Planning a trip to Playa del Carmen? This Playa del Carmen itinerary is packed with insider tips for making the most of 5 days in Playa del Carmen!
Confession: I lived in Playa del Carmen for a year, and after writing this post, I’m questioning my decision to move away. It’s so incredible there!
Playa del Carmen sits right in the middle of the Riviera Maya, and while there’s plenty to explore in Playa itself, it’s also the perfect base for visiting the entire region.
What I love most about Playa is the fact that the town sprawls right along the beach, unlike Tulum, where the main part of town is a few kilometers away.
In Playa del Carmen, you can wander between beach bars, swanky hotels, and exceptional restaurants within just a few blocks!
But, since you probably want to do more than just eat and drink (you don’t have to, though) during your trip, I’ve compiled a ton of my favorite Playa activities (and eateries) into this epic 5-day Playa del Carmen itinerary.
In addition to the itinerary, I’ve included a comprehensive Playa del Carmen travel guide in hopes that this article can guide you all the way through the trip planning process.
If you follow my advice, you’ll be cenote diving, snorkeling with sea turtles, exploring ancient Mayan ruins, and learning about Mexican cultural and culinary history along the way.
But first, let me answer a few FAQs before we jump in…
Playa del Carmen Travel Tips
Best time to visit Playa del Carmen
The high season in Playa del Carmen is November through April. The weather is gorgeous during these months, usually hovering between the mid-70s and the mid-80s, with minimal rain.
Naturally, many people seek an escape to the beach during these months, which can be frigid up north during this time. As a result, the city can be pretty packed, especially during the school holidays in December.
If you’re willing to brave the crowds, November through April is definitely the best time to visit in terms of weather.
Related Reading: Visiting Mexico in November: Weather, Events & More
However, for those who prefer to travel during the shoulder season, May through October isn’t necessarily a bad time to visit.
There are just a few things to keep in mind if you want to visit Playa in the offseason:
- Expect rain. While you’ll still experience plenty of hot weather, May through October is Playa’s rainy season. Usually, it will rain for a couple of hours in the afternoon, and then the sun will come out again. Rarely will it rain for an entire day. However, October tends to be the wettest month.
- Plan for heat. These may be the wettest months, but they are also the hottest. Expect temperatures in the high 80s, along with plenty of humidity.
- Sargassum. If you’ve been doing your research, you’ll likely have heard of Playa’s ongoing struggle with Sargassum seaweed inundating the beaches. This is much more common in the offseason.
- Hurricanes. Technically, hurricane season is from June to November, but they are much more likely to happen between August and October. Playa has been lucky in recent years and has narrowly avoided contact with hurricanes, but they are something to be aware of if you’re planning to visit during these months.
Ultimately, Playa del Carmen is great to visit at any time of year. If you’re willing to brave the weather conditions between May and October, you’ll practically have the place to yourself!
Don’t forget to check if any Mexican holidays will be observed during the dates of your trip, as this could affect occupancy rates and drive prices up.
How to get to Playa del Carmen
Part of the reason Playa is such an attractive destination is that it’s SO easy to get there from the US. To get there, you fly into the Cancun Airport (CUN) and then catch a bus or shuttle to Playa del Carmen, which is about 40 miles to the south.
Many major carriers offer direct flights to Cancun from airports all over the US. I like to use Skyscanner to find affordable flights.
Once you land in Cancun, you’ll need to arrange airport transportation to Playa del Carmen. There are a ton of different ways to get to Playa from the Cancun airport.
If you’re looking for comfortable door-to-door service, book an airport shuttle.
For more details, check out this post on Cancun airport transportation.
Solo Travel Tips for Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is generally a safe destination for solo travelers. Though, petty theft is an elevated risk in touristy areas of Mexico, such as this one.
Because Playa is a known party destination, it’s important to drink responsibly and be extra alert at night, as criminals may be looking to prey on individuals who are under the influence.
While it’s always important to be cautious, I do think Playa is a very friendly destination for solo travelers.
- Get a local SIM card – One of the best ways to stay safe and help yourself feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar environment is to ensure you can call for help any time you need to.
Whether this means calling up a family member or close friend, calling a taxi, or dialing 911, you’ll feel better just knowing you have the option.
If your wireless carrier doesn’t offer affordable roaming packages, you can pick up an eSIM online before you leave.
