Playa del Carmen

"A vibrant beach mecca packed full of colourful distractions." - Reviewed by Deborah

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  • Deb says: “Walking the destination’s famed 5th Avenue is a rite of passage. Love it or loath it, you’ll be grateful for the street’s designer stores when you realize you left your sunglasses at home!”
  • Anna says: “With so many great international restaurants, be sure to save some space to savour Mexican tacos, especially the seafood ones.” 

Playa del Carmen is easily one of the most recognisable names when it comes to blockbusting holiday-hotspots on Mexico’s sunny Riviera Maya. Busy, vibrant and packed full of bright-light-distractions, adventure tour operators and limitless shopping, it’s certainly no longer the sleepy backpacker heaven it was 20 years ago.

By the same token, many luxury seekers often overlook the town’s potential to provide unrivalled getaways, preferring to head to the quieter corners of the Riviera Maya. But, before you kick this beach paradise to the curb, hear me out.

Few beach destinations offering year-round sunshine are as convenient or as accessible in terms of international and national flights. Restaurants, bars, stores, tour agencies, spas, hair braiding, bike rentals, and even a Mayan ruin are all within walkable distance. Nearby, endless theme parks, cenotes and attractions — including a permanent Cirque du Soleil theatre — provide ways to wear out your children for an early night and late rise. For families, the city is near-on perfect, and there are plenty of golf courses close by to calm your nerves.

For bachelor/ette parties and fun-loving friends and families, you can’t beat downtown Playa del Carmen. If you are looking to dance the night away and catch the sunrise on the beach, you won’t be disappointed.

However, don’t let that put you off if you like to be in bed by 10 pm. Its party atmosphere strikes a subtle balance. Daytime and early evening have a very family-friendly vibe with French bakeries, fish taco restaurants, Yucatecan eateries, snazzy gourmet bistros and plenty of vegan options. Unless you stay out late, you probably won’t even notice where the nightclubs are.

Playa Car
With the exception of those of you who like to party hard (and even then), Playa Car Fase 1 is where you want to stay. This exclusive neighbourhood has the best beach, 24-hour security, its own Mayan archaeological site and the most luxurious homes in Playa del Carmen. Plus, its only 5 minutes from the hustle and bustle of 5th Avenue and the city’s beachfront bars and restaurants.


  • 60-min drive to Cancun International Airport
  • 40 min by ferry to Cozumel Island
  • 60-min drive to Tulum
  • 2-hour drive to Chichen Itza Maya Ruins


  • Ancient Wonders —  Visit the lesser-known Mayan archaeological site, Xaman Ha, within walking distance from the north end of 5th Avenue or head to see the famous sites of Chichen Itza, Tulum or Cobá.
  • Beaches — White sand beaches with laid-back beach clubs.
  • Cenotes — Extensive underground cave systems and sinkholes known as cenotes are a unique feature of the Yucatan Peninsula. Fabulous for diving, snorkelling and river wading.
  • Whale Sharks — The official whale shark season runs from June to September when tours can swim alongside the harmless whale sharks in their natural habitat.
  • Cozumel — A passenger ferry for Cozumel island leaves from Playa del Carmen regularly throughout the day. Takes between 20 and 40 minutes.
  • Water Sports – The Riviera Maya offers just about every water sport imaginable: jet ski, parasailing, diving, snorkelling, kayaking, fishing and sailing.
  • Boat Trips – Book one of the many boat cruises offered in the area and see some spectacular scenery.
  • Fishing – You can enjoy all types of fishing expeditions here. Angling is particularly popular.
  • Snorkelling and Diving — The Mesopotamian Reef is the third largest coral reef system in the world. It offers some amazing diving and snorkelling opportunities. There is also an underwater art museum, MUSA, with several dive sites along the coast populated by sculptures commissioned and donated by artists.
  • Theme Parks — The Riviera Maya is a hub for tropical jungle adventures with many high-quality theme parks packed with zip lines, wading rivers, animal sanctuaries, pre-Hispanic rituals, classic Mexican dancing and more.
  • Gastronomy– Besides Mexican cuisine being one of the best in the world, the region attracts some of the best chefs from all over the world.
  • Tequila Tasting and more — Try the local libations that include tequila, mescal and a local liqueur called Xtabentún.
  • Golf — The Yucatan Peninsula is home to many of Mexico’s best golf courses, some of which have holes with a sea view.
  • Cirque du Soleil — Watch a breath-taking show as you have dinner.
  • Nightlife — Playa del Carmen is renowned for its colourful nightlife scene. However, if you are usually in bed by 11pm, you probably won’t even notice!