Explore Playa del Carmen through its Diverse Attractions and Activities

There are many reasons that Playa del Carmen, once a fishing village, is one of Mexico's most popular vacation destinations. First of all, there are the white sand beaches and turquoise Caribbean Sea. Then there's charming pedestrian walkway 5th Avenue, where visitors can dine, drink, shop and people watch. In addition, Playa del Carmen offers endless activities and attractions. Many people just don't realize how much there is to do in the area.

Did you know that the Yucatan Peninsula sits on underground rivers and caves? Some of them can be accessed by openings on the earth's surface, aka cenotes. Snorkeling and scuba diving in this mysterious underground world is an unforgettable experience.

If you're an ancient history buff, a visit to a Mayan archaeological site is a must.

Spend a day at Xcaret for a Mexican cultural and natural experience, or Xplor to spend the day zip lining, off-roading in the jungle and exploring (Get it?) underground rivers. At Xel-Ha you can snorkel in the "world's largest natural aquarium" and then spend the afternoon sipping on a beer in a hammock.

If you're more the indoor type, book a tour with Playacrawl. They will take you to three of Playa del Carmen's best nightclubs, where you'll get VIP treatment.

Explore Playa del Carmen's natural and manmade wonders through these attractions and activities.

Advertisement has done it again. This bar-hopping tour takes you to three of Playa del Carmen's hottest nightspots. The experience is all-inclusive and provides 5 hours of open bar including bottle service in at least 2 of the 3 clubs. You won't have to wait in line either, because Playacrawl gets VIP access to all the nightclubs. You'll sit at the best tables as well. The hosts are warm and friendly, and know how to get the party started. Playacrawl is great for a night on the town for a couple or a group, or bachelor/bachelorette parties. If you need it, they offer transportation to and from your resort.

Recommended for Playa del Carmen's Best Attractions & Activities because: Playacrawl is a VIP night on the town with the best service, tables and cocktails.

Kristin's expert tip: If you are staying in a resort that isn't right in Playa del Carmen, hire the roundtrip transportation the Playacrawl offers.

Read more about Playacrawl →

Rio Secreto is a natural park located just 3 miles south of Playa del Carmen. During a 3 1/2 hour tour, you'll hike, swim and ride in a boat through flooded underground caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites that formed over thousands of years. The mysterious caves and cenotes that lie below the surface of the Yucatan Peninsula were considered sacred portals to the underworld by the Mayans. The tour is followed by a buffet of regional dishes. This tour is perfect if you want to see some of what's special about the area without leaving the resort for the entire day.

Recommended for Playa del Carmen's Best Attractions & Activities because: Rio Secreto is an underground paradise and the tour doesn't take the entire day.

Kristin's expert tip: This is the tour to book if you don't want to spend an entire day outside of the resort.

Read more about Rio Secreto →

Photo courtesy of SL_Photography/iStock

Another popular Mayan ruin site, Tulum is located a bit closer to Cancun than Chichen Itza, roughly 2 hours south. This is a smaller site and can be seen in about an hour but it's worth the trip simply for the breathtaking views. The Mayans knew good real estate when they saw it and the main pyramid of Tulum sits on a cliff above an amazing beach. Once a major port for the Mayan empire, the ruins site is the main attraction of the growing town. Tulum also boasts a downtown area (Tulum pueblo) and a bohemian "hotel zone" with relaxed cabana and boutique hotels and open-air eateries.

Recommended for Playa del Carmen's Best Attractions & Activities because: If you go it alone, arrive early to beat the tour buses.

Kristin's expert tip: You can either book a tour to see only the ruins of Tulum or you can combine it with a visit to Xel-Ha eco-park to make the most of your sightseeing excursion.

Read more about Tulum →


This eco-park is part of the Grupo Xcaret family (Xcaret, Xplor, Xenotes, Xoximilco, Xenses and Xavage). Xel-Ha boasts the "largest, most beautiful natural aquarium in the world." You can swim in grottos & cenotes (natural sinkholes) and see local marine life, explore Mayan ruins, jump off the Cliff of Courage, cross the floating bridge, ride bikes or fly kites. There are plenty of other activities and exhibits to keep you occupied for the entire day or you can simply spend your time relaxing in the sun or napping in a seaside hammock. Xel-Ha also features a delicious buffet restaurant and a children's area.

Recommended for Playa del Carmen's Best Attractions & Activities because: A visit to Xel-Ha introduces visitors to the natural beauty of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Kristin's expert tip: Combine your tour to Xel-Ha with a stop at the Mayan ruins of Tulum. Tulum can be seen in about an hour, so it won't add much more time to the length of your tour, and it's a great attraction to see.

Read more about Xel-Ha →

The name of these Mayan ruins means "water stirred by wind," probably because the site is located between several lakes. At one point Cob– was a city covering 27 square miles with a population estimated at 55,000. Fewer tourists visit these ruins since they are farther away from Playa del Carmen and Cancun. This affords visitors a wonderful opportunity to explore the giant pyramids in peace. Allow two hours to explore the ruins at leisure. Multi-lingual guides are available for a small fee, and you can rent a bicycle if you'd rather not walk. Visitors are urged to wear comfortable shoes and to bring water and insect repellant. There are several daily buses between Playa del Carmen and Cob–, or you can rent a car and park at the site.

