Playa del Carmen was once just a small fishing village that served up a prime piece of real estate to place a dock for ferry service to the island of Cozumel, which lies just offshore in the Caribbean Sea and is one of the world’s best diving and snorkeling spots. Today, Playa – as it is often called by locals and frequent visitors – has become a thriving tourist spot in the heart of Mexico’s Riviera Maya, which stretches more than 80 miles south from Cancun along Mexico’s only Caribbean coast to the eco-chic town of Tulum.
Although visitors to downtown Playa del Carmen will have no trouble finding things to do, travelers looking to stay within a budget, or who just want to enjoy a laid-back afternoon, will find a variety of free activities to enjoy. Here are five free things to do in Playa del Carmen that won’t leave you broke:
1. Tequila Tasting
Ok, so before we go any further, the answer is “No,” tequila isn’t free in Mexico (sorry). However, there are plenty of ways to sample this heavenly elixir while visiting Playa del Carmen. For starters, check out some of the free local tequila tastings, which are offered in the hopes you will buy a few more rounds – or a bottle. Then, if you want to get really serious, pay a visit to the Tequila Academy, which offers professional tequila tastings in Playa del Carmen and is dedicated to helping consumers learn about the many different types of tequila that are on the market today.
2. Fifth Avenue (Quinta Avenida)
This 22-block, pedestrian-only thoroughfare is where you will find the most action in downtown Playa del Carmen. Winding through the heart of town and just a few moments from the beach, Fifth Avenue (or Quinta Avenida in Spanish) serves up countless shops to browse and the best people watching in Playa. The never-ending array of street performers, locals and tourists will keep even the most seasoned travelers entertained, while certain holidays here are even more exciting, including Carnival, Day of the Dead, Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s.
3. Ancient Mayan Ruins
The Riviera Maya region is home to many ancient sites that stand as stunning examples of Mexico’s rich Mayan cultural heritage, and Playa del Carmen is no exception. Although the seaside ruins in nearby Tulum and the large cities of Coba and Chichen Itza are impressive, you don’t have to venture out of downtown Playa del Carmen to get a feel for what the structures are like. Just head down to 2nd Street between 5th Avenue and the beach, where you will see a small ancient building, then check out the second site, which is located just off 5th Avenue in the center of town. Although the ruins here are small, they are located in a small park that also features a pretty freshwater cenote. Finally, a larger example is located close to the entrance of the exclusive Playacar development, which lies in the southern part of town and is a residential and commercial district that is home to luxury condos and villas, as well as shopping and beautiful beaches.
Looking for unique things to do in Playa del Carmen? The area’s cenotes (pronounced “say-note-tay”) are freshwater sinkholes that are found all over Mexico’s Riviera Maya and occur naturally in the region’s limestone bedrock. Head just north of downtown, where you will find a beach that’s a favorite among locals which is home to a freshwater cenote that flows directly into the Caribbean Sea. The shallow river this creates is ideal for young children and adults to cool off and play after enjoying a meal from one of the local food carts.
5. Local Art
Although you’ll find plenty of galleries and artists selling their wares in Playa del Carmen, the city itself is also a canvas of its own! Downtown Playa del Carmen is home to literally hundreds of stunning murals, many of which are of gallery quality. Expect to see everything from jaw-dropping portraits of locals and visitors, to colorful graphics inspired by local holidays like the traditional Mayan celebration of Hanal Pixan and Day of the Dead.
What activities would you be interested in while visiting Playa del Carmen? Share your ideas and/or questions in the comments below.
If you’re planning to visit Mexico’s Riviera Maya or have already been here but wish you could come to town more regularly, check out The Fives Luxury Residences in Playa del Carmen. The luxury residences and penthouses offer exclusive accommodations and easy access to all that Playa del Carmen has to offer. Read on to learn more about this incredible opportunity today!