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Best Playa del Carmen Itinerary 4 – 5 days

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Playa del Carmen is a stunning coastal resort town located in the Riviera Maya, Mexico. Mexico is known for its white-sand beaches, warm weather, and wonderful hospitality. The capital of Mexico is Mexico City, and it’s also one of the most populous cities in the world. Mexico’s rich history pulled us towards it and we booked a flight to PDC. Read about all the best things to do in Playa del Carmen itinerary 4- 5 days. 

You can very well use this itinerary to create your own ideal beach vacation in Playa del Carmen. Each attraction or activity is listed by duration and we have included something for everybody. Enjoy!

Best Things to do in Playa del Carmen Itinerary 4- 5 days

Best Things to do in Playa del Carmen Itinerary
Best Things to do in Playa del Carmen Itinerary

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An ideal Playa del Carmen Itinerary should include ample beach relaxation time, great food, and pool parties. Set aside a day or two for exploring Mayan Ruins like a day trip to Chichen Itza, Tulum, or Coba or all three (we did all there – a day each).

There are many underwater activities to enjoy in and around Playa del Carmen – you can do it your own or allot for one day to Xcaret or Rio Secreto (all equipment will be provided or can be rented, more details below). Also spend half a day strolling the city centre or 5th avenue! 

4 to 5 days in Playa del Carmen Itinerary: At a glance

  • Day 1: Arrive in Mexico. Cancún International Airport is your entry point. Cancun to Playa del Carmen is 45 minutes away. Check in to your all-inclusive resort, enjoy your pool and suite
  • Day 2: Explore Quinta Avenida (city centre), hit the beach or the pool, and then hang out at the Fifth Avenue (in the evening)
  • Day 3: Take a day tour to Chichen Itza
  • Day 4: Visit Tulum and Coba ruins. Swim in a cenote
  • Day 5: Puerto Morelos Reef National Park (half day), OR Xcaret (full day)
  • Optional: Day tours to Cancun, Cozumel, snorkelling adventure and more (below)

Choose an awesome Resort in Playa del Carmen Mexico

Cost: $ 89- 500+ USD (per night, double occupancy, all inclusive)

First things first – book an awesome resort to spend an amazing beach vacation. Although there are many hotels and vacation rentals to choose from, look for an all-inclusive resort (which means meals and airport transfers from Cancun Airport will be included).

Amenities to consider before booking is access to private beaches, pools, Mexican and multi-cuisine restaurants to name a few. 

Best things to do in and around Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Insight tips on what to do, eat, see, explore in Playa del Carmen. Perfect Mexico Itinerary
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In an all-inclusive resort, you are treated like royalty. Whether it’s a 3 star or higher, you can expect great service. We stayed at the Gran Porto Real Resort. It was a 3 star- reasonably priced resort. Gran Porto Resort has a beach and over 5 restaurants. Located near the Royal Plaza, you also have access to their property and beaches. The resort’s new name is Panama Jacks Resort. 

Here are some other favorite resorts in Playa del Carmen below. We drove around some of the listed hotel properties and they are lovely!

Pro tip: Choose the right resort. Ensure it’s all-inclusive, includes airport transfers in your vacation package. Choose a centrally located resort to access all tourist areas (like the public beaches, Mayan ruins, museums, shopping district, etc)

  • Paradisus La Esmeralda All Inclusive Playa Del Carmen
    • All-inclusive luxury hotel
    • Great service and location
    • Pools, private beach, and multiple bars and restaurants located on-site
    • BOOK YOUR STAY HERE
  • Hilton Playa del Carmen – An All-Inclusive Adult Resort
    • 5-star all-inclusive resort
    • Amazing scenic views and beach staycation
    • Pools, restaurants, and luxurious suites
    • Free parking
    • Indoor and outdoor parking
    • BOOK YOUR STAY HERE
  • Playacar Palace® All-Inclusive Resort
    • 5 stars all-inclusive resort
    • Airy quarters with in-room whirlpool tubs
    • The hotel property has pools and a spa on site
    • A 9-minute walk from Playacar Beach
    • Free parking
    • BOOK YOUR STAY HERE 

Search for more Playa del Carmen hotels below

Booking.com

Quinta Avenida – Playa del Carmen City Centre (a few hours to half day)

Visit and stroll the streets of Quinta Avenida, which is the city centre of Playa del Carmen. This area is filled with shopping malls, restaurants, bars, and more.  This is a perfect place to unwind have a drink, go shopping, buy souvenirs or just walk and experience the Mexican nightlife! 

