Perfect Days Begin With Perfect Mornings
In Playa del Carmen, locals spend as much time possible in the great outdoors. The region’s warm, tropical climate lures people from around the globe to set down roots near its silky shoreline. This year-round summer weather makes outdoor living a way of life. Offices are set up on terraces perched over the Caribbean. Hockey sticks are traded in for golf clubs. Dinners are prepared on grills, and savored on patios engulfed by lush gardens.
This Riviera Maya jewel is a natural paradise. If you’re planning an upcoming visit to Playa del Carmen, you won’t want to waste a single second indoors. Enjoy your Mexican vacation to the fullest with these 7 ways to kickstart a perfect day in Playa del Carmen.
Enjoy Coffee With A View
One memorable highlight of staying in an ocean view condo with Bric is that you can wake up to some of the most spectacular sunrises in the world. Sip your morning brew on the balcony. From this privileged position, get a front-row seat to a kaleidoscope of oranges, reds, and pinks bursting across the sky. Add the Caribbean hues from the sea below into that mix, and well, there aren’t really words to describe that kind of beauty.
Breakfast at Bajo Cafe
Shaded by the umbrella of a massive flamboyant tree, Bajo Cafe is part of Mercado 30. This quaint little conglomeration of eclectic stores and eateries is located on Calle 30 and 25th Avenue.
Local artists feature their prints and artisanal works throughout the cafe. But the remarkable decor is not the only reason to visit Bajo. You’ll discover the best coffee in town, derived from coffee bean plantations in Chiapas. Try a breakfast bagel or a warm pastry, both ideal accompaniments to their robust coffee.
Sunrise Paddle Board Session
The seasoned instructors from Aloha Paddle Club are experts at reaping the benefits of beach life in Playa del Carmen. Every morning, they offer Stand Up Paddle classes from the glorious white sands at Fusion Beach Club on Calle 6. The company, who has a loyal following of locals and expats, recently signed on to offer Stand Up Yoga classes from the stunning infinity pool at Grand Hyatt.
Join Sander and his team for a safe and remarkable 1.5-hour journey to local reefs a couple of hundred meters off the silky shores. You’ll have a blast gliding over and diving into the crystal clear waters. A sunrise paddle presents one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have on the Caribean Sea.
Birdies and Breakfast Balls
Since Playa del Carmen is lucky enough to have summer weather year-round, hitting the links is a highly recommended way to start the day off right. Nothing beats teeing off in the early morning when the air is fresh, with no distractions but the local wildlife scurrying about.
Playa del Carmen is a top golf destination due to its climate and pristine, PGA tour-worthy courses. Go for birdie at championship golf courses such as El Camaleon in Mayakoba, Gran Coyote Golf in Grand Coral, or Hard Rock Riviera Maya, which sits in the center of the gated community of Playacar.
Get Your Om On At Yogaloft Playa del Carmen
Pose and meditate your way to a magical morning with a class at Yogaloft Playa del Carmen, situated on Calle 10 and 10th Avenue. Renowned instructor Michael Gannon and other guest teachers from around North America offer a schedule of classes designed to get the blood flowing and the mind centered.
These challenging and impactful sessions will help to set the mood for an excellent day. Additionally, next door to the studio is a yoga-based store selling gear and Liquid Prana. A rejuvenating line of raw, cold-pressed juices, Liquid Prana will give you the healthful jolt of energy to power through your unforgettable day.
Who’s Up For A Road Trip?
There are a thousand and one fantastic adventures to be had around Playa del Carmen, so get in the car and hit the road! Among the vast array of riveting sights are the Yucatan Peninsula’s longest underground river and cave system, cenote swimming holes, and ancient Mayan cities.
Tucked within the lush jungle are centuries-old pyramids and dozens of ecological parks, including Xcaret, Xplor, and Emotions Native Park. Within a couple of hours, you can drive to Magical Towns (Pueblos Magicos) such as the Yellow Town of Izamal and the colonial city of Valladolid.
In Bacalar, you’ll be amazed by the pirate history and the Fort of San Felipe, which overlooks the astounding Lagoon of 7 Colors.
Alternatively, head to a nearby island like Isla Mujeres or Holbox to experience island life at its finest. Ride along rustic roads lined with multi-colored buildings on a golf cart. Dine on fresh catches of the day. Furthermore, drop by a welcoming Caribbean beach bar. Listen to Reggae music as you enjoy the view consisting of turquoise and palm trees as you sip on a fruity cocktail. This dreamy island vibe will surely stick with you forever.
Additionally, you can jump on board a boat for some of the best snorkeling in the area in Puerto Morelos. Not so far off the shore is the second-largest barrier reef in the world, the Mesoamerican Reef. You’ll relish the opportunity to swim alongside turtles, parrotfish, and fascinating reef sharks.
Cozumel, just a 45-minute ferry ride from Playa del Carmen, boasts a long list of unique activities. First of all, it’s a renowned diving destination due to its extraordinary underwater visibility. Consequently, exploring sea life and sunken ships via a submarine is certain to be a grand adventure. Next, climb to the top of the lighthouse and savor the divine views at Punta Sur. Be sure to taste tequila and authentic Mexican cuisine on a food tour with a local chef. Lastly on the itinerary for things to do in Cozumel is visiting a pearl farm in the picturesque waters on the island’s north end.
No matter which direction you set out on, you are sure to collect travel stories that will make a lasting impression on your heart.
Take A Sunrise Stroll
Is there anything better than the feeling of cool sand under your feet and warm, salty waves lapping your toes? Picture an early morning walk along the powdery sand toward the sun as it rises over a turquoise seascape. It’s a picture that you will want to hold in your mind forever.
Considering all of the benefits of spending time at the beach, it is no surprise that this breathtaking activity makes it on our list. However, let’s face it, if you wake up in Playa del Carmen, you already have a huge advantage for starting the day off right!
Summer in Playa del Carmen sizzles. Luckily for visitors, you can always find inviting turquoise waters or glistening pools within close range. Built upon shores of powdery soft coral, Playa borders the shimmering blue-green waters of the Caribbean. This Riviera Maya city is most popular for its picturesque coastline. However, vacations here offer far more than cocktails on the beach.
This article sheds light on five of the best things to do in Playa del Carmen during summer vacation. These sensational outings will fill your memory bank with epic Yucatan Peninsula travel stories to tell for years to come.
Discover Paradise at El Cielo
Located a few hundred meters off the southern tip of Cozumel is El Cielo, meaning ‘Heaven.’ From Playa del Carmen, a 45-minute ferry delivers you to the largest island in the Mexican Caribbean. Upon arriving in Cozumel, you will board a smaller boat to transport you on an unforgettable 4 to 5-hour journey. As you sail south along the island’s sublime coastline, you’ll anchor at two flourishing coral reefs of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. During these snorkeling sessions, you will explore some of the clearest sea waters and meet a host of breathtaking aquatic animals.
No notice from the captain is needed, as it will become crystal clear (literally) when you arrive at El Cielo. The waters in this isolated diamond in the Caribbean rough are in the ranks with those of the Maldives. Although you won’t encounter over-the-water huts, majestic manta rays, starfish, and sea turtles will surely capture your attention.
When Mother Nature designed this extraordinary, aqua bay, she created a masterpiece too spectacular to really describe in words. Of all of the Playa del Carmen day trips available, El Cielo is a must to add to a Mexico vacation itinerary.
This entrancing water excursion is available to individual travelers as well as large groups. You can search online for local tour companies or contact your Bric ambassador to help you arrange a sublime trip to El Cielo. Included in the price are snorkel gear, beverages, and a light lunch (usually ceviche, fruit, and/or sandwiches.)
Immerse Yourself in Incredible Nature at Aktun Chen Park
This surreal experience in the heart of the jungle is an amazing introduction to local wildlife. The nature reserve offers protection to spider monkeys, coatis, iguanas, boars, and vibrant green parakeets that live within it. In addition to an up-close view of the area’s jungle creatures, you will explore an awe-inspiring cave over 5 million years old. This guided trek, voted one of the top 10 Underground Walks In the World by National Geographic, is 100% worth the 30-minute drive from Playa del Carmen.
After taking flight over the lush jungle landscape on a circuit of 10 ziplines, you will be ready to dive into the cool cenote waters. The ancient Mayan civilization believed were gates to the underworld. Even today, archaeologists and divers continue to make important discoveries of centuries-old artifacts within these limestone caves.
Wear comfortable walking shoes and only biodegradable sunscreen is permitted. Although Aktun Chen is a smaller ecological park compared to others in the area such as Xcaret or Xplor, it offers plenty of activities, at a more economical price. When you reserve with an excursion company using the booking link on the Aktun Chen page, lunch and transportation are included.
Snorkel With Turtles and Sip Piña Coladas at La Buena Vida
In the seaside village of Akumal, just 25 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, sits a tranquil bay inhabited by Hawksbill and Loggerhead turtles. One-hour, guided snorkel tours present a guaranteed opportunity to observe all sorts of marine species. Along with the turtles, you’ll see exotic fish, colorful coral fans, as well as an occasional stingray gliding across the seafloor.
Afterward, continue for 5 more minutes down the winding road to La Buena Vida, a beloved local beach bar. Request a table overlooking the bay and munch on delicious burgers, carne asada, or tangy ceviche.
While the bartender prepares another round of Caribbean cocktails, find the hammock with your name on it and settle in. If you have kids, they will love the treehouse lookout tower and pool, which are surrounded by sky high coconut palms and face an endless turquoise horizon.
Skip the hoards of vendors selling snorkel tours along the road leading to Akumal Bay. Book with Akumal Dive Shop and receive certified guides who are knowledgeable in the local laws and adhere to safety standards.
Test Your Culinary Skills At El Pueblito In Mayakoba
A cooking class with one of the country’s most engaging top chefs, Karla Enciso, offers a savory escape from the midday heat. In the air-conditioned commercial kitchen, you will learn time-honored recipes and taste unique regional ingredients. From robust salsas such as mole to guanabana (soursop) margaritas, you will be swooning over your authentic creations.
Chef Karla is an expert at blending the warmth of the Mexican culture into every dish. Her passion is infectious as she introduces visitors to an impressive array of regional flavors. This outing also makes an ideal group activity and kids are welcome! For more information, visit El Pueblito on Facebook for a schedule of cooking classes.
If you are traveling with a group, contact Chef Karla for a customized class. She is fluent in several languages and is a master at a variety of international cuisines.
