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Playa del Carmen

Photo credit: D-Stanley / Foter / CC BY
Playa del Carmen
  • (worth a trip)
  • Easy
  • Average
  • 2-3 days
  • 3 3

One of Mexico's most visited beach towns, with the best nightlife and vibes

Located in the Riviera Maya just to the south of Cancun, Playa del Carmen is a must go to when in the Yucatan Peninsula.


Before the Spanish conquered the land, Playa del Carmen was named Xaman Há, which in Mayan, means “Water from the north” and it acted as the starting point of a pilgrimage yo a sanctuary in Cozumel. After Spain invaded most Mayan sites, a camp was set here but there was never a lot going on during the Colonial period and it never fully became a Spanish colony.


For years it maintained itself quite uninhabited, with less than 1500 people living in it. It wasn’t until the late 80’s, that is, when tourism became popular in the área. Today, it is one of the most visited sites in the Riviera Maya, partly due to its charm as well as its parties and its easy access to other mayor points of interests such as Xcaret, Cozumel, Tulum, Sian Ka’an Biosphere, Xel-Ha and more.


Playa Del Carmen is quite small and easy to discover by foot. The main avenue is Fifth Avenue (Quinta Avenida), which is four kilometers long with no cars running through it. On this avenue, you’ll find bars, restaurants, artisan shops, and clubs.


Aside from the beach and fun activities, Playa del Carmen is also famous for its cultural heritage. If you’re lucky, you might get to experience one of the many festivals that are held here throughout the year. The most popular being:

  • January: Carnaval – Parades showcasing the Mayan culture.
  • April: La Guelaguetza – A tribute to the state of Oaxaca, with products and handcrafts from there being displayed as well as typical music and dances performed.
  • November: Riviera Maya Jazz Festival – As the name states, it is a jazz festival held during the last week of November since 2003.