Playa del Carmen occupies a prime part of Caribbean coastline in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Known for its soft white sandy beaches, turquoise waters and bohemian vibes, Playa radiates a relaxed vibe. I’m delighted to have spent the past decade living and running a vacation rental company on these sunny shores. Accordingly I’ve compiled an account of my top ten favorite things to do in Playa del Carmen and the surrounding area.
My Top 10 Favorite Things to do in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
# 1 – Stroll Along 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen
The bohemian pedestrian boulevard famously known as la Quintas Avenida (5th Avenue) spans a key section of Playa del Carmen real estate. Located only 1 block from the beach, this walking street is packed with funky stores and restaurants. I love to go for an evening stroll to take in the sights and admire all the walks of life that converge on this central thoroughfare.
# 2 – Get Away to Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres rests just off the shores of Cancun and shows some of the brightest blue waters around. Isla reminds me of some Carribean key. Usually I rent a golf cart and travel around, exploring each nook and crevice of this island.
Most convenient, I can be at the door of my hotel in only two hours from leaving my home in Playa del Carmen. Also, you can find clean and comfortable accommodations on the beach for less than $100 USD a night like the Hotel Maria Elena.
#3 – Hang Out in Tulum
Tulum serves as my favorite quick escape. The minute we pull onto the main Tulum beach road, we’re greeted with creative and eclectic beach hotels. Next, we pass through this hippie enclave filled with yoga retreats and rustic wood structures and settle at the Zebra hotel and beach club.
I love to order a mezcal mule (like a Moscow mule but with tequila), guacamole and nachos. Then I pick a spot to settle and write on my laptop. Later I’ll take a long stroll with my camera in hand and try to capture the moment. Remarkably, I can be splayed out on the sand in one hour after having left my home in Playa.
#4 – Explore Rio Secreto
Located only 5 minutes outside Playa del Carmen, this underground river astounded me with thousands of stalactites and stalagmites. In a small private group we hiked down to what seemed like the center of the earth. Then with the light of only our headlamps we explored this unique wonder while wading sometimes waist deep in water. However, you should be physically fit and keen on adventure. Please book your half day expedition ahead of time here.
#5 – Swim in Dos Ojos Cenote
This flooded cave system just north of Tulum exemplifies the most stunningly beautiful cenote in the region. A favorite for scuba divers and snorkelers, this subterranean cavern boasts crystal clear waters highlighted by stalactites and stalagmites.
If you are interested in cave diving, I recommend starting with Dos Ojos. Normally you can just show up to swim or snorkel. But to cave dive you should go with a guide. You can learn more about Dos Ojos here.
#6 – Enjoy XPlor
This popular adventure park just south of Playa del Carmen offers lofty zip lines with some aquatic landings. Additionally, you can paddle on rafts through subterranean rivers and drive ATVs through cenotes. I’ve been many times and never seem to tire from the adventure and excitement. Well run and organized, this eco park provides a taste of excitement while lending a piece of the local beauty. You can read more about Xplor here.
#7 – Scuba Dive in Cozumel
One of the largest barrier reefs in the world lies just off the coast of Cozumel. This popular honeymoon destination provides world class scuba diving. The few times I’ve donned my wetsuit, I prefer to plunge into these turquoise shores to partake in the well-preserved reef and diversity of marine life. I suggest you hire Diversity Divers and head east from Playa to Cozumel to explore the underwater kaleidoscope of sea life.
#8 – Snorkel in Puerto Morelos
Puerto Morelos provides one of the best preserved coral reefs in the region. You need to hire a guide to take you to this protected national park. We signed up with the Snorkel Shop and spent a fantastic day discovering the broad diversity of fish and marine creatures. From colorful squid to octopus, I was amazed at the range of animals.
#9 – Soak Up the Sun at Mamitas Beach Club in Playa del Carmen
Mamitas Beach Club sits only a five minute stroll from my home. On days off we like to rent a lounge chair or a big bed and sip margaritas while resting under an umbrella. Sometimes we’ll go for an early breakfast and enjoy vistas of the sapphire waters lapping onto the white sandy shores. Or we’ll jump in the warm Caribbean waters and enjoy the electronic music beating in the background. More information on Mamitas Beach Club can be found here.
#10 – Dine at Alux
Eat dinner in an illuminated underground cave among limestone outcroppings. This unique dining experience merits at least one visit. In fact, I’ve been several times. I not only enjoy the cuisine, I also love to walk around and admire the stalactites and stalagmites. Perfect for a special occasion or for a first visit to Playa, you should not miss this geological and gastronomical phenomenon. You can read more about Alux here.
Do you have any remarks or questions about my top 10 things to do in Playa del Carmen?
Please let me know in the comments!