The Yucatan Peninsula is one of the most magical places on the planet, in my opinion. There’s a beauty and an energy that can’t be found anywhere else, and Playa del Carmen is right in the heart of it. The city itself is incredible, but there are day trips from Playa del Carmen that will completely blow your mind.
I spent nearly five months in PDC and was lucky enough to explore some fantastic day trips around Playa del Carmen. From island hopping and swimming in natural springs to climbing ancient ruins and learning about the local culture, there’s no excuse for a dull moment.
Best Day Trips From Playa del Carmen
One of the best things about Playa del Carmen is its perfectly central location. Within a short drive or bus ride, you can find yourself in a brand new, incredible location and be back before dinner time. These are the best day trips from Playa del Carmen that need to be on your itinerary.
From the mainland in Playa del Carmen, if you look out east into the ocean, you’ll see the island of Cozumel. You can hop on a ferry from the main pier and spend the day on this beautiful island.
Cozumel is known for its snorkeling and scuba diving, as well as being a popular cruise ship destination. You can spend the day shopping, dining, and swimming in the Caribbean Sea, all just a short trip from Playa del Carmen.
There are also plenty of beach clubs if you want to rent a lounge chair for the day and snorkel in the reefs. Cozumel was one of my favorite places to “change up the scenery” for the day without breaking the bank.
Distance from Playa del Carmen: 45-minute ferry ride. 20 miles/30kms.
Location: Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Getting There: The only option is to take a ferry. It runs often, and the Ultramar Ferry is generally the most popular option. Tickets can range from $6 (one way) to $20, depending on the class.
Best Tour from Playa del Carmen: Cozumel: Starfish, Stingrays, and Turtle Bay Snorkeling Tour
Must-Do Activities: Stroll along the promenade and go shopping. Take a taxi to a beach club. Rent ATVs. Take a glass-bottom boat tour. Snorkel, swim, and scuba!
Where to Eat: Crazy King Burrito on Cozumel is my favorite restaurant on the island. You really can’t miss it. Every item is to die for.
When most people think of ruins and pyramids in the area, they usually think of Tulum (more on this below) or Chichen Itza, however, you’re doing yourself a major disservice if you don’t visit the ruins of Coba.
Experiencing the ruins and pyramid of Coba is one of the most unique day trips from Playa del Carmen. You’ll need to take an arranged tour or bus from Playa del Carmen to the ruins, and once you’re there, I highly recommend renting a bike so you can cruise around the paths that take you from one historic Mayan site to another.
If you’re feeling up for it, you can climb the steep ascent to the top of the Coba pyramid. It’s a dramatic incline, but once you reach the top, you’ll be high above the jungle canopy and have the most incredible view.
Distance from Playa del Carmen: About an hour and a half drive from Playa del Carmen. 69 miles/111 km.
Location: 77793 Coba, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Getting There: You have a few options to get to Coba. You can rent private transportation, or you can take a bus or a shuttle. It can range from $9 to $30 USD.
Best Tour from Playa del Carmen: Coba Day Trip from Riviera Maya
Must-Do Activities: Ride bikes through the ruins. Climb to the top of the Coba pyramid. Take an archaeological tour.
Where to Eat: El Cocodrilo is the place to eat after a day at the ruins. The food is top-notch, and the terrace is the perfect place to unwind.
3. Cenote Kantun Chi
The Yucatan Peninsula is known for many things, and one of them is its gorgeous cenotes. Cenotes are essentially sunken underground freshwater springs that hold crystal clear waters. The Mayans used them for water sources as well as for religious purposes.
One of the most famous and beautiful cenotes of all is Cenote Kantun Chi, and visiting is by far one of the most unique day trips from Playa del Carmen. In fact, there’s not just one cenote here but five of them!
Spend the day swimming, snorkeling, or just taking in the scenery at this stunning natural wonder. You can even walk the trails or go spelunking if you’re feeling adventurous. You won’t find any other place on the planet like it.
Distance from Playa del Carmen: 30 minutes. 16 miles/25 km.
Location: FPRX+F5 Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Getting There: You can rent a car, take a taxi, or arrange a shuttle.
Best Tour from Playa del Carmen: Kantun Chi Cenotes, Snorkel & Jungle Hiking
Must-Do Activities: Swim, snorkel, take a cave tour, hike in the jungle.