Witness The Bioluminescence Phenomenon In Holbox
People from around the world flock to the Yucatan Peninsula to swim with the magnificent whale sharks. The sheer size of these spotted fish makes them intimidating. However, you have nothing to fear. Whale sharks are about as dangerous as the microscopic plankton they feed upon. Each year, these gentle giants migrate to areas off the coasts of Isla Mujeres and Holbox, an enchanting near Playa del Carmen.
Come nightfall on this sleepy island, a magical, natural phenomenon known as bioluminescence presents itself. As the water is near the shoreline is stirred, a domino effect of glowing blue light illuminates the surface. This surreal scene occurs only in the summer months from June to mid-September, when the whale sharks are in the area. Since Holbox is so close to Playa del Carmen, this once-in-a-lifetime summer outing should not be missed!
Kayak and paddle board tours are available after dark. To witness the full splendor of this sea of sparkling stars, try to plan your trip around the new moon.
That rounds out our top 5 list of best summertime activities in Playa del Carmen. Together with its lush jungle tours, ecological parks, and pristine cenotes, the Riviera Maya appeals to travelers of all ages. Not to mention the limitless day trip options to magical towns and divine islands. In addition to its superb dining scene, year-round tropical climate, and luxury accommodations. It’s no wonder Playa del Carmen remains a fixture on TripAdvisor’s Best Destinations in the World.
When you are visiting a new city, it’s helpful to do your due diligence and gather useful information so that when you arrive at your destination, everything runs a little smoother. With travel tips, you can minimize the unknowns and be more prepared when you find yourself in unfamiliar territory.
Tips such as where to find top-notch authentic cuisine, or the best way to get from point A to point B, can help to enhance your overall experience, especially when these recommendations come from locals who know the city well.
Aligning with our mission to provide the most exceptional vacation experiences possible for our clients, we have created this list of Playa del Carmen’s 10 Bests. Based on customers’ frequently asked questions, our Bric staff was given a survey. Of the hundreds of incredible dining experiences to be had in the city, it was very difficult to narrow the choices to just three per category. We’re sharing the winning votes so that when you come to Playa del Carmen, you know where to go to enjoy the city’s best!
1. Best Margarita In Town
Gold: La Piola
(Calle 38 between 1st & 5th Ave)
La Piola has been around for years and has a big local following. Besides great margaritas, they are famous for basil martinis and delicious brick oven pizzas.
You’ll love the Playa-esque setting with light bulbs strung through the trees. Some nights, it is the place to gather to watch the game, while on other evenings, you can enjoy incredible live music while you sip your icy margarita.
Silver: Casa Sofia (Plaza Paseo Coba on Aviation Road)
Bronze: Tiny Tiki Hut (20th Ave between Calle 6 & 4)
2. Best Authentic Mexican Restaurant
Gold: La Cueva Del Chango
(Calle 38 between 1st & 5th Ave)
La Cueva Del Chango (meaning The Monkey’s Cave) is a longstanding favorite in Playa del Carmen. You can choose a seat outside in the lush garden or under the thatched palapa at one of the tables surrounding the Koi fish and turtle pond.
Here you can expect some of the best service in town for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The owners are proud to support local farmers and the freshness is evident in each delicious dish.
Silver: Doña Mary (30th Ave & Calle 28)
Bronze: Axiote (Calle 34 in between 5th & 10th Ave)
3. Best Fine Dining
Gold: Harry’s Prime Steakhouse and Raw Bar
(5th Avenue between Calle 12 & 14)
Harry’s prides itself on offering only 100% fresh cuts of the top three best meats in the world; USDA PRIME, Australian Black Onyx pure Black Angus Beef, and Japanese Kobe.
Patrons tout the upscale Playa del Carmen restaurant as ‘fine dining at its best.’ Featuring a superior wine selection, ice cream made right at the table, the biggest lobster tails you have ever seen and steaks so tender they melt in your mouth, it’s best to make reservations if you’re planning a special night out.
Silver: Imprevist (1st Avenue between Calle 14 & 16)
Bronze: Sonora Grill (5th Ave & Calle 12)
4. Best Breakfast
Gold: La Cueva Del Chango
(Calle 38 between 5th & 1st Ave)
La Cueva Del Chango takes home the gold once again for best breakfast place in town. The enchiladas are some of the best in town, however you can try other great local flavors in their fresh, blended house juices, as well as the empanada, crepe, chilaquile, and omelette dishes.
The menus are in English and Spanish, the prices are fair and you can always count on service with a smile.
Silver: Chez Celine (5th Ave & Calle 34)
Bronze: Lara and Luca (Aviation Road)
5. Best Tour
Gold: Xel Ha Park
The Xcaret Experiencias Group has six (plus the soon-to-open, Xavage) remarkable ecoparks under their belt. But if we had to pick our favorite, it would be Xel Ha. Although you would undoubtedly have an unforgettable day or evening at any of their parks, travellers of all ages have a blast exploring the phenomenal nature at Xel Ha.
Among some of the thrilling features within the expansive park are modest zip lines, The Cliff of Courage (for confronting your fear of heights), Children’s World with slides leading into the turquoise waters, snorkelling bays, cenotes and the Lighthouse. This newer addition towers over the park and presents a magnificent 360-degree view.
You can also take a mini expedition into caves, traverse over jungle paths on a bike and float along a picturesque river enclosed by mangroves. Xel Ha is all-inclusive, which means you can leave your dinero in the lockers and eat and drink to your heart’s content.
Silver: Rio Secreto
Bronze: Coba Archaeological Site & Cenote
6. Best Beach Club
(Calle 10 & the beach)
For over a decade, Zenzi Beach Bar has been a fixture on Playa del Carmen’s picturesque coastline. A perfect place to “Eat Drink and Chill” with your toes in the sand, Zenzi attracts visitors and locals alike, showcasing incredible live local talent on their main stage.
Zenzi offers one of the best locations in the city to partake in salsa classes (every Monday, Thursday and Saturday at 9pm.) On other evenings, you can enjoy the amazing fire or acro yoga shows that never fail as crowd pleasers. The beloved beach club also serves as an excellent venue for events such as art expositions.
Silver: Kool Beach Club (Calle 28 & the beach)
Bronze: Lido (Between Calle 10 & 12 and the beach)
7. Best Romantic Restaurant
(Avenida Juarez between 60th & 70th Ave)
This underground cave dining experience is truly one-of-a-kind. Imagine sampling creative plates highlighting the unique tastes of the region as the light from candles and chandeliers reflects against centuries-old stalagmite and stalactite formations.
Alux features an impressive wine cellar for tasting, a main dining area, a lounge and bar area, as well as a handful of private tables tucked away in hidden crevices, creating the ultimate romantic atmosphere.
Silver: Aldea Corozon (5th Ave between Calle 14 & 14bis)
Bronze: Sundowner Yacht Club (Plaza Paseo Coba on Aviation Road)
8. Best Island Daytrip
Gold: El Cielo
Although technically El Cielo is on the island of Cozumel, (our runner-up) it is a full-day tour in and of itself. Your boat captain makes stops at two vibrant reefs, bursting with a rainbow of colourful coral and fish on route to El Cielo. This stunningly beautiful bay area is only accessible by boat, which means on most days, your group will be able to enjoy the strikingly clear waters to yourselves, with the exception of maybe one or two other boats.
Stingrays frequent the heavenly spot, plus you’re likely to encounter starfish, sea turtles and grouper in the shallow waters, which resemble a pristine pool.
Bronze: Isla Mujeres
9. Best Pub For Cheap Beer
Gold: Cervecería Chapultapec
This popular pub seems to be popping up on a new corner every month in Playa del Carmen. People love the concept of offering each menu item – from cocktails and beer to tacos and burgers – at one price! What first peeked our curiosity about La Cervecería Chapultapec were the crowds that filled the space on a nightly basis. With so much competition, it is not an easy feat for a Playa restaurant and bar to pack the house on any given night.
But, what really blew us away when we finally had the opportunity to visit La Cervecería was the value you get for your money. After receiving the bill, we had to check twice to see if the server had forgotten to charge for something. We could not believe that three of us could eat and drink for under $400 pesos!
There are two central locations (10th Avenue and Calle 14 or 1st Avenue and Calle 22) to choose from. The lively pub atmosphere is the ideal place for a casual night out in Playa del Carmen.
Silver: Tiny Tiki Hut (20th Ave between Calle 6 & 4)
Bronze: La Verbena (Calle 34 between 5th & 10th Ave)
10. Best Tacos
Gold: El Fogon
Of all things Mexican, there is nothing more authentic than the taco as far as food goes. That’s why a visit to a taquería is a must and El Fogon sits at the top of our list for best tacos in Playa del Carmen.
Whether you’re taking the family for tacos al pastor (a vertical spit-roasted marinated pork) after a day at the beach, or need some late-night grub after a few beers at the club, tacos are a good idea any time of day!
Currently, this well-liked eatery has three downtown locations. There is one on Constituyentes between 25th and 30th Avenue. Another sits on 30th Avenue at Calle 32 and the third is on 30th Avenue and Calle 8 kitty-corner to the Wal-Mart.
Silver: El Gran Taco (Across from Centro Maya Mall on Calle 41 Sur)
Bronze: Los Hijos Del Mar (30th Ave between Calle 24 & 26)
The number of dining establishments can make choosing seem overwhelming. But this list of Playa del Carmen’s best offers a perfect start point to discovering the city’s phenomenal gastronomy scene. For more suggestions on local cuisine, our BRIC Vacation Rentals ambassadors are happy to share more of their favorites!
Travel offers a wide range of life-enhancing benefits. From teaching tolerance and problem-solving skills to decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety a vacation does the body good. A getaway allows for an escape from the ordinary. It’s an exciting and necessary break from the mundane trap of a repetitive daily schedule.
A holiday in Playa del Carmen is no exception! Here are 12 ways that you’ll notice a positive effect of a beach vacation on your body, mind and soul. Life moves fast. It’s time you slowed down the pace by spending time in one of the Riviera Maya’s most award-winning destinations.
Develop A Feeling of Pride and Confidence
Along with the good memories, you will also carry back with you a sense of pride. It takes a brave person to successfully navigate a foreign airport and city. Small wins such as boarding the local colectivos (shared van taxis) to explore a nearby cenote can give your confidence a huge boost. Moreover, renting a car to explore ancient architecture, ‘Magic Towns’ and quaint islands can further develop a sense of accomplishment.
