Cruise Port Tips Mexico 30 Things to Do in Playa del Carmen, Mexico for Cruisers

30 Things to Do in Playa del Carmen, Mexico for Cruisers

Check all these things to do in Playa del Carmen, Mexico for those on a cruise vacation in the Yucatan Peninsular. Covering excursions and beaches too.

One of the best things to do in Cozumel is to grad a ferry across to Playa Del Carmen. The tourist town which is also popular with cruise visitors from the island of Cozumel features pretty beaches, dozens of cenotes, incredible adventure parks, and Mayan ruin sites. Besides these, there are plenty more things to do in Playa Del Carmen and this article lists some of the best ones.

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Getting from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen

The Cozumel ferry terminal is located downtown Cozumel across Palmeras restaurant at Avenue Benito Juarez.

The means of getting to the pier will depend on your cruise ship terminal. There are three cruise terminals in Cozumel and other than Punta Langosta, you need to take a taxi from the cruise terminal to the ferry pier. A taxi ride costs about $6 and takes seven minutes to get to the ferry terminal. On the other hand, cruisers docking at Punta Langosta can walk to the ferry pier as it’s pretty close.

Two ferry companies ferry people to Playa Del Carmen. These are Winjet and Ultramar. Normally, ferries take 45 minutes to cross the channel between the two towns. However, Ultramar has a selection of modern boats that can cross the channel in 20 minutes if the weather is right.

You can get a ferry anytime from 5:45 AM to 10:00 PM on an hourly basis. The ferry pier at Playa Del Carmen is located in downtown Playa just a block and a half from the town square. From this terminal, you can easily walk into town. Here’s another fast ferry service.

How to Move Around

If you have booked excursions, you will be picked at Playa Car which is about a mile and a half from the ferry terminal. You can also check shore excursions you can enjoy during your time in Cozumel right here.

However, if you plan to explore Playa Del Carmen by yourself you can take taxis, rent a car or use a Colectivo to move around. All these means of transport are readily available at the ferry terminal. A Colectivo is a local van that goes around picking people from different stops.

It’s an interesting local experience to have. Though, if you plan to do long-distance activities, you will need a faster means of transport than a colectivo.

1. Swim in a Cenote

Cenotes are freshwater sinkholes found in the jungle. They formed when sea levels dropped and exposed the ancient coral rock that formed the region’s ground. This ground then caved in due to years of erosion from rainwater. Resulting in over 6000 cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula.  Many of these found just a few minute drives from downtown Playa.

At the cenotes, you can snorkel, swim, or scuba dive. The crystal clear water of the cenotes features many geological wonders such as stalactites and stalagmites. Carry your swimsuit and snorkeling gear for this adventure.

The most popular cenote in Playa Del Carmen is the Gran Cenote found near Tulum. It charges an admission fee of $25.

2. Explore a Beach

Playa Del Carmen is dotted with lovely white sandy beaches all along its coastline. Most of which are easily accessible. The nearest of them are found over at Playa Car, a city center located 5 minutes from the ferry terminal.

Find all your beach accessories by clicking here.

Other beaches are found just a little south of 28th street. Smaller beach clubs with beachfront restaurants dominate this area. These beaches exude an electric atmosphere. They are filled with music and it’s common to find people playing beach volleyball. While others engage in water sports.

Being so close to the restaurants means most if not all of the necessary amenities are available. One of the most popular beaches is Mamitas beach found at Mamitas beach club. This is the hippest beach in the town’s beach scene.

Play del Carmen Beach
Photo: Shutterstock

Another popular beach is Akumal beach, which is popularly known for swimming with turtle’s adventures. Other popular beaches include Tulum beaches found on the North coast. These types of beaches are easy to check out if you are going on a ruins excursion in the Tulum region. 

3. Discover 5th Avenue (Calle Quinta Avenida)

This is the main pedestrian street in Playa. It runs parallel to the beach. Locals call it Quinta and it’s a must-experience place in Playa Del Carmen. The touristy street is filled with restaurants, shops, and entertainment spots.

