Playa del Carmen (often referred to as just “Playa” locally) was a little, unknown fishing village that was discovered by the traveler’s visiting Cancun and Cozumel and is now one of the fastest growing coastal towns in Mexico.
Playa del Carmen offers you the enjoyment of a simple beach holiday without the trappings and characteristics of a modern-day commercialized resort like Cancun. The tourist developments here are low-rise, taking into account the local environment, and giving playa a more charismatic and authentic Mexican feel. This is contrast to the highly commercialized resort experience which is common in places like nearby Cancun.
Playa del Carmen is quite a ‘young’ resort – in that it attracts a lot of people in the twenty to thirty-something age range. They come here looking for a comfortable holiday; to swim, sunbathe, stroll along the wonderful beaches, listen to bands playing in the open air, and dance at a club at night.
The fine resort hotels, situated in Playa and along the rivera maya are some of the finest in Mexico. They offer first-class facilities, great amenities, world-class service and a perfect environment to enjoy a vacation. Some of the resorts are adult-only, and popular with people coming to Mexico for a honeymoon. Many others are family-oriented, and are hugely popular for family vacations, especially during the Easter and Summer holidays as well as Christmas and New Year.
Playa has some excellent boutique craft shops that will offer you the opportunity to buy something quite unique to take home with you. See the section on what to buy in Playa del Carmen for details.
A definite advantage of Playa del Carmen is its geographical location: It is close to Cozumel, Cancun, and all of the fabulous archaeological parks in the area, so it makes an ideal base if you want to visit all of the main towns and resorts in this part of Mexico. There are also a number of eco and adventure tourism options to opt for – see Key Attractions for details.
Playa del Carmen is also part of the famous Riviera Maya – a stretch of towns and villages situated along beautiful beaches which extend from the southern edges of Cancun as far south as Tulum. You can read about the Riviera Maya in Key Attractions on this guide and also browse hotels, resorts and spas in the Riviera Maya region here on Mexperience.
Playa del Carmen today is a relaxing place – if you want to unwind, then this region of Mexico will make an ideal location for you. Choose Playa del Carmen when you want peace and tranquility on a beach sunbathing; or to take quiet strolls along soft, white sands with the cool waters of the Caribbean lapping your feet.
Sports Fishing Experiences
Playa del Carmen is one of Mexico’s top destinations for Sports Fishing – especially deep sea fishing! Read the Mexperience guide to Sports Fishing in Mexico and discover just what a fantastic day out a sports fishing experience can be on your next visit to Mexico.
Diving & Snorkeling
Divers and people who want to snorkel come to Playa del Carmen to enjoy the great waters and excellent diving conditions.
Swimming with Dolphins
You can swim with the Dolphins on Isla Mujeres. Connect to the guide to Swimming with Dolphins in Mexico for details.
Other Water Sports
Sports Fishing and Kayak rental are the two other main activities people enjoy during a visit to Playa del Carmen. Connect to the guide to Watersports in Mexico for details.
Day Trips to Cozumel
You can catch the ferry across to the Island of Cozumel for a day. The ferry port is near the town’s main square and just a quick walk from the hotels.
Spas in Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen and The Riviera Maya (see below) are host to some excellent Resort Spas. For more information about Spa experiences, and how to benefit from a magnificent health spa experience, connect to the Mexperience guide to Spas in Mexico.
Nature and Adventure Tours
A number of nature and adventure tours are easily accessible from Playa del Carmen (and Riviera Maya). Tours include visits to the nearby Xel-Ha and Xcaret natural water parks, as well as tours to visit nearby Cenotes (water caverns) as well numerous archaeology parks. See Also: Nature & Adventure in Mexico
Nearby Playa del Carmen you’ll find an extensive choice of Maya ancient cities, converted into archaeology parks open to the public. Nearby parks include Tulum, which overlooks the turquoise Mexican Caribbean, Coba, and Chichen Itza, voted as one of the “new wonders” of the world.
Xel-Ha National Park
Day-trips to Xel-Ha are readily available and very convenient from Playa del Carmen and resorts along the Riviera Maya. Xel-Ha is a national park which has been converted into a water theme park built around a collection of natural lagoons and inlets. The park offers a range of water activities, primarily based around snorkeling, although you can also float down the river in a ring, dive under water without tanks (they connect hoses to a helmet) and swim with dolphins (this costs extra and space is limited, so arrive early if you want to do this). There are also five restaurants and a bar which you can eat and drink at free if you paid the all-inclusive price.
The 125km stretch of coastline that stretches from the southern edge of the resort town of Cancun, through Playa del Carmen and the Mayan Ruins of Tulum, finishing at the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, is known as the Rivera Maya.
About The Riviera Maya
A number of small towns and villages, nature parks, resorts and the Mayan Ruins of Tulum feature along the edge of this coast. Besides the well known and developed areas of Playa del Carmen and Tulum, the coast’s four other main points of interest are:
Puerto Morelos – as yet an undeveloped quiet village, perfect for a break away from the crowds and commercialism surrounding Cancun.
