12 Incredible Day Trips From Playa del Carmen, Mexico

by Rebecca
rivera maya mexico activities

Looking for a list of awesome day trips from Playa del Carmen? Well, you’ve come to the right place. The coastal city of Playa del Carmen is located in the luscious Caribbean Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. As well as being a popular spot for visitors due to its great nightlife and stunning white sand tropical beaches, the coral reefs and diving here are also spectacular. There are lots of incredible things to do within Playa del Carmen, such as visiting the Los Fundadores park or browsing the shops on the fifth avenue. However, if you are planning to take a day trip from Playa del Carmen, there are plenty of fantastic options when it comes to places to go and sights to see.

Day Trips from Playa del Carmen

This complete guide to day trips from Playa del Carmen lists the very best places to go from the city, what to do, how to get there and everything you need to plan your day trip.

 

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Discover the best day trips and excursions from Playa del Carmen in Rivera Maya Mexico. In this post discover the very best places to explore including Tulum, Cancun, the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza, cenotes near Playa del Carmen and islands such as Cozumel, Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox.

 

Exploring Isla Mujeres

How to get to Isla Mujeres

One of the best excursions in Riviera Maya is to Isla Mujeres. Isla Mujeres is one of my favourite locations in the Yucatan Peninsula and well worth a visit when in Playa del Carmen. This vibrant Caribbean island is located off the coast of Cancun and is easily accessible by ferry.

Two ferries go to Isla Mujeres from Cancun. One option is the fast, but slightly more expensive ferry. This ferry departs from the Gran Puerto Cancun dock in Puerto Juarez. These ferries leave every 30 minutes, between 5 am and 9:30 pm. The journey only takes 15 minutes and costs 160 pesos for a one-way ticket, or 300 pesos for a return. 

The other ferry option takes longer but is a lot cheaper. This is the car ferry that leaves from Punta Sam. The journey on this ferry takes roughly 45 minutes and costs 40 pesos.

Cancun beach

Why visit Isla Mujeres

Once on Isla Mujeres, there are some fantastic places to visit. My two highlights include the Tortugranja Turtle Sanctuary and the islands best beach, Playa Norte.

On a visit to Tortugranja Turtle Sanctuary, expect to see adorable baby turtles, as well as majestic adults. At the sanctuary, the conservation of sea turtles is paramount, and each year thousands of turtles are hatched and released back into the world. Find out more about visiting Tortugranja Turtle Sanctuary here in this post.

Playa Norte was by far one of my favourite beaches in Mexico. The stunning white sand, tropical palm trees and laid back atmosphere made this a delightful place to relax and cool off after a long day of sightseeing. The beach is a lot less packed than beaches you will find in Cancun.

There is a fantastic tour available from Playa Del Carmen, to Isla Mujeres which also includes a trip to the island of Contoy too.

 

day trips from playa del carmen

Check out this vlog all about Isla Mujeres.

 

A fun day trip to Xcaret Park

Why visit Xcaret Park

There are over 40 attractions and activities at Xcaret Park, meaning a fun day out is almost guaranteed. Embrace the natural beauty of the Rivera Maya area of Mexico at Xcaret Park. Here you can swim in underground rivers, view the stunning coral reef aquarium and refuel by eating some tasty Mexican cuisine. There’s even an evening horse show spectacular.

You can get a full day pass to Xcaret Park here.

How to get to Xcaret Park

The park is only 4 miles from Playa del Carmen, making it easy to get to. From Playa del Carmen main bus station (5th Avenue) there is a bus to the park.

Check out this post from Travelling Canucks filled with helpful information about visiting Xcaret Park.

 

attractions in rivera maya

Cenote trips from Playa Del Carmen

Why visit cenotes

Throughout the Rivera Maya, there are thousands of cenotes waiting to be explored. A cenote is a natural sinkhole, the exposes the groundwater underneath. Cenotes are beautiful, and each one looks different. Some are wide open and set in lush green jungle landscapes, others are buried deep down within mysterious caves. Some even have super fun looking swings.

Here is a great blog post all about different cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, with even more information on what to expect from each location and how to get there.

