Fun Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen (On The Riviera Maya)

Activities in Playa Del Carmen
Things to do in Playa Del Carmen
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Planning to visit Mexico soon? These are my favorite things to do in Playa del Carmen after living here for over a year. Pretty beaches, cenote swimming, Mayan ruins and more.

Playa del Carmen is a fun beach town on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, part of the classic Riviera Maya route down the coast.

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 over a year working and living in Playa del Carmen as a digital nomad.

Lately, friends have been asking for vacation advice about the area — so I wanted to share some my favorite things to do in Playa del Carmen!

Playa Del Carmen Highlights Map

How To Use This Map

Above you’ll find a map of highlights in Playa del Carmen. Click on the top left of the map to find separate layers marking the route and points of interest. You can hide and show different layers, or click icons on the map to see the names of places I mention in this travel guide. “Star” the map to save it to your own Google Maps, or open the map in a new window for a larger version. Enjoy!

Best Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen 2019

1: Cenote Diving/Snorkeling

Cenote Near Playa Del Carmen
Swimming at Cenote Azul

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 license, you can go scuba diving in these caves with a guide. Because there’s daylight near the entrance, a more technical cave diving license isn’t required.

Not a scuba diver? No problem. You can also go snorkeling at most cenotes. Some of my favorite cenotes near Playa del Carmen are:

  • Cenote Dos Ojos
  • Cenote Azul
  • Garden of Eden
  • Gran Cenote

2: Visit Ancient Mayan Ruins

Coba Ruins Pyramid
Coba Mayan Ruins

The ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum are located South of Playa del Carmen in the town of Tulum. Tulum was once a small but important port city that sits on the edge of a cliff, with a beach below where you can swim too.

Because Tulum is so popular, the ruins 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 even still climb the pyramid there too!

Of course, everyone who visits the Yucatan Peninsula wants to check out Mexico’s most famous ruins, Chichen Itza. This site is a bit further away, about 2 hours by car.

3: Playa Del Carmen Nightlife

Coco Bongo Playa Del Carmen
Coco Bongo Nightclub

Playa del Carmen’s nightlife is fun, but not quite as crazy as Cancun. Coco Bongo is one nightclub that I think is 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.

Every ticket includes full open bar all night, so take plenty of photos because you probably won’t remember what happened the next day!

A few other good nightclubs that I recommend are Mandala and La Vaquita (just look for the cow dancing in the street!)

4: Swimming With Sea Turtles

Akumal Sea Turtle
Snorkeling with Sea Turtles at Akumal

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, 30 minutes South of Playa del Carmen.

The shallow blue-green water here is home to Green, Hawksbill and Loggerhead sea turtles that you can swim with.

To visit 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.

From the highway, it’s a 5-minute walk to Akumal Bay. Bring your own snorkeling gear, life jacket or rent some there. Swimming with the turtles is free!

5: Ocean Parasailing

Parasailing Selfie in Mexico
Parasailing Above Playa

Ocean parasailing is a hugely popular activity in Playa Del Carmen, with many boats ready to pull their passengers through the sky over the ocean.

Take off can be quite a bumpy ride, once you’re up in the air paragliding is one of the most serene and peaceful experiences on the busy beaches of Mexico.

As a bonus, parasailing gives you an excellent view of Playa’s coastline from above. Great for photos if you have a waterproof camera! Sometimes they dunk your legs into the ocean for fun…

6: Self-Guided Taco Tour

Taco Restaurant in Playa
El Fogon Tacos are Tasty!

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.

If you’re looking for some authentic tacos, check out El Fogon. Super basic with plastic chairs and Mexican Idol on the TV, but order 3 or 4 tacos pastor with a cold beer, and you’ll be in heaven.

Another great option for tacos is Don Sirloin. Their taco sauces are the best! My favorite is the jalapeno and pineapple one…

Don Sirloin has two locations, one on 10th Avenue between 12th Street and 14th Street and another on Constituyentes Avenue at the corner of 25th Avenue (next to Mega).