Akumal – one of the least commercialized areas of this coastline, Akumal offers the perfect place to relax away from the hype and bustle of Cancun and other commercially developed areas. The location has a high number of holiday houses for rent, making it a popular place for families and couples who want to enjoy the experience and economy of a self-catering rental holiday.
Sian Ka’an Biosphere is located between Tulum and Akumal and is a federally protected reserve that features freshwater canals, tropical forests, mangrove wetlands, lagoons, prairies and a 70-mile long barrier reef – the second largest barrier reef in the world.
Costa Maya – the area south of the Sia Ka’an Biosphere to the coast off Belize. The area holds attractions for SCUBA divers and sports fishing, although the beaches themselves are not as attractive as the ones further up the coast if you’re looking for swimming, bathing and strolling opportunities.
By Air – Playa del Carmen has an airstrip that handles small charter aircraft and private air taxis. AeroCaribe, the main local small aircraft operator, has an office near the airstrip. For detailed information about flights and flying, see the Mexperience guide to Air Travel in Mexico.
By Bus – Local buses and suburban vans carrying holiday makers and their luggage comfortably, travel from Cancun to Playa del Carmen and back daily on a regular basis. The suburban vans “Collectivos” are white and offer excellent value for money, carrying up to 10 passengers and their luggage comfortably for just a few dollars each. You can board them from their base near the bus stations at both Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Long distance buses connect Cancun with Merida, all main sities on the Yucatan Peninsula, Chiapas, the Gulf Coast and Mexico City. For detailed information about bus transportation read the Mexperience guide to Bus Travel in Mexico.
Car Rental – To explore Mexico’s provincial towns and cities — including its beach locations and the scenery and attractions near them — consider renting a car for your visit. Having your own car will give you more flexibility than using public transport options and, in some cases, offer you access to places which are otherwise difficult to visit without the use of a car. Read our guide to Car Rental in Mexico to learn what you need to know about car rental in Mexico and connect to the Mexperience Travel Center to reserve your Rental Car.
Tricycle Taxis – In certain areas of town, only tricycle taxis are allowed. They will take you and your luggage very efficiently to your hotel, or to the ferry that crosses to Cozumel.
On Foot – Most of Playa del Carmen is accessible on foot; and for exploring the local area, walking around is by far the best way to experience Playa del Carmen.
Taxis – Taxis in most of Mexico’s beachside towns and cities are not metered, so agree your price before you get in. Taxi travel is very affordable in Mexico, in comparison to the USA, Canada and Europe, and so provides a viable means of public transportation in Mexico. Your hotel can arrange taxis for you; some post their rates on a board in the lobby; taxi hotel rates are usually higher than cabs you hail off the street. If you speak Spanish, you will have a distinct advantage and be able to negotiate a price with the driver. For detailed information, read the Mexperience guide to Taxi Travel in Mexico.
Telephone: Connect to the Communications in Mexico page on Mexperience for detailed information about keeping in touch and the latest table of national dialing codes.
Exchanging Currency: Most of Playa del Carmen’s banks with ATM machines are found downtown on Avenida 5. During business hours, they and the Casas de Cambio will buy traveler’s checks and cash from you as well. For detailed information about exchanging and managing your money, read the Mexperience guide to Money in Mexico.
Travel Insurance: We recommend that you are adequately covered with travel medical insurance and/or travel assistance insurance when you are visiting Mexico. Read the Mexperience guide to Travel Insurance in Mexico for full details and links to specialist insurance suppliers.
Internet Access: Internet cafes can be easily found in towns and cities across Mexico and WiFi is increasingly commonplace–from cafes, shops, hotels, and some cities even offer free WiFi in some defined public spaces.
Playa del Carmen is a good place to buy arts and crafts and unique curios that you will not find elsewhere. There is a selection of shops in town around the main plaza. In recent years, the art and craft outlets have been raising their game; they are now offering tourists fine examples of locally and and nationally produced, hand crafted works; effectively undergoing a transition from being tourist craft outlets into specialist craft boutiques.
The climate in Playa del Carmen is very much like that of Cancun: Hot and humid, but the humidity is not as drenching as it can be in some other places in Mexico. August through October is hurricane season in this part of the world – and the weather becomes more changeable and less predictable during these months. The rainy season is May through October. November through February is the high season on the Riviera Maya, and the weather remains quite hot during these times, which attracts many “snow birds” from northern USA and Canada and Western Europe for winter warmth and sunshine.
Weather & Climates in Mexico
Learn more about the weather and climates through the seasons and regions by connecting to the Mexperience guide about Weather and Climates in Mexico
Mexico in your inbox
Our free newsletter about Mexico brings you a monthly round-up of recently published stories and opportunities, as well as gems from our archives.