The best cenotes to visit from Playa Del Carmen

  • El Jardin del Eden
  • Azul
  • Cristalino
  • Chikin-Ha
  • Gran Cenote
  • Ik-Kil

Day Trips from Playa Del Carmen

Go diving with whale sharks

Why go diving with whale sharks

One of the most magical things to do in Riviera Maya, Mexico, is to go diving with whale sharks. From early June to mid-September whale sharks can be found in the temperate Caribbean waters surrounding the Yucatan peninsula. One unforgettable day trip you can take from Playa Del Carmen is an excursion to swim with these majestic creatures.

What is important to remember when it comes to any activities that involve animals is that you must research the companies to make sure they participate in ethical practices that do not harm the animals or environments that they live in.

Whale shark tours

You can book excursions from Playa del Carmen once you arrive, or online. Here are the two tours I recommend. 

Swim with Whale Sharks from Playa del Carmen or Cancun

This tour lasts between 8 and 9 hours and includes pick up from your hotel, lunch and snacks. During this day tour, you will have the opportunity to swim with whale sharks and you may even spot some dolphins, manta rays or turtles too.

Whale Shark Tour Riviera Maya

Lasting 6-hours, this tout also includes pick up from your hotel. Lunch and snacks are also included, and you will eat on the lovely Playa Norte beach on Isla Mujeres. During the day you will snorkel with whale sharks in clear blue water.

whale shark mexico

Go on a Mayan jungle adventure

Escape the beach and city vibes for a day and get out into the wilds of the Mexican jungle. There are so many awesome tours on offer, each with different activities that are sure to appeal to nature lovers, adrenaline junkies and anyone adventurous.

I love this jungle zip-lining and horseback riding adventure, allowing you to explore the wilderness from the sky and the ground alongside a knowledgeable guide. This memorable day ends with a swim in a cenote, to help you cool off after your action-packed adventure. This is one of the more action-packed trips from Playa del Carmen.

 

Mexico jungle

Check out these awesome Mexico guide books

 

Explore Cozumel

Why visit Cozumel

The island of Cozumel is a fantastic day trip from Playa Del Carmen, partly due to its proximity to the city and how easy it is to get to.

There’s lots to do on the island, alongside its fantastic beaches which offer great diving opportunities. Hire a car and explore the island, paying a visit to the Mayan ruins of El Cedral, which was a temple to the fertility goddess. You can also relax at one of the islands lovely beach clubs or if you want a day of fun, visit Playa Mia. Playa Mia is a beach park full of fantastic water activities, including a floating inflatable course. There are also some amazing Cozumel snorkelling tours from Playa del Carmen, such as this one.

Day trips in rivera maya

How to get to Cozumel 

It is super easy to take the ferry from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel. From the centre of Playa del Carmen, two ferries depart for the island of Cozumel regularly. The Winjet ferry takes 40 minutes and costs 135 pesos. There is now also a luxury ferry run by Ultramar too. This ferry costs 200 pesos and only takes 20 minutes. 

Mexican food

Enjoying fish tacos on Cozumel

 

day trip to cozumel

The car we hired to explore Cozumel

 

 

Have a snorkelling adventure

As mentioned in previous day trip recommendations in this post, the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is filled with excellent places to dive. There are fantastic reefs in the Caribbean sea, opportunities to dive with animals such as whale sharks and sea turtles, amazing cave cenotes you can go diving in to explore, and there is even an underwater sculpture park on Isla Mujeres.

With so many fantastic diving options available, taking a day out to go underwater seems like a no brainer. There are great opportunities available for both newbie snorkelers through to experienced divers. In fact, whilst I was staying in my hostel in Playa del Carmen, I met a guy who was studying and dicing to earn a diving qualification whilst in the city. He went diving every day and said it was fantastic.

There are so many fantastic day tours from Playa del Carmen, but this snorkelling tour is a great way to experience three different ecosystems in one day, from the Caribbean waters to jungle cenotes.  Hotel pick-up, lunch and drinks are included alongside diving equipment.

cenote in rivera maya

Visit Mayan ruins at Coba

Why visit Coba

Get lost in time visiting the Mayan ruins of Coba. Surrounded by thick green jungle, this is one of the best archaeological sites throughout Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. Visiting Coba should be on your Riviera Maya excursions bucket list. 

