You only have three days to explore Mexico then you’ll want to make the most of it. Mexico is a big country and it has tons of beautiful beach towns to choose from. I choose to fly into Cancun, but stayed in Playa del Carmen to explore this coastal beauty!
I visited Mexico, post hurricane in 2017 and many people warned me of the dangers of gang wars, natural disasters and the dangerous night life, to discourage me from visiting this gorgeous country. Well, I kept that negativity aside and decided to book an all inclusive trip to Mexico to stay at Playa del Carmen. And I am so glad I did!
ARRIVAL & ACCOMMODATION
I flew from Canada via WestJet Vacations to Cancun, Mexico. WestJet Vacations offers you all inclusive deals that include airport transfers. Cancun to Playa del Carmen is about 1 hour by road.
Being an all-inclusive deal, I chose to stay at a centrally located Gran Porto Real Resort (update: now called Panama Jack Resorts Playa del Carmen), near 5th Avenue, Playa del Carmen.
DAY 1: TULUM, PARADISE BEACH & COBA RUINS
I am a history buff. So I designed my itinerary around Mayan architectural wonders, along with some downtime at the beach and in the resort.
A one day tour consisted of exploring Tulum, Paradise Beach and Coba Ruins. I booked through a local tour operator to take me and my husband to Tulum. This all-day tour cost around 115 USD per person and included a light breakfast, lunch at a local Mexican restaurant and sightseeing.
Welcome to Tulum, one of the most picturesque places that I have ever been to. Currently a resort town, Tulum is the youngest of the explored Mayan Ruins. The 13th-century, walled Mayan archaeological site at Tulum National Park overlooks the sea.
The Tulum complex is very large. There are many architectural ruins that you will pass by, before reaching the cliff-edge which gives you the breathtaking views of the Playa Paradiso. The Templo de las Pinturas, with a partially restored mural, is located in Tulum.
Playa Paradiso is gorgeous. There is a beautiful bar and restaurant located near the beach. You can also opt to snorkel here. (Additional charges apply)
An exciting part of this tour was experiencing a cenote for the first time. A cenote is a sinkhole. A steep stairwell led to this cenote called Cho-Ha. The inside of the cenote was dark, with one big flood-light for visibility. But it was beautiful – the water was turquoise blue and there were beautiful rock formations all over.
There are three other cenotes located nearby. Cho-Ha is one of them and it is very beautiful. The water here is connected to all the cenotes. The Mayan population consumes this water for their daily use.
LUNCH AT LA PIRAMIDE
After a dip in the cenote, it was time for some Mexican cuisine. We had a lunch pit stop at a local restaurant. Decorated with colorful frills and balloons, this restaurant served the best tacos and grilled spiced chicken I had ever tasted. La Piramide is a good place to stop for lunch before embarking on the Mayan journey.
Our first day ended with a climb to the Coba pyramid. Coba is the oldest discovered Mayan Ruin. The Cobá archaeological site has pyramid-shaped temples with views over the surrounding jungle.
Our tour guide mentioned that there could be thousands and thousands of such pyramids scattered all over the archaeological site. This site is huge and it’s advised to either bike or rent a tricycle. We rented a tricycle and boy it was fun!
Coba is the only pyramid where tourists are allowed to climb up to the top. This pyramid has 120 steep steps. It was a breeze climbing up, but coming down was quite a task. However, the views from the top were incredible – miles and miles of greenery! Come, see for yourself.
DAY 2: EXPLORING CHICHEN ITZA & TICKING OFF MY BUCKETLIST
Chichen Itza – one of the wonders of the modern world, and one of my major bucket list items. Of course, I was excited for this trip. We woke up pretty early to reach the meeting point for our Chichen Itza tour.
CHICHEN ITZA RUINS
Our guide inside the ruins, was a Mayan expert, and he was so engaging. I felt like I was in my history class – so interesting (I am a History major student). He offered over the historical and astronomical facts about ChichenItza.
You can only imagine how the ancient Mayans knew so much about the position of the stars, without the use of any metals. Very observant, the Mayans documented everything, except “how” they built these monumental structures. That makes this race one of a kind.
Amongst all great achievements, Mayans believed that there is nothing one can’t do. Once you set your heart to it, you will find a solution. And this resonated with me, as I ended my epic tour to ChichenItza.
The site is filled with souvenir stalls. But be sure to bargain for the best prices. I bought a small handkerchief embroidered by a Mayan lady (I didn’t have the heart to bargain with her, so much love and respect for the ancient Mayans).
Tip: The key to taking amazing, tourist free pictures at Chichen-Itza is to start early. When we reached the complex, we had lots of time on our hands to get some amazing shots.
DAY 3: ENJOYING AN ALL-INCLUSIVE RESORT
Now, when you decide to stay in an all inclusive resort, you are treated like royalty. We stayed at the Panama Jack Resorts Playa del Carmen. It is a 4 star, reasonably priced resort at 89 – 100 USD (per night, double occupancy, all inclusive), with tons of food and drink options to choose from.
One of my favorite things to do in the evenings was to stroll by the warm beach, with a frozen margarita in hand. It was a beautiful feeling to enjoy and be at peace, in a gorgeous paradise. This all-inclusive resort also invited us to a pool party. And it was so much fun. Music, dancing, pool and good Mexican food, what else!
