Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Playa del Carmen is the centerpiece of Riviera Maya, the tourist corridor of eastern Mexico. It provides everything you need for an ideal vacation: a wide selection of resorts and beaches along the Caribbean Sea plus shopping, restaurants and nightlife. When you want more, just hop a ferry over to Cozumel.

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1 Welcome to Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Welcome to Play del Carmen in the heart of Riviera Maya midway between Cancun and Tulum. Its population of 150,000 qualifies it as the second largest city (ciudad) in Quintana Roo. Yet the tourist district is very compact and consists of two marvelous features stretching for about three miles. One is Avenida 5, a pedestrian walkway filled with shopping and entertainment. The second is sand, sand and more sand facing the aquamarine waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Muelle Playa del Carmen, Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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2 Ferry to Cozumel from Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Passenger transportation between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel is ultra-convenient. Ferries provided by three companies depart every hour at Muelle Fiscal (Fiscal Pier) located at the south end of Playa’s tourist district. There is no need to pre-book your 30 – 45 minute ride to the island. Just purchase a ticket from a kiosk. If you are day tripping in Playa del Carmen, you will be delighted to arrive at the start of 5th Avenue. If sand, surf and sunning are on your docket, wear your swim suit because you will reach the beach a few steps after disembarkation. You can also easily arrange for a taxi to other parts of the Riviera Maya.

Muelle Playa del Carmen, Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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3 Portal Maya Sculpture in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

This elegant bronze sculpture of a man and woman clasping hands as their bodies form a 52.5 foot high arch is named Portal Maya. The public artwork by Arturo Taravez is located at Parque Los Fundadores (Founding Fathers Park) facing the sea. It is a tribute to the Mayan communities that dotted the Yucatán Peninsula before the Spaniards arrived in the 16th century. The rings represent traditional ones found on ballcourts at Mayan archeological sites. Etched on the statue is the date December 21st, 2012. This marked the end of the 5,126 year Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar developed by the Mayans.

Portal Maya, Av Benito Juárez 251, Centro, Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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4 Portal Maya Women Relief in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Most of the carvings gracing the Portal Maya sculpture depict scenes of the Mayan culture. Yet it also recognizes a more recent yet equally major impact on the local region: tourism. Playa del Carmen’s location, affordable lodging, diverse restaurants and entertainment, abundant shopping and beach yet laidback environment make it a top destination for families, couples and students on spring break. The influx of five million annually has made Playa del Carmen the fastest growing city in Mexico and Latin America.

Portal Maya, Av Benito Juárez 251, Centro, Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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5 Papantla Flyers Performance in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

A visual highlight at Parque Los Fundadores (Founding Fathers Park) is watching this performance of the Papantla Flyers. Five costumed men climb a 98 foot pole. Then, while one of them plays the flute on top, the other four swing and rotate to the ground while suspended by their ankles. This ritual was created in today’s central Mexico about 450 years ago to appease the gods while begging for the end of a severe drought.

Parque Fundadores, Av. Benito Juárez, Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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6 Nuestra Señora del Carmen Chapel in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

After the arrival of the Spanish and until the 20th century, the population was sparse around today’s Playa del Carmen. When it grew as a result of trade in mahogany and later gum resin, religious services were performed by missionaries and then priests from Cozumel. Fr Juan Amezcua is credited with building this humble white Catholic church. He named it Nuestra Señora del Carmen Chapel. Our Lady of Mount Carmen is the Virgin Mary’s title as patron for the Carmelite Order. Masses here are a quintessential Mexican experience. The chapel can also be reserved for destination weddings. Hopefully, you will be lucky enough to hear a performance by their 150 member choir and orchestra.

Nuestra Señora, Av Benito Juárez, Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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7 Straw Hats Display in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Regardless of what kind of hat you think is fashionable – sombrero, cowboy, boat, Panama, fedora or baseball – you are going to want to wear a sunhat while vacationing in Playa del Carmen. During the peak of the tourist season (November through March), your forecast is sunny with an average high temperature in the 80°s. Isn’t that why you came here?

Calle Quinta Avenida 10, Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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8 Buy a Hammock for the Perfect Nap in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Now this is important! You have worked hard for 51 weeks. You are finally on your winter vacation. High on your priority list is sleep – sleeping in and then taking a nap when you wake up. Don’t settle for an uncomfortable plastic chaise or beach towel. Snooze in style and cool comfort. Select one of these colorful hammocks, suspend it from two trees, grab a beer and settle in. Sweet dreams!

Calle Quinta Avenida 10, Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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9 Paseo Del Carmen Mall in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Paseo Del Carmen is an outdoor shopping mall anchoring the south end of Fifth Avenue, Playa del Carmen’s main tourist promenade. Retailers include names you know such as Tommy Hilfiger, TAG Heuer, Lacoste and surprising Harley Davidson. You will also find unique items like Mayan clothes at Kin Mayab. This collection of stores adjacent to the ferry pier is shielded by decorative canopies. This is a great place to escape the heat while walking among the air-conditioned stores.

