21 Best Things To Do in Playa del Carmen

By: Nate Hake

nate travel lemming

There are so many incredible things to do in Playa del Carmen that it can be hard to sort through the options.

Well, I’m here to help. After three months of living here, I’ve had plenty of time to try out many of the awesome activities in this beautiful city, and have come up with this list of the 21 absolute best things to do in Playa del Carmen in order to help you make the most of your trip to this incredible destination on Mexico’s Mayan Riviera.

From the secret beach spots, to where to find unique local dishes and cosy cafes, to the best day trips, I’ve got you covered with an exciting array of things to see in Playa del Carmen. This is one of the best places to visit in Mexico for sure.

Oh, and you’re definitely going to want to try #17 – some people love it and some hate it, but you’ve got to check it out yourself to find out! (also, don’t miss the traveler’s resources at the end of this article). But first…

Getting From Cancun Airport to Playa Del Carmen

You have different options to get from the Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen — either take the bus, rent a car, take a taxi, book a shuttle or hop in private transportation booked prior to arrival.

The fastest, safest, and most comfortable options are to take private transportation to Playa del Carmen, or a shared shuttle (for just $25). Don’t waste your precious holiday time waiting for buses and getting ripped off by cabs. Check out Cancun Airport Transportation, which offers a variety of vehicle options — for solo travellers, couples and groups.

Another option for this trip is eTransfers who offer everything from basic rides to luxury vans to get you from point A to point B.

Here are my top picks for fun things to do in Playa Del Carmen!

1. Take a Dip in a Cenote (one of the most refreshing things to do in Playa del Carmen)

things to do in playa del carmen visit a cenote

Believe it or not, the best places to swim in Playa del Carmen aren’t in the ocean. Ask any local where to take a dip and you’re certain to get the same answer: visit a cenote.

What’s a cenote?

Well, I’m glad you asked. Cenotes are essentially underground swimming holes formed where limestone bedrock gives way to underground rivers and springs.

There are thousands of them in the Yucatan peninsula and visiting one should be at the top of any list of things to do in Playa del Carmen.

There are many cenotes to choose from, but my personal favourite is Cenote Azul. You can visit on your own by taking the “collectivos” that leave for Tulum on Calle 2, you can rent a car to get there (just be sure you have travel insurance covering Mexico), or you can join up as part of a tour. Oh, and if you’re certified, you can even go diving in many of the cenotes!

☞ SEE ALSO: Submerging Into Cenotes – A Cave Dive in Mexico 

2. Explore Chichen Itza

chichen itza best things to do in playa del carmen

Named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza are a spectacular site to behold.

One of the most important archaeological sites in all of Mexico, Chichen Itza is located deep in the jungle, and a bit of a challenge to reach. You can rent a car and make the two-hour drive yourself, or check out any of the many tours from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza.

Pro tip: if you can, get up early and visit the temples before the crowds and the heat set in.

Click here to learn more about the Chichen Itza tour from Playa del Carmen — which is currently offered at a discounted rate.

3. Try Traditional Mayan Food (and Grasshoppers) at La Perla Pixan Cuisine

La Perla Pixan Cuisine best things to do in playa del carmen

Finding authentic local cuisine in Playa del Carmen can be a bit of a challenge, as the tourist zone is filled with imported restaurant chains started by celebrity chefs.

But nestled in the hustle and bustle of La Quinta Avenida (Playa’s main pedestrian drag) is La Perla, a gem of a restaurant that serves up traditional and utterly delicious Mayan food with nightly performances of live music.

Try the traditional tlayuda or, if you’re feeling really adventurous, any of the several dishes made with grasshoppers! Eating authentic Mexican food is one of the best things to do in Playa del Carmen, and Mexico as a whole.

☞ SEE ALSO: Things To Do in Cabo San Lucas – A List of The Top 21

4. Chill Out at Lido’s Beach Club

Lido’s Beach Club in playa del carmen

For a place whose first name literally means “beach,” it can be surprisingly difficult to find a comfortable and affordable stretch of sand. Most of Playa del Carmen’s prime beachfront is consumed by exclusive resorts or beach clubs charging exorbitant prices for the use of a beach chair.

