If you are wondering about the thoughts of a resident of the Riviera Maya to make the perfect plan for your vacations in the Yucatán Peninsula, personally, I prefer Playa del Carmen to Cancun.
I lived there for almost two years and I think that in Playa del Carmen there is a more authentic and relaxed atmosphere.
Playa del Carmen is a mix of places, people, experiences, flavors and activities that will make you always remember this place once you visit it.
It is not just a place to spend your vacations, but a destination to return to whenever possible.
To find out all the things to do and see in Playa del Carmen, let me share some tips for a successful first trip to this destination.
This way you will have plenty of time to discover your favorite places and activities!
This short guide is just a sample to get you started 😉
Follow the parrot!
💁 👀 Things to Do and See in Playa del Carmen
N°1 Walk the 5th Avenue
When it comes to getting to know Playa del Carmen, the 5th Avenue must be your starting point.
The 5th Avenue or La Quinta is the main street that stretches one block away from the beach all along the downtown area.
We’d recommend just walking the whole street from the beginning to its end. It will give you a general vision of the town’s vibe and help you locate the most important places. Then just sit in one of the many coffee shops or bars to watch the colorful, international crowd.
La Quinta is also an excellent place to shop and enjoy letting yourself be carried away by all the offers and sales that you will find in the windows of the different stores. It's the perfect place for a shopping spree.
👉 More information about shopping in the Riviera Maya 🛍️?
Check out our article: Shopping Tours!
La Quinta Avenida is simply the core of the tourist activity in Playa del Carmen.
You'll also find plenty of restaurants, bars, and other entertainment venues where you can create unforgettable memories.
To have a good time with family or friends, Playa del Carmen will be the ideal destination where you will find a place for every plan you can think of. Legendary places like Coco Bongo are located just around the corner of La Quinta.
La Quinta is also always full of performers, so you’ll never get bored. You can spend the whole day there, have a meal in different places, go shopping, and have some fun.
If you have time, pay a visit to the Frida Kahlo Museum, it’s small but interesting and worth your time.
Tired of the crowded streets on 'La Quinta'? Just walk a couple of blocks to the east and you will get to the beach! There you will surely find a spot to breathe and relax.
Playa del Carmen can be proud of having some of the most beautiful beaches in Quintana Roo, to find the one that suits you best, click here!
Spend the Day on the Beach
Playa del Carmen has beautiful beaches and you don’t need to travel away from the town to enjoy a relaxing day.
Depending on your personal preferences, you can find solitary parts without any infrastructure or you can get closer to bars and beach clubs.
The whole town runs along the beach so you can go down to the sea at any point you want, but there are three beaches that stand out in the town area:
- 1. Playacar
Playacar Beach is probably the best beach in town. It’s located in the southern part and you can get to it next to the Cozumel Ferry area and Señor Frogs Bar.
➕ It’s wide, and the waters are shallow.
➖ Not so much infrastructure but really beautiful.
- 2. Mamitas Beach
It is named after the famous beach club located in this same place. Tourist from every corner of the Riviera Maya come here to start the day partying.
In Mamita's Beach Club, there’s also a restaurant on the premises so you don't have to leave the place during the whole day.
➕ Restaurant, loungers, party atmosphere
➖ Very loud music, permanent agitation, drunk people
- 3. Punta Esmeralda Beach
It is located in the north of the town, and you can ask for a taxi to get there if you don’t feel like walking. Because it’s not exactly in the middle of the town, you’ll find more locals than tourists.
It’s an inclusive beach, with a playground area and a small cenote in the center, so families with young kids will love it. You can buy some food and drinks from local vendors, and there are public toilets available.
➕ Cenote, playground, street vendors, public toilets
➖ Far from downtown, you may need a car to get there
If you don't feel like walking there and don't have a car, you should consider takin a cab. It's always impoortant to ask the driver how much he will charge you before starting the trip.
