"Playa Del Carmen" Playa del Carmen by Kaspian

Playa del Carmen Travel Guide: 864 reviews and 2,045 photos

Travel Dates: August 2002, July 10-17 2004, March 12-19 2005, March 3-10 2007, February 18-25 2008, December 3-10 2011.

The first time I walked into Playa Del Carmen it was like some strange dream. There were beauties wearing Prado and Gucci, hippie kids carrying bongos, Mayan women selling fruit, Americans that looked like they were on the run from the law. There were Italians, Americans, Canadians, Europeans, Jamaicans, and Mexicans. Live bands played every corner, bluesmen, Rastafarians, rock guys, mariachis. I'd picked the place almost at random off a map of the Yucatan and couldn't help thinking "What the hell is this, some kind of crazy pirate town?" I waded out waist-high for the above shot, trying not to drop the camera.

The Most Colourful Town on the Riviera?

Playa del Carmen gets my vote as the most colourful and diverse town on the Mayan Riviera. There's so much to look at it feels as though your head will spin off. The ambiance of Playa isn't strictly Mexican, it has a lot of European flair and Italian influence. It's grown from 5,000 people to over 150,000 is the last 15 years. Many people say Playa was most magical in the early 1990s and that it's already become too commercial. That's true in my opinion. So visit this town now while it's still not the same as Cancun. (Or better yet, don't visit--so I can keep it a secret.)

Is Playa Del Carmen Really Mexican?

"Yes," it is and "No," it isn't. Playa is international and indescribable. It is Mexican, Caribbean, European, and American. Everybody comes here, from all walks of life. Many people stay permanently. I would venture to say that there's nowhere on earth quite like it and you need several days to appreciate just what it is. If God created a perfect United Nations, this is what it would look like. I'm sorry, I'm probably rambling on and repeating myself endlessly, but this magical little place brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. ..and I'm really scared of how massive development will destroy this place.

2008 Update!

What happened to my Playa? It's now official--Playa Del Carmen has been stolen from the madmen, the musicians, the escapists and delivered into the hands of the fat, lemming-like tourist who walks with a zombie stare up and down 5th Avenue. Small, quaint, beach bars have expanded into fully blown nightclubs with velvet ropes and doormen checking ID. The streets around the Blue Parrot now look like scenes from a "Girls Gone Wild" Mardi Gras movie. The fishing boats are all gone--replaced with scuba and luxury yachts. A two story Burger King obnoxiously occupies a full block on the main drag. ...Baskin Robbins, the Converse Store, 7 Eleven, and the Harley Davidson Store have moved into the neighbourhood. The riff-raff are all gone--the colourful, crazy, dreadlocked people that used to inhabit the beach. But I found them. ...They've moved an hour down the coast to Tulum. I guess there's some truth in the saying, "Once you've found paradise, you can kiss it goodbye." And I guess everything has to grow up sooner or later. Too bad adulthood is so ugly.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:It used to be a quiet, hidden, gem.
  • Cons:Chain stores, restaurants, and massive tourism have ruined it.
  • In a nutshell:Previously "a gift from God", hopefully it will be again someday...
  • Last visit to Playa del Carmen: Mar 2007
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (17)

Comments (31)

  • Dabs's Profile Photo
    Aug 16, 2012 at 2:07 PM

    I sent a couple of our friends to see Ed at Edventures, they should be there today! They got married on my birthday in Cancun, I thought for sure they were going to take me with ;-)

  • twilightmuse's Profile Photo
    Jan 30, 2012 at 11:04 AM

    oh I just read your play update. So sad. I loved the area for the hippies skateboarding up and down the cobblestones and the swing bars. boo to burger king and girls gone wild.

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    Jan 26, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    Ed, fabulous page about your several adventures in Playa del Carmen. I can't believe that you have eaten your best pizza in Mexico and it was even cheaper than having taken your photo with the Mayan Warrior God. *winkygrin*

  • Basaic's Profile Photo
    Jan 10, 2012 at 2:08 PM

    Mayan Ruins AND Great Bikinis? Gotta go there. Great Page!

  • sachara's Profile Photo
    Nov 7, 2011 at 8:59 AM

    Ed, in 1997 Playa de Carmen was great. We stayed in one of the rooms at the beach with hammocks in front. Now I see your experiences of 2008, I think we made the good decision in 2007 to stay in Tulum the last nights before heading back to Cancun airport.

  • giampiero6's Profile Photo
    Aug 15, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    Hi Ed...just looking at some stats. Since redesign, this page is up almost 150% on engagement of visitors. Awesome. It looks great too!

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Mar 22, 2010 at 10:59 AM

    I have a friend going there in 2 weeks, so I can now tell him what to see and do. You did a great job of describing the culture and its tourism.

  • Greggor58's Profile Photo
    Feb 18, 2010 at 10:02 AM

    Wonderful page Edward...I'm dreaming of hot white sand and turquoise blue oceans...Once upon a time I did a road trip down the coast from Cancun...and Playa wasn't even barely a dot on the map..Looks like a GREAT beach though...Someday maybe.. :o]

  • hindu1936's Profile Photo
    May 26, 2009 at 1:11 AM

    good stuff here for fun. guess I just have to follow you to Tulum. thanks. and yes, a pox on starbucks and a hurray for the good pizza place.

  • junecorlett's Profile Photo
    May 5, 2009 at 8:08 AM

    Is it the "bikini" you watch? Nice tips.


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