Playa del Carmen, Mexico's virtual guidebook written by locals

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Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to Playa del Carmen!

Playa, as most people call it, is a fun beach town on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. It's a great vacation spot for anyone looking for a good time with some sun, fun and a little culture mixed in. The town is based around the ocean, so the beach and the water sports is what brings most people here. Of course the proximity to magnificent Mayan ruins further fuels the appeal. Check out our different departments for more specific information. For a quick introduction, read the FAQ's below!

Where is Playa del Carmen?
Playa is located on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, about an hour south of Cancun. It's in the state of Quintana Roo, in the Yucatán peninsula.

Where does the name Quintana Roo come from?
The name of this state derives from Andres Quintana Roo, an early 19th century statesman. As the youngest state in Mexico, it achieved statehood in 1974.

So, why do we hear people say things like 'here in the Yucatan'?
Yucatan is a state on the Yucatan peninsula. The other two states of the peninsula are Quintana Roo and Campeche. When people here talk about the Yucatan, they refer to the peninsula. People from the state of Yucatan are Yucatenses. People from Q.Roo are called quintanarooenses. In Playa del Carmen, we are playenses.

Isn't Playa del Carmen just Cancun south?
Playa is south of Cancun, true. But the two are very different. Cancun is basically about huge all-inclusive resorts, whereas Playa has a small town feel with a friendly and genuine ambiance. Cancun is more American, and Playa more international.

What is this Mundo Maya thing?
Mundo means world in Spanish. Geographically, Mundo Maya consists of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize and the Mexican states of Chiapas, Tabasco, Yucatán, Quintana Roo and Campeche. This is where the great Mayan civilizations were found. There's also an international project working to promote and protect this area.

What is the Riviera Maya?
Riviera Maya is the coast from Cancun to Tulum. There's an organization with the same name promoting tourism here. The coast from Tulum to Xcalak is called the Costa Maya.

Who comes to Playa del Carmen?
A total mix, which is one of the cool things about Playa. On any given day you can find on the beaches of Playa: Mexican, American, Italian, Canadian, British, German, Dutch, Argentinean, Swedish, French and probably ten other nationalities. Not kidding. It's like a big international camp for happy people (everyone is on vacation, remember). It's fun!

So what is there to do, besides meeting people?
The ocean, the beaches, the jungle and ancient and contemporary inhabitants provide most of what you could possibly ask of a vacation. Read more about your interests in our many articles on the site.

What is La Quinta?
La Quinta is short for Quinta Avenida, which is Playa del Carmen's main drag. Often it's referred to with its English translation: 5th Avenue.

How much can I expect to pay for a meal in Playa?
You can get excellent authentic Mexican meals for 30 pesos. That's off the main drag, of course. On 5th Avenue expect to pay around 40-60 pesos for breakfast, 40-100 for an appetizer, 60-250 for a main course and 30-100 for a dessert. Beers are 15-35 pesos and a mixed drink is 35-60 pesos. A bottle of wine in a restaurant goes for 180 or more. Read more about great restaurants and tasty food in our Eating Out and Mexican Food articles.

Does Playa have an old Mayan name?
Yes, it does. Playa del Carmen is the Spanish name, but the original Mayan name is Xaman-Ha, which means 'Water from the South'. You'll see that name around Playa, on little stores and such.

What's with all the X's in the names of places there?
The x is used to represent a sound frequently used in Mayan languages which is not part of traditional Spanish. It's pronounced 'sh', like in 'shoe'. Xaman-Ha is thus pronounced 'shaaman-haa'. When a hard consonant follows the 'x', it is pronounced 'eesh', so Xcaret is 'eesh-kah-ret'. Don't say X-carrot.

Do you really have paradise beaches?
Yes, we do. Long beaches with soft white sand, a warm ocean in blue and turquoise, a big yellow sun in a normally blue sky and a color explosion under water. Throw in a cold drink and a beach massage and you have it all!

Do I have to get an ocean front hotel to be able to enjoy the beach?
All beach in Mexico is public property. Beach clubs and hotels can get the permission to rent out lounge chairs and umbrellas, but the beach is for everyone. The town is growing parallel to the ocean, and the main avenue, La Quinta, is only one block from the sea. Most hotels in Playa are within two blocks from the water, so even if you stay in town, chances are you'll still be closer to the ocean than if you were to stay in a big beach front resort.

I've heard about how Playa has grown in the last few years. Is it still cool?
Oh, yes! Playa is changing from a sleepy fishing village with true hippie appeal to a cosmopolitan port of eclectic richness. Each hotel and restaurant has its own style and new additions only adds to the vibrant ambience of Playa. Now is a great time to visit Playa! It's small enough to be cozy and friendly, yet big enough to provide any vacation service you might require.

Where is Playa going? Will it become another Cancun or Cozumel with high rise resorts?
Buildings in Playa are restricted to three stories, so the small-town feeling will prevail. In fact, it's going more towards a hip, South Beach Miami with a Mediterranean flair than a trite Cancun. Development in Playa del Carmen is inevitable, but so far it's been done with taste and consideration.

What can the kids do?
The ocean and the beach provide a perfect playing ground for kids of all ages. Apart from that there are plenty of things to do in Playa and the area around it, for example tennis, horse back riding, a zoo, a few eco parks, ruins, lagoons, caves, cenotes, fishing, golf, jungle and more.

What will I miss if I get a hotel room in town instead of in an all-inclusive?
Not much. Everything they have in the all-inclusives, you can find in Playa, except maybe a kiddie club. It's like Playa is one big resort, but with a lot more alternatives than an all-inclusive.

What will the weather be like the second week of March next year?
Sadly, we do not yet have the resources to answer this type of very frequently asked question. It might serve mentioning that the weather in Playa is one of the big factors that help to make this such a dynamite place year-round. You can read our vague generalities in the Weather and Wear article.