Playa del Carmen is a charming, funky, cosmopolitan, seaside town in the Riviera Maya, about an hour’s drive south of Cancun International Airport. Once a quiet and relatively unknown beach town, Playa del Carmen has experienced a growth explosion and is home to many foreigners who have settled there because of the warm weather, beautiful white sand beaches, laid back vibe and relaxing lifestyle. Its foreign influence is prevalent in its eclectic restaurants and stylish shops and mixes well with traditional Mexican culture.
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RESTAURANTS, SHOPPING & NIGHTLIFE
Playa del Carmen is recognized for its many shops, restaurants, and nightspots along La Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue), the popular main street that is parallel to the beach. This pedestrian walkway is home to a variety of shops and boutiques, Cuban cigar stores, arts and crafts shops, trendy bars and upscale restaurants. The walkway entices visitors with its mix of street performers, such as fire breathers, painted mimes, musicians, break dancers and other street theater. 5th Avenue (Quinta Avenida) is just 500 meters from the white sand beaches of the Caribbean. In between the water and 5th are hotels, resorts, bed & breakfasts, inns and restaurants.
The restaurants along 5th Avenue feature Italian, Mexican, American, Latin American, Asian and international flavors.
The bars and clubs along 5th Avenue make it a good place to party. The afterhours clubs swing into action after 12:00. These clubs are located on the beach away from the majority of hotels and resorts because of the noise level.Intersecting with 5th are streets that all lead to the beach. Along many of these streets are dive-shops, convenience stores, hotels, resorts, tour operators, Internet cafes, coffee shops, currency exchanges and restaurants.
TOURS & ACTIVITIES
With Playa del Carmen’s gorgeous Caribbean beaches, tropical jungles, underground caves, rivers, cenotes, and nearby Mayan ruins, there’s more than enough adventure available to suit any traveler’s tastes. Hike, bike, kayak, or take tours through jungle pathways in nature parks and reserves or discover extraordinary caves and caverns via underground rivers or explore the region’s fantastic archaeological sites containing incredible ancient Mayan ruins.
There are always snorkeling, dive and fishing boats right on the beach that are ready and willing to take visitors on an adventure.
Some of the world’s most challenging and unique golf courses are located in Playa del Carmen and designed by famous professional golfers and architects. Developed within nature’s tropical landscapes along white-sand Caribbean beaches and around spectacular Mayan ruins, the regional golf courses have unusual characteristics that add to their dynamic and strategic layout.
- Playacar Spa & Golf Club: recognized as the most challenging golf course in the region designed by architect Robert von Hagge; a professional 18-hole golf course of 7,144 yards, par 72, located in the Playacar development in Playa del Carmen.
- Iberostar Playa Paraiso Golf Club: one of the toughest golf courses designed by world-renowned golf course architect P.B. Dye.; an 18-hole course of 6,800 yards, par 72, located 30 minutes south of Cancun, north of Playa del Carmen.
- El Camaleón Golf Course at the Mayakoba Resort: one of the most dynamic and visually appealing golf courses designed by famous golfer, Greg Norman; an 18-hole course of 7,000 yards, par 72, located 45 minutes south of Cancun just outside of Playa del Carmen.
- Grupo Mayan Golf Riviera Maya: a high-precision, executive golf course built around natural formations by professional golfer, Jack Nicklaus; an 18-hole course of 2,923 yards, par 54, located 30 minutes south of Cancun past Puerto Morelos in the Mayan Palace resort.
Playa del Carmen is the perfect place to indulge in a spa day… or two. Surrounded by the splendor of nature and its exotic radiance, a subsequent visit to the spa makes sense. Not only does nature invite us to indulge our senses, but the high activity levels of traveling and touring while on vacation often result in the need for rejuvenation. The Playa del Carmen area has plenty of special spas from which to choose.
- Itza Spa, La Quinta Avenida & Calle 14, Playa del Carmen: Day spa.
- By The Way Spa, calle 26 entre 5ta Av y 10Av, Playa del Carmen: Day spa.
