When looking for things to do in Playa del Carmen, there are plenty of popular attractions that offer unforgettable experiences. Of course, there are the legendary Xcaret Experiencias parks and tours, which guarantee good times and unique nature encounters. Not to mention the astounding excursions to local cenotes and Mayan archeological sites. But if this isn’t your first Riviera Maya rodeo, chances are you’ve already been dazzled by the big adventure parks and ancient cities. For this reason, we’re exposing a list of secret gems right within Playa del Carmen’s city limits. You don’t have to go far for a wow-factor when you vacation in this seaside paradise.
El Jardin de Marieta
If you’re not consciously looking out for the Jardin de Marieta you may sadly miss this jewel. After all, it’s easy to get swept up by the bustle of 5th Avenue. But this little sweet spot situated between Calle 6 and 8, is an endearing gem worthy of your attention. Displaying works by Gastón Charó and other featured artists, the gallery showcases an alluring exhibit of thought-provoking pieces.
Once through the arched entrance, the whimsical setting transports you inside the mind of an artist. Sculptures and vibrant canvases sit amongst lush foliage within the exterior art garden. Following the stone path, you’ll enter the main gallery adorned with a vibrant mix of oil and acrylics, as well as exquisite carvings and photos. You’ll appreciate the masterpiece both in the works of art and the stunning setting.
Super Carnes HC de Monterrey
This casual eatery is hidden away on Calle 1 Sur in between 20th and 25th Avenue. Super Carnes offers fresh, grilled flank steak so tender, no knife is needed. It’s a mystery whether the secret is in their marinade, their perfect cuts, or their special salsa. Whatever it is, they are the grill masters. The carne asada is like butter and it’s about $30 USD to feed a hungry family of five, including all the sides.
Call for take-out and grill it yourself, or pick it up fresh off the grill, which is convenient, especially when you’re on vacation. The carne asada is served by the kilo (1kg per family is usually enough.) Keep in mind, to assemble the most delish steak tacos, you’ll need to add salsa, guacamole, warm tortillas, and a grilled onion to the order. Just can’t say enough about this simple, yet mouth-watering meal— a perfect conclusion to a beach day in Playa del Carmen.
If you’re looking for a unique way to pass the day, rent some bicycles and head down to the quieter north end of Playa del Carmen. Just past CTM Avenue, you’ll fall in love with quaint eateries and remarkable murals that add a splash of color to your unofficial city tour. Stop for a passionfruit lemonade at Que Huevos on the corner of Calle 48 and 5th to quench your thirst. Ride on to admire the street art that continues north to Calle Pintores. It’s an ideal route by bike as this part of 5th Avenue has very little traffic. Go at an easy pace to take time to appreciate the remarkable details in the graffiti art.
Photo By @matisse.rm via Instagram
Due to Playa del Carmen’s prime position along the coast of Mexico’s Caribbean, it draws sunseekers and beach bums from around the world. Since it’s one big stretch of white sand, the beach town offers plenty of ocean view lodgings and beach clubs to choose from. However, if you’re looking for a more peaceful beach experience, with more space to spread your blanket, Punta Esmeralda is a secluded paradise.
Few visitors are aware of this treasure as it’s located on the city’s far north end. With this in mind, this beach is naturally the next best stop after viewing the city’s murals. Continuing on 5th Avenue, you’ll eventually come to the Punta Esmeralda beach access sign at Calle 110. If you’ve rented bikes, you’ll need to secure them here while you enjoy a memorable beach day. But a 5-minute taxi from downtown Playa del Carmen is also an option.
This beach is unique because it boasts a coastal, freshwater cenote. A deep hole a few meters from the sea’s shore connects to the Yucatan Peninsula’s underground river system. As a result, a crystal clear, natural swimming pool has formed on the beach. The cool, shallow waters are ideal for younger children, plus there’s also a playground structure to add to the fun.
On a side note, there are bathroom facilities and limited umbrella rentals, which come in handy as there’s not an excess of shade. Since parking is free and it is a public beach, it’s popular with the locals and can get crowded on the weekends. If possible, try to plan your sunbathing and Caribbean swim session on a weekday.
