Lined with palm trees on its beaches, coral reefs, and scuba diving sites, Playa del Carmen in Mexico is a well-known beach town and one of the top diving destinations in the world. It sits on one of Mexico’s least discovered regions namely, the Yucatan Peninsula. This vast and thriving landscape is also Mexico’s last ecological and tropical frontier.
Today, the city continues to draw tourists and travelers from different countries. You shouldn’t miss coming here to experience an adventure of a lifetime. The city will lead you to ecological wonders beyond your expectations. Pristine white beaches, untamed jungles, thriving wildlife, giant underground caves, lakes, and many more await.
And, if you’re into uncovering the mysteries of the Mayan civilization, expect Playa del Carmen to satisfy that. After all, it boasts of the famous Chichen Itza, which is a World Heritage site!
So, to get your curiosity and excitement going, here are some of the best things you should do when visiting Playa del Carmen.
Visit The Xplor Park
If you’re into nature exploration and immersion, you must visit Xplor Park. It’s jam-packed with thrill-filled and soul-relieving activities such as zip-lining, underground river spelunking, rafting, rejuvenating swim, land-to-water vehicle rides, hammock splash, and much more.
Two trails will lead you to primary jungles, teeming with colorful birds, reptiles, mammals, orchids, shrubs, and other flora and fauna. These are Mexico’s prime ecological hotspots. And visiting these would make you feel like time is standing still.
Xplor Park also hosts two subterranean rivers with unexplored caves and channels. A guide will ride with you on a raft as you navigate and gaze on stunning stalactite and stalagmite formations.
Explore Rio Secreto In Playa Del Carmen
If you’re a fan of the National Geographic or the Discovery Channel, you must have come across Rio Secreto. A newly-discovered abode, it’s the peninsula’s second-largest cenote, composing of more than 12 kilometers of mysterious tunnels. The river has 15 natural openings leading into fascinating caves, each with distinct features to offer. Because geographical forces sunk these in the distant past, you can only navigate them by kayaking or foot.
Rio Secreto in Playa del Carmen began gaining public attention in 2007. Until now, however, visitors are only allowed to visit 10% of the system with organized tours by skilled ecologists. The other 90% is closed for tourism to pave the way for its conservation. Only selected scientists and researchers are allowed to access these off-public sites.
But even so, a partial tour of Rio Secreto will already reward you with supernatural stalactite concretions plus an occasional sighting of endemic bats and aquatic species.
By the way, the indigenous inhabitants consider Rio Secreto sacred. Share meaningful conversations with the locals, and you’ll understand why.
Delve Into Cenote Chaak Tun
Chaak Tun is one of Yucatan’s safest and most fun-filled cenotes. Flooded pits provide a rejuvenating relief from the midday sun. You surely can’t resist jumping into its crystal-clear waters. If you’re not into swimming, guides will provide you with a wetsuit and a life jacket. You can also embark on a memorable adventure through tunnels. As you look up, you’ll catch sight of marvelous stalactites pointing like rays from the ceiling.
Keep watch as you go deeper. Your guide will constantly position his flashlights to certain corners so you can view bats hiding among the rock formations or even hanging from the ceiling. While sightseeing, the guide will also share about the cenote’s importance to the ancient Mayan civilization.
The highlight of the tour is the largest chamber which looks like a cathedral dome. A shaft of light from a small hole on the ceiling illuminates the central chamber. It is indeed a sight you shouldn’t miss!
Immerse In The Xcaret Eco Theme Park
Xcaret Park features over 50 destinations in one convenient location. It lies right on the seashore and boasts of both ecological and cultural offerings. The park gives a nutshell representation of the region’s richness and diversity.
If you’re a nature lover, you will surely love cruising along the Paradise River, exploring the Butterfly Pavilions or Jaguar Island, and strolling on its sandy beaches. If you’re into uncovering the past and experiencing the people’s way of life, you can visit a Mayan village, a Mexican cemetery, Hacienda Henequenera, and several archaeological sites. You can also participate in indigenous activities conducted during the annual Fiesta Charra.
