Playa del Carmen on a Budget: Best free and cheap things to do


The Best Cheap and Free Things to Do in Playa del Carmen

You want to enjoy Playa del Carmen on a budget?

The Riviera Maya is a beautiful region, but it can also be pricey, especially in Cancun and Playa del Carmen. But don’t worry, you can still have a great time in Playa del Carmen without breaking the bank if you know some tricks.

In this guide, I’ll share with you all the free activities and places to visit without spending money.

I’ll also give you my tips and advice on how to save money in Playa del Carmen: transportation, restaurants and the best cheap hotels.

So, are you ready to discover what to see and do in Playa del Carmen on a budget?

All the free activities in Playa del Carmen

1. Marvel at the Voladores

Fundadores Park is not only the main square of Playa del Carmen, where you can see the famous Mayan Portal statue, but also a place where you can enjoy various cultural events.

One of them is the free show of the Voladores de Papantla, a UNESCO Intangible Heritage. It’s more than a dance, it’s a pre-Hispanic ritual ceremony where participants climb a 99ft pole and then jump off, spinning in the air with their feet tied with a rope.

It’s one of the most amazing dances in Mexico!

  • You can watch the show every day from 1pm until sunset. Tips are welcome.
voladores papantla playa del carmen
voladores papantla playa del carmen

2. Watch the Fire Dance

Another free attraction at Los Fundadores Park is the Aztec fire dance show.

You might think it’s a Mayan dance since we’re in the land of the Maya, but it’s not!

I had the chance to watch the indigenous music group Tlahuiztlampa (they might change sometimes), who wore costumes and makeup to dance to the rhythm of music that sounded almost mystical.

It’s a really amazing show to see in Playa del Carmen, especially at night.

danza del fuego playa del carmen
danza del fuego playa del carmen
Aztec dancers in Fundadores Park

3. Strolling on Fifth Avenue

Quinta Avenida is one of the tourist attractions in Playa del Carmen that you have to visit.

It’s the main street with 22 blocks of restaurants, bars, cafes, shops and more.

It’s great for walking because it’s pedestrian-only and there’s a lot of entertainment (mariachis, impersonators, human statues, etc.).

You can also find some nice spots to take photos on Quinta Avenida, such as:

  • A bench with a bronze sculpture of a Mexican revolutionary (corner of 14th and 38th streets).
  • A large Olmec head (corner of 5th and Constituyentes)
  • A bench with a catrina and the sign “waiting for the perfect man” (between Juarez Avenue and 1st Street South)
Quinta Avenida in Playa del Carmen

4. Admire the street art

There are many beautiful and colorful murals that you can discover without spending a single peso in Playa del Carmen.

So you don’t have to wander around, here are the locations of the most beautiful facades in downtown:

  • Corner of Avenida Juarez and Quinta Avenida
  • Corner of Avenida Juarez and Avenida 40
  • Corner of Calle 2 and Avenida 1
  • Corner of Calle 2 and Avenida 40
  • Calle 2 between Avenida 5 and 10
  • 80th Street between 5th and 10th Avenue
  • 28th Street, between 40th and 45th Avenues
  • 4 bis Street, between 25th and 30th Avenues
  • 26th Street, between 25th and 30th Avenues
  • Corner of Avenida 15 and Calle 8
  • Calle 8 next to the Palacio Municipal
  • Corner of Calle 8 and Quinta Avenida (the most photographed mural in Playa del Carmen!)
  • Corner of Calle 34 and Quinta Avenida
  • Corner of 78th Street and Fifth Avenue
  • Corner of Calle 64 and Carretera Federal
  • 16th Street between 15th and 20th Avenue
  • Fifth Avenue, between Calle 50 and 52
  • Avenue 1, between Constituyentes and 16th Street
Urban art in Playa del Carmen
street art playa del carmen
street art playa del carmen South Fifth Avenue, between 50th and 52nd Streets

5. Taste tequila

I always enjoy trying the free samples when I have a chance. Hacienda Tequila is not only a store, but also a small museum that shows how this famous Mexican drink is made.

If you’re friendly and interested in their product, they might let you taste some tequila for free. 😉

  •  You can find it on Quinta Avenida, near 14th Street (look for the yellow facade)
musee tequila playa del carmen
tequila museum playa del carmen

6. Enjoy the free beaches

Officially, Playa del Carmen’s beach is open and free for everyone to enjoy.

