A Girl's Guide to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

march 27, 2019

In one word, Playa del Carmen is bright. The sun beams down and reflects on vibrantly painted buildings in turquoise, cotton candy pink, violet, mustard yellow, and firetruck red. It tickles the cheeks of locals and tourists alike who smile in return. It sparkles on the gentle waves, welcomed gladly after a long journey across the Caribbean. It gifts life to the tropical flowers spilling over balconies and succulents resting on doorsteps. This sense even translates into the food, where fresh citrus and peppers season dishes and set a spark in our mouths. Bright may be joined with a thousand superlatives, but I’ll let you experience it for yourself to write your own story.

 

Situated midway between Cancun and Tulum, the playful city of Playa del Carmen offers a balanced perspective of the Riviera Maya. A little less tacky-touristy compared to Cancun and a little less trendy and expensive compared to Tulum, Playa is much more of a happy medium offering a touristic center, alongside authentic Mexican life in the outskirts, while also being ideally situated for day excursions. Get ready for a relaxed getaway, in which you curate your experience.

SEE // DO

 

  • You came for the beach. Here are your options:

 

  1. The beach is public - if you walk outside the bounds of the tourist zones, it’s much quieter and serene. (I hung out near the entrance at Av Luis Donaldo Colosio)

  2. Or head to a beachside club, such as Indigo Beach Club. They offer beachside service to non-guests if you’re bill is over 400 pesos (about $20)

 

 

  • Cenotes, gorgeous pools and underwater caves, are located just outside of the city. You can join a tour or find your own transit - some are bikeable!

 

 

  • There are lots of other excursions to book or plan yourself, including islands, snorkeling, ruins, and more. Get a taste here.

Eat // Drink

 

For Mexican…

 

 

  • La Tarraya (cheap but delicious Mexican food on the beach, near the Ado bus stop)

 

 

  • El Popeye (huge tacos, friendly and fast service)

 

  • El Pirata (for casual seafood - get the whole fried fish special)

 

  • Primo (upscale Mexican, optional tasting menu)

 

  • Tiny Tiki Hut (a favorite among expats for tacos and cocktails)


 

Other and international…

 

  • SushiClub (some of the best sushi I’ve had in my life in a refined setting)

 

 

  • Catch (rooftop of Thompson, offering views and international fare)

 

  • C Grill (beachside Thompson restaurant)


 

For drinks…

 

  • Be Playa (hotel rooftop with open pool access and tasty bites)

 

 

  • Zenzi (live music and party on the beach)

 

Shop // Splurge

 

 

  • Biuriful (the best curation of high-quality local and international designers)

 

 

 

Stay // Sleep

 

I stayed for one month in an awesome Airbnb - you can find a nice studio or 1 bedroom for $400-600/month.

 

Other hotel options:

 

  • Selinas (hostel and private rooms, good vibes and events)

 

 

 

  • Hotel Esencia (the epitome of luxury, located midway between Playa and Tulum)

Stay // Sleep

 

About an hour drive from Cancun, you can take a cab, rent a car, or take the ADO bus (about $10) into Playa del Carmen.

 

Once in Playa, everything in the touristic center is in walkable. It’s also easy to rent a bike or car in town.