Playa Del Carmen Visitors Guide
How to Get There, Things to Do & More
Updated June 2023
Welcome to Playa Del Carmen Mexico
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”. 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!
Playa Del Carmen Map
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.
What we now call Playa del Carmen was once known as “Xaman-Ha,” which in Mayan means “waters of the north”.
Over the years, Playa, as it is commonly known, became a vital city of commerce and trade. Due to the frequency of pilgrims, trade seekers, pirates and European explorers, the city flourished.
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.
Is Playa Del Carmen Safe?
Playa Del Carmen is a generally safe destination for traveling in Mexico. Due to the large tourism scene and a high number of travelers, petty theft and scams aren’t uncommon but aren’t a huge threat either.
It is wise to keep a close eye on your belongings and don’t leave your valuables unattended, including drinks and beverages, as it is a large party town. While drug cartels are present, tourists are not the target.
Overall, Playa Del Carman is statistically one of the safest towns in Quintana Roo.
Where is Playa Del Carmen?
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 also the jumping off point for Cozumel island, with ferries departing every hour.
When Is Playa Del Carmen Hurricane Season?
Playa Del Carmen hurricane season begins in late May and lasts until early November, with the peak in September and October. The odds of a hurricane hitting Playa Del Carmen are low (five hurricanes have hit the Yucatan in the past 40 years), but hurricanes traveling near Playa Del Carmen can still cause severe weather. Be sure to check weather reports ahead of time and get travel insurance during these months just in case.
How to Get to Playa Del Carmen & Around
There are a few ways to get to Playa del Carmen and around the city.
Arrival by Air
There is currently no international airport in Playa Del Carmen so visitors must first fly to Cancun and then travel 1 hour overland to reach Playa Del Carmen (see below). Cancun International Airport (CUN) is the largest airport in the region and hosts more than 20 million visitors a year.
Search for great deals on flights to Cancun here.
Airport Shuttles to Playa Del Carmen
Group or Private Shuttles can be pre-arranged to pick you up at the Cancun Airport and take you to your Playa Del Carmen accommodation. Group shuttles may stop at numerous hotels before yours, so this method could take a bit longer than a private shuttle (while being a bit cheaper).
Shared shuttles are around $25 per person, while a private minivan shuttle can be booked for around $65 per van. We recommend getting a private shuttle if you are in a group of 2 or more people.
You can easily book ground transportation from the Cancun airport to your Playa del Carmen hotel here.
Rental Cars In Playa Del Carmen
Renting a vehicle in Playa Del Carmen or at the Cancun airport 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. Rental cars can be as inexpensive as $15/day at the Cancun airport or in Playa Del Carmen.
If you rent a car at the Cancun airport, head down the only highway southbound. Driving to Playa del Carmen from Cancun is straightforward and takes just under an hour from the airport.
Search for great deals on rental cars at the Cancun airport here.
Search for great deals on rental cars in Playa Del Carmen here.
Buses in Playa Del Carmen
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. You can check out the ADO bus schedule here. Busses do not stop at hotels, only central bus stations.
Taxis in Playa Del Carmen
Taxis in Playa Del Carmen are an easy way to get around. Flag them down on the road or have your hotel call one for you. Prices are around $4-$7 dollars locally. Traveling outside of town to cenotes and other attractions can add up though.
If you want to take a taxi to Playa Del Carmen from Cancun, they are everywhere on the street in Cancun and will take you straight to your accommodation in Playa Del Carmen. Be sure to discuss the prices in advance so you don’t get overcharged. Taxis from Cancun to Playa Del Carmen are convenient but can be quite expensive. Typically around $60 dollars.
Things 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!
1. Experience The Adventure Parks
About 20-30 minutes south of Playa del Carmen are a cluster of world famous 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 area.
Other very popular parks include Xplor with its caves, ziplines, rafting and ATV’s, Xel-Ha with its waterslides, snorkeling, mangrove tubing and other water activities, Xplor Fuego nighttime torchlight adventure, Xenotes cenote experience, Xoximilco floating fiesta and the oddly popular Xenses optical illusion park.
2. Visit A Cenote
Talk about healing properties. The cenote choices in the Playa del Carmen 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.
Take a look at this highly rated VIP private tour that visits 3 cenotes and includes snorkeling equipment and snorkeling guide.
This cool best cenotes for Instagram tour takes you to some of the most famously beautiful cenotes including Suytun Cenote.
Check out this popular group tour that includes a visit to Tulum, some reef snorkeling and a swim at a cenote. Tour picks up in Cancun or Playa del Carmen.
For more cenote info and great cenote recommendations, be sure to check out our Ultimate Cenote Guide.
3. Stroll Fifth Avenue
The primary pedestrian street in Playa Del Carmen 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.
This wide street’s proximity to the beach makes wandering here the perfect activity after you’ve enjoyed a few hours on the gorgeous sand. Fifth Avenue ends in a large outdoor retail mall by Fundadores beach and the ferry terminal to Cozumel.
ISLAND LIFE TRAVEL TIP : GET TRAVEL INSURANCE
When planning an international vacation, Travel Insurance is a must in our opinion. Since your health insurance likely doesn’t cover you while outside of the country, travel insurance makes sure if you accidentally break a bone or get food poisoning, your medical needs are covered. Travel insurance also typically covers you for trip cancellation, lost or stolen luggage (it happens), Covid issues, flight delays, missed connections and more. We think it’s a no brainer and should be factored into any international trip budget. You can easily compare the top-rated travel insurance plans here.
