Ultimate Guide to Playa del Carmen

Just a short ride from Cancun International Airport, lies popular party town: Playa del Carmen.  Famous for its turquoise waters, all-inclusive resorts, secret cenotes, & LIVELY bars on 5th Avenue ~ Playa’s got something for everybody…except peace & quiet!  Unless you’re tucked behind the walls of an all-inclusive: this is more party town than restful retreat.  Which is great for some people…& not so great for others!  Get the lay of the land & find out if Playa’s right for you in this “Ultimate Guide to Playa del Carmen in Mexico!” 

Here’s a brief overview of what we’ll cover: how to get there, when to visit, safety info, where to stay, what to pack, & great activities nearby in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Ultimate Guide to Playa del Carmen in Mexico, Girl Who Travels the World

Unfiltered shot of the insanely turquoise waters of Playa del Carmen, taken from the main dock to the Cozumel ferry.

Overview of Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is a party town: make no mistake about that.  And, it’s quite touristy.  I was there for three weeks during February & March, & I can’t recall a time when it wasn’t busy!  It’s not what I’d call “authentic” Mexico (if you want authentic, head to Merida)…I’d call it more “Americanized” Mexico.  You’ll find plenty of restaurants, bars, shops, yoga studios, juice bars, & even sex hotels!!

Was it my favorite place in the Yucatan?  No.  I prefer a less touristy vibe. 

But I think Playa is perfect for a lot of people.

Playa del Carmen is Perfect For: Big groups; bachelor/bachelorette parties; young people; couples; anyone looking to party & have a good time.  It also works for solo travelers who want to stay in lively hostels & meet other young travelers.

How to Get to Playa del Carmen

There’s no airport in Playa del Carmen, so if you’re flying ~ you’ll need to fly into Cancun or Cozumel.  Cancun is a one-hour drive from Playa del Carmen, & Cozumel is a 45-minute ferry ride.  I rented a car for a WEEK in the Yucatan for $5 (via Kayak)!!!  That is NOT a typo. 

Definitely rent a car in advance if you want to explore this region.  You’ll find much better deals than if you wait to book in person.

Cancun, Mexico

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Cozumel, Mexico

Chichen Itza, Mexico

When to Visit Playa del Carmen

Dry season in Playa del Carmen is October to March; weather during this time is pleasant, dry, & warm (but not too warm).  Days are in the 80’s, with night temps in the low 70’s ~ making it a great time to visit.  April & May are also good months; it’s less busy & getting warmer, with cheaper hotel prices. 

June to September is hurricane season, with higher humidity & more mosquitoes: so not the best time to visit.

Ultimate Guide to Playa del Carmen in Mexico, Girl Who Travels the World

The best time to visit Playa del Carmen is during dry season, between October-March. April & May is a little warmer, but still a good time to visit ~ & cheaper.

Is Playa del Carmen Safe?

In general, the Yucatan Peninsula is one of the safest regions in Mexico.  I spent over two months there as a female traveler & had ZERO issues (& I drove everywhere).  That said, I felt safer on the nearby island of Cozumel than I did in Playa del Carmen.  Why?  Because Cozumel was super mellow & laid-back; in Playa, I got hassled more by aggressive guys along 5th Ave. who asked me out or offered me drugs.  I never felt unsafe ~ but I was definitely more on guard in Playa than in Cozumel.

It’s also common in Playa del Carmen to see heavily-armed militia (who often look really young) riding around in large trucks.  I’m not sure if this is supposed to make us feel “safer” ~ but to me, it felt disconcerting & a little odd.  The best thing about Playa though, in terms of safety, is: on main streets, there are usually TONS of people around, even late at night.  Use caution walking alone at night, stay on main streets or take a cab, & don’t leave your drink unattended.

Ultimate Guide to Playa del Carmen in Mexico, Girl Who Travels the World

The good thing about 5th Ave. in Playa? It’s almost ALWAYS packed with people, which adds to the safety factor.

Where to Stay in Playa del Carmen

One of the best things about Playa del Carmen is there are accommodations for ALL budgets.  You can stay in ritzy, beach-front all-inclusives, party hostels, or cute family-run B&B’s.  Compared to Cancun, where it’s really difficult to find mid-range hotel options ~ Playa has WAY more options for all price points. 

MAIN TIP: When looking for accommodations in Playa, know that if you’re staying anywhere near 5th Ave. ~ your hotel will be NOISY at night!!!

Best All-Inclusive Options in Playa del Carmen: If you’re willing to spend money on an all-inclusive, you probably want to be right on the beach.  And the good news is: most are.  The Viva Wyndham Maya ($165+/night) has its own beach, upscale rooms, & is reasonably priced ~ especially for an all-inclusive! 

For more exclusive, five-star resorts a little further from town: try the Banyan Tree Mayakoba ($335+/night) or the Grand Velas Riviera Maya ($633+/night)….which is where they filmed the Netflix show “Love is Blind!”

