Playa del Carmen is a charming coastal city in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. Known for its crystal-clear turquoise waters and pristine white-sand beaches, Playa, as locals call it, is a favorite vacation destination for tourists worldwide. It has recently become a popular location for Canadians and Americans Moving to Mexico.
Playa del Carmen is also rich in culture and history, with many ancient Mayan ruins in the surrounding area. You can explore these sites and learn about the region’s rich cultural heritage. There are also several eco-parks and nature reserves in the area, offering wildlife observation and hiking opportunities.
With a growing expat community, modern amenities, and a warm and friendly culture, Playa del Carmen offers a unique blend of tropical paradise and cosmopolitan flair. So whether you’re looking to soak up the sun, explore the rich history and culture of the region, or escape the hustle and bustle, Playa del Carmen is the perfect place for you!
Where is Playa del Carmen located?
Playa del Carmen is located on the Caribbean coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, about an hour south of Cancun, which puts PDC near the far eastern end of the country.
Playa is part of the larger Riviera Maya region, which stretches from Cancun to Tulum. As a modern city with the Caribbean sea on one side and the lush jungle on the other, many people see Playa as a tropical paradise.
Most people fly to Cancun International Airport and then take an hour’s ride south to Playa del Carmen.
Direct flights are available from the United States and Canadian cities, including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Toronto, and Vancouver. It also has connections to many European and South American destinations.
You can take a shuttle, taxi, or private transfer to Playa del Carmen from the airport.
Another option is to fly into Cozumel International Airport, located on the island of Cozumel, just off the coast of Playa del Carmen. From Cozumel, you can take a ferry directly to downtown Playa.
Even though it’s a long drive from the border, many foreigners and locals drive to Playa from the U.S. or Canada. If you do so, you will need Mexican auto insurance and a Temporary import permit (TIP).
Weather in Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen has a tropical climate, with year-round warm temperatures and high humidity. The city experiences two main seasons — the rainy season (May to October) and the dry season (November to April).
During the dry season, temperatures average between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit. The rainy season experiences similar temperatures but with the addition of regular heavy downpours in the afternoons. Fortunately, these are brief and help to cool things down, providing a break from the intense sun.
The hurricane season in the Caribbean runs from June to November, with the peak season being August to October. As a result, some years may see no major storms, while others may see several. So we recommend having a plan in case of a hurricane in Mexico.
Playa stays warm, with overnight lows seldom dipping below 60, making it a great destination if you’re looking to escape colder climates.
When Is The Best Time to Visit?
Playa del Carmen receives most of its visitors in the dry season. The city experiences massive tourism during this time, and accommodations and activities can be more expensive and crowded.
If you want to avoid the crowds and save money, consider visiting during the rainy season from May to October, when the weather is still warm, but the crowds are smaller, and the prices are more reasonable. The rainy season is heavy downpours in the afternoons that are usually brief.
What’s The Culture Like?
Playa del Carmen is a growing city of about 350,000 people. It is home to a diverse mix of cultures, including Mexican, Mayan, and foreigners living in Mexico which all come together to create a vibrant and eclectic atmosphere.
The city has a mix of urban and suburban areas, with a bustling downtown. It has modern residential developments and many shopping centers and restaurants. Despite its rapid growth, Playa del Carmen retains a small-town feel, a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, and a focus on outdoor activities and community events.
Getting Around Playa del Carmen
With various transportation options available, getting around Playa del Carmen is easy. Many areas of Playa del Carmen are quite walkable, including the central downtown area and the beachfront promenade. However, if you have far to travel or want to give your feet a rest, there are other options available.
Taxis are plentiful in Playa del Carmen and convenient for getting around town. Taxis are regulated, and fares are determined based on zones of travel. A ride anywhere downtown should cost less than 100 pesos, but agreeing on the fare beforehand is a good idea.
Colectivos are shared taxis that follow set routes and are more affordable than regular taxis. They are a great way to get around town and to nearby destinations beyond the city.
Buses are a cheap and convenient way to get around the Riviera Maya region, including Playa del Carmen. They run regularly and cover a wide area, including many popular tourist destinations. Fares are generally 7-10 pesos.
Given how flat the terrain is, biking is a popular and environmentally-friendly way to get around Playa del Carmen. You can use your own or rent one from one of the bike rental shops in the city.
You don’t need a car to get around Playa del Carmen. However, having a car can be helpful if you plan to explore the nearby towns or the outskirts, especially if you travel with a large group or want longer day trips.
Things to Do in Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen offers a range of attractions and activities for visitors and residents alike. Here are some of the top things to do in the area:
- Go to the beach. Characterized by turquoise waters and soft, white sand, the beaches of Playa are some of the most highly regarded in Mexico. Some, like Playa Mamitas, are known for their lively atmosphere. Others, like Xpu-Ha and Playacar, offer a more tranquil vibe.
- Explore the Mayan ruins. Some of the most impressive prehispanic ruins are an easy day trip away. You can visit ancient Mayan sites like Tulum, Coba, and Chichen Itza from Playa.