7: Salsa Dancing At Zenzi

Zenzi is a beach bar and restaurant, located right off the sand in Playa Del Carmen. While of course the food and drink here are great, the real attraction is salsa dancing!

Every Saturday night a live salsa band plays as guests and visitors join in or simply watch as local dancers show off their best moves on the dance floor.

It’s a great way to start the night off in Playa before heading on to other bars and nightclubs.

8: Boat Trip To Cozumel

Beaches on Cozumel Island
Beautiful Beaches of 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.

9: Parque Fundadores

Parque Fundadores Sculpture
Playa del Carmen’s Parque Fundadores

Parque Fundadores, or the “Founding Fathers Park”, is a public park in Playa del Carmen just north of the Cozumel ferry terminal along the beach with entertainment for the whole family.

While a playground entertains children, adults can take a stroll down the beach and check out the Portal Maya statue, sitting over 50 feet tall.

You might also catch a Papantla Flyer’s (Voladores de Papantla) performance in the park. A spectacular acrobatic show of men swinging from a 90ft pole by their feet! Please remember to tip them too!

10: Ride A Colectivo

Colectivo in Playa Del Carmen
Colectivo Public Taxi Vans

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.

11: Scuba Diving In Playa Del Carmen

Playa del Carmen Scuba Diving
Scuba Diving in Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is a great place to base yourself if you’re a scuba diver. Along with all the cool cenote cave diving areas I mentioned earlier, there are some decent reefs nearby too.

A few of the most popular are Pared Verde Ledge and Tortugas near Playa del Carmen itself, Gorgonians down near Akumal, Palancar Reef and Santa Rosa Wall off the coast of Cozumel.

There are tons of dive shops and schools in and around town, so if you’ve always wanted to get your PADI open water diving certification, Playa del Carmen is a great place to do it!

12: Visit Playa Del Carmen’s Beaches

Mamita's Beach
Best Beaches in Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen’s beaches have been hit be erosion pretty badly over the past few years, and frankly the beaches down in Tulum are a lot nicer, however, you can still find a spot to soak up the sun while enjoying a fruity drink.

Mamitas Beach

One great place to lay out in the sun is Mamitas Beach Club. You can rent lounge chairs with umbrellas, go jet skiing, parasailing, or take a sailboat ride. This is kind of the “party” beach where people go to be seen.

Playacar Beach

Another good beach is in front of Playacar Phase 1 Community. While the gated community is private, the beach is public. Just walk a few minutes South from the Cozumel Ferry Pier. Fewer tourists, more sand, and just a nicer beach. There are no services out there — bring your own food/beverages.

Punta Esmeralda Beach

This is a busy public beach at the far North end of Playa del Carmen, with more locals than tourists. At Punta Esmeralda there’s a limestone sinkhole/cenote that’s connected to the ocean that acts as a protected swimming spot for kids.

13: Walk Playa’s Famous 5th Avenue

Playa del Carmen in the Yucatan
Walking 5th Ave in Playa

You can’t visit Playa del Carmen and miss walking down La Quinta, aka 5th Avenue. It’s the main walking-street lined with all manner of shops, beach bars, and restaurants.

The cobbled-stoned street is where you’ll find most of the city’s nightlife. It’s a lot of fun to find a bar or cafe, sit down, and watch the (sometimes strange) parade of people walk by.

You can spend hours wandering down the street, stopping into touristy shops, cafes, and trying different vegan smoothies. At night, street performers line the sides dressed in costumes, or breakdancing for tips.

14: Relax On A Rooftop Pool

After a busy day exploring the sights of Playa Del Carmen, what better than a cocktail while lounging by the pool.

Unlike many of the rooftop pools in the area, the Be Playa pool champions a laid-back atmosphere and provides a welcome escape from the loud music of the surrounding hotels.

Attracting many locals and expats for this reason, Be Playa’s rooftop is small but cozy and a real treat after a long day. There are even a few tables and chairs that sit in the shallow water.