One of the best kept secrets of Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya area are its cenotes, underground caves and rivers. The term “cenote” comes from the Mayan word “dzonot” which means hole in the ground or well. With the arrival of the Spanish colonists, “dzonot” became “cenote”, and this word became the name of these spectacular natural phenomenons.
These subterranean sinkholes, tunnels, and corridors developed naturally over thousands of years and contain incredible formations of stalactites, stalagmites and columns. Most cenotes are between 16 and 20 feet (5 to 15 meters) deep with a water temperature around 77° Fahrenheit (25° Centigrade). This fresh water is typically a clear, turquoise-blue color and contains fascinating fish and marine life, which makes cenotes ideal for snorkeling and diving.
The cenotes vary in their shape and size. Some are completely open (like a lake) while some are partially enclosed with openings where the sunlight filters in. There are also cenotes that are only accessible through underground corridors.
The cenotes of Yucatan have been the subject of speculation and legends, as they played a decisive role in the development of the Mayan civilization. Offerings, jewelry, pottery and human and animal remains have been found in cenotes, which provide access to the underground caves and caverns that go on for miles and miles and are popular with adventurous scuba divers.
Xcaret (Mayan for “small inlet”) is an experience unlike any other, a gorgeous ecopark located smack in the middle of the jungle that is home to underground rivers, cenotes, caves and Caribbean beaches all combined with a dose of Mexican and Mayan culture.
Only four miles south of Playa del Carmen, Xcaret is a delightful adventure which also includes an equestrian show, prehispanic performances, a Mexican folk art museum, a Mexican cemetery, aMayan village, an aquarium, a butterfly pavilion, an aviary, an orchid greenhouse, Mayan ruins, a tropical jungle trail, a gorgeous beach and inlets for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Xcaret is located approximately an hour’s drive south of Cancun. All Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya resorts offer excursions or tickets can be purchased online and you can rent a car and drive yourself or take a bus then return to your resort a taxi after the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular night show ends.
One standout activity at Xcaret is a 1,590-foot swim in an underground river. Kids as young as five can participate and everyone is issued a life-jacket. Other water activities at Xcaret include swimming and snorkeling and premium (extra cost) activities such as dolphin encounters, Snuba, sea trekking and snorkeling excursions to the coral reef.
Three restaurants are available and may or may not be included depending on the package you purchase. Dinner is also available at Gran Tlachco Theater and Xcaret (wine) Cellar. You’ll be covering a lot of ground during your visit, but the park has many quiet spots where you can rest in a hammock and your kids can play in the sand. Spend an unforgettable day at Xcaret.
SNORKELING & SCUBA DIVING
Only four miles south Some of the world’s most beautiful underwater experiences await right off Playa del Carmen’s white sand beaches in the turquoise-blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. Travelers from all over the world visit the Mexican Caribbean for its spectacular snorkeling and scuba diving. Dive shops offering snorkel and scuba rentals and excursions are located along the beach, on side streets and are even available at some resorts.
The Mexican Caribbean is home to the largest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef which contains distinctive coral reef formations, a vast array of exquisite fish and marine life in its colorful crevices.
Not only does the Caribbean Sea provide a perfect arena for snorkeling and scuba diving, but there are many fascinating cenotes in the area. Cenotes are underground rivers and caves. These marvels of nature are also wonderful places to snorkel and dive.
SWIM WITH DOLPHINS
While in Playa del Carmen, it’s only a brief ferry ride to swim with the dolphins at Dolphin Discovery on the island of Cozumel. The protected, trained dolphins are contained in a large area of the Caribbean Sea where travelers can shake hands (fins) with them, touch them, hug them, kiss them, train them, play with them, swim with them and get an exhilarating foot-push across the water from them.
Another place to swim with the dolphins is in a pristine lagoon at Dolphin Discovery in Puerto Aventuras, Riviera Maya, an upscale residential community only 13 miles (20 kilometers) south of Playa del Carmen. Located in the center of a tourism complex, Dolphin Discovery is built on an island with a marina and lagoon; home to its protected dolphins. Visitors who swim with the dolphins here may also explore the craft shops, boutiques, bakeries, cafes, restaurants, and other activities available at the marina.