Traveling to Playa del Carmen: A First Timer’s Guide [2022]

Traveling to Playa del Carmen for the first time?

If you’ve never visited Playa del Carmen, Mexico (or anywhere in Mexico), the thought of travel planning might be overwhelming — but by the end of this article, you will be a pro about traveling to Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

How do I know?! I used to live in Playa de Carmen — and I’m going to tell you all my Playa del Carmen travel tips and insider info!

As one of the best beach towns in Mexico, “Playa” (as the locals call it), is also one of the best Mexico travel destinations. Located on the Caribbean Sea, about 45 minutes south of Cancun, Playa has something for everyone — Mayan ruins, swimmable cenotes, beautiful beaches and more.

Ready to dive in? Let’s get started with the state of Playa del Carmen travel during Covid, and then get into everything you need to know about Playa, including where to stay, play, tour, eat and drink. Besides that, you’ll get answers to the top Mexico and Playa Travel FAQs, so you’ll have an epic trip.

Playa del Carmen During Covid-19

Is Playa del Carmen open right now?

Yes — Playa del Carmen is open for travel right now. In fact, Playa, and Mexico in general, never really closed to travelers.

However, there have been measures in place since March 2020, like mandatory masks indoors and outdoors, temperature checks, mandatory use of hand sanitizer, capacity restrictions, etc., which are still enforced.

Do I need a Covid test to travel to Mexico?

You do not need to arrive in Mexico with a negative Covid test. However, many businesses will take your temperature and not let you enter if it’s above 99.5°F (37.5°C). After leaving the airport, masks and temperature checks are required to enter most indoor spaces.

Do I need a negative Covid test to return to the U.S.?

As of January 26, 2021, you are required to have a negative Covid test to return to the U.S. The negative test results must be dated within three-days of your flight. For now, only an Antigen Test (NAAT Test) is required, according to the CDC.

Where can i get a rapid covid test in playa del carmen?

You can get do rapid Covid testing in Playa del Carmen at a few places, including these:

  • Rapid testing clinics: Costamed, Laclicsa and Amerimed, with locations in and near Playa.
  • Cancun International Airport: Use this as a last resort, because testing is limited.
  • Some Playa del Carmen resorts: If you are staying at a top resort, many offer on-site, rapid Covid testing for guests, so check with your resort.

are there temperature checks in playa del Carmen?

There will be temperature checks to enter most (if not all) businesses and activities that take place indoors, including malls and restaurants, as well as cenotes and Mayan Ruins. Those with an elevated temperature above 99.5°F (37.5°C), will likely be denied entry.

Do I need to wear a mask in PLAYA DEL CARMEN?

In Quintana Roo state, Mexico, masks are legally required when indoors, except when eating and drinking. As of April 2022, masks are optional outdoors. 😷 Playa del Carmen Tip: Rules and laws can change quickly, so carry a mask at all times in case you need to quickly put it on.

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What’s open in Playa del Carmen right now?

Playa del Carmen, Mexico, began the reopening process back in June 2020. Now nearly fully reopened and operational, this Yucatan beach destination has found their stride with welcoming visitors.

Some popular places and things to do in Playa del Carmen are operating at limited capacity, but by and large, Playa del Carmen restaurants, bars, beaches and beach clubs, nearby Yucatan cenotes and Mayan ruins near Playa del Carmen are all open right now.

Is it safe to travel to Mexico right now?

Yes — On November 8, 2021, the U.S. reopened all borders with Mexico. While it was always legal to fly to Mexico, land borders were shut down for 20 months in 2020-21. However, all borders are now open for business and pleasure travel to Playa del Carmen and all Mexico.

The World Travel & Tourism Council’s global travel safety program, Safe Travels, has certified many Mexico travel destinations, including Playa, Tulum, Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, as safe for travel. To qualify for this program, countries must follow rigorous cleaning and hygiene protocols.

You can also check the U.S. State Department and CDC websites for the most up-to-date information about traveling to Mexico right now.

traveling to playa del carmen, mexico

Playa del Carmen Travel FAQ

Is Playa del Carmen safe?

Short answer: Yes, for the vast majority of travelers, Playa del Carmen is sage.

Longer answer: Safety is a tricky subject because safety is a feeling, not a fact, and no place on Earth is 100% safe. Though the main areas of Playa are considered safe for visitors, this is also a Mexico party destination, and of course, safety changes drastically when alcohol is involved.

However, as a general rule, Playa del Carmen and the Yucatan Peninsula are considered safe; some say this part of Mexico is as safe as Europe. You’ll want to follow the 10 General Travel Safety Tips below… you know, the same ones you would follow when traveling anywhere on Earth.

