Playa Del Carmen Excursions

…if you want to get away for a short time…

It’s easy to settle into a routine when you’re in Playa Del Carmen; hit the beach, check out the women (or men), down your drinks, get hideously sunburnt.

I did it for weeks.

Honestly, the only time I ventured off Fifth Avenue was when I hit the strip club.

There are so many things to do in Playa Del Carmen that even when I interrupted the routine, there was still no need to leave the town.

Then I stopped being a typically shortsighted American tourist and tried broadening my horizons.

I started ordering Mexican beer (not Budweiser) and slowly explored the area around Playa Del Carmen.

Playa Del Carmen can keep you busy for a long time.

But there are several Playa Del Carmen excursions that you have to squeeze into your next vacation package.

An Overview of The Best Playa Del Carmen Excursions

I know what it’s like when you’re on vacation.

It’s easy to get comfortable, right? Find your stretch of beach, repeatedly visit your favorite bar, and BOOM…..the two weeks have gone before you know it.

So I’m going to make things easy and simple for you.

I’m going to provide a no-nonsense dummy’s guide to the best Playa Del Carmen excursions.

The must-dos are at the beginning.

So if you only leave Playa Del Carmen once then make sure it’s for one of these.

I’ve also roughly ranked the Playa Del Carmen excursions in terms of their proximity to Playa Del Carmen.

After all, if you’re going to break the magical routine, you don’t want to spend four hours traveling in a sweaty Mexican bus. (And actually most of them are air-conditioned.)

Why You Have To Go On a Playa Del Carmen Excursion

Think about the average visitor’s routine.

Beach – that one’s brilliant.

Chicks (or men in speedos) – also brilliant. You either have a significant other with you, or you try to find one.

Drinking – essential and brilliant.

Sunburn – unavoidable and not so brilliant.

But that doesn’t mean that you have to do it every day.

There’s so much more to Playa Del Carmen and Mexico than the above.

You have to go on a Playa Del Carmen excursion because it doesn’t require any effort.

Playa Del Carmen is in the heart of the Riviera Maya, so you won’t have to share a bus with some chickens to see the best of the area.

Furthermore, wouldn’t it be nice to sound a little cultured and tell everyone that you’ve been checking out Mayan ruins, hidden cenotes, or secret beaches.

Playa Del Carmen excursions usually cost money.

So expect a load of sales pitches and offers from the human lice at the airport and behind the hotel desk. It’s par for the course. Mexicans are usually desperate for foreign money.

However, you can sometimes save money by booking all your activities together.

So if you already have a plan, you’ll have more money left over for cocktails.

Playa Del Carmen Excursion 1 – Xcaret

About 6 million tourists visit the Mexican Caribbean every year.

About 1.7 million of them visit Xcaret or one of the other X-Parks.

That’s a lot of people, and it gives you an idea of the scale of Xcaret.

I could call it the Mexican version of Disneyland.

Except it’s much more exceptional (and noncommercial) than that.

Instead of grown men in cartoon costumes (sigh), Xcaret features tropical jungle, aquariums, dozens of swimming pools and rides, dancing shows, massive buffets, and a dozen other things that you won’t have time to see in a day.

That’s why they sell multi-day tickets.

You could probably keep yourself entertained for a year in Xcaret, although I think two days is perfect.

It’s only 12 minutes from Playa Del Carmen by taxi or min-van, so it’s literally on your doorstep.

If you book online you can get a 10% discount.

Playa Del Carmen Excursion 2 – Xenotes

Picture the scene.

You’re walking in the jungle, admiring the monkeys, and out of nowhere the ground opens up and there’s a shimmering turquoise pool before your eyes.

That’s a cenote.

They look like something from a sci-fi movie, enhanced by CGI graphics and jumping out of the screen in 3-D.

Cenotes can be found all around Playa Del Carmen, and four of the best are at the Xenotes tour and park.

They have earth, wind, water, and fire, so you get to really enhance the surreal environment, especially when a peculiar deity starts making an offering to the Gods.

It’s run by the same people who manage Xcaret, Xel-Ha, and Xplor, so you can safely have high expectations.

You can also get a 10% discount by following this link and clicking through to the place where you buy tickets.

Playa Del Carmen Excursion 3 – Cozumel

So you come to Playa Del Carmen and think you’ve found paradise.

And then you see this tropical island on the map and see it visibly from the shore.

That’s Cozumel, as close to Caribbean postcard perfection as you could ever hope to be.

Think untouched beaches, snorkeling with the cast from a National Geographic documentary, and finding a secluded spot to recreate Lost.

All you have to do is to check the Cozumel ferry schedule, get on a ferry from Playa Del Carmen, and within 45 minutes you’ll have arrived on this little gem.

Make sure you know where the Playa Del Carmen ferry dock is, and if you want a boat with a live band busting out the tunes, check out the Playa Del Carmen to Cozumel page.

Playa Del Carmen Excursion 4 – Playacar

Playacar is like Playa Del Carmen for people with too much money and not enough clothes.

