16 Best Playa del Carmen Tours, Excursions, and Activities
Headed to Playa del Carmen and looking for things to do? With all of the Playa del Carmen tours and companies, golf courses, various stands around town, and tons of opportunities, we want to make it easy for you to find tours and excursions we know to be great. We’ve compiled this list of our favorite Playa del Carmen tours and activities. They’re separated out into three sections: visiting ruins near Playa del Carmen, excursions from Playa del Carmen, and eco-parks in the area. The huge amount of things to do in the area make the Riviera MAya one of the best places to visit in Mexico, and Playa del Carmen is at the center of it all.
Staying in Playa del Carmen? Be sure to check out our favorite hotels in Playa!
As you may know, there are many Mayan ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula. There are many ruins accessible via tours from Playa del Carmen, and even some ruins right in Playacar you can check out! Here are a few ruins we recommend checking out during your stay in Playa. If you’re looking for quiet ruins without hoardes of people, check out the Muyil ruins.
Chichén Itzá from Playa del Carmen
Chichén Itzá is probably one of the most well-known sites in Mexico as far as ruins go. The Pyramid of Kukulcan, often called simply El Castillo is one of the most recognizable Mayan ruins, and you’ve likely seen photos of it before. Located about 180 km west of Playa del Carmen, Chichén Itzá is definitely the big one when it comes to ruins.
Like many other attractions, especially the Mayan ruins, Chichén Itzá can get quite busy. We have gone a few times, and recommend getting there as early as possible. You can take a tour right from Playa del Carmen to get their early and have a private tour guide here. We really recommend going with a guide. Unlike other parks you may have visited elsewhere, there aren’t quite enough signs and explanations to go it completely on your own. You can also get a cheaper guide to go during the day, skipping the early access and saving some money here.
To learn more about Mayan history, check out some of our favorite Mayan books at https://therivieramaya.org/mayan-books/.
Tulum Ruins and Cenotes
The Tulum ruins are also pretty famous, located just south of Playa del Carmen. You may have seen photos of these beautiful buildings sitting on the Caribbean coast, or even had a few friends visit. You can get to Tulum pretty easily from Playa del Carmen, just heading south down the highway. In addition to beautiful and well-preserved ruins, you can swim in local cenotes like Cenote Azul, check out the beach, and visit the hip little town. Tulum has one of the best beaches around, and the town has become a hot spot in recent years.
If you’re headed down to Tulum you can take a taxi or a colectivo. If you’re looking for a day trip and to get the most out of your time, we recommend checking out this guided tour to visit the ruins and swim in incredible freshwater cenotes.
Although they aren’t quite as well-known, the Coba ruins are an absolutely wonderful experience. Located off the coast and a bit west of Tulum and Playa del Carmen, the Coba ruins are well-preserved and you can see them up close. There is a structure you can climb up, which is unique to ruins in the area. Many other sites prohibit touching and climbing because of erosion, but the Coba ruins still permit you to really interact with the structures. You can take a guided tour or go these ruins alone as they’re relatively small.
Excursions from Playa del Carmen
There are many unique things to do in Playa del Carmen without really leaving town. Whether you’re visiting the famous 5th Avenue or hanging out at the Purobeach rooftop pool, there’s always something to do. However, we sometimes need to get out of town, try something new, and go for an adventure. Here are a few of our favorite adventures and excursions you can go on right from Playa. These are day trips, and ways to get out and do something!
Walking Food Tour
If you’ve been to Playa del Carmen, you already know about the food. The mix of local cuisine and foreign influences creates an amazing eating experience in town. A great way to get a taste of the local cuisine and find the spots to eat is by taking a walking food tour. You will have the opportunity to walk around town with a local guide, taste the different specialties, and relax while you fill yourself up on fresh Mexican food. We super recommend checking this tour out. It’s fun, easy, and you’re sure to learn quite a bit about the culture and town!
If you want a day trip to get your adrenaline pumping a bit more, you can take an awesome ATV tour. Of course, you can ride an ATV almost anywhere in the world, so what makes this special or worth doing? Simply put, jumping on an ATV in the jungles of the Riviera Maya offers a great way to see the land and surroundings. For a full experience, you can check out this tour that includes an ATV ride and a speedboat tour in Playa del Carmen.
Rio Secreto is a truly unique experience and one of our favorite day trips. Located across from Xcaret Park, Rio Secreto is home to a beautiful cave and underground river system. It’s one of our favorite Playa del Carmen tours, and something we frequently recommend people check out on their visit to the Riviera Maya. Check out this tour to get a guided tour right from Playa del Carmen! We suggest you book ahead of time.
Sian Ka’an Biosphere
Relatively unknown to many visitors, Sian Ka’an is a huge biosphere reserve in the Riviera Maya. Covering tons of land, water, and coral reef, the nature preserve is a must-see. If you or your family are nature-lovers, Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve is going to be your jam. You can take a guided tour to see the best parts of the park. You will have the opportunity to look for dolphins, loggerhead turtles, and exotic birds. You also will be able to snorkel or go diving in some of the most beautiful waters in the world. Again, if nature is something that interests you, take a trip down to Sian Ka’an for sure!