It’s easily accessible from the Cozumel Ferry terminal and winds through the entire town. This is where you go to do sightseeing and shopping.  Shopping stores include Calle Corazon shopping mall on 12th street, H&M, Sephora, Hollister, and bath &body works.

The street is calmer in the early morning hours and a good place to explore or get a coffee without the crowds. Most of the town’s attractions are found from 3rd street to 40th street.

The highlights of this 22 block street include paseo del carmen shopping plaza, Frida Kahlo Museum, and Parque Fundadores found between 1st street and Juarez Avenue.

Towards 16th street you will find the aquarium. Progressing on you will find many coffee shops, cacao companies, street-side restaurants, art galleries, fashion stores and more.

4. Grab a Bite

Exploring Quinta Avenida will work up an appetite. Luckily, there are many restaurants to stop and grab a bite at. Some of the best places to taste Playa Del Carmen’s flavors include:

  • La Fisheria Sea Food restaurant found between 20th-22nd street.
  • El Muelle restaurant, a seafood restaurant found on the corner of the 32nd street.
  • And grilled meat and pasta specialist known as 500 Gramos grill on 34th street.
  • On the same street, you will find Chez Celine, one of the best places to get fresh baked goods.

5. Chill at a Beach Club

Want to experience Playa’s bohemian vibe? Then visit one of its lively beach clubs. Whether you want a buzzing beach club or a serene tropical scenery, there is a beach club for different needs.

Some of the most popular beach clubs include the mamitas beach club, located a short distance south of the ferry terminal on the 28th street. Mamitas is one of the oldest and most popular beach clubs. It has a party atmosphere and can easily get crowded.

It charges roughly $30 for entrance. If you want a quiet beach club, try Inti beach club found between 4th and 6th streets. Inti is a quiet serene tropical beach club. It charges an entrance fee of $25-$30. Other beach clubs in Playa include Canibal royal, Wah Wah beach, Senor frogs, and Zenzi.

6. Lounge at a Rooftop Pool

Playa Del Carmen has a thing for rooftop pools. It boasts of over 8 rooftop pools within the town. Rooftop pools offer great views of the beach and surrounding sceneries. The cooler breeze is welcomed in the hot weather.

If you are planning to visit a rooftop pool arrive before 11 a.m. to get a good spot. The requirement for using the pools is usually buying a meal or some drinks.

The most popular rooftop pools include Live Aqua, Deck 5 at the carmen hotel, Thompson hotel, and Be playa rooftop pool which was the first to be built in Playa Del Carmen.

7. Visit Frida Kahlo Museum

Explore Frida Kahlo’s life and work at the Frida Kahlo Museum located at the corner of 8th street and 5th Avenue. Frida is one of the most iconic Mexican artists to have ever lived.

At the museum, you will get to explore the artist’s tumultuous life, her art, and its impact on society. Displayed in miniature collages, photographs, and diagrams hanged on the wall, her work speaks about the major events of her life.

There is also a 15-minute audiovisual in the museum’s mini-theater and a gift shop. Frida Kahlo museum charges $15 entry fee and opens 9:00 AM to 11:00 PM

8. Explore Rio Secreto Caverns

Discovered only 12 years ago, the pristine cavern system that is Rio Secreto caverns are a must-visit when in Playa Del Carmen. These caves are found 6 kilometers from downtown Playa.  The Rio Secreto cave system is designated as one of Mexico’s most distinct nature reserve. It has the longest semi-sunken cave system in the Peninsula.

Rio Secreto Caverns
Rio Secreto Caverns (Photo: Shutterstock)

Inside the caves are the longest natural underground river in the Yucatan peninsula and one of the natural wonders of recent times.

The river winds through a limestone cave system whose discovered area is about 7.5 miles long and more exploration are still underway. The river’s crystal clear waters are great to float on.

Go explore the beautiful caves, and their varying geographical formations such as dramatic stalactites and stalagmites hanging and emerging from the ground. Tours charge roughly $109 for the whole experience.