Dinner in an underground cave is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. How often can you enjoy a glass of wine in a candle-lit cavern dripping with centuries-old stalactites? At Alux, (pronounced Aloosh) it’s all part of the dining experience. The atmosphere is serene, with small pools of cenote water, soft music, and chandeliers. Alternatively, it can be one of the coolest field trips if you’re traveling with children.
The impressive underground restaurant and lounge is as vast as it is spectacular. Featuring a main dining room, a wine cellar, several cavern pockets set with private tables, as well as a cocktail lounge, it is a must-see. It can be an incredible grand finale to your week in Playa del Carmen or a mid-stay evening out for cocktails. In addition, the otherworldly setting makes for a sublime wedding banquet venue.
DK05 by Bric
Last but not least, if you’re looking for an accommodation gem for two, the new DK05 development has much to offer. One highlight is an unbeatable location in the up-and-coming Coco Beach area of Playa del Carmen. As well, the exclusive condo-hotel boasts a Caribbean-view communal roof terrace, high-quality finishes, fully-appointed kitchens, underground parking, and an elevator.
Besides having convenient access to the nearby beaches, you’ll love exploring the area’s incredible eateries. After basking in the sun for the day at Martina Beach Club, sample the brick-oven pizzas at Salento on CTM. For brunch, taste authentic flavors of Mexico in Ojo de Agua’s chilaquile or enchilada dishes. Plus, if you need some fresh produce, their mini-market presents a selection of local fruits and vegetables.
No matter where you choose to stay, our hospitality ambassadors are the perfect go-to resource for a Playa del Carmen vacation. What’s more, you’ll find a wealth of information on the Bric Vacation Rental travel blog page. Filled with Playa del Carmen tips and guides you’ll discover the city’s best-kept secrets and most enticing attractions. Happy exploring!
When traveling to a new destination, investing time in research prior to your arrival can take a trip from fine to phenomenal. Scouring official tourism sites, state guides, or articles from seasoned travel bloggers can save you a lot of money. Plus you’ll also have a great database of information to help you discover the best a city or country has to offer. Not to mention, expert advice can shed light on unexpected surprises so you can prepare for a stress-free vacation.
The Travel Time From Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen
The time it takes to get from the airport to Playa del Carmen can be surprising. There’s a sprawling all-inclusive resort every couple of kilometers in the Riviera Maya. If your booking includes transportation, be prepared for a long haul from the airport to your hotel. These shared transport buses make several stops. Depending on where you’re staying (if it’s one of the last stops,) tack on an extra hour or two of travel time.
If you have booked a vacation rental and a transfer is not already included, ask the reservation agent to schedule a private van service. These spacious vans can accommodate up to 8 passengers and offer direct routes (40 minutes) to Playa del Carmen.
An additional option for direct transportation is the ADO bus. The air-conditioned buses provide service to and from one of 2 stations (both are central) in Playa del Carmen. You can hop on from Terminal 2, 3, or 4 every half hour at a cost of $208 MXN ($9.05 USD) one-way. Payments are accepted in pesos (there are ATMs inside the terminal) at the pickup point or credit at the ticket counter.
Driving In Mexico
Driving in the Riviera Maya is simple and having your own car allows you to see the endless sites on your own schedule. Road signs are in the metric system (kilometers) and the highways are in excellent condition.
There are a couple of points you should know about driving in Mexico. Firstly, the topes (speed bumps) are sometimes camouflaged and they tend to sneak up on you. Just beware as you approach any town, there will be several to watch out for.
Police checkpoints are common along major roadways. The main thing to keep in mind is to abide by the laws so they do not have a reason to pull you over. The rules are similar to anywhere else in the world. Avoid using your cell phone when driving and if you plan to consume alcohol, don’t drive. The alcohol tolerance in Quintana Roo is 0% and breathalyzers are in operation. As anywhere else on the planet, the laws state that you wear your seatbelt at all times and respect the speed limits.
Don’t be alarmed if you encounter one of these permanent or random road checks. Slow down well ahead of the checkpoint and put on your hazard lights. If the officer does not signal for you to stop, smile, and continue on. Should you be motioned to pull over, be polite, remain calm, and answer the officer’s questions. If it’s a random inspection, you will be sent on your way within a few minutes.
