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Playa Del Carmen Visitors Guide

How to Get There, What to Do & More

Updated March 2021

Playa del Carmen Visitors guide. What to do in Playa del Carmen

Welcome to Playa Del Carmen

Playa Del Carmen is a jewel along Mexico’s Riviera Maya. The beaches, the water, the amenities, and the nightlife are just a few of the things that make Playa del Carmen a top Mexican Caribbean destination. With proximity to nearby Mayan cultural centers and offshore islands, there’s a little something for everyone in “Playa”.

Playa Del Carmen is a jewel along Mexico’s Riviera Maya. The beaches, the water, the amenities, and the nightlife are just a few of the things that make Playa del Carmen a top Mexican Caribbean destination. With proximity to nearby Mayan cultural centers and offshore islands, there’s a little something for everyone in “Playa”.

Playa del Carmen At Sunset
Playa Del Cramen. Best Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen

A Bit Of History

Hundreds of years ago, Playa del Carmen was an important Mayan stop along the pilgrimage route toward the nearby island of Cozumel, considered a sacred place at the time. After many years, Playa, as it is commonly known, became a vital city of commerce and trade.

What we now call Playa del Carmen was once known as “Xaman-Ha”, which in Mayan means “waters of the north”. Due to the frequency of pilgrims, trade seekers, pirates and European explorers, the city flourished.

Playa Del Cramen. Best Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen

Playa Del Carmen Today

Today, travelers and locals visit the city for relaxation, nature, culture and a less expensive but no less beautiful travel destination than Cancun. Playa is said to be one of the fastest-growing cities in Latin America and is the jumping off point for the scuba and snorkeling destination of Cozumel.

Below is our guide to making the best of your visit including many of the top things to do in Playa del Carmen. We hope you enjoy!

Where Is Playa Del Carmen?

Island Life Mexico

Playa del Carmen is located on the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula on the Caribbean seashore. Located in the heart of the Riviera Maya coastal area, Playa del Carmen is almost exactly in the middle between the cities of Cancun and Tulum, just about 35 miles from each. Playa del Carmen is the jumping off point for Cozumel island.

Adjacent to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (the second-longest coral reef system in the world), Playa del Carmen is in a perfect spot for turquoise Caribbean waters, white sand beaches, and world-class diving and snorkeling. This is DEFINITELY the island life!

The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef

When To Visit Playa Del Carmen

The tropical climate in Playa is quite predictable and easy to make plans around. Without much of a temperature difference throughout the year, (the average temperature lingers around 83 degrees F) it’s the rainy hurricane season that most travelers need to pay attention to.

January – April

Perfect weather-wise, but sees the highest influx of tourists. If you are not a people person, consider this.

May – October

The hottest and most rainy months of the year but still plenty of sunshine and fantastic warm water for snorkeling & diving. Also, the hurricane season peaks in September and October so keep an eye on the forecasts and definitely get travel insurance just in case. Fewer tourists mean you can typically expect lower rates at hotels, resorts and tour companies during this time.

November – December

The autumn-winter months are considered by many to be the best times to visit Playa del Carmen. The hurricane season has passed by this time and the humidity is low. Can be a little “chilly” in the evenings.

A Hammock in Playa Del Carmen
A Hammock In Playa Del Carmen

How To Get To Playa Del Carmen

There are a few ways to get to Playa del Carmen. Note that many larger hotels in Playa provide free transportation to town, so check ahead before planning alternative transportation.

Island Life Mexico

By Shuttle

Some suggest the easiest way to go is by hiring a shuttle ride in advance. The shuttle company will take you from the Cancun airport directly to your accommodation in Playa del Carmen. The air-conditioned group shuttles will typically cost around $19 one way. Pre-book one and find them waiting for you in any arrival hall. You can also book a deluxe shuttle for $27 one way per passenger.

Island Life Mexico

By Bus

One of the most affordable transportation options to Playa from Cancun is taking the ADO Bus (Autobuses de Oriente), which takes a little more than one hour. A one-way ticket from Cancun to Playa del Carmen is roughly $10 per person.

Island Life Mexico

By Taxi

If you don’t feel like renting a vehicle but don’t want to take a bus, taking a taxi is an efficient option. Numerous taxis wait outside the Cancun airport or can pick you up at your hotel in Cancun or Tulum. Be sure to discuss the prices in advance of taking the ride so you don’t get overcharged. The 50-minute taxi ride to Playa del Carmen from Cancun is the fastest option and costs around $60-70 USD. It is better to pre-book a taxi or find one at the airport taxi booth instead of taking the first one you encounter to avoid scams.

Island Life Mexico

By Car

Renting a vehicle may be the most convenient choice depending on how much exploring you plan to do on your own. It is an easy and affordable option. Driving to Playa del Carmen from Cancun is straightforward and takes just under an hour from the airport. You can rent a sedan for as little as $13 a day directly outside the Cancun airport terminal. We recommend booking your car here for the best prices and service.