Alternatively, you can buy a SIM card in Mexico at an Oxxo store for about $10 USD. You can top it up with data and minutes in 20 peso increments throughout your trip. That way, you won’t be isolated in the event of an emergency.
Stay connected in Mexico with this affordable eSIM!
- Download Whatsapp – Whatsapp is the most common way for people in Mexico to communicate. Whether you want to keep in touch with a new friend, call a taxi, or arrange a tour, it’s likely to be done over Whatsapp.
Stay ahead of the game and download the app before you arrive in Mexico, so you’re reading for anything as soon as the plane touches down.
- Connect with locals and fellow travelers – Connecting with people who live in Playa is a great way to make the most of your trip. There will be plenty of opportunities to strike up conversations with people once you arrive, but you can begin making friends in advance over social media.
Facebook groups are a powerful way to crowdsource answers to all of your travel questions. Join my Female Travelers in Mexico Facebook group to ask questions as you plan your trip. You can also post call-outs for meetups or Playa recommendations!
- Purchase travel insurance: Travel insurance covers everything from emergency medical expenses to trip delays, lost and stolen items, and more. You can tailor your policy to fit your needs. SafetyWing is my favorite affordable travel insurance option. They even offer coverage for some of the expenses related to Covid-19 if you should contract it during your trip.
Aside from the advice above, general solo travel safety tips apply. Always be alert, store some spare cash and credit cards in a separate location for emergencies, and be careful about how much you drink.
Related Reading: 9 Travel Safety Products You Need to Pack
Language in Playa del Carmen
Spanish is the predominant language in Playa del Carmen. Most people who work in the tourism industry will speak at least a little bit of English. But it’s still wise to brush up on some basic Spanish phrases, just in case.
Pick up a Spanish phrasebook so you have a quick reference in case of an emergency.
Another language challenge that Playa presents is that there is a large population of people from Argentina, and their accents when speaking Spanish can be difficult to understand.
It took me months of living in Playa before I could understand even the most basic phrases in an Argentinian accent. So, don’t feel too intimidated if you find yourself struggling. Even some of my Mexican friends admitted that they struggled to understand the accent at first.
Wondering how to get the best currency exchange rate in Mexico? Use Wise!
Money in Playa del Carmen
The currency in Playa del Carmen is the Mexican peso, it is denoted with the $.
Many places in Playa del Carmen will accept US dollars in place of pesos, but they usually offer a very poor exchange rate, so pesos are always a better option.
You may encounter ATMs that distribute US dollars in Playa, but they don’t typically offer a favorable exchange rate, so I recommend avoiding them unless absolutely necessary.
When you arrive at the Cancun airport or Playa del Carmen, go to an ATM and take out some pesos to use on your trip. I find that Santander, CI Banco, and CitiBanamex banks have the lowest ATM fees (at least for me).
Fortunately, there’s no need to carry a ton of cash around with you because most businesses take debit and credit cards.
Related Reading: Money in Mexico: Tips for Exchanging Currency, ATMs, and More
What to Pack for Playa del Carmen
- Waterproof cell phone pouch – This waterproof phone pouch is the perfect solution for protecting your valuables while you swim. The lanyard enables you to wear it around your neck while you’re in the water. This way, instead of “risking it” and leaving them in your backpack on the beach, you can carry your cash and phone with you during your swim. No, it’s not the most stylish accessory, but it sure beats having your stuff swiped while you’re swimming!
- Reef-safe sunscreen – Due to the high volume of tourists in Playa del Carmen and the sensitive underwater ecosystems, it is advised (and sometimes required) that visitors wear reef-safe sunscreen. Not only is this Raw Elements lotion safe for the environment, but it’s non-greasy and has an inoffensive smell, making it a welcome alternative to most commercial sunscreen brands.
- Anti-theft purse or backpack – Unfortunately, there is a risk of pick-pocketing in Mexico, especially in touristy locations like Playa del Carmen. I’ve never had issues with pick-pockets myself, but I still carry an anti-theft purse because it’s just one less thing to worry about while I’m out and about. There are tons of awesome anti-theft purses and backpacks on the market these days, so it’s just a matter of choosing one that fits your style! If you’re not sure where to begin, check out this post for my recommendations.
- Sarong – A sarong is a super handy accessory for any beach trip. They work as a towel, a beach blanket, or even a dress, depending on what you need at the moment. Plus, sarongs are super lightweight and compact, making it easy to stick one in your beach bag! They also happen to make great travel souvenirs if you don’t already have one!
