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Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Playa del Carmen is a city located along the Caribbean Sea in the state of Quintana Roo in Mexico. Playa is in the Riviera Maya, which runs from south of Cancún to Tulum and the Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve. Young adventuresome travelers have long been attracted to the eclectic Playa del Carmen beach scene. Originally a small fishing town, tourism to Playa del Carmen began with the passenger ferry service to Cozumel, an island across the Cozumel Channel and world famous scuba diving destination. Playa is a stop for several cruise ships which dock at the nearby Calica quarry docks, about six miles south of the city.

Though it's no longer an idyllic village, it remains a laid-back beach town at its core, with a variety of unique hotels, restaurants, and stores. Playa retains the feel of a cosmopolitan getaway with a counterculture ethos. There is a significant Canadian, European and Argentinian influence in Playa, with a number of local business proprietors drawn from the American, South American and European expatriate community. In addition a significant amount of Playa's tourists include thousands of backpackers from around the world, who pass through Playa while touring Mexico and the surrounding region.

Travelers arrive to Playa del Carmen via the Cancun Airport International (CUN), one of the busiest airports in the Caribbean and the point of entry to the "Mundo Maya". Major international airlines as well as charter airlines have direct or connecting flights to Cancun every day. Now more than ever, Cancun Airport International is easily accessible from almost every major city in the world.


  • Playa makes a great base for exploring the Riviera Maya's central coast. Delve into Maya culture with a drive south to the limestone ruins of the ancient cities of Tulum and Cobá or take a day trip to nature park Xel-Ha and swim with dolphins.
  • Dive or snorkel through the cenotes at Hidden World Cenotes, a unique ecologically friendly adventure park, with tours into the Mayan Jungle. Hidden Worlds presents the world’s most famous cenotes (term for underwater caves in Mexico), Takbeha and Takbelum.
  • In the heart of Maya Coast, Punta Venado Caribbean Eco Park, 1990 acres of jungle and 2.5 miles of beautiful unspoiled beaches in the Mexican Caribbean. Ideal place to horseback ride in the jungle and along the beach, enjoy the exciting trails on ATV's, snorkel an amazing reef a few meters away from the beach, paddling kayaks, exploring cenotes and caverns.
  • Playa's La Quinta (Quinta Avenida) is the city's social magnet, with browse-worthy shops and plenty of bars and restaurants studding the pedestrian promenade. If you brought your dancing shoes, Playa's most popular dance clubs are clustered around the intersection of La Quinta and Calle 12.


In its earliest days, Playa del Carmen was inhabited by the Mayan culture. It later spent time developing as a fishing area before growing to become the tourist destination we know today.

The post-Classical period saw the height of the Maya civilization, with Cozumel, Cancun and Playa del Carmen becoming major players in the area's trade industry. Playa del Carmen's location, lying between the two ports of Honduras and Veracruz, makes it ideal for international trading.

In the early 1900's, Playa del Carmen became a territory of Mexico and, more specifically, a part of the state of Quintana Roo. The 1960's ushered in the growth of the surrounding areas of Cozumel and Cancun. Cozumel gained popularity because of an underwater documentary filming the Great Mayan Reef, the second largest reef system in the world. During this time, the tourism in Cancun also started to blossom, with the beginning of a big development project in the area.

In the 1970's, Playa del Carmen became more accessible to travelers, with the building of a boat dock enabling ferry service to Cozumel and the Cancun International Airport. However, Playa del Carmen remained an undeveloped fishing village. Gradually, more and more tourists started traveling to the area, leading to the eventual establishment of hotels, restaurants and all-inclusive resorts. The boat dock also opened up to cruise lines, bringing in more travelers.

In the 1990's, Playa del Carmen's population substantially grew, making it known as the fastest growing city in Mexico. Playa del Carmen started becoming more popular in the international community. La Quinta Avenida, Playa del Carmen's main avenue, became filled with shops and restaurants that international tourists enjoy. The Riviera Maya became counted as a top international destination in 2006. In the midst of commercialization, Playa del Carmen's local government has tried to keep the city's reputation as a small charming fishing area, making it perfect for travelers who want a comfortable and fun-filled vacation.