It’s known globally as a tropical paradise, with seductive Caribbean waters that roll in to kiss a sprawling, white-sand shoreline. Beyond the scenic beaches of the Riviera Maya, travelers are drawn to the region’s spectacular nature courtesy of two main draws – the vibrant Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System and the area’s hundreds of breathtaking cenote sinkholes.
Recently, the Riviera Maya was highlighted yet again when it received Travel Weekly’s 2017 Reader’s Choice Award for ‘Best Destination in Mexico’. In September at the World Travel Awards, Playa del Carmen won for ‘Mexico and Central America’s Leading City Break Destination’.
Close to 30 million domestic and international passengers arrived at the Cancun International Airport in 2017 and that number continues to escalate each year. It is no wonder that developers and entrepreneurs are eager to establish projects in this popular sunny destination.
Whether you are planning your next vacation, considering purchasing a second home, or are in the process of designing your dream retirement in Mexico, this article provides information on the latest events and growth of the city. You will discover what’s new in Playa del Carmen and how it is forging ahead with its transformation into a world-class city.
New Terminal 4 at Cancun International Airport
At the end of October this past year, the new 2-level terminal plus mezzanine with food court, retail stores, 18 boarding gates and 36 self-service check-in kiosks celebrated its inauguration. Currently, T4 is equipped to handle 9 million additional visitors, while further expansions expected to be completed by 2020, will enable the airport to manage up to 40 million passengers.
With state-of-the-art technologies, the airport authority has eliminated outdated systems such as customs forms and the random traffic light baggage check system. These modern and more efficient methods mean smoother airport interactions, which allow travelers to arrive at their final destinations much sooner than in the past.
This infographic displays the airlines currently arriving and departing out of Terminal 4.
Gandhi Books Opens
A grand opening of a bookstore is not exactly a breaking story elsewhere in the world, but in Playa del Carmen, it’s big news! Bookstores are few and far between in these parts, and books sold in English are even rarer.
So when we heard that the popular chain store opened its doors in Plaza Corazon (5th Avenue at Calle 14), the community was thrilled to have more convenient access to literature published in several languages.
SOMA Delights With Sophisticated Asian Flare
If you have a ravenous obsession with sushi as a few members of our Bric team do, you will love the stylish SOMA Urban Sushi Bar, which opened in December on the corner of Calle 10 and 5th Avenue.
Top-notch DJs set a New York City-style elegant meets upscale Playa vibe. The sleek, two-level eatery features air-conditioning on the upper level and walls adorned with exquisite murals of dueling samurais and graceful geishas.
Two of their chefs come from the distinguished Nobu Mexico and the superior sushi grade fish arrives fresh from the Pacific. In a city offering so many options for exceptional cuisine, it can be difficult to stand out amongst the crowd of options. However, the phenomenal SOMA Playa del Carmen is in a league of its own.
ADO Bus Adds More Routes From Cancun International Airport
In 2017, the Cancun International Airport experienced nearly a ten percent increase in passengers compared to 2016. In order to meet the increased demand for airport transfers, ADO added more routes to their schedule.
The spacious and air-conditioned buses now offer service to Playa del Carmen every 25 minutes. Tickets can be purchased in advance at ado.com.mx. for $190 pesos/adult and $95 pesos/child (approximately $10.50/$5 USD). Since Uber is not yet operating in this region, ADO is the next best option if you are looking for economical transportation.
Cuidado Con El Perro Finds A Home On 5th Avenue
This famous Mexican clothing brand recently established itself in Playa del Carmen’s famed dining and shopping district, 5th Avenue. On opening day, a crowd of excited shoppers gathered in the street, anxious to check out the trendy line of clothing and accessories geared towards fashionable adolescents.
If you have a teenager, this is the place to shop for unique apparel at very reasonable prices. The store opens at 10 a.m. and is located on the north end of 5th Avenue near Calle 34.
Authentic And Ethnic Aromas From Mi Ranchito Food Truck Village Fill The Air
In early December, Mi Ranchito Playero opened for business with 11 food trucks offering fantastic street food fare. From seafood and meat tacos to tortas, wings and Arabic dishes, people are impressed with the quality and variety of menus at this lively gathering spot.
