One Day in Playa Del Carmen Itinerary – How to Spend a Perfect Day in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Another heavenly Caribbean location, Playa del Carmen offers everything you could ever want from your trip to Mexico. Beautiful beaches combine perfectly with places like bars, restaurants, and clubs where you can spend an unforgettable evening. Amazing coral reefs just bring everything to a whole new level. You can see that the place has embraced tourism in every sense of the word. They’ve even added a nice big splash of luxury, just for good measure. So, if you’re looking for an ideal tropical destination for your vacation, they don’t come much better than Playa del Carmen. One day here really is something very special.

One day in Playa del Carmen Itinerary

What’s the best time to visit Playa del Carmen, Mexico?

When it comes to temperatures, Playa del Carmen is exactly what you’d expect from a Caribbean location. It’s warm all the time here, with higher humidity in the second half of the year. Interestingly, the season has several peaks – Christmas holidays, spring break, and summer (July and August). Therefore, the best time to visit Playa del Carmen would be somewhere in February because that way you get the best weather, but the crowds are not as big.

Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen, Author: dronepicr, Source: Flickr

Naturally, a touristy place like this also has plenty of events and festivals you can enjoy. One thing that really needs to be mentioned is Festival de Tradiciones de Vida y Muerte (late October) which celebrates all the loved ones who have passed away. Apart from that, you will find all sorts of music festivals and parties, so you just have to choose. Sisters & Soul Music Festival is a good example, as is the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival. Whatever your music taste, there will be something to enjoy, that’s for sure.

A few facts about Playa del Carmen

The city started out as a humble fishing village which was only founded approximately 100 years ago. In fact, as late as 1995, Playa del Carmen had only about 17,500 people. Today, however, it has more than 300,000 citizens!

Playa del Carmen was named after the patron saint of Cancun – Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Parque Fundadores
Parque Fundadores, Author: dronepicr, Source: Flickr

Interestingly, the oldest evidence of people chewing gum in North America comes from Playa del Carmen. Well, not gum in the modern sense of the word but chicle – a substance that comes from the sapodilla tree, quite common in this part of the world.

The average temperature throughout the year here is 27 degrees Celsius, i.e. just over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words – it’s summer all year round! Let the fun begin!

Akumal Beach Diving, Playa del Carmen
Akumal Beach Diving, Author: dronepicr, Source: Flickr

One day in Playa del Carmen Itinerary

Welcome to another Mexican jewel on the coast of the Caribbean Sea. It really does feel like paradise here – pristine blue sea, sandy beaches as far as the eye can see, and perfect weather all mix so well with excellent bars and restaurants. But how to best spend one day in Playa del Carmen? How to make the most of your time here? This itinerary will show you the best things to do and see in the city. Let’s go!

Treat yourself to a nice breakfast

Start your day in Playa del Carmen nice and easy, with breakfast on the beach. That way, you can just savor the fact that you’re here and soak up the atmosphere a bit. Not to mention the fact that you will be doing some exploring, too.

Madrez Cafe
Madrez Cafe

Madrez Cafe is a good choice because it’s right next to the beach, while Chez Celine serves amazing French dishes. Oh, and if you’re looking for a healthy breakfast, check out 100% Natural Playa del Carmen.

Plenty of choices to start the day right.

Hit Playa Xcalacoco

After you’ve had your coffee, It’s time to hit the beach. But if you’d like to enjoy a less crowded and slightly less touristy place, go for Playa Xcalacoco. It’s located on the northwest outskirts of the city, but a trip there will be well worth it.

Playa Xcalacoco, Playa del Carmen
Playa Xcalacoco, Author: jarnocan, Source: Flickr

You see, since this beach is outside of the city center it is less crowded, and most of the people here are locals. And the beach itself is quite beautiful, with sand stretching all around you. The water is crystal-clear, and there are restaurants all around, so it’s everything you’d expect from a Caribbean tourist location, just a bit toned down.

Find a nice place for lunch

If you don’t sit down for lunch somewhere close to Playa Xcalacoco, head back to the city center. There are quite a few excellent restaurants there!

Sonora Prime, for example, is a great steakhouse, offering both great lunch and dinner. La Cueva del Chango is an excellent place for good Mexican food at a very reasonable price, whereas Cheester Playa del Carmen is one of the best Italian restaurants around.

Cueva del Chango
Cueva del Chango

I also have to mention Alux Restaurant Bar & Lounge. The palace doesn’t serve lunch, but if you’re looking for a place for dinner, you have to check it out. It is located in a cave, the food is excellent, and the wines are top-notch, too. Oh, and there are bats in the cave, too!

Take a walk along Quinta Avenida

After lunch, go for a walk along Quinta Avenida, i.e. Fifth Avenue. It is the city’s main street with plenty of things to see and souvenirs to buy, so it’s worth spending a part of your day in Playa del Carmen here. It’s also good to know that this is quite a busy place in the evening, so if you’re looking for nightclubs and nice bars with an ocean view.

Fifth Avenue
Fifth Avenue, Author: Kurayba, Source: Flickr

During the day, however, you will see street performers and loads of shops offering anything from Cuban cigars to things you may want to have with you on the beach. Take a look and soak in the vibe of the place before moving on.

Go for a swim with turtles

Once you’ve explored the center of Playa del Carmen, it’s time to hit the beach again. But not just any beach! Head to Akumal Beach, about half an hour to the south, because this is where you can swim with turtles! And you can get there quite easily.