10 General Travel Safety Tips
  1. When walking home alone at night stick to 5th Avenue, the main street in Playa del Carmen, as it’s well-lit and monitored by police.
  2. Always listen to your intuition because your intuition is always right.
  3. If you get a sketchy or uneasy feeling about a person or place, get away from that person or place asap. Don’t worry about making a kind, nice or politically correct exit from a creepy person or bad situation — Just get away fast.
  4. Don’t keep your phone, keys, wallet, passport, or anything valuable in your back pocket.
  5. Learn some basic Spanish. If you can’t learn it, save this infographic as an image on your phone so you have something to use even if you’re off-WiFi.
  6. Take all of your belongings into the bathroom with you, rather than asking a cafe/bar neighbor to watch your things. This is annoying, for sure, but it works to not get your stuff stolen.
  7. Speaking of bar neighbors, don’t take drinks from strangers and/or leave your drink unattended with one.
  8. Don’t wear flashy clothes, expensive jewelry, designer sunglasses, etc.
  9. Keep some cash in your pocket so you don’t have to pull your whole wallet out every time you need to pay.
  10. Travel changed after 2020 and Covid-19, and now Travel Insurance is a must!
Register for the STEP Program

Make sure you enroll in the FREE STEP Program before your trip. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, allows U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico to document your trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate — which happens to be the Consular Agency in Playa del Carmen.

After you’ve registered, a U.S. Embassy or Consulate can contact you in the event of an emergency, including natural disasters, civil unrest, etc. STEP can also put you in touch with your family and friends back home in the event of an emergency while abroad.

Mexico Travel Insurance

Need an added level of security and peace of mind during these strange travel times? Just as you insure your car, home and body, you can also insure your luggage, belongings and health while traveling to Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

I’ll be honest, when I first started traveling solo, I wasn’t insured. However, after years of solo travel, I wised up. Now, I even have a whole page of this website dedicated to travel insurance, because it’s just that important.

If Playa del Carmen travel safety is on your mind, get your free quote from World Nomads, one of the biggest names in travel insurance. If you’re a digital nomad in Mexico or doing long-term travel, SafetyWing has amazing, inexpensive policies starting at $45USD per month.

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Do I need a visa to visit Mexico?

Portal Maya, the iconic Playa del Carmen beach sculpture, located in Parque los Fundadores (Founders Park), just off 5th Avenue.

U.S., Canadian and most European passport holders do not need a visa to travel to Mexico; this includes Playa del Carmen and any city in Mexico. The no-visa-necessary rule is another reason why Mexico is one of the best travel destinations from the U.S.

When you arrive in Mexico and go through Immigration line, you’ll receive a 180-day (6 month) FMM tourist card. This is a small piece of paper that you need to hold on to so you can give it back to Immigration at the airport when you leave the country. 

There is no charge for the FMM, but if you lose yours, it costs about $600 pesos ($30USD) to replace it. You’ll also need to arrive at the airport an extra hour early to fill out the lost via paperwork. In short: Don’t lose your FMM!

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What’s the best time to visit Playa del Carmen?

Weather-wise, the fall/winter months of November-March is the best time to visit Playa del Carmen. It is technically the high season, though because of Covid, you’ll be able to get some great deals on flights and accommodations.

Playa del Carmen weather

traveling to playa del carmen weather chart

🥵 Playa del Carmen Travel Tips: Because of humidity, temperatures can feel 5-10°F higher. Stay hydrated with a reusable Water-To-Go Bottle — which adds an extra layer of water filtration — so you don’t get sick in Mexico on your Playa del Carmen vacation.

Located in the tropics, the weather is hot year-round, however, there’s much less humidity from November-March. You’ll also have less (if any) rain, and hurricane season will be over.

  • Playa del Carmen Rainy Season: June-October
  • Playa del Carmen Hurricane Season: June 1-November 30
  • Playa del Carmen High Season, or Busy Season: December-March
  • Playa del Carmen Low Season, or Slow Season: May-September

In March-April, Playa del Carmen spring break is in full swing. The weather is still nice, but the vibe becomes much more about the party than the beautiful nature, Mayan pyramids and cenotes near Playa del Carmen. However, if you’re looking to party in Playa, this is a fun time.

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What do I pack for Playa del Carmen?

As far as how to dress in Playa del Carmen, think flowy, tropical, breathable, cotton, and light-colored clothing that doesn’t show sweat. Besides beach attire, you may want a light cardigan at night, but this is the place for your warm-weather wardrobe and bathing suits.