Paseo Del Carmen, 10 Avenida Sur 8, Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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10 Day of the Dead Bride and Groom in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

You will see countless Day of the Dead figurines with their toothy smiles as you shop in Playa. They are used by the Mexicans to celebrate their deceased relatives on November 1 and 2 during the holiday called Dia de los Muertos. The rest of the year they attract tourist dollars. Chances are excellent this skeletal bride and groom have been invited to more than one destination wedding in Riviera Maya.

Calle Quinta Avenida, Sin Pecado, Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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11 Colorful Winged Angel Mannequin in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Many Mexican souvenir stores are not worth visiting unless they offer free air-conditioning. One store along La Quinta Avenida is a delightful exception. Sin PeÇado means “without sin.” The boutique offers an array of unique crafts. Just watch for this colorful female mannequin above their door. Look closer to discover the religious faces painted on her wings.

Calle Quinta Avenida, Sin Pecado, Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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12 Nightlife Options in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

If your formula for a perfect winter vacation is to sleep until noon, sun until sunset, party until sunrise and then repeat, then you will have lots of fun at Playa. The most action is centered downtown in the bars, taverns and nightclubs at the beach, on 5th Avenue and along 12th Street. Many of them get busy after 10:00 p.m. and stay open until 5:00 a.m. So grab your girlfriends and party until you are dead tired.

Plaza La Fiesta, Calle Quinta Avenida, Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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13 Eating Options in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

This wooden carving of a vaquero (Mexican cowboy) greets you at the 5th Avenue entrance of Los Rancheros. There are three other restaurants nearby also serving traditional Mexican food. Want something different than tacos and burritos? You’ll find Italian, French, American and Asian cuisine. Or perhaps you hunger for pizza or pasta. For something different, try the Cuban restaurant. There are also high-end dining options. Or fill up on snacks along the beach. You will not go hungry at Playa.

Restaurant Los Rancheros, Quinta Avenida entre calle 5 y 6, planta alta., Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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14 El Faro in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

El Faro (Spanish for lighthouse) was privately built as an active light. It stands 56 feet in front of the beach at Playa del Carmen. Below its red lantern is a staircase spiraling around its cylinder shape. This landmark is adjacent to the El Faro Condo-Hotel.

Residences El Faro, Calle 10 Norte, 77710 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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15 Frida Kahlo Mural by Street Art Chilango in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

This magnificent painting was created by Street Art Chilango, a community of organized and talent artists founded by Jenaro de Rosenzweig and Álex Revilla. They have adorned bare walls in Mexico City and across the country since 2013. The group has received several awards, praise by traditional and social media plus been recognized as ambassadors for tourism. The artists sponsor much of their own work but also produce murals for commercial clients and private residences. This painting is on 5th Avenue at the base of Frida Kahls Restaurante. The Mexican cuisine eatery is named after Frida Kahlo who is portrayed in this mural. She was a celebrated, 20th century Mexican painter.

Calle Quinta Avenida 455, Centro, 77720 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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16 Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Fifth Avenue is the place to go during your vacation in Playa del Carmen. You might hear it called Avenida 5, La Quinta Avenida or Quinta as the Playense have nicknamed it. They all describe the 22 block pedestrian walkway lined with shops, restaurants and entertainment. The places at the extremes – Calle 1 Sur in the south and Calle 40 Norte at the other end – tend to be least expensive. Prices and quality rise toward the middle. Your neck will get sore checking out the store fronts, kiosks and street performers. The promenade is mostly devoid of shade. So cover your head and wear suntan lotion and light clothes. Also don your sunglasses for optimal people watching.

Quinta Avenida Norte 210, Centro, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77710 Playa del carmen, QROO, Mexico
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17 Mexican Bandito Statue in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

The origin for the stereotypical Mexican bandito was probably General Pancho Villa, a 20th century revolutionary hero. He often wore crisscrossed bandoliers across his chest. Then movies embellished the appearance of outlaws with the sombrero, thick mustache and nasty sneer. Even Frito Corn Chips immortalized the look during their advertisements from 1967 through 1971 featuring the cartoon character Frito Bandito. This bronze statue on a bench along La Quinta Avenida makes a perfect photo op of your Mexican vacation.

Calle Quinta Avenida 17, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77720 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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18 Wooden Tequila Barrel in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

This tequila barrel bears the name Consejo Regulador del Tequilla. No, that is not a brand. It is the Tequila Regulatory Council. They strictly maintain the Mexican Official Standard for Tequila. So, when you are slamming down your next shot, rest assured it was produced from a blue agave plant probably grown in the State of Jalisco where your favorite beverage began during the 16th century. The harvesting, cooking, extraction, fermentation and distillation all follow strict procedures. Then it is aged in a white oak barrel previously used by a bourbon distiller. Now enjoy this iconic liquor of Mexico.