- Phrasebook – A phrasebook will help you avoid confusion and have deeper interactions with the people around you. It will also come in handy in any sort of emergency. Lonely Planet has an excellent phrasebook specifically for Mexican Spanish, which is sure to come in handy during your trip.
- Swimsuit – You may need a few different swimsuits for Playa del Carmen. You’ll likely want one that will stay in place during active adventures like cenote swimming. You may want a second option, with fewer straps, for sunbathing.
Need more help packing for Playa? You can find a complete Riviera Maya packing list in this post.
The Ultimate Playa del Carmen Itinerary
I designed this Playa del Carmen itinerary to give you an introduction to not only Playa but all the magical things to do in the Riviera Maya. After living in Playa for a year, this is the type of itinerary I would design for anyone visiting me.
I hope you find it helpful! Feel free to rearrange the days to find a pace that works for you.
Day 0: Welcome to Playa
Hoorah! You made it to paradise!
Spend the evening getting to know Playa del Carmen a little bit. Stroll on La Quinta Avenida, the heart of the action in downtown Playa. This pedestrian thoroughfare is lined with shops, restaurants, and bars and presents plenty of people-watching opportunities.
Stop off at Parque Fundadores to admire the view and catch a performance of the Danza de Los Voladores. They perform a traditional dance while swinging upside down in the air, suspended from a pole. Don’t forget to tip the dancers a few pesos for their trouble.
Though the tradition of the Voladores is believed to originate in Veracruz, it’s common to see these performances throughout Mexico. The dance is even recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage!
After poking around on La Quinta for a bit, head down to the beach to sip cocktails with your toes in the sand.
Zenzi Beach Club is one of my favorite options. It’s right on the sand and has a modern vibe. They have a full dinner menu and a huge cocktail selection.
Zenzi has live music every night starting a 5 PM, and they have rotating theme nights, including Brazilian night, salsa lessons, and more!
Playa has no shortage of nightlife, but don’t stay up too late because tomorrow, you’ll want to get an early start!
Looking for the best things to do in Mexico? This is my favorite platform for booking tours!
Day 1: Let’s dive in
Today is all about one of the quintessential Riviera Maya experiences: swimming in a cenote.
But first, you’ll need to fuel up for the day.
Pop into Chez Celine on Fifth Avenue for a delicious (and Instagram-able) breakfast. This little French bakery with a Mexican twist offers an array of delicious dishes, from omelets to French toast and everything in between.
After breakfast, it’s time for your cenote adventure!
In case you’re unfamiliar, cenotes are sinkholes that expose the underground river systems that permeate the entire Yucatán peninsula.
Every cenote is different, and there are literally hundreds of them to choose from. Some are exposed to the sun and others are partially covered by rock. Some are hundreds of feet deep while others are quite shallow.
Cenotes are fed with fresh, clear water, thanks to the fact that it’s naturally filtered through the porous limestone that holds the river. Because the water in these river systems has limited sun exposure, cenote water is cold (in a good way) to swim in. Prepare to be refreshed!
Choose your cenote experience:
If you’re on your own, join a cenote tour, and you’re sure to make friends with fellow travelers. Here are a couple of popular tour options, both of which offer round-trip transportation from your hotel.
- Full-day Cenote Adventure Tour: This full-day guided eco-adventure in the Yucatan jungle will have you exploring ancient cenotes through kayaking, snorkeling, and floating on inner tubes, all while learning Mayan folktales from your tour guide.
- Tulum Ruins, Snorkel & Cenote Tour: Learn about Mayan culture at the Tulum ruins, snorkel with wild sea turtles, and swim in cenotes on this full-day tour.
You can also design a DIY cenote excursion using public transportation or a rental car. But first, you’ll need to decide which one to visit. I recommend cenote Dos Ojos, which is easiest to access with a rental car.
Related Reading: 10 Must-Visit Cenotes in the Riviera Maya
Dos Ojos is part of a cenote park (a very informal one) that features numerous swimming holes. However, each of the cenotes lies along a 5km dirt road, making walking between them a punishing experience. Your day will be much more rewarding if you have a car to navigate between stops.
Dos Ojos is so named because the main feature is a pair of cenotes, which resembles eyes (ojos). One of the draws of this cenote, in particular, is that you can dive in the cave system connecting the two main pools. Or, if you prefer, you can simply explore with a snorkel.