The Yucatan Peninsula has a hot/humid tropical climate, as you can see by the average yearly Playa del Carmen weather chart above, so don’t forget the reef-safe sunscreen, eco-friendly mosquito spray and reusable water bottle.

FREE Printable Packing List for Mexico

Wondering exactly what to pack for Playa del Carmen? Download your FREE Printable Packing List for Mexico in the linked article — it covers what to pack for Playa del Carmen and other Mexico beaches, and packing for Mexico cities.

This multi-page Mexico packing checklist has everything you’ll want to bring, and more importantly, what not to bring to Mexico. If you need some additional inspiration, check out these relates articles: Cute Outfits for Mexico, and Tulum Packing List.

Where is Playa del Carmen, Mexico?

Playa del Carmen is located in Quintana Roo state, in the Yucatan Peninsula, on the southeastern side of Mexico. It is about 40 miles south of Cancun, eight miles north of Riviera Maya, and 40 miles north of Tulum.

Playa del Carmen Map

Some of the best places to see in Yucatan Peninsula are also quite close, and easily accessible by rental car. Want to rent a car in Playa del Carmen? I recommend, and personally use, Discover Cars! ▶︎ BOOK your Playa del Carmen rental car here.

These include Bacalar Lagoon, the “Maldives of Mexico,” located 170 miles south of Playa, the pueblo magico (magic town) of Valladolid, located 100 miles east, and the beautiful Colonial city of Merida, 175 miles east of Playa.

traveling to playa del carmen, mexico

What’s the closest airport to Playa del Carmen?

To get to Playa del Carmen, you’ll fly into Cancun International Airport (code: CUN), located about 40 miles north. This is great because there are usually multiple daily flights to/from this airport to most major cities, and often cost just $150-250USD round trip.

Cancun to Playa del Carmen Shuttle

Traveling from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen is easiest by private shuttle transfer with Cancun Airport Transportation. Keep in mind that there’s no Uber in Playa del Carmen, and no Uber in Quintana Roo state, so you can’t Uber from Cancun to Playa del Carmen.

Cancun to Playa del Carmen bus

ADO, Mexico’s largest bus company, is the cheapest way to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen.

You can take a bus straight from Cancun Airport to the main ADO bus terminal in Playa del Carmen on 5th Avenue. Prices will of course vary, but figure about $200 pesos ($10USD) for a one-way ticket, which you can buy online or at the airport.

From the bus terminal, just walk outside and grab a taxi to go to your Playa del Carmen accommodation. Make sure you already stopped at an ATM or have pesos on you, as taxis only take cash in pesos.

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Cancun Airport Car Rental

woman leaning on a red convertible sports car and holding her license and the key | renting a car in mexico

The easiest, most convenient way to travel from Cancun to Playa del Carmen? A rental car, of course! Need more info on Mexico car rentals and the whole rental process? Check out Renting A Car in Cancun: Everything You Need to Know.

This drive is about 45 minutes, and you’ll take Highway 307 (Carretera Cancun-Chetumal) south from Cancun to Playa. This is a paved, toll road, so make sure to have pesos for the tolls. If you’re renting a car in Playa del Carmen, your best bet is to pick it up at Cancun Airport when you arrive.

Is it safe to drive in Mexico?

Highway 307/Carretera Cancun-Chetumal, goes from the Cancun Airport to Tulum
You’ll take this road, Highway 307 (Carretera Cancun-Chetumal), from the Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen.

Short answer: Yes, for the vast majority of travelers, it is safe to drive in Playa del Carmen and much of Mexico.

Longer answer: As a general rule, driving in Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula is considered safe, and the drive from Cancun to Playa del Carmen is also safe. However, there’s the obvious caveat to that: You’ve likely never driven in Mexico before.

Since you will be driving in a foreign country, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with Mexico driving laws. Beyond that, you can ask the agent at your car rental company for advice, and check out the 12 Tips below on how to drive in Mexico.

12 Useful Mexico Driving Tips

1. Rent with a reputable company! As they say, “you get what you pay for.” For a reliable Cancun car rental company, go with Discover Cars.

2. Avoid driving at night. When you live in Mexico long enough, you start to realize many people simply avoid driving at night, if they can. If you do drive at night, stick to only main roads and highways.

3. Always use the couta, or toll, roads. Yes, they cost money, but they are much better maintained and generally considered safer. Pro tip: Bring cash for the tolls.

4. Download an offline map. Your signal will go in and out as you travel through rural areas of the Yucatan Peninsula, so download an offline map from Google or Maps.Me. You’ll also want to download some podcasts and music while you’re getting that map.