N°3 Take the Ferry to Cozumel
If you want a further trip but don’t feel like driving, you can hop on a ferry to Cozumel and spend the whole day there.
Cozumel Island is located just in front the coast of Playa del Carmen.
Once yoo get off the ferry, you can sit in a bar on the main square or explore the few streets around or take a taxi to one of the beach clubs to spend the day sunbathing.
🐠 Cozumel is located on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-largest coral reef in the world, so any snorkeling tours that you can book in Cozumel are worth your time and money.
🏛️ Are you interested in cultural activities? In learning more about the Mayan civilization and archaeological sites? The ruins of San Gervasio built in honor of the goddess Ixchel will delight you.
👉 For more information click here!
🌿 About ecotourism on the island and family activities, Chankanaab Beach Adventure will be an amazing discovery for you and your kids.
N°4 Visit the Adventure Parks Around Playa
There are seven incredible adventure parks around Playa del Carmen.
Yes, you’ve heard it right: SEVEN 😱
And believe us, spending just a day in each of them is not enough, especially when you know all the activities available.
Below is a brief summary of each park to give you an idea of what to do and see at the theme parks in the Riviera Maya.
If you only have time for one of them, choose Xcaret. You’ll learn about Mexican culture, crafts and arts, fauna and flora, you can swim in an underground river and slide into the ocean.
There’s a spectacular aviary and butterfly sanctuary, and many more animals to see without bars between you and them. Don’t miss the evening shows, they’re worth every penny!
This one is for adrenaline lovers: zip lines, kayaking through caves, and swimming in underground water. You can also get the night ticket and explore the park with torches of fire that will illuminate your way. Not for young kids.
This one is about water. You can swim, float on rafts, zip line into the water, climb ropes and jump off the cliffs. There’s also a huge water slide for the brave ones.
Xenses defies your senses. You will have to test your brain and rediscover the world around you. There’s a street where everything is upside down or a path in absolute darkness.
There are more than 15 different activities available.
Xoximilco imitates a little village next to the capital of Mexico, Xochimilco, the Mexican Venecia.
Get on a Mexican gondola with friends or family, sing, dance, eat, and listen to Mariachi bands.
Xavage is the newest park and more extreme than Explore. Many obstacles will await you during your visit and you’ll have to overcome them in the air, on land, and water. Just for the wild ones.
N°5 Come Comida Local
Playa del Carmen is a touristic place but keeps the good taste in food. There are many traditional eateries, with local dishes and local prices, and I promise you won’t get Montezuma’s revenge 😂.
Our advice: Choose the places that are always full, it is a good indicator to know if they are good restaurants.
For meat lovers,
I strongly recommend you to order tacos al pastor with a cold beer or Jamaica water and discover why everybody loves Mexican food.
Throw in little, grilled onions and quesadillas...
And you’ll be in heaven!
If you are more into seafood, Los Aguachiles is an excellent place to eat very fresh fish and seafood. For those who want to taste an authentic Mexican breakfast, La Cueva del Chango. If you think you know what scrambled eggs are, you haven't tried one of the many Mexican recipes.
If eating on the street doesn't scare you, buy an elote (corn) 🌽 from one of the street vendors, and put mayonnaise, cheese, lime juice, salt, and some chili powder if you dare. You can choose the exquisite version, that is the boiled corn kernels in a cup, with all the ingredients mentioned above.
In the evening, try Marquesitas from the street stalls. These are hard waffle crepes, rolled like a taco and filled in with shredded cheese (my favorite ones!), Nutella, bananas, cream, caramel, etc. Absolutely delicious!
📅 Book Your Vacation in Playa del Carmen
We are sure we have already convinced you to spend your next vacation in Playa del Carmen. Make sure to book your hotel in advance, especially if you’re planning to come in the high season.
You can also opt for an Airbnb apartment and enjoy a more local-like experience.
To learn more about accommodation in Cancun and Riviera Maya, check out our ACCOMMODATION AND LODGING ACCOMMODATION AND LODGING section.