SHOPPING AT 5TH AVENUE
There are a lot of things to buy on the main 5th Avenue shopping area in downtown Playa Del Carmen. Mexican silver (taxco, .925), blankets, vanilla extract, and handicrafts are some of the best things to buy in Mexico. Silver is cheap and is also one of the most sturdy and beautifully crafted things around.
We chose a resort very close to 5th avenue. A few steps from the Panama Jack Resort, and you are in the heart of the hip shopping and entertainment district. There are local shops, shopping mall and lots of restaurants in this area. You can book for tours from the operators on 5th Avenue as well.
It is safe to move out and about in this area. You will see police vans patrolling the area, but that’s mainly for public safety and as a precaution.
I saw a beautiful mural of Frida Kahlo in PDC. There is a restaurant named Frida Kahlo Restaurante, which is very chic and beautiful inside. I think the mural is Instagram worthy, what do you think?
WHAT TO KNOW FOR VISITING MEXICO
Mexico offers visitors from many countries a free entry visa of up to 6 months.
Be sure to check the Official Mexico Immigration Website for the latest information for your specific country.
The currency used in Mexico is the Peso (MXN). The current exchange rate is approximately 1 USD to 19 MXN. You can check the latest EUR exchange rate on Google.
While traveling, our number one tip is to use a free Charles Schwab Debit Card which gives unlimited worldwide ATM Fee Refunds and the true exchange rate.
BEST TOURS IN PLAYA DEL CARMEN
Some of the best tours and things to do in Playa Del Carmen are:
- Playa del Carmen 3-Hour Dune Buggy Tour and Cenote Swim
- Holbox Island Tour
- Chichén Itzá All-Inclusive with Hubiku Cenote & Valladolid
WHERE TO STAY IN PLAYA DEL CARMEN
We recommend booking your hotels on Booking.com to get the best rate and many hotels offer free cancellation in case your plans change.
Some of our favorite hotels in Playa Del Carmen are:
- Andaz Mayakoba: All inclusive luxury hotel with 4 on site restaurants and private beach access.
- Blue Diamond Luxury Boutique: Adults only hotel with all inclusive option and overwater bungalows.
- Panama Jack Resorts Playa del Carmen: Family friendly hotel with all inclusive option and several pools.
AirBnB is also a great option in Playa Del Carmen (and you can save $44 using that link to sign up!).
BEST TIME TO VISIT PLAYA DEL CARMEN
The best time to visit Playa del Carmen is April and May when the weather is mostly warm and dry. Rain can start in June, and be sure to avoid the crazy crowds during Easter Week.
BEST BOOKS ABOUT MEXICO
Read more about Mexico before you go! Some of the best books about Mexico are:
WHAT POWER ADAPTERS DO YOU NEED
Mexico uses standard Type A or Type B adapters commonly used in the US. If traveling from another country, you should bring a set of adapters.
You can buy a universal adapter that will work in any country and has extra ports for USB cables to charge your phone and other devices.
We also always travel with a portable battery pack which is great to keep your phone charged on long journies.
TRANSPORTATION IN MEXICO
- Public Transportation: Mexico has decent public transportation, primarily by bus. If traveling by bus, it is worth the extra money to book the “luxury” class to be more comfortable.
- Rental Cars: If you want flexibility, we recommend renting a car at the airport. Parking is easy and this will give you the flexibility to explore on your own.
- Uber: Uber is not available in Playa Del Carmen. You can use standard metered taxis to get around.
Our top recommended travel insurance companies for Mexico are:
- World Nomads: Comprehensive coverage for medical, travel delays, and electronics.
- SafetyWing: Cheaper monthly coverage primarily for medical, starting at $37 for 4 weeks of coverage.
MORE ARTICLES ABOUT MEXICO
Have you ever been to Playa del Carmen? We’d love to hear your stories, tips or questions in the comment section below!
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We Are Travel Girls Contributor Mayuri Kashyap of ToSomePlaceNew.com
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I am so glad you posted about Playa del Carmen, My mom, friends and I went there for our birthdays(30th and 50th b-day celebration). I asked a world traveler friend where he would recommend in the world to go that’s absolutely amazing. He said, “Playa del Carmen”, so we went. We stayed at Shangri-la, beautiful bungalows on the beach. We did the Mayan ruins, Tulum, Cozumel, and downtown. I still wear my souvenirs from Playa del Carmen. I think it’s equally beautiful to Hawaii but with such good food and history. The food was amazing at Shangri-la (I think it’s now called Mahekal Beach Resort). Check this place out!
We Are Travel Girls says
Thanks for reading, glad you enjoyed reading this article and enjoyed your own time in Playa Del Carmen! Becky, Editor – We Are Travel Girls
Holly Jenkins says
I just love Playa Del Carmen. We were there last September. It is my second best place on Earth. The people, the cuisine, the atmosphere… I love everything about it. And the Mayan ruins were amazing, especially Coba and Muyil. I also highly recommend going to Dos Ojos and Grand Cenote. My husband happened to know a man who runs a local diving company called Koox and they took us to both cenotes at a very low price. We would both like to thank Chucho for making this possible. We have some amazing gopro footage and videos from the cenotes. Next year we plan to go to Tulum and Cancun. Can’t wait.