One of my favorite day trips from Playa del Carmen was going to the gorgeous, historic city of Valladolid. Located inland on the peninsula, this stunning town is full of character, charm, culture, and lots of fun things to do.
Valladolid is a traditional Mexican city, where you can really get a glimpse at local life. It’s less touristy than Playa del Carmen, but much more “authentic.” There are shops, beautiful cathedrals, historic architecture, and even cenotes and ruins just outside the city.
You can easily spend the entire day just wandering the streets on foot or by bike. It’s the ideal spot for history buffs and foodies – the Mayan cuisine is phenomenal.
Distance from Playa del Carmen: Approximately two hours. 88 miles/141 km.
Location: Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico
Getting There: You can rent a car, arrange for private transport, or take a public bus.
Best Tour from Playa del Carmen: Chichen Itza, Cenote and Valladolid Day Tour
Must-Do Activities: Walk, walk, walk! Visit museums, explore the architecture, and swim in a cenote.
Where to Eat: Eat at El Atrio del Mayab Restaurant and thank me later. They have some of the most mouthwatering, authentic Mayan cuisine in the region. And the environment is absolutely gorgeous.
Tulum is one of those places that just doesn’t seem real. The laid-back bohemian town is home to gorgeous white sand beaches, ruins that perch along the cliffside overlooking the ocean, and lots of fun boutiques and restaurants.
There are three main areas of Tulum. The “central” area of Tulum is located a little inland and is where most of the locals live. There are plenty of shops and restaurants to explore here. Then, you have the “tourist strip” by the beach, where you’ll find boutique hotels, smoothie shops, and boutiques. Lastly, there are the ruins.
Since Tulum is just an hour south of Playa del Carmen, it’s a great place to spend the day when you want more of a laid-back vibe. Be aware that it can get quite busy during peak seasons and can be a bit pricier than Playa del Carmen.
Distance from Playa del Carmen: One hour. 40 miles/64 km.
Location: Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Getting There: Getting to Tulum is easy from Playa del Carmen. Rent a private car, take a taxi, take the bus, or arrange a tour.
Best Tour from Playa del Carmen: Tulum Archaeological Walking Tour
Must-Do Activities: Sunbathe on the beach, swim, snorkel, go shopping, and explore the ruins.
Where to Eat: Every time I’m in Tulum, I have to stop at Aca Tacos de Canasta. Their tacos are some of the best I’ve ever had – and I’ve had a lot of street tacos.
For an experience that you truly cannot get anywhere else, you have to spend the day at XcaretXcaret. This iconic park is an ecological preserve, amusement park, and water park all in one.
The Caribbean Sea is incorporated into the park, so you can swim, snorkel, cliff dive, and explore to your heart’s content. They also have zip lines, live entertainment, and the option to swim with dolphins and manta rays.
What’s cool about Xcaret is that you can purchase all-inclusive tickets. That way, you have access to the park and unlimited food and drinks for the entire day.
Distance from Playa del Carmen: 20 minutes. 6 miles/9.7 km
Location: Carretera Chetúmal Puerto Juárez Kilómetro 282, Solidaridad, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
Getting There: Xcaret is conveniently located south of Playa del Carmen, and you can get there by taxi, bus, or arranged tour.
Best Tour from Playa del Carmen: Xcaret Park Full-Day Admission with Lunch and Night Show
Must-Do Activities: Swim with the dolphins, snorkel, cliff dive, and watch a live performance.
Where to Eat: There are a few dining options in Xcaret; however, my favorite is the El Manglar Restaurant right on the beach. Enjoy fresh ceviche and other fresh seafood with a fantastic view.
7. Akumal Beach
An easy and fun day trip from Playa del Carmen is heading south to Akumal Beach (Playa Akumal). The beach itself is idyllic. It has clear, warm waters that stay shallow for quite some time. However, the main draw to this beach is the sea turtles.
Known as “the place of the turtle,” it’s a famous breeding ground for regal sea turtles, and if you hang out in Akumal long enough, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see one.
You can swim, snorkel, and explore on your own. However, if you opt for a booked tour, your guide will take you to sanctioned-off areas that aren’t accessible to the public.