At night, when strings of bulbs are lit above the rows of picnic tables, it creates a whimsical and fun-loving atmosphere within the food park. There is an assortment of domestic and imported beer brands to quench your thirst, with mojitos and other popular cocktails for non-beer drinkers.
If you have children, they will love the entertainment at the kids club. For adults, they have salsa dance and movie nights. The on-site restaurants open at 2 p.m. daily, while the food trucks open from 5 p.m. to midnight.
Playa del Carmen’s City Center To Undergo Major Changes in 2018
A new mobility plan is in the works in an effort to decongest the city’s center. Playa del Carmen’s mayor announced the addition of bicycle lanes and parking meters in the initial portion of the upcoming year. As well, urban transportation stop points and the 5th Avenue ADO bus station will be moved to alternate locations.
The municipality has also added over 700 square meters of new sidewalks. Moreover, several hundred linear meters of new zebra-type designated pedestrian crossings have painted throughout Playa’s downtown core. The goal is to make the walkable city safer for pedestrians.
Largest Theme Park In Latin America Set To Open In 2018
Amikoo theme park is coming to the Playa del Carmen area at the latter part of 2018. The 300-acre complex, currently under construction 20 minutes north of Playa, will showcase 24 modern attractions, a Museum of Mayan Anthropology and Archaeology, a hotel, shops, restaurants, a ‘Fly Over Mexico’ theatre, interactive exhibits and simulators, a concert hall along with water sports and activities.
The inspiration for the massive project was based upon Mayan cosmology. Park creators aim to provide cultural and historical representations of the Maya in several forms, in an enriching and sustainable manner conducive to the land upon which it is being built. Amidst the 300 acres will be 85 hectares of protected nature reserve.
Notable Playa del Carmen Chef Opens A Second Restaurant
Chef George, the culinary mastermind behind Oh Lala, has opened a second restaurant in Playa del Carmen. The delectable Yum Yum by George presents a menu with Thai and Vietnamese influences. A rich curry, seared tuna with Jasmine rice and tangy pork served in hollowed pineapples are some of the delightful dishes that will please your taste buds.
Like Oh Lala, your dining experience at Yum Yum is an intimate one, with limited seating and most often, a personal visit from the chef himself. Located on the corner of 10th Avenue and Calle 6, the charming restaurant is open daily from 1 – 11 p.m. Reservations are recommended.
That concludes our latest edition of current news in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. For more details on upcoming projects and events in the Riviera Maya, stay tuned!
Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2018!
From all of us at Bric Vacation Rentals
International travelers from every continent flock to this sunny, beach destination to extinguish worries, rejuvenate tired bodies and enjoy some serious quality time with family and friends. Playa del Carmen has produced millions of Mayan Riviera admirers over the years due to its magnificent beaches, crystalline waters, and small town charm.
By day, 5th Avenue vibrates with enthusiastic globetrotters traipsing in and out of the quaint artisan shops perusing the meticulously hand-crafted wares. Hundreds of juice bars and restaurants serving an invigorating selection of fresh squeezed juices made from nopal (a type of cactus plant rich in fiber, antioxidants and vitamins), oranges, chaya leaves (a Mayan green super food) and sweet watermelon to name a few, present a convenient way for morning strollers to fuel up for a day of fun in the sun.
Whether on vacation or a Playa del Carmen local, the opportunity to dine in good company is always an enriching experience to look forward to. Some favorites eateries that have stood the test of time along 5th are Chez Celine, (a delightful bakery and bistro which serves authentic French cuisine) Il Baretto, (an Italian brick oven pizzeria) El Diez, (an Argentinian steakhouse) Yaxche, (Mayan cuisine) as well as Cueva del Chango (just off 5th & Calle 38) and La Parilla ( featuring traditional Mexican fare.)
If you wish to play Jacques Cousteau or Indiana Jones for a day, speak to one of the many colorful personalities representing various tour companies who are happy to offer an assortment of thrilling expeditions. From magical snorkeling and diving adventures, zipling, sailing, fishing, catamaran and horseback riding to jungle exploration and ancient Mayan Ruin excursions, there are customized agendas suited for all types of day trippers.