5. Speed limit signs are in kilometers per hour, not miles per hour. You don’t have to worry about conversion math here; just make sure the speed limit sign number matches your speedometer number.

6. Do not use your cell phone while you’re driving. Not only is this unsafe, it is also illegal. In fact, even having your phone in your hand is a ticket-able offense, so try not to even hold your phone while driving.

7. The rumors are true about the cops expecting bribes. If the cops pull you over, and they only will if you give them a reason to, they will expect a cash “payment” in exchange for not ticketing you.

8. Mexican roads are notorious for their abundant amount of topes (speed bumps). Make sure you keep your eyes on the road, as topes don’t always have signs alerting you to them.

9. Mexico’s gas stations are not self-serve. When you stop for gas, an attendant will pump it for you and take your payment. These people don’t actually work for the gas station, and live off tips. When they finish, it’s customary to tip them at least $10-20 pesos ($0.50-$1).

10. Mexico’s traffic lights go from green to yellow, to flashing yellow for a few seconds, to finally, a red light.

11. Make sure you purchase Mexican car insurance. You are generally not covered in any way through your U.S. company when you drive in any other country.

12. Most travel insurance policies cover driving. In case you’re wondering Should I get travel insurance for Mexico?… The answer is hell yes! There’s a whole page of this website dedicated to travel insurance, because it’s just that important — maybe even more so when traveling during the pandemic.

Is there Uber in Playa del Carmen?

Wondering if you can take Uber from Cancun to Playa del Carmen? Unfortunately, no, at this time Uber is not legal anywhere in Quintana Roo state. This also means there’s no Uber in Playa del Carmen, though there are plenty of taxis.

🚕💨 Playa del Carmen Travel Tip: In Mexico, you must agree on the fare before entering the taxi.

traveling to playa del carmen, mexico

Where to Stay in Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen has some of the best beaches in Mexico, so staying close to the beach is part of what makes for an amazing trip. The main street in Playa del Carmen is called Quinta Avenida, or Fifth Avenue, and many want to stay on or as close to this street as possible.

Fifth Avenue runs north-south, from the Muelle Playa del Carmen (ferry dock) on Calle 1 Norte (1st St. North), where you’d take the ferry to Cozumel Island, until about Calle 48 Norte (48th St. North). Beyond here, it’s mostly residential neighborhoods and there’s not much to see or do.

In the main areas of 5th Ave. in Playa del Carmen, there’s numerous restaurants, bars, shops, access to the beach, and more. It is a very lively street, both day and night, and staying near here makes Playa a very walkable place.

Best resorts in Playa del Carmen

This Mexican Caribbean beach town has some amazing resorts along one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico.

Because of this, many head here to stay in a Playa del Carmen all inclusive resort or a hotel. Some of the most popular choices are highlighted below, though there’s no shortage of amazing Playa del Carmen hotels, both all inclusive resorts as well as boutique hotels in Playa del Carmen.

Hilton Playa del Carmen All Inclusive: Formerly known as The Royal Playa del Carmen, and now owned by Hilton, this adults only mega-resort is the gold standard for a lush Playa beach vacation. Enjoy an elegant atmosphere, all-suite accommodations, a spa and endless on-site dining options.

Paradisus Playa del Carmen: Enjoy luxurious seafront accommodations at this gorgeous resort. Paradisus La Esmeralda Playa Del Carmen is surrounded by a lush tropical mangrove with spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea and Cozumel Island.

Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen: With three oceanfront outdoor pools, a spa, and architecture designed to resemble a cenote, the Grand Hyatt, located in Mamita’s Beach provides the tropical getaway of your dreams.

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Top 10 Things to Do In Playa del Carmen

1. Take the Ferry to Cozumel Island

Practice Sustainable Travel in Mexico: Only use eco-friendly reef-safe sunscreen to help preserve this natural ecosystem 🐠🐟🐬

No visit to Playa del Carmen is complete without taking the 30-minute ferry ride to Cozumel Island for some snorkeling. Cozumel’s reefs are part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the world’s second largest coral reef system, behind the Great Barrier Reef.

At world famous Palancar Reef, just off the coast of Cozumel, you’re sure to spot all kinds of sea life, including colorful tropical fish, rays, and even sea turtles! There’s also the San Gervasio Mayan Ruins, some of the coolest and best Mayan Ruins in Mexico.

🎧 Cozumel Mexico Podcast: Need more suggestions of things to do in Cozumel? Check out the Episode #06 of the Dream To Destination podcast with travel blogger Retha, who shares her best Cozumel travel tips.

best cozumel tours

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2. Best Beach Clubs in Playa del Carmen

There’s no shortage of Playa del Carmen beach clubs and beach bars, from the chill to the upscale. Below are the three most visited and well-known beach clubs to spend the day, and sometimes even the night, enjoying on your Playa del Carmen trip.

