Playa del Carmen is the perfect mix of beautiful white sand beaches and outdoor adventures, with a rich history and culture.We absolutely loved exploring the area and are here to share 7 bucket list things to do in Playa del Carmen!
1. Visit the seaside ruins at Tulum
Tulum is home to breathtaking ruins along the cliffs above the Caribbean Sea. It is incredible to experience the beauty and history in person.
Tulum is one of the most photographed sites in the Riviera Maya, and possibly the country.
It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most preserved coastal sites in all of Mexico.
It is fascinating to discover the history of the Mayan people that once lived in this thriving civilization.
Tulum was once a major crossroads for trade. Their advanced knowledge and skills are evident in the ruins.
I would highly recommend taking a guided tour. We did a tour through Alma’s Tours which we loved, but it does take a more religious approach.
There are also plenty of other tours and package deals available so that you can find one that appeals to you.
After you tour the ruins, be sure to take the wooden steps down to the beautiful Paradise Beach.
This slice of paradise definitely lives up to its name and is considered one of the best beaches in the Riviera Maya.
2. Explore Coba by Bicycle
Visiting ancient ruins is one of the top things to do in Playa del Carmen. There are plenty of incredible ruins to explore in this area.
Chichen Itza (which always makes me think of the “Chichen Itza Pizza episode of Backyardigans) is one of the 7 wonders of the world.
However, it is a good 2 1/2- 3-hour trip each way and you aren’t permitted to climb the pyramid.
We opted to explore ruins closer by and hope to be able to make it back to Chichen Itza another time!
We combined our Tulum tour with a tour of Coba and we absolutely loved it!
I would highly recommend renting a bike (or hiring a rickshaw) that are available at the entrance.
It was such a unique experience and allowed us to cover more of the massive expanse of ruins in a shorter amount of time.
At its peak, it is estimated that Coba had a population of 50,000 people. It is huge!
And what we love about Coba is that it hasn’t been as thoroughly excavated as other sites in the region.
Many pyramids are still covered in trees and vines which gives it an added element of authenticity.
Coba has the largest network of stone causeways in the ancient Mayan world.
There are 16 of these stone pathways open to the public and over 50 that have been discovered.
Coba is home to Nohoch Mul, the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan and one of the few pyramids in the area that visitors are still permitted to climb.
After an intense workout to get there, you are rewarded with a serene view over the jungle canopy.
There are major safety concerns since the steps are very narrow and steep, so wear appropriate footwear and use the rope to hold onto as you climb. So pretty much do NOT do what Jason is doing here- ha!
Other points of interest are the “La Iglesia” church, the many large stone carved monuments called “stelae”, and the ball courts that were used to play an ancient Mayan ball game.
3. Swim in a Cenote
A cenote is a sinkhole that results from the collapse oflimestone bedrock and is filled with thefresh groundwater underneath.
In other words, it is a secret underworld of crystal clear pools that are found all over the Yucatan peninsula and hold an important part of the Mayan history.
They once looked to these spiritual wells not only as a source of water, but also as a portal to communicate with the gods.
You can find cenotes to swim in almost anywhere, we even had one on the property of the condowe rented.
They are a great way to cool off after a hot summer day of exploring!
The best Cenote’s in the Playa del Carmen areaare:
- Cenote Ponderosa andCenote Azul (near Playa del Carmen)
- Cenote Choo-Ha andCenote Tamcach-Ha (both near Coba)
- Cenote Dos Ojos andGrutas de Loltún (near Tulum)
- Cenote Yokdzono and Cenote Samulá (by Chichen Itza)
This is the huge cavernous Cenote Tamcach-ha. Visitors take a spiral wooden staircase down to the wooden deck where you can swim in the cool clear water.
Or, if you’re brave enough you can take a leap from one of the two diving platforms. The highest is 25 feet and the second one is about 12 feet.
4. Stroll along La Quinta Avenida
Also known as “Avenue 5”, this pedestrian-only street is at the heart of Playa del Carmen.
It is a colorful and lively strip of restaurants, shops, clubs, and local vendors.
The Avenue stretches 30 city blocks and has many beach access points. The street is always busy but especially comes alive after the sun goes down.
Enjoy the live music streaming out of the clubs or enjoy dinner at a rooftop lounge.Take your time strolling along, there is plenty to see, do and eat!
5. Relax on one of Playa del Carmen’s beautiful beaches
The beaches in Playa del Carmen are top notch with deep turquoise water, soft white sand, and gently swaying palm trees. It is the stuff tropical dreams are made of!
Playa del Carmen is a beachfront town so it is easy to access a beach anywhere from the Cozumel Ferry Pier south to 28th street.
If you’re looking for a truly relaxing beach vacation, here is a rundown of the best beaches in the area.
Best beaches in Playa del Carmen:
- Least Crowded: Playacar Phase 1 is a private development but all beaches are public. Anyone is allowed access, but not many tourists know that. This beach is a favorite among the local expats that want to escape the tourists. It is about a 5-10 minute walk south of the Cozumel Ferry Pier.
- Best Snorkeling: Head north of 48th St and past the Canibal Royal Beach Club (the beach in front of the club has eroded, but keep heading north around the point). It is a little harder to access this beach which makes it less crowded with unspoiled beauty.
- Best Amenities: Central beach between 2nd St. and 6th St. is easy to access. Although it is popular with tourists, it is a wide beach with great facilities and beachside restaurants.
- Best Family Beach: Playa Punta Esmeralda is a favorite spot among the locals. What makes it so cool is that there is a small cenote that empties into the ocean. This creates freshwater pools and rivers that are great for kids to swim in. It is a hidden gem away from the tourists and crowds. To get to the beach, there is a public beach access road located just north of the Paradisus Hotels.
- Best Party Beach:Mamitas (located at Calle 28) is the place to see and be seen. Popular with the younger crowds, there is always lively music pumping from the beach club and a fun vibe in the air. You can also rent jet skis and check out a variety of other water sports here.
6. Take a Day Trip to Cozumel
Take a 30-minute ferry ride and spend a day on the beautiful island of Cozumel.
We recommend renting a scooter and riding along the coastal road. Stop for scenic views, snorkeling, or lunch at one of the many beachside restaurants.
Be sure to check our Cozumel Day Trip guide for a complete list of recommended ways to spend your day!
7. Spend a day at Xcaret and Xplor
Xcaret and Xplorare two unique adventure parks that I wish we had time to visit. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures or personal experiences to share (for now!). They both have great reviews so I thought it would be worth passing along the recommendation.
Xcaret is filled with numerous engaging cultural activities along with swimming with dolphins and exploring underground rivers. Here is a great post with tips for visiting Xcaret with kids.
Xplor is for the more adventurous spirits. Fly through the air on a zip-line, drive amphibious vehicles in the Mayan jungle, and explore caves and underground rivers.
They both light up after the sun goes down and boast great evening entertainment as well.
I hope you get a chance to check out these 7 bucket list things to do in Playa del Carmen!
And if you are planning to spend time in Cancun, I would recommend staying at the Catalonia Costa Mujeres All-inclusive Resort or if you have kids, they will love Planet Hollywood Cancun!
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