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After getting to know Playa del Carmen, we recommend you visit any or all of these 17 popular places in one day from Playa del Carmen. Know amazing beaches, Mayan ruins, cenotes, and more.
Playa del Carmen offers a variety of captivating destinations that can be experienced as day trips or excursions. In this post, you will find a summary of the activities you can do in Playa del Carmen if you stay longer than a week.
Whether you want to immerse yourself in the charm of a new city, discover unspoiled stretches of coastline, embark on an island adventure, immerse yourself in Mayan culture, or simply connect with nature, there are plenty of attractive options for day trips from Playa del Carmen, Mexico. This article presents the best 17-day travel possibilities for your Playa del Carmen adventure in 2023.
With charming boutique hotels, breathtaking beaches, and one of the world's most beautiful natural archaeological sites, Tulum has everything to offer its visitors.
Distance from Playa del Carmen to Tulum: 1 hour | Google Maps
Why Visit Tulum?: If it's pristine beaches you're after, Tulum effortlessly outshines Playa del Carmen. While Playa del Carmen enjoys a lively urban vibe, Tulum offers a more laid-back, bohemian retreat with captivating Mayan ruins, quaint boutique accommodations, exciting water adventures, and luxury beachfront establishments.
Speaking of beaches, if you're a true beach enthusiast, our comprehensive Tulum beach guide will be your best companion in discovering the perfect sandy paradise tailored to your desires.
Meanwhile, downtown Tulum attracts those looking to explore vibrant shopping opportunities, enjoy libations, mingle in chic bars, or savor delicious meals at its many acclaimed restaurants. Tulum is also an idyllic destination for people with dietary, vegetarian, or vegan preferences, as it boasts a wide variety of culinary options to suit all tastes.
Guided tour: If you prefer a no-frills experience, consider joining an affordable guided tour that combines the ruins of Tulum with visits to several cenotes.
Public bus: ADO, the Mexican bus company, operates a route from downtown Playa del Carmen to the ruins of Tulum.
Car Rental: Adapting to Yucatán's roads may require patience, as not all traffic regulations are consistently followed. However, the road from Playa del Carmen to Tulum is relatively straightforward. Beware of car rental scams and book with Airport Cancun.
Private transportation: Traveling to Playa del Carmen and then going to Tulum is one of the most common practices among travelers. This option can offer you excellent amenities, as well as affordable prices.
Colectivo: A more adventurous option is the colectivos, shared minibusses. There is a colectivo route from downtown Playa del Carmen to downtown Tulum.
Travel time: Tulum is approximately a 1 hr drive from Playa del Carmen and is a great starting point for day trips.
Valladolid is a vibrant city in the interior of Yucatán. Brimming with culture, it offers an authentic insight into local life on the peninsula.
Distance from Playa del Carmen to Valladolid: 2 hours | Google Maps
Why visit Valladolid: Valladolid is a charming Yucatecan city, which offers excellent options for a day trip from Playa del Carmen. Although it has a quieter atmosphere than Playa del Carmen, Valladolid is full of culture and offers an authentic immersion into local Yucatecan life. In addition, you will find delicious local dishes that are impossible to match. We recommend you try the Cochinita Pibil, the Castacán tacos, and the ice cream in front of the cathedral.
In Valladolid, you will discover traditional Mayan restaurants, bustling markets, captivating cenotes, art exhibitions, and some of the most enchanting cenotes in the Yucatán Peninsula. Valladolid is also close to several important Mayan ruins, such as Chichén Itzá and Ek Balam.
Guided tour: Consider a magnificent private excursion to Chichén Itzá and the incredible ruins within this amazing site. The tour lasts approximately 7 to 9 hours, during which you will visit Chichén Itzá, Valladolid, and a cenote. The package includes a buffet lunch as well as round-trip transportation.
If you wish to visit Chichén Itzá on your own, you can do it. The ideal is to rent a car for mobility during your stay in this beautiful cultural destination.
