Situated on the pristine white-sand shores of the Mexican Caribbean Sea, downtown Playa del Carmen offers an impressive array of exciting activities and luxury amenities that are sure to please even the most seasoned travelers. So, the next time you visit this part of Mexico, make sure you don’t miss any of the items on this list of our top four things to do in Playa del Carmen!
1. Explore 5th Avenue
The pedestrian-only thoroughfare of 5th Avenue (La Quinta Avenida in Spanish) serves as the beating heart of this Mexican Caribbean beach town and even rivals Strøget, the famed car-free shopping area in the city of Copenhagen, Denmark. Both Strøget and 5th Avenue in Playa are often called "the longest pedestrian-only streets in the world," but La Quinta Avenida is actually double the size of Strøget at just over two kilometers in length! In Playa, 5th Avenue runs through downtown, just a few blocks from and parallel to one of the best beaches in the world, starting at South 3rd Street and ending at 40th Avenue. This is definitely one of the world’s greatest locations for people watching, and also where you will find some prime examples of Playa del Carmen real estate, as well as a seemingly endless variety of restaurants, hotels, luxury condos, shops, spas, cafes, boutiques, art galleries, jewelers, ice-cream parlors and other retailers, including international brands and local favorites. Insider Tip: For additional amenities, check out Avenida Juárez, which intersects 5th Avenue and is the commercial district’s main thoroughfare, where you will also find banks, groceries and gas stations.
“La Quinta Avenida begins at the intersection of Avenida Juárez and runs north about four miles north to the edge of the Grand Riviera Maya Golf Club”, wrote U.S. News & World Report. “It’s free to walk along the street, but plan to bring some cash with you in case a souvenir catches your eye”.
2. Visit Mayan Ruins
The Mexican Caribbean offers easy access to countless activities that you can’t find anywhere else in the world, such as swimming in cenotes and snorkeling along the world’s second-largest barrier reef, but it’s the ancient Mayan ruins scattered throughout the Yucatan Peninsula that give this area a real sense of magic. The seaside ruins of Tulum, along with inland sites like Coba, Chichen Itza and Muyil, are all located within easy reach of downtown Playa del Carmen, offering visitors a rare glimpse into what life might have been like in pre-Columbian Mexico. Each of these ancient Mayan sites contains a unique set of fascinating structures to explore, so take the time to do some research before setting out to explore. Insider Tip: Ask your concierge for help selecting the best tour for you!
“You can’t visit the Riviera Maya without exploring its ancient Mayan ruins”, wrote Travel + Leisure. “Tulum, with its pristine beachfront temples set on a 400-feet-high cliff overlooking the ocean, is easily accessible. For the more adventurous traveler, check out Coba, a less-manicured site deep in the jungle with the highest Mayan temple in the Yucatan Peninsula”.
3. Visit Nature Parks
Nature parks like Xcaret, Xel-ha, Xplor, Rio Secreto and Alltournative each provide a different way to explore the region near downtown Playa del Carmen. Even visitors who aren’t big on typical theme parks will fall in love with the nature-focused adventures here, which make the most of the area’s many jungles, cenotes, culture and ocean life. Also known as eco-parks, some like Xplor and Rio Secreto are more land-based, offering a thrilling zip line course and amphibious all-terrain vehicles, while others like Xcaret and Xel-Ha are situated right on the Mexican Caribbean Sea and offer water-based activities like snorkeling and floating in a crystal-clear underground river.
“The parks have managed to take advantage of the natural wealth of the Yucatan Peninsula in combination with the preservation of the environment to attract a vanguard tourism”, wrote The Yucatan Times. “Around one third of the tourists that visit Cancun, the Riviera Maya and the rest of the destinations of Quintana Roo go to the parks”.
4. Book Vacation Home Rentals, Not Hotel Rooms
In order to lock in a first-rate experience every time and make sure you get to know the real Playa, opt to stay in one of the Riviera Maya’s many luxury condos or vacation home rentals instead of the typical hotel room or big-box resort. Also referred to as “condo-hotels,” these innovative new investment properties offer rooms that are much larger than what you will find in standard hotels and resorts, along with extra space to entertain and fully equipped kitchens. In addition, most of the luxury condo hotels still offer the same services and amenities of a five-star resort, but are just as affordable, which means visitors are getting much better value for their money.
“One in three leisure travelers in 2015 used private accommodations, up from one in ten in 2011”, wrote the New York Times. “Hoteliers say they have noted changes in consumer preferences, resulting in new social-oriented brands, homier settings and more functional apps”.
Have you ever visited Mexico, and if so, where? Let us know in the comments!
Read Downtown Playa del Carmen: Modern Luxe Meets Old World Style to see more of what makes this Mexican Caribbean beach town so special!