5 free things to do in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
By Karen Catchpole, Feb 2020
The Riviera Maya in Mexico has more than its share of top-dollar tours, attractions and activities. But budget travelers can have fun, too, with these five free things to do in Playa del Carmen, including discovering Mayan culture, contemporary art and the region's natural beauty.
1. Go on a walking tour
Every morning and afternoon, English-speaking guides from Estación Mexico lead free walking tours around Playa del Carmen, taking travelers to highlights such as the seaside Parque Fundadores, the Museo Frida Kahlo and the indoor-outdoor shopping center Calle Corazón. These walking tours will give you a sense of your surroundings and help you identify the sites and activities you won't want to miss while in Playa del Carmen.
See the lesser-known Xaman-Há temple ruins in Playa del Carmen.
2. Explore a Mayan site
Mexico is flush with world-famous Mayan archaeological sites. Most require a ticket to enter, but you can visit the Xaman-Há site for free. These Mayan ruins date back to the Postclassic period, which ended in the 1500s with the arrival of Spanish conquistadors, and they're nestled in the swanky Playacar development near Playa del Carmen (about 20 minutes south on foot and 10 minutes by taxi). There are three groups of excavated structures, including small pyramids, intricate decorative elements and even remnants of original color on some walls.
3. Watch a death-defying dance
La danza de los voladores (translated: the dance of the flyers) is an ancient Mesoamerican ritual where men dressed in traditional outfits climb a tall wooden pole, tie ropes around their legs, then spiral gracefully to the ground, headfirst, to the sounds of flutes and drums.
According to myth, the spellbinding dance was first performed to ask the gods to end a severe drought. Since 2009, it's been on UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list, and you can watch troupes perform the ritual several times a day in the city's Parque Fundadores.
Wade in the Caribbean, then take a dip in the freshwater cenote at Punta Esmeralda in Playa del Carmen.
4. Swim in seawater and freshwater
Mexico's coastline is a water lover's dream, with stunning white-sand beaches for lounging and crystal clear, spring-fed cenotes for freshwater swimming. The public beach just north of the Paradisus resorts in Playa del Carmen offers both. Here, you can swim in the Caribbean and enjoy a natural freshwater pool on the beach created by an underground spring. It's the best of both watery worlds, and it's free! Reach the beach via a 15-minute taxi ride from central Playa del Carmen.
5. Enjoy some street art
The lively pedestrian-only Quinta Avenida is one of the most popular spots in Playa del Carmen. The shops and restaurants on Quinta Avenida don't offer anything for free, but you can soak up the area's bohemian atmosphere and vibrant street art just by walking through it.
There are plenty of things to do (and spend money on) in Playa del Carmen. But even if you decide to keep your cash in reserve, you'll still get the chance to see and take part in some incredible cultural and natural experiences.
Ready to get your Mexican adventure started? Browse our Playa del Carmen packages today!