Lido’s Beach Club: Head to Lido’s for food, music and good vibes. This chill beach club has a down to earth, locals feel, and plenty of beach beds to lay on during the day. 📍 Address: Avenida 1 Norte Bis., Mz. 22, Lote 3, Centro, Playa del Carmen, Mexico 77710

Mamita’s Beach Club: One of the more upscale Playa del Carmen beach clubs, head to Mamita’s to see and be seen with the trendiest crowd in town. 📍 Address: Mza 10, Lote 8, Calle 28 Norte, Centro, Playa del Carmen, Mexico 77710

Zenzi Beach Club: One of the best beachfront places to eat, dance and listen to live music in Playa del Carmen after the sun goes down. During the day, Zenzi Beach Club has beds you can lay in as long as you’re ordering food/drinks. 📍 Address: Calle 10 y la Playa, Centro, Playa del Carmen, Mexico 77710

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3. Mayan Ruins Near Playa del Carmen

In total, there are about 100 public Mayan archeological sites in the Yucatan Peninsula. While most people don’t make it to all of them, there are some noteworthy Playa del Carmen Mayan ruins located less than 2.5 hours away from the city.

Below are the most visited and must see Mayan pyramids near Playa del Carmen ⤵

Of all the best ruins in Playa del Carmen, the pyramids at Coba are the only ones you can climb! This actually makes them some of the best ruins in Mexico.

Chichen Itza: As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, seeing Chichen Itza is high atop many travel bucket lists. Located just under 2.5 hours from Playa del Carmen, you can drive there with your rental car, take the ADO bus from Downtown Tulum, or opt for this Chichén Itzá Tour.

Coba: Coba Ruins is more like a whole Mayan city, versus a Mayan pyramid site. It is located deep in the jungle, about two hours from Playa del Carmen. If you’re having to choose Chichen Itza vs Coba, opt for Coba to avoid the Chichen Itza crowds, and because you can climb the Coba pyramids.

🦟 Mexico Travel Tips: When visiting Coba, don’t forget your eco-friendly bug spray.

Tulum Ruins: Tulum Ruins is a smaller site conveniently located on the Tulum Beach Road, one of Tulum’s main roads. These beautiful ruins overlook the Caribbean Sea, and make the perfect stop on a Playa del Carmen to Tulum day trip, or opt for the Tulum Ruins, Caves & Turtles Tour.

🗿 Like venturing off the beaten path? Some of the lesser-visited Mayan ruins around Playa del Carmen include the Xel-Ha ruins, El Rey and Yamil Lu’um ruins in Cancun, San Gervasio ruins on Cozumel Island, Ek Balam ruins near Valladolid, and Muyil ruins in Tulum.

traveling to playa del carmen, mexico

4. Take A Mayan Ruins Tour

The easiest way to see all of the Playa del Carmen Mayan Ruins sites and pyramids? On a group tour, of course! Check out some of these amazing Mayan ruins near Playa del Carmen you can visit with a group tour.

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5. See the Voladores at Founders Park

See the Voladores de Papantla in Playa del Carmen at Founders Park, the same park where you’ll see the Portal Maya sculpture.

Parque los Fundadores (Founders Park) is home to the iconic Portal Maya statue, and the flying Voladores de Papantla performers. During this ancient ritual from the state of Veracruz, four men swing from ropes down a 100-foot-tall pole, and a fifth stays on top, playing a drum and flute.

The voladores, or “flyers,” perform the ritual in this park several times throughout the day for donations and tips. Even if you don’t catch their performance, Parque los Fundadores is a great place to people-watch, shop and relax.

🚢 Founders Park is also located next to the dock where you’ll catch the Playa del Carmen to Cozumel ferry to go to Cozumel Island.

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6. Stroll La Quinta Avenida (5th Ave.)

woman walking down colorful quinta avenida (Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen, Mexico)
Quinta Avenida has everything, from shopping to some of the best cafes in Playa del Carmen.

Avenida Quinta AKA Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen, is the city’s main street. On this the walkable, pedestrian-only thoroughfare, you’ll find everything from bars, restaurants and cafes, to shops, massage spas and even a few museums — one of them is the Tequila Museum, but still 🤣

Day and night, 5th Ave. is the best place for people watching, whether you’re enjoying brunch at an outdoor cafe, or on a bench in beautiful Parque los Fundadores, there’s always something going on on Fifth Ave.