Gas Pump Scams
Unfortunately in Mexico, most make barely enough to afford the cost of living. One adverse outcome of this sad reality is gas pump scams. Attendants have devised clever ways of “earning” extra money. Of course, not all gas stations have shady attendants. Nevertheless, it does happen, especially to expats and foreigners.
There are precautions to avoid being the target of fraud or scams. When fueling up, watch the pump to make sure it’s at $0.00 so you aren’t charged for gasoline you didn’t receive.
Secondly, watch for the ol’ switch a roo. Spread your bills when handing them to the attendant to make it clear you know exactly what you paid. There have been cases where the attendant quickly switches the bills from a $500 to a $50, for example. The person returns to tell you that you’ve made a mistake and hands the $50 back, asking for a $500 bill instead. This trick is very effective since as a foreigner, you may not be familiar with the money, prompting you to second guess yourself.
Thirdly, never hand over your credit card to the attendant. This gives the person the opportunity to scan your card. The best way to avoid this is to physically get out of the car. Accompany the attendant to the machine, insert the card yourself, and complete the transaction.
Finally, if you are filling up your vehicle, keep an eye on the pump amount at the moment it stops. Sometimes, if you aren’t paying attention, the attendant can scroll back and charge you for a previous fuel amount that was higher.
Basically, just be mindful at a gas station. Distracted customers are easy targets; observant ones can same themselves from the nuisance of being scammed.
Strolling Along Playa del Carmen’s Famous 5th Avenue
Lining the city’s principle stretch of cobblestone, are hundreds of boutique hotels and brand name and artisan stores, jewelry and souvenir shops. Not to mention the endless eateries, galleries, and pubs, you’ll find the options are limitless as far as things to do on Playa del Carmen’s 5th Avenue. Understanding what lies ahead as you stroll Playa’s most important artery, will make your dining and shopping experience as pleasant as a walk in the park.
Don’t carry open liquor. Hey, it’s Mexico. Everyone’s here to have a good time, right? While that is the goal of a Playa del Carmen vacation, walking in a public place with an open beer can get you in trouble. You could get fined, but typically, the patrolling officers will let you off with a warning. In any case, it’s better to wait until you’re on private property before cracking open a cold one.
Vendors can seem aggressive as you pass by the shops on the effervescent strip. Keep in mind that they’re just doing their best to grab your attention within a sea of competition. Kindly shake your head and say “Gracias,” if you are approached and they will move on to the next passerby.
When perusing the shops for a special memento, if the item has no price tag, that’s your cue to practice your negotiation skills. While offers are accepted, it’s important to be fair and polite with your suggested price rather than choosing the borderline offensive route. By remaining personable, you’re more likely to wheel and deal your way to the best price.
Although many visitors are happy to stick to browsing what’s in store on the dynamic 5th Avenue, unique eateries just off of the tourist hub are worth straying for. Follow the tantalizing aromas around the corner. From Italian to French to Thai and vegan to mouthwatering Mexican cuisine, you’ll discover another world of superb cuisine.
Some banks, such as CI Banco on 5th Avenue, will exchange your currency, but others require you to have an account with them (Scotiabank.) There are, however, dozens of Casas de Cambio (exchange houses) at which you can change your money. If you need some pesos, bring your passport with you. You may be asked for identification, depending on the amount you wish to exchange.
Oxxo convenience stores are on almost every block of every town in Mexico. A handy one-stop-shop for visitors staying in vacation rentals, you can pick up bread, bananas, travel games, sunglasses, ice, and alcohol. On Sundays, by law, liquor sales end early. Some stores stop selling at 2:00 pm, while others sell alcohol until 5 (at the latest.) An additional convenience for tourists is that USD is accepted at Oxxos throughout the city.
Farmacias (pharmacies) are also a dime a dozen and you would be surprised what you can buy over the counter. If you or your child are prone to earaches, medicated drops are available for purchase without a prescription. Plus you will pay at a quarter of the price compared to other places in North America. What’s more, is there are medical clinics next door to many pharmacies. For a fee of $30 Mxn ($1.35 USD), you can see a doctor for minor medical conditions.
