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Playa Del Carmen Visitors Guide

How to Get There, Things to Do & More

Updated May 2024 ⋅ Written by Laura Schulthies ⋅ Edited by Daniel Mode

Playa Del Carmen Visitors Guide: Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen Mexico
Playa del Carmen Visitors guide. What to do in Playa del Carmen Mexico

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 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

Playa Del Carmen Map

Contents

Playa Del Carmen. The best things to do in Playa del Carmen
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.

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. 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.

Is Playa Del Carmen Safe?

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 On A Map

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.

The Best Time to Visit Playa Del Carmen

The tropical climate in Playa Del Carmen is fairly predictable and easy to make plans around. Without much of a temperature difference throughout the year, (the average temperature lingers around 83° F) it’s the rainy season that visitors should pay attention to.

The tropical climate in Playa Del Carmen is fairly predictable and easy to make plans around. Without much of a temperature difference throughout the year, (the average temperature lingers around 83° F) it’s the rainy season that visitors should pay attention to.

January – April

The weather is picture perfect, but “peak season” means lots of tourists and higher prices. The ocean, cenotes and swimming pools (that aren’t heated) can still be a little chilly for some.

May – October

The hottest and most rainy months of the year still offer plenty of wonderful sunshine and fantastic warm water for snorkeling & diving. 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 fewer crowds and lower rates at hotels, resorts and tour companies during this time.

November – December

Many consider the autumn-winter months to be the best time to visit Playa del Carmen. The hurricane season has passed by this time, and the humidity is low. It can be a little “cool” in the evenings so bring a warming layer.

January – April

The weather is picture perfect, but “peak season” means lots of tourists and higher prices. The ocean, cenotes and swimming pools (that aren’t heated) can still be a little chilly for some.

May – October

The hottest and most rainy months of the year still offer plenty of wonderful sunshine and fantastic warm water for snorkeling & diving. 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 fewer crowds and lower rates at hotels, resorts and tour companies during this time.

November – December

Many consider the autumn-winter months to be the best time to visit Playa del Carmen. The hurricane season has passed by this time, and the humidity is low. It can be a little “cool” in the evenings so bring a warming layer.

 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.

Hurricane Season
Relax on the beaches of Playa del Carmen
A Hammock in Playa Del Carmen
Relax on the beaches of Playa del Carmen
A Hammock In Playa Del Carmen

How to Get to Playa Del Carmen & Around

There are a few ways to get to Playa del Carmen and around the city.

Mexico Airport

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.

Island Life Mexico

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 between $45 to $55 per person, while a private minivan shuttle can be booked for anywhere from $80 to $290 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.

Island Life Mexico

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 typically run between $35 – $40 per 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 Mexico

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 $15 per person. You can check out the ADO bus schedule here. Busses do not stop at hotels, only central bus stations.

Taxi in Mexico

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 $5 – $18 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!

Having fun at the Adventure Parks in Playa del Carmen
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Experience The Adventure Parks
Having fun at the Adventure Parks in Playa del Carmen
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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.

Swim in a cenote in Playa del Carmen
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Visit A Cenote
Swim in a cenote in Playa del Carmen
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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.

  Check out this epic VIP Private Cenote Tour that visits three fantastic cenotes.

  Take a look at this highly reviewed cenote cave exploration tour.

  This cool best cenotes for Instagram tour takes you to some of the most famously beautiful cenotes including Suytun Cenote.

  Check out this popular small group tour that includes a visit to the Tulum and Coba Mayan ruins and a swim at a couple of cenotes. Tour picks up at hotels in Playa Del Carmen.

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

5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen
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Stroll Fifth Avenue
5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen
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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

Travel Insurance is a must in our opinion. Standard health insurance likely doesn’t cover you while outside of the country so travel insurance will cover any emergency medical needs as well as trip cancellation, lost or stolen luggage (it happens), flight delays, missed connections and more. You can easily compare the top-rated travel insurance plans here.

Go sailing in Playa del Carmen
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Get Out On The Water
Go sailing in Playa del Carmen
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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.

The beaches on Playa del Carmen
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Have A Beach Day
The beaches on Playa del Carmen
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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.

Chichen Itza near Playa del Carmen
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Take A Day Trip To Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza near Playa del Carmen
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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!

Exploring Rio Secreto Nature Reserve in Playa del Carmen
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Explore The Rio Secreto Nature Reserve
Exploring Rio Secreto Nature Reserve in Playa del Carmen
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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.

The Tulum Mayan Ruins near Playa del Carmen
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Explore The Tulum Mayan Ruins
The Tulum Mayan Ruins near Playa del Carmen
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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.

1st Street Nightlife in Playa del Carmen
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Enjoy The Nightlife
1st Street Nightlife in Playa del Carmen
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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 loads of five-star reviews on TA and includes hotel transport, premium drinks, skip the line privileges and more.

  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.

Playa Del Carmen Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen
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Relax At A Beach Club
Playa Del Carmen Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen
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10. Relax At A Beach Club

There is no better way to spend a day in Playa del Carmen than relaxing at one of the fabulous beach clubs. There are many fantastic beach clubs to choose from and a beach club for every occasion.

Are you looking for a fun party? You got it. Would you prefer something a bit more low-key and relaxing? They have them.

