Playa del Carmen, Mexico
An undeveloped fishing village as recently as 1990, this pedestrian-friendly beach town known as “Playa” now hosts 2 million visitors a year! With year-round warm temperatures and incredible beaches on the Carribean coast, Playa has rightfully become a top Riviera Maya beach destination. Let’s visit Playa del Carmen!
Visiting Playa del Carmen?
Everyone has heard of Cancun and Cozumel, but what about Playa del Carmen? Located less than one hour south of the famous and overcrowded Cancun and just a 45 minute ferry ride from Cozumel island, sits one of our favorite places on earth, Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
Visiting Playa del Carmen? Eat Everything!
Did someone say tacos? Carnitas, carne asada, al pastor, OH MY!- When in Vietnam, eat pho. When in Italy, eat pasta. And when in Mexico, EAT TACOS! We’ve honestly never met a taco we didn’t like, but of course, we do have our favorites! When in Playa you must pay a visit to TaconTenedor, quite possibly the best taco joint on earth! Check here to see more of our top places to eat in Playa del Carmen.
Visiting Playa del Carmen? Relax and Unwind
The beaches in Playa are covered with beach clubs where you can bask in the sun on a comfy chair or chill under an umbrella with your favorite cocktail. This said, not all beach clubs in Playa are created equal! We took one for the team and did thorough job investigating many of Playa’s beach clubs. Our favorites?
Lido Beach Club
Our personal favorite and a must when visiting Playa del Carmen. Located right in the middle of it all is Lido Beach Club. Keep an eye out for the lime green chairs and pick your spot. Make sure to show up hungry, because the food here is amazing!
Located towards the north end of Playa del Carmen, this chill beach club is a bit a way from the main drag. If you’re up for some good food, Canibal Royal will not disappoint. The staff is very accommodating and the music is great.
If you’re a professional athlete or celebrity, this is your spot. Complete with white cabanas and champagne, you’ll get the full VIP treatment at Mamita’s.
Visiting Playa del Carmen? Adventure By Land
Located between Playa and Tulum, this ‘Land of turtles’ is home to one of our favorite beaches in Mexico. Spend the day relaxing on the quiet beach or rent some snorkel gear from the dive shop for a swim with the sea turtles, fish, and stingray. Take a look at the video from our day at the beach.
A quick 50-minute drive south of Playa, and you’ll arrive in one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Mayan people. Check out the amazing ancient Mayan ruins, flying dancers, and beautiful beaches in Tulum. Tulum is also an excellent Riviera Maya destination, known for a ladi-back vibe, world class beaches and gourmet cuisine. We’ve spent time here as well, and have plenty to share.
Visiting Playa del Carmen? Adventure By Sea
Water. It covers 71% of earth for goodness sakes! We should all get in and see what’s down there! After many years of deliberation, we finally decided to make the plunge and got scuba certified! Playa is home to many professional, licensed dive shops that will get you trained and certified. We chose Playa Scuba, located towards the south end of the city. The staff was extremely helpful, professional, and knowledgeable. We highly recommend getting certified with Playa Scuba, and also highly recommend reading about a terrifying moment during our second day of training. Actually in retrospect, it’s pretty hilarious.
Playa and the surrounding area has much to offer new and veteran divers. We took a day trip to Cozumel Island with a guide from Playa Scuba that we will never forget. Watch the highlights here.
Not to be outdone by the big blue ocean, Playa has some of the best cenote diving in the world. A cenote is kind of like a cave. They are actually sinkholes in limestone that fill with groundwater. Scuba dive or snorkel in the crystal clear waters for an unforgettable experience with stunning underground rock formations.
Visiting Playa del Carmen? Book a Tour!
Getting to Playa del Carmen
Getting to Playa del Carmen: BUS
Technically you can take a bus from the US to Playa. However, it’s an extremely long ride. From Brownsville, Texas it’s a grueling 29.5 hours and costs about $200.
Getting to Playa del Carmen: FLY
You will most likely fly into Cancun International, located about an hour north of Playa. Many airlines fly direct to Cancun from all over the US. Find flights from Miami for $81, from LA for $123, and from Saint Louis for $145 with our favorite flight search site, Skyscanner.