Taking a Taxi in Playa del Carmen
In the Riviera Maya, services like Uber and Lyft are not yet in operation. The next best thing is Taxi WhatsApp Playa del Carmen. You can call or reserve through their Facebook page. The price is predetermined so there are no surprises and there is a record of the driver and taxi number on file.
Should you hail a cab from the street, it’s best to do so far enough from a designated Taxi stand. Prices are higher at these syndicated stands than they are a hundred feet from them. Always establish the price of the ride before you get in to make sure you are in agreement with the fare.
Tacos Are Addictive
When in Mexico, do as the Mexicans do – eat the tacos, drink the tequila. But enter into the mmm mmm goodness at your own risk — tacos are highly addictive! You won’t be able to stop at one, and your favorite taqueria will always leave you wanting more. Consider yourself warned.
In Playa del Carmen, you’ll want to visit El Fogon, with several central locations in the heart of the city. The next most frequently frequented taco joint is Don Sirloin, also with various locales around town. An alternative to Playa’s two most popular taqueria chains is El Gran Taco across from (east side) the Centro Maya shopping mall.
As for a taco menu, a must-try plate is the Al Pastor. Succulent marinated pork is slow-cooked on a fiery spit, shaved into a warm soft taco shell, and topped with fresh pineapple.
At El Gran Taco, ask for the carnitas with all of the toppings – cilantro, onion, a fresh squeeze of lime, and of course, a spicy salsa. If your appetite permits, sample the other traditional flavors served in a beautiful array of Mexican ceramic pots. Top recommendations are the picadillo (hamburger and potato mixture) and the chicken mole (a rich sauce with a hint of nuts and chocolate.)
The Prices of Groceries and Alcohol
Exploring the gastronomy scene in Playa is a delectable adventure. Yet, if you book a vacation rental, it’s important to stock the kitchen with the basic grocery items for a comfortable stay. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the very reasonable prices for most produce, ground coffee, or a case of beer.
Our advice — steer clear of items including flavored coffee creamer, asparagus, grapes, imported cereals, and cheeses. That is unless you don’t mind paying more than 4 times their average prices. In Playa del Carmen, it’s definitely advantageous to buy local.
For more tips and insights on traveling to Playa del Carmen, check out more articles on Bric’s travel blog page.
Perfect Days Begin With Perfect Mornings
In Playa del Carmen, locals spend as much time possible in the great outdoors. The region’s warm, tropical climate lures people from around the globe to set down roots near its silky shoreline. This year-round summer weather makes outdoor living a way of life. Offices are set up on terraces perched over the Caribbean. Hockey sticks are traded in for golf clubs. Dinners are prepared on grills, and savored on patios engulfed by lush gardens.
This Riviera Maya jewel is a natural paradise. If you’re planning an upcoming visit to Playa del Carmen, you won’t want to waste a single second indoors. Enjoy your Mexican vacation to the fullest with these 7 ways to kickstart a perfect day in Playa del Carmen.
Enjoy Coffee With A View
One memorable highlight of staying in an ocean view condo with Bric is that you can wake up to some of the most spectacular sunrises in the world. Sip your morning brew on the balcony. From this privileged position, get a front-row seat to a kaleidoscope of oranges, reds, and pinks bursting across the sky. Add the Caribbean hues from the sea below into that mix, and well, there aren’t really words to describe that kind of beauty.
Breakfast at Bajo Cafe
Shaded by the umbrella of a massive flamboyant tree, Bajo Cafe is part of Mercado 30. This quaint little conglomeration of eclectic stores and eateries is located on Calle 30 and 25th Avenue.
Local artists feature their prints and artisanal works throughout the cafe. But the remarkable decor is not the only reason to visit Bajo. You’ll discover the best coffee in town, derived from coffee bean plantations in Chiapas. Try a breakfast bagel or a warm pastry, both ideal accompaniments to their robust coffee.