It’s easy (and encouraged) to wander outside the popular tourist areas as you stroll Playa del Carmen’s downtown area. You never know when you’ll stumble upon a fantastic eatery- there are hundred’s of them! Venturing off the well-trodden path, you may just enjoy the most authentic and sensational meal of your trip. If you are staying in a vacation rental, an outing to the grocery presents a prime opportunity to increase your Spanish vocabulary. Developing the ability to converse in a foreign language, even just the basics, can cultivate a feeling of pride.
Become More Open-Minded
When you are inundated with negative press about Mexico on a weekly basis, it’s understandable that some believe citizens live in the modern day wild wild West. But for those who get that news stories are all-to-often sensationalized, travel to Playa del Carmen garners huge rewards. By foregoing the advice of skeptics, you’ll find your risk will pay off more than you could have ever imagined. Each year, millions of international visitors are so delighted with their vacation experiences that they return again and again.
Travelers gain insights through encountering a welcoming nation. Mexicans are more than happy to share the enchanting side of their beloved country. If you come at the end of October, there is a good chance you’ll see parading through streets, people with their faces painted in exquisite skeleton make-up. Although these processions coincide with the same date, the people are not celebrating Halloween, but honouring the lives of ancestors who have passed. The deep-rooted festival has been around for thousands of years and is called Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
Another interesting point to note that you may not be aware of is that Mexicans are very particular about tequila. No matter how persuading Jose Cuervo is, try other various brands of fine tequila next time you’re in town. When gathering together, tequila is best sipped, rather than downed in an entire shot.
Relax, Rejuvenate and Be Inspired By The Great Outdoors
Spending your days immersed in breathtaking nature, your soul cannot help but be soothed. Moreover, long walks on the beach, window shopping for souvenirs on 5th Avenue and scaling temples in the jungle are all activities that will keep you moving (and help burn off the extra taco and piña colada calories).
Plus, soaking up the sun on Playa del Carmen’s silky, white-sand beaches will give you a natural dose of Vitamin D.
Be Exposed To Authentic Tastes Beyond The Burrito
Mexican cuisine is a delightful mix of complex flavors (think mole, which boasts a list of over thirty, perfectly blended ingredients). Just as chicken balls are not an authentic staple in Chinese cuisine, burritos are not a typical dish you’ll find on menus in Mexico.
Chefs like Rick Bayliss, who have travelled throughout Mexico and documented their culinary adventures in TV programs, did well to highlight the many extraordinary traditional dishes each region of the country is known for.
Since the Playa del Carmen community consists of a wonderful mix of residents from around Mexico, you can bet that you will find a diverse range of enticing plates. For breakfast try chilaquiles, juevos rancheros or saucy enchiladas. For lunch, a light ceviche or seafood tostada with an ojo rojo is a popular combo here in Playa. As for dinner, tender arrachera flank steaks or tacos al pastor are both delicious options.
Step Outside Your Regular Threshold of Comfort For Unforgettable Experiences
There is no better way to grow and challenge your comfort zone than taking an international trip. From losing your luggage to encountering language barriers, you will discover new character traits you never knew you had.
Here in Playa del Carmen, there are several ways to push the boundaries of your comfort zone. If you have a fear of heights similar to mine, the kind where your head starts spinning, your knees start shaking and temporary paralysis sets in, the modest platforms at cenotes are a fantastic way to face that fear. It may take several repetitions of ‘I think I can, I think I can’ to cliff jump or to climb the 137-foot temple at Coba, but there is a feeling of elation that accompanies these activities. Besides, the view from the top is pretty spectacular. Each time you do something that extends beyond your comfort zone, the world seems to open up just a little more, revealing new facets of its extraordinary beauty.
Diving in the open sea is another extraordinary way to test the borders of your comfort level. Since Playa del Carmen is a destination known for diving, thanks to its close proximity to the second largest barrier reef in the world, there are excellent dive shops with certified instructors to ease you through to create some surreal moments to deposit to your memory bank.
See Mexico In A Different Light
Every culture has its fare share of stereotypes, but to allow labels to deter you from visiting a country will cost you some priceless travel experiences. During the first year of calling Mexico home, my mother and sister came for a visit. The group voted to go on an adventure, so we booked a hotel in Valladolid, a charming colonial town about an hour and a half from Playa.
Reading about a new toll route that would reduce our travel time, my husband decided to take a short cut to get to this highway. A short while later, our van load of precious cargo was bouncing over a rough, jungle path heading deeper into the thick brush as every minute passed.
Just as we were discussing how we would turn around on this narrow trail, a teenage Mexican boy appeared from nowhere – carrying a machete. At first glance, it wasn’t clear if he was an angel sent to help or a serial killer. The scruffy kid asked if we were lost and offered to lead us to the highway. He hopped on the running board and slung his arm around the mirror of the van to hold on as the rusted machete hung from this other hand. Just as our crew finished reciting a prayer under our breath, we came to a clearing, which led us to the highway we had been in search of. And just as quickly as he had appeared, he was off again, swallowed by jungle. It turns out he was heaven sent and there are far more people willing to help than those with bad intentions.
Although Mexico was once considered a ‘Third World’ country, it is now listed according to the UN, in the ‘Upper Middle’ category in relation to its economy per capita. Many travelers are still under the assumption that they will see farmers leading donkeys down dirt roads or the transportation involves a ride in the back of a pickup truck with a couple of roosters. The movies paint a very different picture than the actual reality of Mexico.
In Playa del Carmen, you can expect to find high-end dining establishments, Wi-Fi and modern accommodations comparable to any other cosmopolitan city in the world.
Encounter New Adventures
Exhilarating adventures abound in the Mexican Caribbean and have nothing to do with surviving a trip to the mall on Black Friday. Playa del Carmen is a natural paradise. For the yogis, why not try a class atop of paddle board on a scenic, jade-colored lagoon? Learn a skill by taking a photography class. These photo shoots are anything but standard. You’ll get to know how to perfectly capture the sun setting over the jungle from out-of-the-ordinary vantage points like the peak of a 42-meter Mayan pyramid.
How about skydiving over the marvelous, turquoise seascape or swimming alongside turtles and stingrays in picturesque protected bay areas? The list of ideas for fun and adventure is as ceaseless as the warm weather temperatures in the Riviera Maya.
Make Lifelong Friendships
Playa del Carmen is one of those places that tend to spawn repeat visitors. One reason being that it’s an easy flight from most places in North America. The snowbird community continues to grow each year because it’s a perfect spot for retirees. The city is easy to navigate by foot and you can get by knowing very little Spanish. There are exceptional restaurants and the service is stellar. Service staff such as the bartender at your favorite beach club or our Bric ambassadors remember your name and welcome you back as their own family.
If you like to hit the links, Playa del Carmen offers several championship and PGA Tour courses. Golf offers a fantastic opportunity to form lasting friendships and meet other like-minded individuals who appreciate the game and the endless summer climate.
Develop Passion For Experiences Over Things
Once you’ve explored the beauty of the Riviera Maya and have been officially bitten by the travel bug, it’s hard to justify the purchase of a $300 wallet, when you know you could be diving off the picturesque shores of Playa del Carmen for less than that.
As a resident of Playa del Carmen, we understand well the value of experiences over things. Although this year-round sunny climate is alluring, the humid, tropical atmosphere is merciless on things. Items like bikes, televisions, a leather purse or any appliance that plugs into an electrical outlet do not last long here. The humidity rusts, corrodes and disintegrates metal and infiltrates electronics, shortening lifespans drastically. While the nice things are available in places like the Apple Store or Michael Kors on 5th, it’s just too hard to see them being destroyed by the humidity. So thankfully, it’s easy to be steered away from the material life and instead, enjoy the simple pleasures.
This is one of the many factors that cause so many people that came here temporarily to end up staying decades. The enchantment of the easy-breezy lifestyle along with the wide spectrum of impressive attractions in this renowned destination, definitely incite a passion for exploration beyond the shops on 5th Avenue.
Make Memories And Receive Real-life Education All In One
Simply talking to the taxi driver from the airport allows you to gain perspective on the culture, its people and its customs. Take Santa Clause, the jolly gift giver – one of the main Christmas characters in Canada and the United States. He has only in recent years, began making deliveries to Mexican children who made the nice list.
Still today, many youngsters in this country wake up to presents only on January 6th, after being visited by the 3 Kings. ‘Dia de Los Reyes’ as it is know in Mexico, is the pinnacle of the holiday season, which commemorates the 3 Kings who visited the infant Jesus, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
If you decide to rent a car for a day trip, you will not only discover local gems such as Cenote Eden or Yal Ku Lagoon, but also that stop signs are merely suggestions. Even when you have the right-of-way, it’s best to always proceed with caution. If you are traveling by foot, you will find out (hopefully not the hard way) that pedestrians should have, but are rarely given the right to cross on marked crosswalks. Again, proceed with caution; you’re not in Kansas anymore.
If you come to Playa del Carmen in the spring, you can witness a re-enactment of the sacred Mayan Journey. This lively three-day ceremonial occasion is held in remembrance of the pilgrimage Mayan women made hundreds of years ago from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel. It was an important event in the life of every Mayan female. Each would cross the Caribbean waters together with their families, on a grueling 7-hour canoe ride, bringing with them offerings for Ixchel, the Goddess of fertility.
As a spectator, you have a chance to view the festivities surrounding the sacred journey and to see the rowers, who have trained for months prior, endure and complete this bucket list trip. It is not only an inspiring photo op, but also gives an enlightening perspective into the civilization that once thrived in the area long ago.
Provides A Change Of Scenery During A Long, Cold Winter
Having grown up on the cold Canadian prairies, I know how it feels to be impatient for spring. Winters can drag on with incessant freezing temperatures. Planning a trip to Playa del Carmen can give you something to look forward to, and provide a much-needed break from the overcast skies and the cold, wet stuff, which chills to the bone.
Don’t just daydream of waking up to sunshine and palm trees. Our professional Bric team can help you design your version of an ideal trip to paradise. Trade in the clunky winter boots for a pair of flip-flops. Even a long weekend getaway will serve the body, mind and soul well.
A Great Conversation Starter
It is said that travel makes you speechless then turns you into a storyteller. Recalling the most memorable moments of your last trip or asking someone about his or hers, is a perfectly safe and engaging topic of conversation for any occasion. There is much to discuss, whether you have travelled extensively or not. Even if you have never left your hometown, everyone holds a special place in their heart that they would like to see and experience.
