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

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Welcome to Playa del Carmen, Mexico!

A view of Playa del Carmen from the Cozumel ferry pierThis little Caribbean beach town has grown tremendously in popularity during the last decade. There's a good reason for that - Playa is a fantastic place to spend your vacation, hang out, or live. The town has grown along the beach, so wherever you go, you will feel the closeness to the sea. The main street is called Quinta Avenida, or 5th Avenue. Sometimes it's just called La Quinta. It is a pedestrian walkway and a common point of reference. Avenues, avenida in Spanish, run parallel to the beach. They are given numbers in increments of five, 5th Ave, 10th Ave, etc. Streets, calles, are perpendicular to the coast and they have even numbers north of Juarez and odd numbers to the south.

Between El Zocalo and Avenida Constituyentes

The town basically has two parts. Let's start from the dock and the main square, El Zocalo. Going west from here is Avenida Juarez, where you will find the bus station, post office, police and most banks. Now head north on 5th Avenue, walking parallel to the beach. This first part of Playa is where you find most hotels, restaurants, bars and shops. Basically, the town gets less crowded the further north you get. Not that Playa is very crowded as far as towns are concerned. The next big avenue you get to is called Constituyentes and it ends on the point of the beach where the big yellow hotel Porto Real is located. On the beach between the dock and this point you have a choice of many nice hotels, restaurants, bars and dive shops.

Between Constituyentes and Coco Beach

On this bay the beach is less crowded and not as developed. There are a few beach clubs, where you can rent lounge chairs and umbrellas (normally cheaper than in the first bay), a couple of restaurants and a few hotels. The beach and water here is the best Playa has to offer, wide, white, soft, a super gradual drop off...¡que playa! In this section of the Quinta are some very cool hotels and condo complexes. More hotels, bars, restaurants and shops appear on a monthly basis. The beach ends in another point, Coco Beach.

Coco Beach and Beyond

On this point you will find a couple of restaurants and dive shops. Chunzubul reef just outside Coco Beach is a good place to snorkel. It also provides a protected natural port for Playa's dive boats. North of Coco Beach, the beach gets emptier and emptier as you keep going north. Here's a good place to be on your own.

West of La Quinta

Away from the main drag, Playa changes character. Further from the beach, the town becomes more residential and more Mexican, if you will. Don't ignore this part of town. On 30th Avenue there are plenty of excellent little restaurants with authentic Mexican food. This is also where you find the large grocery stores Super San Francisco, Super Maz, WalMart and Mega. This part of Playa may not be as pretty, but you can eat some good antojitos here!

Playacar

South of the dock is an area called Playacar. This planned development is where all the big, all-inclusive resorts are located. You'll also find the golf course, some private homes and condos, the aviary, and some interesting Mayan ruins.

Everywhere is Good

Hopefully you have a somewhat clearer picture of Playa from this little description. One more thing needs to be said, though. Playa is small. To walk from the dock to Constituyentes will take you about 10 minutes and to Coco Beach another 10 minutes. So regardless of where you choose to stay, you will be within walking distance of everything in town. If you think it's too hot to walk, taxis are cheap and plentiful.