Mexico is a truly incredible country. It has an amazing, rich and colorful history, some of the kindest people in the world, and of course, delicious food. While Mexico City or Cancun might be the most frequented by travellers, we’re here to tell you about Playa Del Carmen.

Playa Del Carmen is a beautiful beachside town that’s close to Cancún. That means it’s relatively close to an international airport, and gives you easy access to other southern Mexican towns like Cozumel, Tulum, and Cobá. There are amazing reefs here with some of the most beautiful diving and snorkeling spots. 

So if you’re planning a trip to Mexico, don’t sleep on Playa Del Carmen. Start planning your itinerary with our list of 8 amazing things to do in Playa Del Carmen.

  1. Explore an amazing Cenote

You may have seen these amazing natural wonders on Instagram. Cenotes are underground freshwater swimming holes. These are formed where bedrock gets eroded by underground rivers or springs. Mexico is one of the best countries to explore Cenotes and the Yucatan Peninsula has plenty of them. That’s why it’s number 1 on our list of things to do in Playa Del Carmen.

Cenotes are known for their still, crystal clear water. The water in the cenotes tends to be cool as it comes from underground.  The best Cenote in Playa Del Carmen is Cenote Azul – which is open air, and easily divided into shallow and deeper ends. You can get there by taking a Colectivo (like a bus), or you can rent a car and drive down.

Another great option is the Cenote Zacil Ha. It’s smaller, but deeper to access, which means there are a lot of great points to dive or jump off from. They also have other activities in the area like a zipline and even normal swimming pools.

  1. Visit Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is one of the most important archaeological sites in all of Mexico. It’s one of the last remaining heritage sites of the Mayan Civilization. It’s a definite must on the list of things to do in Playa Del Carmen, because of its close proximity.

Chichen Itza was one of the largest Maya cities, and is considered one of the New 7 Wonders of The World according to UNESCO. Chichen Itza Pyramid or El Castillo is the focal point of the site, but there are a total of 6 Mayan Ruins in Old Chichen and 20 Ruins in the New Chichen or Chichen Itza. 

Chichen Itza is located deep in the jungle, and can be a bit of a challenge to reach if you’re traveling by yourself or on public transport. The best way to see it is by taking a dedicated tour.  If you do rent a car to go by yourself, make sure to get up early and visit the temples as early in the morning as possible, before the crowds and the heat set in. The site opens at 8 AM every day and takes visitors till 4 PM.

  1. Visit Playa Punta Esmeralda and other beaches

5 kilometers from downtown Playa del Carmen, you’ll find the beautiful white sand beaches of Playa Punta Esmerelda.

In addition to the crystal blue ocean and beautiful white-sand beach, there is also a freshwater cenote here that flows into the sea. Swimming here is an amazing experience. But if you like to beat the crowd, go early in the morning and claim your spot. Punta Esmeralda or Emerald Point is on the northern edge of the city, and close to amazing restaurants and street food as well. It’s like a great little oasis on the beach.

Just know, seasonally the Playa del Carmen beaches are frequently covered in sargasso (seaweed). This is most common during the summer months but can happen anytime. So check in with locals before you hit the beach!

playa punta esmeralda

If you love beaches, you can also visit the Parque Los Fundadores, which is perhaps Playa del Carmen’s most iconic beach – you’ll recognize the beach by the Portal Maya Statue, a gorgeous sculpture showing two figures rising up to touch each other, forming a gateway into Playa Del Carmen. Other great beaches include Playacar Beach and Playa Maroma.

  1. Eat Real Delicious Mexican Food

We’ve all had some version of a burrito, nachos, tacos or even quesadillas. But real Mexican food is so much more than the semi-American versions you get at chain restaurants. That’s why we want to tell you about El Fogon. El Fogon is possibly the most popular restaurant in Playa del Carmen, and you can see it immediately because of the giant lines outside. But don’t worry, the lines move really fast, and it’s COMPLETELY worth it. Find it here.

what to eat in mexico

Their speciality is a dish called pastor, which is a special way of grilling meat similar to shawarma. Definitely also make sure to eat the chorizo tacos, and alambres, which are a delicious heart mix of meat and vegetables. The food is incredibly flavorful and you may be adding this to your list of things to do in Playa Del Carmen every day of your trip.

  1. Explore Underground Caves at Rio Secreto

Located just a few minutes outside the city, Rio Secreto is an incredible natural site made up of five stunning underground caves that are filled with crystal stalactites and stalagmites (a type of rock formation that looks like it’s dripping to the ground). The words Rio Secreto means “Secret River” and that’s because this area is filled with underground rivers and springs.

The best way to visit is through the official tour company of Rio Secreto. They’ll give you a wetsuit and take you on a small guided tour through the caves. You’ll even be able to go swimming inside the caves where absolutely no light reaches. Consider this the coolest of the things to do in Playa del Carmen. You can explore millions of years of natural history dating back millions of years, and it’s guaranteed to be an experience you’ll never forget.

  1. Take a Day Trip to Tulum

Tulum is a town close to Playa Del Carmen, that’s more laid back and bohemian. You can find ancient Mayan Ruins that go as far back as 54AD, a lot of hip and laid back restaurants, beach clubs and cafes, and the town is known for being a vegan haven.

tulum beach in mexico

For beaches, make sure to visit:

  • Playa Ruinas, which is near the Tulum ruins – so you can do two things at once
  • Las Palmas Beach
  • Playa Paraiso (Paradise Beach) 

Tulum is also full of amazing, crystal blue Cenotes, which alone make it worth the trip down from Playa Del Carmen. Make sure to visit Cenotes Dos Ojos, Gran Cenote, and Cenotes Sac Actun – which is a series of underground caves as well.

  1. Swim with Turtles in Playa Akumal

The name Playa Akumal literally translates to “Beach of the Turtles.” And the local turtles have drawn in thousands of visitors every year to Akumal. As an amazing turtle sanctuary, Akumal is a great place to go swimming with them. You can get right up close. The Akumal sea turtles are used to humans and they’ll let you swim right alongside them and even feel the movement of their flippers.

one of the best things to do in playa del carmen is swimming with turtles

Make sure to arrive as early in the morning as you can, ideally no later than 9:30 AM because the sand on the beach is super fine and could get cloudy as more swimmers get in. Getting there is easy if you rent a car from Playa Del Carmen. That’s the best way to get there. Or else, you can load into a colectivo (those little buses/vans we mentioned earlier) or even book a private tour.

The beach itself has a lot of shade, so you can relax here all day. The town of Akumal itself has a lot of great restaurants, shops, diving centers, and hotels in case you decide to extend your stay.

  1. Take a day trip to Holbox Island

Picture this. Small island, crystal waters, white sandy beaches, and no pollution. Yup, that’s Isla Holbox.

sunset in holbox island mexico

It’s a long, but skinny island located in the north of the Yucatan region of Mexico, about 2.5 hours away from Playa Del Carmen. And the best part is – it’s almost untouched natural beauty. Holbox has strict laws against plastic waste, over exploitation from resorts, and pollution. You get around the island in Golf carts because there is no pavement, or proper roads. And it all adds to the charm. If you’re looking for a picturesque getaway during your vacation, this is the spot!

So there you go. These are our favorite things to do in Playa Del Carmen. If you’re planning a trip to Mexico, definitely put it on your list, and share your pictures with us!!!

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