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What can we say that hasn’t already been said about Playa, with enough to do and see to last a dozen vacations, not even counting the day trips that take you further afield, Playa del Carmen is truly what you make it.

The City

Daytime in Playa is spent by the water, as staying within a minute of a refreshing dip is the only way to beat the heat. Well, almost. You may also find yourself under the shade of a beach bar palapa, sipping cocktails of your choice, or even under the air-conditioning, shopping in Playa’s mix of luxury, artisan and hippie shops (plus the requisite souvenir boutiques). When evening rolls around, and everyone has finished rinsing the sand off their sunsoaked bodies, the crowds descend on 5th Avenue, the famous “La Quinta” as it’s known locally, a dizzying two kilometer stretch of pedestrian-only strip lined with more bars, restaurants, shops and stalls than you could ever need. When the lights are on, music going, and tables open to the air, people-watching is at its best, and it’s hard not to get caught up in it. The food, too, rivals the best urban offerings in North America if you know where to look, especially in taking fresh local seafood and produce and elevating traditional Mexican cuisine to new heights.

You could truly have an entire trip without straying outside Playa del Carmen, but we recommend exploring a bit, as this is the perfect launching pad to see northern delights (whale sharks, Holbox, Cancun), those in the south (Tulum, Sian Kaan), and the jungle inland (ruins, cenotes and more).

Playacar

You could call Playacar an extension of Playa del Carmen, but that would be doing a disservice to this sweet little community on the south side, gated physically and virtually from the hustle and bustle of the town beyond.

Playacar genuinely feels like a different world, with tree-lined winding streets (you might get a bit lost at first), agoutis and coatis roaming around and even Mayan ruins cropping up here and there unassumingly. It’s quiet and friendly – expect a wave and “hola” from your neighbors, or people you pass on the street. Divided into two “phases,” it’s got its own shops, a golf course, a few small parks and even a French bakery. While you can walk to most conveniences in Playacar, we think the best way to get around, or even just explore, is by bike. You’ll come across so many small beach entrances you’ll have trouble picking a favorite, but fortunately they all have a few things in common — super soft sand, no crowds, plus water in awe-inspiring shades of blue and turquoise. While all beaches are public in the region, the distance from Playa del Carmen means that very few non-residents make the trek here.

Of course the reason many people choose Playacar is its delightful proximity to Playa del Carmen town proper. Forget all those taxis you planned on taking, the best way to get your night started (and then work off the guacamole) is on foot. You’ll find yourself at the start of Playa’s famed Quinta Avenida, seemingly a world away from Playacar, in 10-15 minutes.

Where to stay

A selection of our favourite villas in Playa del Carmen

Villa Aqua Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya
5
6
10

from

$1,300

usd / night

Villa Saasil Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya
5
6
10

from

$750

usd / night

Villa Turquesa Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya
4
4
8

from

$980

usd / night

Vista Hermosa Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya
8
10
16

from

$1,300

usd / night

Alta Vista Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya
8
8
24

from

$1,300

usd / night

Casa Nikki Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya
4
5
10

from

$650

usd / night

Kite House Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya
4
5
8

from

$1,000

usd / night

Quinta Clara Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya
7
7
14

from

$1,200

usd / night

Downtown Villa Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya
4
7
15

from

$900

usd / night

Beach House Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya
4
4
8

from

$915

usd / night

Casa Clara Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya
6
6
16

from

$2,180

usd / night

Villa Mirasol Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya
9
9
18

from

$1,000

usd / night

Casa GiGi Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya
4
5
8

from

$1,400

usd / night

Villa Estrella del Mar Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya
5
4
10

from

$800

usd / night

Villa Unica Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya
6
7
15

from

$1,800

usd / night

Casa Los Charcos Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya
5
5
10

from

$1,150

usd / night

Villa Belfiore Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya
6
6
12

from

$1,200

usd / night

Villa Kin Ich Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya
7
11
20

from

$2,350

usd / night

What to do

A local’s guide to the best experiences around Playa del Carmen

From $135 usd pp

  • Archeology
  • Explore Nature

From $148 usd pp

  • Archeology
  • Cenote