15: Xpuha Beach Day Trip

South of Playa del Carmen, but before Tulum, there are two great beaches that make for a great day trip away from the larger crowds.

A 20-minute drive will bring you to Xpuha Beach; a stretch of beautiful white sand lies interspersed with beach bars and restaurants.

The beach entry fee is 50 pesos, and you can rent beach chairs, umbrellas, snorkeling equipment, and kayaks here too.

16: Sunbathing At Xcacel Beach

Xcacel Beach from the Sky
Beautiful Xcacel Beach!

A bit further south you’ll find Xcacel, one of my favorite beaches in the Yucatan Peninsula. The ocean is a bit rougher than at Xpuha, but there’s also a freshwater cenote to cool off in.

May-October is sea turtle nesting season, and some areas of the beach may be roped off to protect buried turtle eggs. If you’re a good swimmer, there is some decent snorkeling on the North side of the beach.

The entry fee for this beach is 10 – 20 pesos (for sea turtle protection). This remote beach doesn’t really have many services, although there are bathrooms.

17: Alux Cave Restaurant

Alux Restaurant Playa del Carmen
Restaurant in a Cave?

For an upscale dining experience, check out Alux, the restaurant built inside an underground cave!

Aluxes are supernatural spirits who protect Mexico’s sacred places.

Colored cave lights created a mysterious atmosphere, while waterfalls set the tone for a romantic evening.

After dinner, make sure to ask for a quick cave tour, because the whole complex is MUCH bigger than it first looks! You may even see a bat or two flying around.

18: Frida Kahlo Museum

Frida Kahlo is one of those artists you either know or you don’t. A local icon in Mexico, Frida created portraits and self-portraits inspired by the nature and artifacts of Mexico; mixing realistic images with fantasy.

The Frida Kahlo Museum doesn’t contain any original works of art, but it does embrace the life and works of Frida Kahlo; giving visitors a chance to learn about her controversial art through photos, videos, diagrams, and collages.

Everything is very artistic and colorful, right through to the inevitable tourist gift shop, and it’s worth a visit if only for a little while!

19: Eat Some Street Elote Or Esquite

Elote Corn in Mexico
Mexican Street Corn!

Elote is essentially corn-on-the-cob, roasted on an open grill with a decadent coating of salt, chili powder, butter, lime juice, cotija cheese and mayonnaise.

Esquite is basically the same, only the corn kernels have been removed from the cob, boiled, and are served in a little cup mixed with different ingredients.

The best elote and esquite in Playa del Carmen can be found sold from carts on the main drag of Avenida Benito Juarez — especially in the evenings.

20: Rent A Jet Ski In Playa!

Riding a Jet Ski in Mexico
Racing Jet Skis off Mamita’s Beach!

I’m sure I don’t need to do much convincing here – who doesn’t want to whizz around on a jet ski as part of their holiday? Particularly when the location is as stunning as Playa Del Carmen!

Mamitas beach is probably the best place to rent a jet ski and drive it like you stole it… The flat seas offer a speedy and exhilarating ride, making jet ski hire well worth the cost!

21: Take A Sailing Trip

Sailing in the Ocean
Take a Sailing Trip off the Coast

From booze cruises to full-day sailing tours, the opportunities for getting out on the water are never-ending in Playa Del Carmen.

While the booze cruises are great for spring breakers, I prefer more relaxing trips to coral reefs for snorkeling. For the most romantic option, there’s also sunset sailing catamaran trips.

Another option is to simply rent a smaller sailboat (with a captain) right from the beach (like Mamitas) and cruise around the local reefs and do some snorkeling for an hour or two.

22: Sunrise Stand Up Paddle Boarding

You still haven’t seen the ocean in its true beauty until you do a sunrise paddle board session. The Aloha Paddle Club offers sunrise sessions for mixed groups.

