Each year downtown Playa del Carmen and Mexico’s Riviera Maya region attracts millions of visitors who come to enjoy the eclectic vibe and unique diversity of this part of Mexico, which extends far beyond the resort walls to influence everything from the world-class shopping and dining to the unforgettable beach activities and cultural attractions.
“If you’re looking for a trendy, beautiful trip, visit Playa del Carmen,” wrote Travel+Leisure. “From its beaches overflowing with people from around the globe, to waters clear enough to spot the diverse sea life, travel to Playa del Carmen for one of the best vacations Mexico has to offer.”
Sophisticated Caribbean Beach Town
Once a small Mexico fishing village, downtown Playa del Carmen – or simply “Playa” as its often called by locals and repeat visitors – has developed into a chic, sophisticated beach town overlooking the Mexican Caribbean that is popular with jet-setters of all ages and encompasses some of the best real estate in the Riviera Maya. Boasting a distinct European vibe with luxurious modern hotels and condos, a dazzling culinary scene and countless boutiques sure to please even the most discerning shopaholics, downtown Playa del Carmen is one of the world’s top must-see destinations.
“A Playa del Carmen travel experience also includes a lot of modern adventures, like top-par people watching, shopping along Fifth Avenue, and spending an afternoon on the golf course,” wrote Travel+Leisure.
Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen
Speaking of Fifth Avenue (or Quinta Avenida as it’s called in Spanish), this is a major thoroughfare that already runs through all of downtown Playa del Carmen and is continuing to grow. It is a pedestrian-only street that is home to hundreds of stores, cafes, restaurants, bars and specialty shops, along both sides of Fifth Avenue and along many of the side streets.
“The avenue runs parallel to and one block from the ocean and beach, so you don’t even need a car,” wrote USA Today. “Beach bars, restaurants and water sports like snorkeling, jet skiing and boating are right on the beach, so everything is a short walk from your hotel when staying in downtown Playa del Carmen.”
Best Things to Do in Playa del Carmen
Ask just about anyone who is living in Playa del Carmen either full or part time and they will probably tell you to make sure you pay a visit to some of the area’s cultural attractions, as well as partake in some of the more predictable activities. Here’s a quick checklist of things every visitor should do in Playa del Carmen:
- Explore the cenotes and caves in Mexico’s Riviera Maya
- Zip lining and kayaking in Mayan villages
- Experience Mayan culture, cooking and dancing
- Grab a drink at several of Playa’s trendy nightclubs
- Snorkeling or diving along the world’s second largest barrier reef
- Visit Mayan ruins at Coba, Tulum or Chichen Itza
“On the beach, you’ll find a large number of oceanfront restaurants and bars, boutique hotels and beach clubs, where visitors can rent a beach chair for the day and have some fun in the sun,” wrote USA Today. “The area beach clubs serve food and have bar service as well, so you can eat and drink to your heart’s delight without ever having to leave the comfort of your lounge chair.”
Thriving Expat Community
You will notice a distinct European influence in downtown Playa del Carmen and, unlike Cancun, there are no high-rise buildings because there is a city ordinance prohibiting any buildings over four stories high. Playa also has a thriving expat community of people who are living in Mexico either full or part time, and this thriving Caribbean beach town is regularly visited by tourists hailing mostly from America, Canada and Europe.
“There are roughly 150,000 residents and millions of visitors each year,” wrote USA Today.
Expats enjoy living in downtown Playa del Carmen for many of the same reasons tourists come back year after year. The locals are friendly and most people speak English very well, and Playa is safer than many cities located throughout the United States. Also, the weather is fantastic all year, and everyday life in Playa feels more like a tropical fairy tale than reality.
Getting to downtown Playa del Carmen from the Cancun International Airport is a breeze, thanks to the modern infrastructure of Mexico’s Riviera Maya. You can either rent a car and drive yourself, hire a taxi, take a private shuttle service or go the economical route and take the ADO bus that runs between downtown Cancun and Playa del Carmen, which takes a little over one hour.
As you can probably already tell, the charming beach town of Playa del Carmen truly does have something for everyone – so it definitely has something for you, too!
What do you love most about Playa del Carmen? Let us know in the comments!
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