It’s an exclusive resort / condo area on the south beach of Playa Del Carmen.

I enjoy sampling the different atmosphere and type of people down in that area – it’s where you’ll find private yacht owners and grown men who think it’s acceptable to wear pink chinos.

But it’s a nice place and worth the short walk down down the beach from central Playa Del Carmen.

If only for seeing some cellulite wobbling butts.

Playa Del Carmen Excursion 5 – Mayan Pyramids and Mayan Tours

Long before drunk American tourists and vagabond Spanish conquerers, Mexico was the home of the Mayans, a peaceful group of people who built immense pyramids all over the land.

Many were destroyed.

But those that are left still have a mystical power.

You’ve probably heard of Chichen Itza, the newest addition to the “Seven Wonders of the World, and the most famous of the Mayan pyramids.

I really recommend doing a Chichen Itza tour.

It usually works out cheaper than trying to get to the ruins yourself.

After all, it’s not as if they built Mayan pyramids next to major bus routes.

One of the most popular Chichen Itza tours is Xichen.

There are plenty of dodgy cowboy tour operators around, so it’s sometimes worth going with Xichen as it’s the same people as Xcaret.

You also get a 10% discount if you book online.

Some people even come to Playa Del Carmen to do archaeology travel, but you don’t have to be Indiana Jones to enjoy the surreal beauty of the Mayan ruins.

There are several Mayan tours that will show off both the old and new of their culture.

Playa Del Carmen Excursion 6 – Tulum

The Mayans weren’t stupid.

They were quick to appreciate that a good beach should be protected.

So they built some immense pyramids on the cliffs above Tulum.

Check out the sculptures, and you’ll find Gods that are leaping into the ocean, proof that the Maya were cliff diving way before it became fashionable.

Tulum is just a short drive south of Playa Del Carmen.

The nearby town is indelibly quaint, the ruins are very special, and the beach is so good you’ll want to roll it up and take it home in your suitcase.

I recommend a Tulum tour, particularly as it’s going to get you to Tulum before the crowds turn up from Cancun.

Playa Del Carmen Excursion 7 – Akumal

Turtles aren’t only found in Mexico or Playa Del Carmen.

But everywhere else in the world you have to pay to swim with them.

Akumal is less than an hour from Playa Del Carmen, and you can swim with turtles for free.

Take your snorkel, start swimming, and meet a whole bale of turtles.

You can also go with a tour.

The advantage is that a guide will take you out to the most popular turtle spots.

You should also get there before the Chinese tourists start turning up around midday and scare away the turtles by trying to grab their fins (and probably eat them raw after catching them).

Playa Del Carmen Excursion 8 – Xel-Ha

Continuing the marine theme there is Xel-Ha, officially the largest aquarium in the world.

When somebody told me I thought they were full of shit.

Why does everywhere claim to be the biggest.

Then I went to Xel-ha.

It’s like swimming into a wildlife documentary.

Sharks, turtles, fish – I hadn’t been as impressed by sea creatures since watching the Little Mermaid.

And yes, swimming.

You’re not just an observer.

You actually get into the water and meet the funky marine characters, including dolphins and rays.

Get 10% off by getting tickets online.

Playa Del Carmen Excursion 9 – Xplor

Xplor is perfect for people who aren’t too keen on spending many days away from the beach.

It’s the best of a Riviera Maya adventure rolled into one day.

You do some zip-lining through the jungle, swimming in cenotes, riding amphibious vehicles, and cruising through caves on a raft.

If you’re not sure which excursion to do, the diversity of activities make this one a good choice.

Because I love you all, you get 10% off by following this link.

Playa Del Carmen Excursions 10 – Towns around Playa Del Carmen

Playa Del Carmen is the best destination in the Riviera Maya.

So it might be hard to convince you to check out some of the other towns.

If you want to see more of the coastline then it’s easy to squash a few of these towns into a day.

Puerto Morelos is a chic little beach town just north of Playa Del Carmen, perfect for a lazy day.

If you want some intimate time with a lady friend then I highly recommend it.

Puerto Aventuras is south of Playa Del Carmen and another beachside retreat.

Cancun hasn’t got the same class as Playa Del Carmen.

In fact, I think it’s distinctly average.

But if you want to pay double for your drinks and check out a load of overweight sunburnt English chicks, then it’s only less than an hour up the coast.

But don’t take my word for it all.

There are some intriguing Mexico travel videos that give you a good idea about what to find around Playa Del Carmen.

Which Playa Del Carmen excursion is best for me?

I can’t answer this question.

And you can’t answer this question if you continue to sit at home and think about coming to Playa Del Carmen.

Book your vacation and check it all out for yourself!

I hope to see you at one of these places soon!

Lots of love,


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14 comments on “Playa Del Carmen Excursions

    • Dear Revered Reader,

      Thank you so much. I’m glad you like it. I created it for people just like you!

      Lots of love,


    • Diana,

      I have not seen underwater scooters here yet (June 2017). In fact, I’ve never even heard of them!

