Playa del Carmen is a great choice for a home base when traveling to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. It’s smaller and more charming than Cancun. Discover a bustling and lively town, beautiful beaches, and be right in the middle of the action. You can take day trips to the nearby island of Cozumel, go snorkeling with sea turtles, explore underground cenotes, or venture out to witness incredible Mayan ruins. While you’ll want to explore the surrounding region, it’s a good idea to spend at least one day in town.
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Justin and I recently took a quick four day vacation to Playa del Carmen. It was a holiday purely for relaxing and we didn’t leave Playa at all. We spent our days swimming in the ocean, laying on the beach, and strolling through town. I realize that you might not be looking for the kind of vacation where you don’t do much at all (trust me, I’m not usually that kind of traveler either!), but it’s not such a bad idea to have a vacation from traveling. You can easily see all of Playa del Carmen in one day and spend your other days on adventures. Or not. Soaking up the sunshine and reading a book isn’t such a bad idea sometimes.
Enjoy the Beach
This might be a no brainer, but Playa del Carmen has a beautiful public beach right in town. It’s easy to access right from the street, no resort wristband required. Wander down to the water and go for a swim. However, be warned – copious amounts of seaweed on the beach is a concern right now. You can check this website for seaweed reports. When we traveled there, there was seaweed present on the beach, but it wasn’t enough to keep us off the beach and out of the water. The public beach in Playa del Carmen wasn’t very crowded. If you’re looking for things to do in Playa del Carmen, stopping at the beach is a popular choice.
Wander and Shop on 5th Avenue
La Quinta Avenida, or Fifth Avenue, is the main attraction of Playa del Carmen. It’s a lengthy shopping street with stores, restaurants, and stalls, as well as clubs and bars for an exciting nightlife scene. You can’t leave Playa without strolling along 5th Avenue. Justin and I walked along this expansive street and its side streets on several occasions throughout our stay. Justin and I happened to be visiting during Mexican Independence Day in September and the streets were extra lively and decorated for the celebrations. If you’re looking for what to do in Playa del Carmen, my number one choice is visiting 5th Avenue.
Beyond Fifth Avenue, we wandered around town to various shops and restaurants. Justin and I felt perfectly safe walking around Playa del Carmen throughout the day and in the evening, too. Just like anywhere, be aware of your surroundings and stay in populated areas. Fifth Avenue is always busy with tourists and activity and we never felt unsafe. If you’re looking for things to do in Playa del Carmen in the evening, check out the Coco Bongo night club for a night of thrilling entertainment. Enjoy your drinks while watching acrobatics, a lights show, and dancers for a spectacular show.
Take a Sailboat Tour
If you’re looking for a relaxing activity in Playa del Carmen, take a sailboat tour in nearby Puerto Aventuras. It’s only a 15 minute drive down the highway and most tour operators will pick you up from your hotel. We took a romantic sunset sailing tour to watch the sun go down from the middle of the sea. There’s nothing like feeling the wind in your hair, watching the sun disappear into the horizon. Stunning streaks of pink and orange materialized across the sky.
There’s also the option of booking a daytime luxury catamaran cruise from Puerto Aventuras, which includes snorkeling on the second largest reef in the world.
It’s a Paradise for Vegans
As a vegan in Playa del Carmen, you won’t have any trouble at all finding breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The restaurants are all within walking distance around Playa. From vegan hot dogs to fruit smoothies, there was something for every taste and every meal. When reminiscing about what to do in Playa del Carmen, one of the best things was all of the yummy vegan dining options! Here are my favourite and recommended vegan restaurants in Playa del Carmen.
The Pitted Date
The Pitted Date is a vegan cafe and bakery, serving paninis, smoothies, soups, salads, desserts, and raw food.
It’s a 1950s style diner that’s completely vegan, with burgers, shakes, nachos, hot dogs, and ice cream.
La Senda Restaurante
It’s one of the first vegan restaurants in Playa del Carmen with an emphasis on traditional Mexican food gone vegan and healthy eats.
Clorofila Green & Vegan
A vegan restaurant with burgers, sandwiches, smoothies, vegan cheese plates, and more.
It’s a smoothie bar serving up healthy bowls, sandwiches, salads, and delicious fruity drinks.
A fast food vegan restaurant for dining in and taking out with burgers, hot dogs, and fries.
Where to Stay in Playa del Carmen
Justin and I stayed at the gorgeous Playa Palms Beach Hotel. It’s a very calm and quiet hotel with a pool and access to the beach. The hotel isn’t an all inclusive resort, but that wasn’t an issue. Every room has a balcony with a hammock and our stay included breakfast daily. On many occasions, we had the pool to ourselves and this hotel was always a peaceful retreat. Click here to read reviews written by other frequent travelers.
|Essential Riviera Maya Travel Guide|
|Getting There: To get to Riviera Maya, you should fly to the Cancun Airport. Search for cheap flights to Cancun. The national airline of Mexico is AeroMexico. To get to your resort or hotel from the airport, book your Cancun airport transfer in advance for a seamless journey.|
Getting Around: When staying in Riviera Maya, you’ll often have transportation included in any tours that you book. However, if you’d like to explore on your own, I suggest renting a car in Riviera Maya Mexico. The most popular place to pick up your car is from the Cancun Airport. Compare car rental prices to find the best price online.
Fast Facts: Mexican Peso is the currency. Power voltage is 127 V 60 Hz using Power Sockets A and B. You do not need an adapter if you’re from Canada or the USA.
SIM Cards & Mobile: You can rent a portable Wi-Fi device with unlimited data that works in 130+ countries worldwide. We’ve used our portable device all over the world and love how we’re always connected!
Travel Safety: Don’t forget to get travel insurance before your trip. Whether you have an accident, have a flight delay, experience a theft, or need to return home sooner than anticipated, it’s always best to cover your bases. Get a travel insurance quote now for the best rates.
|Browse all of our Mexico photos and read more of our Mexico travel blog posts.|
We truly fell in love with the relaxing seaside atmosphere of Playa del Carmen, and there are so many awesome reasons to visit. There are lots of fun things to do in Riviera Maya to spend at least a week or even longer.
It would be amazing to move here someday. It’s very affordable to travel and live in Mexico, even close to the beach. After browsing some listings in Mexico, especially in the Yucatan Peninsula, perhaps it’s possible to make that dream a reality sooner than we think! How amazing would it be to have a permanent place to call home here?