Located by the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and only an hour from Cancun, Playa del Carmen is more than just its pristine sandy beaches and sunny skies.

There’s a wealth of activities you can enjoy here as well as interesting places to visit, including ‘secret ones’.

From quaint islands to swimming with sea turtles, enjoying water-sports to discovering hidden gems — here are some of the best things to do in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.

11 Best Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

playa del carmen

1. Relax at a Playa del Carmen beach

playa del carmen beach

There is no shortage of sand, sea, and sun in this town, and hanging out by the beach definitely tops the list of things to do here.

You can be in one of the many beach clubs or resorts lining the waterfront to take in the local beach culture or enjoy some quiet time in the more remote beaches such as Akumal and Tulum.

The beaches of Playa del Carmen are quite tourist-friendly, with amenities and facilities to make your stay more comfortable.

Unlike in most places in Mexico, the beaches here are open to the public even if they’re part of a resort or hotel. You only need to pay a fee to rent lounge chairs or umbrellas.

Spend the morning or afternoon on any of these beaches, as it’s one of the best things to do in Playa del Carmen to take in its local culture.

2. Try Kite Surfing and Paddle Boarding

kitesurfing playa del carmen

If you’re already on the brach especially in the afternoon, one of the more popular activities to do in Playa del Carmen is kite surfing and paddleboarding.

If you haven’t tried any of these, now is the time to do so. Once you hit the shores, you’ll soon find out that kite surfing and paddle boarding are almost a way of life here.

Young and old, newbie or pro will either have a kite or paddleboard waiting for their turn to flex their skills in these fun activities.

There are a lot of kite surfing and paddleboarding instructors in the area as well as shops that rent gears so be on the lookout for them and give it a try.

3. Volunteer at SOS el Arca

If you’re staying longer than just a few days in Playa del Carmen and happen to be there on a weekend, here’s a unique and fulfilling activity for you especially if you’re a dog lover: Volunteer at SOS el Arca.

This is an animal shelter that focuses on rescuing, rehabilitating, and finding forever homes for street and pound dogs.

SOS el Arca is a non-profit, no-kill animal shelter that relies on volunteers to help maintain the shelter and provide care for the animals.

Spending several hours or even an entire day here is perhaps one of the most fulfilling activities to do on Playa del Carmen on weekends.

Volunteers at SOS el Arca can help with cleaning the shelter, feeding the animals, giving them baths, walking their adorable furry residents, or playing with them.

4. Get in the famous water of Playa Del Carmen

playa del carmen

If you’re getting bored just laying on the sand or perfecting your tan, there are lots of fun things you can do while in a Playa del Carmen beach.

How about an excursion in the water? Not everyone has the patience to learn a new watersport, but it’s quite easy to put on a few gears and snorkel, jump on a boat, or hon on a jet ski.

Explore a bit of of the marine life, or enjoy a short cruise around for a different but still scenic perspective of the waterfront while on a boat or a jetski.

This is surely one of the best things to do in Playa del Carmen and a convenient one as there are shops by the beachfront that offers equipment rentals.

5. Take a day trip to Cozumel

CozumelP unta Sur View

How about a quick and easy island tour?

One of the best places to see in Playa del Carmen is the nearby island of Cozumel, with its diverse and rich marine life and an island that best toured on a scooter.

The island is easily accessible via ferry from Playa del Carmen, as there are regular trips throughout the day.

In Cozumel, you can rent a Vespa to explore the pretty island, or snorkeling gear to go underwater and see colorful marine life at the Palancar reef.

6. Visit Xpu-Ha Beach

xpu-ha beach

You can’t possibly have enough beach time in Playa del Carmen as there’s more to explore.

If you want to be somewhere secluded but not completely remote, a short ride (rent a cat or ride the collectivo minibus) takes you to Xpu-Ha.

Here, you’ll get to walk on the seemingly endless pristine white sand, and take a dip on the crystalline waters without the huge crowd. Xpu-Ha beach charges an entrance fee but you can get that back if you reach the minimum spend at one of the beach clubs in the area.

These beach clubs rent towels, lounge chairs, and umbrellas but you can always bring your own, choose your spot on the sun, and enjoy.

You can learn more about Xpu-ha Beach here. 

7. Explore the Mayan ruins

chichen itza mexico
Chichen Itza

Before the Spaniards, the first inhabitants of the Yucatan peninsula are the Mayans.

Their rich ancient culture, art, and architecture continue to influence the region even up to this day. The architecture is especially noteworthy, as much of what they built are still seen today.

Among the most fascinating places to see while in Playa del Carmen are the Mayan Ruins, with some of the sites just hours away. Some of the Mayan sites you can visit from Playa del Carmen are the most popular Chichen Itza, the Tulum Ruins, and the Coba Ruins.

8. Go for a cenote swim

Cenote Azul Bacalar
Cenote Azul, Bacalar

There are about a thousand natural sinkholes or cenotes around the Yucatan peninsula and within Quintana Roo, and a dip in one of these is a great way to beat the hear.

The cenotes are also located in the peninsula’s amazing underground cave system so it’s quite a unique Playa Del Carmen attraction that you simply must try.

In ancient times, the Mayans thought of these cenotes as sacred sites bit today, they’re among the most popular places to be especially during summer.

If you have no idea where to go, check out the Cenote Azul, Cristalino, and Jardin del Eden, all close to Playa del Carmen.

9. Swim with sea turtles in Akumal

Sea Turtles Akumal

Just outside of Playa del Carmen is the quaint town of Akumal.

This place is known for its sea turtle population as well as the opportunity to swim along with these beautiful endangered species. Pack your snorkel gear, drive up here and then just get in the water.

Or maybe not yet. Akumal on its own is a quaint, picturesque town so before you meet the turtles, a stroll around its streets should be a good warm-up.

One of the best activities to do in Playa del Carmen, a visit to Akumal and bonding with sea turtles should be part of your itinerary.

10. Río Secreto

Río Secreto

Roughly translating to ‘secret river’, Rio Secreto was only discovered less than a decade ago.

This is a majestic cave system with stunning blue-green waters, abd breathtaking stalagmites, and stalactites.

This underground river os one of the most beautiful sights you’ll ever see, and one of the best Playa del Carmen attractions. Pack your swimsuit and snorkeling gear and spend hours exploring this hidden gem.

11. Check Out the Frida Kahlo Museum

Frida Kahlo Museum

Easily among the most popular (and a definite must) in Playa del Carmen is a visit to the Frida Kahlo museum.

This stylish place is conveniently located in La Quinta and is open every day. This is a great way to introduce you to Mexican art and a bit of recent history.

Check out the exhibits and displays that depict the life and works of one of Mexico’s most famous portrait artists, and learn a bit more about the country’s culture as seen in some of the artworks.

This is one of the top attractions in Playa del Carmen and a very interesting one as well so be sure to pay a visit.

So, that’s our list of the best things to do in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I hope this helps if you’re planning a trip to this beautiful town. Do you have any other suggestions? Let us know in the comments below!

About Author

Hola! Que tal? I'm Christine, a Filipina but in love with Mexico. I used to live in Central America and Mexico is my favorite. Love tacos, tequila, and margarita.

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