- Adventure under the sea. The clear waters of the Caribbean Sea around Playa del Carmen offer some of the best snorkeling and diving opportunities in the world, with vibrant coral reefs and a wide variety of marine life. Numerous outfitters operate in the city, offering tours and courses for divers of all levels.
- Stroll down 5th Avenue. This pedestrian-only street, known locally as “La Quinta,” runs parallel to the beach and is one of the most popular destinations in the area, attracting tourists and residents alike. Lined with shops, museums, restaurants, cafes, and nightclubs, this mile-long promenade is the heart of Playa.
- Take a ferry to Cozumel. Take a 30-minute ferry ride from Playa del Carmen to the island of Cozumel, known for its stunning beaches, world-class diving, and rich marine life, for an easy and convenient island getaway.
- Play in the water. With the ocean at your doorstep and many outfitters in town, Playa is the perfect place for water activities. Kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, jet skiing, and windsurfing are popular ways to enjoy the sea.
- Go golfing. In Playa, you can go golfing almost any day of the year. In and near the city, there are several excellent golf courses.
- Explore the jungle. You don’t need to go far inland to experience a lush jungle and natural cenotes (sinkholes) in the surrounding area. You can even zip-line between the parrot and iguana-filled trees for a thrilling adventure.
- Pamper yourself. Playa is full of spas. So if you’re searching for a massage, facial, or bodywork, you’ll have no trouble indulging in some self-care.
Dining in Playa Del Carmen
The food is diverse and delicious, with various dining options for all tastes and budgets. Mexican cuisine is popular here, often showcasing traditional Mayan culinary elements. You’ll find many dishes, such as tacos, enchiladas, and ceviche. In addition, many casual restaurants in the city and more upscale dining options offer a fusion of Mexican and international flavors.
And because you’re right in the Caribbean, you’ll also have a lot of seafood options. You’ll find various seafood restaurants in the city, serving everything from grilled fish to seafood paella.
What you pay while dining out can vary greatly. Generally, the closer you are to tourist centers, like 5th Avenue and the beaches, the more you can expect to pay. Here’s a brief breakdown of dining costs in Playa:
- A plate of tacos and a soda at a taqueria – USD6 or MXN120
- A craft beer and appetizer at a beach bar – USD10 or MXN200
- A meal for two at a mid-range restaurant – USD30 or MXN600
- Multi-course dinner and cocktails for two at a high-end restaurant – USD150 or MXN3000
Neighborhoods In Playa del Carmen
Whether you plan to visit or live here long term, there are some notable neighborhoods.
Each has its unique character and features. Your best choice will depend on your preferences, lifestyle, and budget. Whether you’re looking for a bustling downtown area or a quiet suburban neighborhood, there is something for you in Playa. Generally, housing near the beaches tends to be more expensive.
Here are some of the most popular areas to live and stay in:
- Centro The downtown area or Centro is known for its vibrant street life, bustling shopping and dining scenes, and proximity to the beach. This area is ideal if you want to be in the center of the action, but you’ll likely pay a premium to live here.
- Gonzalo Guerrero is just down the road from El Centro and is a popular choice for retirees and digital nomads. You’ll be within walking distance of the major attractions, supermarkets, and the beach.
- Colosio is one of Playa’s fastest-growing neighborhoods, just a few kilometers from El Centro. While not as inexpensive as it once was, the large housing inventory in this neighborhood still makes it relatively affordable.
- Zazil-ha is conveniently located next to one of the more popular beaches and is just a short drive or walk from the center. This neighborhood of condominiums is also close to several shopping centers, supermarkets, and parks, making it an ideal location for families and those looking for a more relaxed lifestyle while still being relatively close to the action.
- Playacar is a gated community known for its upscale homes, private beaches, tennis courts, and golf courses. Homes here are about as expensive as it gets in Playa but still considerably less than something similar in the United States or Canada.
- Ejidal. A sprawling residential neighborhood consisting largely of single-family homes, this neighborhood across the highway from downtown offers more affordable options for housing. It also hosts several tree-shaded parks, a community center, and a sports complex.
Is Playa del Carmen Safe?
If you ask anyone living in Playa, most likely, they will tell you they feel safe living here. But as with any place, you should take precautions to stay safe.
Theft occasionally occurs, so avoiding walking alone at night is best, especially in isolated or poorly lit areas. Pay attention to your surroundings, particularly in busy tourist areas where pickpocketing can occur. And don’t make yourself a target of petty crime by being inebriated while alone.
When withdrawing cash, use ATMs in well-lit and populated areas and never accept unsolicited help from a stranger. Be mindful of how you display your cash or credit cards in public. As with any city, trust your instincts. If a situation feels off or dangerous, listen to your gut and remove yourself from the situation.
Take A Private Relocation Tour
Does Playa del Carmen sound like a great place to live?
We certainly love it!
The culture, climate, endless opportunities for fun, and modern facilities always draw new residents. You’ll see why when you visit. We recommend going on a Playa Del Carmen Relocation Tour. Our private tours are fully customized and will help you get to know Playa first-hand so you can decide if this amazing city is the perfect place for you!
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