Every so often, a true relaxation vacation is needed. A trip where the primary purpose is lying on a beach or by a pool somewhere with a juicy read and endless daiquiris. Brandon and I were recently overdue for a trip like this, so I started searching for destinations where Southwest flies since he has Southwest companion pass status.
Cancún seemed like the easy solution, but as I dug into it more I realized we could go just outside of the Cancún resort town to Playa del Carmen for a bit more of a local experience. If you’re in need of an escape, these things to do in Playa del Carmen will keep you relaxed and entertained for the perfect, sunny vacation!
Visit an Underground Cave Bar
There’s this place called Alux in Playa del Carmen… and you have to go. It’s a bar and restaurant that was built underground in a Mexican cenote cave that is over 10,000 years old. The food is pretty pricy and you will need reservations in advance, but I recommend at least stopping for a drink just to check it out. Alux is a short taxi ride from the center of town. Taxi drivers know this is a tourist area so they might charge more, but around 25-35 pesos is fine.
Take a Day Trip to the Ruins of Tulum
Tulum is close enough to visit for a quick half day trip to see the ruins and learn about the history of the Mayan culture and civilization while still having time to return to your lounging spot. Though I will say, the Tulum Ruins are worth getting away from the pool or beach for a while. Tulum actually means “stone wall” in Mayan, though it’s possible the Mayan people didn’t fully understand the question when asked the name of this place. Deciphering the Mayan language can be quite the challenge. One symbol can be one letter, one word, or one phrase. Tulum is the only Mayan city that was built on the coast — the fortress has walls on three sides and the Caribbean Sea on the other.
I recommend a guided tour for your visit since they also provide transportation and can give you more background than you would otherwise know if you went on your own. The Tulum Discovery Tour or Tulum 5-Hour Guided Tour are two suggestions.
340 Days of Sunshine Per Year
It’s hard to beat that! If a sunny escape is what you’re looking for, Playa del Carmen is your answer. Don’t be surprised if you do see the occasional rain shower in the afternoon, but most likely it will just be passing through and will be sunny again in no time.
Swim with the Fishes… and Maybe Turtles
There are plenty of opportunities to go underwater in Playa del Carmen, through snorkeling or scuba diving. Cenotes are very common in the Playa del Carmen area in particular. They are sinkholes where the ceiling of a cave collapsed inward to form a glorious underground world. They are considered sacred by the Mayan people as they used to be their only source of water. You can learn more about and explore these caves on tours such as Cenotes & Cavern Diving Tour or Mayan Underworld Explorer Tour.
Swimming with turtles in Akumal is another popular activity when looking for things to do in Playa del Carmen and the surrounding area. However, there are restrictions around this to protect the turtles. During the nesting season of June through August, people are typically not allowed to swim with the turtles to avoid harming their habitat. Most other times you would be able to swim with them in their natural habitat. Please be sure to go with authorized guides who know the regulations to protect these sea creatures, and do not touch or interfere with them in any way so you don’t endanger the turtles.
Easy to Get There
One of the many reasons why I love Southwest Airlines is their direct flights into Mexico. They offer direct flights to Cancún from Denver, Chicago, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and a number of other cities. I also booked our transportation in advance through USA Transfers, which I highly recommend. It only cost around USD 110 round trip and we had our own private van, complete with a cooler with drinks for sale so we could start our trip with a refreshing beer en route to the resort.
Less travel time frees up plenty of time to work on our list of things to do in Playa del Carmen, which included lots of laying around by the pool and sipping those daiquiris!
Stay at an All-Inclusive Resort in the Heart of the City
Just around the corner from Playa del Carmen’s popular 5th Avenue is Panama Jack Resorts Gran Porto. I managed to snag a low-season July deal for only $233 a night, a steal for this 5-star, all-inclusive resort! The resort itself offers their own activities to get to know the area if you get restless or didn’t have a chance to book anything in advance. They had a biking tour of Playa del Carmen that Brandon and I went on and had a blast! Though the heat had me ready to return to the pool afterwards.
If you’re leaving the kiddos behind for this one, consider The Royal instead. It’s right across the street from Panama Jack Resorts but is adults only and a notch up on the luxurious scale without any little ones running around.
I think I’m ready for another relaxing vacation again. What about you? There’s a time and a place for all-inclusive resorts, and I think this is one of them. Both The Royal and Panama Jack Resorts Gran Porto are the perfect middle point. They’re not tucked away and fenced off far from the locals. Instead, they are right in the heart of Playa del Carmen, walking distance from local shops, restaurants, and more.
Have you visited Playa del Carmen? What things to do in Playa del Carmen would you add to this list?
Please note that some of the links on this page are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I earn a small commission that will help support this site if you make a purchase. All opinions are my own. If you have any questions about the companies or products mentioned on this page, please reach out to me and I will happily answer them.