About Playa del Carmen beaches
Bustling Playa del Carmen has long attracted an international mix of young independent travellers, many of whom stick around to open restaurants, clubs and hotels. At times, Italian seems more common than Spanish and shops display an overabundance of trinkets and clothing from various Asian hot spots.
Playa del Carmen’s long, wide town beach was nearly wiped out by construction of a long seawall at a huge all-inclusive resort to the north. The most popular beaches are to the north off Calle 30. Several beach clubs with lounge chairs, umbrellas, beach beds and restaurants are located in this area, and water toys are readily available for hire.
Beyond the beach:
In some ways the beach is secondary here. The real action takes place around Avenida Quinta’s eclectic shops, restaurants and bars. Scuba diving and snorkelling tours to nearby cenotes (freshwater sinkholes) are very popular – the water’s cool and clear and some cenotes are part of larger cave systems with fascinating stalactites and stalagmites.
Kids find plenty of distractions in Playa, thought he Avenida Quinta scene is far more interesting for adults. Xcaret (Carretera 307, 80km/50 miles south of Cancún) is a giant eco park with more than enough attractions for a full-day excursion. Don’t miss the superb nightly folkloric dance show. Nearby cenotes and the astonishing caves at Aktun Chen (Carretera 307 Km 107) are wildly popular.
The Maya temples at Tulum (Carretera 307, 130km/81 miles south of Cancún) have been nearly loved to death and are best viewed in early morning before crowds cram the pathways and the tiny beach beneath El Castillo. Only one-third of the archaeological site of Cobá (about 48km/30 miles northwest of Tulum on an unnamed road) has been uncovered and jungle surrounds several groupings of temples and pyramids. Visits to Maya communities can be arranged through Alltournative (Avenida 38N between Avenidas 1 and 5).
The Riviera Maya region around Playa del Carmen has some of the most luxurious and healthful spas in the country, along with yoga camps and holistic retreats. Some of the best facilities are located in small hotels and are available to guests only. But one of the finest day spas is right in Playa at Spa Itzá (Calle Corazón between Avenidas 5 and 10) (www.spaitza.com). Try the soothing Mayan baths and treatment using local herbs and clays. For invigorating yoga classes on the beach or a full-scale yoga retreat vacation, contact Yoga by the Sea (Calle 8 at the beach).