Destination Guide: Playa del Carmen
While Tulum is getting all the attention right now, don't skip Playa del Carmen. The Mayakoba complex just north of town has some of my favorite hotels, which are so great you won't ever want to leave.
If you want a quiet beach getaway right next to a crazy nightlife, shopping and a more urban scene, Playa del Carmen is the perfect vacation spot for you. Here, you’ll find some of the Riviera Maya’s most stunning beaches and most elegant luxury beachfront resorts as well the trendiest bars and clubs.
Where to Stay
There are several places in Playa del Carmen, however, where you’ll likely head to your resort and never leave (because they’re just that incredible, and frankly, you don’t need to). If you’re looking for a relaxing vacation at a top tier property, then you should definitely stay in Playa del Carmen.
Playa del Carmen's hotel offerings are what you’d reasonably expect from a luxury beach retreat in the Caribbeans. The lively town is crowded with large-scale resorts that range from all-inclusive estates to brand-name luxury resorts. My top hotel picks are Rosewood Mayakoba, the Andaz Mayakoba, and The Fairmont Mayakoba. And El Dorado Maroma, by Karisma, also known as "Palafitos", even has overwater bungalows (which you generally can't find unless you're in the Maldives or Bora Bora.
What to Do
Whether you’re in Tulum or Playa del Carmen, there are a lot of cool things you can do to keep your vacation fun and exciting. Playa del Carmen is, as you can probably guess, packed with somewhat more tourist-friendly activities–-snorkeling, cultural shows, interactive exhibits and what have you.
You can also take a day trip to Cozumel and explore the quaint town of San Miguel or rent a scooter and head to the wild beaches. If you do take the ferry to Cozumel, be sure to dive the underwater museum--this is where you'll find the iconic statues in a circle of people holding their hands. They're close enough to the surface that you don't need to scuba dive.
But if you’ve heeded my advice and chosen to stay at one of the stellar properties in the Mayakoba area, you probably won’t need to leave the resort to find things to do. These resorts all have killer spas, beach activities aplenty and such incredible villas that reading a book by your private pool doesn’t sound half bad.
One thing you may consider leaving the property for is to check out the cenotes. The region is known for its cenotes, and they’re everywhere. Some of the more popular cenotes include Cenote Azul, Cenote Chaak Tun and the Xca-Ha Park.
If you have kids in tow or want more of an all-in-one cenote experience, consider spending the day at Xcaret. Their water-centric theme parks have real cenotes, lazy rivers to float, jungle trails to hike and zip lines to soar through the jungle. Book using the banner below to get a discount:
And don't forget your sticks! Playa del Carmen has a world class golf course just a few minutes away. The El Camaleón Golf Club hosts the Mayakoba Golf Classic each year, and is known for its cenotes right in the middle of the fairway!
Where to Eat
Whether you’re looking for fresh seafood from simple beach-side shacks, the best authentic tacos in town, or even gluten-free burritos or tasting menus for special occasions—Playa del Carmen will not disappoint you. The restaurants at the resorts in Mayakoba are far and away the best dining options in the area. The Rosewood has Agave Azul and Punta Bonita, the Andaz has Casa Amate and Cocina Milagro, and the Fairmont has La Laguna and El Puerto.
If you venture into town, try ceviche at Las Hijas de la Tostada, deep dish pizza at Don Chendo and roasted chicken at La Brocherie.
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