Ultimate Guide to Playa del Carmen in Mexico, Girl Who Travels the World

If you want an all-inclusive set right on the beach in Playa, try the Wyndham Maya Resort.

Best Budget Hotels in Playa del Carmen

Best Hostels in Playa del Carmen:  If you’re looking for chic-on-a-budget & want to meet other young travelers ~ try Hostel 3B ($24+/night) or Adult’s-Only Hostel Che Playa ($16+/night).  Both have rooftop bars & great locations, but will leave you enough money for a wild night on the town.

Ultimate Guide to Playa del Carmen in Mexico, Girl Who Travels the World

This chic, roof-top pool at Hostel Che Playa will only set you back about $20/night.

Best Mid-Range Hotels in Playa del Carmen: This was my sweet spot while staying in Playa.  Here’s where I stayed & recommend: 1) Hotel Angelo’s ($38+/night), a brand-new hotel with rooftop pool & large rooms, great Wi-Fi & modern amenities.  The only negative is its location ~ it’s across the main highway, about 15-minutes from town.  If this bothers you, try: 2) Hotel Los Itzaes ($63+/night), a serene hotel right in town, close to 5th Avenue (which makes it noisier at night).  For more hip, try: 3) Soho Playa ($65+/night), which is chic & centrally-located or, 4) HM Playa del Carmen, which has an AMAZINGLY sexy pool & boho vibe!

Ultimate Guide to Playa del Carmen in Mexico, Girl Who Travels the World

The HM Playa del Carmen is sexy & chic with a phenomenal pool & bohemian vibe ~& starts around $80/night.

Sex Hotel in Playa del Carmen?!?!!

Speaking of Soho Playa, this reminds me of a crazy, out-of-the-box hotel suggestion: Reina Roja.  While staying at the Soho, we saw a very strange sight from our balcony: it looked like two people having sex on the balcony across from us?!  Intrigued, we did some investigating, & discovered there was an S&M-themed hotel right across the street!  If you’re at all conservative: don’t stay here!!  Don’t even walk in the lobby.  Reina Roja, decorated all in red & black, takes S-E-X-Y to the next level: there are mannequins, erotic photos, people in cages, & I’ve heard that anything goes in their rooftop pool. 

Stay here with your lover for a very adult weekend… 

Ultimate Guide to Playa del Carmen in Mexico, Girl Who Travels the World

No “Ultimate Guide to Playa del Carmen” would be complete without telling you about the city’s “Sex Hotel.” One walk in its lobby & you’ll understand why…

What to Pack for Playa del Carmen

My top packing suggestions for Playa include reef-safe, chemical-free sunscreen (required in cenotes to protect the limestone), an underwater camera, & something you may not think of: Activated Charcoal.  Though I didn’t get Montezuma’s Revenge while in Playa, I know plenty of people who did.  Even if you drink bottled water & nix ice, it’s still possible to get Montezuma’s ~ & if you do, activated charcoal helps bind with toxins & get them out of your system ASAP.  WORTH IT!!!

Read Next: How to Avoid Montezuma’s Revenge!

Best Cenote Near Playa del Carmen

Chances are, if you’re coming to the Yucatan ~ you want to swim in cenotes (super cool underground swimming holes).  There are thousands of them, but the closest to Playa is Cenote Chaak Tun.  You need to take a guided tour here, but this cenote is sooo photogenic!  I think it’s worth it. 

Make sure to bring your underwater camera

Ultimate Guide to Playa del Carmen in Mexico, Girl Who Travels the World

Cenote Chaak Tun is the closest cenote to Playa del Carmen, about 15 minutes away. I LOVED it here ~ sooo cool!!

Read Next: Best Cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula

Nearby Adventures…

There are TONS of things to do in the Yucatan!!  But here are some of the best adventures by Playa del Carmen: take the 45-minute ferry ride across to Cozumel for an afternoon of world-class snorkeling.  Drive an hour south to everyone’s new favorite bohemian retreat, Tulum ~ which has WAY better beaches than Playa, & relaxed beachfront resorts.  For ancient Mayan ruins, head to Coba (45-minute drive), the Mayan Ruins at Tulum (1-hour), or famous Chichen Itza (2-hour drive). 

Or go way off-the-beaten path to one of my favorite places EVER: the incredible Pink Sea!

Ultimate Girl's Guide to Yucatan Travel, Girl Who Travels the World

The Pink Sea is one of my favorite Yucatan adventures!

Ultimate Guide to Playa del Carmen

 Thanks for reading this “Ultimate Guide to Playa del Carmen in Mexico!”  I hope it helps you plan an amazing vacation to one of the Yucatan’s most happening spots.

xoxo Noelia 

Read Next: Best Beachfront All-Inclusive Resorts in Playa

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