Paddleboarding is available for all levels and abilities, with instructors present to provide guidance to anyone who may need it. An incredible way to appreciate the sunrise!

23: Grab An Acai Or Quinoa Bowl

Bio-Natural is an organic store and vegetarian restaurant, with plenty of vegan offerings and healthy options. It’s extremely popular in Playa.

Their fruit bowls are made fresh from scratch you can be sure that any dietary requirements you have will be taken care of. They also have some awesome cold-pressed juices.

Bio-Natural is worth a visit – particularly for the health-conscious! I often came here for breakfast, choosing the healthy & hearty quinoa bowl with a glass of carrot juice.

Dune Buggy
Cruisin’ Around Mexico!

Getting To Playa Del Carmen

Flying To Cancun

Playa del Carmen has a VERY small airport, but the most economical way is to fly into Cancun and drive down (bus, shuttle, or rental car). Check for Cancun flight deals on Skyscanner and read my guide with tips for finding cheap flights.

Renting A Car In Mexico

The best site to book your car is Discover Car Hire. They search both local and international car rental companies to help you find the best possible price. This is the easiest way to rent a car in Mexico.

Traveling By Bus

The cheapest way to get to Playa del Carmen from Cancun airport is the ADO Bus System. A ticket only costs about $10 USD and the trip takes just over an hour.

Airport Shuttle

There are a bunch of airport shuttle services offering rides from Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen, and they’ll be sure to harass you at the airport exit. In my opinion, they are overpriced and taking the bus is much better. As long as your hotel is in the city itself (so you can walk or take a taxi).

Where To Stay In Playa Del Carmen

Playa has become a popular tourist hub for travelers to base themselves while exploring the Yucatan Peninsula. If you’re wondering where to stay in Playa del Carmen, here are my recommendations depending on your budget.


Best Accommodation In Playa Del Carmen

BUDGET
Hostal MX
MID-RANGE
Reina Roja

FREE AIRBNB COUPON CODE!
Have you ever considered short-term apartment rentals? It’s a great way to save money! Click here to learn how to get $35 off your first booking.

Playa Del Carmen Tips & Advice

  • The best time to visit Playa del Carmen is between October – December. Busy season in the area starts in December and goes on through March. There’s great weather in the winter, but many more tourists too.
  • What happens if you get stuck with a rainy day? Well, you can always go on a Rio Secreto cave tour! Another fun thing to do is visit the 3D Museum Of Wonders.
  • If you’re looking for fun festivals and events in Playa del Carmen, I recommend checking out the Sacred Mayan Journey around the end of May, Semana Santa Holy Week in late March, and Day Of The Dead on November 1st.

If you’re vacationing in Mexico and want something different than Cancun, you really can’t go wrong by basing yourself in Playa del Carmen to explore the best of what the Yucatan Peninsula has to offer. ★

Travel Planning Resources For Playa Del Carmen

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip. Pick up a travel backpack, camera gear, and other useful travel accessories.

Book Your Flight

Find cheap flights on Skyscanner. This is my favorite search engine to find deals on airlines. Also make sure to read how I find the cheapest flights.

Rent A Car

Discover Car Hire is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal. They search both local & international rental companies.

Book Accommodation

Booking.com is my favorite hotel search engine. Or rent apartments from locals on Airbnb. Read more about how I book cheap hotels online.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance.

Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Yucatan
Suggested Reading: The Maya: Ancient Peoples & Places

Enjoy This Post? Pin It!

Best Things to Do In Playa Del Carmen. More at staging-expertvagabond.kinsta.cloud
Best Things to Do In Playa Del Carmen. More at staging-expertvagabond.kinsta.cloud

Have any questions about things to do in Playa del Carmen? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

THANKS FOR READING

Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 9 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel more with crazy stories, photography, and useful tips from my journey.
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64 thoughts on “Fun Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen (On The Riviera Maya)”

  1. staying at the Royal Hideaway at Playacar next week. Any tips on that place good or bad? Is there any place to body surf nearby? Do they have scooter rentals like they do in Cozumel?

