Playa Del Carmen Excursions
Visiting Playa Del Carmen is great but there is so much to see nearby. In this guide we will tell you about the best Playa Del Carmen excursions and tours. These can be a day trip, overnight excursion or a tour from the area.
We wanted to make a very easy map to help you see what is nearby and what each place it like. You can click the marker on the map and see a photo and a link to an article about that destination. Then, below the map is a brief overview of the places and how they compare and what our recommendations are.
We will continually add to this map new tours and information, so this is a great article to bookmark and save for a reference. If it is helpful or you have a question, let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page, we would love to hear from you and help you with any personalized information. We have personally been to all these destinations and can help you with more details if you want.
Tip: Want to know what the best tours or destinations are from Playa Del Carmen, see the bottom of this article for our recommendations in each category.
Tours and Excursions from Playa Del Carmen Map
The map as has different color markers to show you what is at each destination. Here is a key:
- Green is a tour destination or where a tour takes you. Some of these areas you can go to yourself if you want to .
- Dark blue is a city, town or island that you can visit. Some of these have tours that visit them as well or you can take a bus, ferry or drive there to explore on your own.
- Light blue is for cenotes.
- Brown color is for Mayan ruins.
- Yellow is for a beach you can visit.
Playa Del Carmen Excursions and Tours
Cirque du Soleil Show
This is world class entertainment and a good way to do something special for your vacation. This is a permanent theater in the Riviera Maya and the show is year round except when they take a short break.
The theater is intimate and will give you more of a close up look at the show than the other Cirque du Soleil show in other locations.
You can buy several types of tickets to this show. You can come for just the show or have dinner and see the show. For more photos and information on what it is like to see the Cirque du Soleil show you can see our article here.
How to get to Cirque du Soleil show and reservations
The theater is between Playa Del Caren and Puerto Morelos on the 307 Highway. You can buy your ticket with a van transportation and this is recommended over trying to get a taxi. You can also drive here if you have a car, there is parking at the theater. To buy tickets you can click the photo below. It is best to book ahead so you can choose your preferred seats and if you want a meal included.
This is a quality show. It is smaller then some of the large Las Vegas productions Cirque du Soleil does but everything about this show is quality. If you want a special night out then this is a good option. Remember, this is not just an in and out theater. This is meant to be an experience. Go early and relax by the cenote and boardwalk. The entire theater area transforms you into this magical world created by Cirque du Soleil. All seats are good here but the front rows practically include you in the action!
Xplor is the most exciting active park in the Rivera Maya! The park is designed very well and offers you two different zip line courses. You will be going down some of the longest and highest lines, even going through waterfalls! The other activities include driving through the jungle which include tunnels and some water, paddling in the underground rivers and swimming in the caves. All food and drinks are included in the price of this ticket. The only extras are photos and souvenirs. This park is a full day of activity from 9:00am-6:00pm.
Don’t get fooled by street sellers that offer 2×1 tours of zip lines. They just bait you to buy a cheaper tour that is about half the price. They are nothing like Xplor and lack the excitement of Xplor. The quality is worth the entrance here.
How to get to Xplor and reservations
Transportation options to Xplor
Xplor park is just about 10 minutes south of Playa Del Carmen on the 307 Highway. You can:
- Drive yourself here and park for free.
- Take the colectivo here from Playa and walk into the park.
- Purchase transportation in your ticket price.
- Take a taxi here.
Best prices for tickets to Xplor
There are the three large parks by Xcaret. Xplor is the adventure junkies place. We recommend all of Xcaret’s parks but this one in particular is good for active people. This park is not good for families with young children because there is a height requirement for the zip lines. For more photos and information on visiting Xplor, see our article here.
What is Xcaret Park? Is it all rides and like a theme park? No, it is not like that. It is a unique park that features a little history, it highlights the nature beauty of the flora and fauna and Mexican culture. This might sound a little boring but it is not at all! You can explore all day and not even see everything here. It is presented in a fun and interesting way.
There are three underground rivers you can swim in here, an aquarium, aviary, the beach to relax in, a panoramic tower to go up in, and a boat ride around a tranquil subterranean river just to mention some of the activities here.
There are many optional add-ons to your ticket if you like. You can visit the spa, do wine tasting, take a speed boat in the ocean and swim with sharks just to mention a few.
At the end of the night there is a grand show that features traditional dancing from around Mexico and has a storyline of part of how Mexico came to be what it is today. For more information and photos you can see our article on Xcaret here.
How to get to Xcaret and reservations
Best way to get tickets for Xcaret park
It is best to purchase tickets online for two reasons:
- You save time in line when you arrive.
- It is possible to save 15% buying tickets in advance.
Transportation options to get to Xcaret Park
Xcaret park is just 10 minutes south from Playa Del Carmen on the 307 Highway then it is another 5 minutes down the road behind Xplor Park. You have the following options to get to Xcaret:
- Drive yourself here and park for free.
- Take the colectivo here from Playa and walk on the sidewalk to get the free shuttle to Xcaret.
- Purchase transportation in your ticket price.
- Take a taxi here.
- Take the ADO bus from the bus station in Playa to Xcaret and return the same way. Note: The bus only goes a few times a day in each direction, so check times for the bus.
Xcaret is the granddaddy of all the parks. This is the biggest of them and will take a very full day to explore it. There is so much to see in this park that you will be pressed to see it all. The grand show in the evening is spectacular! You will leave this park late at night feeling that you had a great day!
This park is good for children of all ages since it is very interactive. Even if you have gone here once before, they keep adding sections to the park (like the bird aviary) and change up the show at the end of the night, so don’t worry about going a second time, you will enjoy it again.
We love the design of this park. Often you can find yourself almost alone observing something because this park is so big that people spread out so much.
MTB Bike Tour in Playa Del Carmen
This is a great local company that does bike tours into the Mayan jungle. These tours are about 3 1/2-4 hours long. These tours have a meeting point just outside of Playa Del Carmen. At the end of your tour they stop in a beautiful cenote for you to swim in. You can read about this bike tour here and also see our video.
This tour is good for locals living in Playa Del Carmen that want to get out and do something different. This is also great for tourist as well. This excursion is very affordable and a nice eco friendly way to see nature. The company is nice that runs the tours and we really enjoyed this tour.
Cozumel Electric Bike Tour on the East Coast
Do you know what the east side fo Cozumel looks like? It is beautiful! See our article here that will show you what this Cozumel Bike tour is like. This tour is 4 hours long and includes lunch.
This nis a great eco tour that will get you out and seeing the natural beauty of the island. You can peddle or uyse the electric assist to bike around. This tour is good for most ages and an affordable tour.
Rauxa Show and Dinner
This is a high quality show and gourmet dinner for those looking for a nice night out. Rauxa is located between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum at the Catalonia Royal Tulum Hotel. For more on Rauxa Show see our link here.
This show will surprise you with the creativity and talent. If you like live entertainment and perhaps for that special romantic night.
Snorkeling the reef off Puerto Morelos
Seeing the underwater world of the reefs is a highlight for many coming to the Riviera Maya. This tour will take you to Puerto Morelos where you will go just off the coast and snorkel. You will see lots of coral and fish on this snorkel adventure.
You can read about this Snorkeling Adventure Tour here and the article has information on how to book this tour. If you book this tour, transportation is included from your hotel or where you are staying.
