A little removed from the Cancun party scene, with a little more culture and traditional vibes, Playa del Carmen has the best of everything Mexico has to offer. The locals are friendly and always smiling, the beaches are beautiful and lined with beach clubs to relax the day away, and there are all sorts of adventures just a short drive away.
Location: Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Time Zone: Eastern Time Zone UTC -5
Getting There: Cancun International Airport (CUN) is the closest international and domestic airport from Playa del Carmen. There are regular direct flights into Cancun from most major USA and Mexican cities. From CUN it takes about 45 minutes to an hour by car to Playa del Carmen. You can organize transfers in advance or just book a shuttle at the desks when you arrive.
Language: Spanish, but most people working in the tourism and hospitality industries speak fluent English. They will try and get you to try out your Spanish though!
Climate: That perfect weather, with sunny warm days all year round. Can get a little sticky and humid during the summer months.
Getting Around: It’s easy to walk around in Playa del Carmen. Most hotels are located right off the main street, where you can find all of the shopping and dining options.
The Money Sitch: Currency is Mexican Pesos $. USD is also widely accessible and accepted. It’s a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to money in Playa. While about half of the shops and restaurants will accept credit and debit cards, the other half are cash only. It’s a good idea to have a bit of both on you in case of emergencies, and so you don’t have to search far and wide for an ATM.
ATMs are available, but they can be spread out and might not be the most easily accessible. Definitely, the more major shopping complexes along Avendia 5 and around the area are where you will have the most chance of finding one. Most places in Playa del Carmen will accept $USD but sometimes the conversion is much steeper from $AUD than if you pay in Mexican Pesos – make sure you know the conversion for both.
Internet Access: Easily accessible with most hotels and restaurants offering free wifi.
The Main Streets: Avendia 5 is the main street in Playa del Carmen. It runs a couple of blocks back from the beach and is where you can find all of the shopping and dining shopping. Avendia 5 really is a mixed bag of everything you could ask for, with high end fashion designers boutique stores located right across from souvenir megamarts, and fancy seafood restaurants right next to taco shacks. Everything goes on Avendia 5, with colourful street performers, market stands and tour guide operators calling for your business.
Best Time To Go: There is really no bad time to visit Playa del Carmen! April to September are the summer months, with higher temperature and larger crowds, but October to March is the drier season with sunny days and warm temperatures each day. Watch out if you’re booking around spring break as Playa del Carmen is a very popular spot for college students to celebrate.
+ Take a day trip out to Chichén Itzá to visit these iconic Mayan ruins and learn more about this dymanic period in Central American history
+ Take a dip in Ik Kil Cenote
+ Visit Xcaret Nature Park for all kinds of unique adventures – float through the underground rivers, explore the white sand beaches, make friends with the baby turtles, check out the on-site mayan ruins and try some of the local dishes for lunch.
+ Kick back and relax at the Playa beach clubs
+ Shop up a storm at the local markets
Good To Know: We first visited Playa del Carmen in 2014 and fell in love with the authentic charm, small colourful stores and bright restaurants. There was a small shopping mall with big name stores such as H&M and Forever 21, but not a lot. When we re-visited in 2017 Playa del Carmen had changed dramatically – with big malls overtaking Avendia 5, and more designer stores pushing out the smaller boutiques. Playa del Carmen is changing rapidly, and I would definitely recommend visiting ASAP before it turns into more of a Western shopping town like Cancun.