Since the 1990s, Playa del Carmen (or simply Playa) 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 an alternative to its renowned neighbour.
The stunning beaches and the vast variety of things to do are attracting all types of travellers. Holidaymakers and families can make the most of the luxury hotels with pools and kid-friendly activities. Digital nomads can enjoy cheap rent and the lively social scene that Playa del Carmen has to offer.
If you’re visiting Playa del Carmen soon, you’ve come to the right place. After reading this travel guide, you’ll know which area to stay in, where to find the best restaurants and how to get around this buzzing beach destination in Mexico.
Also, check out our list of the best activities in Playa del Carmen!
How long should you stay in Playa del Carmen?
Playa del Carmen is a great choice if you’re looking for a resort-style, beach holiday. It has white sand, good food and plenty to do for the whole family.
However, those looking for an authentic Mexican experience may want to avoid it. The city has become extremely touristy and heavily influenced by Western culture over the past few years. If you prefer somewhere quieter, we recommend checking out Bacalar instead.
If you’re road-tripping around the Yucatan peninsula, one to two nights in Playa should be enough to do a day trip to Cozumel and check out a few of the surrounding cenotes.
Where to stay in Playa del Carmen
With so much going on in Playa del Carmen, a lot of people think of it as a big city. Quite the opposite is true. In reality, Playa del Carmen is a relatively small town.
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 (with great food options all around) or looking for a relaxing resort retreat.
We’ve kept it simple and broken it down into two best areas to stay:
Location #1: Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue) — close to everything you need
If you want to be close to all the action, then stay near 5th Avenue. It’s a partially pedestrianised 4 km long road which runs from the north to the south of Playa del Carmen.
Lining this street are 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 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 a taxi. But it does come with a downside: it can get noisy at night so look for accommodation with good soundproofing.
Accommodation in Quinta Avenida
Accommodations 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 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 kids’ clubs and playgrounds to keep the kids entertained.
Accommodation in Playacar
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).
Best restaurants in Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is bursting with restaurants, cafes and bars. They offer you more choices 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 traditional Mexican food.
El Fogon — the best tacos in Playa
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 plastic chairs and tables, and always some great tunes playing.
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, all while seating on the main strip in Playa del Carmen!
The restaurant offers all three meals of the day, but it’s 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 pizza, particularly Chicago-style. We’re talking deep-dish, thick crusts and oozing with cheese.
There are plenty of toppings to pick from, the service is great and there’s more on the menu than just pizza (fancy some pasta instead?).
Also read: Top 15 Things to Do in Playa del Carmen
How to get around Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is a pretty condensed, small city, with most of what you need is situated along 5th Avenue and the beach. This makes getting around super easy as most of it can be done on 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 if you’re staying on and around 5th Avenue. The beach sits just behind 5th Avenue, so a leisurely stroll is all it takes.
Making it even easier, a lot of 5th Avenue is pedestrianised, so you won’t have to watch out for crazy 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 the best things to do in Playa del Carmen.
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 visiting only Playa del Carmen, then there’s not much need for a car. But if you’re thinking of taking day trips to Tulum or the nearby cenotes, renting a car is one of the best ways to get around. There are plenty of car rental agencies along 5th Avenue or you can rent a car online starting from $15/day.
We’ve put together 10 tips that will help you save money when renting a car.
How to get to Playa del Carmen
|Leaving from||Duration||Prices from||See details|
|Cancun||1-1.5 hours||from 85 MXN ($4.90)||Cancun to Playa del Carmen|
|Chiquila||2-2.5 hours||from 312 MXN ($17.50)||Chiquila to Playa del Carmen|
|Tulum||1-1hr 10m||from 45 MXN ($2.50)||Tulum to Playa del Carmen|
Now that you’ve finished reading this guide, you’re almost ready for your adventure in Playa del Carmen. The next step is to create your personalised itinerary with our top picks of things to do in Playa del Carmen. Simply choose your favourite activities and places to visit, and you’re all set to make lasting memories in Playa del Carmen.
Maya Villa Condo Hotel and Beach Club - Treating Yourself
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 fully-equipped gym and the beach club!
The hotel boasts a Maya and tropical style with its natural decor and lush gardens. The turquoise pool winds around the hotel, dotted with waterfalls that create a relaxing soundtrack to the hotel. There’s even a hot tub on the roof! We guarantee that you’ll never want to leave this place.
- Hot tub and huge swimming pool
- Large and bright rooms
- Access to beach club and gym
- Steps away from the beach
Double rooms start from $80 per night
Opal Suites Apartments - Treating Yourself
Opal Suites offer luxury apartments with all of the facilities you get with a hotel. Staying here you’ll have access to a gym, rooftop swimming pool and even a barbeque.
Each stunning apartment contains all you 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 settle in and feel at home.
Double rooms start from $80 per night
Vainilla Bed and Breakfast Mexico - Mid Range
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 day-to-day 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 decorate the garden. The hotel gets its name from the vanilla plants around the hostel, so essentially everywhere smells great.
- Superb breakfast
- Swimming pool
- Very friendly host
- Bright and clean decor
Double rooms between $40-$80 per night
Apart Hotel Casaejido - Budget Friendly
Playa del Carmen is a popular spot in Mexico, so finding a budget-friendly option can be hard. Casaejido is amongst the best that you can choose from. Situated a bit further out from all of the action and noise of Playa del Carmen, it feels like a little oasis.
Here you’ll find plenty of greenery, a pool, lounge chairs to relax in the garden and hammocks throughout. The bamboo and neutral decor also adds to the tranquil atmosphere. On top of that, the incredibly friendly staff will make you feel even more at ease and help you with anything you need.
- Gardens with hammocks
- Friendly and helpful staff
- Quiet location
- Outdoor swimming pool
Double rooms between $15-$40 per night
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