For those staying in the Riviera Maya and don’t want to cross over to Cozumel, this tour takes you to one of the best spots to see the reefs off our coast. This tour has a morning option and afternoon option and either can be booked to whatever your preference is.
This area is one of the largest privately owned lands on the coast and it happens to be just south of Playa Del Carmen. Most of this property is wild forest and just a small portion is used for the beach club and activities.
For tours you can snorkel, ride ATV’s, jet ski, ride horses and ride mountain bikes. The beach club is open to the public and you can go here with just a small consumption charge.
How to get to Punta Venado and reservations
Directions to Punta Venado
Punta Venado is just about 12 minutes south of Playa Del Carmen on the 307 Highway. You can driver here or if you book a tour they can include transportation. A taxi can be used to go here in a pinch but it is a bit far for the taxi to go especially down the bumpy dirt road and it will be expensive.
Our recommendations for this excursion
If you go here just to the beach club, this is a nice relaxed atmosphere with no visual hotels down the coast yet it is not too far south from Playa Del Carmen. For locals this is a nice day escape from Playa.
If you come here to do the activities, these are done in a more classy manor than some of the other tours. This is more private land that gets used for these tours and is not full of tourist. We also like the food they serve here.
Here is what we though of the different activities:
- We like the ATV route and driving the road next to the beach is pretty special.
- The snorkeling is on a beautiful bay and one of the better spots off the coast of the Riviera Maya.
- The jet skies are fun on the open water and you really don’t have anyone around, so you can have fun!
- We did not do the horseback riding or mountain bikes. These are the more relaxed activities you can do here at Punta Venado.
allTOURnative ATV Park
Many people just think ATV’s are a tour where you drive fast through the woods and kick up some dust. This tour is much more then that. This tour takes you through virgin forest and you stop at a traditional Mayan house. You get to walk around it and see the local flora and fauna. Then you will experience a traditional Mayan ceremony before going for a swim in a beautiful crystal clear cenote. You will also see some small Mayan ruins on this property. To see photos of this ATV tour and more information, see our article here.
Compared to some of the other ATV tours, this one is done a little nicer and it is good it is located just south of Playa Del Carmen which means less transportation time. You will not feel like you just got on an ATV and drove around but you will also feel like you went to a beautiful area and even got the see the local Mayan culture a bit. You can book this tour as one person per ATV or two on an ATV. It is better to have two per vehicle for the cost. This tour is also good if you are over the sun and want a break, much of this tour is in the woods.
Fishing Tour from Playa Del Carmen
Many people ask about going out fishing from Playa Del Carmen and the good thing is that this is a year round activity here. Fishing tours leave right from the center of town. One of our recommended companies is La Reina Sport Fishing Rivera Maya. They have one of the larger fishing boats and have good service. They do private charters and you can do different lengths of fishing tours. You can do trolling or deep sea fishing. For more on this fishing tour, you can see our article here.
How to book this fishing tour
They do speak English and you can contact them in the following ways:
- Website: http://www.lareinaplaya.com/
- Email: email@example.com
- Phone: If calling outside Mexico you dial the (52) country code. Inside Mexico you can just start with the 984. (0052)-984-179-1551
For the sport fishermen that come to the Rivera Maya this is a good tour and one of our recommended fishing companies to go out with. You do not have to go to far off the coast to go fishing and you can catch some big fish which they can prepare for you to take back to your hotel. This tour company is very accommodating as well.
Fat Cat Catamaran
This is a catamaran tour that leaves from Puerto Aventuras. This tour takes you up the coast to snorkel and then stops at another location where you can swim. For more on the tour see our article here.
Catamaya Catamaran Tour
Going out on the water is a great way to enjoy the Rivera Maya and this cruise will not disappoint. This catamaran is large and glides across the water. It is so relaxing on the front of the boat especially as you lie there in the net.
They take you to a good snorkel spot where you can see some coral, tropical fish and sea turtles. After snorkeling you have your meal ready for you and drinks aboard the catamaran. After that you can enjoy your sailing back to Puerto Aventuras.
How to take this and make reservations
This tour leaves from Puerto Aventuras which is about 20 minutes south of Playa Del Carmen off the 307 Highway. you will need to drive here or book transportation with your reservation. Puerto Aventuras is a private community, so you will need to pass through the gates and find your way to the port. The port area is spread out so if you are driving here make sure you get good directions. It is however better if you book transportation since you do have open bar on the catamaran and you don’t have to worry about parking.
You can book this cruise directly with them by contacting them on their website: http://www.catamaya.com/
Puerto Aventuras is close to Playa Del Carmen and is one option to take a Catamaran. Since there is no port in Playa you do have to go other places to get a tour. If you have not been on a catamaran you should try it. They glide over the water and make for very smooth sailing. These tours are great for getting out on the ocean. The food is not as gourmet as you might think but it really is about the cruise and snorkeling. For more about what it is like you can read our article about Catamaya Catamaran here.
Xel-Ha is all about swimming and snorkeling all day in this very large inlet. This is one of the big three parks to visit in the Rivera Maya. The others are Xcaret and Xplor.
At Xel-Ha you can snorkel and see fish, float in rafts, walk on the floating bridge, take a walk on the nature trail, bike, have the kids enjoy the special play area, and swim into some caves. All your food and drinks including alcoholic drinks are included in the ticket price.
In addition to the general admission you can buy extra add-ons like snuba and the zip bikes. If you don’t know what these are see the photo links below and you can also book these here at these links.
Snuba Caleta Xel-Ha
Zip Bike in Xel-Ha
How to get to Xel-Ha and get tickets
Directions and transportation to Xel-Ha
Xel-Ha is on the 307 Highway between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum. It is just about 10 minutes from Tulum, so much closer to Tulum then Playa. You can get here by:
- Driving yourself and parking for free.
- Taking the few ADO busses that come here. Note: There are only a few ADO busses that come here in the morning and return leave from here in the late afternoon. Be sure to check the schedule if you take this option. You will still need to get to the bus station in Playa Del Carmen to catch this bus.
- Take the colectivos.
- Taxi, but we do not recommend this because it is almost in Tulum and the cost is too expensive unless you are staying at a hotel nearby.
How to get the best deal on tickets to Xel-Ha
You can buy your tickets online here by clicking the link below. This is the official site and you will get the best prices here. Tip: If you book ahead you can save 15% off your ticket! Don’t wait until the last minute.
This is a full day activity and we don’t recommend booking this tour with some agents that sell it as a half day and then a visit to ruins or other nearby attraction. We recommend just coming here and buying just the general admission ticket. If you have been here before then you might want to choose one of the additional activities. We always enjoy a day here and the park is laid out so nice that you have a wonderful day enjoying the park.
Diving Cenotes or Ocean Scuba Diving
We currently have two dive tour companies in the Playa Del Carmen area that we recommend. These dive shops offer dives in cenotes, off the coast of Playa Del Carmen and also Cozumel. The first one we recommend is:
Blue Life Dive Shop
To read more about this dive shop see our article here.
Tank Ha Dive shop
To read more about this dive shop see our article here.
Jungle Maya Park
This is allTOURnative’s most active tour. You will start by arriving at the park and load into huge jeeps. These will bump along through the woods for several kilometers. Once you are deep in the woods you will unload and visit some cenotes and swim in them as well. You will also zip line around the property and have a meal of Mayan food.
