A little removed from the Cancun party scene, with a little more culture and traditional vibes, Playa del Carmen has the best of everything Mexico has to offer.
The locals are friendly and always smiling, the beaches are beautiful and lined with beach clubs to relax the day away, and there are all sorts of adventures just a short drive away.
In this post:
Where is Playa del Carmen?
Located along the Yucatan Peninsula in the sunny country of Mexico, Playa del Carmen follows the Eastern Time Zone UTC -5.
Getting to Playa Del Carmen
Cancun International Airport (CUN) is the closest international and domestic airport from Playa del Carmen.
There are regular direct flights into Cancun from most major USA and Mexican cities. From CUN it takes about 45 minutes to an hour by car to Playa del Carmen. You can organise transfers in advance or just book a shuttle at the desks when you arrive.
Language in Mexico
The primary language in Mexico is Spanish, however most people working in the tourism and hospitality industries speak fluent English.
They do love to try and get tourists to learn a few Spanish words and try them out though, so expect locals trying to teach you a few words whenever they can.
Climate in Playa del Carmen
Sitting along the Rivera Maya on the east coast of Mexico, Playa del Carmen offers perfect weather, with sunny warm days all year round.
It can get a little sticky and humid during the summer months, as temperatures soar in the heat.
Getting Around Playa del Carmen
If you’re planning on just staying in the main town of Playa del Carmen it’s super easy to walk around, with the small town offering walking access between the hotels, beaches and main streets.
Most of the hotels in Playa del Carmen are located right off the main street of Avendia 5, so you’re never far away from shopping, good bars and restaurants or the beach. Rent a bicycle to get to some of the further beaches if you’re looking to get away from the crowds
If you’re planning to get out of the town of Playa and explore more of Mexico and the surrounding beach towns, renting a car is cheap and easy and allows you the ultimate freedom to explore at your own pace.
Currency & Money in Playa del Carmen
Currency is Mexican Pesos $.
USD is also widely accessible and accepted. It’s a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to money in Playa. While about half of the shops and restaurants will accept credit and debit cards, the other half are cash only. It’s a good idea to have a bit of both on you in case of emergencies, and so you don’t have to search far and wide for an ATM.
ATMs are available, but they can be spread out and might not be the most easily accessible. Definitely, the more major shopping complexes along Avendia 5 and around the area are where you will have the most chance of finding one.
Most places in Playa del Carmen will accept $USD but sometimes the conversion is much steeper from $AUD than if you pay in Mexican Pesos – make sure you know the conversion for both.
Internet Access in Playa del Carmen
It’s super easy to access the internet during your stay in Playa del Carmen, with most hotels and restaurants, as well as some of the beach clubs and tour buses in the area offering free wifi.
The Main Streets of Playa del Carmen
Avendia 5 is the main street in Playa del Carmen. It runs a couple of blocks back from the beach and is where you can find all of the shopping and dining shopping.
Avendia 5 really is a mixed bag of everything you could ask for, with high end fashion designers boutique stores located right across from souvenir megamarts, and fancy seafood restaurants right next to taco shacks.
Everything goes on Avendia 5, with colourful street performers, market stands and tour guide operators calling for your business.
Best Time To Go To Playa del Carmen
There is really no bad time to visit Playa del Carmen!
April to September are the summer months, with higher temperature and larger crowds, but October to March is the drier season with sunny days and warm temperatures each day. We visited during both the high season in August and the low season in February and found that the weather was actually very similar at both times of the year, maybe even better during February.
Try to avoid booking your trip during USA and Mexico school holidays, especially during spring break, as it’s a super popular spot for college students to come and party when schools out. Crowds surge during this time and the town can be overrun with people.
Can’t Miss Experiences in Playa del Carmen
+ Take a day trip out to Chichén Itzá to visit these iconic Mayan ruins and learn more about this dymanic period in Central American history
+ Take a dip in Ik Kil Cenote
+ Visit Xcaret Nature Park for all kinds of unique adventures – float through the underground rivers, explore the white sand beaches, make friends with the baby turtles, check out the on-site mayan ruins and try some of the local dishes for lunch.
+ Kick back and relax at the Playa beach clubs
+ Shop up a storm at the local markets
Good to know for your visit to Playa del Carmen
This part of the post was updated in April 2017, after our second visit to Playa del Carmen.
We first visited Playa del Carmen in 2014 and fell in love with the authentic charm, small colourful stores and bright restaurants. There was a small shopping mall with big name stores such as H&M and Forever 21, but not too many.
When we re-visited in 2017 Playa del Carmen had changed dramatically – with big malls overtaking Avendia 5, and more designer stores pushing out the smaller boutiques. It has lost a little bit of it’s authentic charm and colourful buildings, to make way for shopping malls made completely out of glass and modern buildings popping up everywhere.
Playa del Carmen is changing rapidly as it grows with popularity, and this is probably the first time that we have actually seen and experienced the effects of over-tourism, with local spots making way for American chain stores and restaurants.
Playa del Carmen was our first look into Mexico, and we completely fell in love with it on that first visit. Although it’s still a great little town, if you’re looking for more of an authentic vibe, maybe check out some of the surrounding beach towns or islands off the coast to avoid the city feel Playa is adapting.