Public bus: If you opt for an independent visit to Valladolid, we recommend using the ADO bus. There are several daily bus schedules, which will save you from having to travel on dirt roads.
Travel time: Valladolid is approximately 1.30 hours from Playa del Carmen.
The main family fun destination near Playa del Carmen, Cancun and the Riviera Maya.
Distance from Playa del Carmen to Xcaret Park: 16 minutes |Google Maps Location
Why visit Xcaret: Combining the charm of a theme park with the amenities of a resort, Xcaret Park is the best choice among the major parks near Playa del Carmen. It offers a fantastic opportunity to enjoy aquatic pleasures without dealing with the seaweed often found off the coast of Playa del Carmen.
Families with children will find Xcaret especially appealing, as it has a plethora of activities and attractions to captivate visitors of all ages. In addition, its proximity to Playa del Carmen makes it an easily accessible day trip destination, just a short drive away.
Car Rental: Xcaret offers free parking, so leaving your rental car will not cost you extra, and you can come and go as you please.
Taxi: Taxis are inexpensive for this short ride to Xcaret, perfect for a day trip from Playa del Carmen. You will need to book a round-trip transfer for this adventure.
Tour: You can take a tour that includes transportation to Playa del Carmen; this will help you save on transportation.
Travel time: Xcaret is approximately a 15-minute drive from Playa del Carmen.
A haven of tranquility with pristine beaches and crystal clear waters in the middle of a paradise you won't want to miss.
Distance from Playa del Carmen to Holbox: 3.5 hours | Google Maps Location
Why visit Holbox: Although venturing to Isla Holbox as a day trip from Playa del Carmen can take a full day, it's a destination that epitomizes natural beauty. Don't miss out on this beautiful day trip, ideal for all ages and tastes.
At the northern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula, Isla Holbox remains an unspoiled sanctuary filled with ecotourism boutique hotels, charming restaurants, crystal clear waters, and white sandy beaches. Holbox has taken strict measures to safeguard its pristine environment from plastic waste, large resorts, and pollution.
Golf carts are the preferred mode of transportation in Holbox, as the island lacks paved roads, and you are likely to meet fellow travelers who share your carefree spirit.
Bus + Ferry: If you opt for an independent trip to Holbox, you can take the ADO bus from downtown Playa del Carmen to the ferry terminal in Chiquila and then take the ferry. The trip usually takes about 3.5 hours.
Private Tour: For a complete experience, consider a 9-hour guided tour that includes exploring Holbox's beaches, swimming in cenotes, bird watching at Isla Pasión, and touring the island's fairways in a golf cart.
Take private transportation: The private transportation service will help you get to the Chiquilá terminal, from where you can take the ferry, and once you arrive to the island, you can take another transfer to your hotel or rent a golf cart.
Travel time: Isla Holbox is approximately 3.5 hours drive from Playa del Carmen.
A vibrant island on the cruise ship route, full of shopping, entertainment, and water adventures, close to Cancun and Playa del Carmen, a 2x1 trip.
Distance from Playa del Carmen to Isla Mujeres: 2 hours | Google Maps Location
→ Tour to Isla Mujeres
Why visit Isla Mujeres: Isla Mujeres is not ideal for those looking for a quiet and relaxing getaway from Playa del Carmen. Located on the cruise ship circuit, this island quickly fills up with tourists and is full of adrenaline and parties. You can visit the underwater art museum and dive into the crystal clear waters of one of the most beautiful Caribbean islands in the world.
You can even swim with whale sharks during some seasons, just like in Holbox.
Bus and ferry: For an independent trip to Isla Mujeres, take the ADO bus from downtown Playa del Carmen to Cancun and from there the ferry. The whole trip usually takes between 1.5 and 2 hours.
Catamaran Tour: Embark on a luxurious catamaran excursion from Playa del Carmen to explore Isla Mujeres in style. This tour also includes a stop at a beach club, offering a splendid opportunity to experience the island from both land and sea.
