Playa del Carmen is a great city for walking, with many options for transport and sight-seeing. It is also the perfect base for a variety of day trips to cenotes, ruins and deserted beaches, so renting a car in Playa del Carmen is a great way to explore the surrounding Riviera Maya.
There are a multitude of car rental companies around town, and the process for renting is very straightforward. Prices generally range from about $50 for a compact car to $100 for an SUV, including full insurance. This is important to have, as it’s always better to be safe than sorry when embarking on a self-drive tour.
Are the roads safe in Mexico?
Some people who have never traveled to this region of Mexico may be concerned about the roads, but after driving around Playa del Carmen and beyond to the surrounding Riviera Maya countless times, I can assure you that they are in very good condition.
Some of the local streets around town may suffer minor disrepair after it rains, but the highways are very well sealed and well signed.
Watch out for the topes!
One of the main differences I have noticed about the roads in Mexico is the prevalence of speed bumps, or ‘topes’. As a safety precaution and speed deterrent they perform a very important role, but keep an eye out for signs marked ‘Tope’ or you will be in for quite a shock when you suddenly find yourself at one!
Why rent a car when you can take a tour?
This really comes down to personal preference, and what your individual vacation style is. Some people prefer to have the concierge organize all their transport and tours, and this is a very convenient option. Some of us, however, prefer a little more adventure and freedom on our travels, and renting a car offers the freedom to create your own schedule and be your own tour guide.
Many people prefer having the freedom to go wherever, whenever they want without relying on someone else’s pre-determined schedule. Also, renting a car for a family or a small group can be very economical, both time and money wise.
Where should I go?
There are so many options for day trips from Playa del Carmen. Drive to a local cenote, explore ancient ruins, deserted beaches or visit a colonial town.
Turtles and Cenote - Head south to Akumal bay (about 40 mins) and snorkel with giant sea turtles. Relax on white sand beaches and have lunch at a waterfront restaurant. Visit a cenote in the afternoon, such as Azul, Cristallino or ‘Jardin del Eden’ and take a refreshing dip in the cool, clear water of these natural sink holes.
Coba Ruins - About one and a half hours’ drive south-west from Playa del Carmen is the ancient city of Coba. Explore by bicycle or cycle taxi, climb an ancient pyramid, and then drive to one of three nearby cenotes to cool off from the heat of the day.
Yal ku lagoon - A unique and fascinating place to spend the day, snorkeling, swimming and relaxing, north of Akumal bay.
Day trip to Valledolid - About two hours’ drive from Playa del Carmen, Valledolid is a great town to visit for history buffs and cultural enthusiasts. Eat ice cream in the zocalo, visit the small museum and wander through cavernous cathedrals built hundreds of years ago. Stop off to marvel at the natural wonder of cenote Zaci, in a natural cave filled with fresh water and dripping with green vegetation.
Wherever you decide to visit with your rental car, you will be sure to discover the many fascinating sites of the Riviera Maya and beyond, with the freedom to explore them at your leisure. As long as you have a valid driver’s license and purchase the necessary insurance, you can be assured a unique and adventure filled vacation. Happy driving!