Passing time on the alabaster shores and translucent waters is indeed an effective way to soothe a weary soul. However, in the heat of the midday, if you opt not for a siesta in the shade, an array of spas speckle ‘La Quinta’ (5th Avenue’s Spanish name). An air-conditioned escape for a relaxing massage, facial or nail treatment makes for an appealing break from the powerful rays of the Mexican sun.
Every hour is happy hour on 5th Avenue! Seasoned mixologists serve up ice cold Dos Equis, Corona and Modelo beer as well as a cool selection of blended Caribbean cocktails. Cheerful tourists and sociable locals are often seen swinging in the seats under the thatched-roof bars which run along the cobblestone street. Tequila aficionados appreciate the specialized tequila stores where a selection of Mexico’s finest is available.
After the sun goes down and casts a shadow over the city, the night comes alive on 5th. This bustling street stretches across more than twenty five blocks through the effervescent core of the young city of Playa del Carmen. Enjoying a fresh-churned treat on a comfy couch outside a gelato parlor provides an excellent opportunity to partake in a interesting people-watching session.
It is not uncommon for passersby to be startled by a statuesque Mayan dressed in full costume, with lavish feathered headdress, jaguar patterned face paint and all. These playful characters seem to take great pleasure in coming to life just as unsuspecting pedestrians walk by. Other cultural (and not so fearsome) figures you are apt to spot on La Quinta are the famous Mariachi. Their stringed instruments, trumpets and powerful voices intensify the genuine atmosphere and alluring vibe of 5th Avenue.
Playa del Carmen consists of a large congregation of gifted artists from every realm. Renowned local painters display their striking exhibits during the Thursday night Art Crawl. Talented musicians perform passionately on small stages within intimate venues. World-class DJs play sets for dance music enthusiasts in the nightclubs along Calle 12th and 5th.
This beautifully diverse ensemble of individuals operating within a truly dynamic setting is what effectuates the magnetic spark of 5th Avenue which draws people back time and time again.
The thriving city of Playa del Carmen was not long ago, an undeveloped region of dense jungle. The ancient Maya used the beaches of Xaman Ha, Playa’s Mayan name meaning “waters of the north” as a resting point to prepare their massive canoes for the 30 mile trek to the Island of Cozumel. For some, the journey was for business purposes – to barter local goods such as honey and salt for other commodities. While for others, this voyage to Cozumel was a sacred one.
Thousands of Mayan women from the mainland, for over 700 years, embarked on this important pilgrimage to pay homage to Ixchel, the goddess of fertility. Braving all weather and sea conditions, these determined souls entered the temples and purification huts on the small island to pray to Ixchel who was responsible for the formation and sex of the unborn child.
From 1000-1500, the Mayan civilization flourished in the area, building vibrant cities in Tulum, Chichen Itza and Coba, which became the spiritual mecca of the Mayan world. In 1518, Spanish conquistadors invaded the region, leaving destruction and disease in their wake. The Mayan population dwindled down to a few dozen who had managed to escape and elude the small pox epidemic. Although frequented by pirates and traders on route to and from the North port of Veracruz and the South port of Honduras, Playa del Carmen, renamed by the Spanish after the patron saint of Cancun, remained virtually untouched. 1902 marked the year when Playa officially became a territory in the state of Quintana Roo. Years later, families would begin to settle in the area and thus was born the quaint fishing village. The region gained notoriety in the early 1960s when Jacques Cousteau filmed a documentary on the Great Mayan Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world. After being stamped as one of the top dive sites in the world by the famous underwater explorer, Cozumel became a globally recognized tropical playground.
In the 1967, the Mexican government initiated a mega-development project to designate Cancun as a major tourist destination. Hotels, bridges and electrical lines were established which brought an influx of tourists to the Yucatan Peninsula. In 1970, Playa del Carmen’s first wooden dock was constructed and soon after, ferry service commenced to Cozumel, a popular port of call at that time. Short ferry trips from Cozumel introduced more and more cruise passengers to Playa del Carmen each year.
The remote location, natural, undisturbed setting and pristine beaches began to attract further interest and appealed especially to the free-spirited hippie generation. Rustic beach bars speckled the sand and massive cruise ships dotted the seascape. Thatched roof cabanas were erected with doors made out of bamboo and palms, not to restrict thieves from entering, but to keep out the wild pigs which often roamed the town’s dirt roads.