A trip to Playa del Carmen will give you more than enough fuel to stoke a stimulating conversation at your next event. From the tope (infamous Mexican speed bump) that snuck up on you and sent your rental car soaring, to a night of dancing under the stars, each trip provides more than enough entertaining anecdotes.
As long time residents, we get asked all the time by family and friends – and friends of friends – the same standard questions. People want to know what the best hotels are in the Riviera Maya, what our top-rated experiences are, and is Mexico really safe?
First things first –if I felt that the Riviera Maya was unsafe, I guarantee that I would have bought a one-way ticket for my husband and three children at the first sign of immediate trouble. However, it’s been nearly a decade since we basically renovated our entire life and moved from Canada to Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
To this day, I am in awe of the sheer magnitude of beauty we regularly encounter here in the Riviera Maya. From sunrises and sacred cenotes, to friendly faces and rustic beaches with water so clear you would swear you were in a swimming pool, it’s still seems very surreal that I am living this Caribbean dream.
If you decide to join the other four million annual visitors to Mexico’s Mayan Riviera, this list of online resources and travel tips can be helpful as you begin to plan your trip.
What Is The Riviera Maya and Which Town Suits Your Needs Best
The Riviera Maya is a hundred plus kilometre stretch of white sand beaches that run along Mexico’s Caribbean coast. This wondrous natural playground begins at Puerto Morelos and continues south just past Tulum. Dozens of adult-only, family-friendly and ultra-luxurious all-inclusive resorts run along this spellbinding corridor.
The tropical climate is one of the most appealing draws with an average year-round temperature of 30 degrees Celsius. Boasting a diverse conglomeration of ecosystems, this unique piece of paradise presents world-class diving and golfing, the longest underground river system, the second largest reef system on the planet, numerous protected biospheres and an extensive rainforest speckled with the abandoned remains of an ancient civilization.
Just a handful of seaside towns occupy the captivating coastline, each with its own set of attractive characteristics. Puerto Morelos (20 minutes south of the airport) is a quaint village with one central square where all of the action stems from. It is a popular destination for snowbirds as expats can easily integrate into the community and enjoy a peaceful and quiet existence. There are a few delightful restaurants, cafés and beach clubs surrounding the main square along with a sprinkling of typical souvenir shops.
Puerto Morelos Activities
- Xenotes Park
- Joya by Cirque du Soleil
- Little Mexican Cooking School
- Ixchel Jungle Spa
Continuing twenty minutes south is Playa del Carmen, the Heart of the Riviera Maya (40 minutes south of the airport). Once a small fishing village, it is now a vibrant, metropolitan city with a multitude of options for dining and entertainment.
The principal tourist area is on the east side of the 307 Federal Highway from CTM Avenue to Playacar on the south end of the city. The multi-cultural community is made up of a colourful mix of national and international residents and the vibe is very casual. Despite its easy-breezy ambience, an abundance of upscale restaurants, luxury hotels, brand name and boutique stores give the city its sophisticated essence.
Playa has everything you could possibly need from every type of cuisine to banks and hospitals, big box supermarkets and specialty stores as well as restaurants selling vegan or gluten free products.
Playa del Carmen Activities
- 3-D Museum of Wonders
- Frida Kahlo Museum
- El Pueblito Cooking School
- Teatro de la Ciudad
- Beach Clubs
- Roof Bars with Pools
- Xcaret Park
- Xplor Park
- Xenses Park
- Rio Secreto
- Emotions Native Park
- Cenotes Parque Fundadores
- Free Daily Cultural Shows
- Shopping Malls
- Night Clubs
Next on the map is Puerto Aventuras (55 minutes south of the airport) yet another enchanting village consisting of one square with a Dolphin Discovery as its main attraction. Houses, a few cafes and a school border the canals, which run through the golf course and residential neighbourhood.
There is a marina from which many of the Riviera Maya catamaran, fishing and yacht tours set sail. A modest hotel zone offers ocean views and a couple of all-inclusive lodging options. The shopping and dining experience is limited but there are some nice eateries with fantastic happy hour specials and sublime water views.
Puerto Aventuras Activities
- Golf (9 hole course)
- Swim with Dolphins
- Beach Clubs
- Xpa Eco-natural Spa
- Cedam Maritime Museum
- Rauxa Dinner Show
- Xpu Ha Beach
- Xel ha Park
- Woodward at Hard Rock Hotel
Ten minutes further south on the 307, you come to the Akumal, meaning ‘The Place of the Turtles’ (65 minutes south of the Cancun airport). This beautiful bay is home to an abundant source of sea grass, which makes it an ideal feeding area for Green, Hawksbill and Loggerhead turtles. There is a main dive shop on the beach, a few beach club restaurants and a hotel or two.
On the road in from the highway to the parking for the bay, you will pass by convenience stores and ice cream shops, more eateries, such as the highly recommended Turtle Bay Café, and some souvenir shops. If you continue down this road, you will arrive at Half Moon Bay, lined with quaint little hotels, water-front homes, residential houses and vacation home rentals. Heading north still, to the end, you will come to the Yal Ku Lagoon, a spectacular site for snorkeling and cooling off in the crystal clear waters.
- Yal Ku Lagoon
- La Buena Vida Beach Bar and Restaurant
- Akumal Monkey Sanctuary
The last stop on the Riviera Maya tour is the famed bohemian-chic town of Tulum (85 minutes south of the airport). It’s a quieter version of Playa del Carmen, but still offers some charming boutique shopping, upscale lodgings with thatched-roof cabañas and luxurious beach clubs. Although the style is rustic, the prices are on the posh side. However, the quality of cuisine and service tend to be fairly matched to what you will spend and the views you will encounter on these beaches are truly priceless.
Tulum is renowned for its sustainable tourism, its wide alabaster beaches, Yoga and world-class cuisine. You will come across elegant jungle hideaways and endless hole-in-the-wall restaurants showcasing healthy, locally sourced menus, which feature authentic Mexican offerings with a modern twist.
- UNESCO Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
- Punta Allen (2 hours from Tulum and the last town on this stretch of white-sand beach)
- Muyil Ruins
- Tulum Ruins
- Yoga and Wellness Retreats
- Xel Ha Eco-Park
- Tulum Jungle Maya Park by Alltournative
- Coba Ruins
Although Cancun is not part of the Riviera Maya, the Cancun International Airport (CUN) is the destination you will choose when booking your flights. There are plenty of popular big player online sites such as Expedia that offer hundreds of options to choose from when searching for the best and most economical flights. But it may mean a few extra dollars in your pocket to look beyond the usual suspects for more price comparisons. Try these additional suggestions for flight deals.
The first four options allow you to book your tickets right from the site. Although you will have to contact a travel agent, Itamatrix.com provides the whole calendar month of prices and compares almost every airline that flies to your destination. Our family has found plane tickets for half price with Itamatrix versus other giants in online travel industry, so it definitely deserves a mention.
From the airport, you can board a tourist bus to transfer you to your lodgings, or there are taxis, private vans services and the ADO bus, which stops at the major cities in the Riviera Maya including Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Expect anywhere from twenty minutes to two hours for shared transportation. If you do not mind the extra travel time, the ADO bus to Tulum takes approximately two hours, but is the most cost efficient mode of transportation. The buses are very comfortable and provide air-conditioning, wide seats and televisions, with pickup points at all four terminals.
The Riviera Maya presents a vast selection of top-notch accommodation options. Whether you are coming to celebrate your honeymoon, reuniting with relatives for a family reunion or planning a getaway with friends, the hotel and vacation rental offerings are endless. Travelyucatan.com showcases a plethora of choices in all of the hot spot destinations in this area.
The best vacation tip we like to share that never fails to please guests is to break up your stay. Pool bars, unlimited food and umbrella drinks can be blissful and relaxing for a couple of days, but seven consecutive days of this becomes boring fast.
To the right is a compiled list of first-choice accommodations in the Riviera Maya. We recommend a mix and match to have two completely different, yet unforgettable vacation experiences in one.
Spend a couple of relaxing days at an all-inclusive for your fill of Eat. Drink. Sleep. Repeat. Then choose a vacation rental in one of Playa del Carmen’s top condo hotels near 5th Avenue, the city’s main dining, shopping and entertainment district. This will give you the chance to really get a sense of the incredible Playa lifestyle, its sensational tastes and fun-loving people. It is just small enough to navigate by foot or bicycle, while offering museums, aquariums, galleries, boutique shops and over three hundred restaurants in the downtown area.
Its central location offers convenient access to the many ecological parks, ancient Mayan ruins, and picturesque cenotes in the region.
Once you have confirmed your dates with the flights and accommodations booked, you can delve deeper into your research and read honest reviews on the best activities in the Riviera Maya at Everythingplayadelcarmen.com. This site is chock-full of un-biased information along with restaurant, hotel and attraction reviews. It also contains updated travel tips and covers some of the newest concepts to pop up around the entire Yucatan Peninsula.
As the name states, you will find everything you need to know about Playa del Carmen and area including detailed instructions on how to get around, best economical or authentic menus, as well as what to expect at popular and lesser visited gems in the Riviera Maya.
The travel blogging duo from Gettingstamped.com spends a few weeks each year in Playa del Carmen and have even called it home for a four-month period. Hannah and Adam know this region well and have put together several guides from living in Playa del Carmen to the best day trips with Playa as a home base. They continually update their content so you can count on current and honest content.
A third option that offers travel tips and day trip ideas with full guides for some of the area’s top and less touristy, hidden Riviera Maya gems is the Bric Travel Blog. Any experiences that are worth sharing to help visitors have fun and memorable vacations are documented here. Also, Bric’s Playa del Carmen experts are available through an online chat to answer any questions you may have regarding the area.
If you are fluent in español, Rivieramaya.com presents a wealth of information on the fore- mentioned destinations.
Should you want to do some exploring on your own, minus the expensive group tour prices and crowded buses, hiring a reliable private van service is recommended. This company allows you to customize your adventure and you have a private guide to give you insider information on some of the area’s top sites.
Additionally, you can use the local Taxi WhatsApp service (+52 1 984-138-1075 / +52 1 (984-197-0814) to reserve your ride. The best feature of this service is that you have a guaranteed price at the time of booking so there are no surprises when you arrive at your final destination.
