Discover Playa del Carmen Mexico
by Peggy Hattendorf – Travel Editor
The town of Playa del Carmen is a coastal jewel set along the Yucatan Peninsula in the famed Riviera Maya stretch of Caribbean shoreline on Mexico’s Northeastern Yucatan Peninsula. This small fishing village has witnessed a growth explosion over the last 22-years to become one of the hottest international tourist destinations visited by celebrities’ like Kim Kardashian, Avril Lavigne, Fergie, Kate Hudson, Uma Thurman and Gwyneth Paltrow. This fastest growing city in the country is a modern and cosmopolitan city where you find department stores, high-end boutiques, American specialty stores like Nike, Old Navy and Sam’s Club interspersed with souvenir shops and an eclectic array of Mexican handicrafts and leather products. There’s a variety of excellent restaurants serving delectable Mexican and international cuisine. Try a table on the sand at Senor Frog’s for a drink or dinner as you enjoy the live music and watch the stunning sunset. Miss your favorite coffee drink or hungry for a Big Mac? No worries, Starbuck’s and McDonald’s have come to Playa del Carmen as well.
While the city has a small regional airport, tourists fly into Cancun International Airport and take transportation for the 50-60 minute drive south to Playa del Carmen. Visitors also arrive by high-speed ferry service from Cozumel – a 45- minute trip. Beautiful hotels and resorts, beach clubs and vacation rentals such as – Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa, Hacienda Tres Rios, Fairmont Mayakoba, Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Viceroy Riviera Maya and the Grand Hyatt – serve the growing numbers of well-heeled international travelers. Most of the accommodations are beachfront or just a short walk to the sand.
La Quinta – 5th Avenue – is the main pedestrian promenade and a fun place for shopping or dining. Start your walk at the Zocalo (Public Square) and view the old Catholic Church, The Parroquia de Nuestra Senora del Carmen, with its large windows facing the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Check out the Mayan pole flyers attached by ropes as they spin upside down performing their “Dance of the Flyers.” On the beach, just off the Zocalo, is the bronze sculpture of the Portal Maya which has become the iconic symbol for the town since it was erected in 2011.
The Riviera Maya area is a snorkeling and diving wonder with its coral colored reefs, mangrove forests, coastal wetlands and abundant marine life. Did you know the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System or “Great Mayan Reef” stretches over 700 miles? From the tip of the Yucatan in Mexico, the reef skirts the coasts of Belize, Guatemala and the Honduras Bay Islands.
Playa del Carmen, locally called Playa, is a convenient location to discover all the sights and attractions along Mexico’s Caribbean coast. The town’s proximity to the Mayan ruins gives travelers a central location for exploring these ancient sites. Tulum, set perched over the rugged Caribbean coastline, offers breathtaking views of the jagged cliffs and beach below. This 13th century walled Mayan archeological site, at Tulum National Park, is the only Maya settlement located on the beach and served as the hub for international trade and distribution of goods into the Yucatan. Tulum as well as Coba and Chichen Itza should not be missed with a visit to the Yucatan.
There’s a cool and casual Mexican flare in this coastal town set along the clear blue Caribbean waters with its white sandy beaches. Thinking of a trip to Mexico? Try Playa del Carmen.