Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Two years ago I spent five weeks in Mexico, mostly in the Yucatan with some lightning fast Tulum travel but I didn’t visit Playa del Carmen. I heard it was nice but I disliked Cancun so much I couldn’t imagine it being different.
I was wrong.
The thing about Cancun is they pack all the tourists into a hotel zone and for those that want to wander off their all-inclusive there are a number of restaurants, convenience stores and tourist markets all within this zone. It’s a weird theme park version of the actual city. No one knows this because they are segregated and never make it out of the hotel zone.
But Playa del Carmen has a different vibe that feels more integrated. Sure there is still the same strip of beach-lined resorts but people are more apt to leave the resort, even as far as Xel Ha park. The first few blocks are peppered with tourist shops, restaurants and tour operators. Not my thing but also not entirely offensive. I’m sure people stroll these streets the first few days and then wander out even further like I did.
This is the first resort town I have been to that doesn’t seem to insist on keeping people fenced in.
This is why I dig Playa del Carmen, it offers something for everyone. If you prefer to stay in the confines of the resort it’s fine but if you want to be a bit adventurous and just hit the tourist stores you can or walk 4-5 blocks more. I felt very safe and people were very friendly. It’s also not far from some of the best cenotes in Mexico.
Playa is a great city for a beginner traveler to take the first steps, dip their toes in and explore more at their own pace.
My sister who likes resorts is going in a few weeks with her friends and I think she’ll really like it, many people go back year after year and I can see why. I would go back again, I didn’t see enough and I want to know what is out in blocks 10-20.
Maybe more tacos?