Playa del Carmen is a popular tourist destination on the very tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. In addition to white sand beaches abutting the calm waters of the Caribbean Sea, Playa del Carmen also sits in close proximity to a number of other interesting ecological and cultural sites, which add to its appeal as a vacation spot. Here are the best things to do in Playa del Carmen, Mexico .
1.Bel Air Animal Park
© Bel Air Animal Park
The Bel Air Animal Park is the place to go to better understand the wildlife of the tropical region in which Playa del Carmen is located. A series of ecological paths lead through the venue’s Maya Forest and wind among the animals who live here at the park. One particular highlight of the facility is its aviary, in which more than 300 birds fly freely above visitors’ heads. The Bel Air Animal Park also has several pools, including a children’s wading pool, where families can relax after walking along the trails. Kayaking, snorkeling, and environmental workshops are also available at the park, as are concessions.
Carretera Federal Puerto Juarez- Chetumal KM. 265 Puerto Aventuras, Playa del Carmen 77710, Quintana Roo, Mexico, Phone: 52-98-41-71-03-25
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L’Aquarium is the first modern aquarium to reach the shores of Playa del Carmen. The third largest aquarium in all of Mexico, its 45 distinct exhibits provide homes to more than 200 species of marine life. Like many other aquariums, L’Aquarium has made it its mission to combine entertainment with education about marine conservation and ecological sustainability. In addition to offering an up-close look at the underwater animals of the Maya Riviera, it also aims to mimic their natural environment as closely as possible with special water pumping and filtration systems. L’Aquarium is located at the intersection of 14th Street and the popular Fifth Avenue in the town center.
Calle 14 Nte 148, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77720 Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico, Phone: +52-98-48-79-44-62
3.Co.Cos Culinary School & Catering
© Co.Cos Culinary School & Catering
Co.Cos Culinary School & Catering, whereby the Co.Cos is short for Cocina.Cosmopolitana, is a fun, friendly cooking school where budding chefs can learn to make the most out of the flavors of Playa del Carmen. The school has several different classes, all of which afford students a hands-on way of learning about the techniques and unique ingredients of Mexican cuisine. There are meal-making courses ranging from one to three lessons, appetizer-making classes, and cocktail sessions at the drinking school. Guests can come once or for several sessions to perfect their craft at the school. Co.Cos also provides catering and private chef services.
Av La Gloria, Residencial El Cielo, 77720 Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico, Phone: +52-98-45-93-12-45
4.Dolphinaris Riviera Maya Park
© Dolphinaris Riviera Maya Park
Dolphinaris Riviera Maya Park is a specialist in one-on-one dolphin encounters for children and families. Dolphinaris has a dedicated dolphin park facility where one can both relax in pools and spend time interacting up close with the dolphins. The activities available at the park range in length and contact level—dolphin lovers can take a short 30-minute speed ride with one of these intelligent creatures or spend the entire day learning the ins and outs of how dolphin trainers do their jobs. Alternatively, Dolphinaris offers 2-hour-long programs for swimming with, playing with, hugging, and riding the dolphins inside the facility.
Federal Highway Cancun – Chetumal Km 272, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Phone: +52-99-88-81-30-30
5.Things to Do in Playa del Carmen: Edventure Tours
© Edventure Tours
Edventure Tours provides three bespoke adventure experiences in the beautiful rain forest and on the stunning beaches of the Riviera Maya. The snorkel package covers the cenotes and the underground river, while the zipline excursion adds both ATVing and zip lining through the jungle to the snorkeling. Each of these tours can be enhanced with add-ons like trips to the nearby ruins and snorkeling in a local bay among turtles. Finally, the most comprehensive Xtreme tour package includes every single activity on the Edventure tour roster, all in one day. Lunch and drinks are provided on all tours.
Local #5, Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico, Phone: +52-98-48-71-22-09
6.Exotik Mayan Tours
© Exotik Mayan Tours
Exotik Mayan Tours runs the gamut of interesting excursions through the rich culture and outstanding ecosystems of the Riviera Maya region of Mexico. The company runs its tours in a small group format, and different excursion options can take the groups to ancient Mayan ruins, into the cenotes, up close with animals such as turtles and whale sharks, and even through the jungle at top speeds on an ATV. One unique tour from Exotik is a trip through Mayan culture at Xcaret, a site with several interesting natural settings as well as a night show on the history of Mexico. Exotik Mayan Tours also furnishes catamaran tours to neighboring islands.
