PLAYA del CARMEN
Getting There: Playa del Carmen has no airport, but you can fly into Cancun International Airport. You can expect to take an overpriced taxi or a shared shuttle to Playa del Carmen. If you are in Cozumel, you can take a ferry to Playa, which drops you off on the southern edge of the town. We found the ferry ride to Playa very relaxing, and made for a great day of food and sightseeing. To walk from one end to the other end only takes 25 minutes at the most, and taxis tend to charge a flat rate in pesos within the area around 5th Avenue.
Beaches: All of Playa del Carmen’s beaches are public, but there are several stretches of beach which have no beds, umbrellas, bars, lifeguards and no bathrooms. You will want to stay in a beachfront resort if you want these services. There are several beach clubs around Playa, all with different costs, but you can find a beach bed at Senor Frog’s at the edge of 5th Avenue. The beach is wider at the southern end, and there tends to be less seaweed.
Food: Unfortunately, you can find chain restaurants, fast food and westernized versions of international cuisine. Expect to pay the highest prices along 5th Avenue. Most restaurants along this pedestrian strip have large menus posted outside, as well as people aggressively trying to lure you inside. If you wander a few blocks away from 5th Avenue you will encounter more authentic food, lower prices and less touristy vibes.
Atmosphere: Playa’s vibe appeals to little older crowd, and is a little less family oriented. Here adventurous travelers, well-established expats, and out of college couples and singles tend to be the norm. There are several nightclubs and bars, an EDM music festival and the walkable layout make it lively. Overall, Playa del Carmen is for travelers who want a little more than the beach and booze to fill their days.
Weather: The climate is hot and humid, but it is prone to hurricane season. The best time to visit Playa is during the October shoulder season, when it is still warm, and mostly clear of the hurricane season, and the peak tourist season has not started. March is also a good month weather-wise, but if you are not looking for a spring-break style scene, skip this time of year.
Activities: You will find tour operators for excursions, beach shops and restaurants. For nightlife, try Coco Bongo, Mandala and Senior Frogs, as well as many more bar options. You can find live music at Mamita’s Beach Club, or stop by Salon Raices any night of the week to listen to Latin music and learn to salsa dance. There are also numerous casual beach bars with drink specials and open-air seating.
Safety: In addition to gun violence, there have also been more than three dozen travelers reporting falling ill after consuming tainted alcohol at a host of upscale, all-inclusive resorts in the tourist hot spots of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. The United States has issued a warning for the country to beware of tainted alcohol or counterfeit alcohol. If you choose to drink alcohol, drink in moderation, and stop and seek medical attention if you begin to feel ill. This being said, keep your wits about you and watch your surroundings.