Playa del Carmen is a coastal resort town that is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico. It sits by the Riviera Maya strip of Caribbean shoreline on the Yucatan Peninsula. This town is known for its stunning beaches, magnificent coral reefs, lively nightlife, and diverse shopping and dining options. If you choose to visit Playa del Carmen on your vacation, then you will find a vast array of activities and attractions to enjoy during your stay. Here are the 20 best things to do in Playa del Carmen for first-timers.
20. Have a Go at Salsa Dancing at Zenzi
A fun activity to try while you are in Playa del Carmen is salsa dancing, says Goats on the Road. If you want to have fun learning this style of dance, one of the best venues is Zenzi, which is a fun venue with a large dance floor and live music. They hold a couple of salsa nights a week, usually on Thursdays and Saturdays.
19. Visit Punta Esmerelda
Somewhere that you should not miss during your vacation in Playa del Carmen is Punta Esmerelda. Many people can find the vibrant and bustling atmosphere of the resort a little overwhelming. If you prefer a quieter pace and want to get away from the crowds, then Punta Esmerelda is the place for you. Punta Esmerelda is just outside Playa del Carmen, and it has a slower pace. It also boasts quieter and less commercial beaches than the resort’s main strip of coastline. In this picturesque section of the coast, there are no beach clubs or shops, just a pretty beach and a small cenote to enjoy.
18. Take a Ferry Ride to Cozumel
Cozumel is a small island just off the coast of Mexico in the Caribbean Sea, and it is worth taking a day trip to visit this island. You can catch a ferry at the main dock in Playa del Carmen, and you will reach Cozumel in approximately 45 minutes. Once on the island, there are stunning beaches where you can relax or have some fun at one of the many beach clubs. It is also a popular destination for snorkeling and scuba diving.
17. Swim in a Rooftop Pool
In Playa del Carmen, there are many rooftop pools. These offer a chance to swim, enjoy a cocktail, dance to music, and enjoy views across the resort. One of the best rooftop pools in the resort is at the Be Playa Hotel, and it is open to the public for a small fee.
16. Try New Watersports
Playa del Carmen is a fantastic destination if you enjoy watersports or if you want to try a new activity. There are multiple watersports you can try in this resort. Some of the most popular options include jet-skiing, paragliding, paddle boarding, and sea kayaking. There are multiple companies on the shoreline offering rides, tuition, or equipment hire for these activities.
15. Go to the Frida Kahlo Museum
If you are interested in art and culture, then one of the top attractions in Playa del Carmen is the Frida Kahlo Museum. Frida Kahlo is a famous Mexican portrait artist whose work has themes that include nature and sexuality. The museum is dedicated to her life and work, and there are many exhibits to enjoy. However, you should note that the artwork on display is not original pieces by the artist.
14. Try Traditional Mexican Cuisine
Many of the restaurants in Playa del Carmen are either chain restaurants or swanky establishments set up by celebrity chefs. Therefore, finding authentic Mexican cuisine is harder than you may think. One of the best options is to try food from street sellers. One dish to try is elote, which is grilled corn with spiced mayonnaise. If you prefer to dine in a restaurant, then one of the best for Mexican cuisine is La Perla, which specializes in authentic Mayan cuisine, including tlayuda and grasshopper served in many ways. This restaurant also has nightly performances of live music. A further restaurant to try is El Fogan, which is a Mexican cantina on Avenue Constituyentes.
13. Dine in the Alux Cave Restaurant
Although there are many excellent restaurants in Playa del Carmen, Alux Cave Restaurant offers a unique experience. This restaurant is so unusual because it is built inside an underground cave. There are colored lights within the cave that create a mysterious atmosphere, and the cave waterfalls add to the beauty of the setting. After you have eaten your dinner, it is possible to take a tour of the cave, and you might see some bats flying around as the cave is their home. An interesting fact is that Alux is the name given to a supernatural spirit that protects Mexico’s sacred places.
12. Enjoy Some Retail Therapy at La Quinta
If you enjoy shopping while you are on vacation, then the best spot to enjoy a little retail therapy is on La Quinta, which translates as 5th Avenue. It is the main street in Playa del Carmen, and it is lined with shops, bars, and hotels. This street is where you will also find many of the best restaurants in the town, so it is the place to go if you are looking for somewhere to eat. Furthermore, there are street performers to keep you entertained.
11. Go to Parque Fundadores
Also known as the Founding Father Park, Parque Fundadores is a public park that you will find just north of the Cozumel ferry terminal. The park includes a section of the beach where you can relax or take a stroll. For children, there is a playground that will keep them entertained for a while. A significant feature of the park is the Portal Maya statue, which is over 50 feet tall. If you are lucky, you might catch a performance by the Voladores de Papantla, which translates as the Papantla Flyers. This is a show performed by male acrobats who swing by their feet from a 90-foot pole.