Jungle Buggy Tour
Jungle buggies are another great way to get some adrenaline going. We recommend checking out this tour from Playa del Carmen Tours via Viator for a ride in a jungle buggy with a nice dip in a cenote along the way!nThese tours leave right from Playa del Carmen, and you will have the opportunity to drive a four-wheeling buggy through the jungle with a guide, stop at a pool for a swim, and snorkel in a beautiful freshwater cenote. There are many ways to do this, and many different tour operators in Playa del Carmen, so don’t be afraid to check out different options to see what fits your needs.
Xenotes is one of the newer parks/tours in the area, run by Xcaret. You can check out the video of the tour below, but let’s just say Xenotes offers a truly amazing and unique experience in Playa del Carmen. Although it’s on the more expensive side of things to do, it’s definitely worth every penny. Jump off cliffs, snorkel in cenotes, and go zip-lining on this truly amazing adventure. You can get your tickets in advance to save money on their website. We recommend blocking some time out, book your spot, and making this a top priority!
Snorkeling at Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is not exactly in Playa del Carmen, but it’s close. It makes our list of the best snorkeling spots in Mexico, and you can take a tour that leaves from Playa. The beautiful island of Isla Mujeres lies just off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, and offers an amazing experience with beautiful beaches, clear waters, and some of the best snorkeling in the world. If you’re into diving, Isla Mujeres is also a great place to go. Check out this tour that leaves form Playa del Carmen and takes you to both Isla Mujeres and Isla Contoy for a fun day of adventure.
Horseback Riding in Playa del Carmen
Like riding ATV’s, you can really go horseback riding anywhere. However, the Playa del Carmen tour offers you the chance to ride through untouched jungles, beautiful beaches, and to serene limestone sinkholes, or cenotes. You will learn about the local environment, get snacks and water provided, and truly enjoy yourself. You don’t need to have any experience riding, and it’s a great family-friendly activity. This horseback riding tour is our favorite, as the guides are super friendly, knowledgeable, and fun.
The Riviera Maya is home to many eco-parks. These are amusement parks that utilize the natural beauty of the area to provide a memorable and relaxing experience. There are many parks near Playa del Carmen, and each one offers unique experiences and incredible environments in which to spend your day. Here are a few of the well-known parks that are our favorites to visit in Playa del Carmen. You can also check out our post Xel Ha vs. Xcaret – Choosing Your Adventure Park to learn about the differences between a few of these parks.
This park, like a few others, made our list of the 15 Best Things to Do in Playa del Carmen. Xcaret is one of the most popular eco-parks in the area, and is just a few kilometers south of Playa del Carmen. At Xcaret, you can see butterflies in the new Butterfly Pavilion, learn about aquatic life in the aquarium, see Mayan ruins, visit underground rivers, walk through the jungle, and explore caves. Xcaret stands out with the animals there are to see, including jaguars, tapirs, turtles, monkeys, and more. You can get a ticket ahead of time and save $10 by buying a ticket online here.
Xel Ha Park
Xel-Ha is a bit more interactive and about being in the water. It’s our personal favorite, and definitely worth seeing. Located a bit south of Playa del Carmen, it’s still relatively easy to get to as it rests right off the freeway. At Xel-Ha, you can swim with tropical fish, go ziplining over a beautiful lagoon, and jump off cliffs into crystal clear water. In addition, Xel-Ha admission includes alcohol and meals. There are some additional activities that cost money, but it’s nice to know the food and drinks are covered with your admission! Again, you can save some money by booking through Experiencias Xcaret ahead of time.
Xplor is another park right near Playa del Carmen and Xcaret, focusing more on activities and action than the others. You can ride ATV’s around their circuits into caves and over bridges, visit an incredible underground river, float down the river, and go zip lining. One of the zip lines has a water landing, which is pretty awesome. If you’re looking for a more action-packed day, definitely head to Xplor and stay at night for the Xplor Fuego experience! Again, buy tickets ahead of time to save $15 on the Experiencias Xcaret website.
Aktun Chen is one of the newer eco-parks, and we had the opportunity to visit recently. It’s a wonderful park with an underground river and cave, ziplining, cenotes, and a full day of activities. You can learn more about Aktun Chen in our post Aktun Chen Eco Park – All You Need to Know Before Visiting, or buy tickets here. As this is a new park, we definitely recommend checking it out soon before it gets popular and crowded!
Xenses is a relatively new park from the same company that runs the other parks (Experiencias Xcaret). This park is a bit more new-age and is meant to challenge your perceptions. The activities are quite different and unique from the other parks, and we hesitate to describe them in much detail here. Novelty and surprise play a big role in the experience here, and it’s certainly something worth experiencing yourself rather than taking our description of the park! You can get tickets ahead of time to save some money, and even get round-trip transportation from Playa del Carmen on their official website.