Chichen Itza – Check off one of the seven wonders of the new world  (Half day or full day activity)

Cost: Priceless, for us (otherwise $65 – 150+ USD for a tour)

One of the major bucket list items for us was to see Chichen Itza. We booked an early morning access tour to explore the Mayan Ruins.

The tour included the return trip from the resort to Chichen-Itza, entrance fees, a guided tour with a historian, and lunch. We had a small group of 5 travelers. Our guide was a Mayan expert, and he was so engaging. Read our Chichen Itza Tour experience

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza – Mexico

Tip: The key to taking amazing, tourist-free pictures at Chichen-Itza is to start early. When we reached the complex, we had lots of time in hand to get some amazing shots.


READ: OUR PACKING GUIDE TO MEXICO 

Currency

The national currency of Mexico is Mexican Pesos. US Dollars are widely accepted here. 

We carried cash (in USD) and used that to make purchases. Any change was returned in Pesos and we used that for the next transaction. Although USD is stronger than Pesos we didn't notice a big saving when it came to making purchases at fine dining restaurants or souvenir stores especially in the Riviera Maya area as it is a tourist zone. 

Exploring the streets of Playa del Carmen Mexico - What to wear in Mexico Everyday
What to Wear in Mexico every day

Safety: Travel Safety in Mexico

Currently, there is a travel advisory issued by the US government for 11 Mexican cities (2018). 

Before our trip to Mexico, we read the travel advisories for Mexico on the Government of Canada and US websites. 

Canada (2019) clearly says “ due to high levels of criminal activity, as well as demonstrations, protests and occasional illegal roadblocks throughout the country” exercise caution.

In the resort areas, especially the Riviera Maya area (Playa del Carmen included), rest assured they are safe. Mexican authorities take all possible measures to keep those hotel zones free of crime or tourist trouble. 

In our humble opinion, make yourself aware of these warnings, but as long as you stay in a resort or a known Airbnb and avoid unknown areas you should be fine. 

We were in Mexico post-hurricane and after the earthquake in Mexico City. We took tours to visit the Yucatan forests in small groups and also walked in and around the resort zone in Riviera Maya, we felt safe. 

As a tourist, we didn't face any issues. Occasionally while strolling the streets of Playa del Carmen people pulled us to listen to their sale-sy pitch for tours, but we had our itinerary all planned out and booked online, so we smiled and walked away. 

It is very normal to see police patrolling the highways in the Riviera Maya or 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen. As always, be aware of your surroundings, adhere to local safety instructions in case of emergencies. 

 Playa del Carmen Itinerary
Playa del Carmen Itinerary

Learn a Few Phrases in Spanish

Mexicans speak Spanish and you will find it useful to learn a few words/phrases to communicate with them. In the resort areas in Playa del Carmen, most people speak some English, but you might encounter people in certain areas with no English.

Tip: Download Google Translate or Duolingo app to learn Spanish.

Mexico is a beautiful country. The people here are very welcoming and down-to-earth. The hospitality that I have experienced here is unmatched.

Mexico has lots to offer - beaches and relaxation, water sports and adventures, nature, history and culture, and amazing cuisine and time!

Mexico awaits you and you will not be disappointed! <3

 

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46 Comments

  1. Playa Paradiso seems like a perfect fit for me. I’m dreaming of a lazy afternoon on the beach, slightly in the shade, while sipping on a drink, feeling the breeze on my skin and listening to the waves…

  2. I had no idea Coba was such a steep climb. Incredible though, I can imagine the view from the top would be amazing!

  3. Chichen-Itza was a really cool experience! I should have stay in Playa del Carmen but stayed in Cancun. You have made me regret that decision lol

  4. This is such an awesome itinerary! I love your photos, they’re so dreamy and capture the relaxed vibe perfectly. I adore a good beach and historical site so Playa del Carmen sounds like my ideal destination, hope I’ll have a chance to check it out one day!

  5. Playa del Carmen sounds like the ultimate summer vacation! I’m dying to go and drink margaritas and eat Mexican food! Great guide!! Saving it for later!

