"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.
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.
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: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...
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