Playa De Carmen is only an hours drive from Cancun, but has little in common with it’s rowdier Spring Breaking neighbor. I’ve stayed in the resorts and in the center of downtown, both are great options, just depends on what kind of traveler you are. Last March my friend and I combined both those experiences and it was one of my favorite vacations. It also helps that my travel buddy is on the same speed as me and understands that “relaxing at the beach” means walking, swimming, cartwheeling, dancing, and making plans.
Family friendly- Babysitting services available & free kids club
The property was converted into a natural habitat with a plush rainforest in the center- this is definitely the highlight. It gives the resort a Jungle Book feel and all around the property are monkeys, flamingos, peacocks, turtles, and, of course, toucans . The food is pretty good, but you’ll want to make reservations at their restaurants (they do book up so make reservations), the buffet food is merely mediocre.
The white sanded beach is pristine (this is hands down where it has the downtown area beat) and we enjoyed a glorious drink by the beach day, but neither one of us are really resorting kind of gals, and we were ready to head downtown.
The Playa’s 5th Avenue
All the action goes on for about 20 blocks on and directly around 5th Avenue. As you stroll down the pedestrian only cobblestone streets passing boutiques, wine bars, and restaurants with open air seating, you kind of feel like you’re in Europe. I had booked the resort first because I wasn’t sure how safe we would feel downtown, but never did we feel the slightest bit uncomfortable at any time of the day (or well into the night).
An amazing boutique hotel! We felt welcomed from the moment we walked in. The people at the resort were not even a fraction of how warm, friendly and eager to help the people who work in this hotel are. It’s centrally located on 5th, has a cute pool area, the restaurant is great, and the rate at $125 a night for a suite (including breakfast) cannot be beat. AND they have daily yoga classes in the garden. We didn’t actually attend, but it was great knowing the option was there (just like I like knowing I packed six sports bras I know I’ll never actually use but have to pack every single trip, just in case motivation strikes).
You can see the island Cozumel from the beach of Playa and it’s a short ferry ride over. Once docked you’ll have your pick of car rental agencies (you absolutely need one to properly enjoy the island). May I recommend not renting a moped. After crashing one and wiping out in Bermuda I should really just put this out there as a general rule. I still have the road rash as a reminder, yet I still tried to rent one again. After a minor incident involving a wall, we opted for the Jeep and we were way happier (and safer) for it. It was definitely one of the oldest and beat up Wranglers on the entire island and although we legitimately loved that old hunk of junk, I do recommend making a car reservation before getting there.
Directly off the coast (literally in knee deep water at some points) is one of the most beautiful and active reefs I have ever seen and you can just drive up to any of their beautiful beaches and rent snorkeling equipment. Want to take a dive excursion and you’re not certified? No problema. You’ll be able to take their “intensive” Mexican certification course in ten minutes or less. “Can you put on the mask and breathe? Si? Great, let’s dive.” is about the extent of it.
Tulum and the Mayan Ruins
On a bluff overlooking a turquoise Caribbean beach are the ruins of the ancient Mayan civilization. In Mayan times Tulum was called Zama, meaning “dawn,” and the structures all face the rising sun. The Mayan calendar revolved around the sun, and as a sun worshiper myself, I respect this. The Mayans built this palace window to line up with the sun on the equinoxes, the two days a year when the earth’s equator is aligned with the center of the sun and there is equal part day and night. If you travel during this time you might want to consider it, although I have heard it is extraordinarily packed.
With a guided tour it takes about 45 minutes to get through the ruins . The history is interesting, the views beautiful, and after you can take the steps down to the beach.
Joya- Cirque de Soleil
30 minute taxi ride from Playa
VIP seating with 3 course dinner and unlimited champagne $200 per person
When you see the tent glowing ethereally in the distance you instantly feel transported, and it only gets better from there. The venue is dreamy, the food is beautifully presented and delicious, and the production was wonderful and interactive. VIP package is worth the extra money.
Playa is great get away for the beach bum and adventure seeker. It is one of my favorite vacation spots and I can’t wait to go back. See you in April, Mexico!