Playa del Carmen, Playa del Carmen 77723, Quintana Roo, Mexico, Phone: +5-21-98-41-46-44-24
7.Explora Mexico Riviera Maya
© Explora Mexico Riviera Maya
Explora Mexico Riviera Maya takes tourists to the water on their numerous boat tours in the turquoise blue sea off the coast of Mexico. These private excursions include hotel pickup and transportation to one of the boats in the company’s fleet. Rides on the Caribbean Sea take guests to their marine destination, where they can enjoy fishing, snorkeling, or even swimming with a massive whale shark. Explora Mexico Riviera Maya also offers tours for landlubbers who don’t want to get their feet wet. These tours cover either Mayan ruins or cenotes and caves, and all are led by trained guides.
Calle 38, 13, El Pedregal, 77712 Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico, Phone: +5-21-98-41-19-42-47
, From LA
© Gaston Charo
Gaston Charo is a gem of an art gallery located in an almost secret garden off Playa del Carmen’s Fifth Avenue. Despite being so close to the bustle of one of the town’s main drags, Gaston Charo is hard to miss without knowing that the gallery is there, as it sits in what is known as Marieta’s Garden. The gallery is named after its owner Gaston Charo, an Argentinian artist who now calls Playa del Carmen home. The space embodies a whimsical, enchanted atmosphere with bright colors and unusual pieces. And although it celebrates local art, the collection on display can contain works by more than thirty artists from all over the world at any given time.
Calle Quinta Avenida, Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico, Phone: +52-98-48-79-37-63
Kiteholic are Playa del Carmen’s kite surfing specialists. The company has different camps and clinics that introduce adventure seekers to the art of kite surfing on the smooth waters of the Caribbean Sea. Kiteholic camps are an immersive experience that includes a full week of kite surfing training and dedication to perfecting the craft. Guests can organize their own personal kite surfing clinic that includes accommodation at Kiteholic’s partner hotel, or they can sign up for single lessons or courses during their vacations. Gear rental is included with each package, and safety is ensured by Kiteholic’s experienced kite surfing instructors.
Ave Fuente de la Concordia 24, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, 77710, Phone: +5-21-98-41-36-13-22
10.Things to Do in Playa del Carmen: Local Quickies
© Local Quickies
Local Quickies is a Maya Riviera excursion company that takes pride in its customer focus and commitment to maximizing fun in a safe environment. The company was founded by Captain Quickie himself, who ensures that all of his Local Quickies staff are both incredibly knowledgeable and also treat guests like friends rather than customers. Local Quickies has several different tour packages, with options such as a relaxing sailing trip on a large catamaran, adventures exploring underground cenotes, zip lining, a journey to a traditional Mayan village, a cliff jump, and even a surprise secret stop. All adventures can be modified to be family friendly.
Caleta Xel Ha Local 2, 77782 Puerto Aventuras, Quintana Roo, Mexico, Phone: 98-48-02-85-49
11.ME Dive Center
© ME Dive Center
While other local tour companies take their passengers around on land or above the water’s surface on boats or with snorkeling equipment, ME Dive Center lets newcomers to the Maya Riviera dive deep into the clear waters of the Caribbean. This certified dive center has several different dive course levels to get visitors trained for their scuba adventure. The courses come with various specializations and are complemented by tours through cenotes, the Mesoamerican Reef, and even caves. Those interested in more advanced certifications can take PADI courses, and multi-day dive combos are available for guests who want a more immersive diving experience on their vacations.
Av. 10 Esq. Calle 32, Col. Centro, 77710, Phone: +52-98-41-47-29-77
12.Punta Venado Bike Park, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
© Punta Venado Bike Park
Punto Venado Bike Park is a unique Maya Riviera mountain biking park meant for riders who love taking on all-terrain trails. The park includes 16 miles of trails that wind through both the jungle and the beach. On the paths, cyclists are exposed to the region’s famous cenotes, different species of wildlife, and breathtaking mangroves. The tracks are specially designed to be interesting for advanced riders but also accessible to novices. The park provides convenient on-site bicycle rentals. The Punta Venado Bike Park is also affiliated with the Blue Venado Beach Club, which is located in the same place. While some group or family members are out on the trails, others can relax on the sand and enjoy the facility’s bar and restaurant.