    • Hi Robert! I don’t know anything about Royal Hideaway. Playacar has a great beach though.

      There isn’t much surf in this part of Mexico, but occasionally there are some small waves. Tulum is a bit better for bodysurfing.

      Yes, you can rent scooters in Playa del Carmen too.

  2. Hi Matthew,
    Love your travel blog & your wife’s as well! :) We’re a group of 4 adults, who’ll be at Playa del Carmen during Día de Los Muertos / Hanal Pixal. Just wondering, are there any specific events/areas that we can check out?

    Thanks!

  3. This is super helpful and I’d love to pin it but it isn’t working :( It may be an issue on my end, but in case it’s glitching I thought I’d let you know. Thanks again for the great article!

    • Tropical! It gets hot & humid in the summer. This part of Mexico is pretty liberal, so unless you plan to visit tiny Mayan villages, you can wear the same kind of beach clothes you would to other destinations.

  4. We are staying at the rui next week … I stayed at the Royal few times nice … trying something different… good choice…rui palace..?

  5. I just arrived in Playa del Carmen, so this blog post is very useful for me. We already knew we wanted to see Tulum but I had no idea there was another very accessible Mayan ruin nearby. I think I also want to snorkel with sea turtles. Thanks for the hint about the life jacket! I will have to rent one, since it’s not something I would ever carry in my backpack with me.

    The Alux restaurant sounds really cool. Eating in a cave would be amazing. This is my last stop after more than a year of travel, so I think it’s okay if we treat ourselves to something nice to finish this trip.

    Thanks a lot for the excellent guide!

  6. Very helpful, thank you. What about personal guides. People who live there.. to help us get the best deals, see some non touristy stuff, like your site.. do they exist?

  7. I’ve been there last year. Absolutely amazing! I believe that any diver should visit Playa del Carmen. It’s worth it. I have a couple of dives logged into my logbook and I can’t wait to go diving again.

  8. Thank you so much for this info Matthew! We are going for a week this Thanksgiving. I’m taking my 16 year old daughter and wondering what ages are allowed in the clubs? And if it’s even remotely appropriate to take her? I know she would have a great time. When we were in Puerto Vallarta there didn’t seem to be any enforcement of drinking age etc. one shopkeeper told her the drinking age is 12 😂

    • The bigger, fancier clubs have an age limit of 18. Hard alcohol drinking age in Mexico is 18, while it’s 16 for beer and wine. So you could probably bring her to most of the smaller bars.

  9. Great post Matt! Playa Del Carmen is one of my favorites in the Yucatan! We also found it fun just to sit and people watch on the walking street. There is another great hotel on the walking street that is pretty affordable called the Maya Bric. It’s central to the city and beach.

    • Yes! People watching along La Quinta Avenida is always fun. Quite a mix of people traveling to Playa del Carmen… it’s pretty entertaining.

    • Yes it’s fine, just not a ton of room for luggage. Those colectivo vans are mainly used for local transportation, and there isn’t any space for suitcases. Basically there’s no “trunk”, they use all the space for seats.

  10. When leaving these awesome spots and returning to your resort, how do you find your way back? Are there just taxis everywhere and you take one or do you tell your driver to come back? Are the taxi vans everywhere? I don’t want to get stranded lol

    • Hey Sophia, yes there are taxis all over, and collectivo vans along the main roads. You won’t have a problem finding transportation.

  11. How can you have a list of must dos in Playa del Carmen without mentioning the cave restaurant, Alux is a one of a kind experience. Just tell the taxi driver you want to go to the cave restaurant and don’t get nervous when you enter a sketchy industrial area. It is a natural cave so they had to open where they found it.

  12. Oh man i want to go back there – we were in Playa for week last July and I got to scuba dive the reefs off playa, but only got to swim a cenote – will definitely dive them next time. We are heading to the Virgin Islands next and Egypt after that so Mexico will have to wait a while

  13. Hi, is there any recommendations on EITHER XeHa or Xcaret? We are a family of 5 with three teens, and would like to try one, or if you can offer another option that would be much appreciated. Loved the info you provided.

