Hola! I want to share a little Playa del Carmen general information with you. I hope it helps if you are planning a trip to come here and visit this beautiful place I call home. If you would like more information about something, please drop me a line and let me know. I will do my best to answer you with as much information as possible!
Welcome to Playa del Carmen, the main city of the Riviera Maya. The Riviera Maya is now one of the top destinations in Mexico! It is located in the state of Quintana Roo in Mexico on the Eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula. Us locals just call it ‘Playa’. There are over 120kms of white sand coast line, amazing archeological sites – Maya Ruins, the second largest barrier reef in the world and the infamous Cenotes, this is a top destination for so many people and of course scuba divers of all levels!
In the beginning of the 20th century, the first settlements in the area were fishermen, coconut cultivators and harvesters of the chicle or ‘gum’ tree. Until the mid 80s, Playa del Carmen was just a small village with less then 1,500 inhabitants, but in the last two decades, it has grown at an incredible speed due to the thriving tourist industry. Now, with approximately 200 thousand inhabitants, Playa del Carmen is now considered the fastest growing city in Central and South America. From the original fishermen of the once small village, the few that are left can be seen at dawn leaving from Coco Beach. One iconic structure of that time that still stands, is the white light house on 10th street with it’s exterior shell stairs.
Where is Playa Del Carmen?
Playa Del Carmen is in Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula. It is just south of Cancun on the stretch of beautiful coast called the Riviera Maya. Playa Del Carmen looks out on the beautiful turquoise waters of the Caribbean.
How to get to Playa Del Carmen?
Most people arrive by air, landing at Cancun International Airport. It is the main airport to reach the Riviera Maya. It is the second largest airport in Mexico and growing and serves more than 10 million passengers per year. The airport is located 50 km from Playa del Carmen and 112 km from Tulum.
Cozumel has an airport as well, it has international arrivals, but is often more expensive to fly into and out of and you would need to take the ferry to Playa Del Carmen.
According to Mexican government regulations, all foreign citizens must show a valid passport with at least 6 months validity to enter Mexican territory, no exceptions are made for children.
Major airlines will provide the FM-T (Mexican Tourist Visa) form on the plane for your trip. You must include the following information on the form: numbers of days you will be in the country, passport number, destination, city of origin and other related information.
Business travelers must complete and file form FM-N 30 DAYS, which authorizes them to perform business activities, but not to accept employment, for a period of 30 days. Entering the country for other purposes, besides tourism and business, or for stays of more than 180 days, requires a visa and a valid passport.
The United States passport card is not valid for international travel.
Note: Upon arrival, the FM-T will be stamped by immigration and an amount of days given, up to 180 days will be given for your stay. DO NOT LOSE this document, as you will have to pay a fine upon your departure! (About $30-40USD)
Cancun Airport to Playa Del Carmen:
There are several ways to connect from the airport to Playa Del Carmen. You can take a taxi, rent a car, book optional hotel transfers, or take the ADO bus company to Playa Del Carmen (which is the cheapest way).
The airport is about 50 minutes from the center of Playa del Carmen on the one main highway that runs thru the Riviera Maya, called the ‘Carretera Federal Cancun – Tulum 307’. This highway goes straight from the Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen, and continues south to Tulum.
- Most all inclusive hotels will have transport included. When available, take advantage of it.
- Rent a car. If you are staying at a non all inclusive hotel and are going to travel around a bit, this option might work best for you. There are many rental car companies at the airport. The cheaper ones are just outside the airport and will pick you up when your flight arrives and take you to the office. This will add to your arrival and departure times by at least 30 minutes.
- If you have a large group you might look into a private transfer service. This can be a great option if you want to get to your hotel the fastest and most direct route. We have teamed up with an excellent transfer service door to door at reasonable rates. Please contact us for additional information and availability.
- The cheapest and relatively easy option is the bus. The ADO bus company offers two services from the airport on a regular basis; Cancun or Playa Del Carmen. (Just to note: taxis into Cancun or the Hotel Zone are quite expensive from the airport.) For schedules, here is ADO’s website. There is a schedule and they are pretty good at sticking to the schedule, factors like traffic, can cause major delays, so don’t be shocked if they are not on time. You will not have to wait long for the next bus if you have just missed one, they are very regular. Departing busses going to the airport stick to a pretty tight schedule. (Be aware that if you are arriving very late in the evening, the ADO services are unavailable.)
