The Yucatán Peninsula is one of the most popular spots to visit in Mexico, especially Cancun, Tulum, and Isla Mujeres. Even with the popularity of the Mexican Caribbean Coast amongst many Americans, it personally had never been so high on my own travel list. I’m someone who opts for lesser visited destinations, so this hot spot didn’t fit into my usual travel style.

When it was decided that the 2024 Women’s Travel Fest was going to be held in Playa del Carmen and as a co-coordinator I would be present. I decided to take the opportunity to explore beyond the conference city and see more of the area. I spent about two weeks here, but have condensed it down to a 9 day itinerary around the Mexican Caribbean Coast. This list is by no means exhaustive as there were places I had wanted to visit, but I saw that I wouldn’t have had enough time to do so. 

In addition to where to visit and what to do in the Mexican Caribbean Coast, I’ve also written my Mexico Caribbean Tips where I’ve shared the things you should know before visiting this region. 

Now let’s get into it!

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Mexico Caribbean Coast Itinerary

Arriving to the Yucatán Peninsula

There are a few airports in the area, but the largest international one is the Cancun International Airport. Depending on where you may be flying from you could also land in Cozumel or Tulum.

Seeing as the conference was held in Playa del Carmen and I was flying from Portugal, I flew into Cancun and immediately took the ADO bus to Playa del Carmen. The ADO bus exists all over the region along with other bus companies making it easy to move around without a car.

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is a small, cute beach city that holds a lot of small-time charm. There is no separation between the beach area and the city as there is in Cancun or Tulum so everything is pretty walkable. 

brunette woman sitting in front of the Playa del Carmen sign on the beach on a sunny day

Where to Stay

The ADO bus leaves you on the farther south side of Quinta Avenida (a Main Street) very close to where you could grab the ferry to Cozumel. If you want to stay in this area, then I recommend the 3B Hostel. They have a mix of both dorms and private rooms with a pool on the rooftop and are very economical for a great spot. I stayed here for a night and it was very comfortable and convenient. 

If you want to be closer to more restaurants and the center of town then choosing a place here would be recommended. It really depends on what you want to see and do during your stay.

Playa del Carmen street art Mexico Caribe

Where to Eat

Choux Choux Cafe

This cafe is an airy, bohemian spot where you can get brunch, lunch,and lots of cafe options. I loved their almond croissants and lattes that I went a few times during my stay.

El Fogon

El Fogon is the place to go for tacos when you’re in Playa del Carmen. I went a couple of times and my favorite tacos were the Tacos al Pastor. This place is very affordable and there are three locations around town.

Quinta de Piedra

This spot on 5th Avenue is an affordable restaurant and very centrally located. It’s a great breakfast spot for chilaquiles which I recommend. If you get hot coffee then it’s never-ending.

Ictio Fish House

Definitely visit this spot if you love seafood! The crab taco was to die for so I ended up getting two of those. 

What to Do (Activities)

Sunrise paddle boarding
woman sitting on a SUP board during sunrise in the ocean - Playa del Carmen sunrise paddleboard Mexican Caribbean Coast

I’m glad that my first sunrise paddle board experience was in Playa del Carmen. You get there before the sun rises and get to see it while on the water. This experience was unlike any other. I definitely recommend it.

Book your sunrise paddle board here!

Ice bath 

Ice baths are great for your mental, physical, and emotional health. Although I didn’t get a chance to do this as I was coordinating a conference in town, it’s something I wish I had gotten a chance to try. I had friends who did it and they felt a lot better afterwards.

Book your ice bath here!

Food Walking Tour

Who doesn’t love food? This is a great way to get to know your surroundings and try some of the best food in Playa del Carmen. It’s about a 3 hour tour trying delicious meals.

Book your food walking tour here!


Xcaret is part of a larger adventure company. This one is close to Playa del Carmen and makes an easy day trip. 

Book your Xcaret trip here!