How to book this tour
You can book directly with them on their website. This is the best way to book and you will get the best price. Booking online also saves you money when you book in advance. https://www.alltournative.com/
The three things that really stand out as something of a highlight on this tour were:
- Rappelling down into the cenote that had crystal clear waters.
- The zip line that goes through a waterfall.
- Snorkeling in the cenote that is in a cave. The guide had a light to shine down in the water and you could see the stalagmites. It was like diving in a cave but you only have to be able to snorkel.
Overall this is a fun tour that also highlights a little about the culture of the Mayan people and the natural formations of the Rivera Maya.
Tulum Private Cenote Tour
This tour will take you to cenotes near Tulum that are not open to the general public. This can be for a small group or a larger group of friends. You will walk through the woods and discover caves, dry cenotes, and swim in different cenotes.
This tour was set up by a resident in Tulum and is done in a manner to cater to those who have an appreciation for private attention and getting to see the cenotes in a relaxed manner.
How to book this tour
You can contact Jungle Ja Tours by the following methods:
- Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/junglejatours
- Website: http://junglejatours.com/
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Contact phone number: 1-52-984-165-9800
This tour is for people that don’t want to visit cenotes on their own or visit cenotes with other tourist. You get to experience different style cenotes and ones that are not open to the public. This tour can help you discover the natural beauty of the area and feel a little more connected with it. This tour can also be set up as a special group outing and you can ask about special arrangements.
Cabo Catoche Tour
This tour will take you up the coast of Isla Holbox to see a remote part of the island. You will start by trying your hand at some fishing. The fish that are caught are made into ceviche for you. You then will snorkel just off the coast. Here you will see manta rays, sea turtles and a lot of tropical fish. After you snorkel you will be shown some of the mangrove areas of Isla Holbox and then have that fresh made ceviche. For more about this tour to Cabo Catoche including our video of it, see our article here.
How to book this tour
You can book this tour with Holbox Adventure Tour Company. It is good to send them an email to check for availability and weather conditions. We like this tour company because they know Holbox Island very well. They also run Holbox Transfers transportation company.
This is a good tour for those that have a few days on Holbox and want to get to see some of the more remote parts of the island. This is about the only opportunity you will have to go snorkeling on Holbox because most of the beach in front of town and hotels has nothing to see in the water. This tour is not done by a lot of tourist due to the fact it is on remote Holbox, so you have a rare opportunity to see this part of the world with this tour.
Three Island Tour
This tour will take you from Holbox to visit three points around the island. You will go to bird island where you can see many native birds nesting and feeding. This island is very populated with birds and you just might get to see some flamingos. The second point is a stop at a cenote where you can swim and the last stop is to Passion Island, a small island where you can also see birds. Around Passion Island you might get to see feeding flamingos in the shallow waters and your boat guide will slowly pass by them making for good photo ops.
How to book this tour
You can book this tour by reserving below. It is a very affordable priced and give you a nice half day activity. You can click the link below for more information and booking.
Isla Pajaros, Passion Island and Swimming in Yalahau Lagoon from Isla Holbox
If you only take one tour on Holbox, this one is very easy to go on and is not as weather dependent as the other tour options here. This tour is also very affordable and is a nice family activity. See our article on this tour for more details. This is a nice half day tour and leaving in the morning is best.
Ojos Maya Tour
This tour is all about seeing the Mayan culture today and learning about some of the traditions they have brought from the past. On this tour you will see:
- How henequen is made, a fiber made from plants in the Yucatan that was very famous in the 20th Century.
- Visit a traditional medicine doctor and see how plants are used in medicine.
- Listen to stories from the past and see original photos all while in a hundred year old Mayan home.
- Visit lagoon and take a dip.
- Have a traditional meal of Mayan food.
How to book this tour
To book this tour here is the direct contact with this tour company.
You can see the website at www.OjosMayas.com
If you like National Geographic stories and wish you could have an adventure like that, this tour will be as about close as you can get! This is a real up close look at a Mayan community that is far removed from the tourist Riviera Maya. This is not a sanitized tour, but rather a real experience and if you like those types of things you should book this tour.
This tour only goes once a week so it does not disturb the people that live in the areas and the tours are small and limited to one small van. Young children are not allowed on the tour due to drive time and type of tour. See our article for details or contact the tour company if you have questions.
Lol Tun Caves
The Lol Tun Caves are the largest in the Yucatan Peninsula. They are located in the south western portion of the peninsula. These caves are so large you should plan on being here an hour or more. This is a far area from Playa Del Carmen and often these caves are visited by driving the Ruta Puuc tourist circuit which is just south of Merida and involves seeing haciendas and the Mayan ruins of Uxmal.
How to get to Lol Tun Caves
See our article for a detailed map and more information on these caves. There are really not any tour companies that take people here, only specialty guides or tours, so plan on driving yourself here.
These are not worth solely going to this area to see but are a nice experience if you go to the this rural Mayan area. If you are a cave lover, you will be impressed by how big they are and you can let your imagination run wild with the history behind them.
Punta Laguna is a community effort to support the natural exploration of the area. There are Mayan pueblos in the area that work this area. There are several activities you can do here:
- Rappelling into a cenote.
- Canoeing on the lagoon.
- A zip line.
- Nature walk and seeing Spider monkeys.
How to get to Punta Laguna
From Tulum you will drive toward Coba on the road marked 109 on maps. When you arrive at the traffic circle with the turn to Coba you will take a right and go toward Punta Laguna. This road is narrow and goes through a few very small communities. Watch for speed bumps. It is about 17 kilometers to the Punta Laguna area. It will be on the left hand side. There is a large sign announcing it.
Once you arrive there you can book directly with the people at the entrance.
If you want to visit this area with a tour you can look at the option below that also visits Coba ruins. This tour gives you a full day exploring the Mayan world and having fun too!
Mayan Inland Expedition from Tulum: Punta Laguna and Coba Ruins
This tour is good for people that have been to Coba and visited some of the other sites in the area first. This tour supports the local community and gives you a more natural look at the Riviera Maya. This is a quiet tour and very much natural. This tour is good for people that like to get more embedded into the area. Food is not always available at the small restaurant and there are only small roadside places nearby. The nearest restaurants are about 20 kilometers away in Coba, just so you know and are prepared if you drive yourself here.
Cities, Towns and Islands to Visit
Rio Lagartos is a fishing village at the north tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. While it is charming in its own simple way, the real thing to do here is enjoy the surrounding nature preserve. Many of the local fisherman do tours into the ria (place where the ocean forms like a river) to see wildlife and especially flamingos. To see more about this town and tour see our article here.
How to get to Rio Lagartos
You can drive yourself here and we have detailed instructions in our article here. If you are traveling without a car it is possible to take a bus leaving from Valladolid. If you did want to take a tour here there are not any small tours that just take you here but one option is a private tour that will also take you to Ek Balam and other spots in the area. You can click the link below to see if this is something you are interested in.
Private Tour: Flamingos, Mayan Temples, Rio Lagartos and Ek Balam
Rio Lagartos is a sleepy fishing town and most people just visit to go on the tour to see the flamingos. There are just a few hotels here and even fewer restaurants. It is a nice quiet town but really no one comes here just to visit the town.
