• Jacqlyne Mba-Jonas

Top 17 Things to do While Visiting Playa del Carmen Mexico

Updated: Mar 19

Just an hour outside of Cancun, Playa del Carmen is one of the most popular destinations in Mexico to visit. While there is no shortage of all-inclusive beachfront resorts to lounge in all day, the majority of tourists stay within downtown Playa del Carmen, and experience things from the heart of the city. Playa del Carmen is well known for its many beach clubs and roof top pools, but it offers much more than that. Let's take a look at some of the best things Play del Carmen has to offer! Also check out my other guides on things to do in Cancun, Cozumel and Tulum, each within an hour of Playa del Carmen.

1. 3D Museum of Wonders

Considered the first 3D illusion art museum in the Americas, this museum exhibits are unique and interactive. If you want some of the coolest photos, this is the place to get it. The museum is filled from wall to floor with 3D conceptual paintings.

While you may be able to take good pictures on your own, getting a tour and your pictures taken by one of the guides on site is a must. They know all the right angles and positions you should be in to ensure all your photos come out marvelously. They'll gladly give you a personal tour for no extra charge, but a generous tip at the end of your tour is much appreciated.

2. Dine in a Cave

The Alux Resturant and Bar offers a truly unique dinning experience in Playa del Carmen. Alux is located inside a fully formed cave just outside downtown Playa del Carmen, complete with its own cenote. The entrance to the restaurant may seem understated, but as soon as you walk in, you'll feel as though you've been teleported from the busy streets of Playa del Carmen into an underground oasis.

Alux offers one of the best fine dining experiences in town and has something on the menu for everyone. The restaurant is open just for dinner. I recommend making a reservation well in advance as they tend to get full.

3. La Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue)

You can't say you've been to Playa del Carmen if you never set foot in downtown 5th Avenue. This is the life of the city, lined with restaurants, shops and street entertainment. This pedestrian thoroughfare stays colorful and vibrant long after the sun goes down. It will be well worth your time to take a stroll down here while in town. Visit several landmarks along the way including Parque Fundadores.

4. Xcaret

Who doesn't love a great theme park? Why not spend a day at Xcaret, one of the largest theme parks in Mexico and the first of many under the Experiencias Xcaret umbrella scattered between Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Xcaret itself is located in Playa del Carmen and easily accessible. The park offers round-trip transportation should you need it.

Sitting on 250-acres, this eco-park is home to more than 50 attractions including live shows, cultural attractions, natural animal attractions, and fun aquatic activities. Swim in an underground river, go snorkeling on a private beach, visit a butterfly pavilion, walk through a traditional Mexican cemetery, discover Mayan ruins, touch star fish at the aquarium, watch a live Broadway worthy show on Mexican heritage, and watch a horse show while eating lunch. There's no shortage of activities to do here and one day truly isn't enough!

5. Xplor

Another park under the Experiencias Xcaret umbrella is Xplor, the perfect adventure park for all levels of adrenaline junkies. Like Xcaret, Xplor is located right in Playa del Carmen. The park offers convenient round-trip transportation as well.

Freely explore this jungle park at your own pace. If zip-lines are your thing, they have the highest ziplines in Riviera Maya! If that's a little too adventurous for you, they have a unique zip line experience known as the Hammock Splash. Zipline in a hammock a few feet off the ground over a cenote and splash into it at the end! Explore underground caves, ride amphibious vehicles, paddle a raft down a river, go down a waterslide, and much more.

Xplor counts as a 2-in-1 park. You can visit it during the day or visit at night when it becomes Xplor Fuego. At Xplor Fuego, you get to much of the same jungle experience, but this time, your surroundings are lit up with fire!

6. Xenses

Xenses is one of the newest of the eight theme parks under the Experiencias Xcaret umbrella and arguably the most unique and one-of-a kind. Xenses is located in Playa del Carmen, with round-trip transportation offered for added convenience.

This is the most unusual park I've had the pleasure of visiting and I mean that in a good way. The park is sensory themed with optical illusions to keep your mind engaged. There are 16 themed areas, each aiming to stimulate and surprise your senses in different ways. Follow the Path of Doing and walk through a unique Mexican town that will test your balance, fly like a bird, relax in a mud spa, and float effortlessly down a salt river. Journey through the Path of Feeling and see yourself as a giant or a dwarf, experience exhilarating sounds in pitch black darkness and try the most delicious lemonade I've ever had straight from a lemonade tree!

