Playa del Carmen is a vacation gem in the Yucatan Peninsula, a region dominated by the great Mayan empire for over 2000 years. Overlooking the Caribbean Sea, it has become a vacation paradise where visitors enjoy the warm clear waters of the Caribbean, and every conceivable leisure activity. On land, the ruins of the Mayan empire linger, reminding us that this region was one of vital economic and religious importance to the Mayans. At the end of the day, you can give your mouth a vacation too, savoring the zesty flavors of authentic Mexican cuisine in a seaside resort that caters enthusiastically to tourists.

Here are just 3 of the top things to do in Playa del Carmen, suitable for both hardened adventure seekers and those simply looking to chill.

Swim with dolphins

Submerged just offshore from Playa del Carmen is the largest reef in the Western Hemisphere with richly diverse sea-life that lures underwater adventurers from around the world. Dazzling varieties of pristine coral provide a multicolored home to the exotic sea creatures for which this spot is renowned.

These waters are home to a huge population of bottlenosed dolphins. But you don’t have to brave the open ocean to interact with these aquatic geniuses. Close encounters are available at several Dolphinaris locations in the Yucatan Peninsula, including the Dolphinaris Riviera Maya Park, where you can swim with dolphins under professional supervision. This year, Dolphinaris sponsored a conservation project to monitor wild bottlenosed dolphins and perform a health assessment of some individuals. This, in order to preserve their integrity and well being.

Be an intrepid explorer: Jungle and ruins

Faro Playa del Carmen
The ruins of Mayan towns and pyramid shaped temples rise hauntingly from the dense jungle. Two important Mayan complexes are spectacular day trips. The Mayan Ruins at Tulum are all that remain of a once important port city in the Mayan empire. Perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the blue Caribbean, this is one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Mayans. The ruins at Coba are the epitaph of a once an important center on the Mayan trade route. You can bicycle along jungle paths surrounded by still unexcavated Mayan buildings and even climb the main pyramid which, at 42 meters, is the highest Mayan pyramid in Yucatan.

Give your mouth an exotic vacation

When a day of adventure (or idleness) comes to a close and travelers’ thoughts turn to food, Playa del Carmen offers a wide range of culinary delights steeped in the tradition of world-renowned Mexican cuisine, from fine dining to simpler fare for the more budget conscious traveler. Savory seafood fresh from the ocean is served in Playa del Carmen’s fancier restaurants. Less expensive but no less delicious fish tacos are offered on the main tourist drag, Fifth Avenue. But be prepared to douse the flames in your mouth if you choose a typical spicy dish!