Duration of the trip: Isla Mujeres is approximately a 2-hour trip from Playa del Carmen.
An effortless island getaway from Playa del Carmen, with shopping, dining, nightlife, and natural treasures.
Distance from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel: 45 minutes | Google Maps
Why explore Cozumel: Located just a short ferry ride away, Cozumel presents itself as the most accessible island destination for a day trip from Playa del Carmen. Like Isla Mujeres, Cozumel is also part of the cruise ship itinerary and, as such, can be pretty crowded, offering numerous stores, restaurants, and bars for tourists. However, this does not mean Cozumel lacks its unique charm and authenticity.
In Cozumel, you can still discover hidden gems; you may need to invest a little more to get a touch of luxury. Once you get away from downtown San Miguel de Cozumel, you'll discover captivating attractions like lush vegetation, renowned dive sites like "heaven," pristine beaches, and a National Marine Park.
Ferry: To get to Cozumel without a guided tour, you must go to the ferry terminal in Playa del Carmen. The ferry ride to Cozumel from Playa del Carmen takes approximately 45 minutes.
Guided tour: Opt for a 5 to 6-hour private tour that will allow you to tour the jungles and beaches of Cozumel with your friends and family. You will enjoy an incredible National Park, snorkeling adventures in the crystal clear waters of Cozumel, and learn about Mayan history along the way.
Private transportation: In Cozumel, you will find several private transportation agencies, the most recognized of which is eTransfers. Enjoy wonderful destinations, incredible views, and endless activities to do.
Travel time: Cozumel is only 45 minutes by ferry from Playa del Carmen.
An outstanding Mayan archaeological site on the Yucatan Peninsula, offering a quieter alternative to the bustling ruins of Tulum and Chichen Itza.
Distance from Playa del Carmen to Coba Ruins: 1,5 hours | Google Maps
Why visit Cobá: Located just an hour and a half from Playa del Carmen, Cobá is one of the main Mayan archaeological sites in the Yucatan Peninsula. Although it is no longer permitted to climb the main pyramid of Nohoch Mul, it still attracts attention, reaching an impressive 138 feet high and offering a fantastic photo opportunity.
Beyond the main pyramid, Coba presents a wealth of smaller ruins to explore and admire. In addition, the site is home to numerous unexcavated areas, adding to its enigmatic charm and atmosphere.
Bus: For an independent trip to Cobá, purchase a bus ticket to Cobá from the ADO central bus station in Playa del Carmen. The bus will take you first to Tulum, with a short stop, and then to Cobá. (not recommended if you have limited time or are traveling with minors).
Guided tour: Consider a highly rated private tour from Viator, which provides a deep dive into the ancient Mayan civilization that built these ruins. This tour lets you snorkel in a refreshing cenote and enjoy a traditional Mexican lunch.
Private Transfer: You can take a transportation service from Playa del Carmen to Coba, which you can take with different modalities. In this case, we recommend taking an open transfer to move around Coba, the Mayan ruins, and its beautiful dream beaches.
Duration of the trip: Coba is approximately a 90-minute drive from Playa del Carmen. The visit to the archaeological sites can be 3 hours + the time you decide to stay at the beaches, food areas, or attractions.
Chichen Itza is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Enriched with the legacy of the ancient Mayan civilization and marvelous constructions, Chichen Itza is worth visiting.
Distance from Playa del Carmen: 2 hours | Google Maps
→ Tour to Chichen Itza
Why visit Chichén Itzá: Chichén Itzá, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an extraordinary pilgrimage site and commercial center of the ancient Maya civilization.
Although the iconic main pyramid, El Castillo (Temple of Kukulcan), gets most of the attention, the site stretches over approximately 10 square kilometers, offering a rich tapestry of historical treasures to explore, such as the impressive ball court, the nuns' house, and above all the marvelous observatory.