Thank goodness, then, for Lido’s beach club, where there’s no fee for using the beach loungers and no minimum spend. Just pay for whatever you order, and enjoy the comfy green loungers or the swings at the laid-back bar.

Update – you must pay 500 pesos ($23) per chair with an umbrella. However, any food and drinks you order will be subtracted from that amount.

Related Post: For the best neighbourhoods and accommodation options, check out our guide to where to stay in Playa del Carmen.

5. Swim in the Rooftop Pool at Be Playa

Be Playa is the best pool to swim in playa del carmen

One of the most relaxing things to do in Playa del Carmen is to hang out at one of the city’s many rooftop pools. My favorite of the bunch is the pool that sits atop the stylish Be Playa hotel.

You’ll need to spend a minimum of 200 pesos ($9.60) per person to enjoy the pool, but it’s well worth it and that total is still only half the minimum spend at most other rooftop pools in the area. The drinks here are solid and the pool is rarely overcrowded. It’s a great way to beat the heat year-round.

6. Wait in Line at El Fogon

I know what you’re thinking: Why in the world would waiting in line be on a list of the best things to do in Playa del Carmen?

Well, try the food at El Fogon first and then we’ll see if you’re still asking that question.

Easily the most popular restaurant in Playa del Carmen, El Fogon is a Mexican cantina so busy that its main location on Avenue Constituyentes sports a sizeable line every night starting around 7:30 PM. Don’t worry though, the line moves fast, and the wait is well worth it (just ask the many locals who frequent the joint).

7. Take a Day Trip to Xpu Ha

Xpu Ha day trip from playa del carmen mexico best things to do in playa del carmen

There are many incredible beaches just a short ride away from Playa del Carmen Mexico, but my favorite is the secluded beach at Xpu Ha.

You’ll need to either rent a car or take a collectivo minibus to get there, but the journey will reward you with access to a pristine white sand beach with clear water and without the crowds.

There is a 50 pesos ($2.40) entrance fee to the beach. You can get that back if you meet the minimum spend at one of the handful of beach clubs, or you can just bring your own towel and settle in on any of the many wide-open stretches of sand. A visit here is one of the best things to do near Playa del Camen.

☞ SEE ALSO: Things To Do in La Paz – A List of The Top 21

8. Dine in a Cave at Alux Restaurant

things to do in playa del carmen mexico dine in a cave

Right off one of the busiest and most chaotic streets in Playa del Carmen is the understated entrance to the Alux restaurant.

You’ll feel like you’ve left the city behind as you descend into the spectacular underground cavern (complete with its own mini-cenote) that plays host to the restaurant.

If you’re looking to splash out, Alux also offers some of the best fine dining in town with main courses starting at 350 pesos ($16.75).

The food is a bit on the pricey side, and there are better restaurants in Playa, BUT, it’s definitely worth going to Alux for one of their cocktails, or a bottle of wine from their onsite cellar!

9. Check Out the Frida Kahlo Museum

Frida Kahlo Museum in playa del carmen is a great thing to see

One of the most popular things to do in Playa del Carmen is to visit the stylish Frida Kahlo Museum. Conveniently located on La Quinta, the museum is open every day from 10 am to 8 pm and the entrance fee for the general public is around $15 USD.

Inside you’ll find a series of exhibits dedicated to the life and history of Mexico’s famous portrait artist (note that, unfortunately, there usually aren’t original works on display).

10. Try Some Elote

Elote is a local street food dish that is essentially grilled corn covered in a sort of mayonnaise and cayenne pepper paste.

Ok, I realize that doesn’t sound super appetizing but trust me… it is.

You can find elote at street vendor stalls around town for just a dollar or so: the best bet for finding it is on Avenida Juarez around the intersection with Calle 15.

11. Go Salsa Dancing at Zenzi

One of the most fun things to do in Playa del Carmen at night is to get your groove on. And there’s no better place to do that than Zenzi, an upbeat but not-too-crowded joint with live music and a vibrant dance floor. Sundays are usually salsa nights, but check the schedule on to be sure.

Have two left feet? That’s fine, you’ll still love the fun ambiance, affordable prices, and incredible beachside location.