Playa del Carmen Flight Deals
Getting to Playa del Carmen: Ferry
While there is currently no ferry service from the US to the Riviera Maya, keep an eye out in the Spring 2017 for service from Florida with United Caribbean Lines.
Cancun International Airport to Playa del Carmen City Center
Fly into Cancun International Airport(CUN) and head towards Playa del Carmen’s city center, about 35 miles away. How will you get there?
For just under $9 per person the ADO will take you to the center of Playa del Carmen. With departures every 30 minutes, there’s sure to be a transfer available regardless of your arrival time. Just look for the ADO booth after exiting immigration and customs. Note: Upon arrival in Playa, a taxi to your hotel might be needed. Depending on where your staying, expect to pay no more than $6-$8 for a ride.
If planning on day trips, car rental may be a good option. All the popular rental companies are represented at .. Hertz, Enterprise, Avis, you can find some great deals on rentals if you plan in advance. Note that Google maps works like a charm in the area, we use T-Mobile and have no problems at all.
If staying with an all-inclusive resort, make sure to check if they offer complementary airport transfer
Getting around in Playa del Carmen
Your best bet is to walk around town, but second best is taxi. Just keep in mind that although most experiences with Playa’s taxi drivers have been great, there are a few shady gators out there. Just make sure you know the fare before agrreing to ride. Also, always pay in peso. The drivers will gladly take USD, but don’t expect favorable exchange rates. UBER is not currently available in Playa del Carmen.
Walkscore.com gives Playa del Carmen a score of 97, calling it a “Walkers Paradise.” We also found this to be true. Walking around Playa is highly recommended!
Where To Stay in Playa del Carmen:
Where To Stay in Playa del Carmen: HOTELS
Playa has a wide range of hotels to choose from, and depending on the time of year, a wide range of prices. Options span from high-end all-inclusive hotels like The Royal Playa del Carmen or Gran Porto Real for $400 a night to more reasonable hotels like Hotel Riviera Caribe Maya or Hotel Hulku for around $50 a night. When it comes to hotels, we recommend shopping Agoda.com, far and away the most competitive resource when searching for hotels in Playa Del Carmen.
Playa del Carmen Hotel Deals
Where To Stay in Playa del Carmen: HOSTELS
With only 40 options for hostels in Playa, you’re best to plan in advance. Prices generally range from $8-$12 a night for a dorm room, while private rooms cost around $25-$45 per night. Hostelworld is our recommended resource when searching for hostels in Playa Del Carmen.
Playa del Carmen Hostel Deals
Where To Stay in Playa del Carmen: AIRBNB
We love Airbnb! From private rooms to entire homes, there are plenty of choices when visiting Playa del Carmen. If you’re a first-timer with Airbnb, use this coupon and enjoy $35 off of your stay.
Where To Stay in Playa del Carmen: NEIGHBORHOODS
Choosing a neighborhood is an important part of trip planning that should not be overlooked! The two main areas to choose from: Playacar to the south or the Playa del Carmen city center.
City Center (Centro)
Action packed and full of amazing restaurants, beach clubs, and shopping. This touristy part of town is where you’ll find most options for accommodation.
This gated community area is where you’ll find high-end resorts and exclusive villas. If you’re in the mood for a relaxing, quiet vacation, then look no further.
Playa Del Carmen Travel Tips:
Playa Del Carmen travel tips: Money
Mexico’s national currency is the Peso, and is currently exchanging at 19MXN to $1USD. Credit cards are widely accepted and ATM machines are readily available. Note that USD is also widely excepted in Playa, but expect less than satisfactory exchange rates.
Playa Del Carmen travel tips: Tipping
Only tip if a service charge(propina) hasn’t been already added to your bill. For good service, tip 15% at a restaurant, $1 per drink at a bar, and only tip your taxi driver if they provide exceptional service.
Playa Del Carmen travel tips: Insurance
Traveling through Playa Del Carmen is exciting and safe, but you never know when some good travel insurance could come in handy. World Nomads offers the best coverage in the business, is affordable, and is quick to act should something go wrong. For more info, check out our recent World Nomads blog post.