In a crazy way, by staying in Playa del Carmen you can do a looot of things. I will share with you what I did while there and some of the things I researched to bookmarked for my next trip
In Playa Itself
Understand how streets work :D
If you think of the beach, and draw parallel streets to it, then you have 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th etc and perpendicular to these you have numbers from 2 in 2 :) Now you know how to move around.
It's more of a square than a park, but there are a few things to consider here. So make the time to pass by.
Portal Maya Statue - âIt celebrates the Mayan calendar and the date of December 21st. 2012 (Source)
Papantla Dancers - watch this peculiar dancers do their thing. These performers go up on a pole from which four of the five participants launch themselves tied with ropes to descend to the ground. The fifth remains on top of the pole, dancing and playing a flute and drum. (Source)
Playa del Carmen Letters - I love taking pictures with the letters around the world :P ... and if you do the same, the ones of Playa can be found here.
Mayan dancers - Mayan Dance had a very profound meaning with the ancient Mayas, as it was considered as the bridge between this world and the underworld called Xibalba.In the ceremonial Mayan Dance kings and nobles dressed up like jaguars, birds or some abstract being , covering their faces with masks, imitating and venerating all living creatures of their surroundings, which are as connected to us humans, as we all are connected one to another. (Source)
Sunrise/Sunset - this is a great place for sunrise as the sun rises from the sea, but at sunset you can also get quite amazing colors in the sky
Quinta Avenida is a street topped with restaurants, bars and shops where you will find the biggest parts of the tourists walking around. For me it was very tiring to go around as all business tried to get you to come to their place.
The moment you pass the ferry terminal that goes to Cozumel, the beach of Playacar starts. Which is a looooooong beautiful stretch of white sand with gorgeous blue water.
Together with my sisters we walked a long way on this beach it was extremely relaxing.
This is clearly not for me, crowded & expensive, but you you fancy the glam, maybe you can try them out. We stayed for a drink at Koko Beach Club.
If you like streetart, there is a lot to choose from. I am adding here some of the murals I spotted. Just walk around.
Well the Palacio Municipal itself, is nothing special, but it looks nice with th ebig open space in front of it, and it seems that in the weekends they have a market with food, games for kids and also selling different products.
If you want to try one of the local Mexican desserts, the Marquesitas here were the best I had.
Taqueria El Chuleton: we loved the food and the people working there are super friendly.
If into Guacamole - best one I've tried, but be aware it's HUGE, so best if you can share it in 4 i would say.
Taqueria El Fogon: this is said to be one of the best places to try out Tacos in town. I can't particular say it was much different but seemed to have quite some tradition in preparing the food.
Food you need to try
Typically, corn tortillas cut in quarters and lightly fried are the basis of the dish. Green or red salsa is poured over the crisp tortilla triangles. The mixture is simmered until the tortilla starts softening. Pulled chicken is sometimes added to the mix. It is commonly garnished with crema, crumbled queso fresco, raw onion rings and avocado slices. Chilaquiles can be served with refried beans, eggs (scrambled or fried), beef and guacamole as side dish.
Lunch: Queso fundido
Is similar to fondue, only that they use a white cheese similar to mozarella. Oaxaca cheese (asadero) and Chihuahua cheese are popular.
Dinner: Tacos (al pastor)
Is a taco made with spit-grilled pork. Based on the lamb shawarma brought by Lebanese immigrants to Mexico al pastor features a flavor palate that combines traditional Middle Eastern spices with those indigenous to central Mexico. (Source)
Are a crispy crepe that are rolled up and traditionally filled with melted shredded cheese and a sweet filling of your choice (TIP - the ones in front of Palacio Municipal in Playa are the best I tried in the Yucatan Peninsula.
Drinks: Tequila, Tequila & did I mention Tequila? :) Well of course also Tequila Cocktails and then you should also try the Michelada (is a cerveza preparada aka: beer + lime juice, assorted sauces (often chile-based), spices, tomato juice, and chile peppers. It is served in a chilled, salt-rimmed glass.
Playa Esmeralda - did not get to see it
I read online that it is worth visiting so, of course if you have the time check it out.
Day Trips out of Playa
Chichen Itza - Ik Kil (cenote) - Coba
You can really visit a lot of places: Cozumel Island, Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Holbox, Ek' Balam, Akumal, Tulum, cenotes that are around. But of course there is only limited time.
Being one of the most important examples of the Mayan-Toltec civilization in Yucatan, the Pre-Hispanic City of Chichen-Itza is a Unesco Heritage Site since 1988. It the second-most visited of Mexico's archaeological sites.
In 2007, Chichen Itza's El Castillo was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World after a worldwide vote.
Ik Kil Cenote
Cenote Ik Kil is sacred to the Mayans and the Mayans used this cenote for both relaxation and ritual services.is the second-most visited of Mexico's archaeological sites. (Source)
One of Coba's main attractions is the Ancient Pyramid whichyou can still climb its 130 steps up to the top of the site. - I can only recommend going up, gives you a nice view
You can find all details of this trip in the separate post: Day Trip: Chichen Itza, Ik Kil and Coba