    • Hi, i’ve done both 3 years ago. they are both amazing. Xel ha is all about water. my teen loved it! its also cheaper than Xcaret, think the price is about 89 dollars and its all inclusive. Xcaret is totally different, but wauw, i love it! lots of animals to see, underground river and the best show i ever seen at night! its more expensive than xel ha, but we booked it online and if you payed with mastercard, you could go 2 days. both amazing parks, but with teens i would say xel ha

  14. Hi all is anyone travelling to playa this September, I arrive with my son of 16 years on the 9th, would love some adults to maybe share experiences or to dine with on occasions,

    Kind regards
    Michelle and Declan

  15. The cenotes look amazing! I have been to Coco Bongo when I was in Cancun – it is a crazy fun experience!

  16. Hi
    Looking at heading to Akumal bay over the next couple of days to see the turtles and for a day out of playa. Do you know how much I should pay in a taxi to get there and how much snorkel rental is once I’m there?

    Thanks so much !!!

  17. Hi Matt,

    You mentioned snorkeling at Cenote Dos Ojos, Cenote Azul, Garden of Eden and Gran Cenote. I see on TripAdvisors there are many outfits charging $125 per person which gets expensive. Can my family and I just grab our rental car and find the water holes on our own? Any suggestions for how we can find the specific water holes and are we giving up anything by not having a guide? Thanks so much, David

    • Yes you can! Entrance to cenotes generally costs between 100-200 pesos per person. No tour company needed. Often there are signs for them on the side of the road, and many show up in Google Maps by name.

    • I dont know the name but there is an awesome Cenote tour in Playa very close to Downtown. Was a two hour tour and I think it was 75 a person.

    • The best way to get to know the Riviera Maya is renting a car and drive around, is really easy since is only ne freeway along the coast.

      If you have you car just google the cenote’s name on it and you will be getting there in notime… Per sample, Cenote El Eden is just 20km from Playa del Carmen… Usually those cenotes are manage by local people and charge around $150 PESOS ( be sure to have pesos instead of dollars or euros ) per person.

      I recommend to buy a cheap set of snorkel at WaltMart or any other stores ( Soriana, Comercial Mexicana, Chedraui) since you will be using it a lot on several places.

      Some location are not longer allow to swim with fins since is causing damages to the reef… So you don’t need fins

      Enjoy Playa!!!

  18. Can you suggest an all-inclusive hotel that would be great for a mother-daughter trip? (teenage girls) There are so many great choices but it is hard to know the right one. We have stayed at The Royale and loved it. Unfortunately, you must be 18 and older so we cannot stay with our daughters this time.

    • Any of the AI’s that line up on the Playacar stretch of beach are suitable for any couple, family, or combination. Sandos at the end is very nice and there are Riu’s, Iberostars, Occidentals, etc, in this beach.

      It is a “gated” community, all cars & trucks coming in must pass by the guard stations. Playa Del Carmen town is a quick cab ride or walking distance depending on where along the beach your selected hotel is located.

  19. I will be traveling to playa del carmen this Saturday, February 6-13 as a single and staying at a bed and breakfast just out of town! Is it safe to walk at night?

    • Hey Ingrid! Yes it’s safe to walk around Playa at night. There are occasional stories of theft, but it’s pretty minor.

  20. Hi Matthew! I love reading all of your posts and am super inspired to go see the world for myself now. I was wondering, do you pick up on a lot of languages as you travel more or do you get by with knowing the basics and using books? For instance, after spending those 3 months in Playa del Carmen were you fluent or did your Spanish improve?

    • Nope! They’ll try to charge you for a tour or lifejacket, you don’t need either. You just need snorkeling equipment (bring your own or rent there).

