Since the 1990s, Playa del Carmen has been climbing up the list of the most popular places to stay on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Only a short journey from world-famous Cancun, Playa del Carmen is a slightly smaller beach town providing a similar but alternative option.
The stunning beaches, vast variety of amenities such as shopping malls, restaurants and bars have attracted every type of person.
Holiday makers and families can make the most of the luxury hotels and refreshing pools. Digital nomads can enjoy cheap rent and the lively social scene that Playa del Carmen has to offer.
With long stretches of white sand, you can easily spend the day trying out the various beaches and splashing around in the Caribbean sea. Then when you get hungry, Playa has about every kind of cuisine you can think of to satisfy your hunger.
Playa del Carmen is also a great choice if you’re looking for a resort-style, beach holiday. However, those looking for an authentic Mexican experience may want to avoid it. The city has become extremely touristy and influenced by western culture over the past few years.
With so much going on in Playa del Carmen, a lot of people actually think of it as a big city. Quite the opposite is true. In reality Playa del Carmen is relatively small and only a quarter of the size of Cozumel, the popular neighbouring island.
When deciding where to stay in Playa del Carmen, you need to ask yourself whether you want to be in the middle of the hustle and bustle or are you looking for a relaxing resort retreat.
We’ve kept it simple and broken Playa del Carmen into two areas to help you to decide where to stay:
Location #1: Quita Avenida (5th Avenue) – close to everything you need
If you want to be close to all the amenities then stay near 5th Avenue. It’s a partially pedestrianised 4km long road which runs from the north to the south of Playa del Carmen.
Lining this street you’ll find tons of restaurants, bars, cafes and shops selling anything you could possibly want! Another great thing about being close to this street, you’ll always be only a stone’s throw away from the beach.
Staying near Quinta Avenida is easy and efficient, as you’ll be able to walk to almost anywhere you need to. This also means tipsy walks home from Playa’s many bars are nice and short! Perfect to sober up on the way back to your stay and no need to take any taxi.
Accommodation closest to 5th Avenue and along the beachfront are likely to come at higher prices, but that doesn’t mean they’re extortionate. You’ll still be able to find some great Airbnbs, smaller hotels and hostels from $15/night if you’re on a budget.
If there isn’t a time limit to your stay in Playa del Carmen then you may want to look at renting an apartment. Long-term stays will reduce your accommodation costs and Playa has some really cheap rental properties on offer. You can find a month-long rental for around $200-400.
Location #2: Playacar – luxury all-inclusive resorts and retreats
Playacar, located slightly southwest of the city, is the epitome of luxury. It’s a gated beach community with large all-inclusive resorts, a huge golf course, shops, restaurants and quieter beaches than central Playa del Carmen.
If you’re looking for a luxury and relaxing week away then this is the place you’ll want to stay. It’s the perfect choice for families too as it’s extremely safe, plus there are a number of kid’s clubs and playgrounds to keep the kids entertained.
You’ve probably already guessed it, this level of luxury doesn’t come cheaply. To stay in most of the private villas and resorts, you’ll be looking at a starting price of around $100 per night.
An additional cost to consider is that you’ll likely need a taxi to reach the centre of Playa del Carmen. This will cost you around 80 pesos ($4).
Where to eat in Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is bursting with restaurants, cafes and bars. They offer you more choice than you could ever possibly need. Being a touristy town, Playa has a large international cuisine scene, but don’t worry you’ll still be able to find some traditional Mexican places.
El Fogon – the best tacos in Playa del Carmen
We’ll jump straight into the best place to grab some delicious Mexican food. El Fogon is the place to go for some of the best tacos you’ll ever try.
Don’t just trust us on that, take it from the fact that there’s always a queue to get in. The queue moves fast though, so don’t worry about that! The restaurant is super authentic, with the classic Mexican-style plastic chairs and tables, accompanied by some lively music.
La Cueva del Chango – a great brunch spot in the tropics
The food at La Cueva del Chango is great, but the aesthetics and atmosphere of the restaurant take it to a whole new level. The outdoor garden dotted with small waterfalls and ponds will give you the feeling of being in the jungle.
The restaurant offers all three meals of the day, but it’s their breakfasts that they’ve become well known for. It’s the perfect place to start the day!
Don Chendo – great-tasting deep-dish pizza
Don Chendo is the place to go in Playa del Carmen if you’re looking for the best deep-dish pizza, particularly Chicago-style pizza. We’re talking deep-dish, thick crusts and oozing with cheese.
There’s plenty of toppings to pick from, the service is great and it’s not just pizza if you fancy some pasta instead.
How to get around in Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is a pretty condensed, small city, with most of what you need being situated along 5th Avenue and the beach. This makes getting around super easy as most of it can be done by foot. If walking isn’t your thing though, there are other ways which we go into detail about below:
Simply walking is the best way to get around Playa del Carmen. Most people will choose accommodation that is close to 5th Avenue, meaning that everything you need will be within walking distance.
The beach sits just behind 5th Avenue, so a leisurely stroll is all it takes to reach the beach every day.
Making it even easier, a lot of 5th Avenue is pedestrianised, so you won’t have to watch out for those crazy Mexican drivers!
If the hot weather is getting to you and you don’t want to walk, then you can hail a taxi from the road. There will be plenty roaming around the streets of Playa del Carmen. You can recognise them by their white exterior with a turquoise stripe.
A ride within Playa del Carmen shouldn’t cost you more than 40 pesos ($2). It’s always good to agree on the price before you get in the taxi as well. That way they aren’t able to rip you off at the end.
You can also use taxis to reach some of the attractions further from the city, such as the cenotes and adventure parks. Check out our list of Top Things to do in Playa del Carmen for more information on this.
Colectivos are white minivans that act as buses for the locals. They’re a super cheap way to get around. In Playa del Carmen, a colectivo ride will cost you just 5 pesos ($0.25).
All you need to do is hail one from the side of the road that’s going in the direction you want, and hop on. A lot of them will also have signs indicating their stops in their windshield.
If you’re planning on just staying in Playa del Carmen then there’s not much need for a car as most places are within walking distance.
For those who would prefer to have a car to explore some of the surrounding area or take day trips to Tulum or Cancun, then there are plenty of car rental agencies along 5th Avenue. Alternatively, you can rent a car online starting from $15/day.
Start the day right with the hotel’s complimentary breakfast, made up of fresh and home-made goodies. You can literally taste how much love the host puts into the food as well as the overall running of the hotel.
Just looking at the hotel will make you feel happy. It’s bursting with colour, both on the walls and from the fruit plants that surround the garden. The hotel gets its name from the vanilla plants around the hostel, so basically everywhere smells great.
Very friendly host
Bright and clean decor
Private rooms start from $30 per night, including breakfast
Opal Suites offers luxury apartments with all of the facilities you get with a good hotel. Staying here you’ll have access to a gym, rooftop swimming pool and even a barbeque.
Each stunning apartment contains all you’ll need, a kitchen, washing machine, balcony and even Netflix. This can be a great option if you’re staying in Playa del Carmen for a couple of weeks, so you can have similar facilities as at home.
Playa del Carmen is full of luxury hotels and beach clubs, but Maya Villa is one of the best. Guests staying at the hotel get access to both a gym and the beach club!
The hotel boasts a Mayan and tropical style with its natural decor and airness. The turquoise pool winds around the hotel, dotted with waterfalls that create a relaxing soundtrack to the hotel. You can also enjoy a hot tub on the roof!