Best Shopping in Playa del Carmen

Fifth Avenue Playa del Carmen is where you’ll find little shops and boutique stores to pick up all the souvenirs you want to bring home with you.

Need a proper shopping mall in Playa del Carmen? Head to Quinta Alegria Shopping Mall on 5th Ave. and Ave. Constituyentes, or Paseo del Carmen Shopping Mall, located on the south end of 5th Ave., near the posh Playacar neighborhood.

☀️🌴 What is Playacar?

Playacar is a town located just south of Playa del Carmen, known for luxurious residences, golf courses and lavish resorts, like Playacar Palace All Inclusive Resort. Beautiful Playacar Beach and the small Playacar Mayan ruins site called Xaman-Ha Ruins, draw visitors to Playacar, Mexico.

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7. Swim in the Cenotes Near Playa del Carmen

Cenote Azul is located about 30 minutes from Playa del Carmen by rental car.

⬇ Scroll down for a list of the five best cenotes around Playa del Carmen, but let’s clear up some Cenote FAQs below, so you know what to expect when you visit. (If you want to jump ahead to the cenotes themselves, use this link.)

What is a cenote?

Cenotes (pronounced sen-no-tays) are underwater sinkholes containing crystal-clear, warm, freshwater. These unique jungle polls are only found in a few places on Earth, with about 6,000 cenotes in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, the largest concentration anywhere.

We can see and swim in them because the limestone once on top of the water has collapsed and/or eroded to expose the water beneath.

Depending on how much limestone has collapsed, some cenotes are above ground like a swimming pool, some are partially open, like Ik-Kil Cenote, and some are in underground caves, like Rio Secreto.

Cenote FAQs
  • Cost: Cenotes have entry fees, though they are minimal. The more popular ones that provide amenities like restrooms, on-site restaurants, etc., should still cost no more than $300 pesos ($15USD) to enter. Most are closer in price to about $50-150 pesos ($2.50-7USD).
  • Cash Only: Bring cash to cover both your entry and food. Most cenotes are in rural areas, and won’t have WiFi or the ability to take credit cards.
  • Accessibility: Different cenotes have different levels of accessibility. Many will have well-maintained stairs with handrails, especially the more popular ones. Some have make-shift stairs, and some have ladders.
  • Water shoes: Water shoes really help you enjoy your cenote time! As cenotes are natural pools, most have slippery rocks, muddy ground, etc. Water shoes also help you not slip in general, especially when walking down any staircase entryways. (I see this a lot!)
  • Life Jackets: I have never been to a cenote that didn’t provide or rent life jackets; but if you can’t swim, you might want to do additional research on the cenote(s) you’re visiting.
  • Sunscreens and lotions: Don’t apply sunscreen, lotion, insect repellent — anything — before getting in a cenote. Many require you to rinse off before entering, so even putting anything on will be a waste, but if you must use something, this one by Badger Anti-Bug Sunscreen Cream combines eco-friendly sunscreen and also insect protection, which does come in handy at cenotes.
  • Photos: Want those people-less Instagrammable cenote photos? Go on a weekday, and arrive early! You also might want to bring one of these waterproof phone holders that go around your neck.

Best Cenotes Near Playa del Carmen

Cenote Calavera is one of the best Tulum cenotes, and not far from Playa del Carmen. (Photo:
Mathilde Langevin via Unsplash)

Playa del Carmen has many cenotes to see within a short drive of town. As they are scattered throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, the easiest way to see them is by driving your rental car, or taking a Playa del Carmen cenote tour.

Cenote Azul: The “blue cenote” has many different pools to swim around in, and is sizable enough to make for a great Playa del Carmen day trip. There’s a platform for adventurous visitors to jump into one of the deeper pools, which makes for a fun photo.

Gran Cenote: One of the most Instagram worthy cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula! Gran Cenote, meaning “big cenote,” is a larger site with several cenotes that meander along the jungle floor, connected to one another by wooden walkways.

Cenote Ik-Kil: Located not far from Chichen Itza pyramids and the pueblo magico (magic town) of Valladolid, you’ll find Cenote Ik Kil and Cenote Suytun, two of the most Instagrammable cenotes in Mexico. With its hanging vines and semi-open dome top, it looks like a blue lagoon paradise.

Cenote Ik-Kil is located about 2.5 hours from Playa del Carmen, near the pueblo magico (magic town) of Valladolid and Chichen Itza pyramids.

Cenote Calavera: Meaning “skull cenote,” the Calavera Cenote has three circular holes you jump in to access the water below. This Instagram worthy cenote is super popular, and also somewhat small, so try and arrive early to beat the crowds.

