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Playa Del Carmen Visitors Guide

How to Get There, Things to Do & More

Updated May 2022

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

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”.

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?

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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.

Best Time 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 & Around

There are a few ways to get to Playa del Carmen and around the city. Note that some larger hotels in Playa provide free airport transportation to town, so check ahead.

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By Flight & Shuttle

There is currently no international airport in Playa Del Carmen so visitors must first fly to Cancun and then travel 1 – 1.5 hours overland to reach Playa Del Carmen.

  Search for great deals on flights to Cancun here.

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. You can easily book ground transportation from the Cancun airport to your Playa del Carmen hotel here.

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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 at the Cancun airport. We recommend booking your car here for the best prices.

Book a car for pick up at the Cancun airport here.

Book a car for pick up in Playa Del Carmen here.

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By Taxi

If you want to take a taxi to Playa del Carmen, they are everywhere in Cancun and will take you straight to your accommodation in Playa. Be sure to discuss the prices in advance of taking the ride so you don’t get overcharged. Taxi’s from Cancun to Playa del Carmen are convenient but can be quite expensive. Taxis in Playa are an easy way to get around. Flag them down on the road or have your hotel call one for you.

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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.

Cancun Travel Guide: The Best Things To Do In Cancun

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

Driving From Cancun
Driving From Cancun

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
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1. Experience The Adventure Parks

About 20 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.

  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.

2
Visit A Cenote
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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.

  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
Enjoy The Nightlife
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3. 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. 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.

4
Get Out On The Water
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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.

5
Have A Beach Day
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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.

6
Take A Day Trip To Chichen Itza
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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 adult or $5 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
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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.

8
Explore The Tulum Mayan Ruins
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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. Don’t forget to bring your swimwear and hit the gorgeous beach, only accessible from the site.

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.

  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.

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.

15 Best Hotels In Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

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 Mexico Vacation Guide.

What To Pack For Your Mexican Vacation

Check out our guide for what to pack for your Mexico vacation!

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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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