Cancun-Tulum Highway, Km. 278, Solidaridad, 77790, Quintana Roo, Mexico, Phone: +52-99-82-06-31-45
© Quinta Avenida
Quinta Avenida, or Fifth Avenue, is the absolute heart of downtown Playa del Carmen. Located a mere block away from the beach, this 3-mile-long pedestrian street is lined with shops, restaurants, cafes, pharmacies, and many other venues. The shopping outlets along La Quinta range from flea market-style souvenir stalls to large storefronts from familiar US brands. The souvenir stalls sell items like blankets, leather and ceramic goods, and alcohol. Prices are negotiable, and bargaining is expected. Quinta Avenida even has two small shopping malls, Paseo del Carmen and Quinta Alegria, and although it is expanding all the time, retail outlets have even spilled over onto nearby streets such as First and Tenth Avenue.
© Rio Secreto
Rio Secreto, which literally translates as secret river, is a hidden underground river that runs through a large system of caves in Riviera Maya. The river covers 8 miles and has 15 natural openings by which the group of caves can be entered. Because the caves have sunken below ground level, they can be navigated only by kayak or on foot. Rio Secreto was brought to public attention in 2007, and since then, visitors are permitted into 10% of the system on guided tours led by skilled ecologists. The other 90% is closed to the public and meticulously monitored as part of a conservation effort.
Carretera Federal Libre Chetumal – Puerto Juárez Km. 283.5, Ejido Sur, 77712 Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico, Phone: +52-80-08-45-05-29
15.Riviera Elite Yacht Tours
© Riviera Elite Yacht Tours
There is nothing more spectacular than a private tour along the clear blue waters of the Caribbean on a chartered yacht. Riviera Elite provides this exact experience to guests of Playa del Carmen, taking them out on specialized tours that last from three to eight hours. A full deck crew meets passengers’ every need with concierge service. Different packages incorporate varying experiences, such as snorkeling along the sheltered In Ha reef, visits to the Mayan ruins at Tulum, fishing off the boat, and a beach picnic. Every option includes an open bar and snacks, while many also incorporate a full meal service.
Av. Bahia Yanten, Manzana 33, Lot 9, Local 3, Puerto Aventuras, 77733 Solidaridad, Quintana Roo, Mexico, Phone: +5-21-98-41-68-06-32
16.Sun Jaguar, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
© Sun Jaguar
Sun Jaguar is an award-winning gallery and shop with authentic handicrafts that reflect the traditional artistic style of the Mexican Caribbean region of Riviera Maya. The owners of Sun Jaguar tout their products as examples of high-quality and meticulous craftsmanship, a departure from the questionable pieces available at souvenir stalls on the street. The items at the shop include colorful textiles, ponchos, pottery, leather goods, carvings, jewelry, and stoneware. Sun Jaguar uses a fixed price system with straightforward pricing, no haggling required. The outlet boasts that it offers good value and does not engage in price gouging aimed at tourists unfamiliar with the area.
5th Avenue | 4th and 6th Streets, Playa del Carmen 77710, Quintana Roo, Mexico
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17.Xaman Ha Aviary
© Courtesy of Alyson Muse - Fotolia.com
Xaman Ha Aviary is a top destination for bird lovers who come for a visit to Playa del Carmen. Situated on 1.8 hectares of jungle territory near the beach at Playacar Resort, the aviary shows off more than 60 different species of local birds in their natural habitat. Because the sanctuary is a cageless, open space, the birds feel perfectly at home and have space to fly and swim. Among the inhabitants of Xaman Ha are flamingos, linseed birds, and ducks. In addition to the beautiful birds themselves, the aviary also presents examples of interesting rock formations, tropical flora, and cenotes.
