When I first heard about Playa del Carmen in Mexico, I was told there was only a single place to stay there, with hammocks in Palapas (thatched huts) right on the beach and water from a nearby garden hose … well, times have changed.
These days, Playa del Carmen is one of the hottest locations in Latin America and offers everything your heart desires – dreamlike hotels in all price ranges, a huge variety of Restaurants serving delicious food from Gourmet Cuisine to Street Food, hip Nightclubs, cozy taverns and good music on every corner. Not to forget the breathtaking beach, dense tropical jungle, lots of sunshine and everything else that goes with it. That is why many people consider Playa del Carmen to be paradise on earth itself.
Quick Guide for your trip to Playa del Carmen
What to expect
Playa del Carmen is a modern and lively Mexican village. The place is smaller than Cancun, hotels and resorts are less conspicuous and harmoniously integrated into the surroundings. Downtown it can get a little noisy – those seeking peace and quiet should be more likely to stay in the hotel zone.
In Playa del Carmen, no wishes remain unfulfilled. Fantastic beaches, hotels for every budget, excellent restaurants and an exciting nightlife make it one of the most trendy destinations in Mexico.
Climate: Pleasantly warm at around 30°C / 80 °F, high humidity all year round.
Rainy Season & Hurricane Season: June – October. Mostly only short but intense showers. After that, the sun shines again.
When to visit: High season December – April. Then it’s warm and mostly sunny. The cheapest off-season falls in the month of September.
Language: Spanish. Many locals work in tourism and speak English quite well.
Currency: Mexican Peso. Some companies also accept American dollars or euros, but then there is usually no change and only unfavorable exchange rates. Better rely on Mexican pesos.
Credit cards: Upscale restaurants and shops usually accept VISA and MasterCard. For this, however, the original passport must often be presented. The best solution is Mexican cash. You can change money in the bank. Or use your card at ATMs to withdraw when it is unlocked for Mexico.
Safety: Playa del Carmen is very safe for tourists. You can also walk at night without worry if you know how to use your common sense. As everywhere else, however, you should pay attention to your valuables.
How to get there: Cancún airport. Then take the public bus or a cab to Playa del Carmen. Or just book a shuttle service.
Getting around: A rental car in Playa del Carmen is not recommended, as there are hardly any parking spaces in the narrow streets of the former fishing village. However, the area is flat and can be easily explored by a borrowed bike or just walking. For longer distances, public bus or taxis are the ideal solution. The fare of taxis should be agreed with the driver before boarding.
Playa del Carmen is a small town in the Mexican State of Quintana Roo on the Yucatan Peninsula and is located on the Mexican Caribbean coast, the so-called Riviera Maya, about 70 km south of Cancún and halfway between Cancún and Tulum on the highway Carretera 307.
The beach and the sea are just as gorgeous in Playa del Carmen as they are in Cancún. You have to think of it this way: A beach of snow-white sand, on one side the Caribbean Sea glistens with its crystal clear, turquoise waters in the sun. And on the other side lies the dense green jungle of the Yucatan Peninsula. In addition, there are all the offers that the tourist heart can only dream of.
Originally a small village, Playa del Carmen is now one of the most glamorous locations in the Mexican Caribbean. “Playa,” as it is known by its regular visitors, lies in the heart of the Riviera Maya and the best restaurants, shops and nightclubs can be found there.
Playa del Carmen is considered the city with the highest population growth in Mexico. As recently as 1970, only about 200 people, mostly fishermen, lived in this place. In 2005, a census showed a population of 100,383 people. The economy of Playa del Carmen is now entirely based on tourism. The beaches of Playa del Carmen are visited by tourists from all over the world.
Playa del Carmen and the Playacar hotel zone
The Hotels in Playa del Carmen downtown are mostly smaller houses with a family atmosphere, on one side the beautiful beach, on the other side the day and night equally lively Quinta Avenida.
Larger hotels can be found in the area Playacar further south, a luxury tourism complex that is home to numerous all-inclusive resorts. If You are looking for peace or luxury, you will get your money’s worth in Playacar with its golf courses and dreamlike resorts. Hotels and resorts have also been built right on the beach within a few miles of Playa del Carmen, promising an unforgettable holiday in the Caribbean.
Playa del Carmen leaves nothing to be desired – Luxury hotels, all-inclusive resorts, creative boutique hotels and also simple accommodation in the Palapa style or small cheap family hotels for any travel budget are waiting for you.
If you really want to enjoy the big party in the centre of Playa, you should take a stay downtown or in Playacar that you can easily reach walking even at night. For those seeking peace and quiet, however, the resorts in the vicinity with their paradisiacal pristine beaches are more suited.
Private beach clubs offer an extensive range of wellness, swimming pools, massages and much more. The Hotels in Playa del Carmen are not as huge as the ones in Cancún, everything is easy to find and simply promises unforgettable days.
The center of Playa Del Carmen is unsuitable for the use of a rental car, as the streets of the former fishing village are narrow and parking spaces are in short supply. However, the city is not too big and the terrain is plain, so everything is easily accessible by a small walk or by bicycle.
Playa del Carmen 5th Avenue
The center of tourist life in Playa del Carmen is the so-called Quinta Avenida (“5th Avenue”), a pedestrian zone running parallel to the beach where restaurants, bars, boutiques, shopping malls and souvenir shops line up. There you can enjoy the ambience of the Caribbean to the fullest. Often it also pays to explore the restaurants and shops on the smaller side streets, as prices there are usually cheaper than on the Quinta Avenida.
Restaurants in Playa del Carmen
The now very glamorous Playa del Carmen offers pretty much everything you can feel like in culinary terms. In addition to Mexican restaurants and wonderful Seafood, there are plenty of international restaurants to be found here, as many Playa residents after a holiday simply decided to stay in this beautiful place and opened their own business. So you’ll find everything your heart desires, from tacos to lobster dinner with fine wines. The problem is rather to make the choice.
Nightlife in Playa del Carmen
At Night on the Quinta Avenida, you will hear the sounds of Reggae, Rock and Salsa as people prepare to visit the nightclubs. The nightlife stretches into the morning hours and makes Playa del Carmen an unforgettable place.
Do you feel like music, dancing, seeing people and having a good time? You will find all this in Playa del Carmen. It’s not like in Cancún, and the wild Spring Break Parties barely exist here – but there are a lot of wonderful places to spend the evening.
You will find great nightclubs here as in Cancún, but also small cozy beach llubs with shows and events, and quiet bars with good music and room for nice conversations. Like almost everything in Playa del Carmen, you will find most of the Nightlife venues on and around the Quinta Avenida, that is easily accessible walking or by taxi.
What to do in Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen has a beautiful sandy beach, but it also is a great starting point for trips to the surrounding Cenotes, archaeological sites such as Tulum and Cobá or a visit to the internationally award-winning Adventure Parks of Xcaret, Xel-Há or Xplor. The nearby islands of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres are definitely worth seeing. Likewise, a day at Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a unique experience.
If You are flexible about the distances for a trip, Valladolid, Ek Balam, the city of Mérida and the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itzá would be worthwhile destinations.
The airport is 45 minutes away via the highway Carretera 307. On the main street Avenida Juarez you will find the bus terminal of the line ADO, that connects Playa del Carmen with other major cities in Mexico, like Cancún, Tulum and Mérida.
A ferry runs between Playa del Carmen and the island Cozumel, where you can dive and snorkel or visit the archaeological sites, nature reserves and Cenotes. The ferry service takes about 45 minutes and costs about $25.
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