For any other information regarding a Playa del Carmen vacation, our offices are open everyday to answer your calls. Contact us anytime and we will do our best to help!
After living in Playa del Carmen for more than half a decade, one becomes quite familiar with the ins and outs of the most sophisticated beach town in the Riviera Maya. Since we are in the hospitality industry, our reservations and ambassador teams receive a fair amount of questions related to everything from the weather and what to pack to safety and exchanging money.
We decided to put together a list of tips to help travelers visiting the area get the most out of their Playa del Carmen vacation experience.
1. Local Currency
- The currency used in Playa del Carmen is the Mexican Peso, but US dollars and credit cards are widely accepted in restaurants and main tourist attractions. Buy pesos from your local bank before you come. Most banks offer a much better exchange rate than your hotel or the exchange houses along 5th Avenue.
- Also, the best way to avoid credit or bank card fraud is to avoid using them. If you must use an ATM, go to one within a bank rather than using a random one on the street or in your hotel.
If you need to buy groceries, use your US dollars. The main grocery stores offer the highest exchange rates in town.
2. What to Pack
- You are coming to the beach so pack light! Flip-flops during the day and a pair of wedge sandals for a nice dinner out (stilettos = twisted ankles on cobblestone streets). You’ll feel most comfortable in loose, breathable clothing. Pack a couple of swimsuits and a sarong, which doubles as a beach blanket. In the cooler months from December to February, a light sweater for the evenings comes in handy. The majority of restaurants in Playa del Carmen have a casual dress code, but at some more elegant eateries, men are required to wear long pants and closed-toed shoes.
- Don’t forget to pack biodegradable sunscreen. All sunscreens are luxury items here and are very expensive – some costing $500 pesos or almost $30 USD in the resort gift shops! Many of the parks in the area prohibit sunscreen that is not eco-friendly.
- Another product we like to have around come dusk here in Playa del Carmen is Johnson’s Baby Creamy Oil with Aloe and Vitamin E. It works wonders as a mosquito repellent!
- In the beach bag, old sheet and pillowcase packages (the plastic ones with zippers) are perfect for packing your sunscreen. We also throw in a wide paintbrush to dust the sand off our legs and feet after a day at the beach.
Many travelers are opting to pack only a carry-on to save on the fees for checked baggage. Remember, that any liquid (including shampoo, sunscreen, and vanilla bottle souvenirs) over 100ml will be confiscated at the airport.
3. Stay Healthy
- If you’ve been to Mexico before, chances are you are all too familiar with Montezuma’s Revenge (the not-so-pleasant traveler’s diarrhea.) When our family comes to visit us, we always show up at the airport with some snacks and yogurt drinks. Consuming yogurt every morning (no added sugar is best) in any form seems to help build up the good bacteria in your system and ward off the nasty curse.
- Eating tacos while visiting Mexico is a must! But steer clear of the desolate taco stands with no customers. If the locals are crowding around a particular vendor, it’s a good sign that it’s been around a while and it’s safe to eat from.
- Keep hydrated, and that means drink plenty of water in between the tequila shots and piña coladas!
- The sun is warm and friendly in the Mexican Caribbean, just like the people, but it needs to be respected or you’ll end up scorched. A bad case of sunburn is enough to ruin a vacation, so be sure to protect your skin every couple of hours with a fresh application of sunblock.
4. Save some money while exploring what Playa has to offer
- 5th Avenue is Playa del Carmen’s main dining, shopping and entertainment district. It’s a bustling, cobblestone street that’s closed to traffic and it’s a prime spot for people watching. Along La Quinta, it’s Spanish name, you can find hundreds of great restaurants, boutique and artisan shops, galleries, dive centers, pubs and lounges.
- That being said, it is often busy with tourists, which means it can be a bit pricier. Don’t be afraid to venture away from this famous avenue to find little hole-in-the-wall restaurants with amazing authentic food and very reasonable prices. Try Casa Sofia, just a couple of blocks west (heading away from the ocean) from the south end of 5th on Airport Road. Other restaurants offering tasty, traditional cuisine that won’t cost an arm and a leg include Dona Mary’s (30th Avenue & Calle 26,) Papa Charly’s (Calle 30 between 25th & 30th Avenue,) La Tarraya (Calle 2 & the beach) and Los Aguachiles (corner of Calle 34 & 25th Avenue.)
- If you know you want to do a tour or have an adventure-filled day at one of the nearby eco-parks while you’re visiting Playa del Carmen, book online at least 14 to 21 days prior to your arrival to receive discounts on the admission passes. Visit the Xcaret Experiences webpage for details about pricing and promotions.
- There are free daily cultural performances like the Danza de los Voladores or the Mayan Warrior Dance in Parque Fundadores located at the south end of 5th Avenue near the chapel and the beach. Grab a churro (a popular Mexican sweet treat) or an order of fresh, peeled, tropical fruit from a vendor within the park and enjoy the show!
5. Best times to visit Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya
- Unfortunately, you are not alone when you decide to book a family vacation during the Christmas or Easter breaks. These are the peak seasons in Playa del Carmen, which means you need to plan ahead as the resorts and vacation rentals fill up quickly.
- Furthermore, epic music festivals like the BPM and Arena draw tens of thousands of people to the city annually in January. Not only are flights and accommodations more expensive during this time of year, but also the city experiences a heavy influx of visitors. Expect popular downtown beaches like Mamitas, to be a lot busier. You’ll find the best deals and the least amount of visitors from September to November and April to June.
- As far as weather goes, the ideal months to come are from the end of November until the end of May, when hurricane season is over and the weather starts to cool off. Average winter temperatures range from a comfortable 23 to 25 degrees Celsius (or 74 to 77F.) There is less rain during this time of year and you can expect blue skies and a calm, turquoise sea, for the most part. Come springtime, it warms up to the high twenties, but the humidity is still lower than in summer.
6. Swim in a cenote
- This is one of the most memorable (and inexpensive) activities you can partake in when you visit Playa del Carmen. These spectacular swimming holes were formed thousands of years ago when the underground river system beneath the Yucatan Peninsula caused parts of the limestone bedrock to cave in. Each cenote is unique, with its own breathtaking features. Some are completely enclosed with remarkable stalactite and stalagmite formations, while others are open, natural swimming pools.
- There are a few within the city limits and several along the Riviera Maya’s Federal 307 Highway. Getting there is easy and only costs a few pesos if you take a Colectivo (a van taxi that runs along the highway from Puerto Morelos to Tulum.) The official starting point for the Colectivos is on Calle 2 between 15th and 20th Avenue, but they will pick you up and drop you off anywhere you need to go along the highway. Cenotes Eden, Azul and Crystalino are approximately 20 minutes from Playa del Carmen and are walking distance from the highway drop off point.
- The nature within the cenote setting is awe-inspiring. There are usually cliffs to jump from, bathrooms, and life jacket rentals. The waters are cool, crystal clear and very calm so if you are a decent swimmer, life jackets are not necessary. Many attract divers who explore their deepest depths through tunnels and connecting caverns.
Bring your own towels, snacks and beverages but leave the beer at home since alcohol is not permitted. US dollars or credit cards are not generally accepted by these private, family-run attractions. The entrance fees range from $40 to $100 Mexican pesos ($2.25 to $5.50US.)
- Within this flourishing, metropolitan seaside city, you’ll find a variety of exceptional, international cuisine. There are plenty of family-friendly restaurants, pub-style beach bars and posh eateries. The tip, or propina in Spanish, is not usually included and leaving 15-20% is standard for satisfactory service.
- It is also typical to leave at least $1 peso per bag for the people who pack your groceries and at least 10% of the total at the pump for the gas attendant. It is not customary however, to tip for a taxi ride unless the driver has provided extra service such as helping you with your bags.
- Most service personal are good-natured, hard-working, honest people. But every now and then a tip is included in the total of the check without notifying the patron. So it never hurts to double-check and clarify the total with your server when eating out.
8. Stay Safe
- The Yucatan Peninsula has nice highways and that make it relatively easy to get around. This area is also one of the safest areas in Mexico. However, do use caution if you have rented a car, as it is common to see a careless driver or two flying down the highway at dangerous speeds. It is always recommended to get the full insurance package with your car rental. Another important note: use extreme caution when driving in the rain as the highways become as slippery as a sheet of ice.
- Playa del Carmen itself is a very safe city and especially in the downtown core where most of the action in town takes place, it is perfectly fine to walk after dark. Always use common sense and your best judgment when alcohol is involved.
- Most vacation rentals and resorts provide safes to keep your valuables locked away. This is a good place to put your passport, jewelry, electronics and your tourist visa
Be sure to have your visa (the card you filled out on the airplane) at the airport on the day you leave. It is a hassle and expensive to replace a lost tourist visa.
- Although bicycles are a main mode of transportation here, use extreme caution. Pedestrians and cyclists may have the right of way here, but because many drivers ignore that fact, you should always be alert. The city of Playa del Carmen is making it safer for those that ride bikes by constructing bike paths along the major routes. There are several bike rental shops in town and it is a quick and easy way to get from one side of the city to the other on a pedal bike.
- Buying souvenirs is a great way to remember your trip to the Riviera Maya. The shopkeepers expect a little bartering and often start at a much higher price than they’ll actually accept in the end. Being friendly and fair will result in a price you will both be happy with.
- While walking along 5th Avenue, chances are you’ll encounter someone selling tours. If possible, check online in advance while still in the pre-trip planning stage to get an idea of the admission prices to the adventure parks and attractions in the area. Sometimes, if you speak to a salesperson at one of the tour booths on the street, they can customize a tour for you and may give discounts when more than one excursion is booked.
10. Have the best of both worlds
- Living in paradise, we always have a steady stream of family and friends that stay with us. We love to give our visitors the opportunity to see Playa del Carmen from the perspective of a local. By eating at little gems we’ve found over the years and setting off together on mini road trips to colonial towns like Valladolid or the breathtaking Bacalar Lagoon, we’ve created memories that will last our lifetimes.
- If you can stay with friends or book a vacation rental, you’re more likely to hear about and discover special places beyond the resort, taste more authentic food and have richer cultural experiences. But it’s also a nice option to forget about cooking and laundry for a couple of days. So we like to book the whole crew in for a night or two at a hotel.
- Our guests always tell us they feel like they’ve experienced the best of both worlds. They have a chance to absorb the local lifestyle as well as indulge in the welcomed state of inertia often generated from an all-inclusive stay.