Cozumel is a small island off the coast of Playa del Carmen and an easy and fun day trip. You can take the ferry at the end of 5th Avenue. It’s a quick 45 minute ride and a must if you’ll be in the area for more than a couple days.

brunette sitting in front of a colored sign that says Isla Cozumel - Mexican Caribbean Coast

What to Do (Activities) 


Even if you’ll only be in Cozumel for a day or more, then snorkeling needs to be on your list. While buying tickets in Playa del Carmen or when getting off the ferry in Cozumel, you’ll be approached by people wanting to sell you a snorkeling tour/package. The selling point will be that you will visit 4 different spots (Colombia, El Cielito, Palancar and ?).

To avoid being asked and trying to find a tour on the spot, you can book one in advance here. 

I’ll be honest when I say it felt a bit rushed. There was a camera person on board using a GoPro so they would tell us to not bring our own phones/cameras to avoid them getting ruined. I think it was mainly to sell you the photos at the end. 

If you’re looking to get a protective underwater case, I suggest this one.

The places you go to are beautiful and the water is super clear. You’ll see lots of fish and if you’re lucky then also turtles and manta rays. The coral reef does look a bit bleak due to warming water temperatures and sunblock that gets into the water.

The company we used didn’t let us put on sunscreen once on the boat, so make sure you apply before getting there. I got badly burnt on my back, forehead, and nose due to this. I suggest using reef safe sunscreen so that the chemicals don’t block the coral reefs from getting the sun they need to live and survive.

Scuba Diving

If snorkeling isn’t enough adrenaline for you, then I suggest scuba diving. You’ll be able to get a lot closer to the wildlife and the coral. Your guide will take you to the best places to see as much as you can during your dives. 

Mayan ruins

In the Northern and Eastern part of the island there are lots of Mayan ruins that get overlooked due to the popularity of Chichen Itzá. I also did not make it to these ruins due to not having enough time. I’d recommend either doing a tour or renting a car to get around the island easily. There are also buses, but you’ll have to be wary of times to get there and back. 

Watch planes land

About a 20 minute walk north of the ferry drop off point is the airport. Although the planes don’t pass over the beach as low as they do in St Maarten in the Caribbean, they do fly low. If you’re in Playa Casitas right across the street you’ll be able to see many planes land.


If you’re only going for the day then I recommend staying to see the sun set. You can watch it from Playa Casitas or anywhere on the west side of the island. It’s a beautiful view and definitely worth staying to watch.


On the street where the ferry drops you, Avenida Rafael E. Melgar, there are lots of stores to get some shopping done. On the streets surrounding Benito Juarez Park you’ll find stores and tour operators. 


Tulum is known for its earthy, relaxed vibes. Imagine palm trees and beige colored walls. That’s what I imagine and also a lot of what I saw. I’ll be honest in saying that Tulum was probably my least favorite on the trip. It is very pricey and a lot bigger than Playa del Carmen so getting around takes a lot longer. 

sign saying Tulum out of rock in front of trees and a blue sky - Mexican Caribbean Coast

Where to Stay

There are two Tulums: Tulum beach and Tulum town. They each have their own vibe and they’re not far from each other that you could go from one to the other daily if you would like. Look at all the possible options where to stay here.

Beach side

Tulum beach is pricey overall so definitely expect the same when it comes to accommodation. The hotels on the beach side have direct access to the beach. If you stay at a hotel not located on the beach, then you’ll have to pay for a beach club to access the beach. Unfortunately, most of the beaches in Tulum are privately owned due to hotels so they aren’t as openly accessible to all.

Town side

Tulum town is where you’ll find more hostels and it’s also a lot more economical compared to the beach. Here you can also find more Airbnbs as well as less costly hotels.

Tulum Aesthetic Mexican Caribbean Coast
Tulum Aesthetic

What to Eat

El Honorio

This spot is located in Tulum town and I highly recommend it. They have so many taco options that I’d gladly go back and try different ones every time. There’s more than just tacos, but those are the go to here. They only accept cash so make sure to have some. It is pretty economical as it is a local spot so don’t expect to spend so much. They do only accept cash so make sure to have some on hand or to run to the ATM.

brunette holding a plate with three different tacos - Mexican Caribbean Coast
Cafe K’anaab 

This is a great breakfast/lunch spot. Located a bit east it makes a great stop either after visiting the Tulum ruins or on your way to some cenotes located a bit north of the city. There is a variety of Mexican dishes and international ones. 

