This article is your insider’s guide to a list of unique things to do in Playa del Carmen. As an explorative Canadian Expat, I have found some incredible, interesting, and extraordinary things to do in this fabulous city.
When you are making a trip to Playa del Carmen, of course, you are going to think of beaches, bars, and blue water, but there is so much more to do than just that.
You absolutely can’t go wrong with spending a relaxing day at the beach enjoying the calm water and white sand of the Caribbean. Nor with spending an evening on the busy 5th Avenue. That’s what Playa del Carmen is known for, isn’t it?
After living in the city for two years, I have discovered some funky hidden gems in Playa del Carmen.
From restaurants to activities to classes, this article will fill you in on all of the fun things to do in Playa del Carmen.
But first some quick information about your arrival.
How to Get to Playa del Carmen
If you are arriving by air to Playa del Carmen from an international destination, you will most likely be flying into the Cancun international airport. Read our guide to traveling to Cancun here.
From there you will need to take transportation to Playa del Carmen. The travel time is roughly one hour depending on the time of day and the level of traffic.
If you aren’t sure of the best option for booking flights, we love to use Kiwi.com. They collect prices from websites all over the internet offering the absolute lowest prices and showing every optional route. Check your flights to Cancun Airport here.
Taxis will always be waiting outside the airport and charge roughly 1,000 pesos ($50 USD). You can also pre-book a taxi for about the same price and they will wait for you with a sign at arrivals. Book a private taxi service here.
A more cost-effective option is the ADO bus. This is a large charter-style bus that runs from the Cancun airport right into downtown Playa del Carmen.
The ticket desk is located just before the exit of the Cancun Airport and tickets to Playa del Carmen cost 250 pesos.
You can also rent a car directly from the airport and drive yourself into the city. Having a car might be beneficial for your stay if you plan to explore attractions outside of the city. Check rental car prices and book on rentalcars.com here.
Where to Stay in Playa del Carmen
The Centro of Playa del Carmen is where all the action happens and is most likely where you will want to book your accommodation.
Although the Centro is not necessarily where all the hidden gems of Playa del Carmen are found, it is still very easy to reach the locations with methods of transportation.
In Playa del Carmen there are countless accommodation options for every budget. Luxurious 5-star hotels to traveler hostel beds are in abundance.
Che Hostel provides a fun and inviting hostel accommodation. They have a rooftop pool and host events on location frequently whic are great ways to meet new friends and other travelers. Beds here start at $17 USD a night for a bunk. Book a stay at Che Hostel here.
Splurge and book a stay at the Fives Downtown Hotel and Residences. With lush decor, cozy beds, and an incredible rooftop pool, you will not be disappointed.
The pool is one of my favorites in the city as they have a stunning view of the city and the Caribbean Sea. Rooms start at $115 USD per night. Book a stay at Fives Downtown Hotel here.
Getting around to Visit the Unique Things to Do in Playa del Carmen
Because of how small it is, Playa del Carmen is very walkable and exploring the Centro area on foot is very easy. The downtown Centro is packed with great restaurants, shopping, accommodations, and the Famous 5th avenue.
If you want to get around faster or plan to travel further than just the downtown area, you can also rent a bicycle. The city is pretty flat with minimal hills which makes it easy to ride even on a bicycle without gears. Rentals are normally 150 pesos ($7.50) for a day and include a lock.
Having a car rental is a convenient way to explore fun things to do in Playa del Carmen. As I mentioned before, you can rent vehicles directly from the airport or rent them once you get to Playa del Carmen.
Located downtown there are chain rental locations such as hertz and thrifty as well as many local outlets renting all types of vehicles.
Playa del Carmen also had a fairly decent public transportation system that is called the local colectivo. The colectivo bus system is a fleet of large white vans that run throughout the city.
There is no set schedule for the buses as they are constantly running up and down the streets. The final destination of the colectivo will be printed on the windshield.
Get on the bus at a designated stop or flag one down just like you might flag down a taxi. There are no bus stops, you simply flag it down along the route and get off wherever you want.
When you arrive at your destination crossroad, simply let the driver know you would like to leave the bus and pay your fare.