Paseo Xaman-ha, Galaxia del Carmen II, 77717 Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo., Mexico, Phone: +52-98-48-77-96-31
18.Xcaret Eco Theme Park
© Xcaret Eco Theme Park
Xcaret Eco Theme Park brings forth all the best of Riviera Maya into one convenient location. With over 50 attractions on its territory, Xcaret sits right on the seashore and combines ecological and cultural activities that focus on the richness of the region. Those interested in Mayan and Mexican culture can explore a Mayan village, a traditional hacienda, a Mexican cemetery, and even local archaeological sites. Nature lovers will enjoy floating along the Paradise River exhibit or visiting the Butterfly Pavilion or Jaguar Island. In addition to its Mexico-themed attractions, the park also has traditional water rides, shopping, and Mexican and international cuisine.
Chetumal-Puerto Juarez Federal Highway, Km. 282. Solidaridad, Quintana Roo, Mexico, Phone: 984-206-0038
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19.Xplor Park, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
© Xplor Park
Xplor Park jam-packs the coolest adventure sports of the Riviera Maya into a single convenient complex. The park specializes in six activities—zip lining, spelunking, land-to-water vehicle rides, rafting, swimming in underground rivers, and the unique hammock splash. All of these adventures take place right in the jungle, not in manmade settings. The Xplor Park territory includes 10 kilometers of driving paths for its vehicles, some of the area’s highest and fastest zip lines, and its own special hammock zipline that lands in water. The park also features an underground cave where guests can swim and raft as they take in the beauty of the surrounding stalactites and stalagmites.
Chetumal-Puerto Juarez Federal Highway, Km. 282. Solidaridad, Quintana Roo, Mexico, Phone: 984-803-4403
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20.Zona Arqueologica Playa del Carmen
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The Zona Arqueologica Playa del Carmen, or Playa del Carmen Archaeological Site, is located in Playacar to the south of Playa del Carmen. This area is the site of an ancient fishing village known as Xamanhá, which translates to water of the north. Xamanhá was one of the first settlements found by the Spanish conquistadors on their arrival to Mexico in the 16th century. The town was composed of eight different sections, each of which included palm and wooden houses and stone temples from the Late Postclassic period. The inhabitants of the village would have sustained themselves by fishing and farming.
Playacar, 77717 Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico
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21.Alltournative Ecoarcheological Adventures
© Alltournative Ecoarcheological Adventures
Alltournative Ecoarcheological Adventures offers an incredibly wide range of tours to interesting sites in the area in and around Playa del Carmen. These excursions specialize in two arenas—the natural world and historical places of interest. Outdoor adventures include morning, day-long, and sunset snorkeling packages as well as visits to places like the Sac-Actun underwater cave system. The more archaeologically oriented experiences highlight beautiful ancient Mayan ruins such as those at Chichen Itza and the Nohoch Muul pyramid. Each expedition is uniquely curated by the staff at Alltournative and includes a traditional meal and necessary amenities like entrance tickets, towels, and water.
Carretera Federal Chetumal-Puerto Juarez KM 287, Lote 13 Sur, Ejido Sur, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico, Phone: +52-98-48-03-99-99
22.Aloha Paddle Club
© Aloha Paddle Club
Aloha Paddle Club is Playa Del Carmen’s one-stop shop for all things stand-up paddle-boarding (also known as SUP). The club takes the full-service concept to the extreme, with packages that include everything one needs to enjoy a fun day of stand-up paddleboarding. This consists of SUP instructions and guidance, equipment rental, complimentary photos, and a sunbed at the facility’s beach club. Beyond the SUP experience, guests can enjoy a shake or smoothie and even a full lunch at the club while they lounge near the water. More advanced SUPers can try a SUP yoga class led by a certified teacher.
C/o INTI Beach Club, Calle 4 Norte, Centro, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico, Phone: +5-21-98-41-64-19-71
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23.Aventuras Mayas, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
© Aventuras Mayas
Aventuras Mayas leads adventure tours on both land and sea in the Riviera Maya, with options in Playa del Carmen, Akumal, and Tulum. Each Aventuras Mayas excursion incorporates a number of activities that fill the entire day with adrenaline and excitement. For example, while their dolphin-focused adventure includes time to swim with dolphins, it also has time allotted for zip lining, exploring an underground river, rappelling, and enjoying a nutritious lunch. Some other adventure themes the company focuses on are ATVing and snorkeling, while some of the expeditions are devoted to highlighting specific ecosystems. In all its adventures, Aventuras Mayas maintains a commitment to sustainability and leaving no ecological footprint.
