Heading to Maya Riviera (Playa del Carmen) next week - help us plan!
October 14, 2013 5:16 PM   Subscribe

I'll be heading to Playa Del Carmen for a 5-day vacation with my brother and mom (all adults). We have three full days with nothing planned, and would like to make the most of them. Please give us ideas on where to travel along the Maya Riviera and Yucatan Peninsula!

We'll be staying in a small hotel in Playa del Carmen. We booked through Expedia and opted on renting a car, so somewhere far - but not too far - would be nice. We know that we would like to visit ruins/the beach, but besides that are open to any suggestions. I am doing some research, but am generally clueless regarding the area. We are down for hiking, nice dining, exploring, etc. Beautiful/scenic locations would be nice as well.

We are also open to tours if anyone knows of any nice ones. General Mexico/Yucatan Peninsula travel advice would also be appreciated. Help us make the most of our trip in Mexico!
posted by Thanquol180 to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I've been down there a couple of times - although not since maybe 2005 or so, and I have to say that one thing I thought was super awesome was a visit to Xel-Ha.
posted by kbanas at 5:40 PM on October 14, 2013

Tulum is not very far away - it's a half day excursion and supposed to be very pretty. Many people go to Chichen Itza (much larger ruins, very famous), but it's a long full day. In my opinion, it's not worth it unless you have a particular interest in archaeology or ruins.

You may want to check out the adventure/nature parks: Xcaret and Xel-ha. There are lots to do there.

It would be fun to setup a snorkeling trip - possibly to Cozumel, supposedly one of the best dive sites in the Caribbean. Or a fishing trip, if that's interesting to you.

You might want to consider a swimming with dolphins activity - I've done this a couple times in Cancun and it's a ton of fun.

One other thing that would be interesting would be to search out a couple local restaurants, off the tourist path in Playa. If you want any authentic Mexican food you won't find it on the main strip in Playa. Go off the main strip to where the locals eat and you can find some amazing local food.

Overall, I would suggest staying in and around the Playa area - the beaches and water will be lovely. If it was me I don't think I would stray far from Playa on such a short trip.

I have a friend who is in the travel business in Cancun and Playa, he also works as a tour guide. Mefi mail me if you are interested in contacting him.
posted by kdern at 5:43 PM on October 14, 2013

go swimming in some cenotes. they are all over the place around Playa. really nice day trip.
posted by supermedusa at 6:01 PM on October 14, 2013

Seconding Tulum, about an hour's drive south of Playa del Carmen.
A bit further away is Coba, where I think you can still climb the pyramid (many have been closed to avoid the wear from thousands of tourists).
posted by fings at 6:11 PM on October 14, 2013

I've been down there a few times.

Do not miss Tulum, it's very close. Bring a swimsuit - you can hike down the cliff and swim on the beach there. Coba is also not too far and a little more grand. Chichen Itza is literally awesome, but it's a hike (2-3 hours each way). I thought it was worth it, though. Taking the ferry to Cozumel is a good way to kill an afternoon. I always wanted to visit Valladolid but never made it there.

I've also done the swimming with dolphins thing - it cheesy and touristy but also OMG DOLPHINS. Touching them is really cool and they will take a picture of a dolphin kissing your cheek, which is a great souvenir to make your friends jealous.
posted by gnutron at 7:25 PM on October 14, 2013

Adding my endorsement to Tulum and cenotes. You may want to bring goggles or a mask for the cenotes. There are commercial ones with lighting and admissions fees. I went to one on the side of a road with a plywood sign. It was a few bucks for an afternoon swim in crystal clear water in the middle of the jungle.

Also, if you go north along the beach road near the Tulum ruins, there are some neat eco-style lodges right on the beach.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 7:49 PM on October 14, 2013

Seconding swimming on the beach at Tulum, and visiting the Coba ruins (my favorite site in that area; my link has photos). Chichen Itza is more restored and impressive than Coba, but usually overrun by tourists, unless you are there early or late (i.e. before or after the tourist buses). Hence my preferring Coba, though the buses go there as well. I also like Xcacel beach.

Here is a blog post with photos of ruins including Chichen Itza, Coba, and some cenotes.
posted by gudrun at 8:01 PM on October 14, 2013

nthing Tulum, Coba, and Xel-ha.
posted by xbonesgt at 6:44 AM on October 15, 2013

Definitely cenotes. lots to choose from. you can get there on your own or there are guides who would take you to 2-3 sites in a days time.

snorkeling out of puerto morelos is also fun. The reef off shore is national park and both times i have been there, there were very few people snorkeling. I can't for the life of me remember the company we used, but it was about 25.00 a person, with a guide in a covered panga, fins and mask included if you don't have your own. We made arrangements through a driver at our hotel, but the company we used was on the north side of the square, you could probably walk up there in the morning and make a plan for the afternoon.

We have also snorkeled at Lol Ha in Akumal, south of Playa. It is a sheltered lagoon with very clear water and lots of fish that is adjacent to a bay. There are turtles in the bay as well.

www.playa.info is an excellent source of information about the area.

is an excellent source of cold beer, pumpkin seed salsa and a ridiculusly good dish called chicken brochette. it is right off the main shopping area, on 4th between 5th (main street) and 10th, so its not off the beaten path, but we go there every time we are in the area.
posted by domino at 8:29 AM on October 15, 2013

If you're choosing Playa del Carmen over Cancun I assume you are looking for more off-the-beaten-path, so here are my recommendations for fun-but-not-too-crowded sights on the Riviera Maya

My favourite day of all the time I spent in the Yucatan was the day I spent on Isla Mujeres. It's smaller and less popular than some of the other islands (you will see a lot of brochures for Cozumel, for example), but it is absolutely beautiful and has clear, shallow water at the beach. You can walk out for ages without going above your knees.

I will nth the suggestion of Tulum--very pretty, has beach access, and you can see ruins without the time/energy commitment of hiking all through Chichen Itza if ruins are not your thing. (That said, I loved Chichen Itza and was glad I did both).
posted by assenav at 9:06 PM on October 15, 2013

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