Bus: To get to Chichén Itzá independently, take the ADO bus to Valladolid and then transfer to another bus going to Chichén Itzá. The total trip usually takes between 2.5 and 3 hours (not recommended if you are traveling with small children).
By car: If you prefer a faster route, you can go to Chichén Itzá. Be prepared for narrow roads and possible military checkpoints; you have nothing to fear. This is for the safety of those entering and leaving the site. Generally, driving in these areas is very quiet, whether you decide to go by federal road (with toll) or by free road (without toll).
Guided tour with a private archaeologist: For a more immersive experience of Chichén Itzá, there is a full-day excursion, with which you can access the site early in the morning and have an exclusive approach to the ruins. A private archaeologist will provide detailed insight into the area's history, offering perspectives that regular tourists rarely enjoy.
Travel Time: Chichen Itza is approximately a 2-hour from Playa del Carmen. Visiting time at the Mayan Ruins can be about 4 to 5 hours.
The archaeological site of Tulum is undoubtedly a fascinating destination to explore Mayan history and enjoy breathtaking ocean views.
Distance from Playa del Carmen to Tulum Mayan Ruins: 1 hour | Google Maps Location
Why visit the Tulum ruins: The Mayan ruins near Tulum offer an excellent day trip option from Playa del Carmen. These ruins are the closest to Playa del Carmen. They are located on the seashore, which provides an incredible panoramic view, of which you will have to take pictures to show off to your friends or family.
Located just 15 minutes from the town of Tulum, this archaeological site offers a captivating opportunity to delve into Mayan history, understand the origins of Tulum, and enjoy the breathtaking ocean views. Unlike Coba and Chichen Itza, you can immerse yourself in the turquoise sea and simultaneously contemplate the ancient ruins. It is a true paradise for lovers of Mayan history and the beach.
Bus: You can get to the Tulum archaeological zone using the same transportation methods mentioned above for Tulum Pueblo. However, it is advisable to take the ADO bus to this destination. This bus will conveniently drop you off at the entrance road to the ruins. However, you will have to wait for long periods to catch a return bus.
Tour: If you need more time, opt for a half-day, 6-hour tour of the Tulum ruins and the nearby beach. Tulum tours usually include transportation to and from the hotel and the entrance fee to the ruins.
Travel time: The Tulum ruins are approximately 1 hour from Playa del Carmen. The visit can last from 3 to 7 hours.
A natural aquatic refuge protected from the ocean waves that offers a wide range of water sports and adventure experiences, decorated with thousands of species of wild mexican plants, beautiful birds, and attractions that will test your senses.
Distance from Playa del Carmen to Xel Há: 40 minutes | Google Maps
Why visit Xel-Ha: For a nature-focused day trip from Playa del Carmen, Xel-Há theme park presents an ideal option. This aquatic sanctuary is protected from the tumultuous ocean waves, providing a serene setting for exploration and adventure activities.
At Xel-Há, you can immerse yourself in various water activities, such as snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming in cenotes, spelunking, rafting, zip-lining, and jungle trekking.
Bus: The easiest way to get to Xel-Há without a guided tour is to take the ADO bus. The trip takes approximately 40 minutes (near Akumal). Unlike the Colectivo, the ADO bus drops you off at the park entrance instead of along the road.
Tour with transportation: Most tours to Xel-Ha include transportation, so you don't have to worry about your round-trip transportation.
Travel time: Xel-Ha is approximately a 40-minute drive from Playa del Carmen. The duration of the trip inside the park can be about 8 hours.
A jungle adventure theme park offering thrilling zip lines, ATV rides and jungle exploration.
Distance from Playa del Carmen to Xplor: 15 minutes | Google Maps Location
Why visit Xplor: For an adrenaline-filled adventure, Xplor Park is your ideal destination. In the middle of the jungle, this theme park offers a dose of excitement with the highest zip lines in Playa del Carmen, challenging amphibious vehicle rides, jungle tours, and much more.
