the Caribbean Sea, you’ll easily find something that sparks your interest.
One of our favorite cenotes to dive is El Pit. Often, you can dive in two different cenotes in a day, visit a dive shop and see where they are going next, or tell them which cenotes you’d like to dive. I would suggest adding Cenote Angelita.
It’s also possible to visit the dive sites around Cancun. For something more unique, dive into the El Museo Subaquatico de Arte (or MUSA for short). This fascinating underwater museum is filled with over 500 life-sized art installations.
18. Xcaret/Xel Ha etc.
For an action-packed day of fun in the sun, head to one of Playa del Carmen’s thrilling water parks. Xel Ha is one of Mexico’s most famous parks and boasts some of the best family-fun activities, like snorkeling, zip-lining, and swimming.
If you want to experience the best of Mexico’s natural attractions, visit Xcaret. Not only do they have three underground rivers and a relaxing beach, but they also have a coral reef garden, an on-site aviary, and a butterfly pavilion.
19. Rio Secreto
Take a magical journey through the intricate limestone cave system at Rio Secreto – or Secret River. Decked out in a life jacket and helmet, you’ll be able to swim through miles of underground rivers, where you’ll be surrounded by thousands of protruding stalactites and stalagmites.
The sparkling turquoise water is contrasted against the light brown rock formations inside the cave, which makes it a spectacular sight. You might even spot the occasional bat hanging or flying through the caves.
20. Frida Kahlo Museum
If you can’t make it to Mexico City, then Playa del Carmen is the second-best place where you can explore Frida Kahlo’s controversial history.
At the Frida Kahlo Museum, you’ll be able to learn more about her life and how her art influenced an entire culture.
The museum is presented in chronological order. As you walk through the rooms of her photos and diagrams, you’ll gain a better understanding of how she worked as an artist.
While there are no original Frida pieces on display, the museum focuses on her impact on society and other budding artists instead.
21. Rent a Car
If you’d like to cover a little more ground than you can on a bike, consider renting a car in Playa del Carmen.
We’ve rented a car 15+ times and always rent a car in Playa del Carmen. The freedom you have with a set of wheels is amazing.
Renting a car is one of the best ways to see some of the best things to do in the Yucatan. You’ll be able to drive yourself on day trips from Playa del Carmen.
Renting a car will save you a ton of money over purchasing several tours.
To get the best prices, you must book online on Discovercars.com. They have the cheapest rental car prices and offer free cancellations. You’ll only be charged if you pick up your rental car, so there is no harm in renting.
22. Catamaran trip to Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is the perfect day trip from Playa del Carmen. This small but scenic island is located off the coast of Cancun and is known for its pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters.
From ancient archaeological ruins to beautiful underwater coral reefs, there are plenty of natural wonders to explore on Isla Mujeres. For those who are seeking a bit of relaxation, there are also white sand beaches where you can unwind.
23. Sunset sailing
A sunset sailing trip through the Caribbean Sea is the definition of paradise. As you board your catamaran, you’ll be whisked across the ocean, where you can relax and enjoy the last few hours of the day.
When the sun sets, you’ll have front-row tickets to the colorful sky as it turns from bright blue to warm shades of oranges and pinks.
Most tours include drinks and beverages, while others are all-inclusive dinner tours. Either way, you’ll love spending time watching one of the most picturesque sunsets in all of Mexico!
- Average boat cost: 1,800 – 2,000 pesos per person
Playa del Carmen is the best place in Mexico to visit and our personal favorite! Looking for more destinations to visit? Where to next?
How about Tulum? Just down the road from Playa del Carmen is Tulum, with fantastic beaches, some of the best Mayan Ruins in Mexico, and a bunch of cenotes to explore!