Playa del Carmen, in the Yucatan Peninsula, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico. With incredible beaches, a number of budget friendly accommodation options and fabulous hotels and resorts, cafés, bars and restaurants galore and plenty of shopping opportunities, it’s easy to see why international travelers enjoy spending time there.
If you have a few days available, you definitely should not miss on the opportunity of going on a few day trips from Playa del Carmen. There are a number of places you can easily visit – independently if you have your own car, or even by bus, or on guided tours. From nearby beaches to Mayan ruins and easy to reach islands, there is something for everyone!
Curious to discover the best day trips from Playa del Carmen? Continue reading!
13 Great Day Trips From Playa del Carmen
Tulum Ruins – one of the best day trips from Playa del Carmen
At easy driving distance from Playa del Carmen, Tulum ruins are simply stunning. Once known as Zama (City of Dawn) because of its orientation, Tulum was actually the port city of Coba, which had a more important role in the Mayan world. What’s special about this site is its location right on the shores of the Caribbean. Some of the most famous buildings – ie the watchtower – are directly facing the sea.
Once you are done visiting, you can walk down to the lovely small beach below the site; so make sure to bring your swimsuit and a towel.
HOW TO GET TO TULUM RUINS FROM PLAYA DEL CARMEN: Should you not have a car, you can easily get from Playa del Carmen to Tulum by colectivo, or even by ADO bus. There are regular daily departures.
For a guided tour of Tulum, click here.
Make sure to read my complete guide to visiting Tulum ruins here.
Laguna Kaan Luum
A short distance south of Tulum, Laguna Kaan Luum is so beautiful that it’s actually shocking it doesn’t get more visitors. This lake (complete with a cenote at its center) has the most magnificent turquoise waters that are nice and shallow, perfect for a family day trip (the cenote is actually quite deep and not open for swimming). As it is a protected area, you are advised to only wear environmentally friendly sunblock.
HOW TO GET TO LAGUNA KAAN LUUM FROM PLAYA DEL CARMEN: Laguna Kaan Luum is 5 kilometers (just over 3 miles) south of Tulum, off Highway 307. You can get there by car, or hop on one of the many ADO buses to Tulum and then get a taxi.
Coba Mayan ruins
For one of the most interesting day trips from Playa del Carmen, head to Coba. This is the only site in Yucatan where you can still climb the pyramids. The view once you get to the top are incredible! The site has residential complexes, ball courts, temples and one of the best system of sabeob – raised paved roads built by the Mayans.
This is one of the largest sites in the Yucatan Peninsula, completely immersed in the thick jungle. As it is very wide, you can expect lots of walking – make sure to wear comfortable shoes for that (flip flops won’t do!). You can also rent a bike or hop on a bici-taxi once there.
HOW TO GET TO COBA FROM PLAYA DEL CARMEN: Coba is 110 km (68 miles) and around 1.5 hours drive from Playa del Carmen. If you don’t have a car, you have the option of taking a bus to Tulum and then either another ADO bus or a colectivo or taxi from there.
For a tour that goes to Coba and the cenotes, click here.
Make sure to read my post A Complete Guide To Visiting Coba.
Chichen Itza – the most popular day trip from Playa del Carmen
The most famous Mayan site in Mexico, Chichen Itza is a World Wonder and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s an incredibly well preserved site that will give you great insights on the culture and the religion and rituals of ancient Mayans. And if you haven’t visited already during your trip to Mexico, you will be happy to know it’s actually one of the best day trips from Playa del Carmen.
The most iconic building on the site is the Temple of Kukulcan – the famous stepped pyramid, which however cannot be climbed. Other structures you should not miss are the ball court and the Thousand Columns group.
The site is quite large, so you may want to get a guide to make sense of it. You can get one on site – there are many available in several languages right by the ticket office.
HOW TO GET TO CHICHEN ITZA FROM PLAYA DEL CARMEN: Chichen Itza is 182 km (113 miles) from Playa del Carmen. The easiest way to get there is by car. If you don’t have one, you can use the ADO bus – there is just one per day so it’s best if you book it in advance.
Alternatively, you can join a full day guided tour that also goes to Valladolid and some nearby cenotes. For more information, click here.
For more information about Chichen Itza, read this post.
Valladolid is quite close to Chichen Itza, and another nice place to visit on day trips from Playa del Carmen. I never figured out why it doesn’t get more tourists, as it is honestly a real gem! The city is very colorful – think quaint colonial era streets, beautiful buildings, ample plazas and lots of nice restaurants and cafés (this is where I had the best margarita and the best guacamole I have ever had, honest!).
HOW TO GET TO VALLADOLID FROM PLAYA DEL CARMEN: Valladolid is 141 km (87.6 miles) from Playa del Carmen. There are many ADO buses that go there, but I think it’s better to go by car so that you can also visit Chichen Itza and one of the nearby cenotes on the same day.
Otherwise, you may want to join a guided tour such as this one.
Check out my post The Best Things To Do In Valladolid.
Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
South of Tulum and easy to reach also from Playa del Carmen, Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is the ideal place to visit if you love nature and are into bird watching. The reserve – whose name means Origin of the Sky – is massive: 1.3 million acres. You will spot mangroves, marshes, tropical forest and even bits of the barrier reef.
You can kayak around to enjoy the landscape. To make the most of it, you are actually better off joining a guided tour: the guide will help you spot the many species around.
For information on guided tours click here.
HOW TO GET TO SIAN KA’AN RESERVE FROM PLAYA DEL CARMEN: The best way to get from Playa del Carmen to Sian Ka’an Reserve is by car. If you don’t have one, you should consider joining a guided tour. There are several departing from Playa del Carmen every day.
This is one of the easiest day trips from Playa del Carmen – it just takes a ferry ride to get you to paradise! This small island is right off the coast of Playa. Once there, you can explore on your own – visit the beaches, go snorkeling, enjoy the delicious local food on offer – or join a guided tour
HOW TO GET TO COZUMEL FROM PLAYA DEL CARMEN: Regular ferries to Cozumel depart from Punta Venado harbor. It’s a 45 minutes ride.
To do Isla Mujeres complete justice, you should spend a night or two there. But if you don’t have that much time, you will be happy to know you can easily visit on a day trip from Playa del Carmen – in fact, that’s what I did the first time I visited.
The island is gorgeous – think sandy beaches, lesser known Mayan sites, wildlife sanctuaries, lots of shopping and restaurants and a very chilled vibe. You can explore on scooter or – even better – rent a golf cart as soon as you get there.
HOW TO GET TO ISLA MUJERES FROM PLAYA DEL CARMEN: To get to Isla Mujeres from Playa del Carmen you’ll need to either drive or take the ADO bus to Cancun tourist harbor. From there, it’s an easy ferry ride. The overall trip should take between 1.5 and 2 hours.
There are many cenotes near Playa del Carmen, and you can visit one – or several – on a day trip. These natural swimming holes – which the Mayan thought to be a connection to the underworld – are the perfect place to cool off that Mayan Riviera heat and spend a relaxing day, and they are a lot of fun to explore.
The most popular cenotes that you can easily reach from Playa del Carmen are Cenote Azul, Cenote Jardin del Eden, Cenote Dos Ojos, and Cenote Chaak Tun. If you don’t have a car, you can get there by colectivo or taxi for just a few dollars.
For a guided tour that follows the Ruta de Cenotes, click here.
For a diving experience in Cenotes Dos Ojos and other cenotes near Playa del Carmen, click here.
Check out my post The Best Cenotes Near Playa del Carmen.
Rio Lagartos and Las Coloradas
For a place of stunning beauty, head to Rio Lagartos and the nearby Las Coloradas. It’s roughly a three hours drive to get there – so a bit longer than it’d take you for other day trips. But it’s oh so worth it – just make sure to leave extra early.
Rio Lagartos is a fishing village and a biosphere reserve which is home to hundreds of pink flamingos. Las Coloradas is a pink lake – the color is due to the salt coming from nearby salt mines. They are both photographically intriguing.
HOW TO GET TO RIO LAGARTOS AND LAS COLORADAS FROM PLAYA DEL CARMEN: It’s around 235 km (146 miles) from Playa del Carmen to Rio Lagartos. Unless you join a guided tour such as this one, the only way to do it as a day trip is if you have your own car.
About 35 minutes drive south of Playa del Carmen, on the way to Tulum, Akumal is a beach famous for its incredibly white sand and for the coral reef that is home to a large population of see turtles – hence its name, which indeed means “Place of the Turtle.”
You don’t have to dive to see the turtles – all it takes is just snorkeling! However, to protect these beautiful animals you can no longer do it solo: you will have to join one of the guided tours departing from the beach regularly.
You can book your guided snorkeling expedition here.
HOW TO GET TO AKUMAL FROM PLAYA DEL CARMEN: There are regular colectivos connecting Playa del Carmen to Akumal beach.
This adventure park close to Playa del Carmen is quite the perfect place for a day trip, for all kinds of travelers – including families with children. Set in the thick jungle of Yucatan, there are caves, waterfalls, underground rivers and cenotes inside. If that’s not enough to keep you entertained, there is a set of seven ziplines; and you can drive amphibious vehicles.
HOW TO GET TO XPLOR FROM PLAYA DEL CARMEN: Xplor is just 15 minutes drive from Playa del Carmen, so if you don’t have a car you can conveniently get there by taxi.
For all-inclusive tickets to Xplor, click here.
Another fun place that is within easy distance from Playa del Carmen, Xcaret is a nice mixture between a theme park and a resort – the perfect place to spend a day if you have kids, as they will find plenty of things to keep entertained. The only downside is that it can get quite crowded.
Please be aware that one of the attractions on site is swimming with dolphins. I wholeheartedly recommend you not to do it (read why here). Other than that, it’s a fund place to spend a day.
For all-inclusive tickets to Xcaret, click here.
HOW TO GET TO XCARET FROM PLAYA DEL CARMEN: If you don’t have a car, you can easily get to Xcaret by taxi – it’s a 15 minutes ride.