One of the Riviera Maya’s trendiest cities, Playa Del Carmen offers an incredible variety of fun things to do.
Pristine Caribbean beaches, a vibrant party scene, a wealth of historical attractions: there are so many things to do in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, that it is quickly becoming one of the top destinations in Mexico.
Its laid-back, Caribbean atmosphere offers a refreshing contrast to crowded Cancun, and its natural landscape will captivate you, both on land and in the sea.
Explore Mayan ruins, spend a day on the beach, enjoy the lively nightlife and immerse yourself in the authentic Mexican culture.
Take a look at our top 12 best things to do in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, pick your hotel now, and start planning your dream vacation!
Hit the Beach
Surely, one of the main reasons for choosing Playa del Carmen as your holiday destination are its great beaches. The entire Riviera Maya is actually quite popular, along the entire coast of the Yucatan peninsula; each beach club has its unique features for everyone’s needs. If you’re looking for a party atmosphere for instance, check out Mamitas Beach Club for a hip good time, while a place like Inti Beach is perfect for winding down in a holistic, chill tropical vibe. Of course, keep in mind that all beachfronts are public use, so if you’re a low-maintenance type, just grab a towel and soak in the sun, sand and surf.
Visit Mayan Ruins
The entire Yucatàn Peninsula is full of traces of the majestic ancient Mayan civilization, with many amazing archaeological sites within easy visiting distance from Playa del Carmen. The most famous and most widely visited is Chichén Itzà, which makes a great day trip 3 hours away, but the state of Quintana Roo holds many hidden jewels: from Coba to Tulum to Ek Balam, you’ll have spectacular pyramids and ancient temples to explore. Quick tip: bikes are a great way to roam the quaint little towns in the Mexican countryside, so try renting some if you feel adventurous!
Play at an Eco-Adventure park
For a fun-filled experience that is unique to Playa del Carmen, pick one of the “eco-parks” in the area. The 3 biggest and most popular are Xplor, Xcaret, and Xel Ha. While all of them feature a mix of nature, learning and active adventures, each has its own exclusive activities that the whole family will love.
Xplor is ideal for sports lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, with zip lining, off-road jeep rides and underground cave swimming.
Kids of all ages will love Xcaret, the biggest park in the area; it features an aquarium, zoo and aviary, shows throughout the day and night and even a historical Mayan town and cemetery.
Xel Ha park is dedicated to water activities with swimming, snorkeling and water slides.
Experience the Nightlife
Among the countless things to do in Playa Del Carmen, going out for a night on the town is definitely a must! The vibrant, world-class nightlife comes alive downtown, especially around the pedestrian street Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue) and Calle 12 (12th Street).
Stroll down “La Quinta” and take in its pure energy: performers, live music, cafés and street food make for an eclectic mix of entertainment for everybody.
For an excellent party that will keep you engaged all night, you should definitely check out the Coco Bongo nightclub on 12th Street. With a full open bar included in the entry ticket and an endless stream of entertainers, your night is guaranteed to be a memorable one!
Eat authentic Mexican food
You can’t visit Mexico without having your fill of amazing local food, and Playa Del Carmen eateries offer plenty of choices.
Tacos are the most famous and versatile Mexican dish known around the world; locals recommend grabbing some authentic tacos at El Fogon. Don’t be fooled by its rustic appearance, the food is truly delicious and the vibe is super friendly!
If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, try Alux, a unique restaurant built inside an underground cave. Staff is knowledgeable and friendly, the food is tasty and refined, cocktails are on point but the atmosphere is what really seals the deal.
Go to a Cultural Festival
Among the year-round activities in Playa Del Carmen, there are also a number of multi-day special annual events that take place in this vibrant town.
If you’re visiting in springtime, catch a new film or 2 at the Riviera Maya Film Festival, an international festival with world-class movies in a variety of languages. The event is free and showings take place all around the city, so check the schedule and pick your favorites!