How to take the ADO Bus from the Cancun Airport to Playa Del Carmen:
International flights usually arrive at Terminal 3. After you go through immigration and customs you will walk out to the left and down a hall. There will be rental car companies and tour booths. There is an ADO booth and you can buy your ticket BUT… I prefer to go outside and get it. If there is a bus you can jump on and you are buying the same ticket, just at the curb. So go outside and you will see a lot of people with signs for people and people offering you taxi services. Just ignore them and walk toward the right. You will see a Margaritaville Stand selling drinks, just past that you will see the red ADO stand and someone there.
The people working here usually speak some English. It is platform 1 & 2. The current price is 178 Pesos for one way. You should only book one way since you might not know when you want to return. They accept USD, but do not use bills larger then $20. Change will be in Pesos. They will give you a ticket and you should hold on to it for your entire journey, in case they need to see it. The seating is open even if the ticket has a seat number. Platform 1 is for Cancun buses and Platform 2 is for Playa Del Carmen. Usually the bus will have it in the digital sign on the front of the bus. When it arrives you will be asked to put suitcases under the bus. There are no luggage tags given and security is not really an issue, so don’t worry. The bus will then go to Terminal 2 to pick up more passengers then onto the highway. On the way, the bus may stop for a minute in Puerto Morelos before arriving at the main bus terminal in Playa Del Carmen. If you are concerned about your baggage you can sit at a window seat and keep an eye on the luggage department.
The trip takes about 55 minutes in a modern air conditioned bus. It will take you to the ADO bus station on 5th Avenue and Juarez Avenue. This is the ONLY stop in Playa Del Carmen it makes. It does not go to the other ‘alternate’ Bus station in the center of Playa when it arrives.
If your plane happens to arrive at Terminal 2, exit the terminal and walk to your right, again passing thru time share sales people and mobs of chauffeurs waiting to pick up guests. You will have to walk the length of the building and then come to a security gate where the busses are parked. Just ask to go to ADO and then board there. Same procedure as above. If you arrive via a domestic airline in Terminal 2 you will exit in the middle of the building and just walk to the right, with a bit less walking to do.
What is Playa Del Carmen like?
Playa Del Carmen was once a quaint little fishing town that has now developed into a small city with lots of tourist infrastructures. It has retained some of the small town feel and the centre is easily walkable. The center of Playa Del Carmen is where most things are. The one main street is a pedestrian only street called 5th Avenue or “la Quinta Avenida” in Spanish. This street is about 20 blocks and growing. It has tons of restaurants, shops and entertainment for you. Important note: It is illegal to walk on 5th Avenue or any public street with open alcohol.
Playa Del Carmen is a city in Mexico but it has a very international flavor. Some people are now calling Playa Del Carmen a little Miami, others say it has a very “European” feel to it, but most everyone loves the special vibe the city has. The skies seem bigger here as the average building is four stories or less, but with the growth or should I say ‘boom’ of tourism, buildings seem to be getting higher… Truth be told, it’s a bit sad. The scale of the city is more like a town. That is what makes it different than Cancun.
Do I need to speak Spanish?
No, but, as they say: “when in Rome….” It would be nice to speak some, but not necessary, just don’t assume everyone speaks English! Since Playa Del Carmen is very international, English is the common language. Most people at hotel front desk, shops and restaurants in tourist areas all speak Spanish and English and maybe even some other languages.
What is the weather like?
Everyone wants to know what the weather will be like for their vacation. You will be happy to know that the weather in Playa Del Carmen is great for the beach year round. Riviera Maya has a subtropical climate with warm and sunny weather almost all year around. The average daily temperature is 28˚c / 85˚f with higher peaks in the summer months, reaching 39˚c / 102˚f. Hurricane season officially starts June 1st and ends November 30th. The hottest months are usually August and September. Windy season here is very popular and starts around November and ends by April. This area attracts avid Kitesurfers and windsurfers during windy season. As well, there can be quick showers usually lasting no more then one hour, just enough to freshen the air. During this time of year though, the wind can affect ocean conditions.