What’s great about Coba is it is much less touristy than other archaeological sites such as Chichen Itza, which means you get such an authentic and incredible experience.

Unlike at other Mayan sites, here you can even climb to the top of the largest pyramid, named  Ixmoja. Once you reach the top you’ll be greeted with incredible jungle views stretching for miles and miles.

In its heyday, the civilisation at Coba had a population of over 50,000. The city was eventually abanded after the Spanish conquered the Yucatan in roughly 1550 AD.

How to get to Coba

Coba is about 90 minutes from Playa del Carmen and is accessible by the ADO bus. Once you arrive, I recommend renting an old bicycle for 45 pesos, which is a fantastic way to get around the site.

You can also take a guided tour of Coba from Playa del Carmen.

 

Coba mexico

Be adventurous at Xplor Park

If you love adventure, a day trip to Xplor Park is a must. After all, it has the longest zip line in all of Latin America. At Xplor Park you can drive an amphibious vehicle through the Mayan jungle. Then go for a swim inside beautiful caves and underground rivers. However, the highlight of your day at Xplor park will surely be zip-lining through the treetops of the Mayan jungle.

XPLOR is open Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm. You can book tickets to XPLOR here.

 

A day trip from Playa del Carmen to Cancun

Why visit Cancun

Another great day trip you can take from Playa Del Carmen is to the city of Cancun. Known for its incredible beaches, resorts and booming nightlife Cancun has become a popular destination for all-inclusive tourists and spring break vacations.

There are however things to do in Cancun away from the beaches and luxury hotels. Visit downtown Cancun, an area that is often neglected by those staying in the cities hotel zone. Here you will find the massive Mercado 28 (Market 28.) This market is a fantastic place to shop for souvenirs and handmade items with a colourful Mexican flair.

Mercado 28 (Market 28)

For a true Mexican fiesta experience, visit Xoximilco which is a colourful party on board a beautifully decorated gondola. During this fun evening of entertainment, the boat floats down some beautiful canals, all the while onboard you’ll be enjoying tasty Mexican food and amazing live music. This is a fantastic way to experience Mexican culture and traditions.

You can book tickets to Xoximilco online here.

How to get to Cancun from Playa del Carmen

Connecting to Cancun opens up so many options for day trips from Playa del Carmen as it is so well connected to many other locations across the Yucatan.

You can get from Playa del Carmen to Cancun easily either by taking the ADO bus or a Colectivo. To take a Colectivo, look for the Playa Express at Calle 2 between the 20th and 25th Avenues.

The ADO bus from Playa del Carmen to Cancun leaves every 30 minutes, and the journey takes roughly 1 hour 20 minutes.

day trip to cancun

 

A day on Isla Holbox

Out of all of my day trip recommendations from Playa del Carmen, Isla Holbox is the furthest away. This is why I recommend taking a tour if you want to visit the island for a day instead of using public transport to get there as you would spend far too much time on buses and no time at all enjoying the island.

Holbox is a lovely little island, on which you will find gorgeous beaches, a nature reserve full of flamingos and bioluminescent plankton. As day trips from Playa del Carmen go, Holbox maybe a little further away but it is well worth a visit. All in all, what I love is just how vibrant the island is. It is bursting with life and friendly people. The tour I recommend taking to Holbox also gives you the chance to spot all the amazing wildlife around the island, including migratory birds and whale sharks.

How to get to Isla Holbox

 

Where to stay in Playa del Carmen

If you’re looking for day trips from Playa del Carmen, chances are you also need somewhere to stay.

 

All-inclusive and luxury hotels in Playa del Carmen

Some outstanding hotels within Playa del Carmen offer the best of the best when it comes to just about everything. If you are looking for luxury during your stay in Playa del Carmen, these are my favourite hotels in the city.