Oh, you can also stay after dark and witness the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular. It is a grand, dazzling show of 300 performers showcasing the major historical events in Mexico. Here, you can also find some of the best Playa del Carmen resorts.
Relish Parque Los Fundadores
The seafront Parque Los Fundadores will first come to sight if you’re riding a bus from the airport to Playa del Carmen proper. It’s a captivating parcel of green landscapes in contrast with the busy streets of the resort.
Facing the sea, a beautiful chapel stands with an arch rising to 16 meters. It was built in 2011 to commemorate December 31, 2012. The later date signals the commencement of the 5,126-year-long cycle of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar. It’s no wonder why some locals regularly perform the so-called Mesoamerican Danza de Los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers) and other rituals here.
Glimpse Into Chichen Itza In Playa Del Carmen
If you’re a history buff, chasing Chichen Itza will make you experience a trip of a lifetime. After all, it’s one of the world’s great archaeological sites and ranks as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Chichen Itza is not only spectacular for its grand scale. Its ancient architecture features the combination of Maya-Puuc building techniques plus strategic influences from the hinterlands of central Mexico. Among its imposing landmarks is the Pyramid of Kukulcan. It towers up to 30 meters and showcases one of Mesoamerica’s most notable ballgame courts. It also contains an ancient Mayan calendar stone, straddling 25 meters across.
Chichen Itza’s rich and complex history, including its numerous monuments, allow you to revisit the Mayan’s grand civilizations. You’ll learn more about these ancient stories, especially if you will get to experience it. More than the beautiful views, the corresponding stories will surely make your visit here exceedingly rewarding.
If you want the best package here, do try Chichen Itza Private Tours. It is inclusive to all and offers a detailed glimpse of the region in a day only! It mostly holds its tour during the early morning to beat the crowds. The tour ends at Valladolid, a small town reminiscent of Spanish influence.
Stroll Around The Tulum Ruins
Playa del Carmen provides seemingly endless doses of distinct Mayan culture. The fortified city of Tulum proves this. The site is less than an hour’s ride from the east side of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Tulum was a thriving port for the inland city of Coba, founded in the 6th century and rose to its peak in the 13th and 15th centuries. Settled on a 12-meter cliff, Tulum is the only known walled city of the Mayan empire.
The city’s walls showcase the Mayan’s formidable civilization and outright defense against external threats. They measure 8 meters thick and 5 meters high, running continuously for 400 meters to the western frontier. Both the cliffs and the walls helped protect the Mayans against invasion and plunder for centuries.
Among the prominent monuments are the Castillo (main pyramid), and the Temple of the Frescoes. Surprisingly, you can still see figurines of the “Descending God” here.
Relax In Playa Punta Esmeralda
Want to soothe some muscles after sightseeing? You can check out Playa Punta Esmeralda, located around 1.5 kilometers from the central Avenida C.T.M. From a bird’s eye view, it’s a stretch of sublime beach with shallow cenotes facing the Caribbean Sea.
The nearby cenotes deliver fresh water and mix with the seawater, creating a sparkle of beautiful green tones. The sheer beauty of it will entice you to jump and wallow in its rejuvenating waters. The beach provides a perfect respite from the simmering midday heat.
Be always ready and on the lookout while you’re at the beach. Anytime, a dashing pelican might appear out of the blue. Good thing, you can rent a palapa (palm sunshade) while awaiting the bird’s display.
It’s best to come here if you want to experience the Playa del Carmen weather. But, keep in mind that the beach is quite far away from the resort proper. Fortunately, a food truck will stop by from time to time and offers fish taco, frosty beer, plus other typical Mexican snacks and delicacies.
Journey To Capilla De Nuestra Señora Del Carmen
Just because Playa del Carmen attracts thousands of tourists daily doesn’t mean you can’t find sites for solitude. One such place is Capilla de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, a modern chapel along Quinta Avenida, near the bus terminal. Unlike most churches in Mexico, this one features a distinctly modern design. Here, you can sit and reflect on life or reconnect with God. The majority of the people here are devoted Catholics and seeking solace in the chapel will give you deeper spiritual nourishment.