But sometimes, hotels and beach clubs take up too much space and leave little room for visitors who just want to relax on their towels without spending anything.

Don’t worry, there are some exceptions! These are the best free beaches in Playa del Carmen:

  • Fundadores Park beach: very lively, easy to access, soccer and volleyball fields.
  • Mamitas Beach: the most popular beach in Playa del Carmen.
  • Playa Playacar: beautiful and very peaceful because it’s in a residential area.
  • Punta Esmeralda: gorgeous natural beach, it’s better to go during the week when it’s less crowded.

Bring your own food and drinks, towels and umbrella, and you’ll save a lot of money!

My advice
I recommend you avoid the beach on Calle 10 because there are too many beach clubs and there is little space.

playa gratis playa del carmen
free beach playa del carmen

7. Cool off in a cenote

The Yucatán Peninsula has thousands of cenotes and some of them are Beautiful Cenotes in Playa del Carmen.

But did you know that there is also a free cenote?

Yes, you heard me right, here’s the scoop!

You have to go to Playa Esmeralda or Punta Esmeralda, which is a gorgeous public beach with crystal clear water, perfect for the whole family… and it also has a cenote.

Plus, the beach has earned the Blue Flag certification and is accessible for people with disabilities.

  • You can find Punta Esmeralda beach and cenote north of Playa del Carmen in Colonia Luis Donaldo Colosio.

My advice
Go in the morning during the week, because on weekends the place is packed with families who come to enjoy this little paradise for free.

playa punta esmeralda playa del carmen
Punta Esmeralda, my favorite beach in Playa del Carmen!

8. Explore the hidden Mayan ruins

There are many impressive Mayan archaeological sites that you can visit, such as Chichen Itza, Coba, Ek Balam or Tulum.

However, these sites are not cheap to enter (especially since the prices went up in 2020!) and you will need to plan your budget accordingly if you want to see them.

But if you are in Playa del Carmen on a tight budget, I have some great news for you: there are free ruins in Playacar.

Xaman-Há is an ancient Mayan settlement (13th-16th centuries) that means “water from the north” because it is by the sea. It is believed that it was one of the ports for sailing to the island of Cozumel, which was a sacred place for the Maya.

Today, you can see several structures (walls, temples, platforms) surrounded by tall trees.

This place is very quiet and peaceful, and it is completely free. You can also enjoy its fine sandy beach.

My advice
You can’t drive there because it’s private, but you can walk there and the guard will let you in. Just look for Playacar Palace and turn right.
ruinas Xaman Há
ruins Xaman Há
The beach next to Xaman-Ha, Playacar

9. Visit the local market

Going to the market or tianguis is a fun and free activity in Playa del Carmen that lets you experience the culture and local products, watch the people and chat with the sellers.

  • The difference between a market and a tianguis in Mexico is that the former is indoors and permanent, while the latter is outdoors and only on certain days of the week (usually on weekends).

You can find all kinds of things (fruits and vegetables, herbs, clothes, flowers, shoes, piñatas, etc.).

My advice
Go to the Sunday tianguis on Calle 54, between Avenida 10 and 30.

mercado playa del carmen
playa del carmen market

10. Take a free tour

Free Walking Tours are free guided tours that you can find in many places around the world.

In Mexico, I joined a few with Estacion Mexico which covers different destinations (Mexico City, Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretaro, etc.) and they were always interesting.

They also offer a free 2h Playa del Carmen tour that starts from the ADO station at 10am and 5pm. You can book in advance (recommended) or just show up at the meeting point.

My tip
They are tip based tours, so don’t forget to show your appreciation to the guide at the end of the tour with the amount you think is fair and you can afford. 
The free tour in Playa del Carmen with Estación México

11. Walking in nature

La Ceiba Park is a free, public, ecological park in Playa del Carmen, perfect for the whole family.

It is a beautiful oasis of peace and tranquility, just 15 minutes walk from Quinta Avenida, with trails, playgrounds and picnic areas.

  • It is open Tuesday to Saturday from 7 am to 8:30 pm, Sunday 7 am to 5:30 pm. The cafe is open from 9 am to 6 pm.
parque la ceiba playa del carmen
parque la ceiba playa del carmen

12. Biking

If you want to explore Playa del Carmen on a budget, the bike is definitely the best way to get around.

