Playa del Carmen 7 Day Travel Itinerary
Playa del Carmen is a hugely popular beach town in Mexico’s Riviera Maya. Travelers love the city’s central location and relaxing beach vibe. Our Playa del Carmen 7-day itinerary will guide you to the very best the region has to offer, including visits to cenotes, coral reefs, Mayan ruins, and jungle adventures.
The heart of downtown Playa del Carmen is the area sandwiched between the beach and 5th Avenue (a 5-mile walking zone). The streets in this area are filled with Mexican taquerias, crafts stalls, fashion boutiques, beach bars, and dive shops. At night, the area is known for its lively club scene.
With its proximity to Highway 307 and the Island of Cozumel, Playa del Carmen makes a great base for day trips to nearby Riviera Maya attractions. Within 60-minutes by car or boat, visitors can climb a Mayan pyramid, explore underwater caves, swim with dolphins, zip line, and so much more. Our Playa del Carmen itinerary is designed to help you achieve the right balance of activity, cultural immersion, and day-drinking. Journey on!
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Day 1: Check in. Explore your Resort and Walk the Beach.
Check into your hotel. Go for a dip in the pool and explore your resort’s amenities. Make your way to the beach and wander the shore. Have sunset drinks at the nearest beach club or bar.
Day 2: Beach Day. See the Pole Flyers in Fundadores Park. Dine under Banyan Trees.
Take the day to relax and rest up. Sleep late, then spend a few hours wandering between the beach and your hotel pool. If your hotel does not have a beach area, pack a bag and head to one of the many beach clubs along the seashore (most Playa del Carmen beach clubs are attached to hotels or nightclubs). Usually for a minimum food and drink purchase, patrons can have use of a lounger and umbrella.
In the late afternoon, walk along the beach to Fundadores Park for the four o’clock ritual dance of the Voladores de Papantla. Buy a cup of fresh fruit from the carts in front of the Portal Maya Sculpture. Then, watch the performers spin from the top of a 30-meter pole to the ground.
Next, walk north along Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue). The city's unofficial main street stays busy with shoppers wandering past displays of clothing and handicrafts. Browse the boutiques for unique finds. Store clerks will call out for you to step into their stores, and most small shops will expect you to haggle. As you meander along, admire the street art that characterizes the area.
When it is time for dinner, locate 38th Street. The jungle-like oasis is a short distance from the bustle of 5th Avenue. The address is often touted as the most beautiful in Playa del Carmen. On this street, huge banyan trees and open-air restaurants create a tropical-beachy ambiance. Choose a restaurant and enjoy a romantic meal. Then wander the neighborhood listening to music and enjoying the night air.
Day 3: Visit Mayan Ruins (Chichen Itza, Coba, or Tulum).
Book a guided tour to view ancient Maya ruins. In the 13-15th centuries, Rivera Maya was home to great Mayan cities full of temples, pyramids, and monuments. Today, the Mexican government is preserving these archeological treasures within the country’s National Park System. We suggest you choose one of the following sites to visit:
For a full day of viewing ruins, choose Chichen Itza National Park. In its day, Chichen Itza was a major economic power on the Yucatan Peninsula. Today, the UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the largest and best-preserved set of ruins in existence. On park grounds there are several major structures to view including the Temple of Kukulcan, Temple of Warriors, Temple of Osaria, and the Great Ball Court.
For those who enjoy an active day of sightseeing, we recommend a visit to the Coba National Park with a stop in Valladolid. The Coba archeological zone is quite spread out and can be navigated by foot or rental bike. The main draw at Coba is the Ixmoja Temple where visitors can climb the temple’s steep stairs for jungle views. We suggest combining a morning trip to Coba with an afternoon visit to the colonial City of Valladolid. In Valladolid you can explore the town’s square, main church, mercado, and cenotes.
For a more relaxing low-key day, choose the Tulum ruins to explore. This smaller, but gorgeous, archeological site can be toured in about 45-minutes. The highlight of the outing is getting up close to the spectacular cliff-side El Castillo fortress towering over the Caribbean Sea. Bundle a trip to Tulum with a visit to Akumal Beach where you can swim with sea turtles.
Day 4: Enjoy a Day of Water Sports or Horseback Riding. Evening JOYA Show.
Playa del Carmen beaches are lined with shops renting watersports equipment and scuba gear. We suggest you spend Day 4 playing on the water. Along the main beach you can jet ski, ocean kayak, dive, snorkel, parasail, or join a game of beach volleyball.
For those who enjoy more leisurely activities, a walk from Playa del Carmen beach to Playacar beach will lead you to the Xaman Ha’ ruins. This small Maya ruins site can be toured for free.
Another option for the day is to schedule an excursion to a nearby ranch for an afternoon of horseback riding. The Rancho Punta Venado farm offers rides through the jungle to a white sand beach.
Tonight, travel 20 minutes up the coast to the nearby Cirque du Soleil theater at the Vidanta Riviera Maya Resort. Before the JOYA show, theatergoers can enjoy a dinner Yucatan cuisine at the lovely Nectar Restaurant next to the theater (make reservations). Or patrons can enjoy dinner in the theater with the show (we prefer Nektar).
Day 5: Spend the Day on the Island of Cozumel.
The island of Cozumel is famous for its excellent diving and snorkeling reefs. The island is a short ferry ride from the Playa del Carmen Ferry Terminal. Jeep and snorkeling excursions to Cozumel from Playa del Carmen are very popular. The day usually includes hotel drop-off and pick-up, the ferry ride, assignment to a 4-passenger jeep, a few hours snorkeling at a Cozumel beach club, and a tour of the island.
Day 6: Swim in the Cenotes. Shop for Souvenirs and Gifts. Sunset sail.
Cenotes are freshwater, limestone sinkholes. Many are quite beautiful with turquoise water and tropical fish. Spend your last free morning splashing in the waters of the Eden, Azul, and Christalino cenotes. The three sinkholes are located next to each other about a 20-minutes outside of Playa del Carmen. The Collective Shuttle from Playa del Carmen stops at these sites.
In the afternoon shop for gifts and souvenirs on 5th Avenue. If you have not already ventured into the Quinta Alegria mall (the entrance off 5th Avenue is by Haagen Daas), check it out now. The modern two-story mall has a variety of chain and uniquely Mexican stores to peruse.
End your last full day in Playa del Carmen with dinner at an outdoor restaurant on the beach, and a sunset sail.
Day 7: Travel home.
Adios from the gorgeous Mexican Caribbean, Laura and Randy
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