9. Visit the Mayan Ruins

Playa Del Carmen is the center of the Mayan Empire. The town is surrounded by the Mayan cities of Chichen Itza, Tulum, Coba, and Balam. Playa is so rooted in the Mayan heritage that it gives rise to the name Riviera Maya. A name used to describe the area from Cancun to Tulum.

Cruisers can only visit Tulum and Coba as Chichen Itza, and Ek Balam is far. The Tulum ruins offer breathtaking views from the cliffs. They are not as large as Chichen Itza but are still a wonder. The cenote at Tulum is one of the most popular cenotes. Something that adds an additional incentive to visit these ruins. 

Coba ruins are also close enough for you to visit. They are very popular because of their shaded location deep in the jungle. At Coba, you have the chance to climb the tall pyramid structures and rent a bike to explore the area.

Tulum
Tulum (Photo: Shutterstock)

The famous Chichen Itza is located 2.5hrs from Playa Del Carmen while Tulum and Coba are only found 45 minutes away from Playa Del Carmen.

10. Jetski

Take a break from beach bumming by going on a Jet Ski adventure. Explore the azure waters of Playa Del Carmen while zooming by the beautiful white coastline.

Besides, you can join a jet ski tour and travel to hidden destinations such as Playa Norte. On these tours, you also have a chance to stop, swim with the turtles, and snorkel over beautiful coral reefs.

All this fun starts by renting a jet ski which is rented out in blocks of 30 minutes. You can also signup for a jet ski tour which lasts 1.5-2 hrs and has an opportunity to snorkel.

11. Paddleboarding

Another water sports to keep you active is the Stand-up paddleboarding. Glide along Playa’s beautiful coastline on a SUP.

You can rent a SUP for a solo glide or team up with a group exploring the waters on organized tours. You can also join a SUP yoga class. The best time to do stand-up paddleboarding is sunrise, the waters are calm, the colors are beautiful, the breeze is refreshing.

12. Parque Fundadores

Also known as the founding father’s park, Parque Fundadores is a public park and the gathering place for locals and tourists alike.

The park is denoted by a large sculpture named Portal Maya shaped in an arch with a female and male figure meeting at the tip.

The green park which fronts the beach has plenty of green spaces under the shade of palm trees. The center of the park has a band stage for live entertainment and a pirate-themed children’s playground is also available.

Another feature of the park is the Papantla dancers who entertain onlookers with amazing tricks done from a 30-meter-high pole. To rehydrate, there are fruit vendors who sell fresh fruits packed in cups.

13. Swim with Sea Turtles at Akumal Bay

One of the most interesting activities in Playa Del Carmen is swimming with turtles over at Akumal bay. This adventure involves visiting a natural marine habitat in one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. Akumal bay is popular for its green turtles.

It’s protected from strong waves making it ideal for snorkeling. You can swim or snorkel at the coral reef where many of the turtles are seen.

You can also beach bum at the beautiful white sandy beach found in the place. Or go explore a nearby cenote and underground cavern system. This experience lasts approximately 6 hours, so you won’t have much time to do anything else.

14. Go Shopping

Checkout Playa Del Carmen’s shopping scene. There are plenty of souvenirs such as t-shirts, magnets, Mexican sombreros, and other unique gifts to carry home as keepsakes.

Store in Playa del Carmen
Store in Playa del Carmen (Photo: Shutterstock)

There are also craft stands that sell amazing artwork such as Mexican blown glass, Mayan tapestry, and local art. You can shop for Mexican chocolate and coffee while at it.

You can also get all your Playa del Carmen souvenirs right here.

Some of the best places to start your shopping are paseo del carmen, Quinta Alegria, and plaza las Americas malls to name just a few.

Pro tip: pay in pesos.

  • Shops have fixed prices but street-side stalls call for haggling
  • Don’t use you ATMs on 5th street

15. Parasailing

Parasailing is a popular activity in Playa Del Carmen. You can do it alone or with your friends. Enjoy a bird’s eye view of the Playa, Isla Mujeres, and Nichupté Lagoon on a thrilling parasailing adventure.