People come for the tour and it is a good way to the see nature. The tours are in a more remote area and you will have a sense of accomplishment after you go and discover this little place. If you want to see flamingos in their natural home, this is a good place to do it. Spending one night in this town is enough and then having the next day to go on tour. After that you will be ready to move on or you can stay one more night and explore about 20 minutes by car some of the nearby things like the small town of San Filipe or Las Coloradas.
El Cuyo is a small fishing village on a peninsula that just happens to have a nice beach. The waters here are not as turquoise and the Caribbean but still nice. This is a sleepy town and has just a few places to eat and not much else going on. Kite surfing is the major tourist draw here and the few eco tours you can take. For more photos and information on El Cuyo, see our article here.
How to get to El Cuyo
El Cuyo is at the tip of the peninsula between Holbox and Rio Lagartos. There are not too many roads here and the ones that do reach El Cuyo are dotted with topes or speedbumps. Driving is however the recommended way to get here. There is bus service but it is very local service and takes much longer since it stops at each town. See our article for more detailed driving directions.
You should go to El Cuyo if…..1. you like kite surfing, or 2. you want a sleeping fishing village with a nice beach and just a place to get away from other tourist. There is not too much to do here except relax. The beaches are very nice and more emerald water color since you are getting more toward the Gulf of Mexico.
If you come for more then one night you should book an Airbnb place because you will be more comfortable and you can have a kitchen to cook in. This comes in handy since there are just a few places to eat at in town.
Holbox Island has been gaining in popularity due to stunning instagram photos and the tranquil shallow waters off the beach. This is a laid back Mexican Caribbean island where people drive golf carts around on sand streets and thatched roof hotels dot the coast. The vibe her is more relaxed and there are a good amount of well traveled people that come here. It is similar to Tulum with atmosphere but not as busy as Tulum. For photos and a video of what Holbox is like, see our article here.
How to get to Holbox
Holbox is a 2 1/2 hour drive from Playa Del Carmen. Once you arrive in the town of Chiquila, you will park your car and take the ferry over. You can also take ADO bus from Playa Del Carmen or from Cancun. If you want private transfers we recommend Holbox Transfers company.
Holbox can be a day trip but you really should spend at least one night here. Rent a golf car or bike and explore the island and enjoy the calm waters off the coast. If you love instagram you will love taking photos here because it is very instgramable. If you are looking for lots of nightlife or an large all inclusive hotel, this is not your place. Holbox is about a more laid back atmosphere and because it is a little farther away, it does separate the different types of tourist.
Isla Mujeres is a small island off the coast of Cancun. On one end there is the main town and the best beach and on the other is a rocky bluff where there is a little remains of a Mayan ruin.
Some people come to stay here on vacation but most come here on a day trip to soak in the small island charm. For more photos of Isla Mujeres and information, see our article here.
How to get to Isla Mujeres
The main way to get to Isla Mujeres is from Cancun and Puerto Juarez ferry pier. Here you can catch the frequent ferries across. You can also get a ferry from the Hotel Zone in Cancun, but this is more expensive but much faster to do it from here if you are staying in the Hotel Zone.
This is not a remote Caribbean island but rather almost a suburb of Cancun. Here is what we recommend you do when visiting:
- It is fun to drive a golf cart around and visit the southern end of the island where there are some bluffs.
- On the north end of the island is the most beautiful beach and a popular place to take some photos and a dip in the ocean
- Shopping is pretty much going to be the same tourist souvenirs you find in Cancun, so don’t expect much different things. But do walk the pedestrian street in the middle of the island and take in the charm of some of the colorful small houses.
Cancun is the largest city in the state and the place where most everyone flies into. So what does this large city have? Well for tourist it does not have much to offer except the Hotel Zone with it’s beaches and clubs. The downtown does not really hold much for tourist and there is not much reason to visit just the downtown.
There are just a few specialty things that Cancun has to offer. For more about Cancun, see our article “Why go to Cancun?”.
How to get to Cancun from Playa Del Carmen
You can get to Cancun the following ways:
- Drive the 307 highway for about 45 minutes.
- Take the ADO bus.
- Take Playa Express. This is a small van service on 2nd Street in Playa Del Carmen that services the route between Cancun bus station and 2nd Street in Playa. For more information about Playa Express see our article here.
If you are not staying in Cancun and perhaps staying in the Rivera Maya or in Playa Del Carmen and want to visit Cancun, there is not too much this area has to offer that you don’t have already where you are staying. The beaches in the Hotel Zone are the best feature of Cancun.
The downtown is not much of a charming tourist attraction and is more of a perfunctory city for residents. Unless there is something really specific you know is in Cancun that you want to see, then it makes going here worth while, otherwise enjoy the attractions in other places.
This was once a more sleepy fishing village until more people discovered it was a nice escape from Cancun and there was beachfront. Now the town is half along the highway and the richer side is along the beachfront.
There is a small town center and a few restaurants here. One of the best draws is the affordable snorkeling off the coast.
How to get to Puerto Morelos
You can drive to Puerto Morelos on the 307 Highway and then turn to go the few kilometers through the mangrove to the section of town that is on the beach.
You can also take the ADO bus here and colectivo but they both leave you on the side of the highway and you will need to take a taxi down to the beach area or trek down by walking.
If you have been to the Rivera Maya before or live here, it can be nice to spend a day here looking around or going to snorkel. There are many first tier options for tourist that this would not be one of the first places you go but rather a place you check out after you have done more off the top of the list.
What most people find interesting here is visiting the small fishing town and eating at a local restaurant or enjoying a small beach club for the day. The snorkeling is good off the coast and you can pay local fishermen to take you out for a very affordable tour.
San Miguel Cozumel
San Miguel is the main town on Cozumel and it serves as a jumping off point from the ferry and some of the cruise ships. Mostly this waterfront area is lined with jewelry stores and tourist traps for cruise people. The town itself is not particularly charming and only one main square is painted bright Caribbean colors.
Most of the tourist attractions are outside of town. The most popular thing to do is rent a car or scooters and drive the loop around the island. This can be done in two hours depending on how much you stop.
How to get to Cozumel
Cozumel can be reached by international flights or by a small airline company from Cancun airport. Otherwise you will be taking the ferry across from Playa Del Camren. For more on where the ferry is, parking and how to do it, see our article here on the Cozumel ferry.
Cozumel is really all about the water activities like diving and snorkeling. This is where this place excels. If you just come from Playa Del Carmen to go to San Miguel town then you might be a bit disappointed. The one thing we recommend to people is to drive the loop around and enjoy sightseeing on the far side of the island.
Tulum is actually in three parts. There is the section with the ruins, the town along the highway and the beach front area including what is nicknamed the Hotel Zone.
The downtown or part along the highway has most restaurants and shops along this corridor. You can walk around on the main street but the best part or most desirable part is the individual areas of the Hotel Zone and the beaches. For more information on Tulum and photos, see our article here.
How to get to Tulum
From Playa Del Carmen it is about a 45 minute drive down the 307 Highway. The highway bisects the downtown.
Public transportation to Tulum
You can also take the ADO bus that leaves frequently from the Juarez Avenue bus station. This will take about one hour and the bus station is right in the middle of Tulum on the 307 Highway. Note: On some ADO buses they make a stop at Tulum Ruins. This is about 2 kilometers from the center of the town, so do not get off at this stop unless you want to visit the ruins.
