5 Ways To Explore The Breathtaking Beach Town of Playa del Carmen and The Remarkable Riviera Maya
Whether you’re a Playa del Carmen newbie or this isn’t your first visit, these Mexico travel tips can help you plan an incredible trip. Not only will arranging the transportation beforehand complement a stress-free vacation vibe, but you’ll also be encouraged to get out and explore this tropical wonderland.
While there’s plenty to see and do in Playa, you will want to venture out for at least one day trip to experience the ceaseless grandeur of the Riviera Maya. Highlights include natural turquoise pools, known as cenotes, tucked within the lush jungle landscape. Also embedded in the area’s limestone platform are caves flaunting their spiky stalagmite and stalactite formations dating back several millennia. Walk the soft sands of undeveloped islands, marvel at dolphins swimming wild in the sea, and zip line over the vast jungle canopy. Paradise awaits!
Hit The Open Road In A Rental
First things first, the majority of Mexican Caribbean vacations begin at the international airport in Cancun, about 40 minutes south of Playa del Carmen. CUN has 4 terminals with number 1 being for domestic travel, while 2, 3, and 4 welcome millions of international visitors each year.
Before you set off on your dream vacation, you should know that renting a car from the Cancun airport can come with complications. While some have smooth rental transactions, dealing with car rental agencies can be a frustrating experience if you don’t know what to expect.
Expectations Vs. Reality
No matter the car company or how much paperwork you prepared for the pick up, understand that annoying surprises do arise from time to time. For example, rarely does a $20/day confirmed online rate equate to the actual rate. Besides hidden fees, there can be issues with oversold vehicles as well as liability insurance. The majority of companies no longer accept coverage provided by credit card companies. You’ll be required to purchase the company’s full coverage liability insurance. If you’re adamant and refuse to purchase the insurance, a hefty, but refundable deposit is necessary. So be aware that you may need a few thousand dollars credit for the deposit. Furthermore, as with any car rental company worldwide, take a video with the agent before leaving the lot to record any existing damage.
That being said, navigating the Riviera Maya’s picturesque coast and amazing attractions in your own car does have its advantages. For instance, you can avoid busy times at local attractions and make and sidetrack to as many charming spots along the way as you wish. The highway signs are based on the metric system and are easy to understand. If you do choose the car rental option, our recommendation would be to take a private transfer to Playa del Carmen. Rent from a local agency for the best rates and only rent for the days you plan to venture out of the town. Otherwise, Playa del Carmen is a very walkable city, with no need for a car. In fact, the vibrant tourist hub, 5th Avenue, with its dozens of shops and restaurants, is a pedestrian-only thoroughfare.
Browse The Natural Beauty By Bus
Without a doubt, the cheapest way to get from the airport to Playa del Carmen is by ADO. These spacious, air-conditioned buses leave from Terminals 2, 3, and 4 about every half hour and cost approximately $12 USD. There are two ways to purchase tickets— online or at the stand outside the terminal where the buses park.
You can purchase a ticket online at Ado.com.mx with a credit card. While USD are accepted directly at the airport bus stop, the exchange rate is not in your favor. What’s more is the credit card terminal does not always work outside of the airport. It’s better to have the $225 pesos on hand to purchase them at the ticket stand.
Along with how to pay, you’ll have to choose between the two Playa del Carmen destinations. The turistica option delivers you to the south end of 5th Avenue, while the alterna is located on Calle 12 and 20th Avenue. Depending on how much luggage you’re toting, either location is convenient for walking to any downtown accommodation properties. If you’re not traveling light, taxis await outside both terminals.
Pedal Through Paradise
One of the best things to do in Playa del Carmen is to rent a bicycle and cruise the colorful streets. In particular, the north side just past CTM Avenue to 110 Norte, presents a stretch of eye-catching murals and charming cafes. Besides the vivid street art, you can observe breathtaking shades of the Caribbean at Playa 88 or Punta Esmeralda.
Not only does renting a bike give you a wonderful local perspective of Playa del Carmen, but also it’s a fun way to burn off the taco and tequila calories. There are a two top choices when considering a bike rental, BICIPLAYA and PLAYA BIKE RENTALS.
With Biciplaya, you purchase a membership or day pass through their app. The prices range from $98 MXN for one day up to $420 MXN for an annual membership. In order to use the rental network, you must first sign up on the app or website, select your plan, and upload your payment method. Each trip has a limit of 30 minutes and there are 44 bicycle stations throughout the city.
Alternatively, Playa Bike Rentals offers flexibility in the way of a pick up and delivery system. The rental is delivered to your door and the straightforward reservation system allows you to book for $13 USD per day or $40 USD for the week. As well, child seats and helmets are available to rent at an extra cost.
Tip: Stick to the bike lanes and quieter north end of Playa. Riding along the pedestrian-packed south end of 5th Avenue could result in a fine.
Catch a Ride On A Combi
Combis or colectivos are shared van taxis with routes that take you across Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya. Embark on your authentic local adventure at Calle 2 and 20th avenue and be sure to bring small pesos.The costs to head south along the coast run from $25 MXN to $45 MXN. For instance, Xcaret park, about 10 minutes away, will be $25 MXN, while Xpu Ha Beach and Tulum will be in the $40-$45 peso range ($2 – $2.50 USD.)
There are a few keys things to keep in mind if you decide to take a colectivo:
- You will get off along the 307 Federal Highway. Therefore, if you’re visiting Akumal to swim with the turtles, for example, you’ll have to walk about a kilometer to the beach area. Consequently, it helps to prepare with a bottle of water and/or a sun hat.
- When waiting to be picked up, the driver may wave or just pass by. Don’t be offended, this happens when the van is at capacity. But fret not, the combis come along every 15 minutes or so.
- Colectivos and combis do not go to the Cancun Airport. Your best bet is to book private transportation or take the ADO bus.
Visit Sensational Sites In A Private Van
When traveling in a group of 5 or more, a private van is the way to go. Your driver for the day is happy to customize tours based on your preferences and budget. Not to mention, these Riviera Maya experts offer perks like a stocked cooler with waters and ice cold cervezas. Should you come upon a jewel that you’d like to spend more time at than was originally allotted, the driver is able to rearrange the schedule. No need to rush back or miss the bus.
Private van transportation works well when you want to go at your own pace, with more than a couple of stops. Plus you have access to a specialist, knowledgeable in the best restaurants in the Riviera. Take extra time for lunch halfway through, or end the date with a divine dinner. Other advantages including visiting attractions outside peak times, when tour buses take over cenotes or ancient Mayan cities. Moreover, you can travel to lesser-known locales that are not yet offered as regular tours, but are nevertheless extraordinary. One of our go-to companies is American Transfers Cancun, which services the airport, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. The drivers speak Spanish as well as English and bookings can be arranged via WhatsApp at +52 (998) 201 1720.
In the end, it doesn’t matter which method you choose to get around Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya. What’s important is that you seize the opportunity to get out, explore the area’s outstanding beauty, and hopefully make some lasting memories along the way.