So you’re planning to visit the Riviera Maya? Amazing choice! The cultural and natural abundance of beauty within the Yucatan Peninsula is truly beyond measure. Whether you’re just passing through or setting up shop in nearby Cancun or Tulum, Playa del Carmen alone is well worth a full day to explore and enjoy.
Like many tourist destinations in Mexico (and the world), Playa del Carmen may seem large upon arrival, but the must-see spots are fairly central. Expect to give taxistas directions with “calles” and “avenidas” (streets and avenues), and don’t worry, there’s a strong population who understands English, in case your Spanish skills still need some work.
Don’t stress trying to get pesos in hand before your arrival, or even at the airport. You can always withdraw from ATMs or pay with a card (give preference to bank ATMs for extra security). Tips are customary, but with a conversion rate of roughly 20 pesos to the dollar, it’s extra easy to be generous. Here are more safety and awareness tips to bear in mind when visiting Mexico.
Whether you’re searching for a bohemian sundress, some marvelous Mayan jewelry, or a pair of designer pants, Playa has a wealth of shopportunities to cater to every taste. There are several centers and malls along the famous 5th Avenue downtown, packed with familiar names like H&M, Michael Kors, Zara, and much more.
Plus, countless stores in between said supercenters are brimming with authentic handmade artwork and souvenirs. While the price tags in the commercial brand stores are non-negotiable, don’t forget that haggling is a huge part of person-to-person sales in Mexico. If someone offers you a hat at a certain price on the Avenue, for instance, always bear in mind it is merely the starting figure. Make an offer you find to be more fair, and they’ll likely be receptive, or counter with a compromise.
Dine Like Royalty
The eateries that abound in Playa del Carmen are enough to keep anyone busy for a month or more! But in just a day, you can get a taste of the very best the area has to offer.
Depending on your preferences, you can start your day at a cute cafe like Choux Choux or Marley’s, or treat yourself to a fancy brunch somewhere like the Thompson Hotel rooftop. When it’s time for lunch, pop into a 5th Avenue hit like La Vagabunda, where you can always find live music, or Aldea Corazon, where an actual cenote is tucked in the back. For dinner, consider Zitla or Fusion for casual and relaxing vibes with onsite entertainment. For something fancier, Sonora Grill, Cantina La No. 20, and Trujillos Cantina de Selva each offer their own special slice of chic eats.
Taste of the Town
Tequila tastings are very common in Mexico, so especially in El Centro of Playa del Carmen, it’s hard to walk 100 yards without being offered a sample (or series). If you and your stomach are up for it, see what they have to share! For an even more cultural (and fierce) drink, try some authentic Mezcal!
Sun, Sand, Swim
When in a place literally named for the coastline, it’s a must to hit the beach! Whether it’s the morning, afternoon, or evening, the water is wonderfully warm, and the sand is softer than you can imagine. There are public beaches all along the main stretch of downtown, and several beach club restaurants and bars like Zenzi and Lido are available to provide you with shade, noms, and beverages while you soak it all in.
The Final Hour
If by nightfall, you still have energy, there are several places to keep the party going around Playa. If you want to dance, La Vaquita and the Tequila Barrel have a liveliness that is utterly contagious. For something that feels a little more exclusive, the rooftop club Clandestino or neighboring Santino can both be equally entertaining.
When it’s time to wrap up your night, try to walk a couple of blocks away from the ocean (towards 10th from 5th), to avoid inflated cab fares. For best results, ask for ride prices before entering the car, and have smaller bills handy in case the driver doesn’t have change.
Plan Your Return
After an action packed day, it’s likely you’ll want to return to this sunny paradise. Start networking with the individuals who plan excursions while you’re still in town, so you can secure a great rate for the future. Wherever your journey takes you after Playa del Carmen, you’re sure to remember the times you spent there, and want to add to them ASAP!