Playa del Carmen is a popular beach resort town on the Riviera Maya in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Its palm-lined beaches spread along the Yucatan Peninsula, while Quinta Avenida runs parallel to the beach, offering plenty of restaurants, shops, bars and night clubs. This is a popular vacation spot for Americans who are looking for sun, sand and fun. However, sometimes it’s great to get out of the resort town and its crowds, while heading into the “real” Mexico, including fascinating Mayan ruins, beautiful natural parks and more on the Mayan Riviera. Read up on some of the best day trips from Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
Rio Secreto Nature Reserve lies outside the city of Cancun on the Riviera Maya and is a 6-mi (9.8-km) journey from Playa del Carmen via Cancun. Here it is possible to wade and swim in the spectacular underground, crystal caves. Relax and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the turquoise water and beautiful surroundings inside the ancient cave.
Rio Secreto Underground River Tour with Crystal Caves
Number of Reviews 200
Isla Holbox, or Holbox Island, is located off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, 65 mi (104 km) from Playa del Carmen. The island is car-free and can only be reached by boat across the Yalahau Lagoon. The island forms part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve where marine life such as whale sharks and sea turtles can be seen, as well as pelicans and flamingos. A visit can be made to relaxed Holbox Village and the lovely Punta Coco Beach.
Magical Holbox Tour from Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya
Number of Reviews 21
Sian Ka’an is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve located near Tulum on the Riviera Maya, approximately 40 mi (64.7 km) from Playa del Carmen. The reserve is made up of coral reefs, mangroves and a flourishing marine life including dolphins, manatees, sea turtles and crocodiles. The Sian Ka’an reef is ideal for enjoyable snorkeling and marine safaris are available by boat. Travel through an untouched area of the Riviera Maya and visit the fishing village of Punta Allen for a snack and cooling drink.
Full-Day Guided Sian Ka'an Biosphere Safari from Playa del Carmen
Number of Reviews 14
Ek Balam is one of the more recently discovered Maya sites on the Mayan Riviera and can be reached by driving 97 mi (156.5 km) inland. Visitors can explore the fascinating archaeological ruins, along with Cenote Maya Park which is an adventure park in a beautiful natural setting. It is possible to climb to the top of the Acropolis Pyramid of Ek Balam and enjoy panoramic scenic views, including other hidden temples among the dense surrounding jungle canopy. Adventure sports are available in the form of zip-lining through the rainforest and cave rappelling. Before heading back to Playa del Carmen, buy some souvenirs in the handicraft market onsite.
Ek Balam Ruins and Cenote Maya Park Day Trip from Playa del Carmen
Number of Reviews 19
There are a number of beautiful islands off the Riviera Maya, including Contoy Island with its bird refuge and Isla Mujeres. Enjoy snorkeling the reef on Contoy Island and take an ecological tour of the island. Relax on the beautiful beach on Isla Mujeres and explore the town, taking time to rest with a delicious meal and buy souvenirs to take home. To get there, travel 42 mi (68 km) from Playa del Carmen to Cancun, where you can catch a ferry to the islands.
Contoy Island and Isla Mujeres Day Trip from Playa del Carmen
Number of Reviews 6
Chichen Itza is one of the most spectacular Mayan pyramids and the capital of the Mayan civilization on the Riviera Maya. The site can be reached by taking a 112.7-mi (181.4-km) drive inland from Playa del Carmen. Find out about the secrets of the Mayan civilization at this UNESCO World Heritage site while exploring the ruins and gazing at the huge Kukulcan Pyramid and learning about the mysterious acoustics of its ball court. Take a dip in a crystal-clear sacred cenote (sinkhole) near the ruins.
Chichen Itza Day Trip from Playa del Carmen
Number of Reviews 56
Visit the Cobá ruins and Cho Ha Cenote in Tulum approximately 40 mi (64.7 km) from Playa del Carmen. Both sites are impressive Mayan archaeological sites on the Yucatan Peninsula. Due to the fact that the Cobá ruins don’t see as much tourism as the more famous sites, visitors can freely climb up some of the structures for an incredible view. Explore the ruins and find out their significance from the guide before taking a refreshing dip in the crystal clear waters of the Cho Ha Cenote (natural pit or sinkhole).
Coba Ruins, Cho Ha Cenote, Tulum and Paradise Beach Day Trip
Number of Reviews 295
Head down the coast via Cancun to Xel-Há, a 30-mi (48.2 km) drive from Playa del Carmen. Here you can enjoy swimming and snorkeling in the crystal clear lagoon and discover the diverse marine life in what feels like a natural aquarium. Relax in secluded coves and find hidden caves while exploring, or head on a tube down a river. A number of restaurants here serve authentic Mayan and traditional Mexican food.
Priority Access: Xel-Há All-Inclusive Day Trip from Playa del Carmen
Number of Reviews 32
Xcaret Natural Park is a short, 6.4-mi (10.2-km) drive along the coast from Playa del Carmen. This natural park has plenty to offer, including the flora and fauna in the area, including butterflies and birds, and an eco-archaeological site to explore. Swimming is available in the crystal clear lagoon. Head into an underground river for more adventure or visit the fascinating aquarium and Mayan village at the site.
Priority Access: Xcaret Day Trip from Playa del Carmen
Number of Reviews 56
10. Valladolid, Mexico
Valladolid is an 88-mi (141.1-km) drive from Playa del Carmen. Located on the Yucatan Peninsula, the city hosts a number of Spanish 16th-century colonial buildings including the Convent of San Bernardino of Siena and the Baroque San Gervasio Cathedral. View beautiful Mexican folk art and furnishings at the Casa de los Venados or visit the Cenote Zaci sinkhole with beautiful stalactites. To the southwest are the Samula and X’Keken underground cenotes.
Enjoy exploring the Riviera Maya in Mexico
Have fun at the beach, the restaurants and the lively nightlife of Playa del Carmen on the Mayan Riviera, while also taking some time out to visit the fascinating Mayan archaeological sites and beautiful natural parks on some of the best day trips from Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
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