Renting a Car in Playa del Carmen

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.

Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza

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?

The road in Playa del Carmen

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.

Suggested itineraries:

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.

Valledolid

Valledolid

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!

Rental Car Playa del Carmen

Discovering the Yal-Ku Lagoon

Visiting Akumal has always been my favorite day-trip from Playa del Carmen. Whenever I meet a new visitor to Playa it is THE place I recommend they visit. The beach is pristine and the crystal clear water is filled with sea turtles who feed in the bay. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who hasn’t enjoyed snorkeling with those majestic creatures.

Just last week I discovered yet another treasure of Akumal – Yal-ku lagoon. I’d heard of it before and had created a picture in my mind of a sandy inlet like some of the other lagoons I’d seen along the Riviera Maya. Upon entering the lagoon via a jungle-clad path dotted with bronze sculptures, however, I realized that Yal-ku was indeed a very unique place, unlike anything I’d seen in the area.

Yal-kul lagoon Akumal

Yal-ku is located to the north of the main beach. Upon arriving in Akumal from the highway, follow the road to the end and turn left. After about five minutes, take another left at the sign for the lagoon which leads to the parking lot and registration area. Here, tickets are available for 150 Pesos per person, or about US$12. Snorkels, fins and life jackets are also available for hire, or you can bring your own.

If I had to describe the lagoon, I would say it is half-cenote, half-ocean. This description is fairly accurate, as Yal-ku is fed by both natural ground water and sea water which flows in from the Caribbean.

The lagoon is most famous for its snorkeling, and whilst you wont find any sea turtles here, you will see a lot of fish of all shapes and sizes. It was some of the best snorkeling I’ve done in the area, swimming around in the clear, protected lagoon and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere.

Yal-kul lagoon snorkeling

The lagoon is rather large, and there are many islands and rocky coves to explore. Snorkeling around the large mangrove island was a unique experience as I’d never seen mangroves from under the water before; with fish hiding and feeding in its slimy roots.

I went with a group of ladies and we hired a thatched palapa for the day for 200 Pesos (about $18). You don’t have to do this, and there are lockers and some seating areas available to leave your belongings, but it was really nice to have our own shaded area complete with a large round table, chairs and even a hammock.

Palapa at Yal - Kul

It was just a few steps from the palapa to the entry of the lagoon, which made for a lovely relaxing day of snorkeling and chilling out. We brought our own drinks and snacks (alcohol is not allowed) and enjoyed views out over the lagoon which stretched towards the Caribbean.

Snorkeling at Yal-kul lagoon

We enjoyed ourselves so much we were one of the last groups to leave when the staff came around at closing time to rouse everyone out of the water for closing time.

So now when I’m recommending places to visit to first-time visitors to Playa del Carmen, I’ll have to include the Yal-ku lagoon in Akumal on my list of the top places to visit. A beautiful, natural environment which has been well preserved for all to enjoy. Especially the fish!

Tip: Yal-ku lagoon is located in the area of Akumal, about a 40 minute drive south of Playa del Carmen. It is best reached by car.