      You’ve piqued my curiosity. Where did you see them?

      Lots of love,


        • Diana,

          Thank you so much for the photo. Wow! That looks like a lot of fun!

          Unfortunately, I have not seen anything like that here. They may have it in Cancun or Cozumel, but I highly doubt it.

          The reason?

          All of the marine vehicles here have to be licensed in order to operate in the sea. Most of the vehicles ride above the water, but I’m guessing that those that ride below the water probably receive extra scrutiny due to the fragile coral reef ecosystem here.

          The city and state government has done quite a bit to protect the coral reef here as it is the second largest in the world and brings a solid base of regular tourists.

          I doubt they would allow such a thing here because it looks like it could easily brush up against the seabed and cause damage to surrounding wildlife.

          That would be my guess, but it’s nothing more than speculation. If I see one around town in the near future, I will let you know.

          Enjoy your vacation, Diana….

          Lots of love,


  1. Love your website! We are leaving Jan 2 for our beautiful trip to Playa del Carmen! I’m so excited. Have you been to the Coba Ruins? We are trying to decide on going there or not. Thank you!

    • Amber,

      Thank you for the comment (and compliment). You’re going to have a great time here. With so many excursions to participate in, you definitely won’t have any problem staying busy.

      To answer your question about Coba–no, I have not been there. Chichen Itza is a little more popular. I’ve heard it’s less commercialized than Chichen Itza. For historical ruins, that’s a good thing.

      If you’re interested in Mayan archeology, visit both. Either way, I’ve only heard good things about Coba, so I think you won’t go wrong.

      If you need someone to help you plan which excursions/activities you’ll participate in during your trip, I know the perfect person. She’s one of the nicest people in the city. If you give me your contact information, I will forward the information to her.

      Take care, Amber, and enjoy your trip.

      Lots of love,


  2. Hi Rufus~ We are traveling to the Riviera Maya in January 2018 and staying on Isla Mujeres for 5 nights, and will be in Playa del Carmen for 4 nights, before we head back home to Oregon.

    With only three whole days in Playa, we are trying to fit in as much as we can without killing ourselves! We are 64 and 67 years young, and my husband has a bad ankle from a major break five years ago (he can’t spend too many hours a day on his feet, walking). We love to snorkel when in Maui, and snorkeling doesn’t bother his foot much at all. Walking on the sand is the worst for him, though.

    On one of our 3 days in Playa, are hoping to visit Tulum and either Xel-Ha, Xplor, Akumal or Aktun Chen. Do you have any advice on which option you would choose, or which you think we should choose or not choose?

    Any advice would be helpful, thanks. We plan to visit Cozumel too!


    • Bonnie,

      Thank you for the comment. It sounds like you have your vacation mostly planned out. I’m sure you’re going to have a good time because there are so many excursions and things to do here.

      Considering the options that you gave me, and also the fact that your husband has problems with his ankle, I did some careful consideration–

      I think the best option for you is Xel-Ha because he would be spending most of his time in the water and not doing so much walking.

      If you go to Tulum, you are going to be walking along trails in order to see the archaeological ruins.

      Akumal is going to necessitate the both of you walking along the beach in the sand. You could go snorkeling there, but you are going to need to move around in the sand in order to get to the various snorkeling spots where you are most likely to see the sea turtles. I really love Akumal, as I think it’s one of the best beaches in the area, but regarding your situation, I think there are limitations on this particular spot.

      Xplor is also going to include a lot of walking because there are a number of different zip lines that you will be taking along the tour around the park. The zip lines will require both you and your husband to climb a number of stairs and walk around in a jungle environment. Consequently, I don’t think this would work well for you.

      I don’t know anything about Aktun Chen, so I cannot comment on this.

      Again, I think that due to your husband’s limitations, the best excursion for you is Xel-Ha.

      I hope this helps, Bonnie, and I hope to see you in town while you’re here!

      Lots of love,


      • Rufus~

        Thank you so much for your consideration and recommendation. Xel-Ha, it is!! I trust your opinion and I’m glad that I contacted you about this.

        You are a gem, and my husband, Jim and I would love to meet up with you while we are in Playa ((Jan. 22nd check-in through 26th check-out)), if you’re available…and buy you a cold beer or two!! (Let me know how we make contact.)

        Mucho Gracias,


        • Bonnie,

          I’m glad I can be of help. Also, I’ll be curious to hear about your experiences on Isla Mujeres. I still haven’t made it there, but I’ve heard it’s beautiful.

          In regard to beers, that would be great. Just send me an email via the Contact Me page. You can find a link to it in the footer of every page on this site.

          Take care, Bonnie, and see you soon….

          Lots of love,


  3. wondering if there are any catamaran tours? couldn’t see any on this site.. any tips would be great. staying at Iberostar Quetzal

    • Kevin,

      I forwarded your request to the friendliest and most helpful person in town.

      Enjoy your trip, and I hope to hear from you soon.


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