Otherworldly cenotes and vibrant coral reefs are just the beginning of Playa del Carmen’s appeal. Stroll down Quinta Avenida during the day for shopping and delicious eats or, after sundown, sip on mezcal and watch the scene transform into a bustling hotspot. Sapphire water and white sand call you to the beach, while nearby Mayan ruins and underwater caverns unearth the adventurer in you.
With a perfect location smack dab in between Cancún and Tulum, it’s no wonder Playa del Carmen is the third largest city in Quintana Roo and the fastest growing in Latin America. Known by locals as “Playa” this former fishing village is a toned-down version of touristy Cancún without being as laid-back Tulum. Popular especially with Europeans, Playa has white-sand beaches, world-class diving, natural wonders and, of course, gorgeous beach resorts. Head to the tropical paradise April through May for lower rates and minimal crowding or prepare to book six months in advance if visiting during December or January.
In addition to its beaches, Playa del Carmen has something for every type of traveler. Adventurers love the colorful coral reefs, crystal-clear cenotes and nearby adventure parks, while city lovers will get lost amid the shops, bars and restaurants on Quinta Avenida. On the south end of Playa del Carmen, the gated community known as Playacar has an 18-hole golf course plus private villas for rent, all-inclusive resorts and even private residential properties. In addition to a sandy haven, Playa doubles as the perfect launchpoint for exploring ancient history at the Tulum, Coba and Chichen Itza Mayan ruins, or island exploration on Cozumel, just a ferry ride away.
Beaches in Playa del Carmen
As far as soaking up the sun goes, Playa del Carmen has some of the best real estate for digging your toes into the sand or taking a refreshing dip. Mamitas Beach has live music, sunbeds for rent and sports a younger vibe. Thirty-five kilometers away, Akumal Beach has world-class diving and sea turtles year round, and Xpu-Ha Beach and Playacar Beach have calm shallow waters perfect for families or a laid-back swim. Parque Fundadores is the most popular beach with both tourists and locals alike—you’ll know you’ve found it when you see the Playa del Carmen archway.
Shopping & Nightlife in Playa del Carmen
Quinta Avenida, or Fifth Avenue, is a pedestrian-only walkway just one block from the beach that goes on for more than a mile. Here you’ll find shopping of all sorts, authentic and more touristy dining options, and roaring nightlife with everything from rooftop bars to nightclubs like Coco Bango. You can book parasailing tours or jet skis, and excursions to Chichen Itza or Cozumel.
Playa’s main square, El Zócalo, is the perfect spot to start your day as the rest of the town branches right out from here. At El Zocalo you have proximity to both Quinta Avenida and the beaches, or you can saunter around, taking in gorgeous architecture, eating in delicious restaurants and shopping local crafts.
Where to Stay in Playa del Carmen
On the south end of Playa del Carmen, the self-contained gated community of Playacar sits broken out in two phases. Phase One has mainly secluded beaches and residential villas and houses, plus several small hotels. Phase Two is centered around a golf course with large all-inclusive beach resorts like Playacar Palace, Allegro Playacar and Royal Hideaway Playacar – Adults only, an aviary, shopping and condos. Playacar is a manicured community with beautiful landscaping and sidewalks perfect for jogs or bike rides. There’s even small Mayan ruins on the property and a park that’s great for children. Numerous beach resorts also dot the main town of Playa del Carmen.
Active Adventures in Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen’s beautiful natural landscape makes for the perfect grounds for ecoparks that allow guests and locals to experience the Riviera Maya for all it’s worth! Visit Xplor, Xcaret, Xenses or Xel-Ha for history, adventure, animal encounters and natural wonders. Speaking of natural beauty, Playa del Carmen and nearby Cozumel have some of the best diving in the world. Book a dive to the Palancar Reef, Santa Rosa Wall, Pared Verde drift dive or even a cenote for a crystal-clear excursion through underwater worlds.
The Yucatan Peninsula, especially around Playa del Carmen, is home to more than 2,000 recorded cenotes, what Mayans believed were the gateways to the underworld, or Xibalbá. Whether you want to swim, dive or simply enjoy the view, a trip to Playa del Carmen isn’t complete without visiting a cenote. Dos Ojos and Gran Cenote are two of the most popular in the area.