Sunrise Paddle Board Session
The seasoned instructors from Aloha Paddle Club are experts at reaping the benefits of beach life in Playa del Carmen. Every morning, they offer Stand Up Paddle classes from the glorious white sands at Fusion Beach Club on Calle 6. The company, who has a loyal following of locals and expats, recently signed on to offer Stand Up Yoga classes from the stunning infinity pool at Grand Hyatt.
Join Sander and his team for a safe and remarkable 1.5-hour journey to local reefs a couple of hundred meters off the silky shores. You’ll have a blast gliding over and diving into the crystal clear waters. A sunrise paddle presents one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have on the Caribean Sea.
Birdies and Breakfast Balls
Since Playa del Carmen is lucky enough to have summer weather year-round, hitting the links is a highly recommended way to start the day off right. Nothing beats teeing off in the early morning when the air is fresh, with no distractions but the local wildlife scurrying about.
Playa del Carmen is a top golf destination due to its climate and pristine, PGA tour-worthy courses. Go for birdie at championship golf courses such as El Camaleon in Mayakoba, Gran Coyote Golf in Grand Coral, or Hard Rock Riviera Maya, which sits in the center of the gated community of Playacar.
Get Your Om On At Yogaloft Playa del Carmen
Pose and meditate your way to a magical morning with a class at Yogaloft Playa del Carmen, situated on Calle 10 and 10th Avenue. Renowned instructor Michael Gannon and other guest teachers from around North America offer a schedule of classes designed to get the blood flowing and the mind centered.
These challenging and impactful sessions will help to set the mood for an excellent day. Additionally, next door to the studio is a yoga-based store selling gear and Liquid Prana. A rejuvenating line of raw, cold-pressed juices, Liquid Prana will give you the healthful jolt of energy to power through your unforgettable day.
Who’s Up For A Road Trip?
There are a thousand and one fantastic adventures to be had around Playa del Carmen, so get in the car and hit the road! Among the vast array of riveting sights are the Yucatan Peninsula’s longest underground river and cave system, cenote swimming holes, and ancient Mayan cities.
Tucked within the lush jungle are centuries-old pyramids and dozens of ecological parks, including Xcaret, Xplor, and Emotions Native Park. Within a couple of hours, you can drive to Magical Towns (Pueblos Magicos) such as the Yellow Town of Izamal and the colonial city of Valladolid.
In Bacalar, you’ll be amazed by the pirate history and the Fort of San Felipe, which overlooks the astounding Lagoon of 7 Colors.
Alternatively, head to a nearby island like Isla Mujeres or Holbox to experience island life at its finest. Ride along rustic roads lined with multi-colored buildings on a golf cart. Dine on fresh catches of the day. Furthermore, drop by a welcoming Caribbean beach bar. Listen to Reggae music as you enjoy the view consisting of turquoise and palm trees as you sip on a fruity cocktail. This dreamy island vibe will surely stick with you forever.
Additionally, you can jump on board a boat for some of the best snorkeling in the area in Puerto Morelos. Not so far off the shore is the second-largest barrier reef in the world, the Mesoamerican Reef. You’ll relish the opportunity to swim alongside turtles, parrotfish, and fascinating reef sharks.
Cozumel, just a 45-minute ferry ride from Playa del Carmen, boasts a long list of unique activities. First of all, it’s a renowned diving destination due to its extraordinary underwater visibility. Consequently, exploring sea life and sunken ships via a submarine is certain to be a grand adventure. Next, climb to the top of the lighthouse and savor the divine views at Punta Sur. Be sure to taste tequila and authentic Mexican cuisine on a food tour with a local chef. Lastly on the itinerary for things to do in Cozumel is visiting a pearl farm in the picturesque waters on the island’s north end.
No matter which direction you set out on, you are sure to collect travel stories that will make a lasting impression on your heart.
Take A Sunrise Stroll
Is there anything better than the feeling of cool sand under your feet and warm, salty waves lapping your toes? Picture an early morning walk along the powdery sand toward the sun as it rises over a turquoise seascape. It’s a picture that you will want to hold in your mind forever.
Considering all of the benefits of spending time at the beach, it is no surprise that this breathtaking activity makes it on our list. However, let’s face it, if you wake up in Playa del Carmen, you already have a huge advantage for starting the day off right!