Many hotels and hostels offer free bicycles to their guests or have deals with nearby rental shops to give you good discounts.

If you don’t have this option, the average price for a day’s bike rental in Playa del Carmen is about $300 pesos.

alquilar bicicleta playa del carmen

13. See the hidden cenote

I was intrigued when the guide on my Playa del Carmen tour mentioned a hidden cenote behind a leather goods store, near Fifth Avenue, at the corner of 20th or 25th Street.

A hidden cenote? I had to find it!

I checked the map of Playa del Carmen for any clues, but nothing came up.

I searched the traveler’s forums for any hints, but still nothing.

So I hit the streets and asked around…nothing at all.

But, as I was walking around, I stumbled upon another hidden cenote. It’s on 38th Street, very close to Fifth Avenue. You can easily find it by typing “urban cenote” into Google Maps.

It’s next to a big tree, surrounded by a fence. You can see several cute turtles enjoying the cool shade.

The funny thing is that there’s another cenote right across the street, between the Amate 38 restaurant and the Kih boutique. You can stop by the store to see it.

I wonder if both cenotes are connected somehow, but it’s very likely!

A hidden cenote in Playa del Carmen

Where to stay in Playa del Carmen?

  • Che Playa Hostel & Bar Adults Only: great hostel to meet other travelers and party, with a rooftop terrace that has a bar and a small pool, with several offered activities. Clean, with good wifi and a great welcome. From only 13 $usd for the dormitory or 37 $usd for a private room!
  • Hotel Lunata: a charming hotel with hacienda style decoration, which is hidden on Quinta Avenida, very close to the beach. Quiet, with a garden, rooms with balcony, and has very friendly service. From only 82 $usd per night!
  • Porto Playa Condo Beach Club: here you will find a spacious apartment ideal for a family, with fully equipped kitchen, living room and terrace. The hotel has a large swimming pool, a gym and a restaurant, starting at 172 $usd per night!
  • The Reef Playacar Resort & Spa: located on the beautiful beach of Playacar, just a few minutes from Fifth Avenue. Ideal for a romantic stay, with a beautiful tropical garden, two pools, a gym and a spa. 200 $usd with the “all inclusive” formula.
  • Hotel Xcaret Mexico All Parks All Fun Inclusive: it is definitely the best hotel in Playa del Carmen! Ideal for couples and families with children as this luxury hotel offers an exceptional package including meals and access to its parks (Xcaret, Xplor, Xplor Fuego, Xenses, Xoximilco, Xel-Ha and Xenote). Starting at 860 $usd per night, all inclusive.

My tip
Check out my comprehensive guide to find the perfect hotel or resort for your stay. Here’s the link: Where to Stay in Playa del Carmen? 

My tips for saving money in Playa del Carmen

Besides all the free activities in Playa del Carmen, there are several tricks to save on a trip to Playa del Carmen.

Here I share them with you:

Book a good cheap hotel

The best way to save money on your trip is to stay at a place that includes breakfast or has a kitchen.

Here are some of the best budget hotels in Playa del Carmen, with AC and a good location:

  • Red Panda Hostal: well located hostel, close to the ADO terminal and Parque Fundadores, with small garden and pool, from only 13 usd for a bed in a shared dormitory!
  • Maui Hostel: hostel with good atmosphere, rooftop pool with nice views, access to the fully equipped kitchen, from only 17 usd for a shared dorm!
  • Playa Natural: well located hotel, centrally located but away from the chaos, very good value for money, good wifi. from only 32 usd per night!
  • One street away from Ado 5th avenue: apartment for 2, 4, 6 or 8 people with kitchen and balcony, very clean, very close to ADO station and 5th avenue, from only 33 usd per night!

My advice
Playa del Carmen is a very popular destination, so I suggest you book in advance to get the best deals before they run out! 

Use public transportation

Playa del Carmen has great connections by ADO buses and colectivos (10-person vans) that let you travel to different places in the Riviera Maya for a low price.

