Are you visiting Playa del Carmen, Mexico soon? Wishing you were? After you read this list of the 10 best things to do, you certainly will be!
My kids and I had the chance to stay at Ocean Riviera Paradise resort for a week in February 2018 and we had non-stop fun from the minute we arrived.
Check out the recap video below and then read on for a description of all the best activities to do while in Playa del Carmen.
1. Visit a Mayan ruins site
This is something that has been on my bucket list for years and I'm so glad I finally got to do it!
We visited Chichen Itzá with a guided tour by an archaeologist. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the "New Seven Wonders of the World."
There are other ruins around Playa del Carmen like Tulum and Coba, but we found the Chichen Itzá ruins are surprisingly well preserved, thanks to the Mexican government.
With any ruins site you visit, the crowds and sun can be overwhelming by mid-day to afternoon, so I highly recommend going as early as possible. We left our hotel around 5:30am, but it was well worth it.
2. Take a Colectivo
A "colectivo" is like a group taxi service. It's basically a minivan (usually air-conditioned) that runs from Cancun to Tulum and back.
It can seem overwhelming at first to try to tackle as a tourist, but trust me when I say it's worth the experience alone! Plus it's actually really easy and cheap too.
We took the colectivo from Playa del Carmen to Akumal and it cost us $40 pesos each (about $2.30USD).
3. Swim with sea turtles
Swimming with sea turtles was BY FAR my favorite activity that we did in Playa del Carmen!
We took the colectivo (see above) to Akumal beach, about a 30 minute drive south.
Akumal is a bay full of delicious grasses that the turtles love to graze on. Plus, the reef acts as a barrier to the waves, so the snorkeling is easy and safe.
The number one rule to remember when swimming with sea turtles is to RESPECT them and their space! Do not get too close, try to touch, or in any other way disturb them. They are used to the people, but it is still their home and we are just visitors.
4. Soak up the Mexican sun
Playa del Carmen has beautiful weather year-round so be sure to soak up those glorious rays of sunshine while you can!
The best times to visit (in my opinion) are February, March, and April. The average daytime temperatures range between 83°-88°F and the rainfall is at the lowest from 1.5 inches - 1.8 inches.
If you go between May-August, you are looking at much hotter temperatures, averaging as high as 93°F.
From September-January, you are more likely to have rainy days, with rainfall amounts as high as almost 9 inches.
5. Shop on 5th Avenue
Promise me that if even if you stay at an all-inclusive resort like we did that you will leave the resort and explore the town!
I truly believe that you are not really visiting another country unless you walk around a city, eat at an authentic restaurant (see below) and meet the local people.
Plus shopping in Mexico is an experience you can't miss! All the vendors are vying for your attention - "Señorita!" "Look here, look here!" "Almost free!"
And the price they give you or that is marked is definitely not the final price. It's time to break out those negotiating skills and haggle your way down to a price that you think is better ;)
Oh - and make sure to bring cash (American dollars or pesos) because many of the smaller vendors do not take credit cards.
6. Eat the delicious food
Mmmmmmm....I can still smell the aromas of freshly cooked chicken being grilled up for fajitas, spicy salsa, and elote (corn on the cob) from a street vendor.
When you go to Mexico, make sure you eat at some authentic, local restaurants. If you're in Playa del Carmen, our favorite stop was El Fagon - you can't go wrong with anything on the menu there!
7. Visit a cenote
A cenote (pronounced "seh no tay") is a natural sinkhole where the limestone has given way to reveal the groundwater underneath. These are especially common in the Yucatán Peninsula.
The Mayans believe these are portals to the underworld and would make human sacrifices in the cenote at Chichen Itzá. They would never swim in them for that reason.
However, we did a cenote tour and loved that as a group we held hands and asked for permission (in Mayan) to enter the cenotes, promising that we had only good and pure intentions.
There are many cenotes to choose from in the Yucatán region, with Dos Ojos, Ik Kil, Gran Cenote, Cenote Azul, and Jardin Del Eden being the most popular.
8. Go snorkeling or diving in the ocean
Mexico has beautiful, clear blue water so it would be a shame not to take advantage of that to see the variety of sea life - fish, sting rays, sea turtles, barracuda, and more.
We own our snorkel gear but even if you don't, there are plenty of places from which to rent. A snorkel trip may even be included in your all-inclusive resort!
9. Relax on the beach
Of course, no visit to Playa del Carmen (which literally translated means "Carmen's Beach") would be complete without spending time at the beach!
Dig your toes in the soft, powdery sand, listen to the ocean waves lapping on the shore, and hear the seagulls calling overhead...Don't forget that sunscreen though (reef-safe if you're going in the water) since you don't want your trip ruined by a sunburn.
10. Get active
After laying on the beach, eating guacamole, and washing it down with margaritas, it's time to burn off those calories and get active!
There are many adventure parks in the Cancun/Playa area, but we had so much fun and would highly recommend Xenotes Oasis Maya. Our tour guide was awesome and it included so many activities - we really got our money's worth.
Have you been to Playa del Carmen before? What did you enjoy doing - did I miss anything? If not, which of these would you most want to do? Comment below!