      • Hi! I have some problems with snorkling, is it possible to swim just with swimming glasses there? Would you still see anything?
        Thank you

  21. Been doing some research before heading out..
    Love all of your suggestions. These are experiences are exactly what I’m looking for. I’m not a fan of the crowded tourists attractions, so this guide helped a ton. Thank you!

  22. Wow what a great list, I am visiting Playa Del Carmen in December for the first time and am so excited! I am visiting a friend who runs a hotel so some of the time I will be on my own while he is working so its great to get some ideas of things to do by myself. I wanted to ask if you knew of any good horse riding tours in Playa Del Carmen? My friend and I are experienced so were hoping to find a place that you can have a bit of a gallop rather than the usual trail ride and hopefully ride on the beach! Any advice on this? Thanks Matthew!

    • Hi Lucy,
      I am a fun young woman traveling to Playa Del Carmen for the first time in December, 2015. My friend changed her mind so I will be traveling alone. If you’re interested in meeting up while your friend is working, let me know.
      Timmie

  23. I really enjoyed reading your list! I have been to Mexico numerous times and every time I go, I find something new to see or do. I love the variety of activities, attractions and sights in the Yucatan :)

  24. This is a great list of must do things in Riviera Maya. Most of the top things to do lists represent only the typical made for tourists destinations. We live in Puerto Aventuras, so reading this list makes me feel like feel like you really did your homework. El Fagon (my favorite for over 12 years) and riding the colectivo are great suggestions. Here is a link to some great aerial and underwater video I shot of the area.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyhaK4HJZ8o

  25. Some great photos. I’ll be in Mexico in mid-summer and may be in the area – if so I really want to see some of the Mayan ruins, including Tulum.
    One of the things I never tire of in Mexico is the food and drink, love the stuff.

  26. Those tacos are making me droll as I am in Chiang Mai and craving some REAL mexican! We loved Tulum, we talk about basing ourselves in Mexico next…who knows! The ruins are gorgeous and the beach, amazing. We have been by Coco Bong but never done a night out, maybe next year! Also got to love the collectivos!

  27. While renting a scooter may be cheap, it’s certainly not easy on Cozumel and should only be done by people who are familiar with the island AND by people who are experienced scooter or motorcycle drivers.

    If you have spent anytime whatsoever in the island you know that it is very dangerous for scooter drivers and many unsuspecting tourists have been injured and have even died due to the bad traffic, bad drivers and the road conditions on the island (like loose gravel).

    People think because it’s an island and they are on vacation that they are somehow insulated from the dangers they may face in any other city and they think renting a scooter is a good idea even though they have never been on one and would never ride one in the US or even their own hometown. But the dangers are the same or even more since they are driving on unfamiliar roads.

    I do not agree with this suggestion as a “must do” and think you should revise it ASAP. It is a very dangerous thing to lightly suggest.

    • absolutely a must do if you are a world traveler. If you want to stay “safe” don’t do it. Enjoy life and be safe, look over your shoulder always, whether you are in New Orleans (unsafe) or Playa del Carmen (safe) but enjoy. The U.S. is not the only place to be.

  28. Your ‘Coco Bongo Nightclub’ pics above remind me of the time I spent in Cancun during my spring break(s) when I was in school.

    …or should I say…the parts of it I’m able to remember!

    Want a crazy Mexican adventure? Try Tijuana. Not exactly the safest of destinations but your guaranteed to leave with a few wild stories…

    • The water in those caves is glass-clear. Plus diving in the dark, in a cave, is a surreal experience. If you’re a scuba diver you have to try it once in your lifetime!

  29. This gem in Mexico is a must for tourists to go to. Great shot on the Mayan Ruins, and it looks like you had fun at the Coco Bongo! The food, of course, is something that should be experienced by travelers, Mexican food is just so good. Great post and shots, Matthew! Eager to read more!

    • One of my favorite parts of Mexico is the delicious & cheap food. You can easily go out to eat for every single meal with no regrets.