This Mexican coastal resort town has truly evolved into one of the country’s most sought-after vacation spots. With its palm-lined beaches and vibrant coral reefs, this destination exposes visitors to some of Mexico’s most beautiful features. Known throughout the world as Playa del Carmen, this tropical paradise continues to draw millions of visitors each year.
Where is Playa del Carmen you ask? Situated just 41 miles (65 kilometers) south of Cancun, Playa del Carmen is home to some of the world’s most stunning beaches and marine life. In close proximity to ancient Mayan ruins and world-renowned diving spots, photos of the Riviera Maya have been exploding across social media for the past decade. While living in the moment and taking in its captivating beauty through your own eyes is recommended – capturing its essence on film can be one of the greatest gifts as you look back and reminisce about your incredible journey.
To help you catch this destination’s beauty and depth in full, we have put together a list of Playa del Carmen’s 10 most Instagrammable locations. You won’t want to miss these – let the adventure begin!
Hidden, White Sand Beaches
Some of Playa del Carmen’s biggest draws are its white-sand beaches and turquoise blue waters. Nestled up on the Caribbean shores of the Yucatan Peninsula, this destination provides visitors with striking beach views, perfect for those looking to witness Mexico’s tropical beauty. While the main beach just off of the city’s downtown 5th Avenue is the most populated, the following additional locations are worth a visit – and a picture (or two).
1. Xpu Ha
Located just 20 minutes from Playa del Carmen, this hidden treasure is generally free of crowds, allowing its white sands to blend perfectly with the calm, crystal waters of its shore. With lush vegetation, a rocky northern cove, and a mystic Mayan cenote located in the nearby mangroves, this site is not only picture perfect, but a must see for all of those who wish to capture true, tropical charm.
2. Xaman Ha
With a public entrance next to Señor Frogs in Playa del Carmen, Xaman Ha provides visitors with a one-of-a-kind view of the Mexican Caribbean. This beach is well known for its astonishing beauty and relaxed environment. With ancient Mayan ruins nearby at Playacar, this site is not only breathtaking, but exposes guests to the vibrant history of its previous inhabitants.
Dive Into A Mystic Mayan Cenote
Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is home to over 6,000 cenotes – sinkholes formed by hundreds of thousands of years of erosion that resulted in an extensive underground river system and natural freshwater pools. The ancient Maya once believed these pools, or “wells”, to be sacred – using them for both human and material sacrifices. These once mystic wells are now home to a variety of thriving fauna and flora. With variations in cenote structure, each location exhibits its own, unique ºracteristics. There is, however, one site that you cannot miss.
3. Cenote Chaak Tun
Comprised of two separate caves, this cenote offers two distinct experiences in one. Witness a dark cavern, lit by artificial light that illuminates its stalactites, and a second that requires entry through a small, narrow space before exposing visitors to an enormous cavern with a hole in the middle of its ceiling. In its center sits an old tree known as “La Playa”, which sits directly below the ceiling’s opening, allowing the sunlight to hit it directly. Such a sight truly awakens one’s inner peace and wonder. Visitors to this location will not only have a unique experience, but unique photos that show it.
Under The Sea
It’s no longer a secret The Riviera Maya has just as much to discover under its waters as it does above them. Home to some of the best Caribbean islands and world-renowned snorkel and dive sites, a waterproof camera is a must when visiting this tropical paradise. Playa del Carmen is located near two underwater playgrounds that visitors must see during their stay.
Situated just 20 miles (33 kilometers) to the southeast is the famous island of Cozumel. Home to world-renowned dive sites, this Mexican destination offers those wishing to capture a glimpse of life below the surface a front row seat. With vivid coral reefs and vibrant marine life, photos taken here are sure to be a huge hit – that is, if you remember to take pictures. Its beauty is truly mesmerizing! Visitors often wonder about how to get to Cozumel. The simplest means of transportation is the ferry that leaves right form Playa del Carmen. Known as the Cozumel Ferry Pier, it’s not hard to miss!
5. MUSA Underwater Museum of Art
Lying just off the shores of Cancun, 40 miles (68 kilometers) north of Playa del Carmen, is the unique underwater art museum known as MUSA. Consisting of over 500 underwater structures, this site is known to be hauntingly beautiful. As an attempt to help restore the disappearing coral reefs, this museum was not only built for artists, but for the diverse marine life that populates the surrounding waters. Capturing its beauty may seem like a challenge, but it’s one that will result in truly impeccable snap shots.