Depending on your journey length colectivo rates cost anywhere from 7 – 50 pesos (30 cents-$2.50 USD).
Taxis are also always available downtown and are very easy to flag down. Short rides within the center normally cost 50 pesos. Rides to destinations further away will come with a higher fare. Always negotiate a rate with your driver before starting your journey.
Map of Unique Things to Do in Playa de Carmen
8 Unique Things to Do in Playa del Carmen
Now let us jump to the good stuff. These are eight unique things to do in Playa del Carmen.
1. Eat Dinner in a Cave
In the center of Playa del Carmen, you will find an incredibly unique restaurant called Alux. This dining experience should be on every traveler’s list of cool things to do in Playa del Carmen.
Alux is completely underground in a cave-style cenote. If you have never heard of cenotes before you absolutely need to check one out.
Cenotes are sinkholes of the earth and are unique to the Riviera Maya. To explore more about cenotes nearby take a look at this article.
The restaurant is named after the mythological forest creatures: the Alux, known for their mischievous behavior. They are also to be blamed when random objects disappear from their original spot.
When you arrive at the location of Alux, it doesn’t look like anything out of the ordinary. It is simply a large wooden gate with their name, Alux, as signage. Because the restaurant is right in the middle of the city it makes you wonder, “How can there possibly be a cave below me”?
As you walk through the front doors, lush vines and plants fill the entrance. Already the place is beginning to look magical. A hostess will point you in the direction of a large opening of a rock passage where you will make your way down into the cave.
Below another hostess will show you to your table and this is where you will begin to be amazed. Chic decor, chandeliers, and different colored lighting will captivate your eyes. Make sure to have a full camera battery as this place is incredibly picture-worthy.
The dinner options are fantastic and the service is impeccable. I always order the salmon dish which is flavorful and cooked to perfection.
Alux has a fantastic wine selection as well with bottles from around the world. Before ordering, ask your server if they will show you the wine cellar. This is a part of the cave you won’t want to miss.
In fact, make sure you take a full tour of the cave. Ask your server and they will be more than happy to lead you through the exploration of the cave and reveal all the mysteries of Alux to you.
Pricing is on the higher end, but still quite reasonable considering your environment. Dinner for two including cocktails might cost you around $100 USD. The dress code is casual and elegant, and for men it is necessary to wear a sleeved shirt.
I recommend making a reservation so you can dine at your desired time and seamlessly enjoy the beauty of this enchanting restaurant.
2. Sing the Night Away at a Karaoke Bar
For all you singers out there, the good, the bad, and the ugly, you will want to make your way to Club Social Karaoke Box.
I could be wrong but as of now, I believe this is the only karaoke bar in all of Playa del Carmen.
Located two blocks from the Walmart in the city center, Club Social is a great way to spend a night with your friends. It’s definitely one of the most unique things to do in Playa del Carmen.
Entry is free and the decor is straightforward. It is an open-air bar with wooden tables and chairs, trees, a few couches for lounging, and a separate room area for a private karaoke party.
Visuals here do not matter at all because the venue and atmosphere are so fun. The beginning of the night is always quiet but into the later evening and as the drinks start flowing the place becomes alive.
The karaoke system is very informal compared to the karaoke bars you might find in the USA or Canada, but that is also part of the fun.
There is a small stage at the front of the venue with a computer for you to make your own song selection. You don’t have to give it to a DJ and wait your turn (unless it’s really busy of course).
Simply find your karaoke song on youtube, grab the microphone, and hit play. A tv is hung in front of the stage so you can follow along with your words and make your performance.
Because there is no DJ there is no official lineup. When you are ready to sing, just head up to the computer and make your song selection. On busier nights you might have to decide with the other guests who gets to go next.
I love Club Social so much because of its informality. I have heard some incredibly talented singers here and also some of the opposite!
I always end up meeting new people and new friends because the atmosphere is so inviting. If you’re traveling solo or with some friends, this is a great place to head for a fun and very social night out. There is no judgment at Club Social, everyone can be a singer if they want to be.
A pizza restaurant inside the bar has food and there is a bar onsite serving up all your favorite drinks, cocktails, and beers. Don’t worry about a dress code because Club Social is extremely casual.