Be An Adventurer
Book a few nights at a centrally-located, private and spacious condo in the Playa del Carmen, then reserve a hotel on one of the nearby islands like Holbox, Cozumel or Isla Mujeres for a couple of nights. This gives you the perfect opportunity to explore the city and its sublime surroundings.
We hope these tips are useful when it comes to planning your beach getaway in the Riviera Maya. We want you to have the vacation of a lifetime! If you have any questions that this article did not cover, do not hesitate to contact our team of Playa del Carmen experts at 1(800)519-2486 or +52(984)803-3191.
When we first traveled to Playa del Carmen back in 2003 on our honeymoon, I remember walking along 5th Avenue, the main cobblestone street where the majority of the action took place. There were folk dancers dressed in white, the men in cowboy hats and the ladies in wide, embroidered skirts performing on wooden platforms. Neighborhood pubs with swings around the bar, and restaurants built with massive trees standing in their centers left me awestruck.
The city still possesses that same simplistic and magical air, one that draws millions of visitors from near and far each year. However, Playa del Carmen has blossomed significantly and is one of Mexico’s fastest growing cities. For this reason, decisions like choosing from its hundreds of restaurants can be overwhelming, on top of the questions and concerns that arise when traveling to a foreign country.
In this article, we have compiled a list of answers to the frequently asked questions we receive from travelers who are new to Playa del Carmen. It’s an extensive list, but I assure you, once you spend a couple of days in the city, it is still small enough that you get your bearings quite easily. For those travelers who prefer to go with an agenda more so than on a whim, hopefully these suggestions and tips will help with the pre-planning!
Where is Playa del Carmen?
Because it is located in the middle of this world-renowned stretch of white-sand coastline, it has been nicknamed ‘The Heart of the Riviera Maya.’ Playa del Carmen is just 40 minutes south of the Cancun International Airport on the 307 Highway. It is part of the state of Quintana Roo, one of the 3 states that make up the Yucatan Peninsula in southeastern Mexico. This laid-back seaside city sits along the picturesque Caribbean Sea.
Tip: Once you arrive at the Cancun Airport and go through customs and immigration, you will receive your tourist card. Keep that safe with your passport, as you will need it to leave the country. If for some reason it does get lost, you will have to pay around $50US for a new one at the Immigration office.
The principle currency is the Mexican Peso, but US dollars are widely accepted at grocery and retail stores, restaurants and gas stations. Many properties for rent and for sale are listed in US as well.
To exchange your money, there are several conveniently located ‘casas de cambio’ around town. These exchange houses sell US, Canadian dollars, and Euros.
It is recommended that you use only the ATMs at the main banks in town and avoid using random machines (even in hotels), as they are known to be not as secure. However, it is possible to exchange your money at the front desk of most hotels, but be aware that they tend to offer a poor exchange rate.
Tip For the best rates, we suggest buying Mexican pesos from your local bank beforehand if possible.
Navigating The City
As mentioned above, Playa del Carmen is still small enough that you can get around without a car. The town consists of a series of one-way avenues that go up by 5s beginning from 1st, 5th, 10th and so on. These avenues run parallel to the beach or north and south. The majority of streets or Calles, are also one-way and go up by 2s, running east and west.
There are a few main streets to remember:
- 5th Avenue or La Quinta in Spanish – Playa del Carmen’s dining, shopping and entertainment district. This famous cobblestone avenue is pedestrian-only and is lined with restaurants, galleries, dive shops, artisan and boutique stores, pubs and cafes.
- Benito Juarez is where you’ll find the ADO bus terminal on 5th. To the south heading towards Playacar from Benito Juarez, the Calles go up 1 sur, 3 sur, 5 sur. To the north of Juarez, they also go up from 1 but are even numbers – Calle 2, Calle 4, Calle 6 and so on. On 1 sur and the beach is where you will find the Ferry Terminal to Cozumel.
- Calle 12 is where the city’s most popular dance clubs and bars are located. For a taste of Playa del Carmen’s incredible nightlife, where top DJs in the region gather, salsa-lovers congregate, and vegas-style shows dazzle, you need to check out this street’s sizzling vibe!
- Constituyentes is the main drag between Calle 16 and 20. There is beach access at the end of this street and it is where you’ll find Quinta Alegra (a beautiful open air mall) on 5th. There are many businesses on this street including grocery stores, bakeries, a Scotia Bank (and HSBC near Mega grocery store on 30th) a Subway, and barbershops to name just a few.
- CTM is in between Calle 44 and 48. This is the newly developed north end of 5th Avenue and offers public beach access. There are many little markets for fresh fruit and fresh juices along this street. You’ll also find bakeries, spas, restaurants, convenience stores and many other businesses for your household needs.
- Avenida 115 – If you go on CTM from Playa’s downtown core and head west across the highway, you’ll come to 115th Avenue and one of the city’s main malls, Plaza Las Americas. There is a large grocery store (Chedraui), retail stores for clothes, shoes, and accessories, a cinema (Cinepolis where adult movies are in English with Spanish subtitles and animated films are dubbed in Spansih,) a furniture store and a kids indoor fun place (Chiquilandia.)Also along 115, you can find plumbing stores, the city’s second Walmart location, a cultural center (Centro Cultural behind Radio Shack,) many restaurants and the Municipal Transit building (in case you ever have to pay a parking ticket!)
- Careterra Federal (the 307 Highway) – is the main highway running through the Mayan Riviera from Cancun to Chetumal, the state’s capital. Along the highway within Playa del Carmen, you’ll find Office Max and Office Depot, CostaMed and Hospiten hospitals, pediatric centers, a stretch of furniture stores at the entrance of Playa del Carmen, Centro Maya (the second main shopping mall) a movie theatre, the Telcel (cellphone provider) office, Soriana grocery store and more. Also just off this highway are City Club and Sam’s Club, two of the main membership-only, bulk grocery stores in Playa del Carmen.
Getting around by bike is a quick and effective mode of transportation. Since the new bike paths have been created along 10th Avenue, it makes using a bike somewhat safer. But typically, you have to be extra alert as biking can be dangerous. Many of our clients love to cruise around on their bikes and get about the city with no issues. Just be warned that cyclists and pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way here.
Car rentals are often an option if you want to see more of the area. It is convenient to have your own vehicle if you plan on a road trip and wish to make several stops along the way. There are numerous companies operating in the city and at the airport. We suggest always purchasing insurance and be sure to take photos of the car before you drive away from the rental agency.
Traffic lights work differently than they do in other areas of North America. You can turn left on a green since there is no oncoming traffic. Each side at the intersection must wait for a green light in order to proceed. The light is green only for one direction at a time.
A road sign with an E and a red line through it means no parking or (no Estacionmiento.) The rules of the road are basically the same as anywhere else nowadays. It is illegal to drink and drive, to not wear your seat belt and to talk on your cellphone while driving.
Tip: At the gas station, always check to make sure the gas attendent starts the pump at $0.00. Keep your money until the end, once the attendent has replaced the pump and states the amount. This will help you to avoid gas pump scams. Leaving $10 pesos or about a buck is customary as a tip for service.
The ADO bus system is a reliable and cost-effective method by which to get to and from the airpoirt, as well as to many of the attractions in neighboring towns such as Puerto Morelos or Tulum (to see ancient Mayan ruins.) The buses are airconditioned and clean, some have bathrooms for longer trips.
There are two stations in the city, the main one is on Benito Juarez and 5th Avenue, the other on is on 20 Avenue and Calle 12. Tickets can be purchased online by visiting the ADO website or at the station and run about $11 USD for a one-way to the airport.
Colectivos are one of the most econonmical ways to get around town and also conveniently run along the 307 throughout the Mayan Riviera. For under $50 pesos ($3 USD), you can travel in one of these handy van taxis to swim with turtles in Akumal Bay, take a cooking class at the Little Mexican Cooking School in Puerto Morelos, or take a dip in one of the many cenotes (stunning limestone sink holes) located along the highway.
The central colectivo station in Playa del Carmen is located on Calle 2 and 20th Avenue. This is your starting point but it will make stops wherever you need to go along the highway. Just be sure to mention to the driver when you board where you would like to get off.
Taxis are readily available, but are one of your most expensive options for traveling around the region. The rates within town are set and many taxis post them now inside the cab. To travel in the downtown core the cost is quite reasonable. But it’s always a good idea to confirm and agree on the price before you jump in. Most of the taxistas speak English and are a wealth of information if you are looking for the best taco joints in town for example.
Private van services are a great option if you want to go on a road trip with a group of people. Most drivers can offer different schedules and routes or are flexible and allow you to completely customize your own itinerary.
Playa del Carmen receives on average 300 days of sunshine a year, which makes for many unforgettable beach days! No typical four seasons here! We just have warm, hot and melting point!
November to February are the coolest, driest months averaging about 24C or 75F. This is the most comfortable time of year to visit as the days are warm and sunny, and the nights cool off just enough for a light sweater. In March, April and October, the weather warms up to about 26C or 79F. From May to September, temperatures average 29C or 84F. This is the time of year when we spend the majority of our days by the water. Those turquoise ocean waters, glistening swimming pools, and cool cenotes are even more inviting during the extra warm summer months!
After living here for a few months, you eventually become climatized to the higher temperatures and humidity. But if you can’t handle the heat, we recommend taking advantage of Playa’s ‘Winter’ season.
Tip: Packing for this climate is fairly simple and your clothing necesities shouldn’t take up much space in your suitcase. Think cool! Light, airy sundresses, cotton shirts, open toe sandals, wedges (stilettos + cobblestone streets = twisted ankles,) flip flops, shorts, tanks and swimsuits! For the evenings, you might want to bring a wrap or a thin sweater.
Dining out in Playa del Carmen provides hundreds of opportunities to taste fantastic international fare! Although it’s a relatively small city, the gastronomy scene in Playa is an impressive one!
From tacos to tartars, tender Argentinian steaks to catches of the day straight from the Caribbean Sea, visitors are often surprised and delighted at the number of delicious restaurant options. With Playa’s large expat, Italian and French communities, along with nationals from every point of Mexico, the colorful mix of cultures means a sumptuous array of cuisine from around the world!
Tip: When dining out, on occasion, there is a ‘discrepancy’ in the bill. When you receive the bill, double check that the total number of cervezas reflects the actual number that was consumed. Also, confirm that the PROPINA or tip has not already been added on.