A speed boat will pull you out to sea at high speed while your parachute lifts you several hundred meters above the sea level. You don’t have to touch the water but if you want to dip your toes in the water, the tour operator can accommodate your wishes.

16. Go on a Food Tour

Go on a culinary walking tour of Playa Del Carmen. This 3-hour tour will help you discover the region’s authentic cuisines, comfort food, and delicious street food.

Enjoy a variety of seafood dishes, like ceviche tostadas, or shrimp, and fish tacos. The tour involves visiting five local food joints. What’s amazing about this tour is that it teaches you a lot about Playa’s food scene and culture. Food tours are done by local guides who know the food industry like the back of their hand.

17. Go Scuba Diving

Diving in Playa Del Carmen is a whole new experience. From diving into crystal clear freshwater cenotes to diving in bull shark-infested waters, or exploring an underwater art museum. There are plenty of diving scenes for everyone.

With over 6000 cenotes, the Mayan Riviera is the best place to go cenote diving. Cenote diving is best done between May and November when the waters are a bit warmer and there is good lighting.

Bull sharks come to Playa to breed from November to March. So if you are looking to dive in bull shark-infested waters, this is the time to visit Playa.  

Near Cancun is an underwater museum with over 500 life-sized sculptures. The best time to dive here is from December to April because the waters are still warm and there is better visibility.

Whether you are a beginner or a pro, there are diving sites for all skill levels. Beginners can start with the reefs offshore Playa Del Carmen while pro divers can dive in the open sea.

18. Take a Sailing Trip

A good way to explore Playa’s beautiful coastline is on a sailing trip. On such trips, you get to visit remote coral reefs for snorkeling. You also get to enjoy the sea breeze, see Playa from another angle, and possibly visit nearby islands as well. This half-day tour is a great addition to a land-based excursion.

19. Adventure at Xplor

If you are looking for adventure one of the best places to find it is at Xplor park located 6 kilometers from downtown Playa. At this park, you get to do plenty of fun activities such as zip-lining over the jungle, as well as over waterfalls with a chance to dip into a jungle river to cool off.

You also get to swim in a crystal clear underground river winding through a cave system. Inside the caves are numerous geological features that are amazing to learn about. If you want to stay dry, you can opt to raft this river instead.

Xplor, Near Playa del Carmen
Xplor (Photo: Shutterstock)

For those of you looking for an adrenaline rush, you can go on an off-roading tour using the park’s amphibious vehicles. When you work up an appetite the park also offers all types of foods and drinks.

Xplor is a nice way to spend your day on port and great family activity to do together with your family.

20. More Adventure at Xcaret

Another great park to visit is Xcaret which is located 4 miles from Playa Del Carmen. The 200-acre park is built around the archeological remains of a true Mayan Village. As such, the park offers it’s guests an opportunity to explore the ancient Mayan cultures through structures, customs, food, and more.

As is common of the Riviera Maya, the place is riddled with caves, cenotes, and underground rivers. Most cruisers enjoy a full day at the park, snorkeling, and swimming in the underground river.

Other things to do at Xcaret include exploring the museum, visiting the coral aquarium or climbing replica Mayan pyramids. The replica Mayan Village on site is also a place to learn more about the Mayans.

When you are done getting wet, head on over to the beach at the park. It is perfect for sunning and tanning. All in all, the park is a great place to visit for a family.

21. 3D Museum of Wonders

Located on the 10th avenue between the 8th and 10th streets is Playa’s 3D Museum of Wonders.

This is the first-ever 3D museum in the Americas. At this place, you can immerse yourself in three-dimensional illusions represented in the form of paintings, ceiling, wall, and floor murals.

Carry a camera to capture the illusions this artwork creates. It’s a fun place to visit as a family or group. Besides, the museum is air-conditioned and a great place to escape the intense weather outside.

22. Golf

Golf enthusiasts will marvel at the perfectly manicured 18 holes’ championship golf courses in Playa. There are at least six of these and they all embrace different kinds of design.

Whether you are looking to golf in a tropical jungle setting, a Mayan ruin setting, or a water fronting course, you will find just the perfect course for you.

