Mostly known for its beaches, parties and giant resorts, Playa del Carmen is a fun beach town on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, part of the classic Riviera Maya route down the coast.
Weather you’re into big cities, historic landmarks, natural wonders, colonial towns, or just chilling on the beach, there’s a place for you here.
Playa Del Carmen (or just “Playa” as called by locals) was a small fishing coastal town that has developed into a city with lots of tourist infrastructure but has retained some of the small town feel and is easily walkable and great for the beach year round with an average temperature of 27 degrees. The most rainfall is historically in September but that is also the most active hurricane month so it knocks the records out of whack.
All beaches are accessible, free and super instagramable, unlike Cancun where they’re often closed for resorts guests only.
The best way to mingle with the locals is at Punta Esmeralda, a scenic, white-sand beach featuring a shallow, limestone sinkhole popular for swimming – where there were, again, only locals! They have kept this place a secret all for themselves!
The lagoon is perfectly shallow with crystal clear fresh water and the softest sand on your feet.
Since Playa Del Carmen is very international, English is the common language. Most people at hotel front desk, shops and restaurants in tourist areas all speak Spanish and English and maybe even some other languages.
One of the most important archaeological sites in all of Mexico is Chichen Itza, located deep in the jungle, and a bit of a challenge to reach.
Chichen Itza is an archaeological site located in Tulum Municipality of Yucatan State in Mexico. It was a large pre-Columbian city built by the Maya people, and was likely to have been one of the mythical great cities. It is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico, and consists of buildings like the El Caracol or observatory of Chichen Itza, Temple of the Warriors, Grand Ballcourt, Venus Platform, and others. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, this Maya city was at its height in the 10th century, when it commanded a vast area of what is now the Yucatán Peninsula. Chichén Itzá’s ceremonial, cultural and administrative centre sprawls out over 2.5 square miles, its edifices aligned with celestial bodies. Within this same area, there were sacred sinkholes (cenotes), where sacrifices to the rain God Chac were made to ensure that life-giving water was always abundant.
Mexico’s lush jungle is home to some of the best treasures in the world like the mysterious and alluring underground sinkholes called cenotes. The region has over 6000 cenotes and it can be tough to choose which ones to visit on a short vacation so you can see the best ones here.
Most people visiting the historical Chitzen Itza pyramids also make a stop at the stunning Ik Kil cenote within a short 10-minute drive from the pyramids.
The Ik Kil cenote backdrop is beautiful with a wide opening into the sky, a stairwell leading down to it and lush jungle vines winding all around it.
The Mayan warrior nation believed that rain gods lived there, and they built their temples nearby so they could worship and make human sacrifices. When you swim in one, you may sense their spirits calling from their heaven.
The main areas are the Downtown, North Playa, Mayakoba, North Riviera Maya, or South Riviera Maya, where you can find street carts selling all kinds of local eats. You’ll almost always find someone selling Al Pastor tacos along with tortas, empanadas, tamales, and other tasty things.
If you like road trips the 3-hour drive from Playa del Carmen to Los Coloradas is for you. This gorgeous drive on desolate highways will end at empty beaches, sand dunes, a pink lake, and flamingoes (November-April).
The best way to get around Playa del Carmen is on foot, as most of the best things to do are located right off the beach. There’s no bus service around town, but if necessary, you can hail a taxi to escape the main resort area. Ferries to Cozumel are also available.
There’s a saying known in Playa which suggests the city either adopts or rejects expats. You won’t know till you get there and see what all the fuss is about for yourself!
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