Distance from Playa del Carmen: 40 minutes. 24 miles/39 km
Location: Carretera Tulum, Yodzonot, 77776 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Getting There: Easily get to Akumal Beach by rental car, taxi, public bus, or an arranged tour.
Best Tour from Playa del Carmen: Akumal Bay Cenotes and Snorkeling with Turtles
Must-Do Activities: Sunbathe, swim, snorkel, and see sea turtles.
Where to Eat: Make it a point to enjoy lunch or dinner at La Buena Vida. They have excellent fish tacos, and the outdoor environment is gorgeous.
8. Swim with Whale Sharks
Playa del Carmen is one of the few places in the world where you can get up close and personal with whale sharks. These massive creatures and gentle giants swim up and down the coastline, providing tourists with the opportunity to swim alongside them.
The name sounds scary, but don’t worry, they actually don’t have teeth and only eat plankton. From multiple excursion sites throughout the city, you’ll get on a boat, snorkel up, and take a swim next to a 30-foot sea creature.
Whale shark season generally runs from the middle of May through the middle of September. You can even catch a glimpse of their new babies in spring!
Distance from Playa del Carmen: Tour companies vary in distance around town
Location: Various locations
Getting There: Tour excursions will usually leave from marked piers in Playa del Carmen. You can walk, taxi, or bike.
Best Tour from Playa del Carmen: Whale Shark Tour
Must-Do Activities: Swim and snorkel with majestic whale sharks
Where to Eat: Lunch and/or snacks are usually provided with a scheduled tour.
9. Isla Holbox
I have never been to a place quite like Isla Holbox. The largely untouched island has pristine shallow beaches with warm water that you can walk out into what feels like forever, lots of wildlife, and very, very chill vibes. In fact, they don’t even allow cars on the island – only golf carts.
It’s definitely a full day’s worth of traveling, but in my opinion, it’s so worth it. Once you take the ferry or a private charter boat to the island, you can spend the day wandering on foot or renting a golf cart to get around.
On the island, there are cute boutiques, beachside restaurants and bars, and miles and miles of sandy beaches. Keep an eye out for horseshoe crabs and flamingos – they’re well-known and loved residents of Isla Holbox.
Distance from Playa del Carmen: 3.5 hours. 76 miles/122 km
Location: Isla Holbox, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Getting There: You’ll need to drive or take a bus to the town of Chiquila. From there, you can catch a ferry or hire a private boat to take you to the island.
Best Tour from Playa del Carmen: Holbox Island Tour
Must-Do Activities: It’s all about relaxation on Isla Holbox. Sunbathe, swim, walk, and shop.
Where to Eat: Enjoy lunch on the beach at Restaurante La Playa De Ñaña. Savor Caribbean flavors at this waterfront, open-air beach restaurant.
10. Chichen Itza
One of the most famous Mayan ruins in all of Mexico is the Chichen Itza ruins. This massive UNESCO Heritage Site sprawls across a massive 4 square miles, is almost 2,000 years old, and is the most frequently visited archeological site in the world.
One of the most well-known buildings here is the iconic El Castillo; it’s the most photographed structure on the site and was once the city’s main temple. The Great Ball Court is another popular spot where Mayans once played a sport called Pitz.
Due to its popularity, Chichen Itza gets pretty busy, no matter the time of year. I recommend planning to arrive before 10 am to beat the crowds.
Distance from Playa del Carmen: 2.5 hours. 115 miles/185 km
Location: 97751 Chichén-Itzá, Yucatan, Mexico
Getting There: You can choose to drive a car, arrange for private transport, take a bus, or arrange a guided tour.
Best Tour from Playa del Carmen: Early Morning Chichen Itza, Sinkhole, and Colonial Gem
Must-Do Activities: Take in the history and learn about the culture at this amazing historic site.
Where to Eat: After you’re done getting your cultural fix, grab a bite to eat at Oxtun Restaurant.
11. Isla Mujeres
Another island excursion you can plan for the day is to take a ferry to Isla Mujeres. It’s a sleepy, laid-back island that’s popular on cruise ship routes.
Translated as “The Island of Women,” Isla Mujeres is a great spot to lay on the sand, swim in turquoise waters, snorkel, and scuba diThere’sre’s even an underwater art museum that scuba divers can visit. It’s also a popular spot for swimming with whale sharks.
