This packing list for Playa del Carmen and Tulum gives you a breakdown of how many items you actually need to make the most of the land of tacos and tequila.

Mexico is one of the most underrated destinations in North America. It’s a shame most people only know it for all-inclusive resorts or a cruise stop. Whether you want to dive the world’s second-largest barrier reef on the east coast, party in Mexico City, or surf on the west coast, Mexico is a destination you’ll keep visiting for more once you experience its welcoming pull.

palm frond playa del carmen mexico

Sample Carry-On Packing List for Playa del Carmen & Tulum Mexico

Less is always more when it comes to packing and Mexico’s Caribbean Coast is hot and tropical—making it that much easier to pack light. I’ve packed a carry-on bag for Playa del Carmen and Tulum both times I’ve visited and this last time, I even fit a wetsuit, snorkel and mask along with all my essentials. Here is the ideal carry-on packing list for Playa del Carmen and Tulum, Mexico:

  • 5 tops
  • 3 shorts
  • 1 dress or romper
  • 2 pants
  • underwear (one pair per day plus two)
  • 2 swimsuits
  • 2 bras
  • 2 pairs of shoes
  • small toiletry bag
  • collapsible day pack

street corner playa del carmen mexico

Exactly What I Packed for Playa del Carmen & Tulum, Mexico

I put the “ideal” packing list above because I realized I could have brought even less after my trip, but I’ve included exactly what I packed below. This packing list was for an eight-day, seven-night solo trip to Playa del Carmen to relax and freedive. The time I didn’t spend underwater, I was eating in different restaurants or going out for drinks with locals (gotta look cute).

5-7 Tops & Tanks

It depends on what you’ll be doing on your Mexico vacation, but it’s likely most of your activities will be outside in the heat like at the beach or hiking in the jungle. I’ve preferred to show some tummy ever since I could dress, so the majority of my shirts are crop tops to pair with high-waisted shorts.

On this trip, I actually wore every single shirt I brought, but I would have been fine with five shirts. Most items were either small or thin so they took up little space in my carry-on, allowing me to bring more.

  • Loose purple crop T-shirt
  • Fitted pink crop top tank
  • Dark green T-shirt
  • Maroon sleep tank
  • Striped bodysuit tank
  • Black halter top
  • White top with see-through back

1 Chambray Shirt

I don’t go anywhere without my chambray shirt. They’re stylish, comfortable, keep you warm and SO versatile.

3 Shorts

  • two jean shorts
  • running/active shorts

2 Pants

I ended up only wearing these pants for sleeping and on the way to the airport.

  • black leggings
  • loose Thai pants

1 Dress

lightweight sundress

2 Shoes

  • rubber sandals for showering
  • leather sandals for around town

2 Swimsuits

Whether you’re scuba diving, freediving or laying on the beach, it’s nice to have more than one bathing suit to choose from.


  • one bra
  • one strapless bra
  • two bralets
  • 10 underwear
aerial view tulum mexico

Courtesy of Spencer Watson

Toiletries & Miscellaneous Packing for Mexico

Toiletries (all travel size)

  • face wash
  • shampoo
  • shower gel
  • toothpaste
  • toothbrush
  • floss
  • reef-safe sunscreen
  • makeup (powder foundation, bronzer, brush, mascara)
  • Q-tips
  • TSA-safe razor
  • 5 pairs of earrings in a small jar
  • headband


  • phone charger
  • hair straightener (totally unnecessary in Mexico)
  • GoPro charger
  • headphones

Activity Gear

  • mask
  • snorkel
  • dive watch
  • two-piece wetsuit
  • collapsible day pack

Bug Spray

Bug spray could really fall under toiletries but I didn’t want it to get overlooked. I haven’t had an issue with bugs either time I was in Mexico, but that largely depends on where you are and what you are doing. Bring a small bottle of bug spray with deet or bug spray wipes. If you worry about the chemicals, try getting one of the all-natural bug spray soaps with citronella (you’ll smell weird but it works!).

How light do you pack for Mexico’s Caribbean coast? Did I leave out and must-pack items? Please share in the comments below! 🙂