Carretera Federal Playa del Carmen-Tulum km. 2.5 Col. Ejido Sur, Solidaridad, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, México, Phone: +52-98-48-03-25-51
24.Best Maya Tours
© Best Maya Tours
Best Maya Tours is a Playa del Carmen outdoor excursion company that touts itself as a budget-friendly way to get out to the best hidden spots in the Riviera. Unlike other tour companies that focus largely on snorkeling and adventure sports, Best Maya Tours offers a mix of adventure tours and more relaxing excursion experiences. Destinations include the Coba Monkey Sanctuary, Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve, and Tulum. Every package includes pickup and drop-off, a guided tour with a professional leader, time to enjoy the beautiful outdoors, and a local meal. One especially standout experience provided by Best Maya Tours is their Lazy River Tour, in which guests have the chance to float down the calm waters of the Muyil River.
Calle 10 Norte entre 100 y 105 Av. Playa del Carmen LT 13 MZNA 159 CP 77712, Phone: +52-98-41-49-42-58
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25.Chichen Itza Private Tours
© Chichen Itza Private Tours
Chichen Itza is the most famous Mayan archaeological ruin in the region near Playa del Carmen and the second most-visited site of its kind in the whole country of Mexico. Chichen Itza Private Tours takes its passengers on private, guided tours that begin at this stunning example of ancient architecture—the company insists on an early morning visit to the site in order to beat the crowds. The tour then continues with a relaxing dip in cenote waters and a delicious buffet lunch. Finally, the day culminates with a drive to Valladolid, a small town with many beautiful Spanish colonial buildings. This tour is all-inclusive and provides a comprehensive look at the region, all in a single day.
Ave. 20 Norte Esquina calle 44, Colonial Zazil Ha, Playa Del Carmen, Quintana Roo 77710, Phone: 984-134-4882
25 Best Things to Do in Playa del Carmen
- Bel Air Animal Park, Photo: Bel Air Animal Park
- L' Aquarium, Photo: Courtesy of gpointstudio - Fotolia.com
- Co.Cos Culinary School & Catering, Photo: Co.Cos Culinary School & Catering
- Dolphinaris Riviera Maya Park, Photo: Dolphinaris Riviera Maya Park
- Things to Do in Playa del Carmen: Edventure Tours, Photo: Edventure Tours
- Exotik Mayan Tours, Photo: Exotik Mayan Tours
- Explora Mexico Riviera Maya, Photo: Explora Mexico Riviera Maya
- Gaston Charo, Photo: Gaston Charo
- Kiteholic, Photo: Kiteholic
- Things to Do in Playa del Carmen: Local Quickies, Photo: Local Quickies
- ME Dive Center, Photo: ME Dive Center
- Punta Venado Bike Park, Playa del Carmen, Mexico, Photo: Punta Venado Bike Park
- Quinta Avenida, Photo: Quinta Avenida
- Rio Secreto, Photo: Rio Secreto
- Riviera Elite Yacht Tours, Photo: Riviera Elite Yacht Tours
- Sun Jaguar, Playa del Carmen, Mexico, Photo: Sun Jaguar
- Xaman Ha Aviary, Photo: Courtesy of Alyson Muse - Fotolia.com
- Xcaret Eco Theme Park, Photo: Xcaret Eco Theme Park
- Xplor Park, Playa del Carmen, Mexico, Photo: Xplor Park
- Zona Arqueologica Playa del Carmen, Photo: Courtesy of max - Fotolia.com
- Alltournative Ecoarcheological Adventures, Photo: Alltournative Ecoarcheological Adventures
- Aloha Paddle Club, Photo: Aloha Paddle Club
- Aventuras Mayas, Playa del Carmen, Mexico, Photo: Aventuras Mayas
- Best Maya Tours, Photo: Best Maya Tours
- Chichen Itza Private Tours, Photo: Chichen Itza Private Tours
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Andrew Kazmierski - Fotolia.com