4. Get Out On The Water
There are many wonderful day cruises available from Playa del Carmen and the surrounds.
Keep it simple and take a sunset sail with cocktails, a snorkeling adventure or even rent a private yacht for the day.
Feel like exploring further? There are several spectacular islands easily within reach of Playa del Carmen as well. Isla Mujeres tours make for an incredible day trip via catamaran or party boat and typically include fantastic snorkeling and then lunch on the island.
The more remote Isla Contoy meanwhile is an uninhabited nature preserve, perfect for getting away from it all to check out wild birds and desolate beaches. Robinson Crusoe eat your heart out.
If a sailing adventure isn’t your cup of tea, just take the ferry across the channel to the world-famous Cozumel for a relaxing day at a beach club!
Explore Palya del Carmen day cruises here.
Here are a number of excellent day tours to Isla Mujeres. While most tours to Isla Mujeres and Isla Contoy depart from Cancun, many also include pickup in Playa del Carmen and other parts of the Riviera Maya.
These are the top rated tours to Isla Contoy.
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.
*Note: Since 2008, Sargassum (seaweed) has regularly arrived on the Caribbean coast of Mexico (Cancun, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, etc.) from April to August. Many resorts and beaches remove the seaweed from the sand daily, but it can pile up by the water’s edge and be stinky in places where it’s not removed. For this reason, we suggest getting a hotel with a nice pool area for swimming or spending some time on the islands of Cozumel or Isla Mujeres which are largely protected from the seaweed.
6. Take A Day Trip To Chichen Itza
If you’ve never been to a Mayan ruin, why not start with one of the best! Chichen Itza is an epic collection of temples and monuments that are worth the trip to get there.
Around a two-hour drive from Playa del Carmen, many people combine the adventure with a swim at a cenote on the way back to cool off.
You can rent a car and do the drive yourself, but most people book either a private tour guide or take a group tour for simplicity. This also allows you to zonk out in the van on the way back! Note that tours “from Cancun” also usually pick up in Playa del Carmen as well. Also, group tours typically do not include the park entrance fee of $30 USD per adult or $5 per child.
This top rated group tour to Chichen Itza includes pick up throughout the Riviera Maya (including Playa), a buffet lunch, a trip to Valladolid and swimming in a cenote on the way back.
Here’s a great private tour.
Don’t mind getting up absurdly early? Check out this awesome sunrise tour to Chichen Itza!
7. Explore The Rio Secreto Nature Reserve
This wild little day trip isn’t what you normally think of when you think of Playa del Carmen, but dont let that stop you from taking a break from the sunshine and trying out a new adventure!
Rio Secreto (The Secret River) is an underground cave/cenote system filled with stalactites, stalagmites and beautiful fresh water that you’ll spend the day wading and swimming through.
Small group tours include guide, transport, lunch, wetsuits, hard hats, water shoes and more. This is widely considered an unforgettable experience.
This is definitely one of the most popular tours and has an option for hotel pick up for convenience.
8. Explore The Tulum Mayan Ruins
The Tulum Mayan Ruins archaeological site is a must see in the area. The energy of this magical, ancient place is what has been calling tourists here for centuries. The ruins are perched over the sea in a breathtaking locale near the town of Tulum.
Guides are available at the entrance if you are keen to really understand the historical significance of the place, but strolling solo is always a pleasure too.
To join a great group tour that includes transport from Playa del Carmen, English speaking guide, and a fantastic side trip to swim at a local cenote, check out this tour.
For more info on visiting the Tulum Ruins, check out our Tulum Ruins Visitors Guide.
9. Enjoy The Nightlife
Walking south on the La Quinta 5th Ave pedestrian street towards 1st Street will take you to the nightlife party area. Here you can safely stop in at some of the numerous clubs and tourist bars. Far and away the most famous club to dance and drink the night away is Coco Bongo with its massive interactive stage shows and wild dancefloor.
This VIP package for Coco Bongo has hundreds of five-star reviews on TA and includes hotel transport, premium drinks, skip the line privileges and more. It’s actually an excellent value.
Feel like seeing more of Playa’s nightlife? This VIP nightclub tour hits multiple clubs and comes with a party guide, free drinks all night, VIP access and more. Tylenol the next day not included.
This Post Has 7 Comments
My family will be traveling to Mexico in a few months and would love to visit Playa Del Carmen but we are all afraid to drive. Do you know if the roads are fairly easy to navigate or is it better to hire transportation? Thanks in advance!
It is very easy to drive from Cancun to Playa Del Carmen and to drive in the areas around the city. Driving to cenotes, etc. is very straightforward. Inside Playa Del Carmen however, it’s much easier to take taxis or walk.
I just wanted to write to say how great these Mexico Visitor Guides are. All of the guides on this site are very detailed and answer any questions I may have about certain places. Great job!
Hey thanks! We are always updating with additional information as well, so check back often.
I’ve never been to Playa del Carmen, but I am definitely putting it on my list after seeing these photos. Looks beautiful.
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.
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.