Playa del Carmen, or just plain “Playa,” is idyllically located on the Mexican coast, southeast of Cancun and across the water from Cozumel. With such a prime position on the Yucatan, it was only a matter of time before it transformed from a small fishing village into a top vacation spot (or some would say tourist trap). But because Playa hasn’t been popular for as long as other nearby beach towns, it sports an authentic Mexican charm, which is rare with any "top vacation spot" in Mexico. So, snag your Playa del Carmen condo rental and get yourself in the loop with our Playa del Carmen Travel Guide. Do you have suggestions for how we can improve our guide? Let us know.
Whether you're scuba diving or sky diving, there’s plenty to keep you busy in Playa del Carmen. But first, let’s get to the beach. (In fact, why don’t you literally get to the beach by booking a Playa del Carmen vacation rental?)
Playa del Carmen’s white sand beaches are all public, cleaned up daily, and lined with lifeguards. At the northern end of the coastline, you’ll be in tourist city; bars, restaurants, shops, and tour companies are all within walking distance from the shore. For less hustle and more hassle-free fun, there’s a big blue ocean of possibility, the Gulf of Mexico to be specific.
Favorite Playa del Carmen beach activities
- Deep sea fishing – hop on a charter and try to catch a barracuda or sailfish
- Scuba diving – many diving guides, like Reef Quest Divers, are on hand
- Snorkeling – try it at Xel-Ha, a freshwater bay
- Swimming and sunbathing (of course)
Things to Do in Playa del Carmen, off the beaten beach
- See and be seen on Fifth Avenue, or Quinto Avenida
- Sky Dive Playa – if you’re tired of being an easygoing beachgoer and want to inject a little excitement into your vacation, jump out of a plane already!
- Xcaret – this jungle lagoon turned “Mayan theme park” (if you can believe it) is a must-see; swim with dolphins, check out some Mayan ruins, watch baby sea turtles take to the ocean for the first time, and go on a pony ride… all in one day
- Mayan Ruins – if you look hard enough, you’ll find them all around town
- Jungle Place – hang out with spider monkeys in this nature sanctuary
- Rio Secreto – go deep into the jungle, throw on a wet suit, and walk and swim through an underground cave system, or “Cenote,” which is home to all kinds of interesting formations and animals
- Playacar Golf Club – the Mayan Riviera provides a scenic challenge for golfers
- ATV Jungle Tours – hey, we know the beach is pristine and the food is good and all, but step out of your comfort zone and onto a 4x4, and see as much of the spectacular jungle scenery as you can (it’s not every day you get to climb an ancient ruin)
- Xaman Ha Aviary – so many colors, so many birds; this mini jungle is populated with a ton of tropical birds (well, two hundred)
- Spas – Playa del Carmen is full of them, so you’ll have lots of chances to get a massage or facial, or both
- Day trips – you just might end up snorkeling in Cozumel or shopping in Cancun, but don’t stress, it’s easy to get back to your Playa rental
People watching on Fifth Avenue (Quinto Avenida), fish watching in the ocean… gaze in awe at some Aztec architecture or spot a toucan in the jungle. Every day you’ll see things in Playa del Carmen that you may never have seen before!
Is there a hole burning in your pocket? Are you getting hungry? Is it about time for a drink? Don’t worry; Playa del Carmen won’t leave you hanging.
Playa del Carmen Restaurants
If you don’t like Mexican food, you just might change your tune after a meal in Playa del Carmen. However, if you’re the stubborn type, you can go your whole vacation without eating a single bite of Mexican cuisine. In fact, unless you go out of your way to track down a genuine Mexican food joint, your options will be mostly international, ranging from Italian to American. For dinner and drinks, try the acclaimed El Alux, and then grab some delectable desert afterward at the Ah Cacao Chocolate Café. Other restaurants that are all the rage include El Bistro, the Blue Lobster, and La Parrilla.
Playa del Carmen Shopping
Avenida Quinta, or Fifth Avenue, is brimming with shops, and you can stick to your budget by bargaining. Buy designer duds from Europe, Cuban cigars, Mexican trinkets, and just about anything else you can imagine here. Don’t be surprised if you run into someone playing bongo drums or breathing fire. But great places to shop sprawl Playa del Carmen, so by no means should you do all your shopping on Fifth Avenue (though you very well could). If you plan to go snorkeling or scuba diving, make sure to drop by some of the specialty stores, like Mexico Blue Dream.
Playa del Carmen Bars and Nightlife
There are many singles mingling in Playa del Carmen as the bar scene has boomed. On Fifth Avenue, the bars are packed when the evening time rolls around. At the clubs, you’ll dance to many types of music, including salsa, and meet many types of people (most are on vacation just like you). The nightlife is indeed, full of life, in Playa del Carmen.
It’s beautiful all day, every day, in Playa del Carmen… almost. While hurricane season (September to December) can disrupt the waters a bit, you can take a dip into the Gulf and go for a swim nearly every single day out of the year. So, when’s the best time to visit Playa del Carmen? Whenever you can take off from work!
There’s a lot to know about Playa del Carmen before you get here, so let’s run-down some of the best insider travel tips
- Is your budget tight? As tempting as it is, don’t spend all your time on Fifth Avenue, because you’ll spend a fortune here. Instead, shop and eat on 10th Avenue and upward… you’ll save lots of money this way. It also helps to book a Playa del Carmen condo that’s located a little farther from the beach than another more expensive beachfront property.
- Even though the beaches are public, that doesn’t mean they’re easy to get to from every point in Playa del Carmen. If you hang around in the “tourist zone,” you’ll enjoy many access points, but if you start to get outside it, you’ll have less luck.
- Worried about accidentally drinking some local water and getting sick? You’ll be relieved to learn that Playa del Carmen restaurants not only offer bottled water, but cook with it, too.
- Unless you plan to venture outside the sightseer bubble, you probably won’t need a taxi or rental car to get around. However, the public bus (called the “colectivo”) can shuttle you to and from your Playa destinations.
- The Mexican people are extremely friendly, so don’t be afraid to say “hi." Tourists aren’t unwelcome here.
You’ll need a sturdy pair of sandals in Playa, because the sand can be hard and hot. Beyond that, you can dress like a beach bum for your whole trip, or bring along some glamorous get-ups for those nights spent on Fifth Avenue.
From exchanging money to picking up meds at the pharmacy to grocery shopping, Playa del Carmen is a very convenient place to be. Not only will you enjoy all the necessities, but as far as tourism companies go, you won’t be underwhelmed. Go on a snorkeling tour, learn how to scuba dive, or venture into the jungle – all with the help of a well-trained guide.
To get to Playa del Carmen, you’ll most likely fly into Cancun. Playa’s then about an hour away, and you have many choices for transportation, including the bus.
Tempted to reserve a room at one of those all-inclusive Playa del Carmen hotels? Step back for a moment and really think about the value of your vacation. With Playa del Carmen vacation condos and homes, you’re getting a lot more for your money. More private space to yourself, more amenities! And with the money you’ll save, you can dine at Playa’s exquisite restaurants, instead of stuffing yourself with uninventive and uninteresting buffets.
Playa del Carmen beach rentals are here to make your experience affordable, memorable, and customizable, so book yours today!