3. Paddle Board at Sunrise
Calling all you early risers! What better way to experience an incredible Playa del Carmen sunrise than out on the calm water of the Caribbean Sea?
In the early morning, the sun rises over the water and shines brilliant hues of oranges and pink. The water is also nice and calm as you would expect a lake to be.
Aloha Paddle club is your destination to partake in group paddle board sessions departing from their downtown location of Calle 6 and the beach.
If a sunrise session is too early for you, they also offer a morning session and a sunset session.
The sunrise paddle board session departs at 6:30 AM and costs $55 USD. The other 2 sessions cost $45 USD
At your scheduled meeting time your instructor will give you a quick briefing before you head out onto the water.
Don’t worry if you have never tried paddle boarding before. If it is your 1st time, a lesson before the tour is included in the price.
The clam glass-like waters in the early morning are the perfect conditions to learn the sport.
Your tour will last about 75- 90 minutes and will include the necessary equipment for the tour. Your guide will even snap some great photos for you to have as a memory.
Aloha Paddle boarding is great for all ages and levels depending on the water conditions of the day. It is also a fabulous way to meet like-minded people and experience the first sunlight of the day.
4. Wakeboard at the Mayan Water Complex
Feel the adrenaline and put your best wakeboard skills to practice at the Mayan Water Complex.
The Mayan water complex is an artificial waterpark located about 20 minutes north of Playa del Carmen. It consists of three lagoons designed for cable wakeboarding, flyboarding, aqua-racing, inflatables, and SUP.
Fresh water fills the channels with a 6-meter depth. The atmosphere is reminiscent of an old quarry with beautiful, clear water in the lagoons and trees that surround the property.
The main focus of the park is the cable pull wakeboard attraction. An incredibly thrilling and unique activity in Playa del Carmen.
In the lagoons, there are different obstacles and features put in place for different levels of wakeboarders. Beginner, intermediate, and advanced. You will also find a slalom course and jumping ramp.
Wakeboard tickets start at 1,200 pesos ($60 USD). Your wakeboard, boots, helmet, and life jacket will be included. Also included with the ticket, is access to the locker room, showers, use of palapas, and sun loungers.
Instructors will always be helping you with safety at the beginning and end of your ride. If you don’t know how to wakeboard, lessons are also available on-site and provided by knowledgeable instructors.
After your adventure on the water chill out in their restaurant overlooking the lake and feed your hunger with one of their many menu options.
5. Indulge in the True Flavors of Veracruz
I found out about El Hongo through a friend who had heard about it from another friend. Needless to say, they have great word of mouth!
El Hongo is tucked away in the neighborhood of Ejidal in Playa del Carmen, and I feel like not too many people know about it. To me, this quirky restaurant is one of the best-hidden gems in Playa del Carmen.
The restaurant is open-air with many lush trees and vines on the property. Plants and flowers are also featured around the tables of the restaurant creating quite a magical vibe. Art, installations, and fabrics fill the venue and there is even a small library in the back of the restaurant.
El Hongo is Spanish for ‘The Mushroom” and the feel of the restaurant is totally just that. When you walk into the entrance of the restaurant it almost feels like you have walked into a fairy tale scene from Alice in Wonderland.
The owners Pily and Goyo are both from Veracruz. Their menu is created from the style of cooking they learned from their grandmothers back in their home city Xalapa.
You can’t go wrong with any dish you order off of the menu. Each is loaded with flavor and prepared with love.
My personal favorite that keeps me coming back for more is their oriental pasta with added carne. I know it is not a Mexican dish, but the flavors are irresistible and you can’t beat the price. Just 150 pesos ($7.50 USD) for a large satisfying portion.
Also, be sure to order the limonmenta drink. Lemonade, mint, and ice blended together to create the perfect refreshing drink to compliment your meal.
The menu prices at El Hongo are incredibly reasonable. You can easily have a meal and drink for $10 USD. When it comes to traditional Mexican home cooking with fresh ingredients this is absolutely the place to check out.
7. Learn to Cook Mexican Cuisine
Entice your taste buds and learn new skills by attending a cooking class offered by CO.COS Cocina Cosmopolita.