Xplor offers an all-inclusive adventure experience, conveniently located just 15 minutes from Playa del Carmen. If you like adrenaline, visiting Xplor Fuego (at night) will be ideal, as the lights and activities at this time will alert the last of your senses, giving a sense of adventure to your experience in this park.
By car: Xplor offers free parking, making it a hassle-free trip if you already have a rental car.
Taxi: Given the proximity of Xplor to Playa del Carmen, taking a cab is a comfortable and reasonably priced option. Some agencies have vehicles from 1 to 15 people.
Travel time: Xplor is approximately a 15-minute drive from Playa del Carmen.
A natural paradise of caves and subway rivers that offers an unforgettable day of exploration.
Distance from Playa del Carmen: 15 minutes | Google Maps
Why visit Rio Secreto: Living up to its name, Rio Secreto offers a unique and natural theme park experience just a short drive from Playa del Carmen.
While other parks on this list offer various attractions, Rio Secreto's main attraction is its incredible subway cave and river complex. Here, you can embark on an adventure guided by experts in cave exploration. For a complete plan, check out our detailed guide to Rio Secreto to start planning your visit.
Taxi: The distance to Rio Secreto from Playa del Carmen can be covered with a 10-minute cab ride, usually costing about 200 Mexican pesos.
Colectivo: You can also take a colectivo in the direction of Tulum and ask to be dropped off at the entrance of Rio Secreto.
Tour: If you prefer a seamless experience from start to finish, consider a tour to Rio Secreto that takes care of all your needs.
Duration of the trip: Rio Secreto is about a 15-minute drive from Playa del Carmen. The tour can last from 4 to 5 hours.
An untouched natural paradise with freshwater wetlands, lagoons and ancient Mayan canals that will show its charm to anyone who visits.
Distance from Playa del Carmen to Sian Ka'an Biosphere: 2.5 hours | Google Maps
Why explore Sian Ka'an: Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sian Ka'an Biosphere is a lush paradise filled with freshwater marshes, serene lagoons and ancient canals built by the Maya.
Translated as “Origin of Heaven” or where the sky begins, this area is strongly ecologically protected and offers a visual feast for photographers and visitors. Although it represents one of the longer day trips from Playa del Carmen on this list, the captivating beauty of the biosphere makes it well worth the trip.
By Car: The Sian Ka'an Biosphere is located near Tulum, a 2.5 hour drive. To fully explore the reserve, you can rent a 4x4 in Tulum or Playa.
Guided excursion to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere: Our recommended full-day excursion from Playa del Carmen includes hotel pick-up and drop-off, transportation within the reserve, an expert guide, snorkeling equipment and lunch.
→ Book here.
Duration of excursion: The Sian Ka'an Biosphere is approximately 2.5 hours drive from Playa del Carmen. The duration of the visit to the reserve is approximately 12 hours.
The natural freshwater cenotes carved in limestone are ideal to spend a day swimming, snorkeling or just relaxing while enjoying the abundant vegetation that invades the areas of the same, making these relaxing visits that you can not miss.
Distance from Playa del Carmen to the Cenotes Route: 20 minutes to 1 hour | Google Maps Location
Tickets for the visit to the cenotes
Why explore the cenotes: Did you know that there are more than 6000 cenotes in the Yucatán Peninsula? That's an abundance of cenotes for sure!!! These freshwater sinkholes, formed in cold white rock, once played a crucial role in supplying drinking water to the inhabitants of the Yucatán. In fact, the ancient Maya considered them sacred for this very reason.
Today, cenotes have become popular destinations for swimming, relaxing, snorkeling and diving, showcasing their breathtaking and lush beauty. They are perfect day trips from Playa del Carmen and are among the most sought-after activities in Mexico.
Some of the best known cenotes near Playa del Carmen are Cenote Azul, Cenote Jardin del Eden, Cenote Dos Ojos and Cenote Chaak Tun.