You can also take the popular colectivos (shared minivans). These vans leave from 2nd Street in Playa and take about 45 minutes to get to Tulum. They drop people off along the highway.
If you go to Tulum just to visit the town, it will not be too exciting. The town developed as a stop along the highway but is getting to be a support for the growing community there. You can walk around and see some nice shops with a little less tacky souvenirs and there are a few good restaurants in town and along the 307 Highways but the real joy of going to Tulum is the beach! See our section below about the beaches of Tulum and where to go.
The other part of Tulum is what is called the Hotel Zone along the beach road. This area is popular with celebrities and people that like a little bohemian chic area. If you go here you should have a plan to visit a beach club for the day and have a meal and drinks.
Renting bikes in town and biking to the beach is a very Tulum thing to do. Once you reach a beach club, enjoy!
Valladolid is a colonial town in the Mayan heart of the Yucatan Peninsula. This small city is almost like a living museum with people walking around in traditional Mayan dresses and reciting many customs that are centuries old. There is a lot of history here and colorful colonial buildings to see.
Valladolid is near to both Chichen Itza Mayan ruins and Ek Balam ruins and many cenotes are in the area, so this town makes a good base for exploring.
How to get to Valladolid, Yucatan
Driving instructions to Valladolid
There are two ways to get to Valladolid by diving.
- Take the new toll highway from Playa Del Carmen to Xcan and then the toll road 180 to Valladolid. This route takes about 1 1/2 hours.
- Or you can drive to Tulum and across passing Coba and arriving in Valladolid without paying any tolls. This route takes about 2 1/2 hours.
Bus options to Valladolid
By bus you can take ADO and there are numerous connections daily between Playa Del Camren and Valladolid. There are other more local bus companies like Mayab but these stop many times and take much longer. They can be a little cheaper but not worth it in time you spend.
Valladolid is close to the Rivera Maya but offers you a totally different atmosphere. It is a quiet town with so much history and culture. The colonial past and Mayan traditions will make for an interesting day or overnight trip. There are a lot of hidden gems in this town so make sure you read our guide or watch our video.
This town makes for a good base to explore the area or to spend the night before or after visiting Chichen Itza or Ek Balam ruins. For more on what is around Valladolid, see our article on things to see outside of town.
Many tour busses stop for a couple hours here after doing a tour but you really don’t get to see the town and what it has to offer.
This town is great for people that like to dig a little deeper into the culture. For more about Valladolid and photos, see our article here.
Bacalar is the town next to Laguna Bacalar. This lagoon is known as the lake of seven colors because the different blues it emits. The white sand bottom of the lake helps make this water look beautiful. When it is a nice sunny day this place is very photogenic. When it is rainy it can seem like you came to the wrong place and there is not much to do.
Besides the lake, the town is rather sleepy and this area only offers a few Mayan ruins nearby and some nice small hotels on the lakefront. For amazing photos and more information on Bacalar, see our article here.
How to get to Bacalar
Bacalar is practically a straight drive south on the 307 Highway. It will take about 3 hours to get there.
Alternatively you can take the ADO bus there but just note that the town is spread out and you will be limited to just the center of town.
Bacalar is a beautiful place to visit. It is good to spend at least one or two nights here so you have time to enjoy sunrise over the lake and get out on the lake to kayak.
You should drive here so you can get around because the town is spread out. You can take the bus here from Playa Del Carmen but expect to walk a little and make sure you stay in town so you can access things.
If it rains while here you will not have the same experience at all if it is a sunny day. Make sure you check the weather and at least stay long enough so you can see it in all it’s glory.
Mahahual and Xcalak
Mahahual is a small fishing town on the coast that has a beautiful reef. The town was practically wiped our by past hurricanes so it is not architecturally charming. The true beauty is walking next to the ocean and observing the tranquil waters. This is a good place to come for an overnight or longer if you plan on snorkeling or diving.
Xcalak is further south at the end of the state. It is very remote and lost in time. Only a few brave souls have set up camp here and some offer guest houses. The ocean is so calm when you look in the water you see many fish and snails. It is pretty paradisiac. For more on Xcalak and Mahahual, see our article here.
How to get to Mahahual and Xcalak
It is best to drive yourself here. From Playa Del Carmen it takes about 3 hours and 45 minutes. Your drive south on the 307 Highway until the town of Limones and then shortly after you will turn left and drive on the straight road another 54 kilometers to the ocean and the town of Mahahual. To get to Xcalak you will need to drive another 30 minutes south. Take the paved road because the road along the beach, although beautiful, does not go all the way through.
Mahahual is not much of a town but the beach and reef is where the true beauty lies. This area is very quiet for tourism and kind of out of the way place. It is best to spend at least one night here so you can look around and have time to take in the view.
If you go to Xcalak you should spend at least two nights here. We say this because the people that go here are looking for quiet and it is a long drive to this far south point in the state. If you got to Xcalak be prepared to a laid back time and not many stores or restaurants. This is like the Caribbean 60 years ago.
Bacalar and Mahahual are similar choices to get away and both are on water, if we had to choose we would say Bacalar because there are some nicer more boutique hotels there that can make your stay special and you are a little closer to some ruins if you wanted a side trip.
Mayan Ruins to visit on tour
Mayan ruins are usually on everyone’s list for Playa Del Carmen excursions. Here are all the Mayan ruins you can visit and what ones might be best for you.
This is the most visited of all the Mayan ruins with about 1.2 million people coming here a year. The appeal is the large restore pyramid or temple. It is an iconic symbol of the site. This site is large and takes over an hour to walk around. There are temples, a sacred cenote, ball court and many of the ancient structures to see here.
How to get to Chichen Itza or book this tour
There are so many tours that go here it can be hard to pick which one to go on. It should be noted that this ruin site is almost 3 hours away from both Cancun and Playa Del Carmen, so that means it is nice to make another short stop to break up the trip and eat lunch. The tour below stops at one cenote and you get a buffet lunch included in your tour. This tour will make the most of your excursion and make for a memorable day. To see more photos and read more information see our article here on Chichen Itza.
Chichen Itza Day Trip from Playa del Carmen
Both of these tours are good options if you want a tour to Chichen Itza.
Tour Xichen Clasico
Everyone wants to go to these ruins at least once and it is often the first set of Mayan ruins you see in the area. A bus tour can be fine to visit since driving there by yourself can cost similar (toll roads, gas, rental etc.) and it is easy to have a tour take you and do all the driving in a bus.
If you go by yourself by car you can arrive early, like before 10:00am to avoid the tours coming from Cancun.
If you want a more adventurous set of ruins to visit, Coba is a good place to visit because it does have a large pyramid and you can climb it. To read more about what Mayan ruins might fit you the best, see our article comparing them all.
Ek Balam Mayan Ruins
These ruins only opened up in the past two decades and are smaller then Chichen Itza. The site is fairly compact and you are able to climb on many of the buildings including the largest one. From the top you get a great view of the Yucatan.
There is also a large cenote off on a trail from the entrance of this cenote. You can visit the ruins and also pay for the entrance to the cenote if you want to cool off and swim afterward. To see photos of Ek Balam and more information, see our article here.
How to get to Ek Balam or book a tour
Since this site is about 2 1/2 hours from Playa Del Camren it is good to take a tour to this more remote area and also combine it with another activity. We really recommend this tour because you also get to stop at the largest cenote in the Yucatan. We also like this tour company as well. Click the link below to learn more about this excellent tour.