If you’re relying on public transportation, Cenote Eden is a good choice. It’s close enough to the highway that you can be dropped off by the colectivo and walk the rest of the way. Eden happens to be one of the most gorgeous (and most popular) cenotes in the Riviera Maya. It’s well worth a visit, but try to get there early to avoid crowds.
After spending the better part of the day frolicking in cenotes, it’s time to relax.
Head back to Playa del Carmen for an afternoon of lounging on the beach.
If you’re ready for lunch, grab a healthy bite at La Senda Vegana. This vegan restaurant is great for fresh juice, smoothies, and Mexican and international food made with fresh, natural ingredients.
After a tasty meal, head to one of Playa del Carmen’s beaches to lounge in the sun for the afternoon. If you’re looking for a full-service experience, go to a beach club. Lido Beach Club and Indigo Beach Club are fan favorites on TripAdvisor.
If you’d rather hang where the locals do, head to the beach at the bottom of Calle 38 and find a spot to plop your towel in the sand.
In the evening…
Later, after you’ve had your fill of sun, head to Don Sirloin for some carne asada tacos. There are multiple locations, but I’ve always found that the restaurant on Constituyentes and 25th Ave has the best service.
🌮 Travel Tip: Most people will recommend El Fogón for tacos, but I think Don Sirloin is just as good, and it’s less crowded. If you have time, try both!
For drinks tonight, head back to the beach and sip cocktails at INTI Beach Club, a trendy lounge overlooking the ocean. If you’re more in the mood for beer, try out Club de la Cerveza. This casual bar is a favorite for both locals and visitors and features dozens of different beers, including a huge selection of Mexican craft beers.
Day 2: Day Trip to Akumal
Today you’ll start your morning with a tasty, traditional breakfast at one of Playa’s most popular and beloved restaurants: La Cueva del Chango. Nibble on classic plates like huevos a la Mexicana or chilaquiles and fresh-squeezed orange juice at a rustic table surrounded by leafy green plants.
Be sure to eat your fill because today’s adventure will require a lot of energy.
Today, you’ll be snorkeling with sea turtles in the wild.
Travel tip: If you’re not interested in snorkeling with turtles, I still recommend Akumal as a fantastic beach day destination. It’s one of the most beautiful beaches in the Riviera Maya.
After breakfast, head to the colectivo station on Calle 2 between Avenida 20 and 25. All along this block, you’ll find white shuttle vans departing for either Cancun or Tulum. To get to Akumal, find a van that’s headed to Tulum. When you board, tell the driver you’re getting off at Akumal.
Note: You’ll be let off on the highway and you’ll have to cross on the pedestrian bridge and walk along the road for about 10 minutes before you reach Akumal Bay. For the nitty-gritty details of executing an Akumal day trip, read this post.
Once you arrive in Akumal, head to the Akumal Dive Shop.
Whether you’re planning to purchase a tour or prefer to rent equipment and go on your own, the Akumal Dive Shop is the best place to start. They have a fantastic location right on the beach.
At the dive shop, you’ll find storage lockers, clean bathrooms, showers, equipment rentals, and tours, all steps from the beach. Basically, everything you need for the perfect beach day!
Spend the day snorkeling with turtles, swimming in the calm bay, or lounging in the silky sand in Akumal. Don’t be afraid to wander down the beach to appreciate the beautiful surroundings from a different perspective.
If you get hungry (or thirsty), you can pop into the Lol-Ha Restaurant for a bite on the beach (I recommend the ceviche). Or, if you’re backpacking Mexico on a budget, head to Oxxo and pick up some snacks and cervezas to tide you over.
In the afternoon, make your way back to the highway and catch a colectivo back to Playa to unwind from your day frolicking in the sun.
And for dinner…
After you’ve had a chance to rest and recover from your day of snorkeling, it’s time for dinner. Head to Trujillos Cantina de Selva for delicious Mexican dishes with a modern twist in a bohemian jungle setting (don’t forget to wear bug spray).
With great music, a relaxing outdoor setting, tasty food, and creative cocktails, this is a great place to warm up for a night on the town.
If you’re in the mood for a night out, swing by Kitxen on 5th Avenue to enjoy some live music. This open-air bar is owned by the lead singer of one of Mexico’s most famous rock bands, Caifanes. As a result, you can count on this venue to deliver fantastic music, with occasional appearances by super famous acts.