How To Get To Cancun

For more transportation information, check out our Getting Around The Yucatan Guide

Driving From Cancun
Driving From Cancun

What To Do In Playa Del Carmen

Playa's Top Highlights

There is so much to do in Playa. From live shows to sailing cruises and more, it’s really easy to make each day in Playa del Carmen a special experience. Here are just some of the activities you can enjoy!

Experience One Of The Adventure Parks

1. Experience One Of The Adventure Parks

Just south of Playa del Carmen are a cluster of incredible adventure parks that are unlike anything you’ve probably experienced before. The most famous is Xcaret with its meandering canals you can swim through, incredible beach coves, cultural shows, jungle hikes and so much more. They are a little pricey, but the adventure parks are widely considered a must do in the Playa area. Others popular parks include Xplor and Xel-Ha.

Visit A Cenote

2. Visit A Cenote

Talk about healing properties. The cenote choices in the Playa area are vast and diverse as there are literally dozens of incredible locations nearby. You can swim, scuba dive, snorkel or just walk through one of these breathtaking and powerful forces of nature.

For cenote info and great cenote recommendations, be sure to check out our Ultimate Cenote Guide.

Take A Trip To The Islands

3. Take A Trip To The Islands

There are several islands easily within reach of Playa. Isla Mujeres makes for an incredible day trip via catamaran. The island has no cars and a laid back beach vibe. Isla Contoy is an uninhabited nature reserve. Check out wild birds and incredible snorkeling. Or just take the ferry across the channel to Cozumel for a relaxing day at a beach club!

Enjoy The Nightlife

4. Enjoy The Nightlife

The primary pedestrian street is the broad La Quinta 5th Ave which runs parallel to the beach and is lined with vendors, bars, restaurants, tour shops, performers, tequila tasting rooms and everything else you’d imagine. Stretching from Ave. Constituyentes in the north to Calle 1 (1st Street) in the south, this is where the action is. Walk south to the nightlife party area and stop in at some of the clubs and tourist bars. Some say the best club to dance and drink the night away is Coco Bongo with its wild interactive stage shows, but don’t let us sway your decision, there are many places to let loose on offer.

Have A Beach Day

5. Have A Beach Day

There are a lot of great beaches in the Playa del Carmen area. Fundadores is the bustling main beach along the strip in Playa del Carmen center and is always great for lounging and people watching. Restaurants and vendors are scattered along the beach so grabbing a ceviche or a cervesa is easy.

Playacar beach is a bit further south, a long walk or a short taxi ride from Centro, and is a bit more idyllic. Playacar is a residential neighborhood, so the beach is well-groomed and the vibe is more quiet and peaceful.


When going on vacation in the time of Covid, Travel Insurance is a must in our opinion. Most of the current policies cover Covid medical issues as well as vacation delays due to Covid. They typically even cover your hotel if you test positive in Mexico and have to extend your trip a few days until you get a negative test. You can easily compare and choose from the top travel insurance policies here.

Where To Stay In Playa

There are all types of wonderful accommodations in Playa Del Carmen. From all-inclusive resorts to boutique hotels and more. Location and amenities are the two top things to look for. For information about the different neighborhoods and great hotel recommendations, check out our Playa Del Carmen Hotel Guide.

Playa Del Carmen Hotel Guide, The Best Hotels In Play Del Carmen

For hotel recommendations for every budget, check out our Playa del Carmen Hotel Guide

What To Eat In Playa Del Carmen

You can find mouthwatering food everywhere you go in this vibrant city. The vast majority of the Playa del Carmen’s restaurants are in Centro (downtown) and the North End (the area just north of Ave. Constituyentes).  If you’re looking for some great places to eat in Playa, be sure to check out our Playa Del Carmen Restaurant Guide.

Playa Del Carmen Restaurant Guide

For great restaurant recommendations, check out our Playa Del Carmen Restaurant Guide

What To Pack For Your Trip!

The Mexican Caribbean is an enchanting wonderland of relaxation and adventure, one can easily have the trip of a lifetime here. Packing for such a vacation shouldn’t be hard, so we’ve put together a list to help you pack and included some of our favorites as well. Check out our What To Pack For Your Trip Guide.

What To Pack For Your Mexican Vacation

Check out our guide for what to bring on your Mexican vacation!



Cancun, Islands, Tulum and More

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. We have never been to Mexico and your Playa guide really inspired us to go! This guide made our trip fun and so so easy. We went expecting to stay for 3 days and we ended up extending our trip for an additional two weeks. Not only did we use this Playa guide but the Cozumel guide also. So helpful! Thank you so very much for putting it together.

  2. We love Playa so much and come visit at least every couple of years. This guide was so helpful in making our trip even more memorable this year. Thank you to all who wrote it.

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