The Riviera Maya is one of the world’s top vacation destinations, stretching more than 80 miles south of Cancun along Mexico’s Caribbean coast, where travelers enjoy gorgeous white sand beaches and an incredible array of activities that simply can’t be found anywhere else in the world. With so much to choose from the options can feel a bit overwhelming, so here are five non-touristy things to do in Playa del Carmen that will make your next Mexico vacation a truly unforgettable experience and create memories to last a lifetime.
1. Take a Walking Food Tour
If you’re wondering where to eat, venture beyond the popular tourist restaurants and take a culinary walking tour in Playa del Carmen to discover some of the city’s best locally-owned cafes, top regional dishes and most delicious street food. The real challenge is to show up feeling hungry, because you will definitely want to sample something at each stop along the way on these local foodie tours, which are designed to introduce visitors to the real Playa del Carmen food scene. As with everything in Mexico’s Riviera Maya the options are virtually endless, so talk to the concierge at your hotel or check out the various food tours in Playa del Carmen on TripAdvisor to find the right option to please your palate!
2. Stay in a Vacation Home Rental or Boutique Condo-Hotel
Speaking of hotels, the best way to experience the real Playa is to book your stay in a vacation home rental and/or condo instead of a typical hotel or all-inclusive resort. Vacationing in a luxurious boutique property offers the best of both worlds, including concierge services, on-site amenities and spacious accommodations that feel more like staying in a friend’s condo or beach house than a typical hotel experience. Best of all, renting a private condo or vacation home will make it easier to explore downtown Playa del Carmen and will bring you closer to everything the Rivera Maya has to offer.
3. Visit the Ancient Mayan Ruins of Ek Balam
Although most visitors make it to the archaeological sites of Tulum, Chichen Itza or Coba, the ancient Mayan ruins of Ek Balam offer a less-touristy option that is equally impressive and easy to access. Situated less than two hours inland from downtown Playa del Carmen, Ek Balam is just 25 kilometers north of the charming colonial town of Valladolid, which offers a fun place to stop for a meal and to explore the shops clustered around the historic main square. The ruins of Ek Balam - which translates to mean “Black Jaguar,” date back to 1,200 B.C. and the main temple is one of the largest structures ever found on the Yucatan Peninsula. Because tourism has not yet overrun this site, you can also still climb to the top of the main pyramid, which offers incredible views of the lush Riviera Maya jungle.
4. Enjoy a Meal at Rincon Yucateco
If authentic Mexican food is what you’re craving, some of the best Yucatecan food on the peninsula can be found at this small, unassuming restaurant in downtown Playa del Carmen! Located on Avenue CTM between 10th Avenue and 15th Avenue, Rincon Yucateco is a favorite lunch and breakfast spot among those “in the know” that serves up a delicious array of daily specials at prices so low you can sample several meals without breaking the bank. We love the cochinita pibil and the huevos rancheros if you come for breakfast, but you really can’t go wrong with any of the menu’s local specialties.
5. Book an Eco-Friendly Tour
Whether you decide to go snorkeling at the world’s second-largest barrier reef, want to get up close and personal with sea turtles, can’t wait to swim with whale sharks or are interested in experiencing an exciting jungle adventure, Mexico’s Riviera Maya is brimming with eco-friendly tours and other sustainable activities that are designed to promote environmental awareness, protect the region’s natural beauty and improve the quality of life for local and indigenous Mayan communities.
Do you have questions about vacationing in Playa del Carmen? Post them in the comments!
Would you like to see more great things to do in the Riviera Maya? Check out our blog, 5 Exciting Off-Resort Activities in the Riviera Maya Near Downtown Playa del Carmen.