Ek Balam Tour from Cancun Including Cenote Maya Park
If you are driving to Ek Balam, these ruins are 20 kilometers north of the town of Valladolid. follow 295 north until you see the signs on your right. Turn right and proceed about 6 minutes to the entrance.
This site is nice to walk around and climb to the top of. This site is much less visited than Chichen Itza so you will feel less tourist bombarded from merchants. Since this site is a little smaller it is good to incorporate it into another stop if you come for the day to this area. Because of this, it can be a good idea to take a tour that will set up another stop for you in the same day you visit Ek Balam.
El Meco Mayan Ruins
This is a small size ruins just on the outskirts of Cancun. It gets forgotten about but is fairly well restored and while it does not really replace a trip to one of the other large Maya ruin site, it can be worth a stop at. To see more about El Meco, see our article here.
How to get to El Meco ruins
Drive North out of Cancun on Avenida Lopez Portillo also known as the Cancun-Puerto Juarez road. The site is located at Km.27. The ruins are just off the road on the left. There is a small parking lot. There is good signage. You can see a map in the article listed above. It is also possible to take a taxi here but you should arrange for a price and also to see if he can wait for you.
If you want to see some sort of ruins but don’t want to take the bus to Chichen Itza, these are just in the downtown of Cancun. As a resident in the Rivera Maya this can be an interesting side trip one day to see this site. If you are going to Isla Blanca then this also makes a good stop on the way out or back.
Coba Mayan Ruins
Coba ruins are unique because they are in more dense woods and you can see how the jungle has wrapped itself around these buildings. You can feel like a bit of an explorer when visiting. Another thing that makes these ruins unique is the fact you can ride bikes between the sites. You are able to climb the main pyramid or temple.
How to get to Coba ruins or book a tour
There is very limited public transportation to these ruins so we recommend driving yourself there or taking a tour.
If you did want to take public bus here you can take ADO from Playa Del Carmen here and just be sure to check the schedule for the departure.
If you drive here you will go south to Tulum on the 307 Highway from Playa Del Carmen and turn right in Tulum to the Tulum/Coba Road. It is about another 30 minutes and you will come to the turn for Coba and the ruins are about 3 kilometers down the road through town. There is a paid parking lot at the site.
If you want to visit these ruins with a tour we recommend this tour below. Click the link for more details.
Coba Mayan Treasures Tour
This really is one of our preferred ruins to visit. We like the tall trees around and the fact that you can ride bikes through the woods to the different parts of the ruins. It is also great you can climb the tall pyramid or temple. Because of the setting and the fact they are less busy with people, we suggest you go here either as a first option for seeing a ruin site or if you have been to Chichen Itza, go here next. For more information on Coba ruins and photos, see our article here.
Tulum Mayan Ruins
Tulum ruins are famous because they look out over the turquoise sea. The ruins themselves are a small walled area and lets be honest, most people just come for the photos of the ocean.
How to get to Tulum ruins or book a tour
You can drive to these ruins from Playa Del Carmen. Drive south on the 307 Highway and the ruins are just before you get into town on your left. You will enter the parking area market with the large TULUM sign . Parking is getting more expensive here all the time.
For public transportation you can take the colectivos or ADO bus. To see how to do this, see our complete Tulum guide here.
Here are two tour options we recommend. You can click the links and see hat is best for you
Tulum Ruins and Akumal Turtles Combo Tour
Viator Exclusive: Early Access to Tulum Ruins from Playa del Carmen with Archeologist
This site is so iconic for the cliff overlooking the beach. This is why people come here just to get that photo. It is beautiful and worth it. The ruins are ok but it is the view that is what makes it.
Coming here on your own or a tour are both good options and it is just up to you what you prefer. These ruins take the smallest amount of time, except if you go swimming. It is good to combine this with another activity in the area to make good use of being in the Tulum area.
To read more about Tulum ruins, see our guide to planning your trip there.
Muyil Mayan Ruins
Muyil is a smaller size Mayan ruin site just south of Tulum. This site is not visited much. The site is very clean and has some structures in the woods. There are no structures you can climb here. Behind the main Castillo is a trail into the woods that has a boardwalk to Sian Ka’an nature preserve. Make sure you take this trail and pay the separate entrance for this. For more on Muyil and photos, see our article here.
How to get to the Muyil ruins
Muyil is so little visited and overshadowed by Tulum that there are not many tours that go here. One tour we do recommend takes you to Muyil ruins and also to the Sian Ka’an reserve. This is an eco tour and you will get to see this untouched natural area along with visiting the ruins. Click the link below for more information on this tour.
Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve Eco-Adventure Including Muyil Ruins
If you drive here follow the 307 Highway south out of Tulum for 17 kilometers. On your left will be a small sign and you will see the free parking lot.
If you are carless and want to take the colectivos, hope on a Tulum-Felipe Carrillo colectivo van. They will drop you off at the entrance. When you want to return to Tulum you might have to wait 15-25 minutes for the colectivos, because they are not as frequent in this area, but they will come.
If you have been to one of the other bigger ruins, then this can be a nice small ruin to visit. You really have to walk the trail through the woods to the lagoon and climb the tower. This is what makes this site so special. Including this in the tour above is a good option to see some less touristy sights in the Rivera Maya.
Chacchoben Mayan Ruins
Chacchoben ruins are situated in the south of the state near Bacalar. The southern end of Quintana Roo has several nice Mayan ruin sites but they are seldom visited. This makes it a real treat to get there and visit them. The settings for these ruins is quite nice. The verdant green gently rolling fields are dotted with palm trees and brahma cows. The trees even start to change since you are in a different area. These ruins are a fairly big site.
How to get to Chacchoben ruins
There is no public transportation here so you will need to drive yourself.
You will turn off of the 307 Highway, take 293 (about 3km). Just past the very small town of Lazaro Cardenas are the ruins on your left. There is a town of Chacchoben where the name for this ruins came from. Do not follow signs from 307 to the town of Chacchoben, look for the ruins sign.
There are a large ruin complex and a good place to stop if you are in the area perhaps visiting Bacalar or Mahahual. To come just to visit the ruins and go back to Playa would be a bit of a long trip and this site should be incorporated with something else. To see photos and more information for Chacchoben ruins see our article here.
These Mayan ruins are some of the most remote to get to but are rewarding is you go. Buried deep in the jungle, these ruins boast many structures including tall pyramids. You are able to climb the ruins and see the surrounding roof of the jungle with other pyramids peaking out.
Where are the Cenotes to Visit
This is one of three cenotes that are good to visit from Playa Del Carmen. All three have crystal clear waters and all three are in a row along the 307 Highway. The cenotes are Cristalino, Azul and El Jardin. To see what makes this one a little different see our article here on Cenote Cristalino.
How to get to Cenote Cristalino
Driving-Take the 307 Highway south. Once you pass Puerto Aventuras you will go for about 4 more minutes. You will see the Barceló Hotel entrance on your left and almost across from it will be the entrance for Cenote Cristalino. You can also take the colectivos here.
This cenote is a close second behind El Jardin to visit. We recommend you look at all three article and the photos and pick one to visit or you can always visit two or all three in one day if you want since they are all in a row.
