There are plenty of reasons why Playa del Carmen receives more than two million visitors a year. These are the top ten best things to do and see in Playa del Carmen, a fascinating city located in Quintana Roo, in the heart of the Mayan Riviera.
Visit the Cenotes
The Mayan Rivera has more than 3,000 cenotes, many of them in Playa del Carmen. The cenotes, grottoes, and underground caverns are among the great attractions of the Mayan Riviera. Chaak Tun, Dos Ojos, and Cristalino are just three of the most impressive cenotes in Playa del Carmen. You can enjoy these true gifts of nature where you can swim, dive and observe the rich marine life in these pieces of paradise with crystal clear waters.
Discover the Riviera Maya
Playa del Carmen is a small paradise that is enough on its own and offers you everything you want on your vacation trip, whether long or short. However, you should know that Playa del Carmen is in the heart of an enormous paradise, the Mayan Rivera, a territory of 87 miles in length in the bright and crystalline Mexican Caribbean. Both have splendid beaches, archaeological sites, great food, fun spots, shopping malls, and anything you need to have a memorable trip.
Stroll the Fifth Avenue
The Fifth Avenue or Quinta Avenida is the heart of Playa del Carmen and the most vibrant part of the city. Whichever way you go, at some point, you will pass by the Quinta, as the locals call it. Here you can go shopping in its exclusive boutiques, jewelry stores, galleries, souvenir shops, restaurants, and cafés.
Sian Ka’an Reserve
It is a biosphere reserve and protected area with the status of World Heritage Site. It’s 70 miles from Playa del Carmen, along the Rivera Maya road. It has beaches and forests where you can observe the abundant wildlife native to the coastal forest region of Mexico on the Atlantic. One of the main attractions is the “petenes,” which are huge concentrations of trees up to 100 feet high above the swampy land.
Mayan Ruins of Coba
This archaeological site is located 68 miles from Playa del Carmen and was one of the main urban centers of the Mayan civilization, reaching 50,000 inhabitants during the classic period of that culture. One of the best-preserved buildings is Nohoch Mul’s pyramid, the tallest Mayan structure in the Yucatan Peninsula, with 138 feet ascending in 120 steps. It is worth climbing it, both for the exercise and for the impressive view from the summit. There is a rope that helps in the ascent and descent.
With all its fame and cosmopolitan glamour, just 42 miles from Playa del Carmen is Cancun, the most important tourist destination in Mexico. Turquoise blue waters, white-sand beaches, fun, gastronomy, archaeology, sports, and much more are just some of the things that make Cancun the place that no one can miss in their travel itinerary.
Travel to Cozumel
It would be a pity if you went to Playa del Carmen and returned home without visiting the island of Cozumel. The crossing is only one hour on a ferry ride. This beautiful island with crystal clear water beaches, cenotes, and archaeological sites awaits you. Also, you can’t miss enjoying a delicious seafood platter, lobster, or any of the delicacies from the Caribbean Sea.
Xaman-Ha was the Mayan name for Playa del Carmen in pre-Columbian times. One of the main current attractions is an aviary, a sanctuary of 45 bird species native to the Mexican tropical forest, most at risk of extinction. Apart from bird watching and photographing, other attractions include butterflies, iguanas, and aquatic life in the cenotes.
Visit Xcaret, Xplor & Xel-Ha Parks
Just 3 miles from Playa del Carmen is beautiful Xcaret, both an archaeological site and an ecological park. The Mayans used it as a port and mercantile center, preserving the ruins that testify to it. It was also converted into a point to protect emblematic species of the region’s fauna, such as the spider monkey, the manatee, and the sea turtle.
Next to Xcaret, on the Cancun – Tulum highway, is Xplor, another charming natural park. It’s a place to enjoy the underground beauty in its cenotes, caves, and caverns. There are facilities for diving, canoeing, rustic tours, and zip-lining. On the road from Cancun to Tulum, 30 miles from Playa del Carmen, is Xel-Ha, considered the largest natural aquarium in the world and one of the Natural Wonders of Mexican geography. It’s a small cove in which the waters of a river join the Caribbean Sea, where freshwater and saltwater species cohabitate.
Tulum is one of the main reserves of the Mayan culture in Mesoamerica. It’s located just 43 miles from Playa del Carmen. The most important Mayan construction in the archaeological site is El Castillo. This tall building served as a reference point for indigenous navigators to circumvent the enormous barrier reef near the coast. After you visit the Tulum ruins, you’ll want to cool off on Pescadores or Paraiso Beaches close to the archeological site.
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