Akumal Beach, Playa del Carmen
Akumal Beach, Author: Graeme Churchard, Source: Flickr

Once you arrive, you can rent out snorkeling equipment if you don’t have any with you and just dive in. You don’t have to pay anything, and the memories of swimming with these beautiful creatures will last you a lifetime! It would be a shame to miss out on this opportunity.

Akumal Beach Diving, Playa del Carmen
Akumal Beach Diving, Author: Bernard DUPONT, Source: Flickr

Sit down for a Mayan show

The perfect way to end this one day in Playa del Carmen is to see a show. And not just any show – a Mayan show! Parque Fundadores is the location, and you can’t miss it thanks to the huge arch at the entrance showing a man and a woman holding hands.

Parque Fundadores
Parque Fundadores, Author: dronepicr, Source: Flickr

What you’re looking for here is called Danza de los Voladores, i.e. Dance of the Flyers. It is actually an ancient ritual that was meant to summon rain, and today it is protected by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. It takes place every hour, and afterward, you can continue enjoying the park or take an evening stroll through the city center.

Danza de los Voladores
Danza de los Voladores, Author: Carl Campbell, Source: Flickr

Where to stay in Playa del Carmen?

Hotel Xcaret Arte

Hotel Xcaret Arte

Carr. Chetumal – Puerto Juárez Km. 282, 77710 Playa del Carmen

There are plenty of luxury hotels in Playa del Carmen, but Hotel Xcaret Arte is the best one. A tennis court, an outdoor pool, a beautiful garden, and a fitness center are just some of the amenities you get here. All rooms come with a balcony, with some of them offering beautiful views of the sea. In short, everything here is designed to wow you, and you can be sure you will have an amazing time. Just one thing to keep in mind – the hotel is for adults only.


Meliora by Bunik

Meliora by Bunik

Calle 10 Nte Bis, entre Ave 20 y Ave 25, 77710 Playa del Carmen

The first thing you notice when examining Meliora by Bunik is its location. The hotel is close to the city center, but also very close to the beach. But that’s just the beginning! The outdoor pool on the roof is amazing, and you get to enjoy a hot tub, too. The rooms are large, very comfortable, and well-equipped, plus the surroundings are fairly quiet. Definitely, a hotel worth considering!


Hotel Casa de las Flores

Hotel Casa de las Flores

Avenida 20 Norte, Entre Calles 4 y 6, 77710 Playa del Carmen

Hotel Casa de las Flores is one of those places that gives exceptional value for the money you spend. This family-owned place has a lovely garden, a nice outdoor pool, and is located close to both the city center and the beach. In addition, the rooms are very inviting thanks to their warm colors, plus there are many interesting restaurants and bars close by. Despite that, the hotel is in a quiet area. Worth every cent!


Che Playa Hostel

Che Playa Hostel & Bar

Calle 6 entre Avenida 15 y Avenida 20, 77710 Playa del Carmen

Naturally, Playa del Carmen has plenty of hostels, too. Che Playa Hostel & Bar is certainly a great choice if you’re looking for accommodation like this. Close to both the main square and the beach, the place has an outdoor pool, BBQ facilities, and a well-equipped kitchen, among other things. Of course, a bar is also here and various events are held regularly. Adults only!


Day trips from Playa del Carmen

Oh yes, you WILL want to spend more than one day in Playa del Carmen. And this part of Mexico gives you plenty of reasons to do so. And it’s not just because of the amazing beaches, either! There are numerous excellent destinations for a day trip from this wonderful city, and they’re actually not very far. Here are a few suggestions you definitely should consider if you have the time.


Probably the most obvious choice for a day trip from Playa del Carmen is Cancun. Since you have to land here if you’re coming in by plane, why not spend one day in Cancun before you hit your destination? Not only will you get to enjoy incredible beaches here, but there is also plenty of very interesting Maya-related stuff to visit. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You will have a lot to enjoy, that’s for sure.


The island of Cozumel is probably the most obvious choice for a day trip because it’s only 45 minutes away from Playa del Carmen by ferry. This pristine island is an excellent place for snorkeling and scuba diving because of the Great Mayan Reef surrounding it. However, there are many other activities you can enjoy. On top of that, the main town on the island, San Miguel de Cozumel, is quite charming, too. A day will pass so quickly here.

Chichen Itza

While it is approximately two and a half hours away from Playa del Carmen, Chichen Itza is very much worth the trip. This magnificent archaeological site is a practically intact Mayan city, with a great big temple, El Castillo, standing out above it all. And that’s just the beginning of the things you can see there. If at all possible, do not miss out on this day trip because it will be unforgettable.

Xel-Ha Park

Xel-Ha Park is one of those day trips from Playa del Carmen that are not that famous but will absolutely blow you away with their beauty. This huge natural water park has plenty of snorkeling opportunities, but that’s just the beginning. Zip-lines, waterslides, jumps from the Stone of Courage… There are so many activities for everyone. Good clean fun in an amazing setting, what more could you ask for?

Extra tips for visiting Playa del Carmen

  • US dollars are accepted here, although that goes only for paper money – coins are generally not accepted. Also, it’s a good idea to always have some cash on hand because small businesses often don’t accept anything else.
  • It’s good to know that one US dollar gets you just under 20 Mexican pesos. This helps put things in perspective, especially if you need to haggle somewhere.
  • The closest airport to Playa del Carmen is the airport in Cancun.
  • Not all sunscreen is acceptable here! Most sunscreens have chemicals in them that have a damaging effect on life in the Caribbean. Therefore, major brands are not permitted on the beaches. Don’t worry though – you can buy biodegradable sunscreen easily around here. The place you’re staying in should have all the info on that.

Make sure you have everything you need

What to pack for your next trip?

Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.

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