This is one of three cenotes that are good to visit from Playa Del Carmen. All three have crystal clear waters and all three are in a row along the 307 Highway. The cenotes are Cristalino, Azul and El Jardin. For photos of Cenote Azul and more information, see our article here.
How to get to Cenote Azul
Driving-Take the 307 Highway south. Once you pass Puerto Aventuras you will go for about 4 more minutes. You will see the Barceló Hotel entrance on your left and almost across from it will be the entrance for Cenote Azul. You can also take the colectivos here.
This cenote is a close second behind El Jardin to visit. We recommend you look at all three article and the photos and pick one to visit or you can always visit two or all three in one day if you want since they are all in a row.
Cenote El Jardin
This is a medium size cenote a cenotes go. It is open and surrounded by nice plants. There are platforms and rock ledges to jump off into this cenote. One end is pretty deep and overall this cenote is about 15 feet deep. There are a lot of things to see with snorkels here and large rocks in the middle of the cenote where you can sit in the water and rest from swimming. To see photos of this cenote and what makes it different from the others, see our article here.
How to get to Cenote El Jardin
Driving-Take the 307 Highway south. One you pass Puerto Aventuras you will go for about 4 more minutes. You will see the Barceló Hotel entrance on your left and almost across from it will be the entrance for Cenote El Jardin del Eden. You can also take the colectivos here.
This is always a good option for your first time to a cenote or just a close one to Playa Del Camren. We like it because it is open and good for snorkeling, has jump off points clear waters and big rocks in the middle you can sit in. This is also a nice cenote to sit by and there are a few small palapas to sit under.
This cenote is in the community of Chemuyil between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum. It is a small open cenote with clear water. This cenote is fairly deep and surrounded by big ferns and tropical plants. It is not that well know and a beautiful place to come to. There are local tours that come here about twice a day and some divers, but other then that you have the place pretty much to yourself.
How to get to Cenote Xunaan-Ha
This cenote is in the community of Chemuyil between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum. For a map and more detailed directions see our article about Cenote Xunaan-Ha here.
This cenote is good to visit if you live here or are looking for a less visited cenote on your way to Tulum. Visit here in early morning and late afternoon when there is less chance of the tour groups coming here.
Cenote Xux Ha
This is a deep cenote where the roof has collapsed. There are steep steps going down into it and a small island in the middle. It is possible to swim here but the water is not the clearest. It is nice to be deep down and see the roots from the trees stretching down to drink. This cenote is run by a rural family and the walk and atmosphere is more remote feeling.
How to get to Cenote Xux Ha
You will need a car to get here. It is off the old 180 road between Chemax and Valladolid. See the map on in our article and more photos of Cenote Xux Ha here.
This cenote is not first on anyone’s list but can be a nice little side exploration if driving toward Valladolid on the old 180 road. This is a quiet cenote that is nice for some photos but not the best for swimming. This is a cenote you visit after you already visited the more popular ones and nicer cenotes.
This cenote looks like a large lake and you might be fooled if you did not know better. It is dark in color and a good place to swim but you cannot see too deep in it. This cenote is not visited as much as at the far south end of the Hotel Zone in Tulum. It is on the back of two properties and only a few people stop by here for a dip. For photos of this cenote see our article here.
How to get to Cenote Encantado
Drive down the beach road in Tulum through the Hotel Zone to about KM. 10 You will see signs on your right for it. See the article above for a map.
This cenote is for people that do not want to fight for space in the other cenotes near Tulum. This is not a crystal clear cenote but is a large place to swim and enjoy a little tranquility. If you are in Tulum and want to explore a different place after knowing the more well known and nicer looking cenotes, stop by here for a cheap swim.
This small cenote is on the road from Tulum to Coba. This cenote looks like a swimming pool and has crystal clear water. Around this cenote are pavilions and people come here to relax with their families. There is a small store for soda and chips and a restaurant is open sometime.
How to get to Cenote Zacil-Ha
Cenote Zacil-Ha is on the Tulum/Coba road. It is about 8.5 kilometers from Tulum. You will need a car to drive here. If coming from Tulum the cenote will be on your left. For a map and photos of Cenote Zacil-Ha, see our article here.
This is not the largest cenote and looks like a swimming pool, but that is what makes it so nice. The color of the water is light blue and this cenote makes for a nice place to have a picnic and lay around. Grand Cenote just outside of Tulum is larger and nicer but gets a lot of tourist. This cenote is not really bikeable from Tulum since the road is narrow and the speed is fast. So you need a car to get here but not really worth taking a taxi to if you are staying in Tulum since it would cost a little bit and getting a ride back to Tulum will be a little difficult.
Cenote Cenotes of Coba
These are three cenotes near the community of Coba and the Mayan ruins. Each of the three are different and offer swimming or looking at a cenote. All of these cenotes are underground in caves.
How to get to the cenotes of Coba
You will pass through the town of Coba and around the lake. There are some signs that point you in the direction. A new paved road take you to these. A good map and further directions are in our article about the cenotes of Coba here.
These cenotes are good if you have driven yourself to the ruins in Coba and now want to cool off. They are affordable priced and less visited then ones closer to Tulum.
It is best to choose one and just pay for that one. Each one is different, one for swimming, one for looking at and one is better for kids.
Cenote Maya is the largest cenote in the Yucatan. This cenote is run like a small park by allTOURnative tour company. Here you can rappel down into the cenote, swim, use a zip line and jump off platforms. The park area is designed very nice and this is a great representation of the Yucatan environment. You can see photos and our video of Cenote Maya here.
How to get to Cenote Maya and book tour
This cenote is on the outskirts of Valladolid in Yucatan State. It is hard to find and best if you go with a tour. The cenote area is a park. You can book a tour here that also includes a tour to Ek Balam. Just click the link below.
Our recommendations for visiting Cenote Maya
You can visit here on your own but it is hard to find and you may not be able to do all the activities. It is best to go with allTOURnative tour company and enjoy a full day of exploration.
There are just a few beach destinations on the map. These are just beaches with not much else. Of course there are many places with the beach to visit so we will mention these as well at the bottom of this list.
This island is really a peninsula but it is still a beautiful place to go to the beach. This beach is just north of Cancun. There are several places to stop and go to the beach when driving out on the peninsula. The best place is driving to the end and seeing the remote beach while looking across the water at the Hotel Zone in Cancun. This beach is more popular on Sundays with local families.
How to get to Isla Blanca
To get to this beach you will need to drive or find a taxi that is willing to take you there from downtown Cancun. It is about 40 minutes out of Cancun. For where Isla Blanca is and photos, see our article here.
Our recommendations for Isla Blanca
This is a beautiful spot but is a little bit of a drive from most place and if you wanted to go here it is good to combine it with something in Cancun. If you are staying in Cancun and have a car and want to get out of town to a more quiet place, then this is a good destination. Just be prepared to bring some food and drinks with you since there are just a few places there and when it is not the weekend, they have very limited options or might even be closed.
Xpu Ha Beach
This is a public beach club and access point to the ocean. You pay at the gate and have access to this beach club and area. There is a restaurant, bathrooms and parking. If you want to bring your own food and beach blankets you can. This is a long beach and you can walk to explore it. For a video and photos of this beach, see our article here on Xpu Ha Beach.
How to get to Xpu Ha Beach
Drive south on the 307 Highway to KM 265. It takes about 20 minutes to drive. It is 16 miles south or 25km. from Playa Del Carmen. You will see signs on the left hand side. The highway is divided but you can loop back around to this beach.