Calle Quinta Avenida 17, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77720 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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19 Quinta Alegria Mall in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

When it opened in 2008, Quinta Alegria became Playa’s second and largest mall at about the midway point of Avenida 5. Indoors is an array of over 30 retailers on three floors overlooking a relaxed, plaza-like setting. Among the brands are Body Shop, Victoria’s Secret, Nike, Levi’s and Forever 21 anchored by Sanborns, a Mexican department store with a terrific terrace restaurant. Quinta Alegria also hosts a couple of ice cream stores including Haagen-Dazs plus Starbucks and La Europea, a terrific liquor store with a wide selection.

Quinta Alegria, Avenida Constituyentes, Centro, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77710 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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20 Four Photo Composite of Playa del Carmen, Mexico

You will need good sunglasses during your vacation on the Riviera Maya. They will block the sun and shield your bloodshot eyes. This stone Mayan statue is on a roundabout on the corners of Constituyentes and Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen. A store nearby, the Sunglass Island, used to display these enormous red glasses at their entrance. The blue sky and puffy clouds is the glorious canopy over the Yucatán Peninsula.

Quinta Avenida MZA 53 Lote 3, Centro, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77710 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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21 North End Ferry Pier in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

The majority of passenger ferries to Cozumel leave from the main terminal at the south end of Playa’s tourist zone adjacent to Parque Los Fundadores and Paseo Del Carmen Mall. But if you are at the north end, you can save the long walk by catching an Ultramar ferry at their pier at the end of Avenue Constituyentes. Car ferries depart only from the Calica cruise ship port.

Muelle, Av. Constituyentes, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77720 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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22 Beach Parallel to Downtown in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

The Riviera Maya has 75 miles of beaches … plenty of space to enjoy your spot in the tropics. If your hotel or resort is in Playa del Carmen, then you will probably do most of your swimming and sunning at the coastline parallel to downtown. The Caribbean laps along the shore for about 20 blocks from Calle 1 Sur to this view of Panama Jack Resorts at Avenue Constituyentes. A lounger located here gives you plenty of access to whatever you need.

Panama Jack Resorts Gran Porto, Av. Constituyentes, 77720 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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23 Throwing Football at the Beach in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

If you are young, buff and male, then an essential pastime during your vacation at Playa del Carmen is passing a football on the beach. This tactic may not always attract the girls. Yet hope springs eternal during spring break. It is also a great way to get an allover tan without the boredom of lying in a beach chair or on a towel.

Panama Jack Resorts Gran Porto, Av. Constituyentes, 77720 Playa Del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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24 Diving Adventures in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Perhaps these boats anchored along the shoreline will inspire you to sign up for a scuba diving or snorkeling adventure. Offshore is the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, an amazing underwater world stretching for 600 miles. The wall diving near Cozumel is incredible. You can arrange a ride with one of these boats. Or a local dive shop can supply the equipment you need plus lessons from certified instructors. Also consider experiencing the submerged caves of a cenote. Unforgettable!

Panama Jack Resorts Gran Porto, Av. Constituyentes, 77720 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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25 Bars and Nightlife in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

The taverns in Playa del Carmen are almost as plentiful as the grains of sand on the beach. Your choices seem endless, regardless if you want to sip a cold beer on a hot afternoon or party hardy. There are several chains like Señor Frogs plus sports bars, beach bars and theme bars like McCarthy’s Irish Pub. ArtHumus is an excellent choice for wine, Dirty Martini Bar serves the best mixed drinks and Kitxen features live music. The most popular places for nightlife seem to be Mandala Night Club, Palazzo Disco, La Santanera, Salsanera for Latin dancing and Coco Bongo mixes in excellent shows. Most taverns close at 2:00 a.m. That is when people move and sometimes stumble towards the clubs in droves. They tend to stay open until 5:00 a.m.

McCarthy’s, Calle 22 Norte, 77720 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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26 Souvenir Store in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

There are endless opportunities to purchase a remembrance of your vacation along Fifth Avenue. Souvenirs range from inexpensive sombreros, shot glasses and keychains to fine local handicrafts. Examples of the later include quality linen, woven clothes, colorful embroidery, silver jewelry, ceramics, leather goods plus gorgeous paintings and intricate wood carvings. Also consider something for the taste buds such as chocolate, salsas or a local anise and honey liqueur named Xtabentún. Half the fun of your shopping adventure is bargaining for the best price, a time-honored Mexican tradition. The key word here is “half.” Start by offering 50% less than the initial quote. But don’t expect the shopkeepers at brand stores to negotiate. The price you see is the price you will pay.

Souvenirs Playa, Quinta Avenida Entre la 30 y 32, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77720 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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27 Calle 38 Norte Beach in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

If you have explored all of Fifth Avenue from Calle 1 Sur in the south to Calle 38 Norte in the north, you are hot and perhaps a bit cranky. Here is the perfect solution. Walk among the shaded trees of 38 North Street towards this wonderful beach. It is practically devoid of tourists but the sand and surf are divine. So put down your shopping bags and introduce your bare feet to this glorious shoreline.

Calle 38 Nte., Gonzalo Guerrero, 77720 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
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