Playa Del Carmen is not a huge city and actually the area where most tourist go is relatively small. The map photo below is Playa Del Carmen. The red circle is the tourist area of Playa and is where most shops, hotels and restaurants are. This area is also where the famous pedestrian street of 5th Avenue is. The red area is about 20 blocks long and about 4 blocks wide. So it is not a huge area where tourist normally go but it does offer a lot in a small area.
The yellow circle is the private community called Playacar which is part of Playa Del Carmen. In this area there are many hotels that are all inclusive resorts. There is a new, modern and small shopping area with Starbucks and a few restaurants. It is mainly an area with private houses, golf courses and of course the resorts.
Playa del Carmen Streets:
The streets go in even numbers and avenues go in multiples of 5. Starting at the south end of Playa Del Carmen is 2nd St, then 4th, 6th, 8th and so on. There is 1st Ave, 5th Ave, 10th Ave, 15th Ave, 20th Ave and so on. Most places are described at being on a street and what it is between. House or business numbers are not used.
Playa Del Carmen center is basically from 2nd St.- 46 St. and from the Beach – 10th Avenue. The north end (16th Street -40th Street) of Playa Del Carmen is slightly more trendy and the southern end (Cozumel ferry pier to 16th Street) is generally the older developed area.
What area should I stay in?
Searching for a hotel on the internet for Playa Del Carmen you will get about a 40 mile
coastline option. This makes it very hard to know exactly if your hotel is in the city or
along the coast.
The Riviera Maya is famous for its luxury hotel resorts, all inclusive hotels and world class service. There are SO many options available, from Airbnbs and Hostels to Boutique Hotels and Luxurious International All-Inclusive Resorts. Af ew things that can help you pick what best suits you would be: Budget, location, amenities, entertainment, noise levels, and what are you planning to do during your vacations. If you want to kick back at the pool bar all day and drink, then maybe an all inclusive resort would be a better option, are you going to be scuba diving all day? Then maybe an Airbnb or smaller boutique hotel would be better as you will be out most of the day.
How to get around the Riviera Maya:
Renting a car is relatively easy in Mexico and useful if you are going to be doing some day trips. (Watch out for the speed bumps, they are everywhere! And, stay on the right, overtake on the left only!) Resorts along the Riviera Maya often have shuttles that take guests into Playa Del Carmen for the night. Tours usually pick up guests right from the hotel. In Playa Del Carmen, tours with transportation provided arrange for meeting point pick ups and most places in Playa Del Carmen are walkable. Taxis are readily available in Playa Del Carmen and are not too expensive.
If you want a bit more exercise, some hotels have bikes for rent or you can find them for rent in the centre. (Try to always stay on the bike lane on 10th avenue and follow the traffic flow.) You can also rent scooters, but I highly recommend avoiding them for trips on the highway.
If you want to go to Cancun or Tulum there are small vans that service those areas, called ‘colectivos’. They are inexpensive and run regularly. The main stop is on 2nd street between 15th and 20th avenue.
If you want to travel to other parts of the Yucatan Peninsula there is one main bus company called the ADO. The main bus terminal is on Juarez and 5th avenue, right at the corner.
TAXIs in Playa del Carmen:
Taxis are available 24 hours a day. Rates are per taxi and a maximum of 4 people per taxi is allowed, unless you get a minivan. There are taxi stands strategically placed all over town and inside hotels. You can also hail any taxi on the street. Taxis have fixed rates. Every hotel has these rates displayed openly and now they are available at all major taxi stands. Each taxi should also have a rate chart available. It is recommended to set the price before boarding. Make sure to carry small bills or the exact amount as change is difficult sometimes. Most taxi drivers speak little or no English, so it is recommended to have the address written on paper and remember the taxi number written on the back passenger doors incase you forget anything. The current average cost for a taxi within Playa del Carmen is 30 pesos.
What are expenses like for tourist?
Playa Del Carmen has changed from a once sleepy fishing village to a modern tourist city in Mexico. The standards of hotels, transportation and food have become quite high. With that has come a huge increase in prices, for Mexican standards, but as this is a tourist town, prices are may be quite similar to the prices back home. As a tourist you will pay a little more for things compared to locals because the areas you will be in have high rent and they need to charge more. The largest expenses you will have will be your flight and hotel.
