Swinging yet serene, Playa del Carmen is the not-so-secret antidote to Cancun. The Mayan Riviera is the coast with the most and Playa del Carmen is its most eclectic destination. Combining rich Mayan culture, culinary diversity, year-round warmth, otherworldly subterranean swimming pools, and a gorgeous beach or two, this city might just blow you out of the water.
Previously known as Xaman-Ha or “waters of the north” in Maya, Playa del Carmen was named for Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Cancun’s patron saint. What was once a sleepy fishing village is now a cosmopolitan city in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo where many come to meet the world. To be able to say you’ve visited this Mayan Riviera gem, tick the following scintillating experiences off your list.
Fifth Avenue (Quinta Avenida) is the beating heart of Playa del Carmen, which is affectionately called “Playa” by locals. Stroll along this pedestrian-only street to take in a conglomeration of tour operators, bustling bars, restaurants, clothing shops, live comic book characters, street performers, and well-stocked tequila stores professing to be museums.
Playa del Carmen is the largest (and fastest-growing) city in the Mayan Riviera but it’s still small enough to delightfully discover on foot. Quinta Avenida (or “La Quinta”) is Playa’s principal street paralleling the beach and a quasi baptism of fire that will get you pumped to start your trip.
Playa is a tropical party paradise. Whether you’re after decadent day drinking or a slow session on swings, there’s a beach club with your name on it. Coralina Daylight Club attracts Playa’s glitterati and is the most upscale of the bunch. Expect show-stopping spectacles with dancers, boisterous beats, and even golden champagne spray guns. For prices that won’t scare the daylight out of you, choose Encanto Beach which has swings and the possibility of a delicious massage.