These Streets Were Made for Walking
Yes, it’s true. Playa del Carmen has some of the most breathtaking beaches you will ever see. Understandably, you’ll want to spend a significant amount of time taking in the sun, dipping your feet in the water, and maybe even dive below to see what lies be beneath the water’s surface. That said the town itself has its own special touch – especially the main strip, known as Fifth Avenue.
6. Fifth Avenue
This 3 mile (5 kilometer) stretch of restaurants, shops, bars, and cafes, is the heart of Playa del Carmen. Located just blocks off its main beach, Fifth Avenue is the perfect spot to grab a morning coffee, eat a quick lunch, buy souvenirs, grab a drink – and at night – even dance! Photo takers will love capturing the different environments that this unique and picturesque avenue brings to life.
History Buff Paradise
On top of all its natural beauty, the Riviera Maya is full of history. Home to some of the oldest Mayan ruins in the region, a visit to these magnificent archaeological sites is a must. It will be hard to catch the monstrosity and beauty of these ancient structures, but it is well worth a shot. While the popular site of Chichen Itza has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s the smaller ruins of nearby Tulum that will truly take your breath away.
Situated 40 minutes south of Playa Del Carmen, this ancient Mayan port city is one of the most spectacular sights the Riviera Maya has to offer. Sitting up on a 40 foot (12 meter) cliff just off the coast, these white stone structures provide visitors with a one of a kind view. The medium-sized pyramids against the backdrop of turquoise, Caribbean water, makes for a stunning sight – both in person and captured on film. After exploring and taking in the view, visitors will have the opportunity to enjoy the warm sand beaches and calm waters that sit just below the sites foundation. Talk about a great deal! You don’t want to miss out on this experience – it is truly one of the best Mayan excursions.
High in the Sky
With a multitude of options for foodies and casual drinkers alike, Playa del Carmen is the prime spot for both satiating your pallet and thirst. After enjoying a meal of street tacos from a local street vendor, or dining in at the popular and upscale Las Hijas de la Tostada, visitors looking for well-prepared drinks accompanied by a marvelous view should visit Playa del Carmen’s very own Deck 5 Sky Bar.
8. Deck 5 Sky Bar
Blanketed by blue skies and sunshine, the hippest bar in Playa del Carmen is located on top of a five-story hotel known as Carmen. Deck 5 Sky Bar offers a laid-back and lux vibe by day, and a sultry, cosmopolitan vibe by night. Equipped with a lounge and infinity pool that overlooks the gorgeous Caribbean waters, this is the ideal spot to sip an ice-cold margarita or craft beer by the pool. As the waters of the infinity pool appears to flow into the ocean, visitors can kick back, relax, and enjoy the view.
Into the Wild
As visitors flock to the nearest beaches and archaeological sites, many forget to consider other hidden gems that this region has to offer: its parks. With some of the most striking views and natural wonders in the Riviera Maya, these parks are something that you won’t want to miss. With water, climbing, and hiking activities, these parks are a great option for those looking to escape the crowds. Two of the most impressive are those of Xcaret and Parque Fundadores.
Located 6 miles (12 kilometers) south of Playa del Carmen’s city center, this natural park offers its visitors a number of distinct environments. With a lagoon situated between the lush surrounding jungle and pristine beaches, and islets that are home to exotic birds and wildlife, this site is sure to leave you in awe. While the park’s natural pools and beaches invite visitors to kick back and relax, its wildlife and nature activities bring excitement and action to the area. Visitors will also witness important vestiges of one of the main ceremonial centers of Mayan culture, as well as caves and underground rivers. You won’t want to miss the panoramic beauty.
10. Parque Fundadores
Located near the Cozumel Ferry Pier in Playa del Carmen, this local park offers visitors a panoramic view that evokes the magic of local folklore. With a landscape that encapsulates a spectrum of colors and traditions, this is a must-see for anyone visiting the area. Equipped with immaculate beaches, playgrounds, sculptures, and traditional performances by the “Voladores de Papantla” (Papantla’s flyers) – a unique religious ceremony – this site is one for both relaxation and festivity.
There you have it – Playa del Carmen’s 10 most instagrammable locations! Now, it’s time to pack your bags, board the plane, and make your way to this truly amazing destination. Whether you come to relax or explore, Playa del Carmen has it all – Mayan ruins, impeccable beaches, breathtaking views, and delicious cuisine. Be sure to check out the Playa del Carmen catamaran tours as well – after all, there is no better view than one captured in the ocean itself. Here’s to a great trip. Bon voyage!