10. Take a Sailing Trip
Its coastal location means that visitors to Playa del Carmen have access to beautiful waters, and one of the best ways to appreciate the beauty of the sea fully is to take a sailing trip. There are various sailing trip packages available. These vary in terms of the size of the vessel, the time of day the trip takes place, and the length of the trip. Fun-loving people may prefer the party boats that head out to sea with music, food, and drink. On the other hand, nature lovers may prefer a daytime trip that takes them out in the day and highlights the area’s wildlife.
9. Play a Round of Golf
If you are a golf enthusiast, then Playa del Carmen is a good choice of destination for your vacation as there are multiple golf courses to enjoy. Each of them is in a picturesque setting with views, and they each offer various challenges. Some of the most popular golf courses in Playa del Carmen include the Iberostar Golf Club Playa Paraiso, the Hard Rock Golf Club, the Grand Coral Golf Riviera, and the El Camaleon Mayakoba Golf Club.
8. Interact with Animals at Xcaret
Xcaret is an eco-park that offers a variety of outdoor activities to enjoy. Within the park, visitors can enjoy swimming in a turtle sanctuary and a dolphin aquarium. There is also a beach for relaxing or as a starting point for diving or snorkeling. The park also offers a variety of adventure tours, such as stingray encounters, speedboat rides, shark swims, and interacting with dolphins. There are various dining venues throughout the park, and there are Mayan performances in the evenings.
7. Have Fun at Xplor
Those who enjoy adventurous activities in a stunning setting should spend the day at Xplor. This is an attraction that combines a natural setting with lots of fun activities. There is a hammock ride that ends in a cenote, caves, and caverns to explore, underground river swimming, river rafting, amphibious vehicles, and two circuits of seven zip lines. There is something fun for children aged five or over and for adults of any age.
6. Explore Rio Secreto
To swim outdoors in a beautiful setting, head away from the beach to Rio Secreto, or the Secret River, which is considered one of the prettiest spots on the Yucatan Peninsula. There are both open sections of the river and sections flowing underground through caves, and it is safe to explore all sections of the river. While in the underground caves, you can climb amongst the magical rock formations. The Rio Secreto is surrounded by beautiful landscapes to enjoy.
5. Spend Time on the Beach
US News recommends spending time on the beach during your visit to Playa del Carmen. One of the main reasons that people choose Playa del Carmen as their vacation destination is the beaches. Although most beachside resorts have a stretch of private beach, there are other beaches that you should also visit. Most parts of the beach are very busy, lined with shops, stalls, or cafes, and with watersports available.
4. Enjoy the Vibrant Night Life
There is a vibrant nightlife in Playa del Carmen, so spending time in this resort is not all about relaxing on the beach. There are multiple bars and clubs where you can have a lot of fun. One of the best evening venues is Coco Bongo, which is a cross between a Vegas show and a nightclub. There are various performances from this venue, ranging from music acts to flying acrobats. Some other good nightclubs to visit are La Vaquita and Mandala.
3. Go Swimming with Sea Turtles
A popular activity around the Yucatan Peninsula is swimming with the turtles, as the surrounding waters are home to a variety of species. One of the best places to go swimming with the turtles is Akumal beach, which is just outside the resort. The waters off the shore are a vivid blue-green, and they are home to various species, including Loggerhead, Hawksbill, and Green sea turtles. The turtles are friendly and accustomed to humans swimming alongside them. It is free to swim with the turtles, so it is a nice experience for those who are visiting the resort on a limited budget and want to fill their time with free activities.
2. See the Ancient Mayan Ruins
One of the most popular trips out of Playa del Carmen is to the town of Tulum. This town lies just south of Playa del Carmen, and it was once a small port city. It sits on a cliff edge, so there is a beach to enjoy. Many visitors go for a dip in the sea. In this town, you can visit the Mayan ruins of Tulum. Another place close to Playa del Carmen with Mayan ruins is Cona, where you will find a pyramid that you can climb. The most famous ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula are the Chichen Itza, but these are about two hours from Playa del Carmen. However, there are day trips out to these ruins if you don’t mind traveling. It is worth making the effort and finding the time to see these ruins.
1. Try Cenote Diving or Snorkeling
According to Expert Vagabond, the best thing to do in Playa del Carmen for first-timers is to try cenote diving or snorkeling. A cenote is an underground cave that is filled with water. If you are an experienced scuba diver, you can go scuba diving in these caves with a guide. If not, you can snorkel in the pools around the entrance to the cenotes. There are many cenotes in Playa del Carmen. Some of the best to visit include Gran Cenote, Garden of Eden, Cenote Azul, and Cenote Dos Ojos.