Cafe Kanaab Breakfast Tulum Mexican Caribbean Coast
La Negra Tomasa 

This place makes amazing tacos! It was my last meal in Tulum before moving on and I would definitely go again. Prices are very reasonable although the service wasn’t the fastest. It was a bit busy when I went so that could be why. 

La Negra Tomasa tacos
Rossina Cafe Tulum Pueblo

This cute little spot on Main Street was a great spot to grab breakfast. They had lots of options and the food came out quickly but was very delicious. Each plate we got was great and the coffee was also very good.

Tulum Beach

Eating at any of the hotels along the beach will be pricey. I stopped at the Selina with some friends and we got some water and a pizza to share. Just the water was $14 USD. 🥲 

What to Do (Activities)

Tulum Ruins

The ruins are definitely a must when visiting Tulum. You can easily get here by riding your bike. It’s about a 20 minute ride in the direction of Playa del Carmen. With a bike you can get all the way up to the entrance of the ruins. If you go in a tour/car then you’ll have to walk a bit after the parking lot.

These ruins are unique as they are located right next to the water. You can see an amazing view of the clear blue water while enjoying some Mayan civilization history. 

In addition to an entrance fee, there’s also a federal tax. Entrance fee is $150 MXN ($9 USD) and must be paid in exact cash as they apparently run out of change. Federal tax is $60.35 MXN ($3.55 USD) and can be paid with a credit card.


There are lots of cenotes in and near Tulum. Due to time, I did not go to any cenotes here. Based on the reviews I read about ones nearby, I was a bit discouraged about going to these. The reviews I read mentioned E. Coli in the water which is not what you want to read before going to a place. Also, many of them were on the pricier end to what I thought that cenotes would be (about $25-35 USD). Reviews also mentioned that they are very crowded so it’s hard to relax. I decided I would go to cenotes in Valladolid and skip the ones in Tulum. If you are going to go to the ones in Tulum then go early so you can enjoy the whole day.

Rent bikes

Getting a bike is the best way to get around Tulum! If you rent a bike in town then it’ll be about $10 USD for 24 hours. I would definitely do this again when in the area. I don’t recommend getting a bike from Kelly Bike Rental downtown because their bikes don’t have reflectors, lights or a bell. If you’ll be riding late at night like I did then you’ll definitely want these things to stay safe.


As mentioned, the majority of the beaches in Tulum are privately owned through hotels or businesses on the water. you’ll have to find a beach club and pay either a fee or have a meal to be able to access the beach.

Instagram spots

There’s no shortage of Instagrammable spots in Tulum especially in the beach area but also in town. Some of the most famous are the large wooden statues that used to be at the entrance of a hotel. The line got so out of hand that they moved it and now charge an entry fee of $5 USD to a little artsy garden. The large piece is definitely the draw in, but there are other pieces to enjoy as well.

Tulum Instagram Spot - Mexico Caribbean Coast


Valladolid was one of the smallest and less touristy cities I visited on this trip. This actually made it one of the most enjoyable for me. There’s lots more to see and do than I had a chance to get during my stay but use my experience as a starting point!

Where to Stay

The town itself is pretty small so I’d suggest staying close to the center of town so near the zocalo to walk to everything nearby. If you’re on a budget then I suggest looking at hostels here, but if you want to be more comfortable then check out hotels here.

What to Eat

Burrito Amor is a great place to get some food. They have a variety of burritos and some other options but they’re all so good! This is a chain so they have a couple locations in Tulum as well. Definitely worth checking out.

What to Do (Activities)


Both in Valladolid and nearby there are lots of cenotes! These will be less costly and less crowded compared to the ones in Tulum. The hostel I stayed at offered a transportation tour to Chichen Itza and two cenotes in the outskirts of town. The cost was MXN $230 per person (USD $14). This was super economical so we went with it. Originally our plan had been to talk public transportation to Chichen Itza and then possibly some cenotes. Time wise it would have taken much longer although most likely at a lower cost.

