Playa Del Carmen; the beaches are white, the sea laps the shore and fades from a clear blue, out to turquoise and into a deep mysterious blue on the horizon. Palm trees stand on the beach with hammocks swung between them, deck chairs and parasols are laid out and beach side bars serve cocktails under canopies of Palapas. Sounds beautiful doesn’t it?
Only about 10 years ago, Playa Del Carmen was a little fishing town with only one paved road and a ferry service to Cozumel island. Now its life lies in the tourism industry and the high season. It may once, at the very start, have held the luxury of a secluded getaway, but no longer. Now it is a resort town that is synonymous with many worldwide beach side getaways.
Fifth Avenue (Quinta Avenida) is your shopping strip. A long pedestrian street, never more than two blocks from the sea. This street contains all that the tourist needs for their holiday: Mexican themed restaurants to dine in, souvenir shops pilled with all things deemed Mexican-esque, multitudes of tour guides trying to sell you exactly the same different things and shop owners hollering at you to come inside and take a look at their generic products. Don’t forget to throw in that feeling of home on your holiday: with a Starbucks coffee, McDonald’s, Guess, Nike, Victoria Secrets, a Converse shop… this is building that holiday picture. Not only is all this here but everything is roughly the same price as you would find it at home; the goods and the consumables. Of course it’s what is expected in today’s world; but should it be?
Travel beyond this street (no, not toward the beach) and you will find that you quickly run into nothing. Behind this strip lie hotels, a club or two and a smattering of restaurants on desolate, dusty streets. Although they are empty, if you go far enough, or to the right places (like Avenida Benito Juarez), you can end up in Mexican Playa Del Carmen. It is sparse, and could be slightly unnerving for the non-spanish speaking and the unadventurous, but this is a small bit of Mexico; it’s not Touristville. To let you in on a secret: consumables here can be about half the price, and you get to sit in a simple, colourful, corner establishment, practice your Spanish and watch the people who call this town home patter past on their day to day business. Being so focused on the tourist industry there is not really much here to watch, school kids trotting by, laborers coming in for lunch, and ladies babbling furiously at each other in the corner (furious, but I’m sure they were friends).
Don’t get me wrong Playa suits most people, because everything is on your doorstep and in one place: tours will pick you up and drop you off at or near your hotel, massages are available on the beach: snorkeling, jet skiing and diving trips are other readily accessible activities; everyone speaks English, everything is in English; it’s just easy. If this sounds like what you would like on a holiday then Playa Del Carmen will suit you perfectly! Playa Del Carmen is a town of sun, beers and souvenirs, and there’s so much much more to this region. Come with us, let us guide you through the region that is the Riviera Maya.