Hotels can range from $40-$2000 USD a night and everything in between. Some of the all inclusive hotels may actually have a good value when you figure the cost of meals , alcohol and hotel together.
Here are some sample expenses (all prices are in US dollars): Day trip to adventure park with food $120 per person, dinner on 5th Avenue $10-$12, beer $2-$5, margarita $5-$9, tacos $1-2 each, taxi within the center of Playa $5-$10, coffee $2-$4, tips 10-20%.
What do I do about exchanging money?
If you are staying at an all inclusive resort then there is no real need to have large amounts of cash on you. The best would be to bring $1 bills and $5s for tipping the concierge, bell boys, bar tenders and restaurants, some souvenirs and the cleaning lady at the end of your stay. Most places on the resort will accept USD and maybe even Euros. Many hotels have ATM machines inside the property and you can use your card to take out Mexican Pesos. There are some US Dollar ATM machines as well.
If you are going to be staying at a non-inclusive accommodation and eating out, shopping and doing activities, it is best to exchange money. It will be easier for everyone to deal with pesos and it will cost you less. Many places accept dollars, but be careful. If the price is shown in Pesos, pay in pesos. If the price is in dollars, like many tours, pay in dollars. The exchange rates at stores are a lot lower then at the bank. The exchange rates can become very confusing and is almost an art in itself! The best exchange rates to make a purchase in USD are at the big supermarket chains.
The best way to exchange money is simply by withdrawing from the ATM. You will get a better rate then the ‘Casa De Cambios’ on the street that exchange money. When you want to use an ATM machine, pick a more secure ATM (usually inside a bank). Most banks in Playa Del Carmen only exchange money for their customers and not for tourists. CiBanco on 10th ave and the corner of 14th usually has the best exchange rates for tourists. Remember to bring your passport with you when you want to exchange currency! You can also exchange money at small exchange booths located all over 5th & 10th Avenue.
Where are the good restaurants in Playa Del Carmen?
World renowned chefs, fine cuisine and impressive decor…. Playa Del Carmen has an abundance of incredible restaurants to suit every budget and taste bud! There is a huge variety of restaurants to choose from, from taco and empanada stands to a restaurant inside a Cenote and almost every type of cuisine to choose from.
For tourists and especially first time tourists, you will probably eat around 5th Avenue, from about 2nd Street until 38th Street. Off the beaten track, there are also many inexpensive and delicious places to choose from, just depends on how adventurous you are. Good rule of thumb is when you see it full and with a nice mix of locals and tourists, you know the food is great!
Tipping in Playa Del Carmen:
For Tours where you have a guide, it is customary to tip 15-20% of what you paid for the tour. Tours that involve activities of higher risks like zip line, sky diving, scuba diving, etc. it is customary to tip 20%.
For a basic restaurant where you pay under $10USD for a meal you will on average tip 10%. For better restaurants 15% is normal. Only if there was something exceptional, would you tip more. Note: It is illegal in Mexico to add anything to the price of the menu at a restaurant. That includes not adding taxes and tips. Some do slip it in, so examine your bills.
No one really tips taxi drivers except for an extra 5 pesos to round it up. Some taxi drivers will not claim to have change, so try to have small bills for taxis.
At all inclusive hotels you can use USD for tips. It is pretty common to tip bag handlers, room service and housekeepers in dollars.
Tipping at bars is much smaller then you might expect back home. But 10-20 pesos a drink for cocktails is good. For beer, no tip is necessary unless you drink several.
What should I do at night?
Whatever you are looking for you should be able to find it in Playa Del Carmen. Playa Del Carmen has become a mecca of clubbers from all over the world. If that is not your cup of tea, there is a huge selection of the quieter beach bars with live music.
For those looking for a night club, most are located on 12th Street between 10th Avenue and the beach. After January of 2017, some of the more famous clubs of Playa have closed down, but there is still a great selection of bars and clubs. 5th avenue and 12th street is usually full of people wandering around at night checking out clubs that interest them.
If you want live music and a relaxing night, you might try Zenzi Beach Club – Bar and Restaurant on the beach or Wah Wah Beach Bar which is very popular with expats and English is mostly spoken.