For those interested in dancing, Playa del Carmen has lots of options for that too! Some venues even offer salsa dancing classes followed by social dancing in the evenings.
Day 3: Experience Xcaret
Start your morning with a traditional breakfast and a killer cup of coffee at Cafe Andrade. This was one of my go-to restaurants when I lived in Playa because it has a homey feel and a menu packed with Mexican comfort food.
Don’t be fooled by the unassuming decor: the food, the coffee, and the service are all excellent.
Once you’ve had your fill, you’re headed to XCARET Park for a day of immersive fun. The park features all kinds of attractions that honor what the Riviera Maya is known for, including cenotes, Mayan culture, and the unique natural environment.
You can float down a lazy river, visit an aviary and spot native bird species, enjoy a chocolate-making experience, and so much more. One of the most popular attractions in the park is the evening show called Xcaret Mexico Espectacular. It highlights the culture and history of Mexico through song and dance and is a truly incredible performance.
Travel Tip: To get to Xcaret from Playa del Carmen, take a taxi or a colectivo. If you take a colectivo, you will be dropped on the highway and will need to walk into the park. A taxi will likely cost $300 – $400 MXN each way.
If, for some reason, XCARET isn’t really your vibe, take a day trip to Cozumel Island instead. You can rent a car and road trip around the island, stopping off at beautiful beaches to swim and frolic in the sand.
There are many sections of the coastline along Cozumel that are completely undeveloped, which is really unique for the Riviera Maya.
There are tons of fun things to do on Cozumel, including snorkeling tours, exploring eco-parks, and even visiting Mayan ruins. You’ll have no problem filling a full day over there.
Here are some more incredible Playa del Carmen experiences to consider:
There’s no question that you’ll be tired after a full day frolicking in Xcaret, so take it easy tonight.
Head to Patio 8 on La Quinta for dinner and drinks. This gorgeous open-air lounge offers Mexican fare with a modern twist, as well as artisanal cocktails.
The servers will help you select the perfect cocktail. Don’t forget to snap a photo with the stunning hummingbird mural before you leave!
Day 4: Food and Sun in Playa del Carmen
Today’s itinerary has you sticking close to home. Your days have been pretty packed, so today you’ll take it easy and appreciate the slow pace (and the culinary scene) of Playa del Carmen.
Your first order of business? Brunch.
For a delectable meal with a view, head to Catch at the Thompson Hotel on Calle 12. Grab a table on the patio so you can admire the pool and the ocean view at the same time. As the name implies, the menu heavily features seafood items but there are other options as well.
If you happen to be in Playa on a Sunday, head to PLANK for brunch. PLANK is so named because they cook much of their food on wooden planks or salt stones to ensure it is infused with flavor.
Their menu offers a mix of classics such as pancakes, traditional Mexican fare like chilaquiles and sopes, and boujie favorites like Açaí bowls.
Then it’s time to chill…
Spend the afternoon at the beach, swimming and lounging in the sun.
Hint: now would be a great time to break open that beach read you insisted on bringing! If you want a full-service experience, head to a beach club. Otherwise, DIY it and find a spot anywhere you can.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can take a taxi or colectivo to Xpu-Ha beach for the afternoon. Xpu Ha is popular among both locals and visitors and since it’s a little bit out of the way, it’s often less crowded than the beaches right in Playa. There are beach clubs and chair rentals there as well!
This evening, instead of dining at a restaurant, book a food tour to discover some authentic Mexican flavors and learn about the culinary history of the country. There are several great options available, so select the one that best suits your travel style.
- 3-Hour Walking Food Tour: Visit some of Playa’s best under-the-radar restaurants on this walking tour. The focus will be on tasting some of Mexico’s most distinct flavors in a variety of different presentations. Along the way, you’ll learn about the origins of some of your favorite Mexican dishes.
- Playa del Carmen Market Tour & Cooking Class: In this Mexican cooking experience, Chef Alma will teach you how to source the best ingredients from a Mexican market and show you some traditional Mexican cooking techniques. That way, you can recreate tasty Mexican dishes long after your Playa del Carmen vacation is over.
- The Traveler’s Table Food Experience: Enjoy a 5-course tasting menu and a sunset toast as you learn about the Spanish, African, and Middle-Eastern influences on Mexican food. Your meal will be complemented by five boutique wine pairings, and you’ll have the chance to sample tequila and mezcal too. This experience takes place at a private beach club and is led by a bilingual guide
Travel Tip: If you’re a solo traveler, tours are a fantastic way to meet fellow travelers who share your interests.