Cenote Dos Ojos: The name dos ojos means “two eyes” in Spanish, a reference to the two large cenotes connected by a 1,300-foot-long (400m) cavern. The Dos Ojos Cenote, known for great snorkeling visibility underwater in the caverns, is also considered as one of the best diving cenotes.

Playa del Carmen Travel Tip: Arrive to the cenotes by 9am if you’re hoping to get travel photos without the crowds — like I was able to do in this photo.

traveling to playa del carmen, mexico

8. Take A Cenotes Tour in Playa del Carmen

The easiest way to see Playa del Carmen cenotes? On a group tour, of course. Unless you have a rental car, this is really the only way to visit the cenotes. Check out the best Playa del Carmen cenotes tours below.

traveling to playa del carmen, mexico

9. Visit the Frida Kahlo Museum in Playa del Carmen

Frida Kahlo is one of the most iconic Mexican painters of all time! (Photo: Museo Frida Kahlo Riviera Maya)

Want to get your Frida fix in Mexico? Head to one of the most popular things to do in Playa del Carmen, and one of the town’s only museums — the Frida Kahlo Museum in Playa del Carmen — dedicated to one of the most famous Mexican painters of all time.

👩‍🎨 Love unique museums? Don’t miss the 3D Museum of Wonders in Playa del Carmen!

This stylish museum is located on Quinta Avenida (5th Ave.), and features interactive exhibits dedicated to the life of Mexico’s most beloved artist. Please note: They don’t always have her actual artworks on display.

Open daily, 9am-11pm. Admission is $300 pesos ($15USD). 📍 Address: Calle 8, entre Quinta Avenida y La Playa, Gonzalo Guerrero, Centro, Playa del Carmen, Mexico 77720

10. Dine & Drink in Playa del Carmen

Dine with a view at Zenzi, an oceanfront restaurant in Playa del Carmen by day, and bar/club by night. (Photo: Zenzi)

Playa del Carmen has a nice mix of upscale dining, and authentic Mexican food street eats. While tacos and Mexico go together like milk and cookies, tacos aren’t actually a Yucatan food — though don’t worry — there are tacos in Playa del Carmen!

When in Playa, do make sure you sample some traditional Yucatcan cuisine, like cochinita pibil (pulled pork that’s slow roasted in an underground oven), ceviche (citrus marinated seafood), lechon (pork with crispy skin), and marquesitas (crepes).

Best Restaurants in Playa del Carmen

Inside the Alux cave restaurant in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. (Photo: Alux)

Porfirio’s: Located on 5th Avenue, this upscale restaurant is the place for surf and turf and a nice bottle of wine as you people-watch the crowds walking by. 📍Address: Quinta Avenida, Esquina Calle 12, Centro, Playa del Carmen, Mexico 77710

Alux Playa del Carmen: The famous cave restaurant in Playa del Carmen! The colorfully-lit Alux Restaurant is one of the best restaurants in Playa del Carmen, known for grilled meats and fresh seafood dishes. 📍Address: Avenida Benito Juárez Mz 217 Lt 2, Ejidal, Centro, Playa del Carmen, Mexico 77710

🍷🍽 Playa del Carmen Travel Tip: Make a reservation to eat at the Alux cave restaurant.

Cheap Eats in Playa del Carmen

El Fogon: While not authentic to the Yucatan, tacos al pastor are the most famous tacos in Mexico. Try them at El Fogon, a popular place known for having the best tacos in Playa del Carmen. 📍Address: Avenida Constituyentes, Quintas del Carmen, Gonzalo Guerrero, Playa del Carmen, Mexico 77720

La Cochi-Loka: Open day and late night, La Cochi-Loka is a Playa del Carmen hidden gem. Head there to sample the most famous food of all Yucatan cuisine, cochinita pibil. They have tacos and panuchos, but opt for a panucho to eat it like the locals do.📍Address: Calle 10 Norte 27, Calle Quinta Avenida 5A, Centro, Playa del Carmen, Mexico 77710

Las Hijas de la Tostada: The perfect low-key-yet-chic place for seafood tostadas and tacos, guacamole, ice cold beer and micheladas on famous 5th Avenue. 📍Address: Avenida Quinta con Calle 2 Norte, Centro, Playa del Carmen, Mexico 77720

Marquesitas: These crepes, eaten with toppings such as chocolate and cheese, are a favorite nighttime sweet treat throughout the Yucatan. You can find marquesitas (crepes) in Playa del Carmen from street vendors along Avenida Quinta (5th Avenue) after the sun goes down.

