Located smack dab between the modern luxuries flowing out of the Cancun Hotel Zone and the ancient coastal ruins of Tulum on the Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen’s juxtaposition between the contemporary and prehistoric is more than symbolic.
The picturesque resort town of 150,000 residents is an ideal spot to take in the natural beauty of the Riviera Maya while enjoying the luxurious comforts of resort life at its best.
While tourism mainstays like the world- renowned Quinta Avenida, Parque Fundadores, and ferry terminal to Cozumel attract thousands of daily visitors, there are lesser known but equally valuable treasures to be unearthed in Playa del Carmen.
Next time you take a day trip, or better yet spend a week or more enjoying the brilliant sands and beaches of this paradise, make sure to take time to explore these 5 Lesser Known But Equally Enticing Spots in Playa del Carmen.
Unwind in Playacar and Playacar Palace
If you’ve spent an afternoon walking up and down Quinta Avenida and been oversaturated with commercial pursuits, then the area near the southern end of town known as Playacar is a good place to wind down. The upscale residential and all-inclusive resort area has a number of features you can check out including an aviary, flora that reaches the sea, and a general lack of concrete that is refreshing.
Ideally, you’ll make reservations at Playacar Palace, the all-inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen that is perfectly situated between Playacar and Quinta Avenida, not to mention next door to the cruise ferry terminal which departs hourly for Cozumel.
The resort recently underwent an extensive $14 million remodeling that introduced contemporary furnishings to each of the Playacar’s 201 guestrooms as well as private terraces to existing walk-out suites.
One of the great things about Playa del Carmen is its proximity to some of the Yucatan Peninsula’s most amazing ruins. The world-famous pyramid at Chichen Itza and beachfront ruins of Tulum are popular day trips only a couple of hours away, but if you feel like seeing some amazing Mayan ruins without leaving town, you can enjoy Xaman-Ha within the city limits.
Located just a stone’s throw from Playacar Palace (but, please, don’t throw the stones, they are historical gems!), the temple of Xaman-Ha is unknown to most visitors. Though small in comparison to some of the region’s more well-known pre-historic marvels, Xaman-Ha is impressive in its own right with intricately stacked stones rising up in the middle of a beachfront jungle. It’s an amazing spot for photos–and look out for a variety of iguanas.
The Secret is Out on Rio Secreto
With thousands of cenotes found in the Yucatan Peninsula, exploration of these fresh-water filled limestone wells is an absolute must on any trip to the region. Still, finding one that is equal parts awe-inspiring and ecologically friendly can be a challenge. That is exactly what makes Rio Secreto the perfect destination to marvel at mother nature while treating her well at the same time.
A designated nature reserve just south of Playa del Carmen, Rio Secreto boasts over 1 km of crystalline waters that visitors can hike and swim through. The tour goes deep underground where stalactites and stalagmites dominate. Though guides are always present, and kids are welcome, visitors will need a sense of adventure as they navigate the cavernous waters. Rio Secreto tours are available from Playacar Palace and even Moon Palace Cancun.
Art in Three Dimensions
It’s easy enough to appreciate artistic beauty in all its forms in Playa del Carmen – including nature, fine art (Frida Kahlo, anyone!), and even performance art – but for something out of the box, literally, visit the 3D Museum of Wonders.
Optical illusions and whimsical wonderment are the order at the museum and you and onlookers never quite know if you are part of the art or just appreciating it. The museum hosts over 60 “pavement art” pieces where you actually step into author’s Kurt Wenner creations that, when viewed from the right angle, provide incredible visual scenarios.
Cavernous Culinary Fun
Not too long ago, Playa del Carmen was just a small fishing village. And while its international stature has exploded it has managed to preserve itself through an amazing array of gastronomical choices– rom top class seafood restaurants, to street tacos, to the Italian culinary artistry on display at Playacar Palace’s Bocelli. But if you are looking for a truly unique experience, it’s time to go underground to Alux Restaurant.
Don’t let its unassuming street address fool you, The Alux Restaurant and Lounge is all underground as it is spread out in a visual stunning cave. International cuisine is served alongside seafood, of course, with the unmistakable flavor of the Maya present in dishes and cocktails. But make no mistake, the star of the show is dining underground in caves with a cenote included. The cave formation has existed for an estimated 10,000 years, but if you want to experience it make sure you go at night, as it only opens for dinner.