Touch down at Cancun International Airport and within 40 minutes you can be on the beach at Playa Del Carmen. In the heart of Mexico’s Riviera Maya between Cancun and Tulum, the fishing village that 30 years ago had only one rutted road and a single traffic light is now a full-fledged tourism town, with all the hotels, restaurants, boutiques and bars you’d expect of a world-class destination. You’ll never be bored here; rather, with all the town has to offer you’ll have a hard time deciding how to spend your days. So to help you, check out our recommendation of seven fun things to do in Playa Del Carmen.
Stroll Fifth Avenue Quinta Avenida is Playa’s main drag, a pedestrianized thoroughfare bordered by shops that sell everything from Mexican silver to silly souvenirs and restaurants serving bowls of ceviche and buckets full of cervezas. Bustling “La Quinta” is to the beach town what Lincoln Road Mall is to Miami: a must-see, must-stroll, consistently fascinating experience.
Hit The Beach Busy, breezy and always beautiful, Playa’s namesake strand is where all the off-the-Avenue action happens, with restaurants, massage huts and cerveza-selling stalls lining its length. Come for the sand but stay to experience an authentic slice of life in this popular beach town.
Buy A Jellyfish You can’t come home without a souvenir, so make it a good one. Our recommendation: Head to the Jellyfish store on Fifth Avenue and snag a jellyfish lamp, made from local gourds studded with colored glass and strung with “tentacles” of shells. Accept no imitations.
See a Cenote When in Mexico, it’s OK to “cheat” on the beach with a refreshing dip in a cenote, a freshwater-filled sink hole in the limestone bedrock that’s perfect for snorkelers and wave-phobic swimmers. There are cenotes all along the Riviera Maya, but Chaak Tun is the closest to Playa, offering several of the crystal-clear underground pools.
Eat Local Although you can savor fine cuisine from all over the world at Playa’s many restaurants, you have to sample local fare at least once. So make sure you book a table at Yaxche, Playa’s only authentic Maya restaurant, where you’ll savor classics such as cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork) with a side of local culture.
Catch Up For superb food and drinks with a view to match, head to the Thompson Playa Del Carmen’s rooftop restaurant, Catch. Sip a Catch Me cocktail as you watch the sun set over the city, then order the mammoth chimichurri-drizzled Tomahawk steak, guaranteed to please even the most discerning gourmands.
Visit Blue Parrot There’s actually a 19-room hotel and beach club on-site but most visitors know this 33-year-old hotspot as Playa’s undisputed nightlife hub. If dancing on the sand; fire-breathing performers; and high-flying aerialists are your jam, head to the 12th Street favorite for all of this, accompanied by thumping beats and tequila-laced cocktails.