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Playa Del Carmen Travel Guide
Get Your Bearings in Playa Del CarmenWhere to Stay
Although Playa del Carmen does feature a few big all-inclusive resorts, small boutique hotels with loads of charm are what gives Playa, as it's lovingly called by locals, its character. Choose a detail-oriented luxury hotel or a more laid-back economical option; both are available right on the beach or within a few blocks. No matter where you stay, you're never far from the restaurants, cafes, shops and nightlife that Playa has to offer.
Caution: Many resorts that are listed as being in Playa del Carmen are 10-15 minutes away from downtown.
Hot Tips: Stay at Reina Roja, a unique hotel inspired by a mysterious Mayan queen.
What to Eat
Playa del Carmen is a true international, cosmopolitan destination. Residents and visitors have brought their fare from all over the globe. You'll find sushi bars, Chinese food, Mexican, Italian, Cuban, Swedish, Thai and Argentinian restaurants, and cafes, bakeries and ice cream shops. Playa del Carmen also boasts scrumptious street food, like tacos, churros and esquites (boiled corn kernels, lime juice, chile powder or hot sauce, salt and mayonnaise).
Hot Tips: Visit local favorite La Cueva del Chango (38th St. North between 5th Ave. and the beach).
Be Sure to Sample: Shrimp tacos at Los Aguachiles (on the corner of 34th St. and 25 Ave).
Things to See
Nobody gets bored in Playa del Carmen. Shop on lively pedestrian street 5th Avenue (Quinta Avenida), listen to music while sipping on cocktails at a funky beach club or go jet-skiing, parasailing, deep sea fishing, scuba diving, wind surfing, kite boarding or snorkeling. If you enjoy learning about ancient history, visit the Mayan ruins of Tulum, or dive into a cool cenote (natural sinkhole) which the Mayan consider portals to the underworld.
Hot Tips: A visit to a cool cenote on a hot Caribbean day is a must.
Places to Party
Playa del Carmen's nightlife might mean dancing in the sand into the early morning hours or relaxing on a beach bed and gazing at the stars while listening to lounge music. Playa's nightlife is eclectic and chic. You'll find nightclubs, bars and beach clubs that feature live music, salsa, techo, hip-hop, top 40, and dance music. If you stay out long enough, you can welcome the new day by watching the sunrise from the beach.
Take It or Leave It: Coco Bongo is great if you love big nightclubs and crowds, but go somewhere else if you want to experience Playa's unique ambiance.
Hot Tips: For an authentic Playa del Carmen experience, spend the day or an evening (or both!) at Canibal Royal Restaurant & Beach Club.
Where to Shop
One of Playa del Carmen's biggest attractions is Fifth Avenue (La Quinta Avenida): an endless pedestrian street lined with charming hotels, restaurants, cafes and shops. Whether you're looking for a new pair of shades or a bikini in a high-end boutique or Mexican handicrafts in an open-air market, you'll find it all on 5th Avenue. Playa del Carfmen also boasts a modern shopping mall, Plaza las Americas.
Caution: If you're not looking to buy a timeshare, avoid buying tours from street vendors; they are often actually recruiting couples to attend timeshare presentations.
Hot Tips: The further you go from the beach and 5th Avenue, the cheaper the restaurants and shops are going to be.
Ready for Your Dream Vacation?
About Playa Del Carmen
If asked to name a beachside city on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, most people would say "Cancun." But unlike its rowdier neighbor to the north, Playa del Carmen presents a lifestyle about gourmet food, Mayan culture and ecological sensitivity, instead of raucous festivals and all-night partying. Playa del Carmen, or "Playa" as it is known locally, was once a sleepy little fishing village, and these small-town roots remain. City ordinance prohibits buildings taller than three stories to help protect the aesthetics of the town. Local businesses have chosen to highlight the region's cultural and natural history. Area restaurants cook using traditional native spices, local spas tout treatments such as "Mayan mud baths" and several resorts have actual Mayan ruins on their premises. Playa's convenient location near the ruins of Tulum and Cobá grants visitors ample opportunity to explore and learn about these ancient villages. Underground rivers and caves are a unique feature of the area and many tour companies run programs that educate participants about jungle ecology and geology. Like any beach-centric destination, Playa has its share of t-shirt shops and bars, but visitors will find it also offers a wide range of finer... Read more »