12. Explore the Caverns at Rio Secreto

visit rio secreto on a day trip from playa del carmen

Have you ever been swimming inside a cave before?

Well, if not, you definitely need to check out this unique thing to do in Playa del Carmen.

Located just a few minutes outside the city, Rio Secreto is a complex of five stunning caves that are filled with underground rivers and springs.

You’ll don a wetsuit and join a small guided tour through a cave that includes the incredible experience of swimming inside a pitch-black cave. It’s definitely one of the awesome things to do in Playa del Carmen.

Goats On The Road visited Rio Secreto a few years ago and we still think about how incredible the experience was! The cave truly is stunning and swimming through it is something we’ll never forget. This is definitely one of the things to do in Playa del Carmen that you won’t want to miss. Click here to book your entrance tickets including transportation and lunch.

☞ SEE ALSO: Rio Secreto – Cave Exploration in the Riviera Maya

13. Ride a Jet Ski

hire a jet ski for a fun thing to do in playa del carmen

At at least $50 per hour, it’s not a cheap activity in Playa del Carmen, but renting a jet ski is definitely an exciting way to enjoy the water in and around Playa del Carmen.

You can find vendors renting jet skis along La Quinta Avenida, or book a package tour including jet skis in advance.

14. Stroll the Shops of La Quinta

The main artery of Playa del Carmen is La Quinta (5th Street), which is a vibrant pedestrian street running well over a kilometer parallel to the beach.

La Quinta is lined with hundreds of shops and vendors offering everything from designer handbags and questionable pharmaceuticals to funky trinkets and unique artwork.

Sure, it’s more than a little touristy, but a visit to La Quinta should be on every list of things to do in Playa del Carmen, especially when you branch off onto Calle 38, and make sure to walk 5th ave all the way to Colosio neighbourhood.

Looking for more Mexico posts? See Also:
Things To Do in San Pancho
Things To Do in Puerto Vallarta 
Things To Do in Guanajuato
Places To Visit in Mexico
Travel Guide to Manzanillo Colima
15 Best Coworking Spaces in Playa del Carmen

15. Go Paddleboarding

The Caribbean water in Playa del Carmen is blissfully still, especially during sunrise or right before sunset, which makes it a great place to try out paddleboarding. Paddleboarding rentals or lessons can be arranged through Aloha Paddle Club, starting at around $45 USD.

The location is at the Fusion beach bar, which also makes a great stop for a drink or three (plus, some great live music) after you’ve come back off the water from this awesome activity in Playa del Carmen.

If you’d rather join a small group trip, or book a private one, this experience sets off at sunrise, while this trip takes off at sunset. Both of the tours are through Aloha Paddle Club (above) and offer an instructor/guide and equipment.

16. Party the Night Away at Coco Bongo

party at coco bongo is one of the most fun things to do in playa del carmen

Ok, so it may be a little cliché, but there’s no denying that Coco Bongo is the mainstay of Playa del Carmen’s throbbing nightlife scene.

At over $80 U.S. dollars for a ticket, a night at Coco Bongo doesn’t come cheap.

But your admission includes drinks, a spectacular show featuring rotating acts (this past May saw a Star Wars-themed show), and a night you won’t easily forget (or maybe you will….). Partying at Coco Bongo is one of the most popular things to do in Cancun as well.

17. Try a Marquesita

street food in playa

A marquesita is a local dessert that sort of resembles a crunchy hand-held crepe. The traditional version is served with Nutella and Edam cheese, which makes for quite the unique flavour combination, though you can also get them with peanut butter, cream cheese, chocolate syrup, or a variety of other toppings.

Marquesita are served up by mobile street food vendors, so you may need to keep your eyes open to find one.

The best places to look for them are on Calle 2 and Avenida Juarez around their intersections with Avenida 20. Or, where 38th meets 5th avenue.

18. Escape the Crowds at Punta Esmerelda

Playa del Carmen’s main beaches get crowded quickly, so do like the locals do and head north to the much quieter, much less commercial beaches at Punta Esmerelda. It’s one of my personal favorite places in Playa del Carmen.

