Ah, Playa del Carmen. An increasingly popular vacation destination, and with good reason: cerulean blue waters, powdery white sand beaches, incredible food, and an electric nightlife–all while being incredibly affordable and super easy to get to. Sure, Mexico has had its fair share of negative press due to the ongoing raging battle with the drug cartels, but luckily for them (and us), the Yucatan peninsula,
where Playa del Carmen is situated, has remained relatively safe because their economy heavily relies on tourism.
create your own Corona commercial
I was fortunate to have experienced this gem early on as a child, as my parents would take my brother and I to beach vacations in Mexico back before Spring Break became the Sodom and Gomorrah it is today. We had many fun family vacations in Cancun, Isla Mujeres, and Playa del Carmen. Just a few months ago I got married there, and have been going at least once a year for the last few years. I know when I travel to a new place I always seek out the best restaurants, hotels, and places to shop/things to see, so I’m happy to share with you my Playa del Carmen list in case you’re going soon.
WHERE TO EAT
Almirante Pech: currently one of the hottest restaurants in Playa del Carmen, Almirante Pech is a “Taberna Tropical Mexicana”, and is a great place to enjoy modern seafood dishes while you sip on refreshing cocktails and listen to great music.
Incredible octopus appetizer at Almirante Pech
Ula Gula: if you’re looking for Italian food with a twist, Ula Gula is the place to be. Enjoy their eclectic tropical décor while you sip on a mezcal cocktail and watch your pizza cook in their outdoor pizza oven. Enjoy elevated cuisine in a fun yet unpretentious environment.
Mezcal cocktail at Ula Gula
Maiz de Mar: opened by one of Mexico’s most famous chefs Enrique Olvera, Maiz de Mar brings the best that the sea has to offer by focusing on quality of ingredients and by using local, sustainable, family-based producers. The menu is inspired by the delicious dishes of Mexico’s diverse coasts.
La Cueva del Chango: one of the best places to get an authentic and delicious Mexican breakfast. Enjoy chilaquiles or huevos divorciados while sipping on a healthy chaya juice and enjoying the lush trees and vegetation around you.
salsa spread at Cueva del Chango
The perfect chilaquiles to get your day off to a good start
WHERE TO STAY
: one of the hottest new boutique hotels right off 32nd street with the bustling 5a avenida. Enjoy one of their 60 spacious contemporary guest rooms, and make sure to hit up their stunning rooftop bar to have a cocktail and enjoy the sunset.
View of Hotel Cacao’s stunning terrace with incredible views
: sister hotel to the famous Be Tulum, Be Playa is another modern boutique hotel that boasts affordable yet chic rooms a few streets past 5a avenida on 26th street and 10th ave. You may be able to catch some world famous DJs that stay there to get away from the late-night commotion coming from 5a avenida.
the hip Be Playa
Condo Hotels: a series of condos that have been remodeled to show off contemporary lines and luxury amenities just minutes from Playa del Carmen’s beautiful beaches. Enjoy complimentary access to their Bali-inspired Indigo Beach Club as well as access to complimentary wellness programs.
WHAT TO DO
: Chichen Itza
is home to the Kukulkan Pyramid
which is known as “El Castillo
” and is one of the new 7 wonders of the world. Make sure to take a guided tour to get a better understanding of the Mayan culture, and learn about their culture and religious practices, as well as their proficiency with astronomy. Chicken Itza is about two hours away so you will want to plan accordingly.
is home to the Mayan ruins right on the beach, and it’s a sight to behold. Just 45 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, it’s worth making a day trip to visit the ruins in Tulum, then take time to explore the little town that has a ton of incredible restaurants and high-end eco-chic boutiques.
The beautiful Mayan ruins in Tulum
: Cenotes are prevalent in the Yucatan peninsula (there are thousands), and are a series of underground river caverns that the Mayans used as their source for fresh water and for religious purposes, sometimes serving as the location for sacrificial offerings.
Cenote Dos Ojos
Sian Ka’an: a biosphere reserve that has been meticulously preserved and includes wetlands, lagoons, and ruins. It has been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO, and implements eco-tourism to minimize the effect on the pristine lands. It’s a great place to relax and get away from the touristy crowds for the day.
“Quinta Avenida” or Fifth Avenue:
One of the things I like the most about Playa del Carmen is that you can pretty much walk everywhere within the “tourist” area–it is recommended that one not stray past that area anyway for safety purposes. The “streets” run perpendicular to the beach and are even numbered, and the “avenues” run parallel to the beach and jump by fives. “Quinta Avenida”
or Fifth Avenue is the main drag that runs from 1st street until about 38th or 40th street, and you’ll find 95% of the action here–boutiques, souvenir shops, restaurants, bars, and night clubs.
Mexican artisanal goods
One thing to note is that if you carry around Mexican pesos, the vendors are most likely willing to negotiate prices down with you. If you pay with credit card, they’ll have little to no negotiating power and will charge you a VAT that’s typically 16%.
Beautiful weekender bags that are great for gifts and to use for traveling.
gorgeous necklaces from one of my favorite boutiques, Caravan
If you’re planning on going soon and have additional questions or would like to know more about Playa del Carmen from a logistical standpoint (i.e. what to do at the airport, transportation options, where to exchange money), I’m more than happy to visit with you and email you more details. If you’ve been to Playa del Carmen and have other suggestions for those that are planning a trip there, make sure to leave comments at the bottom of this post and share your tips with everyone else!