Day 5: Explore Tulum
Today’s adventure will have you checking out some of the best things to do in Tulum. After breakfast, hop on a colectivo to Tulum.
Or, if you prefer to grab breakfast in Tulum, I recommend Babel Cafe. They have everything from bagels and pastries to eggs, smoothies, breakfast burritos, and more! Also, the coffee is excellent.
Next, head to the Tulum Archaeological Site. The earlier you arrive, the better, as they tend to get crowded when tour groups begin arriving in the late morning. If you want a chance to enjoy the secluded beach within the ruins, you’ll need to arrive by 9 am (the site opens at 8 am).
The Tulum site is believed to have been constructed between the 13th and 15th centuries and served as a port for the Maya city of Cobá. The city was situated on an important trade route, accessed by both land and sea, which is why it was protected by thick stone walls.
Fun fact: The word Tulum means wall or fence in the Maya language.
The ruins are not terribly large, so you will only need a couple of hours to explore them. Even if you’re not particularly interested in their historical significance, the site is incredibly beautiful due in large part to its position overlooking the turquoise sea.
If you don’t feel like sweating the logistics of a Tulum day trip, consider seeing the area on the following tour:
- Tulum and Coba Full-Day Archeological Tour: On this full-day tour, you’ll visit two very different archaeological sites: Tulum and Cobá. At the Tulum ruins, you’ll learn about the significance of the Maya port, while at Cobá, you’ll learn what life was like in a thriving Maya city. You’ll stop off to swim in an incredible cenote or two along the way!
When you tire of the ruins, grab a taxi to Tulum’s hotel zone to take in the scene. It’s filled with boutique hotels and shops ranging in price from affordable to “you don’t even want to know.”
The best way to enjoy a beach day in the hotel zone with through one of the beach bars. You’ll have to settle for a minimum consumption fee, but in return, you’ll have access to public restrooms and probably even loungers and umbrellas. Go with whichever beach club seems to suit your vibe.
- Mía Beach Club has a 1200 peso minimum and is known for its fun atmosphere.
- Coco Beach Club: This fun beach club has become a bit of a local’s haunt, as one of the last remaining spots in the area that’s relatively budget-friendly. It’s known for having a relaxing atmosphere, great food, and great service. The minimum spend varies depending on the season. Expect it to be around 1000 pesos during high season.
- Taboo Beach Club: This place is a bit of a splurge, but it’s known for exceptional food, a beautiful setting, and impeccable service. During the day, the beach club hosts fun parties with live musicians. There is a minimum spend but it varies depending on which area you choose to visit. There are several zones to choose from, including sunbeds on the beach, cabanas, tipis, and more.
Another great spot is Revolución Pancho Villa, a beach club closer to the Tulum ruins. They’ve got comfy loungers, palapas, and a full food and cocktail menu. This stretch of beach is less crowded than the hotel zone but just as beautiful.
Pancho Villa is a fun and relaxing place to post up for an afternoon at the beach. They have great music and good service in my experience. Order the ceviche!
Back at home…
Once you’ve had your fill of sun in Tulum, head back to Playa del Carmen for the evening. It’s your last night in paradise so you need to make the most of it.
Stroll La Quinta to pick up any souvenirs you haven’t gotten around to buying yet. Then grab dinner and drinks.
If you’re in the mood for something a bit different, try Mu Burger House tonight. They have an eclectic selection of different burgers, including veggie options, tuna, and more! Mu always has great tunes, and their patio is adorned with leafy plants creating a hip, modern vibe.
Transportation in Playa del Carmen
When it comes to getting around within Playa del Carmen and the surrounding areas, you have a few different options.
- Walking – Playa del Carmen itself is quite walkable. The center is compact and the main street, La Quinta Avenida, is a pedestrian thoroughfare lined with shops and eateries. Most of the downtown streets have wide sidewalks making it easy to get around on foot.
- Bikes – Bicycles are another popular way to get around in Playa. There is a bike lane on 10th Avenue that makes it easy to zip in and out of downtown. Many accommodations provide courtesy bikes for guests to use during their stay. Alternatively, you can rent bikes through the BiciPlaya service.
The only thing to keep in mind is that bicycle theft is fairly common. Always make sure you lock your bike securely.
