Hi, I’m Sarah, an Australian traveller, writer and dreamer. Welcome to my Guide to Playa del Carmen, the beach-side town on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast my boyfriend Tyrhone and I made our home for 15 months.
Skip ahead to the sections which interest you, in white on the right —>
Bienvenidos a Playa del Carmen!
I love this town, and whilst I hope you will too, if you don’t right away, don’t worry, because I wasn’t sold on it for the first week or so either.
“Too touristy” I thought, “Too commercial” I jibed. And I had a point – walking from the bus station along Fifth Avenue in the searing heat with a backpack strapped to my back while touts tried to sell me tours to Chichen Itza wasn’t the best introduction to a place, let me tell you.
But as the weeks and then months passed, we began exploring the back streets of ‘Playa’ and the surrounding towns and beaches.
Slowly, I fell in love with Playa del Carmen, the touristy town which manages to retain a relaxed, local vibe in spite of itself.
This didn’t happen straight away, of course.
I always say it takes at least three days to settle in to a new town, but with Playa the time seemed a little longer. Maybe it takes more time to peel oneself away from the glittery, tourist-magnet pedestrian walkway of Fifth Avenue and venture out to the more local areas (where the better restaurants are), I don’t know.
What I do know is that whether you have limited time or are coming for an extended stay, a ‘local’ perspective is always handy when it comes to enjoying a new place.
This is my personal guide to Playa del Carmen, based on my experiences and those of my friends, either locals, ex-pats or visitors.
This is not a comprehensive hotel list or restaurant guide, although I have tried to include a good variety of places. I am not paid to promote anything for anyone and didn’t receive any ‘freebies’ from anyone in order to be included here. I do mention a hotel I did some work for, and a hotel I received a complimentary stay at in Merida, but only because they form part of my experiences (and I disclose those details in the guide).
I wanted to write my own guide because I love this town and it’s options for affordable, high-quality living continue to impress and surprise me. I want to share that with you. Plus, I receive many emails from people for recommendations on where to stay or where to eat and now I have all the knowledge I’ve garnered over the last year in one place!
Which means I have more time for the important things in life like eating ice cream…
In this guide I include details of the places I recommend, as well as share my personal experiences of them. Because I want to delve a little deeper than the average guide book, the list of places I recommend is limited.
There are some great comprehensive hotel/hostel booking sites that we are all familiar with, and I also use them where I have to. It’s not my intention to replace the resources we already have, but to provide a more personal offering of the places I experienced during my time living here.
In the following guide you will find descriptions of places I know to offer good value and high quality.
Just click on the white links on the right to skip to the section which interests you.
I feel like Playa del Carmen and the surrounding Riviera Maya is an area I have barely scratched the surface of even after over a year living there, but let me assure you I gave exploring it a pretty good crack!
We visited the various towns and beaches of the Caribbean coast as well as the colonial towns of the Yucatan Peninsular such as Valladolid, Izamal and Merida. We also ventured further afield to Chiapas, Oaxaca and Mexico City, taking in the ancient Mayan cities of Chichen Itza, Coba, Tulum, Uxmal, Monte Alban and Palenque along the way.
I include information on these places too in case you find yourself there. You can read more about our personal adventures in Playa del Carmen and beyond in the Mexico section of my blog, and also on my partner Tyrhone’s blog, Tell Them I Said Something.
We live simply and travel on a budget, so value is very important to us, however I have ‘french brie taste on a cheddar budget,’ so I enjoy good quality, tasty food and a comfortable place to lay my head.
I hope you will enjoy the places I have, and I am sure you will discover more of your own.