A few of our favorites include Coralina Daylight Club, which is well equipped with stunning ocean views, lounge chairs, and an electric atmosphere with a live DJ. Lido Beach Club is all about fantastic food, music, and good vibes. Martina Beach Club is a top choice if you are looking for a low-key beach club to chill out for the day.

Playa Del Carmen Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen
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Experience Alux Cave Restaurant
Playa Del Carmen Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen
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11. Experience Alux Cave Restaurant

The Alux Cave Restaurant provides a mind-blowing and truly unique dining experience that takes the cake when it comes to finding a place to enjoy a meal “with a view”. The entire restaurant is built inside a natural cave! Alux Cave Restaurant is just outside Playa del Carmen and is reachable by rental car or taxi.

The menu at Alux features traditional Mexican dishes with a modern twist and a wide selection of international wines. Make sure to try the Pork Belly Tacos, or the Salmon Tartare.

There are plenty of excellent restaurants in Playa del Carmen available to choose from, but Alux is a totally different experience, unlike any other.

Playa Del Carmen Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen
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Swim At A Rooftop Pool
Playa Del Carmen Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen
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12. Swim At A Rooftop Pool

Rooftop pools are perfect for soaking up the sun in Playa del Carmen. Whether solo, traveling with your family, or looking for a romantic spot to relax, there is a rooftop pool for you. After a busy day exploring the sights, what better way to relax than to have a cocktail while lounging at a rooftop pool?

For beautiful ocean views, check out the Be Playa Hotel rooftop pool, which has a vibey laid back atmosphere and provides a small but cozy retreat. This adults-only pool even offers tables and chairs that sit in the shallow water. If you are not staying at the hotel, you can gain access to the rooftop pool for around $12 USD (200 MXN), and it’s open from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. Keep in mind there is a minimum consumption of $18 in drinks per person, including sun bed with minimum consumption $70 per sun bed that subject to availability.

Another excellent rooftop pool can be found at The Fives Downtown. With a long infinity pool that faces the ocean, it’s one of the largest rooftop pools in Playa del Carmen. Relax in comfortable lounge chairs and order from the full food and beverage menus. There’s also additional restaurant seating in the back for dining or working.

For a full on party vibe with DJ’s and more, check out Deck 5 right on the beach.

Playa Del Carmen Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen
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Visit The Gaston Charo Art Gallery
Playa Del Carmen Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen
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13. Visit The Gaston Charo Art Gallery

If you love art, you must visit the Gaston Charo Art Gallery in Playa del Carmen. Charó’s work depicts a combination of surrealism, cubism, and expressionism. This gallery perfectly expresses art as a universal language that goes beyond country borders to unify people.

The Gaston Charo Art Gallery also exhibits the work of several local artists, offering a wide variety of styles and techniques to satisfy all tastes in art.

Playa Del Carmen Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen
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Wander Parque Los Fundadores
Playa Del Carmen Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen
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14. Wander Parque Los Fundadores

The Parque Los Fundadores is a great place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of Playa del Carmen. Also known as Founding Fathers Park, this large oceanfront park is located in the center of town on 5th Avenue and is home to various trees and plants.

Whether you want to take a stroll, enjoy a picnic, or rent bikes, exploring the park is a great way to experience Playa del Carmen. The park has a playground for kids, making it the perfect place to spend time with the whole family.

The real stars of the show at Parque Los Fundadores are the sculptures. You have probably seen photos of the Portal Maya, a 52.5-foot-high arch sculpture of a man and woman in bronze. It’s the perfect frame for a photo with the ocean behind it.

The Parque Los Fundadores is also where you will find the famous Playa del Carmen sign!

Playa Del Carmen Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen
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Take A Food Tour
Playa Del Carmen Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen
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15. Take A Food Tour

If you want to find the best authentic Mexican food in Playa del Carmen, we recommend taking a food tour. If you want to try a variety of Playa’s delicious food, there are several highly rated tours to choose from, each with a different focus.

This highly recommended Walking Food Tour is a fantastic way to try some of the best tacos in town and other street food favorites like tamales and elote. You will get an insider’s view of the food scene and learn about popular dishes and ingredients used in authentic Mexican cuisine. You will also visit places that most tourists will never see while trying some authentic local food.

   Check out this highly recommended Walking Food Tour.

   If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you’re in luck! Check out this highly rated Vegan Food Tour.

   Are you more interested in a cooking class? Take a look at this top rated Cooking Class And Market Tour.

Where To Stay In Playa Del Carmen

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.

Isla Mujeres Hotel Guide, the best hotels in isla mujeres

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.

15 Best Playa Del Carmen Restaurants

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 Mexico Vacation Guide.

What to Pack For Your Mexican Vacation

Check out our Packing List For Beach Vacation!

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. London Boy says:

    Baby I’m coming!

  2. Paris Family says:

    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!

    1. Daniel says:

      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.

  3. Austin S. says:

    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!

    1. Daniel says:

      Hey thanks! We are always updating with additional information as well, so check back often.

  4. Kathleen R. says:

    I’ve never been to Playa del Carmen, but I am definitely putting it on my list after seeing these photos. Looks beautiful.

  5. Joan and Bob says:

    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.

  6. Janelle and Mark says:

    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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