- Taxis – Taxis are an easy way to get around within Playa, especially if you’re traveling long distances. To avoid surprises, always agree on a price for the ride before you get in the taxi.
I recommend taking taxis from taxi stands or having someone call you a radio taxi rather than flagging one off the street. This is especially critical at night. This will help keep you safe if you’re on your own.
If you’re looking to travel outside of Playa taxis are an option, but they can get pretty costly. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, keep reading.
- Colectivos – These are small passenger vans that travel up and down the coast between Tulum and Cancun. They depart from the station on Calle 2 Nte and 25 Avenida in Playa del Carmen.
The final destinations are written on the windshield of each van. Generally, if you’re heading south, look for the van that says Tulum, and if you’re headed north, look for the van that says Cancun.
Colectivos are a great transportation method for day trips or any journey in which you don’t have much luggage. If you have anything more than a day pack it may be too cramped.
For reference, the trip from Playa del Carmen to Tulum should cost about 50 pesos in a colectivo.
- ADO Bus – The ADO bus company services destinations throughout southern Mexico. Whether you’re looking to go to Tulum, Bacalar, or all the way to Chiapas, ADO is a great option.
These Greyhound-style buses have comfortable seating, no luggage limits, air conditioning, and onboard restrooms all for affordable prices.
Related Reading: Everything You Need to Know About Buses in Mexico
- Rental Car – Rental cars are definitely the most convenient way to get around in the Riviera Maya. If you’re on a budget, rest assured: cars are not necessary, but they certainly make things more straightforward.
With a vehicle, you’ll be able to visit some of the harder-to-reach (and subsequently less crowded) locations and attractions in the region. Plus, you’ll have the convenience of being able to store your extra gear (and snacks!) in the vehicle instead of having to cart around a daypack. If you’re interested in renting a car, use Discover Cars to find the best rates.
Where to Stay in Playa del Carmen
I prefer to book apartment-style accommodations when traveling, especially for longer trips, because I love to have the flexibility of preparing my own meals. Plus, if you’re traveling with friends, it’s nice to have a communal living area to enjoy drinks in the evening or simply relax after a long day of activities.
VRBO and Airbnb are both great platforms for securing apartment-style accommodation where you may go.
Below I’ve listed a few vacation rentals that would each make a fantastic base for visiting Playa del Carmen.
On a Budget: Sayab Hostel
Sayab is a fun hostel with great amenities. It’s located in the downtown area, on Calle 6 at 15 Avenida, putting it only a few blocks from the beach and 5th Avenue. It has a lovely garden setting with a tiki-style bar and a pool.
The hostel offers a mix of private rooms and dorms. Travelers note that the rooms are really pretty and exceptionally clean, but the lockers are small.
Sayab has a lively atmosphere, and they often host events and parties, so it may not be a great fit for those looking to avoid that scene. But, if you’re into parties or don’t mind the loud music, Sayab is a great place to stay.
When I lived in Playa, I had a friend who worked at Sayab, and I’d often hang out there in the evenings.
Mid-Range: Bright, Modern Condo in a Central Location
The only problem with this luxurious condo is that you’ll never want to leave the building. But, if you do manage to tear yourself away, you’ll be just a few blocks from the action. The building is located on 20th Avenue and Calle 14 bis, meaning it’s just 5 blocks from the beach. It’s also within easy walking distance of anywhere else you may want to go in Playa del Carmen.
The spacious one-bedroom offers a ton of light from floor-to-ceiling windows. The bedroom has a king-sized bed, and the living room features two futons that can accommodate additional guests. There is also a fully equipped kitchen, and the building features a rooftop pool and a gym! Additionally, the complex holds a spa, a business center, and laundry facilities.
Splurge: Hotel Colibri Beach
This gorgeous boutique hotel is located just off Fifth Avenue, on Calle 10. It offers a beautiful, serene jungle-like setting outdoors, with the convenience of being just a few blocks from the heart of the city.
Some of the rooms offer an ocean view, but most face the garden. There is also free WiFi, air-conditioning, and on-site parking. Breakfast is included, too, and you will enjoy it with your feet in the sand under a palapa at the Lido Beach Club right next to the hotel.
For more Playa del Carmen accommodation suggestions, check out these posts:
- The Best Places to Stay in Playa del Carmen on Any Budget
- 9 Irresistible Beachfront Airbnbs in Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen Itinerary at a Glance
Did you just pack your bags for Playa? I know I’m ready for my next visit! Here’s a quick look at everything we just covered.