Public transportation directions
If you do not have a car you can easily take the colectivos. You can see the link for the location on 2nd St. in Playa Del Carmen where you get on.
Our recommendations for Xpu ha Beach
This is one of the closest beaches outside of Playa Del Carmen that has easy access. It is a nice beach and has some services. It is affordable to visit and a 1/2, 3/4 or full day trip from Playa Del Carmen if you are looking to visit some other beaches perhaps with less people.
Yal Ku Lagoon
Yal Ku Lagoon is a natural inlet on the north end of Akumal. This area is shallow and where the fresh ground water flows into the ocean. This area is a park like area where you pay to enter and use the facilities.
The water is very clear here and you can see fish and the roots of mangroves growing down into the water.
How to get to Yal Ku Lagoon
This natural area is in Akumal. You can take the colectivo to Akumal but the lagoon is a few kilometers from the highway so you would need a taxi. Driving your own car here and there is parking at the entrance.
There are a few tour companies that offer this as a tour or a stop in addition to other stops. This can make it convenient if you are not up for driving but you will pay for the service.
Our recommendations for Yal Ku Lagoon
This spot makes for a good half day or longer. It is good to bring kids here as long as they don’t swim near the opening near the ocean since currents can be strong. This is a more expensive option then visiting one cenote but this are is larger. Yal Ku is a lot less inexpensive then visiting Xel-Ha but it is smaller with less activities and you do not have food and drinks included.
If you stay for the day you might want to rent a cabin. This will give you some shade and a place to rest.
There is not much beach or smooth surfaces here so be prepared to camp out on the rocks.
Akumal is a small beach town between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum that just happens to have very nice beaches and it is famous for swimming with the sea turtles. The beach has the town at one end and guest houses and a few bigger hotels. You will also see areas with markers where there is turtle nesting sites.
How to get to Akumal
The best way is to drive here yourself or take an organized tour to swim with the sea turtles.
If you drive to Akumal you head south on the 307 Highway. It is about 30 minutes to Akumal. There is a turn off and the town is about 3 minute drive from the highway.
If you want to go on this Playa Del Carmen excursion and swim with the sea turtles we recommend the tour below, you can click on the link for more details.
Turtles, Snorkeling and Cenotes Adventure in Akumal
Our recommendations for Akumal
We prefer to send people to Xcacel Beach or Xpu-Ha Beach because Akumal is a little ways from the highway and it just seems like the town is not making it easy for people to come there. This is just more of an option if you want to come swim with the turtles.
If you do want more restaurant options and a nice beach to walk on, Akumal has more services than the other beaches like Xcacel and Xpu Ha
This is one of two good options for visiting a beach that is not in a town or at a resort. This beach is more natural and one end has large deposits or coral. There is also a very small cenote that you can dip into. For more photos and a video of Xcacel, see our article here.
How to get to Xcacel Beach
To get to Xcacel Beach you drive south on 307 from Playa Del Carmen. It is just past Bahia Principe’s large condo development on the right with the massive concrete arch and then you pass the entrance to Chemuyil pueblo. The dirt road will soon be on your left. If you take a colectivo they should know where it is and will let you off near the road. Unfortunately there was a sign on the road facing south but it has come down.
Our recommendations for Xcacel Beach
This beach is a little farther from Playa and more near to Tulum. This is one of two best beaches between the two cities that is easy to access and has a low cost of entry. This beach has a little less services then Xpu-Ha so come more prepared with things like food and drink.
Tulum has some of the best beaches in the Rivera Maya and they are famous all over the world. All along the coast in front of Tulum there are good beaches. On the north end you have flat and wide beaches with some beach bars. In the middle you have beach clubs and no real public access points to the beach. Then on the south end you have the start of Sian Ka’an nature reserve and there are some remote beaches you can access there like Playa Akun.
How to get to Tulum Beaches
The beach is actually a few kilometers from the downtown area. See our article “Tulum a Tale of two towns”. You will need to go down Avenida Coba to the beach from the 307 Highway. When you reach a fork in the road you have the choice of going north or south. There are beach options either way.
You can drive this and park or rent a bike in town and ride a bike trail that runs beside the road. Riding a bike is very “Tulum style” and you will see many people doing this.
Our recommendations for going to the beach in Tulum
The best public beaches are on the north end of the beach road. These beaches are wide and have small parking lots. Since the beaches are far from town you will need to take a taxi, bike or drive there. It should be noted that on the weekend the parking lots get full and there is limited parking along the road. Sometimes the road leading north is blocked off for over crowding and you only have the option to bike in or take a taxi. So go early or bike to these beaches at peak times.
The alternative is going to a beach club along the beach road. There are so many to choose from. Papaya Playa Project is one of the popular ones and easy to get to.
The beach on the far south end in Sian Ka ‘an is nice and much more quiet. If you go here take all your food and drinks with you because there is nothing to buy here.
The above are just some of the beach destinations to visit. Here are some other places to mention if you are a beach lover.
- El Cuyo- Small fishing village with nice beaches and is a good area for kite surfing.
- Isla Holbox- This is a beautiful relaxed island with sand street and chill vibe.
- Isla Mujeres- The north end is well know for the gorgeous beach here.
- Puerto Morelos- This town between Cancun and Playa Del Carmen has a long beach with some beach clubs or just a place to spread your towel.
- Cozumel- Most of the beaches are on the southern end of the island. The side facing the mainland has smaller beaches but the water is more calm and the other side facing the ocean is rougher with natural beaches.
- Mahahual- This town has a reef in front of it and the waters are very tranquil and the beach is very nice.
Best Playa Del Carmen Excursions and Tours
Now that you have seen all these Playa Del Carmen excursions and activities you might wonder what is the best one for you? Well, that is going to depend on your interest. Here are our top picks in different categories.
- If we go by what is the most popular, we would have to say that a visit to: Xcaret, Xplor or Xel-Ha are the best parks to visit. They are all designed well and we have been many times to each one and each time we have had a good time.
- If you want a Cenote to visit from Playa Del Carmen we have to say Cenote El Jardin del Eden because it is good for all ages and is nice to use a snorkel, but you really cannot go wrong with Cenote Azul or Cristolino which are right next to Cenote El Jardin.
- The best Mayan ruin would have to be Coba. We think this is the best because Chichen Itza is great and has a reputation but Coba adds an element of adventure with the overgrown trees and the option to bike down the trails to visit the different sections is great. You can also climb the pyramid here and there is less people at these ruins, plus you even can get in for cheaper.
- The best colonial city to visit would be Valladolid. It is constantly being restored and there are more little things going in for tourist. It is great to take your time to discover this colonial city and Mayan heritage.
- The best beautiful destination to go to would be Isla Holbox. It has some tourist infrastructure but still retains that chill vibe and stunning beauty on a sunny day.
- The best tour to take would be dependent on what your interest are but we have to say you cannot really go wrong with allTOURnative Tour Company. They have quality tours and their staff is well informed about the culture and history of the area. This tour company also works with the local communities and help preserve the culture. allTOURnative has about five different tours to choose from.
Do you have a question about which Playa Del Carmen excursion or tour is right for you? or did you just find this helpful? Let us know the comments below, we love hearing from readers and helping answer questions.