"Playa del Carmen-my Mexican paradise" Top 5 Page for this destination Playa del Carmen by Dabs

Playa del Carmen Travel Guide: 838 reviews and 1,968 photos

Growing Pains

Mexico is the perfect place for us to escape for a few days when Chicago starts to get cold, 3 1/2 hours on a plane and we are feeling the balmy tropical breezes, another hour and we are ordering our first tropical drink and donning our bathing suits. "Ahhhhhhh" is the only sound you hear escaping my lips. Well, that's not entirely true, I've been known to utter strawberry daquiri, por favor ;-)

December in Playa

We've only visited the Pacific side of Mexico once with a visit to Puerto Vallarta, the warm turquoise water of the Caribbean appealed to me so much more that we never bothered with Cabo San Lucas or Acapulco, not that anyone is going to Acapulco anymore. We've headed to Playa del Carmen almost every December-2003-2006, 2008-2009, 2011-2014. We headed here after Cancun got overbuilt and jammed with spring breakers and party animals, Playa del Carmen is more relaxed than Cancun, visitors tend to be more European than American, there are lots of small non all inclusives and there are plenty of places to find good, cheap Mexican food if you are willing to stray a bit off 5th Avenue.

The last six visits we've stayed at a Riu in Playacar, four times at the Riu Tequila and twice at the Riu Playacar because it was cheaper than the Tequila but closer to the beach. We like the Rius a lot, terrific food, nice room, great beach even if we had to walk a few minutes to get there from the Tequila.

Still I would highly encourage visitors to Playa del Carmen to think about bypassing the all inclusive resorts if the price is right, there are lots of great restaurants to try on and off 5th Avenue, I always end up eating at both the resort and the restaurants and having twice the vacation weight to take off!

Alas, Playa del Carmen is no longer the small fishing village it was on our 1st visit back in the early 1990s, there are new all inclusives on either end of town, a section of all inclusives in Playacar just to the south, a new shopping mall that caters to cruise passengers was installed at the south end of 5th Avenue and *gasp* Wal Mart has extended it's ugly tentacles into Mexico with a recently opened store at the north end of town adding to the existing corporate presence of McDonald's and Sam's Club along the main highway. Although some shudder at the changes in PDC, I find just a block off the tourist mecca of 5th Avenue that Playa is the same as it always was, a few visitors mixed in with the locals having dinner at taquerias, shopping and going about their business. Hopefully big business will continue to coexist with the small businesses that make it such a delightful place to visit.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Beautiful beaches, warm water, lots of restaurants
  • Cons:I'm not there right now!
  • In a nutshell:Perfect winter escape from cold, cold Chicago
  • Last visit to Playa del Carmen: Dec 2014
  • Intro Updated Dec 14, 2014
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Reviews (67)

Comments (53)

  • aussirose's Profile Photo
    May 3, 2014 at 5:12 PM

    Well I didn't realise how many great things there are to do here mate. Yal-Ku looks real nice. Lovely pix :o) Oh and the food.... forgot about that haha. I love Mexican food! Your tips are really good.
    Hugs, Ann.

    • Dabs's Profile Photo
      May 6, 2014 at 7:37 AM

      Obviously I love the area. And I love Mexican food! It's one of my favorite places to go because there is always something to do, even if most of our trips are now spent on the beach catching up on reading :-)

  • angiebabe's Profile Photo
    Apr 27, 2014 at 6:03 PM

    great page and certainly enticing being a place you obviously love so much! i might have my first visit to Mexico by visiting Vjielesmundo/Trish up in the Baja later in the year maybe....too many things to fit in to be sure but sounds a good plan!

    • Dabs's Profile Photo
      Apr 27, 2014 at 8:10 PM

      I do hope you get there, if you are more into the backpacker type places, you might even look a little more south at Akumal or Tulum, I think they are still fairly rustic.

  • betska's Profile Photo
    Apr 27, 2014 at 5:56 PM

    9 times.....sob. I have Playa-envy. Loved this place even though it was a bit touristy. Shame it's so far away for me!!!!

    • betska's Profile Photo
      Apr 28, 2014 at 7:00 AM

      oh I spent nearly 3 months all up, including finishing at the VT meet in Phillipines. Self-employment means long holidays, but being very careful to make funds last. No holiday pay for me :(

    • Dabs's Profile Photo
      Apr 28, 2014 at 7:33 AM

      Unfortunately self employment for us means shorter trips in addition to no revenue being generated while we are gone. I can take a few extra days but Mr. Dabs will not take anymore than 5-6 days out of the office.

  • LoriPori's Profile Photo
    Dec 16, 2013 at 3:52 AM

    We will definitely be going back to PDC. Nice updates Kristi

  • mazzap's Profile Photo
    Jul 27, 2012 at 4:40 PM

    What a great page! So useful for our upcoming trip to Playa Del Carmen! Thank you so much for the informative email too Kristi...you certainly helped us make a decision as to which hotel to book!

  • Kaspian's Profile Photo
    May 18, 2012 at 10:49 AM

    I'd like to write something about Edventures, but not sure what! We had a very, very good time, but it was sort of weird as hell at the same time. :/

  • nicolaitan's Profile Photo
    Feb 29, 2012 at 6:49 PM

    oh, wow - looks like you have a major page here, which i am going to have to sit down and read rather than skim. although the restaurants will not be an issue for our weekend wedding. stupid question - how does one pronounce cenote? will be back. n.

  • keasty446's Profile Photo
    Mar 11, 2011 at 10:59 PM

    I'd like to know how much it costs NOW - in 2011 - to ferry to Cozumel.

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Nov 17, 2010 at 8:25 AM

    Hi, Kristi! I see it's a great place to stay.... Thanks for your story! ><><><><

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Jun 2, 2010 at 8:45 AM

    YOu certainly got a lot of tours visits in to the ruins and snorkeling. It sounds like you had a good time. We got here on a cruise last year; only a day stopover, so took the short tour. Great tips.


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