Designed by some of the best golf course architects such as Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Robert Von Hagge, Thomas Leman, and Robert Trent Jones II, you will find these courses to have the right amount of challenge. Helping you play your best game.

In return, be ready to shell out a buck or two to play on these world-class courses.

23. Enjoy Some Elote

Elote or esquite is a popular snack in Mexico. It’s made of boiled corn smeared with mayonnaise, cotija cheese, and sprinkled with chili powder. This tasty snack is sold by food vendors all over 5th Avenue.

Esquite is similar to elote only that the maize seeds are removed from the cob, so it’s served in a cup. You can find these tasty treats at the corner of the ADO bus station next to the church at park Fundadores.

24.  Attend Mass at Nuestra Senora del Carmen Catholic Church

At the heart of Playa Del Carmen is a charming church. The Nuestra Senora del Carmen Catholic church found on 15th avenue at the edge of park fundadores adds a beautiful contrast to the busy city square.

The beautiful white facade of the church invites you to study its interior. This interior exudes a peaceful ambiance where you can rest and reflect spiritually. The air conditioning within the church and the quiet tranquility offers respite from the busy city square outside

Don’t be surprised, however, to find a mass or a wedding in progress. Its what churches do.

25. A Cenote and a Beach

Punta or Point Esmeralda is a nice local beach located 10 minutes from Playa Del Carmen. It’s especially beloved for the freshwater cenote found on one side of the beach. This cenote is the most easily accessible, thus making it popular with the locals. So, it’s best to visit this beach during the week, if you are looking to avoid the crowds that show up during the weekend.

The crescent-shaped beach also has a long shallow walkout, perfect for water games. The palm oasis that separates the lagoon and beach is a nice place to seek shelter from the heat. Because of the beach’s ecological diversity, mangroves are common. They offer a nice green contrast to the turquoise blue waters.

 Though the beach is plagued with seaweeds at certain times, there is still plenty of beach space left to enjoy. Punta Esmeralda is especially good for families with little kids.

26. El Acuario de Playa: Playa Del Carmen Aquarium

So far we have mentioned a lot of outdoor things to do in Playa Del Carmen, but what about indoors. One of the best indoor things to do while on 5th Avenue is to check out Playa Del Carmen’s Aquarium. This charming little aquarium consisting of three levels is found between 12th and 14th street. The aquarium has over 45 exhibits that showcase over 200 species of marine life from the Caribbean Sea and other seas worldwide.

At the aquarium, you will learn plenty about tropical fish, octopus, stingrays, and sharks. One incredible feature is the shark tube above. It’s a pretty amazing experience to watch them swim above you in the tubes.

The only complaint about this aquarium is the somewhat high prices, $15 per person. However, if you book online, you stand a chance to get a 50% discount.

It takes about an hour to explore the entire aquarium. Making it a nice place to take the kids, learn new things, or hide from harsh weather outside.

27. Punta Venado Bike Park

Mountain biking in Playa Del Carmen doesn’t sound plausible because it’s not a mountainous region. However, Punta Venado Bike park proves it can be done. The bike park set at Blue Venado beach, 20 minutes or 10 km from Playa Del Carmen, is the perfect place to enjoy a thrilling adventure on a bike.

The 18-mile single-track circuit bike park has trails marked by their level of difficulty. This means all level riders can enjoy biking at this park. There are green, blue, and black trails, representing less, more, and most difficult trails respectively.

These technical grounds offer a good challenging course. That draws out a good ride out of you. The bikes and the grounds are well maintained guaranteeing you will have an enjoyable time there. The park offers you everything, from bikes to safety gear, and water.

Go early to avoid the heat. You will enjoy riding through the jungle, where you can meet with wildlife. Riding along the Caribbean coast will also afford you great vistas to complement your experience there. For most this is the best outdoor activity in Playa.

28. Hangout with Dolphins

Swimming with dolphins is one of the most popular bucket list items for cruisers. Tick yours by discovering a dolphinarium in Playa Del Carmen. There are plenty of dolphinariums in Playa, some of the most popular include dolphinaris at Riviera Maya located only 20 minutes from Playa, Delphinus in Xcaret and dolphin discovery at Maroma.