Taxi: Most of the above-mentioned cenotes are a short cab ride of US$5 (200 pesos or less) from Playa del Carmen.
Colectivo: Travel to Tulum by colectivos and ask to be dropped off at the cenote of your choice.
Cenote tour: Airport Cancun offers several popular cenote tours, which will take you to various cenotes, with some including stops at nearby attractions.
Duration of the excursion: Varies by cenote, but many are within a 20-minute drive from Playa del Carmen. The duration of the trip to the cenotes can vary according to your activities, if you are one of those who love to swim and sunbathe, the trip can last from 3 to 6 hours.
A paradise for marine enthusiasts with a thriving barrier reef and sea turtle sanctuary.
Distance from Playa del Carmen to Akumal: 35 minutes | Google Maps
→ Akumal day trip.
Why visit Akumal: This section of the Riviera Maya boasts one of the largest barrier reefs in the world, and Akumal, in particular, is famous for its close encounters with sea turtles.
Embark on an activity like snorkeling and enjoy the vibrant barrier reef, graceful sea turtles and graceful rays I encountered. Whether you are an avid snorkeler or a deep sea diver, you will be mesmerized by the rich life offshore. Its proximity to town makes Akumal one of the most accessible day trips from Playa del Carmen.
Collectivo: Take a colectivo in the direction of Tulum and ask to be dropped off in Akumal.
Guided snorkeling excursion: Cancun airport offers numerous day trips to Akumal from Playa del Carmen.
Duration of the trip: Akumal is a 35 minute drive from Playa del Carmen. the visit to Akumal can take approximately 8 to 10 hours.
An unspoiled natural paradise and protected national park teeming with wildlife and aquatic adventures.
Distance from Playa del Carmen to Isla Contoy: 2.5 hours : Google Maps
→ Day trip to Isla Contoy from Playa del Carmen.
Why visit Isla Contoy: Located in the northern region of Yucatan, Isla Contoy stands as one of Mexico's most picturesque national parks. Its declaration as a protected area dates back to 1961, preserving the island's remarkable flora and fauna and providing a haven for scientific research on biodiversity.
The only way to explore this exquisite island is through guided day trips, as access is only allowed through tours. However, once you arrive, you will find more than 150 species of tropical birds and four species of sea turtles, offering abundant opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Travel time: Isla Contoy is a 2.5-hour drive from Playa del Carmen.
Punta Laguna Nature Reserve is a protected natural refuge managed by a local Mayan community, full of biodiversity.
Distance from Playa del Carmen to Punta Laguna: 1.5 hours | Punta Laguna on Google Maps
Why explore Punta Laguna: Punta Laguna's charm lies in its charming spider monkeys and stunning lagoon. This nature reserve is diligently managed by a local Mayan village, dedicated to safeguarding these endearing but wonderfully untamed creatures.
But Punta Laguna is not just about spider monkeys; it also serves as a sanctuary for howler monkeys, jaguars, crocodiles, and approximately 500 other extraordinary species of flora and fauna. During your visit, you can enjoy exciting wildlife tours, serene boat excursions on the lagoon, and a delightful glimpse into Mayan culture.
Collectivo: Take a colectivo in the direction of Tulum and ask to be dropped off at Punta Laguna.
Guided snorkeling excursion: Cancun airport offers numerous day trips to Punta Laguna from Playa del Carmen.
Duration of excursion: Punta Laguna is a 1.05 minute drive from Playa del Carmen.
To travel from Playa del Carmen to Isla Mujeres, the first stage consists of a land trip to the ferry terminal in Cancun. From there, you can take a ferry to get to the island. There is no direct ferry route connecting Playa del Carmen to Isla Mujeres.
The best family excursions from Playa del Carmen include visits to Chichen Itza, Xcaret Park, Cenotes and Xplor Park.
The distance from Playa del Carmen to Chichén Itzá is approximately 114 miles, with a travel time of about 2 hours by car.
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