Just a few years ago, grocery shopping could be a frustrating experience in Playa del Carmen. If you were making lasagna for example, it took a full morning and three different stores to find all the ingredients! Nowadays, the grocery stores are stocked full of typical products and specialty or international items.
For superstores, there are 2 Walmart locations (one on 30th Avenue & Calle 8, the other on 115th Avenue & Colosio,) Soriana in the Centro Maya Mall (Federal Highway at the south end of the city,) Mega (30th Avenue & Constituyentes) and Chedraui (along the highway one block south of Benito Juarez.) One of the most popular markets for produce and specialty items is DAC (30th Avenue between Constituyentes & Calle 20).
Tip: For fresh herbs like basil or dill that can be hard to find at the main grocery stores, ask the clerks at DAC and they will retrieve some from their back cooler for you.
A couple things to keep in mind, Wednesdays are the busiest day (longest check-out lines) of the week. Just because the store is open, does not mean they will sell you alcohol. Usually, you cannot buy booze before 9am and the stores stop selling it early on Sundays (2-4pm) due to the liquor laws. For packing your groceries, the clerks appreciate tips. $1 peso per bag is standard.
Make Friends On Land And At Sea!
Not only is the weather warm in Playa del Carmen, but the people are very sociable and hospitable as well. Most of us come to live in paradise, leaving friends and family behind. Therefore, we are open and welcoming to newcomers and love to share the best this region has to offer!
Tip: One way to get off on the right foot with our ocean friends, is to please wear all-natural or biodegradeable sunscreens and repellants. By respecting and protecting the delicate underwater ecosystems, we will be able to swim amongst the amazing marine life that dwell within them for many more years to come!
Whatever your workout style may be, there are an abundance of exercise classes in which to meet like-minded people from yoga to bootcamps to crossfit. The two most popular gyms in the downtown core are The Gym (1st Avenue between Constituyentes and Calle 16) and Evolve (Calle 24 between 5 and 10th Avenue.)
The region has dozens of championship golf courses which present the perfect platform from which to strike up interesting conversations with fellow golfers. The tropical settings are breathtaking as are the ocean vistas on some of these pristine courses.
There are meetup groups, seminars and spiritual retreats happening every month. Also, Bric Vacation Rentals hosts a Happy Hour (and a half) most Fridays from 4:30 – 6pm at our office located on Calle 38 near the OXXO at the beach. It is a great opportunity to get to know other guests and owners and to mingle with Bric representatives. If you are new to Playa, it would be our pleasure to answer any questions you may have!
As the trees begin to lose their leaves and the temperatures drop, snowbirds take these cold weather indications a signal to finalize plans for their winter escape. As exciting as hockey season or Christmas preparations can be, the cold period can seem long and never-ending. To be able to take a mid-winter break from snowstorms and gray, rainy days serves the mind, body and spirit well.
For many couples, their escape plan involves more than a short stint in the tropics. Flying south has become a winter tradition, a natural ritual that has evolved into an important part of their lives. We spoke with one such couple to get insight into why they pick Playa del Carmen over the boundless options of warm weather destinations.
Lindsay and Janice are from Manitoba, Canada. They were our clients for many years and continue to remain in close contact with the BRIC family. We were delighted when they agreed to talk candidly to us about their annual Playa del Carmen experience. Hopefully, the information provided, will be helpful to those of you who are contemplating an extended winter getaway.
JR: How long have you and Lindsay being coming to Playa del Carmen?
Jan: We have been coming to Playa for over 10 years.
JR: Typically how long do you spend in Playa?
Jan: We spend around 4 to 5 months here.
JR: What do you think of all the changes and growth the city has experienced, in the last few years especially?
Jan: There have been considerable changes to Playa since our initial visits. Many of the changes have been positive in that they have improved the quality, selection and availability of items such as groceries, activities, shopping and accommodations. However, with the progress comes some negative changes as well. The traffic, pedestrian congestion and noise have increased. For someone who will only be in Playa for a week or two for some fun and sun, these changes would not have any impact. However, as a long term resident, the noise, especially around festival time (BPM) around our previous downtown 5th Avenue condo had become an issue. We now stay in the quiet, gated community of Playacar on the south end of town. It is our hope that the beautiful beaches, the ocean and the charm of 5th Avenue will not be lost in the pursuit of progress and development.
JR: What about Playa del Carmen keeps bringing you back year after year?
Jan: We continue to return to Playa for many reasons. It is a relaxed, casual lifestyle and we enjoy the pace of life here. Being a walkable community, there is no need for a vehicle. Biking, walking and reasonable taxi rates make it easy to get around. Also the beaches are some of the best anywhere. The people are extremely friendly and you can choose to be as busy as you desire.
JR: Do you run into many other snowbirds escaping the cold Canadian/American winters? Is it easy to meet people?
Jan: During our 10 plus winters in Playa del Carmen, we have met many other snowbirds, both Canadian and American who return yearly. It always feels like we’re coming home and reconnecting with friends. As well, we have become friends with many Mexican locals who welcome us back each year. It is very easy to strike up a conversation and meet new people whether you are sitting around the pool, walking the beach or eating out at one of the many great restaurants.
JR: What activities keep you busy when you spend an extended amount of time in this area?
Jan: People always wonder what we do all winter. Like anywhere else, we are just living and going about our daily activities. We love to do a daily beach walk, ride bikes, golf, shop, and entertain company by touring the various tourist attractions. We enjoy getaways to some of the nearby islands such as Cozumel, renting a car and exploring the interior of Mexico, or just visiting with friends.
JR: Do you find that the cost of living the same lifestyle you are accustomed to is reasonable in Playa?
Jan: Financially, Mexico is a very reasonable winter destination. Although, as this particular city continues to grow, prices for most things like rent, taxis, groceries, eating out, etc. increase as well. However, it still continues to be affordable compared to other Caribbean destinations.
JR: You’ve seen or heard about the headlines in Canadian newspapers about the violence in Mexico. Do you feel safe in Playa del Carmen?
Jan: As a female, I feel safe walking around town, even in the evening. However, like in any other city in any other country, there are areas where I would not walk around after midnight…you need to use common sense. For the most part, the crime we hear about is minor, crimes of convenience like small theft, for example a cell phone that have been left on a table and taken.
JR: How do you feel dealing with day-to-day life in Playa del Carmen with a limited Spanish vocabulary?
Jan: Knowing Spanish has never really been an issue as most people speak English in Playa. We feel somewhat limited compared to many locals that speak multiple languages. But we try to learn more Spanish each trip so we can communicate with a few words and phrases when dining out or grocery shopping. The locals appreciate any effort you make to speak the language, although it is not required.
JR: Any tips you can offer those who are searching for the perfect place to spend their semi or full-time retirement?
Jan: We continue to return to Playa as it feels like we are coming home each winter. What made us choose Playa del Carmen 10 years ago is simple – we wanted a destination that had more to offer than just a beach, as we needed more options if we planned on staying for a 3-5 month period. While Playa has both beautiful beaches and crystal clear water, it is also a safe community. No vehicle is required, which is a big factor for us. We didn’t want one of us to be stranded while the other was out with car. There are many touristy things to do with guests. The quality and variety of grocery items is important to us and the grocery bill tends to be a lot less in Playa than in Canada. We love the city for its unlimited dining options, quality hospitals and medical care, great movie theatres, abundance of golf courses, relaxed, comfortable lifestyle and consistently hot weather.
For semi-retirees like Lindsay and Janice, Playa del Carmen has become a familiar second home for them. The city’s location (40 minutes from the Cancun International Airport) and amenities meet their needs and more. This Canadian couple opts to rent a condo each year during their stay. With a plentiful inventory of luxury and budget-friendly condos, finding the perfect vacation home in Playa is an uncomplicated process.
Whether you are interested in a vacation rental or in purchasing a second home, there are reputable and established companies that can help you. BRIC Vacation Rentals and BRIC Real Estate have been making people’s dreams come to fruition for over a decade. Our professional staff of Playa experts is happy to answer any questions or offer first-hand knowledge and advice when it comes to renting or buying a property.
If Playa del Carmen comes up on the radar as you search for a home away from home, we hope this article provides some useful information to assist you when it comes time to make your decision.
Anytime is a great time to come and enjoy the warm Caribbean waters and friendly, casual beach vibe in Playa del Carmen. However, traveling during the off season can save you a bundle and afford you bonus luxuries that you may not be able to fit in the budget say if you book during the peak seasons.
So if you can arrange to take your holidays in the fall, here are 10 ways you’ll benefit by visiting Playa del Carmen during the autumn months:
1. Fall Into Savings
Seat sales and accommodation discounts abound! It doesn’t take an expert travel agent to find fantastic deals online at this time of year. Resorts all along the pristine Riviera Maya coastline often offer kids stay free promotions. Within Playa del Carmen, posh condo hotels like The Elements, Aldea Thai and El Faro present reduced rates while still providing all of the standard upscale services and amenities.
2. Temperature Begins To Cool
Cooler weather starts to make its way to the Mexican Caribbean come October. While the days remain sunny and warm, the night temperatures fall. You have a perfect balance of sunshine by day and a fresh, comfortable climate at night. As the sultry heat disappears with the setting sun, activities like cocktails on one of the city’s famous rooftop lounges, or dancing the night away become that much more appealing.
The average temperature from September to December in Playa del Carmen is a pleasant 27C or 81F.
3. Golf Discounts
The Riviera Maya is speckled with unbelievably striking golf courses. Most fairways are lined with palms while some holes overlook the Caribbean Sea! If you love to golf, you’ll appreciate the 2 for 1 rate many of the courses like Hard Rock Riviera Maya Golf Club and Grand Coral offer during the low season.
If you are a morning person, reserve an earlier tee time. You’ll be able to hit the links and enjoy the fresh temperature. Moreover, there’s rarely a waiting period due to a caravan of golfers ahead of you at this time of year.
4. The US Dollar Goes A Long Way
Currently, the US Dollar to Mexican Peso exchange rate is fluctuating around 18:1. This means an extravagant dinner out will cost you a fraction of what it would cost for a meal of similar quality in the majority of cities in the United States. Spa services become more affordable as do other luxuries like a dinner with a private chef or a day gliding over the turquoise sea on a private yacht.
Most tours prices are presented in US dollar amounts and your American money is accepted in the majority of the over 300 amazing restaurants on Playa del Carmen’s famous 5th Avenue.
