Playa del Carmen is located in the north of the Mexican state Quintana Roo, along the Carribean Coast “Riviera Maya”.
The rapidly growing city is halfway between Cancún and Tulúm. Today, the city is a popular tourist destination at the Carribean coast of Mexico.
Xaman-Ha, which means waters of the North, is what early Mayan settlers called Playa del Carmen, as they used this area as a rest stop on their way to Cozumel Island. When travelling to Cozumel in search of the goddess of fertility Ixchel, Mayan women regularly stopped and visited Playa del Carmen. Originally this area was a small fishing village, but today it is – in addition to Cancún – one of the most rapidly growing cities and most popular tourist destinations in Mexico.
Nevertheless, the approximately 150,000 city residents have preserved a lot of its original charm. Unlike Cancún, located 70 kilometers north, Playa del Carmen offers a good mix of comfort and Mexican serenity. The sea and the beaches are just as heavenly as in Cancún, but the atmosphere is far less Americanized / commercialized. So you can avoid the crowds, relax, and also enjoy the much more pleasant prices!
Playa del Carmen is ideal year-round – the average air temperature is around 79 degrees Fahrenheit, the water temperature is 81 degrees Fahrenheit.
The best time to travel for European guests is in mid-October to late April because in summer the climate is quite hot and humid. In winter, however, there is a nice dry heat and the waters are still warm.
The long coastal beach of Playa del Carmen with its white sands and crystal clear turquoise sea conveys perfectly the typical Caribbean feeling.
Unlike Cancun and more like Cozumel Island, the sea is relatively calm and on the horizon you can see that the Yucatan is upstream. The waves and winds are very gentle – ideal for swimming/diving/snorkeling in the warm waters.
Incidentally, the world’s second largest reefs are found in Playa del Carmen and this makes the area one of the most famous diving spots worldwide. Most activities in Playa del Carmen can be found in or on the water. Therefore, snorkelers and divers of all experience levels can enjoy the beautiful waters inhabited by many tropical fish and cave diving adventure. Visitors can also borrow a kayak or take a deep-sea fishing trip.
Shopping in Playa del Carmen is really nice, as there are various souvenirs available that make your trip unique. Shopping takes mostly place in the center of Playa del Carmen, and most shops are located in the famous Quinta Avenida. There you can buy all kinds of souvenirs such as ballpens, key fobs, picture postcards and T-shirts as well as local arts and crafts made of wood or sea shells that were created in the region. Along the Quinta Avenida and the small shopping mall “Paseo del Carmen” there are exklusive boutiques and shops for beach and sports clothing as well as jewelry and perfume and Mexican and Cuban cigars.
Likewise, right on the main road from Playa del Carmen after Tulúm is the Central Mayan shopping center (“Centro Maya”) with numerous clothing stores, restaurants and a cinema. The center is about 20 minutes (on foot) from the beach.
In general, the farther you go from 5th Avenue, the cheaper the prices become. There are also supermarkets in Playa del Carmen, where you can buy souvenir goods. These include Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Chedraui and Comercial Mexicana.
Through its central location Playa del Carmen is the perfect starting point for exploring the surrounding area. The beach promenade with its lighthouse is the landmark of Playa del Carmen, and you should definitely visit it.
There is so much culture and history, along with the best of what nature has to offer. Here are a few top destinations for trips and tours:
Mayan cultural sites, such as Chichén Itzá, Tulím, Uxmal and Cobá
Cozumel Island (ferry ride away), because of the bright coral reefs Cozumel is one of the most popular diving spots in the Caribbean.
A trip to the 3,000 Cenotes (sink holes) and freshwater caves around Playa del Carmen offer a unique diving experience – Cave Diving that is world class! The most famous Cenotes Sites : Grand Cenote – Sac Aktun, Casa Cenote, Dos Ojos, Cenote Sagrado, Taj Mahal
Water amusement park Xcaret: Swim with dolphins, relax on the beach in hammocks, visit the exotic wildlife, exhibitions, etc.
Nature Park Xel-Há: This one has a large aquarium.
Park and Zoo, Crococun has botanical gardens and wild crocodiles.
Adventure Park Xplor: With zip-lining, underground word and much more.
Eco Park Tres Rios
Bird Park Xaman Ha Aviary: This contains about 200 birds and 60 species.
