Playa del Carmen is one of the fastest growing cities in Mexico. Once a small fishing village, Playa is now host to expats, retirees, digital nomads, and tourists. Anyone could understand why, with the sparkling waters of the Caribbean sea, food to die for, a perfect balance between city life and nature… Playa del Carmen (PDC) has it all. Keep reading to see all of the top things to do while vacationing or living in PDC.
By Courtney, creator of whatmakesyoufeelalive.net.
1. Visit a cenote
Cenotes are an amazing and unique part of the Yucatan peninsula. They are natural sinkholes, with waters rich in minerals that will leave your skin glowing. Cenotes are fed by rain and groundwater and surrounded by the lush vegetation of the jungle.
Options for visiting a cenote from Playa del Carmen (PDC) include: traveling north to the Ruta de Cenotes, traveling to Tulum (there are plenty of cenotes between Tulum and PDC), and traveling west of Tulum.
Ruta de Cenotes
The Ruta de Cenotes, a long road of cenotes, is about 30 minutes north of Playa del Carmen. The cenotes closer to the beginning of the road will have a more touristy feel. The further down the road you go, the more private and wild you can expect the cenotes to be. Cenote entrance is usually 300-500 pesos ($15-$25 USD).
To get there, you will need to rent a car or have a friend with one. It is also possible to book a cenote tour, but you will be in a large group and I think this will prevent you from enjoying the nature and calmness of the cenote.
I went to Cenote Luna y Sol which was very touristy and featured a petting zoo and a historic museum. There was also a zipline you could ride and drop over the water. I would recommend this for families with children, but I did not enjoy it as much as other cenotes.
A little further down the road is Cenote Popol Vuh (highly recommend!). There is a snack bar that offers beverages, hammocks, and swings to hang out in the water as well as picnic tables to hang out outside the water.
West of Tulum, in the town of Coba, is Cenote Choo-Ha. Choo-Ha is a covered cenote, you will have to take a flight of spiral stairs that go underground. This was by far the most amazing cenote! Highly recommend it.
Tip: Combine the ruins of Coba and a cenote for one epic day!
2. Spend the day at a beach club
Playa del Carmen has no shortage of beach clubs. Lido Beach Club is my personal favorite. They offer vegan and vegetarian meals, cocktails, beers and wines, and beach loungers (at an additional charge). Meet up with friends or enjoy a good book on the beach while sipping a mojito! Life is good.
3. Stroll Down 5th Avenue
5th avenue is the busiest street in Playa del Carmen. Full of vendors, food, tourists, and locals, this street will make you feel alive. Make sure to keep your wallet close or in a zipped pocket. Vendors will approach you trying to sell you jewelry or clothes, if not interested just respond “No gracias.”
4. Spend a weekend snorkeling in Cozumel
Cozumel is a beautiful island you can get to very easily from Playa del Carmen. Simply catch the ferry in PDC and take a 30-minute ferry ride to Cozumel. Round trip tickets are $25 USD.
Cozumel is the best place to snorkel! With no shortage of beach clubs, everyone is sure to find their paradise. Playa Tortugas and Playa Uvas are the two beach clubs I recommend. An entry fee is required, $10-$15 USD a person. Snorkeling equipment is included in the entry fee!
Tip: Keep in mind that once you get off the ferry in Cozumel, you will need to either catch a taxi or rent a moped, golf cart, or car to get to a beach club! Boat snorkel tours can also be arranged, but these will be a little more expensive.
5. Find the best happy hour
Playa del Carmen is full of deals, don’t be afraid to search for them! The best happy hour is on 5th Avenue, 2 cocktails for 70 pesos ($5 USD)! Not to mention there was live music as well! Spend some time wandering around PDC, along the way keep your eye out for deals!
6. Eat at Las Quekas
Las Quekas is kind of the Mexican equivalent of fast food–but way better. Here you will find the most affordable quesadillas, and they are ready super fast! There are multiple locations throughout Playa del Carmen. There are a bunch of different filling options. I recommend the peppers and chicken!