Distance from Playa del Carmen: 2 hours. 53 miles/85 km.
Location: Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Getting There: You’ll need to arrange transportation either by rental car, private car, taxi, or bus to Cancun. From there, you can take a ferry to the island. Or, you can arrange a guided tour.
Best Tour from Playa del Carmen: Isla Mujeres Catamaran Tour with Open Bar and Lunch
Must-Do Activities: Relax, sunbathe, snorkel, and scuba dive.
Where to Eat: Do yourself a favor and enjoy award-winning fish tacos at La Kantina Los Tacos de Humo – you won’t regret it.
12. Puerto Morelos
Just a short drive north of Playa del Carmen is the adorable and quaint port town of Puerto Morelos. I loved coming up here for a change of scenery and fewer crowds.
Puerto Morelos is an authentic Mexican fishing town with very few tourist amenities. However, the beach is gorgeous and quiet; there are shops, vendors, and plenty of cute cafes to sit and watch the world go by.
Just off the shore from Puerto Morelos is the famous Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, where you can snorkel or scuba dive amongst all sorts of colorful fish.
Distance from Playa del Carmen: 35 minutes. 22 miles/35 km.
Location: Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Getting There: Rent a car for the day, take a taxi, or purchase a bus ticket for the quick trip up north. You can also arrange a guided tour.
Best Tour from Playa del Carmen: Puerto Morelos Snorkel Trip with Lunch
Must-Do Activities: Walk around town, sunbathe, swim, snorkel, and scuba dive.
Where to Eat: You won’t find seafood any freasher than you will at El Merkadito. Order yourself a whole fried fish with a traditional side of rice and beans.
It’s a bit of a jaunt from Playa del Carmen, so you’ll want to start this day trip early, but Izamal is a city unlike any other. Known as the Magical Yellow Town, every building in Izamal is painted a bright, vibrant yellow.
At the center of the city is a grand plaza called the Convento de San Antonio, where you’ll find a gorgeous nightly light show that illuminates the small city. There’s also a small pyramid that you can climb called Piramide Kinich Kak Moo.
In addition to the beauty of the city, they have small shops selling local artisan goods, so you can bring home an Izamal souvenir.
Distance from Playa del Carmen: 3 hours. 148 miles/239 km.
Location: Izamal, Yucatan, Mexico
Getting There: You’ll need to arrange for a private car, purchase a bus ticket, or arrange a guided tour.
Best Tour from Playa del Carmen: Izamal – The Yellow Magical Town Private Tour
Must-Do Activities: Wander the magical city and snap as many photos as possible!
Where to Eat: Restaurante Kinich Izamal is by far the most popular restaurant in Izamal. The fresh, handmade tortillas are something I still dream about.
14. Sian Ka’an Biosphere
Nature lovers will go absolutely gaga over the Sian Ka’an Biosphere. A lush getaway with marshes, lagoons, and Mayan-built canals, you can kayak, boat, swim, and snorkel through this ecologically-protected preserve.
Translating to “Gate of Heaven” or “A Place Where Heaven Begins,” Sian Ka’an stays true to its name. It’s also been a UNESCO Heritage Site since 1987.
Distance from Playa del Carmen: 1 hour 20 minutes. 45 miles/73 km.
Location: Sian Ka’an, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Getting There: Your best options for transport are renting a car or arranging a private tour.
Best Tour from Playa del Carmen: Sian Ka’an Reserve Tour
Must-Do Activities: Explore the preserve by boat, snorkel, and swim.
Where to Eat: After your day in nature, fill your bellies at Ka’an Restaurant. Enjoy fresh seafood in a stunning beach setting.
15. Rio Secreto
If you’re not claustrophobic, taking a day trip to Rio Secreto is a fantastic idea if you’re staying in Playa del Carmen. To be honest, I’m a little fearful of tight spaces, but I’m so glad I was brave enough to experience this excursion.
This underground cave and river system is a magical wonderland full of stalagmites and stalactites that make you feel like you’re on another planet. Unlike other natural parks in the area, there are no bells and whistles here – just the natural glory that is Rio Secreto.
Distance from Playa del Carmen: 15 minutes. 5.2 miles/8.4 km.