Compared to other destinations, Playa del Carmen is a relatively small coastal city. That is why not so many bigger festivals take place. The inhabitants rather take part in events and festivals on the whole Yucatan Penisula. One of the bigger centers is Cancún, in the north of Playa del Carmen. The most important events of the region are:
October: Riviera Maya Underground Film Festival
This event shows different movie screenings of experimental animation, fiction and documentary in different locations in Playa del Carmen, such as Plaza Pelicanos Hollywood Cinemas, Ayuntamiento de Solidaridad or Plaza 28 de Julio. This 5-day festival takes place every October in Playa del Carmen. Beside showing national and international movie screenings, people can also take part in different workshops and conferences about movie-making. Regarding more information click on RMUFF.
October – November: Autumn Cultural Festival
Another yearly festival of the region celebrates and promotes the Mexican, and in particular the Yucatan culture, with a bright festival including dancing, music and theatrical plays.
November: Riviera Maya Jazz Festival
This festival is one of the most popular events in Playa del Carmen and it is typically held in November. The annual event gives local and foreign jazz performers a chance to showcase their talents. It lasts four days and starts around 8pm. It fills the streets of Playa del Carmen with music and dancing throughout the night, taking place near the Ultramar pier on Mamitas Beach. It attracts tourists from all over the world! The entrance is free. Are you interested? For more information please follow Riviera Maya Jazz Festival.
November: Taste of Playa
In the Fundadores Park various top international restaurants and chefs will allow you to taste and admire delicious and top national and international cuisine. This famous international food festival takes place from 3 to 9 pm. Are you interested? Please click on Taste of Playa.
November: The Bird Festival
For several years now enthusiastic bird watchers meet up in Yucatán, in order to participate in workshops and conferences and to organize and visit exhibitions. Concerning more information, click on Yucatan Birds.
November – December: Yucatan Fair
This colorful and lively show started as a little fair for stock breeders and today it is one of the biggest exhibitions in the industry. In the last few years other features have been added to the event, so as to provide entertainment for the general public. People can buy regional products, watch horse races and cockfights, enjoy theme parks and children’s shows and much more. Everything is part of the traditional Palenque festival. A For more information please click on Feria de Yucatan.
December – January: BPM Festival
This event is a must for electronic music lovers. National and international DJs present their music at the famous beach club “Kool” during the day and in various famous night clubs in Playa del Carmen at night. For more information click on BPM Festival.
February: Mayakoba Golf Classic
This event annually takes place in the “El Camaleón Golf Club” in Playa del Carmen. It is the venue for Mexico’s Mayakoba Golf Classic and it has been part of the US PGA Tour since 2007. For more information, please click on PGA Tour or Mayakoba Golf Classic.
Of course, next to these festivals there are the traditional festivities such as “Carnaval” (February), “Semana Santa” (March/April) and “Posadas de Navidad” (December), the public holidays “Todos los Santos” (1st November), “Dia de los Muertos” (2nd November), “Independance Day” (15./16. October), “Day of the Virgin Guadalupe” (12th December) and Christmas and New Year.
Playa del Carmen is definitely one of the best places in the Mayan Riviera to celebrate and have fun. Although the nightlife in Playa del Carmen might be not as crazy as in the near town Cancun; Playa del Carmen has a really wonderful nightlife. Along the famous Fifth Avenue there are various bars, restaurants and lounges where you can go to eat and drink before the real nightlife starts. These offer you international and Mexican cuisine. Then, on the famous 12th street, you can find all the bars and discotheques that play the best of salsa, dance hall, electronic music, lounge music and black music till dawn. There are also a few clubs with dance floors that extend to the white beaches of Playa del Carmen. Bar hopping is also very popular in Playa del Carmen as the clubs are located really close to each other.
One of the discotheques that deserve at least one visit is the “Coco Bongo”, one of the best clubs worldwide. To start highly recommendable is the “L’ambassade” that has nice cocktail offers, “Frida Bar”, which has a surrealistic ambience, “Pura Vida” with the best of reggae music and “Siesta Fiesta”, where life music is played every day. Afterwards, you should pay a visit to the discotheques “Los Danzantes” y “Mandala”, which offer a really exclusive and modern decoration. The discotheque Brahma is especially popular among the inhabitants of Playa del Carmen. For the “after-party” (people normally go around 2am) you should visit “La Santanera”, playing the finest of electronic music. We also recommend a visit to the “Blue Parrot”, one of the most famous and oldest clubs on-site.
If you want more a quiet night, there are also other bars and locations around 5th Avenue where the play jazz or reggae music and where you can relax a little bit. You can also go to one of the cinemas, in “Plaza las Américas” or “Centro Maya”. In general if you go out in “Playa”, clothing is more casual. Depending on where you go, you can dress up or dress down. However, there are a few discotheques that do not permit to wear shorts or sandals.