5. Vibrant New Hot Spots In Playa del Carmen
Exciting new businesses are sprouting in up-and-coming areas like Los Olivos Plaza near 115th Avenue and Arco Vial 28 de Julio (the avenue that leads to the new 305 Highway.) Pubs like La Drinkeria y La Inombrable Cantina are serving casual eats, and drinks at reasonable prices, all within upbeat, unpretentious atmospheres.
Carmen Beer Co recently opened and is located across the 307 Highway from the Centro Maya Mall on the south end of town. Beer lovers can sample some fantastic artisanal beer and get a glimpse of the extensive brewing process through the glass wall in their front tasting room and bar area.
Already one of the most popular corners on 5th Avenue for great food and drink, Mimosa Restaurant and Bar will join the list of local favorites like Almirante Pech and El Diez. The grand opening, which will take place early November, is creating quite a stir within the Playa del Carmen social scene.
6. No Crowds
During the fall season, you won’t have to navigate through waves of pedestrians on 5th Avenue. There are typically no waiting lines at popular eateries or in the many incredible nearby adventure parks like Xcaret, Xel Ha, Xenses or Xplor. It’s easy to find parking throughout the city and you have wider spaces to spread your beach blanket out on the sand.
We always recommend a visit to a cenote when in Playa del Carmen. This is an opportune time to see these natural wonders, as often you will have the entire swimming hole to yourself!
7. You Can Still Barbecue
If you happen to be staying in one of the many fabulous vacation home rentals in Playa del Carmen, chances are your terrace will be equipped with a barbecue. T-bone steaks are much cheaper to buy here or try a sumptuous fresh catch of the day from the local fishermen.
Whether you decide to barbecue an enticing meal for yourself or you choose to go out to sample the delicious offerings on one of the patios overlooking 5th, dining al fresco in Playa’s endless summer climate never gets old.
Most of the vacation homes in BRIC Vacation Rentals’ inventory come with fully appointed kitchens and ample outdoor living spaces with grills.
8. Look Into The Real Estate Market
Fall means back to school time and preparations begin for holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. These events typically keep people busy enough so that they aren’t thinking about planning a vacation. Hence, Playa del Carmen enters the low season and travelers can expect more deals and fewer crowds.
Since many properties experience low occupancy rates at this time, it provides those interested in purchasing a second home the ideal opportunity to view a host of incredible properties. If owing your own piece of paradise near the ocean is a dream of yours, now is the perfect time to see what Playa del Carmen has to offer in terms of real estate.
9. Skip The Halloween Dress Up Parties!
If it’s hard for you to get into the spirit of Halloween and you feel pressure to find a creative creepy costume, elude the dress-up party invites by sneaking away to Playa del Carmen! Forget the fake tattoos, face paint and faux spider webs and jet away to savor some fun in the sun!
Although Playa’s most popular street 5th Avenue comes alive with ghouls and goblins, and the odd bar hosts a spooky party, it’s not a highly celebrated event in Mexico. You won’t be frowned upon should you opt to sit out in civilian attire and watch the parade of Halloween fashion on 5th. You can make it back from your holiday in time to prepare the annual Thanksgiving feast before anyone realizes you were gone.
Xcaret Park just outside of Playa del Carmen hosts the Festival of Life and Death each year from October 30-November 2. Taste traditional regional foods; enjoy live music and theatre events and visit elaborately decorated altars erected to honor the lives of loved ones who have passed. It’s a fun family-friendly event (without the 100 pounds of candy). Although this festival takes place annually around the same day as Halloween, the two events differ greatly. While Halloween tends to have an emphasis on terror and the dark side, Dia de los Muertos (the Spanish name for the festival) is as a celebration filled with joy, parades and color.
10. There’s No Snow!
While some of our northern neighbors are waking up to blankets of snow covering their lawns, visitors never have to worry about trudging through a snow bank here in Playa del Carmen. You can forget about having to slip on your bulky winter boots and enjoy the therapeutic feeling of sand between your toes instead.
Rather than huddling inside in an effort to escape the wet precipitation that chills you to the bone, you’ll want to spend every second in the great outdoors here. Your snow shovel won’t be the only one enjoying a break! Come and experience a more welcomed kind of chill while sipping a cool margarita on the sun kissed beaches of Playa del Carmen!
Not so long ago, people got married, bought a house in or not too far from the same town they grew up, and raised a family. Just a few decades ago, traveling the world was a luxury and a dream for many, if they even thought about it at all.
Today, exploring the globe has never been easier! If you can spare a few extra moments for trip planning, there are some incredibly affordable flight deals posted on airline and travel sites every month. Purchasing a vacation package lets you conveniently book everything at once from flights to transportation to hotels to excursions. The world is more accessible and the travel bug has caused an epidemic!
In fact, more and more singles, couples and families are leaving their former lives behind to hit the road full time! While most are delving into new cultures and seeing the sights for the awesome experiences, some are even getting paid to promote heavenly destinations around the world!
Playa del Carmen is one such heavenly destination that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and easily seduces some to stay forever.
We asked Jacqueline, an Australian world traveler, wife, and mother of two, to tell us her story of why she ended up establishing roots in Playa del Carmen.
JR: How many years have you lived in Mexico?
Jacqui: We have lived here for 20 years – 12 in Mazatlan, 7 in Cozumel and 1 and a half now in Playa del Carmen.
JR: Why does Playa appeal to you?
Jacqui: I love the fact that families are close-knit here. Also we can live a high quality lifestyle for a fraction of the price it would cost in Switzerland or Australia for example (where my husband and I are originally from.)
JR: Your children were both born in Mexico. How do you find the healthcare system here?
Jacqui: Yes, my oldest was born in Mazatlan and the youngest in Cozumel. We have never experienced a problem with the healthcare system. We have private health insurance as well as access to the free local healthcare that is available to all Mexicans. The health system has definitely come a long way in the 20 years that I have lived here. When my son was born in Cozumel, they did not have a pediatric facility for newborns and he was placed in a box beside my bed after the C-section. I stayed overnight in the hospital and was released the following day.
Today Playa del Carmen has very good hospitals, doctors, and specialists who either reside in or travel back and forth from Cancun to see patients.
JR: What are some of the benefits of raising your children in Playa del Carmen?
Jacqui: I am very happy to give our kids the kind of childhood we had at the their age. It is almost impossible to do that anywhere else. We live in a city, yet it has a very warm, small town feel, friendly and safe. One of my kids is involved in equestrian and the other in golf. The costs of these sports in the majority of countries around the world would make it impossible for our family. But we are fortunate enough to be able to give them these options here.
JR: What do you think of Playa del Carmen’s growth?
Jacqui: I remember back 15 years ago when Playa del Carmen began to grow, we were living in Cozumel at the time. We would have to go all the way to Cancun shopping almost every month the first year. As time went on and Playa grew, we traveled to Cancun less often.
5th Avenue barely existed and was basically a dirt road; the town was so small. There was no Chedraui supermarket back then. Today 5th extends several city blocks and the city is stretching out further every month. It amazes me! Yet, the beach is still the same – beautiful. Playa is so diverse now with so many different cultures. I love the fact that my kids interact on a daily basis with other kids from all over the world.
JR: You are building a home now and you have owned homes elsewhere in Mexico. How is the process of completing a real estate transaction in this state?
Jacqui: We just recently sold a house in Cozumel after owning it for 13 years. It was one of the easiest things we have done. We researched and found a good, organized Mexican lawyer that was familiar with Mexican law. The entire transaction was completed from offer to closing in 10 days.
With regards to building: again, research and try to speak to others who have worked with the architect. You need to be able to trust a knowledgeable architect because you’re going to be working together for a while. We built a home in Cozumel that was a difficult endeavor. But this time around, we are halfway through and the experience has been much better, and definitely worth it. There are a lot of resources like expat groups online that we have used for reliable references. In fact, we ended up finding a superb carpenter through this channel of information.
JR: Any piece of advice you can offer to those who are thinking of purchasing real estate here?
Jacqui: The best piece of advice I can give is to really take your time. Have a clear idea of what you want and find a trusted realtor. We were lucky to work with one who really listened to us and who found us the perfect location that best suited our needs.
JR: The newspapers tend to prefer to print the dark side of Mexico. How do you feel living in the country and traveling often throughout Mexico?
Jacqui: I travel every month to various parts of Mexico because my son plays in many golf tournaments throughout the year. It is just the two of us and I have never once felt scared or unsure in any area I’ve been to. My children are 16 and 12 and there are times when I travel to certain parts of the US that I have felt unsure about the safety. Just as in many other countries when you are traveling internationally, there are parts that tend to be more dangerous than others. As for 2 blonde foreigners traveling through Mexico, we have never encountered any remotely dangerous situations. I would never choose to live here if that were not the case. It is a beautiful existence here in Mexico, and it feels similar to how life used to be for me in Australia 20 years ago.
JR: How is your Spanish? What is your opinion – can you get by here having a limited Spanish vocabulary?
Jacqui: I can speak about 90% Spanish and understand 100%. But here in Playa del Carmen, most Mexicans that work in the tourism industry speak English and it is very easy to get around with limited Spanish nowadays. Even if you speak no Spanish, most of the Mexican people will try to understand or will find someone who can help. You may not end up with exactly what you wanted, but at least they make the effort to help.
JR: Is there anything you miss about your home country of Australia?
Jacqui: My whole family lives in Australia, but my parents thankfully come to visit at least once a year. I have not been back in 7 years and do not miss it for the most part. I would love to take my kids back when they are older and show them where I grew up, but I really don’t see us living there again in the future. Mexico is my home and always will be…
JR: What would you tell a young family on the fence about making an international move?
Jacqui: Go for it! Why not? If you have kids, it is a great experience when they have the opportunity to live in another culture and learn another language. The best thing for us about living in Mexico is that we have come to learn that Mexicans live for their families. Sunday is sacred, a time when everyone gathers together to make time for each other. In many cases, in adulthood, the children look after their parents, the way it was a very long time ago. It is hard to teach that to people unless you live and experience such a way of living.
We hope this article has provided some insight into the lifestyle of an expat here in Playa del Carmen. If you have questions about this extraordinary city by the sea, don’t hesitate to contact one of our Playa experts at BRIC Vacation Rentals anytime by calling 1(800) 519-2496/+52(984) 803-3191.
If you have visited Playa del Carmen and would like information and valuable tips on how to go about purchasing a property, check out A Gringo’s Perspective On Buying Real Estate In Mexico.