Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
Planning to visit Mexico soon? These are my favorite things to do in Playa del Carmen after living there for 3 months.
Playa del Carmen is a fun beach town on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, part of the Riviera Maya route.
Smaller and less touristy than Cancun, it’s becoming a popular travel destination for people looking for travel experiences that are more substantial than your typical all-inclusive resort.
I spent about 3 months living & working in Playa del Carmen and had a wonderful time. Lately I’ve had quite a few friends asking for advice about Playa — so I wanted to share my favorite things to do there.
Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen
Scuba diving cenotes is by far my favorite thing to do in Playa del Carmen. What’s a cenote you ask? It’s an underground cave filled with fresh water. The Yucatan has tons of them — sinkholes that open up into underground rivers with the clearest water you’ve ever seen.
If you have your PADI scuba license, you can go scuba diving in these caves with a guide. Because there’s daylight near the entrance, a technical cave diving license isn’t required.
Not a diver? No problem. You can also go snorkeling in the cenotes. Cenote Dos Ojos is amazing for both diving & snorkeling. Another good one near Playa del Carmen is called Grand Cenote.
Visit Mayan Ruins
The ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum are located South of Playa del Carmen in the town of Tulum. A must-visit if you’re in the area.
Tulum was once a small but important port city for the Mayans. Along with impressive structures on the edge of a cliff, it has a beach below where you can swim too.
Because Tulum is so popular, it can be crowded unless you arrive early in the morning. Coba is another Mayan site near Playa del Carmen which sees less visitors. You can also climb the pyramids there. Both are only a day trip away from Playa via bus or colectivo taxi.
Need a place to stay in Playa? Click here for great deals on accommodation.
Coco Bongo Nightclub
Playa del Carmen’s nightlife is fun, but not as crazy as Cancun because it’s a smaller town. However it does have one special nightclub called Coco Bongo that’s certainly worth a visit. Part Vegas show, part nightclub, and a bit cheesy — but it’s still one hell of a party.
You’ll see flying acrobats, blockbuster movie characters, and rock-star impersonators take the stage in turns throughout the night while you drink from a giant plastic cup full of alcohol.
Every ticket includes full open bar all night, so take plenty of photos because you probably won’t remember what happened the next day!
Swim With Sea Turtles
Who doesn’t want to swim with sea turtles? I’ve always wanted to, that’s for sure. I got my chance at Akumal beach, about 30 minutes South of Playa del Carmen. The shallow blue-green water here is home to Green, Hawksbill and Loggerhead sea turtles. You can swim with them!
To get to Akumal, the cheapest way is to take a colectivo taxi headed for Tulum from the stand located on Calle 2 Norte between Avenida 15 and 20 in Playa del Carmen. Tell them you want to get off at Akumal.
Then walk down the side road to the beach. Bring your own snorkeling gear, or rent some there, and jump in!
Eat All The Food
Hey, it’s Mexico. Mexican food in the Yucatan is cheap & delicious. There are a few special restaurants in Playa del Carmen I want to share with you. The first is Yo Amo Tacos located on the main drag. These guys make some of the best tacos in town, with a great location for people-watching too.
If you’re looking for something a little more authentic, check out El Fogon. It’s a hangout for local taxi drivers, so you know it has to be good. The place is super basic with plastic chairs and Mexican Idol blaring on the TV, but order 3 or 4 tacos pastor, a cold beer, and you’ll be in heaven.
Boat Trip To Cozumel
Cozumel is a small island off the coast of Playa del Carmen known for it’s pristine beaches. Normally a stop for cruise ships, you can take a 45 minute ferry over on your own from Playa del Carmen for about $13 USD.
An easy & cheap day trip is renting a scooter and driving it around the island where all the best beaches are. Or, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can try hitchhiking around the island instead.
As long as there isn’t a cruise ship in port, you’ll have those white sand beaches to yourself. Plenty of stops on the way for lunch & photos. Jump on the last ferry back to Playa del Carmen around sunset.
Ride A Colectivo
You can’t visit Playa del Carmen without using a colectivo (group taxi). You’ll see these vans cruise down the street picking up locals. It’s an interesting (and confusing) experience if you’ve never tried it before. They stuff as many people as possible into these things, and rides can cost less than $1.
Destinations are written on the windshield, but if you don’t know the names, it won’t make much sense. A good place to start is by grabbing one at the colectivo station on Calle 2 Norte from Playa del Carmen to Akumal beach (mentioned earlier).
Remember to tell the driver where you’re going! It’s cheap, fun, and will push you out of your comfort zone a bit.
More Things To Do In Playa
These certainly aren’t the only cool things to do in Playa del Carmen. But they are my personal favorites. Not only will you have a memorable experience on these adventures, they’re pretty damn cheap too!
Of course lounging on Playa’s beautiful white sand beaches, snorkeling its turquoise water, learning to kite surf, deep sea fishing for your dinner, and much more is possible. ★
Location: Playa Del Carmen, Mexico [Map]
Accommodation: Click Here For Deals in Playa del Carmen
Useful Tips: Need more detailed information or suggestions for visiting Playa del Carmen direct from locals? The town has a good online forum called Playa.info where you can research or ask questions.
Recommended Travel Guide: Lonely Planet Yucatan