Recommended for Playa del Carmen's Best Attractions & Activities because: Coba is not as busy as Chichen Itza or Tulum, and you can tour the grounds on a bicycle.

Kristin's expert tip: You will appreciate the visit much more if you hire a guide.

Read more about Cobá →


Xplor is a natural eco adventure park located in the Riviera Maya, just south of Playa del Carmen, and is part of the Xcaret family. Activites include 14 zip lines, amphibious vehicles, and underground rivers that feature amazing stalactites and stalagmites created over millions of years. Recover from all the action in the buffet restaurant which features international favorites or the snacks bar which serve yummy juices, smoothies and cookies. Xplor is the place to find safe adventure in Cancun, Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya. Xplor is not for couch potatoes!

Recommended for Playa del Carmen's Best Attractions & Activities because: Xplor let's you explore what is above and below the surface of the Mayan jungle and they serve yummy smoothies.

Kristin's expert tip: Wear water shoes and surfing-type clothes, you are going to get wet!

Read more about Xplor →

Aventuras Mayas was created to show tourists the beauty of the Yucatan Peninsula through tours and excursions. Their motto is "avoid the crowds", guaranteeing that you will never encounter large groups of people during their tours. They are fully dedicated to the development of sustainable tourism in the area. They offer tours to Tulum, the ancient Mayan archaeological site, and zip lining excursions, cenote rappelling, and snorkeling in cenotes and Yal-Ku lagoon in Akumal. Aventuras Mayas has high quality and safety standards and follows strict sustainable practices as well. Aventuras Mayas also offers visits to Cenote Chukum near Valladolid, Yucatan.

Recommended for Playa del Carmen's Best Attractions & Activities because: Aventuras Mayas offers excellent tours that don't have an amusement park feel.

Kristin's expert tip: Try the Snorkel Xtreme package where you'll zip line, repel and snorkel in a cenote and in Yal-Ku lagoon.

Read more about Aventuras Mayas →

Cenote Xperience offers scuba diving tours. You can do what everyone else does, and dive in the ocean, or you can take advantage of owner Nicolas' specialty... cave diving. The Yucatan Peninsula sits on a labyrinth of passageways, tunnels and underground rivers and their surface openings, cenotes. Cenote Xperience will guide you safely through this spectacular world during a tour based on your needs and requirements. You will see stalactites, stalagmites, underwater rock formations and sunlight effects in this breathtaking underground world. Cenote and cave dive prices range from 120 to 220 usd. Snorkeling tours are also available.

Recommended for Playa del Carmen's Best Attractions & Activities because: Cenote Xperience provides more than just a glimpse of the mysterious world that lies below the Yucatan Peninsula.

Kristin's expert tip: Leave all that dive gear at home and rent it from Cenote Xperience.

Read more about Cenote Xperience →

Photo courtesy of Alltournative

This eco-tour company has been offering excursions since 1999. They have four Native Parks in the area in Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Yucatan and Puerto Morelos. Their specialty is adventures that combine doing outdoorsy activities with cultural tours of the local ruins or exploring the jungle or caves in the area. Half-day and full day trips are available. Their tours include visits to Tulum, Ek Balam, Chichen Itza and Coba Mayan ruins, and rappelling, ziplining, swimming in cenotes and snorkeling. Some of their tours also include authentic Mayan ceremonies during visits to Mayan villages.

Recommended for Playa del Carmen's Best Attractions & Activities because: Alltournative offers thrilling tours that don't feel commercial and a chance to experience authentic Mayan culture.

Kristin's expert tip: The Original Coba Maya Encounter is the best choice for a jam packed day of adventure and culture.

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Pronounced "Sh-car-ret", this eco-archaeological park is filled with Mexican and Mayan flavor, color, music, nature and culture. Inside the park there is a butterfly pavilion, an aviary, an aquarium, as well as places where you can view flamingos, manatees, spider monkeys, jaguars and more. If that's not enough, you can also swim with dolphins, float down a lazy river, swim in underground rivers, climb a small Mayan ruin, visit the traditional cemetery, snorkel in the inlet, relax on the beach and more. For kids, visit Children's World aka Mundo de Niños. There are performances throughout the day, but Xcaret's night show, a celebration of Mexican and Mayan history, sport, dance and music, is an unforgettable experience and is not to be missed. The park holds amazing annual events like a Day of the Dead festival and the recreation of an ancient Mayan ocean crossing to the island of Cozumel.

Recommended for Playa del Carmen's Best Attractions & Activities because: Xcaret literally has something for everyone. If you are only going to visit one park, visit this one.

Kristin's expert tip: Stay for the thrilling evening show, Xcaret Mexico Espectacular. It really is spectacular.

Read more about Xcaret →


Meet Kristin Busse

After vacationing in Mexico many times, Kristin decided to move to Cancun "for a year". That was in 2001.

Kristin grew-up in Michigan and studied Communications at Michigan State University....  More About Kristin