When a destination is touristic, it is hard to get off the beaten path. Heading somewhere alternative is not about being cool or bragging that you’ve done something different. It is about stepping away from the obvious, doing something that relates to the essence of the place, and ultimately, enriches your travel experience.
Most people travel to Playa del Carmen to do nothing. Well, not exactly … but mostly relax at the beach, eat, drink, and wash the worries of daily routine away. As much as this seems like a seductive plan (and there is nothing wrong with it), the possibilities in this part of the Yucatan Peninsula go way beyond this.
Here are some suggestions of alternative things do to in Playa del Carmen, apart from spending time at the beach:
Going to Mexico and hanging out only with expats will make you feel like you are not abroad. Leave your inhibitions at home and try to make new friends! Parks are a good place for this. In Playa del Carmen, Parque Fundadores is a decent “in between” choice, as residents and visitors mix freely. With the influx of people around here, it’s no surprise street vendors concentrate in this area, too.
For a much more Mexican atmosphere, head towards Avenida Juarez. This area is always happening, and because it is not touristic, there are many local people and prices that reflect it. Looking for cheap street eats? This is your hood! And even if you’re not hungry, this is at least an ideal spot for people-watching.
Mingle with the Locals: do a Homestay!
If observing the Mexican way of life on the streets can be interesting, nothing will beat staying with a family in Playa de Carmen. There are different companies that can arrange a “homestay” for you, but the simplest way to go about it would be to book a room in a house through Airbnb. Make sure you read the descriptions and choose a local family, as there are many expats based around here, too.
You may not want to do this during your entire stay in town. If this is a vacation and you want to enjoy your own scene too, I’d recommend dividing your time. You can stay a few days at a Playa del Carmen hotel for relaxation, and a few more doing the home-stay, for the sake of the cultural experience.
Learn more about the Local Culture
There are many ways to learn more about the ancient and contemporary local culture while in Playa del Carmen. There are several Mayan historical sites fairly close, including Ek’Balam and Coba. You can visit these and other sites on your own to understand how the ancient Mayans used to live. However, if you want to take things a little further, then going with a local guide is a must.
There are many tour companies in town. Make sure you book yourself with one whose tours are operated by people who know best: the locals! They tend to be the most deserving of income that tourism may drive to their motherland. Furthermore, because of the sense of belonging, the locals are usually more caring with the environment, too. Companies like Alltournative Ecoarchaeological Expeditions or YucaTreks are popular options, as they combine visits to places of historical interest with adventure activities in nature.
Another fun and delicious way to learn more about the local culture is participating in a Mexican cooking class. Digging into the local cuisine is one of the best ways to get acquainted with a new culture. Not only this is a delicious way to keep you entertained, the skills you’ll take back home with you will allow you to recreate what this trip tasted like!
Combine some of these suggestions with the more obvious Caribbean infused beach vibes, and perfect your recipe for a meaningful Mexican trip!
This article is part of the #HipmunkCityLove series.
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