• Meghan Bartok

A piece of paradise: Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Updated: Jul 23, 2021

I really don’t know where I should start with this, besides that Mexico was simply incredible. Playa del Carmen was one of those places I instantly fell in love with, and Allison and I have already decided that it would be a great place for our future vacation home. Playa del Carmen is a much more low-key place to vacation on the Mayan Riviera than Cancun, where there are mostly all-inclusive resorts.

In Playa, you will find some of these large chain resorts as well, but there also are many smaller hotels where you can get out and explore, rather than just staying in the resort. This is much more appealing to me because I love learning about other cultures and trying a variety of food. Our hotel, the Aventura Mexicana, was great – would 10/10 recommend!

Playa is a great place to vacation for people of all age groups – families, young adults, honeymooners, and grandparents alike will all find something that appeals to them here. It is also very budget-friendly – as long as you don’t have too many mojitos! The beach is stunning, and a day can easily be passed here with a cooler filled with drinks from Oxxo (a convenience store) and a good book. I have two main reasons why I enjoyed Playa del Carmen so much – day trips and food.

Day trip to Chichen Itza, one of the New Seven World Wonders

Playa del Carmen is located in the heart of the Mayan Riviera, about halfway between Cancun and Tulum. This location makes it great for day trip adventures. During my six days there, we took trips to Cozumel – about a 45-minute ferry ride; Tulum – 45 minutes by colectivo; and Chichen Itza – about a 2-hour drive, but 100% worth it. There are plenty of other places nearby to visit for a day, and it is easy to get around by rental car, bus, or colectivo – essentially a local shuttle bus that runs from city to city, and points in between.

Fresh fish tacos – so good!

The second reason I loved Mexico so much was because of the wonderful food. Spending the week eating food that was super fresh was so refreshing (haha…), and I don’t know if I will ever get tired of fresh guacamole and fish tacos! If you don’t want to eat only Mexican food, fear not! Playa del Carmen has a huge variety of options, from Argentinean steakhouses to Italian pizza places, and so much more.

2021 update: I used to have a list of great eats in Playa, but unfortunately, many of these places have closed down, likely due to COVID.

While you’re in Playa, I would definitely say the number one thing to do is go to the beach! There are miles of beaches that range from quiet to crowded, and they hold a plethora of activities. If you aren’t content with just playing in the waves, there are several volleyball courts, or you can rent a jet ski or go parasailing. There are also many beach clubs with bars and restaurants where you can rent shaded lounge chairs.

Enjoying the beach in Playa

Besides the beach, the other main attraction in Playa del Carmen is the shopping that can be found along 5th Avenue (Quinta Avenida). This street is pedestrian-only, and along it, you can find anything and everything that you could ever need, from souvenirs to massages, to upscale stores. This is also where many of the hotels are located, so all of this will be just steps away.

Overall, Playa is a great vacation spot for people of all ages and groups of all sizes. If you don’t go too crazy with drinks and souvenirs, it can also be very affordable. We spent $2000 for seven nights in a hotel and four round-trip plane tickets from Toronto ($500 each). All of our other costs there were about $300 apiece – not bad for a nice vacation! If you’re looking for your own piece of tropical paradise, check out the Mayan Riviera. You will definitely not be disappointed – just remember to wear sunscreen!