November is when the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival is held; this musical event takes place right on Mamitas beach, and is quite popular, so make sure to come early with a blanket and find a good spot on the sand.
Explore a Cenote Cave
The Yucatàn Peninsula is host to an interesting geological phenomenon, also found in other countries such as Croatia, of progressive erosion and collapse of limestone bedrock underground, creating spectacular caves called cenotes and exposing the fresh, crystal-clear groundwater.
Many of these cenotes can be explored by visitors, most with guided tours but some even open to the general public. Climb through the caves, kayak or snorkel in the clear waters, or even dive some of the deepest cenotes if you’re feeling adventurous! Travelers recommend the Rio Secreto itinerary, which also makes for a great rainy day activity since most of the tour is underground.
Watch the Voladores in Parque Los Fundadores
Take an afternoon to stroll through the gorgeous Parque Los Fundadores, located right on the beach and one of the most popular attractions in Playa Del Carmen. Soak in the relaxed vibe, grab a snack and enjoy the performance by the Flyers or Voladores de Papantla, a group of dancers and acrobats that recreate and ancient Mayan ritual.
5 performers climb to the top of a tall pole, to the sound of flutes and drums played on the ground; 4 of them then tie their waists to the pole with rope and throw themselves down, spinning and dancing elegantly, while the fifth remains on top to play the flute.
Attendance is always free, but don’t forget to donate a few pesos to the performers to help keep this tradition and art form alive.
Visit the Nuestra Senora del Carmen Church
This tiny, white-stuccoed chapel is unlike any other Mexican church, first and foremost due to its incredible location on the Caribbean Sea. Its small interior offers a cool, air-conditioned refuge from the bustle of the busy square outside; modern architecture meets tradition, with stained glass windows that offer a view onto the azure ocean.
Nuestra Senora del Carmen Catholic Church is also a popular wedding location, so in addition to regular Sunday services, you may even be able to attend a wedding ceremony! Just make sure to dress appropriately, respecting local customs and religious norms.
Be amazed at the 3D Museum Of Wonders
Unlike any other art museum in the world, this attraction is fully interactive: visitors are actively encouraged to engage with each piece in the 3D Museum of Wonders, as well as take plenty of photos.
These optical illusions originated as sidewalk art, designed by international artist Kurt Wenner with a creative combination of geometry, visual perception, and classical drawing and painting techniques. Suitable for all ages, as well as highly accessible, this museum (which opened in 2016) is great as a rainy-day activity as well as a cool refuge from scorching hot summer days. Guaranteed to be lots of fun for the whole family, and one of the most highly recommended things to do in Playa Del Carmen.
Take a Boat Trip to the Island of Cozumel
Just a quick ferry ride away from the center of Playa Del Carmen is the charming tropical island of Cozumel. World-renowned for its pristine white sand beaches and coral reefs, it’s a great spot for diving and snorkeling, as well as relaxing in the sun.
Cruise ships often stop here, so it can get a bit overrun with tourists on cruise days, but if you make sure to pick any other day you can enjoy the island and its tranquil Caribbean vibe! To get around and reach the best beaches, try renting bikes, scooters or even give hitchhiking a shot – locals are generally very friendly and willing to help!
Swim with Sea Turtles
Who hasn’t ever dreamed of swimming with sea turtles in crystalline Caribbean waters? One of visitors’ favorite things to do around Playa Del Carmen is definitely a short side trip to the quiet little town of Akumal, just 30 minutes south.
Rent some snorkeling gear or bring your own and dive right in: common sightings are Green, Hawksbill and Loggerhead sea turtles, as well as a variety of fish and other sea life. The best spots are just a short swim from the shore, where the turtles come graze on the sea grass covering the seabed. Truly a once in a lifetime experience!
Whether your ideal tropical vacation means cultural sightseeing, adventurous exploring or simply relaxing on the beach, Playa Del Carmen has it all!