7. Xenotes

Cenotes are a big part of the Riviera Maya, and there's no better way to explore all the different kinds of cenotes than through a tour of Xenotes Oasis Maya. These enigmatic water tour offered under the Experiencias Xcaret umbrella allows you to explore natural environments through fun activities like assisted rappel, zip-lines, kayaking, and swimming. This is an all-inclusive tour offering transportation to four cenotes, certified guide, photographer, plus food and beverages.

8. Cirque du Soleil JOYÀ

JOYÀ is Cirque du Soleil's first resident show in Latin America. Located in Vidanta Riviera Maya resort, this 80-minute long show combines culinary and performing arts in an intimate theater setting to engage the audience's five senses. Allow yourself be mesmerized by the story of an alchemist and his granddaughter seeking out the secrets of life. The show draws on the heritage and history of Mexico to weave the story, presented at a renowned dinner theatre in the jungle of the Riviera Maya.

9. Frida Kahlo Museum

Frida Khalo was a brilliant artist and is a national treasure to her home country of Mexico. This compact museum features interactive exhibits, sculptures & collages of Frida Kahlo reproductions. Majority of the exhibits are dedicated to her life, history and inspirations.

10. Coco Bongo

Coco Bongo is arguably the spot to be to experience Cancun nightlife at it's fullest. Don't think night club, Coco Bongo is much more than that. Coco Bongo offers high energy entertainment and music. They feature acrobats, impersonators, musicians, and world class DJ’s. Interact with all the fun via massive video screens.

All of this does not come cheap, and this will likely be one of the most expensive night clubs you'll ever pay to get in to. But when you factor in all the entertainment and all-inclusive drinks, its arguably worth it.

11. Rio Secreto

Rio Secreto is one of the most unique places to visit just outside of Playa del Carmen. Don a wetsuit and explore this complex system of five stunning caves filled with underground rivers and springs. Go back thousands of years as you encounter stalactites and stalagmites, swim through crystal-clear freshwater pools, and be mesmerized by this natural wonder. If you're feeling brave, you'll have an opportunity to swim in a pitch black cave.

12. Mayan Purification Ceremony

Experience a temazcal and purify your mind, body and soul during an ancient Mayan ceremony led by a shaman. A temazcal is an ancient Mayan ceremony that is meant to be a source of energy and health. The ceremony takes place in a hut where rocks are heated and water and herbs are poured over them, turning the hut into a sauna. Your senses will be enlightened by the aroma of herbs that surrounds you as you soak it all in. You will be subjected to various stages of heat while you listen to live traditional Mayan music go into a meditative state. The ceremony will typically conclude with a refreshing dip in a cold bath or freshwater cenote and a natural Mayan dinner or light fruits. At the end of the experience, you should feel a sense of healing and well-being.

13. Catamaran Cruise

Spend a relaxing day out at sea and bask in the sun during a catamaran cruise. You can get a nice view of Cancun along with some of its nearby surrounding islands.

There are various kinds of cruises to choose from. You can choose a snorkeling cruise, sunset cruise, dinner cruise, party cruise or an island hopping cruise. Most cruises will included unlimited open bar, and some include food as well.

14. Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres is a small island just off the coast of Cancun. If you want to take a break from the bustling city life in Play del Carmen for something more layed back and chill, then a day trip out to this island is a must. They have watersports, beautiful beaches, shopping and great food.

You could easily take a short ferry ride from Cancun to Isla Mujeres on your own. My favorite way to get there is by taking a catamaran cruise to the island. You can party and drink along the way with unlimited open bar, snorkel and participate in other water activities and enjoy a lunch buffet when you arrive at the island before heading out to explore on your own. While on the island, try to check out the Garrafon National Reef Park, Tortugranja turtle conservation center and Dolphin Discovery.

15. Street Food Tour

While there may be plenty of delicious food at your all-inclusive resort, trust me when I say nothing beats eating local. Eat where the locals do and experience authentic Mexican dishes busting in flavor. You can find different unique places on your own or with an experienced guide.

16. Parasailing

Take to the skies and soar as much as a 100 meters above ground. Get a beautiful panoramic view of Cancun, its white sand beaches, neighboring islands and it's crystal blue waters.

17. ATVing

Thrill seekers will enjoying riding an ATV through a muddy Mayan jungle. There are tons of ATV tours offered in Playa del Carmen. The tour I recommend gives you more for your money. Along with ATVing, it includes ziplining, a cenote swim, lunch and roundtrip resort transfers.

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