Whichever you end up choosing, you can expect to enjoy an encounter with a dolphin. Among the things to do at dolphinariums include:

  • Swim and interact with dolphins underwater
  • Pet, kiss, or get a handshake from a dolphin
  • Get a foot push by a dolphin
  • Study a dolphin
  • Get a dolphin belly ride

Dolphins are very complex and it’s interesting to learn and interact with them. At these centers, you will have the opportunity to do just that.

29. Off-the-Beaten-Path Cenote at Chickin Ha

For an off the beaten path adventure, visit one of Yucatan’s secret cenote’s. Chikin Ha is a crystal clear freshwater cenote deep in the jungle, located 20 minutes away from Playa Del Carmen.

At this park, there are several cenotes and caverns, offering you a full day of adventure exploring the Mayan underworld.

Adorned with beautiful geological formations such as stalactites and stalagmites, the caves are incredible to explore. But the more interesting places in this park are the cenotes, two of which you can swim, snorkel or dive in. Swimming in the cool waters of the cenote is a refreshing way to enjoy your trip. Snorkeling in the cenote allows you to see turtles and various fish.

Diving, however, is the most preferred activity at Chikin Ha. With the cenotes varying in-depth, technical divers enjoy going deep into the cenotes and cave systems. To discover what this ancient world has to offer. As with every outdoor activity, arrive early for the best experience. To be able to explore all the cenotes, you are better off renting a car than taking a taxi or colectivo.

30. Secret Caves of Chaaktun

Visit one of the lesser-known caverns and cenote at Chaaktun. This cave system is located at the end of Avenida Juarez, just a few minutes from Playa Del Carmen. It’s a great cruise excursion because there are fewer crowds at the cenote as it’s not well known.

Explore the caverns, learn the history and explore thousands of years old stalactites. Enjoy a cool deep in the cenote. On your way there you will also enjoy a surprise treat from a blossoming wildlife scenery in the area. There are plenty of deer, monkeys, and boars to see.

Playa Del Carmen Weather

Playa Del Carmen’s summers are long, hot and wet. They typically run from April to September. You can expect highs of 88°F and above. The hottest month is usually July with the hottest day being July 30th.

Portal Maya monument
Portal Maya monument

The cool season starts from November to February where the temperature ranges from 65°F to 83°F. Typical of the Caribbean tropical weather, winters are dry while summers are wet. Thus, making the best time to visit the island sometime between December and May.

Play del Carmen FAQ

Is it safe to travel to Playa Del Carmen?

Playa Del Carmen is generally safe but common sense is needed. Don’t venture into questionable alleyways alone or even with a group. Watch your valuables. Avoid using the ATM’s on 5th Avenue and always trust your gut.

Is Playa Del Carmen expensive?

The answer is yes and no. Generally speaking, Playa Del Carmen is an expensive city, more expensive than what you have come to expect of Mexican cities. This is attributed to the fact that leases in the town area are expensive and that most products are imported. You can, however, enjoy Playa for cheap, by choosing where you spend your money. For example, skip the touristy hotels and shops on 5th Avenue and eat or shop where the locals do.

When is the best time to travel to Play del Carmen?

Playa Del Carmen is a year-round destination. However, there are a few factors that can help you decide when you want to visit. If you don’t like crowds avoid major holidays like Christmas and Semana Santa. If you are looking for cheaper seasons, then visit right after the holidays. For clear, dry, and not so hot weather try December to April.

Also Read: Useful Things To Know About Cozumel Cruise Ports

Conclusion

Playa is a very popular destination nowadays. When looking for something to do during your cruise stop at Cozumel, you will definitely come across dozens of tours that require you to cross over to Playa.

With features such as the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, Tulum, and Coba, coupled with dozens of cavern systems with cenotes, there are plenty of things to do in Playa Del Carmen. This list gives you 30 of the best things to do in this charming coastal town on your day at port in Cozumel. Happy cruising!!

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