You won’t find huge beach clubs here, but you will find a small cenote and some of the best beaches in Playa del Carmen. You can get to Punta Esmerelda by taking a short taxi ride from town, or by walking north along the beach for 45-60 minutes from central Playa.

19. Visit Parque Fundadores

parque fundadores in playa del carmen mexico

Playa del Carmen doesn’t have many traditional points of interest (the city is largely built around tourism), but one of the more interesting places in Playa del Carmen that you can find is in Parque Fundadores.

There, you’ll find the Portal Maya Statue, a gorgeous sculpture depicting two figures rising up to touch each other. You’ll also street vendors selling snacks and wares, as well as the occasional public performance by dancers.

20. Swim With Sea Turtles

Just a short ride south of Playa del Carmen lies the quiet beach outpost of Akumal, one of the best places on the planet to go swimming with sea turtles.

You can access Akumal as part of the many guided tours that offer snorkeling here, or you can take a collectivo south from Playa del Carmen, walk to the beach, and rent your own gear.

You don’t even need a boat to swim with the turtles – you can usually find several just a short distance off the shore. Another option is to join this tour which includes transportation, a guide and equipment.

21. Take a Ferry to Cozumel

visit cozumel on a day trip from playa del carmen

A day trip to Cozumel should be on your agenda!

Hop on a ferry from Playa del Carmen’s main dock and in 30 – 45 minutes, and 250 pesos later, you’ll find yourself whisked away to the island of Cozumel, home to some of the bluest water in this part of Mexico.

There are currently two ferries operating from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel. Winjet runs on “even” days, while Ultramar runs on “odd” days. Visit each of their respective Facebook pages for updated times and prices.

Once in Cozumel, you can enjoy the world-class diving and snorkelling scene (check out Scuba Tony). Or you can rent a car (my favourite: the old VW convertible beetles!) and take a drive around the island, stopping at the many beach clubs that dot the route.

More Activities in Playa del Carmen

There are so many things to do in Playa del Carmen that I had to add a few more to this list!

Dog Walking

Why not give back when you visit Playa Del Carmen? There are some great organizations where you can donate your time and help out by walking dogs — and giving them some much-needed attention.

walking dogs things to do in puerto vallarta
Spend a morning walking the gorgeous rescue dogs in Playa del Carmen

Voluntarios Perrunos shelters dogs and puppies who have been rescued from abuse and/or abandonment. Seeing these sweet dogs and showering them with love is a great way to spend a morning. To learn more about how you can help out, visit the Facebook Page.

Join a Dune Buggy Trip

This jungle buggy and cenote trip is one of the top activities in Playa del Carmen if you’re looking to get off-track and do something a little more adventurous!

day trip from playa del carmen dune buggy

The great thing about the excursion (in my opinion) is that it’s just around 3 – 3.5 hours long, meaning your entire day isn’t taken up, and you’ll still have much of the day left to enjoy the other things to do in Playa del Carmen.

You’ll be picked up directly at your accommodation by an English-speaking driver, and after about a 20-minute ride, you’ll arrive at the Ranch in the jungle.

Put on your protective goggles and bandana (there will be a lot of dust!), easily learn how your dune buggy operates and head off — groups are small.

Bouncing around the dirt road with nothing around but the jungle is so much fun! After speeding along for around 20 minutes, you’ll arrive at the most gorgeous cenote.

best cenotes in playa del carmen

During our trip, only our group was there (6 people total) and no one else. It was such a peaceful place in the jungle and the cenote had incredibly clear water.

Once you’ve cooled off and enjoyed a break, it’s time to do some more driving. Each dune buggy fits 2 people, so you can share the drive.

I loved this day tour from Playa del Carmen and highly recommend it. There are 3 different times per day, we opted for the morning as it was the coolest temperature of the day. Learn more about this fun trip here.

fun things to do in playa del carmen

Explore a Hidden Cenote

Located 8 kilometers into the jungle, this off-track cenote is one of a kind. Meet up with your guide, Guilhem, and descend down into the magical cenote.

All equipment is included, as is transportation to the cenote, food, and drinks. This experience is very highly rated and is one of the top things to do in Playa del Carmen. Find out more here.

