Beachgoers in Playa del Carmen, Mexico (Glowimages/Getty)

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What to do in Playa del Carmen

As Cancun and Cozumel gained tourism momentum in the 1970s, mellow Playa del Carmen remained little more than a ferry landing visitors rushed through en route to more established locales. But in the early 1980s, savvy investors banked on its seaside assets. Shops, eateries, and a sprinkling of hotels spice up its streets with a Bohemian charisma that appeal to budget travelers from the United States, Canada, and Europe. You’ll stumble across mariachi playing on street corners near bars where blues bands jam the night away. Soak in the scene donning anything from board shorts and flip-flops to Gucci and stilettos. Beyond its funky personality, Playa is a springboard to the Mayan ruins and warm Caribbean waters of Tulum, exquisite diving in Cozumel, and the sizzling action of Cancun.

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