Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Playa del Carmen, or ‘Playa’ as it is affectionately known, is part of the Riviera Maya. Stretching for more than 200 kilometres, Riviera Maya includes towns such as Tulum, Akumal, Puerto Aventuras and Riviera Cancun. Playaca del Carmen is found on the edge of eastern Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula.
Until recently, Playa del Carmen was a small village frequented by backpackers and lovers of nature. Within the last 10 years it has grown into a lively tourist destination, catering for numerous cruise ship passengers as well as day trippers from Cancun, just 20 minutes away. The area is famous for its Mayan ruins and history, with nearby Tulum known as a place of worship for Mayan kings.
The centre of Playa del Carmen is home to a large pedestrian mall (Quinta Avenida, or 5th Avenue), where visitors can purchase souvenirs and haggle for silver jewellery. Meanwhile, outside the city is an abundance of natural springs, caves, beaches and wildlife. Eco-tourism is very popular in this area, with nearby Akumal Bay offering the chance to snorkel amongst sea turtles.
Cruise ships generally dock at sea, with passengers tendered to Playa del Carmen by ferry. The ferry dock is just a few minutes from the downtown area.
The ferry dock has minimal facilities, but is located close to the main town square area.
How To Get Around
Once in town, the easiest way to get around is on foot. The city is laid out in a simple grid formation, with avenues running parallel to the beach and calles (streets) running vertically. If you plan to spend the day at the beach, these are also easily accessible on foot.
Public transport is plentiful in Playa del Carmen. Visitors can choose to take the ADO bus, which can be caught from the station on 5th Avenue and Juarez Street. A cheaper option is the Colectivos, which is a mini-van passenger service that can be caught from the terminal or by waving them down in passing.
The taxi service in Playa del Carmen is very good and inexpensive. Prices are fixed, but remember to agree on the price before leaving your stop and try to carry correct fare.
Other options for transport include bicycle hire, car hire, buggy or scooter hire. Most hire kiosks are located near 5th Avenue.
Visitors wishing to explore the Mayan ruins of Tulum should enquire about guided tours or use public transport, such as the ADO bus, to reach Tulum.
Travel times from the ferry dock:
- It is a 2 minute journey to Quinta Avenida, or 5th Avenue pedestrian mall.
It is a 45 minute journey to Tulum, where the Mayan ruins are located
It is a 20 minute journey to Crococun
It is a 10 minute journey to Xcaret.
Currency – The local currency in Playa del Carmen is the Mexican Peso. Coins come in 50ȼ (centavos), $1, $2, $5 and $10 denominations (5ȼ, 10ȼ, 20ȼ exist but are rarely used – most costs are rounded to the nearest 50 centavos), whilst notes come in $20, $50, $100, $200, $500 and $1,000 (uncommon) denominations. Major credit cards and US dollars are also accepted throughout Playa del Carmen.
Time Zone – Playa del Carmen observes Central Standard Time (CST), which is 6 hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
Weather – The climate in Playa del Carmen is subtropical, with a temperature range of between 27 and 31 degrees Celsius. November through to January is the coolest time of year, where night time temperatures drop to 19 degrees Celsius. June to August temperatures can reach around 32 degrees Celsius and summer storms are common at this time of year.
Mayan Ruins – Overlooking the ocean, the Mayan ruins around Tulum date back more than 800 years. Castillo, one of the most iconic structures, sits atop a cliff, overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Stairs and walkways make it easy to explore and wind your way down to the beach when you have finished.
Crococun – Formerly a crocodile farm, Crococun now promotes a culture of conservation. Visitors are guided through the park and can enjoy interaction with other local animals as well, including spider monkeys.
Xcaret – Part theme park, part cultural demonstrations and part historical site, Xcaret Eco-Archaeological Park has more than 40 different attractions. Float along an underground river, visit a replica Mayan village, walk through a butterfly farm or see the colours of the Coral Reef Aquarium.
Fifth Avenue (Quinta Avenida) – With a shopping, dining and bar precinct stretching for almost 5 kilometres, you will not need to venture far from Fifth Avenue for anything. Open all day and much of the night, visitors can shop for souvenirs, enjoy a meal and haggle for locally made crafts.