Playa Del Carmen is located on the Caribbean shoreline, between Cancun and Tulum. Mexico is full of incredible destinations and I hope one day to see it all but until then let’s get into Playa Del Carmen and what we got up to in the area.
A few years ago we stayed in Cancun, living the life of luxury. Cancun is basically one long strip of massive, all-inclusive hotels, spread out along a beautiful beach. We lived like kings and queens, drinking cocktails on our balcony and being served the most delicious food at any time of the day. But I do still love the simple life so when we planned on going to Playa Del Carmen we wanted to get a smaller, less “fancy” hotel. I found Playa to be a little less of a luxury destination and the beach wasn’t as good as Cancun but it’s definitely got a lot more going on right at your door step.
We stayed 3 nights at Cielo Hotel, with a perfect location just off the main strip. The hotel is a 2 story walk up and the rooms are so cute, the design felt very Mexican and not just a generic modern type hotel room. I’d suggest when booking to request a room on the highest level as these rooms have a lot more natural light.
The hotel doesn’t include breakfast but the restaurant downstairs gives guests 50% off their bill. We ate there a few times and the food was really good. The reception staff were just beautiful as well, they were so helpful with directions and advice on which Cenotes we should visit.
5th avenue is the main strip in Playa Del Carmen, so you’re definitely going to want to stay very close to here. The street is full of shops, bars, restaurants and hotels (but thankfully not to many hotels).
It’s a food lover’s paradise here and 5th avenue has a lot of options but the best Tacos I had weren’t on 5th avenue. Head west up the street, walking away from the beach and you’ll find smaller, less commercial restaurants and these are generally always cheaper too. Our favourite was El Fogon; cheap and delicious authentic Mexican cuisine.
From Cancun Airport – Once you have exited out of the international terminal, turn right and head towards the bus bay. This was a cheap and easy way to get to Playa Del Carmen and didn’t need to be purchased in advance. Throughout the day these busses departed every 15-30 mins and cost 178.00 pesos per person. The bus stop in Playa was only about a 5-10 minute walk to our hotel.
Colectivos – These vans are shared transport that run Playa – Cancun & Playa – Tulum. We only had to walk about 5 minutes from our hotel to the pick-up point and it cost 45 pesos each to Tulum.
Tulum – The attraction to Tulum for us was the Mayan Ruins overlooking the ocean and the beautiful beaches. We got a Colectivo, which took about 45 minutes. At the beginning of the street where we were dropped off, there’s an information stand. We were approached by someone straight away, he explained he’s here to offer assistance, directions, answer questions and we aren’t required to pay or tip him.
In the end we purchased our tickets from him. For 33USD each we got; entrance to Tulum ruins (alone that’s 70 pesos each), a map with directions to a nearby beach, once there we got a boat ride along the coast that gave us panoramic views of the ruins and 30 minutes of snorkelling. The ruins were really cool, the Mayans definitely picked the perfect location. You can purchase a guide to take you around the site, which was 1,300 Pesos but we didn’t want one. The site isn’t that big and all signs are in English and Spanish.
The man who sold us the tickets claimed this beach was the best in Mexico, mmm it was beautiful but I wouldn’t say the best. There’s is a couple of hotels and food vendors along the beach, so plenty of people around.
We were also told that it was Turtle nesting season so there’s a 99% chance we’ll see Turtles while snorkelling… that was either bull shit or we were just very unlucky, because we didn’t see any. It was also a regulation to wear a life vest in water. This was a complete pain in the ass as they didn’t fit well and made it very hard to swim.
We probably got played a bit but we still all had a great day and it was definitely worth checking out this beautiful area.
Cenotes – This is one of the things Mexico is famous for. Cenotes are natural swimming holes formed by collapsed limestone bedrock. Some are accessed by swimming or climbing through caves, down ladders into giant sinkholes or are just at what is now ground level.
If you catch a Colectivo heading towards Tulum there are a few along the highway, just ask your driver to stop. It was suggested to us that it’s always best to call ahead to make sure it’s ok for you to visit, some are on people’s properties so just in case they’re not there or something.
There were 6 of us on this trip so it was a challenge to decide which one to visit but we decided on Kantun – Chi Ecopark. This cost 79USD per person for the full package; this is a lot considering some along the highway only charge 10 pesos. The reason we picked this one was because it was the only one we could book last minute that included a cave (and caves can’t be done without a guide). So for our $79, this is what we got; guided tour of the property, seeing all 5 Cenotes & swimming in a couple. The cave tour which was part swimming and part walking, he said this will take an hour but it was pretty cold so we got through in about 30 minutes, then afterwards we got lunch. The property is open until 5pm so you’re able to continue swimming in the Cenotes if you want. I really enjoyed this and it was great because compared with some of the smaller Cenotes it was so quiet, there was hardly anyone else around.
When we were in Cancun we did a day trip swimming with Whale Sharks, snorkelling at MUSA (underwater museum) and Chichen Itza (a large complex of Mayan ruins). I don’t want to get into details about these as we were there a few years ago so I don’t want to share out-of-date information, but have a look into it while you’re there.
Oh my goodness this place is amazing. I’ve been to the one in Cancun and in Playa and I had an absolute blast each time. So for those who don’t know it’s a large night club and show. The shows are from about 10:30pm – 3am and there’ll be music playing between each performance. These shows are epic, so much talent and special effects, they’re honestly so awesome. Some of the shows are the Marvel characters, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, the Mask and Queen. There’s a large, high up stage at the front of the room and one on the ground in the middle. Some shows have the performers using both stages or even coming down from the roof, so any spot you get will be good.
Tickets – There’s a few different tickets options, general standing, standing with table, table and seats with bottle service. Both times we got just the general tickets (I’d find having a table to restricting because you’re stuck sitting down and can’t stand up to dance as you may block someone else’s view) these tickets are 70USD per person with open bar. Last time we were there in Playa Del Carmen we purchased the tickets the day we wanted to go. To begin with he wanted 140USD for the two of us, not including express entry, we got him down to 110USD including express entry.
Entry – Make sure your tickets include express entry, when we arrived the street was literally full of hundreds of people waiting to get in. We arrived at 10pm and walked straight in.
The second you step foot in the door there’s instant party vibes, tickets are checked – handed a drink – security check – tequila shot.
Inside there’s heaps of waiters (they wear white shirts) walking around taking drink orders. I’d asked the guy who sold us the tickets what’s a good tip for a waiter because I wanted them to keep coming back to us, no way was I going to be standing in line at the bar all night. He said 100 pesos per hour, I’m sure that was a generous suggestion but that’s what we tipped and our waiter was fantastic. We’d literally take the last sip of our drink and he was there with another and at the end of the night when we were drunk enough he popped up with two bottles of water. He deserved every peso that night, it was so busy in there and he never missed a beat.
Playa Del Carmen is such a fun and friendly place to visit day or night, there’s always something going on. If you don’t speak Spanish it’s not the end of the world as most people can speak some English, but I definitely think you should go knowing some words and phrases, they appreciate your effort.
Where should I explore next in Mexico? Comment below with your favourite Mexican destinations.