Beach Vacations to Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Tourists on the beach in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Tourists lounging and walking on the beach in Playa del Carmen (Glow Images/Getty)

Playa del Carmen sits about 40 miles, or 1.5 hours, south of Cancun. It's an eclectic resort town where European influences meld with the traditional Mexican culture to create a busy, vibrant town featuring great restaurants, boutique and large hotels, and a nightlife that almost rivals that of Cancun.

The most famous street in Playa, Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue) offers blocks of shops, galleries, handicrafts, and every kind of restaurant you could want along a pedestrian walkway. Because of the number of Europeans in Playa, many of the restaurants are Italian and some of the boutiques feature trendy European clothes (for less expensive options, however, you have to go elsewhere). A short walk from Quinta Avenida is the centrally located ferry dock, which gives visitors quick access to the island of Cozumel; if you take Waterjet Ferry, the trip is only about 25 minutes.

In addition to having its own Caribbean shoreline, the city is also central to all that the Riviera Maya offers. From Playa, it's easy to visit the only seaside Mayan ruin, Tulum archaeological site, and to take in a day at Xel-Ha or Xcaret, Riviera Maya's mega-popular eco theme parks. From Playa, you can book tours to some of the Yucatan's inviting cenotes, those mysterious and magical underground pools. Many tours allow you to experience contemporary Mayan culture.

There is nothing remote about Playa. If you forget to pack something or don't want to travel with snorkel gear, you can find whatever you need there. The beaches right in town, however, are not the most pristine. If you're looking for that relaxing, get-away-from-it-all vacation, Playa is probably not your best choice.

Playacar, the town's somewhat secluded hotel zone, does offer far better beaches and a respite from all of the activity of Playa del Carmen itself, with a choice of resorts and upscale hotels that are great for couples, singles, and families. Teens and young adults tend to love Playa del Carmen for all of the activity and the music pumping out of practically every doorway along Quinta Avenida. But Playa has its quiet back patios and gardens, too.

Published: 8 Sep 2009 | Last Updated: 30 Mar 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Playa del Carmen


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