Chef Coty and her team will guide you through a hands-on experience in learning to cook a tasty Mexican meal.
You will learn about traditional Mexican cooking methods and techniques. The chef will teach you how to make tortillas from scratch using a manual tortilla press. As well you will learn about many Mexican spices and the differences between all the chilies used in the recipes.
2 different classes are offered at her facility. A one-course Mexican meal and a three-course Mexican Meal. . The one-course class is 3 hours in duration and costs $85 USD per person, and the 3-course class is 5 hours in duration and costs $125 USD per person.
The best part is that you get to taste everything along the way and at the end of your class you get to gorge on the delicious meal you have just prepared.
During the class Chef Coty will also teach you about the difference between Mezcal and Tequila and she provides a tasting of each.
All the materials, recipes, and food is included in the cost. She even offers wine and beer to compliment your meal.
7. Indulge in Decadent Dessert at Logia Cafe
This class at Logia Cafe is such a cool thing to do in Playa del Carmen.
Make your own meal and learn new skills, all while making fantastic memories. What better way to experience true Mexican Culture in Playa del Carmen?
Come hungry and be prepared for an extreme treat.
I discovered Logia Cafe on Instagram and thought I must immediately check it out. Pictures of whimsical coffees and desserts cover their Instagram profile. They have interesting flavor combinations that look mouth-watering and irresistible.
This magical cafe is located in the center of Playa del Carmen with pink-painted walls and stylish decor.
When I arrived my server sat me at my table and explained the menu to me.
Logia Cafe specializes in elevated affogatos (espresso with ice cream), croffles (croissant dough pressed in a waffle iron), Bimbo bread sandwiches, and specialty mocktails.
Apart from the sandwiches, a lot of their menu items include ice cream. Waffles, coffee, and ice cream, oh my!
It took me about 20 minutes to go through the whole menu and decide on what to order. Due to my indecisive nature, I kept changing my mind about my decision because every item sounded so delicious. I would have ordered everything if I could have.
I finally decided on a croffle topped with red fruits, cream cheese, vanilla ice cream, red velvet brownie chucks, and caramel drizzle to finish it off.
The hot waffle slightly melted the ice cream and every bite was bursting with flavor. It was so good that I licked the plate, literally!
My friend who also ordered a specialty affogato said that it was to die for. Our Barista was happy to serve us and really helped us out with the menu.
Logia Cafe is a great place to enjoy with your friends, your family, on a date, or even solo! Be sure to check it off your list of unique things to do in Playa del Carmen.
8. Take A Shelter Dog for a Walk
One of the most rewarding and unique things to do in Playa del Carmen is to volunteer at a dog shelter.
Tons of dogs are rescued off of the streets around the Riviera Maya every day.
These poor pups come from all types of unfortunate situations. Some of the dogs are scared of humans and some are just searching for love.
In Playa del Carmen, there are a handful of shelters that rescue dogs with their main goal being the rehabilitation of the dogs and finding them forever homes. The shelters are run donation based and rely heavily on volunteers.
Commonly, the shelters are overwhelmed simply due to the number of rescues being brought in, but they always do their best to help out the dogs in need.
What I love about the population here in Playa del Carmen is that it has a great community of volunteers.
The different shelters have volunteer programs and are always searching for help, especially with walking the dogs. If you are feeling particularly charitable while you are in Playa del Carmen, you can even help take some of these pups to their forever homes in the US or
Sign up and spend some time with a furry friend giving them the love and attention that they need. You can go alone or with whomever you are traveling with. Any help is always appreciated.
What better way to give back to the community, spend some time in the beautiful outdoors, and experience this unique thing to do in Playa del Carmen?
Below is a list of local dog shelters in Playa del Carmen
Explore More Unique Things to Do in Playa del Carmen
There are so many wonderful things to experience in Playa del Carmen. Check out all of our articles in the city so you don’t miss out on anything while you’re exploring this amazing slice of Mexican paradise.
- Best Tacos in Playa
- Best Breakfast in Playa
- Best Beach Clubs in Playa
- Things to Do in Playa
- Best Bars in Playa
- Is Playa del Carmen Safe?
- Playa del Carmen Vs Cancun: Which to Choose?
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