7. Enjoy some elote
I can’t tell you where to get it… I can’t tell you how they make it… but I can tell you if you are exploring the streets of Mexico and you see an elote cart… indulge!
Elote is corn on the cob (or in a cup), mayonnaise, chili powder, fresh lime juice, and sprinkled all over with salty Cotija cheese and cilantro. It’s one of Mexico’s many delicious staples.
8. Wander around the Chedraui
Chedraui is the grocery store chain in this part of Mexico. One of the things I enjoy most about traveling is exploring local grocery stores. You never know what you might find.
9. Master the colectivo
Colectivos are 12 passenger white vans that locals use to get around. They have posters in the front that displays the route, however, you can get the driver to stop wherever you want! For example, if you are in Playa del Carmen and want to go to Puerto Morelos, you can hop on any colectivo that says Puerto Morelos or Cancun. The Cancun colectivo will be northbound and you just holler when you want to get off!
To get from PDC to Puerto Morelos is 35 pesos ($1.75). To Cancun, it will cost you around 45-50 pesos ($2.50). Colectivos are by far the cheapest way to get around.
If colectivos are not for you, try taking the bus or a taxi!
10. Visit Coba
An hour and a half from Playa del Carmen, The Coba Ruins are some of the most archeologically important sites on the Yucatan peninsula. You can rent a car or book a tour to get here! Rather than just one ruin, the Coba Mayan ruins are composed of hundreds of thousands of buildings, most still buried in the jungle. Admission is $6.
Tip: I highly recommend paying for a tour guide to teach you about the history of Coba.
There are bicycle rentals at the ruins to get around. Or you could even ride in a bicycle taxi and sit back and relax.
For the perfect day, start with Coba in the morning before it gets too hot. Eat lunch nearby, then head to Cenote Choo-Ha.
11. Take a tour of Chichen Itza
A little further than Coba, Chichen Itza, ancient Mayan ruins, is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Playa del Carmen. Chichen Itza was once the most populous city in the Yucatan peninsula. It’s an incredible experience for those who love history and culture.
Tip: There is not much shade around this ruin so make sure to bring sunscreen and water!
12. Spend a day in Tulum
Tulum is a city south of Playa del Carmen known for its hippie vibes. Enjoy a yoga class, holistic retreat, or delicious organic meal. Take a walk on the white beaches. And make sure to check out the Mayan archaeological site at Tulum National Park!
13. Take a Spanish class
Learning Spanish is the best way to immerse yourself in Mexican culture! I took two lessons a week and was surprised by how much I learned. Locals will have so much more respect for you if you speak in their language–or at least make an effort to!
Check out this article for tips on learning Spanish.
14. Spend a day relaxing in Puerto Morelos
Puerto Morelos is a town 20-30 minutes north of Playa del Carmen. It has a more laid-back vibe, and there are fewer people around! Check out my blog, the top 10 things to do in Puerto Morelos for more information!
15. Rent a motoneta at Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is an island smaller than Cozumel, that you can only get to by ferry from Cancun. First, take the colectivo or a taxi to Cancun. Next, head to the ferry station! Round trip tickets are $25 USD. You could easily spend a weekend here without getting bored.
I rented a moped from Cardenas. It was only a few blocks away from the ferry station and had good prices. If you talk to the employees in Spanish, you will be charged less money for your rental. Oftentimes tourists will be charged more.
Playa del Carmen is the perfect place, whether visiting or moving. A growing hub for digital nomads and expats, there is no shortage of people to meet and good times to be had! Enjoy the beach year-round, travel to local ruins, or spend days swimming in cenotes. Whatever you enjoy, Playa del Carmen has something for everyone.
Written by guest writer: Courtney, creator of whatmakesyoufeelalive.net. Courtney is a lover of travel, nature, and cool people. Her blog is dedicated to sharing the the things that make her feel alive, and helping readers to do more of what they love, and follow their dreams. You can follow Courtney’s adventures on her blog or follow her on Instagram @whatmakesyoufeelalive.
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