Be sure to travel early in order to avoid long lines.
Playa (as the locals call it) is smaller than some of the other popular shoreline destinations, making it easy to walk the town. The main drag Quinta Avenida
is pedestrian only and filled with quaint boutiques, cafés and restaurants. Playa has all the Caribbean views, beaches and resort life that all the other tourist spots play host to, plus it is also ideally located to multiple ancient Mayan historical sites that make for excellent day trips.
Start by strolling around town, where you can see various rubbles of the Mayan civilization scattered about Playa. One can be found on Quinta Avenida, between Calles 12 and 14, but this is just an amuse bouche for what’s to come. From there, visit Tulum
. Only an hour from Playa, the coastal ruins of Tulum have about 60 well-preserved buildings and make for a great day at the beach as well as an adventure.
Down the road from Tulum is the antiquated trading post Muyil
. Here, visitors are able to tour at leisure and it is a much quieter environment to explore due to less tourist traffic.
Travel a litter further south and you’ll find the grand Mayan site of Cobá
, a little less than two hours from Playa. The structures here have mostly been left untouched, making it possible to see where the jungle has started to reclaim the buildings. When you notice the bike rentals upon entering, take them up on the offer as the hike to the pyramid is a little lengthy and you’ll want to save your energy for exploring the structures.
If you are willing to spend a little more time on transportation, make a full day trip to Chichen Itza
, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Chichen Itza is suspected to have been the capital of the ancient Mayan empire. The name means “at the mouth of the well”, due to the vital function it served of supplying water to the city.
Whether you rent a car or go with a tour group, the Mayan ruins are not to be missed. This piece of history is an extraordinary look back into an ancient civilization and can be easily accessed from Playa del Carmen. If you’re looking for suggestions, ask any of the friendly hotel concierge. While you visit, make sure to take a look around these towns and try some of the local cuisine for a different kind of Mexican vacation.