Location: Carretera Federal Libre Chetumal – Puerto Juárez Km 283.5, Ejido Sur, 77712, 77712 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
Getting There: A private car is a good option if you’d like to purchase tour tickets on-site. However, booking a guided tour in advance take away the stress of having the organize things yourself.
Best Tour from Playa del Carmen: Rio Secreto Wild Tour with Lunch
Must-Do Activities: Take a guided tour of one of the most beautiful natural wonders in Mexico.
Where to Eat: There aren’t any restaurants on-site, however, many guided tours include a lunch.
Best Day Trip Tours from Playa del Carmen
With so many places to visit near Playa del Carmen, it can feel overwhelming to figure out where to start. Here are some of the best day trip tours that leave directly from Playa del Carmen.
1. Cozumel: Starfish, Stingrays, and Turtle Bay Snorkeling Tour: Explore the vibrant underwater world of marine life during this exhilarating snorkeling tour in Cozumel. Dive into the crystal-clear waters of El Cielo, El Cielito Beach, and Cozumel Turtle Bay as you search for stingrays, starfish, and lots of other fascinating sealife. The tour is 4 hours and meets at the Cozumel Ferry port. Click here for more details.
2. From Riviera Maya: Coba, Punta Laguna & Cenote Day Trip: Embark on a gorgeous full-day excursion to the Coba archaeological site. Explore the lush jungle either by bicycle or by foot, spot captivating spider and howler monkeys in the wild, take a refreshing dip in a crisp cenote, and savor a delectable traditional meal on the lakeside. The tour is 9 hours long and includes hotel pick-up. Click here for more details.
3. Tulum Archeological Site Guided Walking Tour: This captivating walking tour takes you through the Tulum Archaeological Zone, where you’ll uncover the rich history of the ancient Mayan city, including its temples, fortress walls, and other remarkable ruins. The tour is a quick 75 minutes and meets at the Andreas Hotel in Tulum. Click here for more details.
4. From Playa del Carmen: Whale Shark Tour: Experience the ultimate thrill in the Caribbean by being conveniently picked up from your Playa del Carmen hotel and embarking on a fascinating adventure snorkeling alongside gentle giants, the magnificent whale sharks, while also encountering the diverse marine life of the area. The tour is 7 hours long. Click here for more details.
5. From Riviera Maya: Mayan Ruins & Sian Kaan Reserve Tour: Take an exhilarating half-day journey through the heart of the ancient Mayan civilization, immersing in the breathtaking beauty of the Sian Ka’an Nature Reserve. You’ll see jungle wildlife, and peacefully float in the crystal-clear turquoise waters before ending your memorable adventure. The tour is 6 hours long and includes hotel pick-up. Click here for more details.
Day Trips Around Playa del Carmen: FAQs
Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions about the best day trips from Plays del Carmen:
The most popular day trip from Playa del Carmen is to Tulum or Chichen Itza.
I would recommend at least a few days in Playa del Carmen. A minimum of 3 or 4 to explore and experience. However, the longer you can stay, the better!
The best day trips from Playa del Carmen with a car are plentiful. If you have your own car or private transportation, any day trips are available to you.
The most beautiful place near Playa del Carmen is the picturesque Tulum Ruins.
Unfortunately, there isn’t any train transportation from Playa del Carmen. Only cars, shuttles, and buses.
Absolutely! Tulum is very accessible and only an hour away from Playa del Carmen.
Tulum and Cancun are the two of the most popular places close to Playa del Carmen.
There are dozens of trips you can take from Playa del Carmen throughout the Yucatan Peninsula. Nature preserves, water parks and historic cities are all short distances away.
You’ll want to stay in Playa del Carmen for at least three or four days, however, if you can stay longer, you should!
Yes! You can easily do a day trip from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel. Hop on the Ultramar Ferry from downtown Playa del Carmen for a 45-minute ferry ride to the island.
Even though I spent five months in Playa del Carmen, I could have easily spent five years. Not only is the city beautiful, cultural, and vibrant, but there are so many incredible day trips nearby.
No matter what your interests or activity level, Playa del Carmen offers a multitude of experiences that will be treasured in your memory bank forever. Experience all the magic that the Yucatan has to offer with these unique day trips from Playa del Carmen.