Best Bars in Playa del Carmen

Cantina la No. 20 is the place for fancy cocktails in Playa del Carmen. (Photo: Cantina la No. 20)

Zenzi: A beach club by day, Zenzi is the place for live music and salsa dancing in Playa del Carmen after the sun goes down. Address: Calle 10 y la Playa, Centro, Playa del Carmen, Mexico 77710

Cantina La No. 20: One of the best cocktail bars in Playa del Carmen! This chic restaurant/mixology bar is the place to see and be seen when getting your Playa del Carmen nightlife fix. Address: Calle Quinta Avenida 310, Gonzalo Guerrero, Centro, Playa del Carmen, Mexico 77720

Bar Ranita (La Rana Cansada): This local’s favorite feels more down to Earth than most Playa del Carmen bars. Enjoy beers and mezcal, then head next door to La Cochi-Loka for late night tacos and panuchos. Address: Calle 10 Norte Bis 132, Calle Quinta Avenida 5A, Centro, Playa del Carmen, Mexico 77710

Coco Bongo Playa del Carmen: One of the most famous Cancun bars, Coco Bongo also has a Playa del Carmen location. This complete nightlife experience is part club, part Moulin Rouge-style cabaret show, and part Cirque du Soleil. Address: Calle 12 Norte, Esquina con Avenida 10 Norte, Gonzalo Guerrero, Centro, Playa del Carmen, Mexico 77710

🎟 Playa del Carmen Travel Tip: Coco Bongo is one of the most popular and unique things to do in Playa del Carmen at night, and often sells out. ▶︎ BUY COCO BONGO TICKETS HERE

Final Thoughts: Traveling to Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Once a quieter alternative to Cancun, Playa del Carmen is now nearly just as popular, and a Mexico travel destination in its own right. For those looking for a resort style, relaxing vacation, there are many amazing Playa del Carmen all inclusive resorts for you to discover.

In recent years, Playa del Carmen has become one of the top Mexico digital nomad destinations, so there is a younger vibe to the town and plenty of opportunities to party! In short, Playa del Carmen offers the quintessential beach vacation, and is one of the best beach towns in Mexico.

🧳 Doing some Playa del Carmen solo travel? Head to this article for a first-hand account from Christine, one of the solo female travel bloggers who contributed to Mexico Solo Travel: 20 Amazing Destinations for Female Travelers about her experience in Playa del Carmen as a solo traveler.

Is Playa del Carmen worth visiting?

Depending on the kind of vacation you’re looking for will depend on if you think Playa del Carmen is worth checking out. It’s known more as a party town than a Mexico cultural destination, so if you’re looking to eat, drink and be merry, really enjoy Playa.

The good news is that if Playa doesn’t turn out to be what you’re looking for, there are many amazing Yucatan Peninsula places located within just a few hours via rental car. If Playa ends up being too hectic and you want more laid back bohemian vibes, there’s Tulum, Holbox Island and Bacalar Lagoon.

Mexico Travel Planning Guide

🚑 Should I buy Mexico travel insurance? 100% YES! — With basic coverage averaging just $5-10USD per day, enjoy peace of mind with a plan from World Nomads, the biggest name in travel insurance. (Read more)

💧Can you drink the water in Mexico? No — You’ll want to buy a Water-To-Go Bottle, which filters your drinking water so you don’t get sick from drinking water in Mexico, and helps keep you hydrated while traveling Mexico. (Read more)

🚙💨 Is it safe to rent a car in Mexico? Yes — Renting a car in Mexico is one of the best ways to see the country! I always rent with Discover Cars, which checks both international companies and local Mexican companies, so you get the best rates. (Read more)

📲 Will my phone work in Mexico? Maybe — It depends on your company, so check with your provider. If you don’t have free Mexico service, buy a Telcel SIM Card. As Mexico’s largest carrier, Telcel has the best coverage of any Mexico SIM Cards. (Read more)

🏩 What’s the best way to book my Mexico accommodation? For Mexico hotels and hostels, Booking is the best site. If you’re considering a Mexico Airbnb, don’t forget to also check VRBO, which is often cheaper than Airbnb!

🧳 What do I pack for Mexico? Head to the Ultimate Mexico Packing List + FREE Checklist Download to get all the info you need on packing for Mexico.

✈️ What’s the best site to buy Mexico flights? For finding cheap Mexico flights, I recommend Skyscanner.

🎫 Do I need a visa for Mexico? Likely Not — U.S., Canadian and most European Passport holders don’t need a visa for Mexico; but check here to see if you do need a Mexico travel visa. The majority of travelers will receive a 180-Day FMM Tourist Visa upon arrival.