In the 1990s, construction of 2 larger hotels took place along the shore in the center of town, which was at that time, dominated by small family owned and operated inns. With more development came a surge in the village’s population. Newcomers moved into the town at a rate of 100 families per month, procuring Playa del Carmen’s reputation for Mexico’s fastest growing city.
During this decade, many shops, as well as local and international restaurants were established along 5th Avenue. By the year 2000, the quaint, cobblestone street, “La Quinta” was closed to traffic and stretched more than a mile north of the dock past Constituyentes. Currently, the exuberant 5th Avenue extends past CTM and is host to hundreds of dining establishments and a plethora of boutique stores, spas, artisan shops, dive centers and galleries.
Even though this heavenly city by the sea continues to experience a rapid growth rate, the local government has worked hard to honor and preserve the simplistic nature of Playa del Carmen’s humble beginnings and its charming character still remains intact. For an in depth history of Playa del Carmen, visit the recently opened Museum located in Playacar near the Reef Hotel, Manzana 27, Lot 8, Xaman-Ha, Playacar Phase 2.
The island of Cozumel, once a safe harbor for infamous pirates, is a nature lover’s paradise. Located an hour by ferry from Playa del Carmen, this laid-back city is surrounded by part of the Mesoamerican Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world. For this reason, it has attracted the most seasoned globe-trotting divers and has become a prominent port of call for cruise ships.
Originally settled approximately 2000 years ago by Mayans, Cozumel was a mecca for Mayan women in particular. At least once in their lifetimes, they would make the treacherous journey from the mainland in wooden canoes to worship Ix Chel, the goddess of fertility, medicine, midwifery and weaving. Remnants of her altar still stand today in the archeological site of San Gervasio, located in the center of the island.
In the early 1500’s, Cozumel was a bustling urban area with around 40,000 inhabitants. In 1519, the Spanish conqueror, Hernan Cortes came upon the island and brought with him massive destruction and small pox. The population dwindled to a meager 30 people, leaving the ancient Mayan civilization in ruins. By 1600, these remaining inhabitants fled, leaving the island deserted until the 17th century, when it was discovered by pirates.
The notorious Henry Morgan and his sordid crew used the island as a safe haven and were said to have stashed away their looted treasures in and around the lagoon in the island’s centre. For the most part, the island remained unoccupied until 1847. At this time, a few families escaping the Spanish retaliation caused by the Maya uprising during the Caste War, came to reside there.
Today, the enterprising city boasts a population of over 100,000 residents and has as much history as natural beauty to offer to its visitors. It was one especially sunny Saturday afternoon that our family decided to explore the allure of this splendid sanctuary. Upon arriving in Cozumel, we opted to rent an open-top jeep and drive the scenic road which runs alongside the island’s coastline.
With the wind whipping our hair into a frenzied mess, we delighted in the infused Mexican/Caribbean vibe as we embarked on our whimsical joyride. The turquoise sea beckoned us, so we decided to stop for dip and a cool cocktail at a lively beachside eatery. The bartenders served up 2 feet tall icy margaritas. Whistles were blowing, the music was pulsing and the staff seemed to be having as much fun as the patrons! After sampling the fresh ceviche and discovering shells and dried coral, (or mini slingshots as my son referred to them) along the shallow shore, we continued on our coastal journey.
Stopping to walk through the sacred ruin site where ancient Mayans had once roamed was a moving experience. The structures that remain today continue to amaze onlookers with their fascinating markings and craftsmanship. After viewing the remnants, one is certainly able to gain a better sense of the customs and beliefs of the indigenous society that had once called this mystical region home.
The next leg of our adventure led us to the rugged eastern shoreline. The views of the crashing waves against the rocky coast made for a picture perfect photo op. While a couple of us posed for the camera, the others stumbled upon a man under a hut out in the middle of nowhere. Shaded by the thatched roof of his palapa, this jolly fellow sang while weaving palm leaves into grasshoppers and safari hats. He offered us some chilled, virgin pina coladas made with fresh coconut water and served in coconut shells. We lazed in the hammocks behind the hut and sipped on the refreshing concoctions. As we walked back to the jeep, our jovial friend blew in his concha shell and bellowed to us a fond farewell.
A magical trip filled with sublime beauty, enriching cultural aspects and fresh pina coladas! Just another day in paradise…