Join a Food Tour

For foodies, this experience is a must. Leave the touristy restaurants behind and enjoy some authentic Mexican cuisine! You’ll stop at many different places to sample the foods and some non-alcoholic drinks are included also. Find out more here.

Now You Know What To Do in Playa del Carmen

There’s so much to do in Playa del Carmen that you might feel overwhelmed with all these amazing options, but the truth is that you can’t go wrong with any of the items on this list.

I’ll leave you with a quick tip to help you save some cash during your stay in Playa del Carmen: while many vendors accept US dollars and the ATM on La Quinta even dispense them, the exchange rate you’ll get is likely to be a huge rip-off. So pay with pesos and use the money you’ll save to do a few more things in Playa del Carmen.

Playa del Carmen: Resources & Recommendations

Travel Insurance


There are a lot of adventure activities in this city! Make sure you’re protected with a good travel insurance policy. We use and recommend Safety Wing for travel insurance.

Rent a Car


This is a great place to rent a car! We always book with Expedia because they allow you to cancel for free on most bookings and you’re never charged until you actually pick up your ride.

Book Tours Online

We Recommend Get Your Guide and Viator

There are some really cool tours available. We always like to check on Get Your Guide and Viator because they have so many options and you can choose the best ones based on the best reviews.

Book a Cheap Room

Check out Booking.com deals

For the best deals on short-term hotels, guest houses and hostels, we always use Booking.com. Watch out for last-minute deals!

Top Hotels, Hostels & B&B’s in Playa del Carmen


Playa Centro – rated “Superb” 9.4/10. Just an 8 minute walk to the beach, 2 minute walk to 5th Avenue, while the bus station is just 1km away. The property features a welcoming owner, air-conditioned rooms and common kitchen area. Double rooms here go for around $25/night in the high season. Click here to learn more and book this accommodation.

Casa Seloa – rated “Superb” 9.4/10. This property is located far enough away from the tourist area that you can enjoy peace and quiet, yet it’s just an easy 20 minute walk to the beach, or a quick 5 minute bus ride. Rooms are bright and spacious, and the property offers BBQ facilities and a garden area for relaxing in. Double rooms go for around $30. Click here to learn more and book this casa.


Embarkadero Maya B&B – rated “Superb” 9.4/10. There are a wide variety of rooms here at the perfectly located B&B. Rooms are bright, colourful and in traditional Mexican style. The water is just a 5 minute walk away, while some of the rooms enjoy fantastic views of the sea. The owners are very friendly and there’s an excellent breakfast included. Double rooms start at $52 in the high season. Click here to learn more and book this B&B.

Newport House Playa Boutique Hotel – rated “Exceptional” 9.6/10. This is a top end, chic apartment style accommodation…at affordable pricing. The beach is just a 6 minute walk away, but there’s also a rooftop, outdoor pool. Rooms are equipped with a kitchenette, fridge, microwave and more. Complimentary bikes are available for rent. Don’t miss this boutique! Suites start at around $75Click here to learn more and book this boutique.

Top End

CondoHotel Fabiola – rated “Superb” 9.2/10. This beautiful property offers guests an outdoor pool, hot tub and tastefully decorated rooms. Here you’ll be just a 5 minute walk from the beach and a couple of blocks from 5th Avenue. There are a variety of apartments here offering excellent value at around $100 / night. Click here to learn more and to book this suite.

Like This Article? Pin it!

Xpu Ha beach with text overlay First Timers Guide To Playa Del Carmen Mexico
Popular attractions in Mexico with text overlay 21 Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen
Things to do in Playa Del Carmen with text overlay Mexico Travel Guide


nate travel lemming

Written by

Nate Hake

Nate Hake writes the blog Travel Lemming, which focuses on the world's emerging destinations. Last year he spent a year visiting 43 countries across six continents, which he followed up by spending six months living in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula.