Hilton Playa del Carmen

Playacar Palace All-Inclusive Resort

Grand Velas Rivera Maya

Banyan Tree Mayakoba

Royal Service at Paradisus La Perla

Live Aqua Boutique Resort Playa del Carmen 

Hostels in Playa del Carmen 

There are also plenty of fantastic budget options available in Playa del Carmen. Stay at one of the cities vibrant hostels to meet new people and take part in hostel led activities and excursions, such as BBQ nights and mojito making classes.

I recommend The Yak hostel. The Yak is very sociable, has spacious rooms with plenty of storage space, free breakfast and lots of fun activities happening every day. Read my full review of The Yak Hostel Playa del Carmen here.

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Discover the best day trips and excursions from Playa del Carmen in Rivera Maya Mexico. In this post discover the very best places to explore including Tulum, Cancun, the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza, cenotes near Playa del Carmen and islands such as Cozumel, Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post all about fantastic day trips to take from Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

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11 comments

Anwesha 20/08/2019 - 9:58 am

This is such a great itinerary with so many relaxing spots. Honestly, I haven’t heard about Playa Del Camen and it’s nearby places. Must have been leaving under a rock. But seriously, I really enjoyed reading about all the spots through your article.

Jennifer 20/08/2019 - 1:33 pm

I have wanted to visit Playa del Carma for as long as I can remember. I had no idea that Cozumel was so close that you could make a day trip of it. I think that diving with whale sharks would be an amazing adventure — you have listed so many amazing things to do here that if I ever get to visit the area, I will have so many things to choose from.

Esther Garcia 20/08/2019 - 1:38 pm

oh wow this post is amazing!! full of tips, very informative and with great photography, for me a must that all the travel blogs must have. Need to go back to Mexico. Been there 5 years ago and I went to Playa del Carmen, Valladolid, Chichen Itzá, Tulum, Isla mujeres and explore a couple of cenotes! . I swam with the Whale Sharks in the ocean and I spent a day in Xcaret. Next time in Mexico I would like to go to Holbox for sure and go to Lake Bakalar and Las Coloradas in Yucatan!!!

Helene 21/08/2019 - 9:01 am

Coba is so cool! I lived in Playa years ago and never knew about it. This post definitely made me miss everything there, especially the fish tacos haha

Merrie Rodriguez 21/08/2019 - 10:33 am

Gorgeous pictures!! A lot of great ideas here! I’ve heard a lot of great things about a lot of places you mentioned. Especially the Isla Mujeres! Hopefully my husband and I can visit Mexico soon! Looks like a lot of fun!

alison 21/08/2019 - 12:07 pm

I adore Mexico and haven’t had the chance to get there in years. I loved reading this as it reminds me of the beauty of Mexico and why I love it so much

Disha Smith 21/08/2019 - 4:22 pm

The only place I’ve been to in Mexico is Cabo. The Playa del Carmen area looks more peaceful and relaxing. Your photos of the cenotes are beautiful! Great guide!

Aditi Sharma 23/08/2019 - 3:33 am

I really enjoyed reading this post as I felt that I got to learn so much about such an amazing destination. I hadn’t heard about Isla Mujeres and after reading your description and seeing the photographs, I’m definitely adding this to our bucket list. I can only imagine what an amazing experience it must be to relax on the white sand beach of Playa Norte. Ziplining and horseback riding in the Mayan jungle definitely sound like activities my family would enjoy. Thanks for sharing this detailed guide.

Cris F. 23/08/2019 - 9:17 pm

These all sound incredible! You can easily stay in Playa deli Carmen a couple of weeks and explore that town plus all the things to do around it. And probably run out of time! I love, too, that mention responsible tours when interacting with wildlife. That’s so important!

Ariel Samangka 24/08/2019 - 2:05 am

Wow, this place is truly a gem of Mexico. Honestly, I haven’t heard about Playa del Carmen, Mexico and I didn’t know that it has so much to offer. Also, I was stunned by how you manage your schedule in a day and was able to visit all these stunning places. I have a list of favorites from this list, such as the beautiful beach in Cancun and the white powdery sand beach in Isla Mujeres. I wish I can traipse my feet here as well. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

Blairvillanueva 26/08/2019 - 8:19 am

It would be so much fun diving with those whale sharks. This fascinating creature is so adorable and never harms humans.

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