We went to two different cenotes: Cenote Secreto (MXN $250 = USD $14.65 and Cenote Muuk Carant (MXN $150 = USD $8.75). The Cenote Secreto is a drive from Valladolid and so it wasn’t very crowded or busy. After a couple hours, my friends and I were the only ones left in the cenote.

brunette standing in a cenote in Mexico that has blueish green water and an opening above with trees and the sky - Mexican Caribbean Coast

Valladolid has its own cenote in town called Cenote Zaci which costs MXN $60 per person and can be very crowded as it’s in the center of the city. We were there on a Sunday and tried to see if we could go in, the wait would have been about 2 hours. We decided to skip it.

Chichen Itza
brunette in front of the Chichen Itza pyramids in Mexico on a clear sunny day - Mexican Caribbean Coast

Chichen Itza is a must when visiting this region of Mexico. It’s a wonder of the world and well worth some of your time. A couple things to note about going here and your experience.

It’s easily accessible from Valladolid and that is the closest largest city. You can get to the pyramids via public transportation, private shuttle or a tour.

Going early means long lines. I thought that the earlier we got there the better because people wouldn’t arrive so early. I was wrong. The lines were still super long and it felt a bit like chaos. There were two lines depending on if you were paying cash or card and if you had a guide who could assist. I didn’t find out until later that going later means shorter lines. It was also pretty hot during the early afternoon so take water and a hat as the area around the pyramids doesn’t have any shade. 

There are both federal and entrance fees to pay before entering. The actual entrance fee is MXN $548 per person followed and the federal taxes are MXN $90 so about USD $38.75. Unfortunately they don’t let you pay them both combined. So you need to pay the entrance first and then you get in a shorter line to pay the federal tax. 

Walk around town

This town really has its own vibe which you get to notice and experience as you walk around. The main plaza has traditional dancing which apparently happens every 3 days. It’s a nice event to witness if you happen to be there a day when it occurs. There’s also lots of little shops and restaurants to try out. Mexican food is absolutely delicious so eat as much as you can.

Isla Mujeres 

I’ve heard of Isla Mujeres many times before ever visiting. And wow. It’s definitely worth it! The water is so blue and even getting there is an experience with the ferry. If you’re staying in Cancun downtown then you’ll head to Puerto Juarez to take the Ultramar ferry. You can book online in case the machines are all occupied and you’re running late. 

What to Do (Activities)

Rent golf cart

I highly recommend renting a golf cart whether it’s just for a day or the duration of your stay. It’s the easiest way to get around and it’s a lot of fun. As soon as you arrive on the ferry you’ll be bombarded by vendors selling you tours, golf carts, etc! It can be overwhelming, I know we were.

If you walk on the street outside of the ferry stop you’ll see places selling golf carts, but they were a bit pricey. Walk down a few blocks on the left and go towards Go Mar II to find the best price we could. We were taken there by a guide who of course gets a commission so it was more than what you’ll pay if you follow my tips. From 9am to 6pm you can rent a golf cart here for the day for MXN $1,200 (USD $73). The renting times of all the places are 9am to 6pm so I suggest getting there early to get the most for your money.

Rainbow stairs

About halfway on the island are there colorful stairs called the Rainbow Stairs. Apparently they get re-painted often to keep them fresh and the pop of color is nice to enjoy and take some photos. 

Punta Sur

At the bottom of the island is Punta Sur. It’s a little look-out point with art installations. Walking along you can see and take photos with the Punta Sur sign and buy souvenirs. There is an entrance fee  of USD $6 to go all the way to the tip and to see the art. 


On the Northern side of the island are beaches where you can sit, lay and relax. It’s also a great place to enjoy the sunset! There’s restaurants along the beach if you’d like to order drinks or food. Definitely a nice way to enjoy the beach.

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I had such a lovely experience during my time in the Mexican Caribbean Coast and I know that I’d love to continue exploring if I have another opportunity to do so. 

Keep in mind that I tend to work while I travel so I would have done much more had I not been as preoccupied with work on some of the days. Had I had more time then I would have added Merida and Holbox to the itinerary. I hope to visit them in the future to expand on this existing Mexican Caribbean Coast itinerary!

Which of these places would you be most excited about visiting?

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Viaja more y live más,

Latina Traveler

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