  6. Awesome recap!! I need to make it to Mexico. The ruins and authentic tacos are calling my name. BTW, Lovely photos!

  7. Look how many Mayan ruins you’ve got to visit during your trip. When did you go? Looks like the wind was strong. Were you able to swim on the beach?

    1. We covered 3 Mayan ruins during our 5 day trip – ChichenItza, Coba and Tulum. We went in late September, it was not too windy – just perfect weather. By the beach at Playa del Carmen, it was a little breezy in the evening, but it was perfect to cool down the temperature. I personally didn’t swim at the beach, but many people were swimming and they seem to be having a great time!

  8. Great post, I’ve always wanted to go visit the ruins in that area but been put off by the all-inclusive resorts. Is there anywhere for independent travelers or do you have to go all-inclusive?

    1. You can always look for airbnb or just book a hotel without the all-inclusive. But I found its a better option with all-inclusive as you get access to their pool/beach and unlimited food and drinks. Most travel websites also give you additional discount if flights and hotels are booked together too.
      Hope this is helpful!

  9. Wow, the beach looks amazing. Looks like a cool place to visit. The sea, the ruins, the culture… Looks like the perfect getaway.

  10. Tulum has one of my most favorite beaches on earth! I am going back to PDC in July and will definitely be referencing this list. Thank you for sharing!

  11. Loved reading your post! Took me back to the best long weekend I spent in Cancun with my girls. I think the highlight of my trip back then was Chichen Itza and the party scene in Cancun, lol. But next time I go, with my husband, I am definitely going to consider staying in Playa del Carmen since it’s closer to Tulum which is high on my list. I had no idea about Coba, adding that to the listas well 😀

    1. That’s amazing. So thrilled you enjoyed my post. Definitely consider Playa del Carmen on your next trip to Mexico. You wont be disappointed.
      Happy Travels!

  12. It is sad that beautiful places are considered dangerous to visit! This is such a comprehensive itinerary. Great post and beautiful photos.

  13. Oh this is a very informative post about the best things to do in Mexico! The beaches are a must and they are free of course but what intrigues me are the ruins (I have a passion for history). Even the cenote i’d like to photograph 🙂

    1. I love history too! Mexico was a delight due to the Mayan history (more then the beaches for me)
      I hope you get to visit them <3

  14. I visited Cancun and Playa Del Carmen just a few months ago and this brought back some amazing memories!! The cenotes are wonderful. It was an amazing experience with the cold deep but refreshing waters especially after the really hot and sunny Chichen Itza!!! Great post

  15. I had no idea that tourists could climb some of the pyramids – Coba, specifically! I’d really love to visit and check out all the ancient ruins. The food of course, is my second reason to go explore Mexico. Pinning this for a future trip!

  16. What a great in-depth post! I’ve always wanted to visit Chichen Itza and your pictures look great. I didn’t know you could climb up some of the Mayan pyramids. Good to see there’s more to do than just those too!

  17. There’s so much to see and do in this region! I am currently trying to convince my boyfriend that we should go but he’s worried about safety. Did you feel safe while you were there?

  18. I would love to visit Mexico after reading your post. The cocktails sound especially amazing – never heard of Horchata before but I reckon I would love that one.

  19. Thank you for sharing your detailed itinerary for Playa Del Carmen. Great photos! It’s on my bucket list to visit Chichen Itza too. I love how you provided day trips from the area. I can’t wait to visit in the future.

  20. I visited Carmen del Playa a few years back but as a backpacker. It looks like your all-inclusive WestJet Vacations package was really nice and you had a great time in the hotel. Chichen Itza is definitely worth visiting and I loved the cenotes! The culture and food in Mexico is spectacular – I hope you enjoyed !

    1. Absolutely, sometimes its a very cost effective option to go for all inclusive (always consider location, unlimited food and amazing views)

  21. The ruins are crazy!!!! Would be a dream to see them in person! Seems like partying in Mexico is so much fun, already feeling the vibe from your photos. Very helpful guide!

  22. Such a great list! Playa del Carmen seems like such a diverse destination with so much to do, I’d love to visit some day!

  23. Thank you for sharing such a detailed post! I have been itching to take a vacation where I can relax on the beach, and this seems like it might be a great place to do just that.

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