If you are into sports bars and want to hangout and watch a game possibly, try The Tequila Barrel on 5th Avenue between 10th and 12th streets is a good sports bar to hangout and street watch.
What beaches are good to go to?
If you are staying at an all inclusive resort outside of Playa Del Carmen you are pretty much guaranteed to have a wonderful beach right in front of your hotel. Resorts are built around the nice beaches and they take good care of them. In Playa Del Carmen the beaches are nice, depending on the time of year, natural erosion occurs due to waves and wind. Some popular beaches are Paamul and Xpu Ha, though you have to pay to access the beach.
Is Playa Del Carmen safe?
The answer is yes! You may have heard news reports about Playa and Cancun this year, but Playa Del Carmen is safe. Tens of thousands of tourist visit and have an amazing and safe time. No matter what, wether you are home or traveling, you should always be careful and respectful.
What day trips are good?
For most first time visitors to the area the resort where you stay is going to be exciting and take up most of your relaxation time. For first time visitors we recommend, apart from relaxing, some of the parks like Xplor, Xel-Ha and Xcaret. They are all easy day trips and all unique experiences. You should definitely visit at least one ruin, like Chichen-Itza, Coba or Tulum. Last but not least, you have to snorkel in a Cenote. If you are a diver, then the Cenotes are a must on the bucket list of dive experiences. The mystical and magical experience is unforgettable! We do not recommend or support animals in captivity, like swimming with the dolphins. There is plenty of information available on why you should not visit or support it.
What is good to buy in Playa Del Carmen?
Most people pick up souvenirs on vacation, especially first time visitors. There are some amazing stores in Playa Del Carmen. Everything from hand made Mexican crafts to the famous Tequila from Jalisco. We recommend looking at some of the smaller local stores that have local artistic and unique hand crafts over the larger more touristic stores that have a lot of inexpensive things like sombreros, shot glasses and t-shirts. Some of the typical local artisan products would be: Jewelry, Vanilla, Chocolate and Xtabentun – a Mayan liquor made from honey and herbs with an anise flavor.
Now come to Playa Del Carmen!!
Going back to the airport for departure?
You can buy tickets at both ADO stations in Playa, but the easiest is the main terminal – 5th Ave and Juarez. Be aware that there is only 1 highway to get to the airport and if there is traffic, it will take considerably longer to get to the airport, so please keep this in mind with your planning. Busses stop at all terminals at the airport. This adds a few minutes to the trip since most people will be flying international flights out of Terminal 3 and will have to wait for people to get off at the first two terminals.
VERY important: make sure you have your tourist visa card from immigration that you got when you arrived. You will need to turn it in when you depart. If you do not have it you will need to get another one and there is a ‘fine’ for this.
We hope you enjoyed this general guide to introduce Playa Del Carmen to you and it makes you prepared for your first time on vacation here.
Hospitals in Playa del Carmen:
Calle 28 Norte
MZ. 4 Lote 4
Colonia Ejidal, Carretera Federal
Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo
Tel: (984) 879-3155/3143/3144 / 3145
Clínica del Carmen
25 Av. sin número esquina Calle 2 Norte,
Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo
Tel: (984) 873- 0885
Fax: (984) 873-0885
Ambulance: Cellular phone: 984-804-4425
Hospiten Riviera Maya
Lote 1 Manzana 30, Playacar Fase II, Av Balamcanché, Playacar
Playa del Carmen, Q.Roo
Tel: (984) 803 1002
Hospitals in Cancun:
American Hospital (AmeriMed) – Hotel Zone
Blvd. Kukulcan K.M. 4
Cancun, Quintana Roo
Tel: (998) 849-4911 to 15
Emergencies: (998) 881-3434
Hospital General (Public)
S.M. 65 Andador 5
Entre Calle 12 y 13
Cancun, Quintana Roo
Tel: (998) 884-2967/884-2666
Important Phone Numbers:
Emergencies 066 OR 911
Red Cross (984) 873 1233, emergencies 065
Police (984) 873 0291
Fire Station (984) 8793669 & 70 emergencies 611
Traffic Police (984) 877 3340
Civil Protection (984) 871 2304
Hyperbaric chamber 984 873 1365