Related Posts

Puerto Vallarta feature image

Best Time to Visit Puerto Vallarta (Weather and Costs)

If you’re planning a trip to Mexico or are considering this destination as your next home base, and are wondering when the best time to visit Puerto Vallarta might be, you’ve come to the right place! This guide takes a look at all the different seasons, as well as a closer look into each month ...
Cenote Kantun Chi feature image

15 Best Day Trips from Playa del Carmen

The Yucatan Peninsula is one of the most magical places on the planet, in my opinion. There’s a beauty and an energy that can’t be found anywhere else, and Playa del Carmen is right in the heart of it. The city itself is incredible, with an almost endless list of things to do, but there ...
cafes and coffee shops playa del carmen feature image

10 Best Cafes in Playa del Carmen (Laptop Friendly)

Playa del Carmen is a gorgeous, fast-growing city in Mexico, right on the Caribbean Sea. It has stunning beaches, a vibrant culture and nightlife, and tons of great spots for digital nomads to work. Here, we’ll highlight some of the best cafes in Playa del Carmen to post up with your laptop. Although there are ...

16 thoughts on “21 Best Things To Do in Playa del Carmen”

  1. Seems like a great place to visit. Super helpful tips, especially for a dissipated person like me. I’ve recently switched to a healthier lifestyle and now I’m training with SportMe running app for my first race and also trying to save some money to get back on my feet with finances.

  2. Surprised you left out the 3D Museum right in Playa. It is a unique place where a 3D artist has painted images on the floor and walls and one can stand and pose within them. A lot of fun yielding unique photos.
    Also Xenses, a theme park that has an unbelievable pueblo (town) where it seems you are walking up, but you are really going down. And other tactile things to do.
    I know they are touristy, but Xel Ha and some of the other natural ecological parks are well worth a visit.
    Again, surprising that your research did not reveal these great places.

  3. We love the cenotes! My Husband and I went on a snorkel tour to Dos Ojos and Casa Cenote and it was fantastic! We got a Gopro camera and captured everything. Although the video is a bit dark and nothing compares to the feeling of being there, it still brings back great memories when we watch it. I would like to thank Chucho from Koox diving for arranging the whole trip to both cenotes. Nate, we will definitely go swim in Cenote Azul as per your recommendation, the next time we visit Playa del Carmen. Thank you for bringing back some great memories. I am going to tell Christian to begin planning our vacation.

  4. Greetings Taylor. I am happy that you had a great time at the cenotes with us. Come again next year and I will make you a special discount for diving and snorkelling. Looking forward to seeing you again.


    Koox Diving

  5. I don’t think I read an activity that WAS in Playa Del Carmen.. It was a great list of things to do nearby, but nothing that I could do without leaving.

  6. Sorry you feel that way Sarah! There are 9 things you can do in PdC itself, plus restaurants to eat at. But you’re right, there are many things to do in the area that requires you to day-trip. Happy travels!

  7. Thank you so much. I am going to Playa del Carmen for a week in 5 days and I just can’t wait, since I read your article. Thanks for you tips on how to save $$$. This is a vacation within a vacation, I am staying 6 months in Acapulco and need a change of scenery, but on a budget. Thanks again!!!

  8. Awesome!! Wow, that’s great that you’re in Acapulco for 6 months – are you escaping winter in the north? Enjoy your trip to PdC and thanks for commeting

  9. More things to do in Playa del Carmen:
    1. Get robbed on the street in broad daylight.
    2. Have your purse/bag snatched by the regular scooter thieves in broad daylight.
    3. Get ripped off by the people pumping your gas because they didn’t zero it out before starting.
    4. Get harrassed every 1 1/2 steps by vendors.
    5. Get ripped off and threatened by a cop. EVERY SINGLE COP IS CORRUPT.
    6. Have hotel staff rifle through your belongings.
    7. Get stopped on the street for the equivalent of “walking while white”.
    8. Get shortchanged at the grocery store or even Walmart because they assume you aren’t familiar with their currency.
    9. Get abducted off the street in broad daylight, driven into the jungle, raped, robbed and dumped…if you’re lucky.
    10. Get abducted off the street in broad daylight, driven into the jungle, raped, robbed, murdered and dumped…if you’re not lucky.

  10. I love Mexico and I love Playa Del Carmen. If you have information/ suggestions about being American and moving there with regards to immigration, etc; I’d love any advice. Thank you.

  11. We are looking to go there with a group of 5. Doesn’t look like Uber is an option. Do you have a number for a private company you suggest?

Comments are closed.