- Stroll La Quinta Avenida
- Watch Danza de Los Voladores
- Drinks at Zenzi Beach Bar
- Breakfast at Chez Celine
- Rent a car and visit Cenote Dos Ojos, or take public transportation to Cenote Eden
- Late lunch at La Senda Vegana
- Spend the afternoon on the beach at Lido or Indigo Beach Club
- Dinner at Don Sirloin for carne asada tacos
- Drinks at Club de Cerveza or INTI Beach
- Breakfast at La Cueva del Chango
- Day trip to Akumal to snorkel with sea turtles — start at the Akumal Dive Shop
- Lunch at Lol-Ha Restaurant
- Dinner at Trujillos Cantina de Selva
- Drinks and live music at Kitxen Bar
- Brunch at Catch at the Thompson Hotel or PLANK Restaurant
- Chill on the beach in Playa del Carmen or head to Xpu-Ha for a new perspective
- Take a food tour to experience local flavors and learn about the history and culture surrounding Mexican food
- Head to Tulum early in the morning (try to be there by 8 am)
- Breakfast at Babel Cafe in Tulum
- Spend the morning exploring the Tulum Ruins
- In the afternoon, head to the beach in Tulum: Taqueria La Eufemia or Pancho Villa are great access points
- Back in Playa, grab dinner at Mu Burger House
Playa del Carmen travel FAQs
How many days is enough in Playa del Carmen?
There is so much to do in Playa del Carmen and the surrounding area that you could easily fill several weeks. I recommend spending a minimum of 5 days in the city to see the highlights.
Do you need bug spray in Playa del Carmen?
YES! The bugs are plentiful in the evening, so definitely pack bug spray for Playa. I swear by this one.
Is Playa del Carmen walkable?
Yep. One of the best things about Playa is that if you stay somewhere central, you can walk to most of the highlights with ease. The area is totally flat, but it is hot and humid, which might reduce your inclination to walk. You can also rent bikes through BiciPlaya to get around.
Mexico Travel Planning Resources
🌡️ Do I need travel insurance?
Yes! Healthcare in Mexico is affordable for minor ailments, but travel insurance will give you peace of mind if an emergency arises. Plus, you can add coverage for trip interruption, theft, etc. Get a quote from SafetyWing.
🏨 What’s the best way to find accommodation in Mexico?
I use a mix of Booking, Airbnb, and Hostelworld.
💸 How should I exchange money in Mexico?
Use local ATMS to withdraw cash. US travelers should open a Charles Schwab bank account because they’ll refund ATM fees at the end of the month.
Travelers from outside the US should open a Wise account to secure the best currency exchange rates.
📱 Where can I buy a local SIM card in Mexico?
Pick up a Telcel SIM card at any convenience store. Or, buy an Airalo eSIM online so you’re connected as soon as you land.
🗣️ Do I need to speak Spanish in Mexico?
No, but it definitely helps you feel more confident and connected.
✈️ What’s the best way to find affordable flights?
I use Skyscanner because it makes it easy to compare rates across different travel days.
🚖 How do I find a safe airport transfer?
I recommend GetTransfer for airport transfers anywhere in Mexico.
🚗 What’s the best way to find rental cars in Mexico?
I recommend Discover Cars because they aggregate prices across rental car companies, making it easy to find competitive rates.
🚐 How do I book bus tickets online in Mexico?
🤿 How do I find cool activities and tours in Mexico?
🇲🇽 How can I experience Mexico like a local?
Solo female travelers can hire a local female guide through Greether. Greeters will tailor tours based on your interests— it’s basically like experiencing a destination with a local bestie!
🧳 What’s the best luggage for Mexico?
Unless you’re staying at a resort, a travel pack is recommended. I’ve used this one from Osprey for the last 8+ years.
👯♀️ How do I connect with fellow travelers in Mexico?
Join my Female Travelers in Mexico Facebook group, a supportive community of fellow Mexico travel enthusiasts, where you can find answers to all your travel questions!
As you continue with your trip planning, these posts are sure to come in handy:
- How to Get From Cancun to Playa del Carmen
- The Essential Playa del Carmen Packing List
- The Best Things to do in Playa del Carmen
- 10 Epic Playa del Carmen Day Trips