  • It is better to book your bus ticket online on the ADO website because the prices are lower than buying at the terminal
  • The advantage of the colectivo is that it is usually cheaper and you can stop anywhere along your route (if you tell the driver in advance), and not only at the final destination like the buses.
  • Now the colectivos to Cancun, Tulum or Valladolid (and other destinations) leave from the same spot: in front of the Chedraui near Avenida Benito Juarez, more exactly Calle 1 Sur x Avenida 45 Norte – They are parked according to their destination. Go left for Tulum and right for Cancun. You can also ask anyone for help.
The colectivo station in Playa del Carmen: on the right side are the vans going to Cancun
The colectivo station in Playa del Carmen: on the left are the ones going to Tulum

Rent a car at the best price

Although you can tour Mexico by bus like I did the first time, it’s much easier to do it by car!

Natural sites (e.g. cenotes, parks) and archaeological sites are often far from the road and sometimes you have to walk for miles to get to the entrance.

Renting a car is definitely the best way to explore Playa del Carmen and make the most of your stay!

To rent a car, personally, I always use, for a few reasons:

  • You can easily compare the rental cars prices between all the agencies: for sure the easiest way to find the best rate!
  • Cancellation is often offered free of charge: no need to worry if you change your mind
  • Rentalcars offers full insurance coverage at a lower price than the rental companies, so it’s an instant saving with no effort

Simply click on the green button to find your rental car at the best price:

Find a cheap flight to Playa del Carmen

A big part of your trip cost to Playa del Carmen will be the airfare.

So, it’s very important to compare flights if you want to save money.

To find a cheap flight ticket to Cancun, the nearest airport to Playa del Carmen, I recommend you use our flight comparator, in partnership with Skyscanner: it’s the best way to get the best price!

Traveling in low season

Playa del Carmen is a very popular destination in Mexico.

This means that it gets crowded in high season (beaches, cenotes, tours, hotels) and prices go up.

To be honest I didn’t like my first trip to Playa del Carmen: I went there for New Year’s and it was too crowded and pricey!

The high season in Playa del Carmen is from December to April and from July to mid-August.

The busiest times are Christmas, New Year’s and the famous Spring Break in March.

Generally, the best time to save on flights and hotels in Playa del Carmen is:

  • late January to February
  • late April to early June
  • October to early November

Bring your snorkel gear

An easy way to save money in the Riviera Maya is to buy your own mask and snorkel, so you don’t have to rent them in the cenotes and beaches of Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, etc.

Since each one costs at least 5$usd, if you spend 2 weeks in Mexico, your investment will quickly pay off.

In Playa del Carmen, you can check them out at Walmart (30 Avenida Norte) or Mega Soriana (Avenida Constituyentes).

snorkel méxico

Buy cheap souvenirs

Quinta Avenida has a lot of souvenir shops, but they all charge more or less the same prices (which I think are way too high!😨).

To save money, the best option is to go to Walmart: they have a lot of variety and it’s much cheaper than anywhere else.

  • Ps: I also checked Soriana to compare, but Walmart is still better.
Walmart: the cheapest place for souvenirs in Playa del Carmen

Eating on a budget

Usually, eating in Playa del Carmen is more expensive than in the rest of the country because it is one of the most popular destinations in Mexico.

But on the bright side, there are so many restaurants that you can also find some good deals.

Here are my tips for cheap and tasty food in Playa del Carmen:

  • First stay away from Quinta Avenida!
  • Look for the daily menus: you can find lunch specials that include a main course, a drink and a dessert for less than 100 pesos
  • Happy hours: many bars and restaurants offer 2 for 1 during “happy hour” between 4pm and 7pm. This is the time to enjoy it because the alcohol can be pricey.
  • Taco stand: tacos are always the best option to eat well and cheap (15$mxn each). You can easily find them on street corners, but avoid them if your stomach is not yet used to street food. 😉
  • El Fogón: a restaurant serving great and affordable Mexican food in a very local atmosphere, it gets busy fast! Avenida Constituyentes between 30th and 25th streets.

Check out My 19 Recommendations To Eat in Playa del Carmen!

Tacos are the best option for cheap and tasty food in Mexico

Do you have other tips to save money during your vacation in Playa del Carmen?

Book your trip now and save money!

You’re traveling in Mexico? These articles will help you!

Discover all my articles about Mexico: All my articles to help you plan your trip to Mexico are listed there.

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free things to do playa del carmen
free things to do playa del carmen

I have created this blog to give you all my best tips to plan your next trip to Mexico, regardless of your budget. I share detailed itineraries, advice about places to visit as well as recommendations for transportation, hotels and restaurants. I hope I will also help you to discover amazing off the beaten path destinations in Mexico!

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