There are shops and eateries near the chapel. A separate and rounded campanile stands in front of the chapel’s body. Until today, it’s a favorite wedding site because of its lively schedule. On one of the windows of the chapel, you can catch a stunning view of the famous Caribbean Sea. By the way, this sea is a favorite snorkeling site because of its coral abundance.
See Frida Kahlo Museum In Playa Del Carmen
The museum is named after one of Mexico’s iconic artists, Frida Kahlo. It was built in 2017 in consonance of Kahlo’s 110th birth anniversary. Purposively, it portrays an interactive chronology of Frida Kahlo.
Inside the museum, you can find projections, auditory techniques, multimedia displays, and interactive exhibits. All these visually narrate Kahlo’s life, her views of the world, and the significance of some of her most famous works.
As you go on, you’ll learn about Kahlo’s emotional bond with Diego Rivera and an accident that molded her perspective at 18 years old.
Although the museum is more of putting you into the life of Kahlo, you’ll also get an aesthetic stir with all the paper-mache works displayed.
Bring The Kids To The 3D Museum of Wonders
If you have kids, the 3D Museum of Wonders offers the perfect side trip. It contains more than 60 painted three-dimensional illusions. Your kids would surely love staring and poking at these artistic creations. The closer you are to these artworks, the more you can visually appreciate them and their embedded meanings.
Of course, keep your camera running so you would not miss the opportunities of interacting with the paintings. You and your kids would surely love pretending to surf, holding up a wall breaking through da Vinci’s Last Supper, getting stuck inside one of the soap bubbles, or getting groomed by a monkey.
Ride Along Xoxomilco In Playa Del Carmen
Riding up the 307 to Cancun, Xoximilco, you can reach Xoxomilco. It showcases canals and islands which are modeled from a site in Mexico City. A journey here involves boarding a trajinera (flat-bottomed boat) and setting around the channels. There will be regular stopovers so you can watch a mariachi band or buy food.
Boarding the boat lets you load your tummy with a lot of tequila or corona beer. But you can also opt for regular drinks like the Aguas and dine on authentic Mexican dishes such as chicken with mole sauce and carnitas. The entire boating juggles with a party-like atmosphere that you’ll probably end up drunk or dancing like crazy. You can’t help it but go with fun all the way. You can even do that during the night. It’s a unique nightlife that you might want to experience.
Meet The Howlers Of Muyil
Also called Chunyaxche, Muyil compose of around 40 hectares of beautiful ceiba forests. It is part of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, known to contain an amazing plant and wildlife diversity. As you start trekking along wild trails, you may catch sight of cute howler monkeys.
Watch Dolphin Shows At The Dolphinaris Riviera Maya Park
Haven’t seen one of these highly-intelligent marine creatures called dolphins? Proceed to Playa del Carmen’s Dolphinaris Riviera Maya Park. It gives you a one-on-one encounter with these iconic species. You can even do that up close because the park has a facility where you and the dolphins can relax and interact together. Aside from dolphin watching, you can also avail of the 2-hour-long training for swimming and playing with the dolphins, as well as hugging, and riding them.
Experience The Rough Trails Of Punta Venado Bike Park
Some people need a taste of a thrill-filled adventure. The Punta Venado Bike Park in Playa del Carmen offers that. It’s a perfect getaway for those who love to venture into all-terrain trails. All in all, there are 16 miles of challenging trails. These will reward you with fascinating views of the forests and the beach. Expect to see different wildlife species, hectares of pristine mangroves, and stunning cenotes.
Are you heading to Mexico? If you are, put Playa del Carmen in your itinerary right this minute. This place is breaming with fun activities to do. The sea life is as vibrant as ever and diving into the majestic underwater caverns is a priceless experience. At night, the place becomes a hipper and modern; the nightlife thrives on unrelenting energy! It’s a wonderful Mexican experience, indeed.