5 ways to find beach bliss in Playa del Carmen

The beachside town of Playa del Carmen, in Mexico’s Riviera Maya region, is one of those spots you’ll visit once and never want to leave.

There’s plenty of great Playa del Carmen hotels, but there’s also heaps of activities. You’ll likely be spending a lot of your time basking on the beach. The brilliant turquoise waters, bright white shores and swaying palm trees of this Caribbean coastline offer a little slice of paradise, and the best part is there are so many different ways to soak up sun, sand and surf. Whether you’re an animal enthusiast, a thrill-seeker, or a parent in search of family-friendly things to do in the Riviera Maya, check out these beach activities to make your getaway totally unforgettable.

  1. Spend the day at Xcaret Park.

Pristine beaches, lush jungle trails, mysterious ancient ruins—they all come together at Xcaret, the Riviera Maya’s theme park, wildlife sanctuary and archaeological site all rolled into one. Immerse yourself in nature with an array of attractions for all ages, which include swimming with dolphins, a butterfly pavilion, tranquil lagoon, jaguar island, special play areas for kids and an underground river in a stalactite-filled cavern. Stay into the evening to catch Mexico Espectacular, a musical celebration of the nation’s history complete with elaborate costumes and dance.

  1. Discover Tulum.

Perched above the Caribbean Sea, Tulum was once a thriving port, and today it’s one of the best-preserved remnants of the Maya civilization. Head out for a half-day adventure with the guides at Cancun Adventures for a fascinating look at this abandoned city on the coast. After exploring its intriguing temples and pyramids, make your way down to what is considered one of Mexico’s most photogenic beaches. Surrounded by craggy cliffs with aquamarine waves lapping at the white-sand shores, you won’t be able to resist cooling off with a swim.

  1. Go snorkeling.

In a tropical retreat with glass-like waters and impressive ocean biodiversity, a dip to discover the teeming marine life under the surface is a must. Two Eyes Tour offers an excursion to check out one of the Riviera Maya’s best snorkeling spots renowned for its gentle currents and incredible visibility—the tranquil Yal-Kú Lagoon. As you dive alongside tropical fish, vibrant coral formations, and ambling sea turtles, prepare to be dazzled by this aquatic wonderland. Round out the day with even more snorkeling at two stunning natural cenotes, the sinkholes dotted all over the Yucatán Peninsula.

  1. Take a catamaran cruise.

The Riviera Maya is undeniably spectacular, and there’s no better way to survey its tropical splendor than a sailing expedition along the dramatic coastline. Step onto a luxury catamaran with the experts at Cancun Adventures and relish the warm Caribbean breeze on your face as you cruise the open seas. Your destination? The Great Maya Reef, which stretches from the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula all the way down to the Bay Islands of Honduras. After time for snorkeling and paddle boarding, relax over a gourmet lunch as you make your way back to the mainland.

  1. Lounge at Maroma Beach.

Frequently cited among Playa del Carmen’s best beaches, Maroma Beach is likely the postcard perfect spot that comes to mind when you picture the Riviera Maya. It’s a popular destination, but its expansive stretch of sand offers more than enough room to spread out your towel in peace and quiet, not to mention set up some beach games for the day. If you’re in the mood for adventure between sunbathing sessions, hop on a jet ski tour offered by Maroma Adventures and scope out the scenery as you race across the cerulean waters.

Where to stay

Playa del Carmen is a great place to center your experience on the Yucatan Peninsula. It’s just an hour’s drive south of the Cancun International Airport, and an easy spot to do all of the above activities. An array of exquisite accommodation await you, starting with these Expedia +VIP Access hotels, which are highly reviewed guest favorites:

Valentin Imperial Riviera Maya

You’ll want for nothing at Valentin Imperial Riviera Maya. Located north of Playa del Carmen, this secluded resort features a peaceful adults-only setting, complimentary in-suite technology, fine dining, and all-inclusive amenities. Soak up some Caribbean sunshine while lounging by the expansive outdoor pool or relax beneath the shade of a grass-topped pergola right on the beach. The hotel’s whitewashed and rustic exterior provides an elegant setting to your rejuvenating spa experience. Book a Spa Ritual, customized experiences to fit your needs, like reflexology or aromatherapy, and pamper yourself from head to toe. You’ll always be just a glance away from the crystal-blue coastline.

Excellence Riviera Cancun

Excellence Riviera Cancun exceeds travel expectations. The all-inclusive amenities offer meals in 10 on-site restaurants, unlimited soft drinks and alcoholic beverages, watersport gear use, and much more. This adults-only venue is located north of Playa del Carmen, surrounded by six outdoor pools and breathtaking views of the ocean. You’ll never be far from a relaxing swim, whether you’re indulging in the Cocoa Body Wrap at Miilé Spa or kayaking on the Caribbean. Perfect for romantic getaways and wedding festivities, Excellence Riviera Cancun makes it easy to enjoy a wedding, honeymoon, or anniversary that’s all about you and your partner, with romance packages and planning tools.

Grand Residences Riviera Cancun

Grand Residences Riviera Cancun is all about family-friendly luxury. Hidden away from the big city, this resort is located right on the beach in a lovely fishing village called Puerto Morelos, north of Playa del Carmen. You’ll find plenty to do in this waterfront region, though, including golfing, snorkeling, kayaking, and stunning sightseeing. Relax on plush furnishings or prepare a delicious snack in your in-suite kitchen or kitchenette, and soak in a hot tub after a grand adventure. This all-inclusive experience features 24-hour room service, gourmet meals in the restaurants, day trips and activities, and many more ways to explore the Riviera Maya.

With so many breathtaking locales and diverting activities to choose from in the Riviera Maya, it can be difficult to decide how you want to divvy up your vacation time. No doubt about it, though—envision your perfect beach day, and you can make it happen on this magical Caribbean coastline.

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Expedia Local Expert

Insider tips, locals-only insight, and tried-and-true travel expertise—Expedia Local Expert® is the ultimate reference for making sure that you get the most out of your trip. Whether you're nibbling croissants on the banks of the Seine, skipping the line for the must-ride roller coaster at a California theme park, or sailing between remote tropical islands in Fiji, Expedia Local Expert is your resource for booking any activity, anywhere. We can help you organize your trip in advance with online bookings, or get you situated in person once you're on the ground thanks to our concierge desks in major destinations such as Oahu, Orlando, and New York City. Our blog posts are designed to make sure you spend more time having fun, exploring, and living like a local and less time trying to figure out the logistics on the go. We share our pointers for maximizing your time and stretching your dollar, offering suggestions, ideas, and advice for attractions, activities, and itineraries. Pick up advice for planning your days, learn what to see and what to skip, and figure out how to navigate new places. Our writers are lovers of travel who know these destinations like the back of their hand and are eager to share their know-how with you. Read on, and travel better!

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