Playa del Carmen has carved its own Euro-chic niche along the Yucatán Peninsula. Sophisticated expats and vacationing Europeans relax at the beachside lounges, upholding this small enclave's budding reputation as the place in Quintana Roo to see and be seen. The area's nerve center is El Zócalo, and similar to Mediterranean beachfront towns like Nice, the funky little public square is within walking distance of the beach. Just off the square and running parallel with the shore, La Quinta Avenida features several blocks worth of delicious eateries and quirky shops. And with proximity to the ancient ruins of Tulum and ample natural landscapes to explore (like Rio Secreto, Xel-Ha and the underwater depths of the Caribbean Sea), Playa del Carmen caters to history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts alike. And of course, Playa's swaths of white sand and brilliantly turquoise water impress even the most selective beach bums. Cancún is Mexico's vacation of the past – today's savvy beachgoers choose the cosmopolitan "Playa."
The best time to visit Playa del Carmen is between April and May, when there are fewer people along the shore. Day temperatures hover between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, dropping slightly in the evenings. From October to March, the climate is generally dry and slightly warm. Summer days and nights tend to offer high temperatures and humidity. Hurricane season lasts from June to September, so check weather forecasts and hurricane warnings before booking your trip.
Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center
Playa del Carmen is largely a beachy tourist destination as opposed to an authentic Mexican town, but there are certain sensibilities and customs that could make your stay there more pleasant. Many tourist industry workers speak English, but you should try to learn a few Spanish words. Saying hello (hola), goodbye (adios), please (por favor) and thank you (gracias) could go a long way in quality service at hotels and restaurants.
The dress code in Playa del Carmen is more lax than other parts of Mexico. Typical beachwear is common on the beach and around the town, and "dressy casual" wear is typical for nightlife.
Playa del Carmen's official currency is the Mexican peso. Since the Mexican peso to U.S. dollar exchange rate fluctuates, plan to check the conversion before you go. American dollars are, however, widely accepted in Playa del Carmen, though you may get change back in pesos.
While Playa del Carmen certainly isn't considered a top foodie spot, there are still plenty of restaurants you can enjoy in this resort town. Playa del Carmen has a wide range of eateries, from simple local fare to sophisticated fine dining establishments. You'll likely encounter menus full of seafood, Mexican fare and even some American eats. And while chances are you'll eat most of your meals at your hotel if you're staying in an all-inclusive resort, you should plan to venture off the property to sample a few of Playa's offerings around town.
Quality traditional Mexican fare is not as easy to find as one might think, but there are a few popular spots experts and travelers recommend. La Coronela is known for its tasty food (think: tacos, enchiladas, guacamole, margaritas and more) at affordable prices. For succulent and fresh tacos al pastor, head to El Fogón; for shrimp tacos and ceviche, check out La Laguna in the Fairmont Mayakoba. If you're looking to splurge on dinner, Oh Lala comes highly recommended as an upscale restaurant with creative dishes and an intimate atmosphere. The town is also known for having a significant expatriate European population, evidenced by many European-style restaurants serving everything from tapas to Italian cuisine.
The best way to get around Playa del Carmen is on foot, as most of the best things to do are located right off the beach. There's no bus service around town, but if necessary, you can hail a taxi to escape the main resort area. Ferries to Cozumel are also available. For even more flexibility, consider renting a car from Cancún International Airport (CUN), which is about 45 minutes away. Taxis and bus service are also available from the Cancún Airport.
The Autobus Riviera drives from the CUN Airport to the Playa 12 times a day for just $10 USD one-way. Tickets are available at the counters set up outside the terminals 2 and 3.See details for Getting Around
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A passport is required for entry into Mexico. Travelers must also carry a Mexican Tourist Permit, which is usually issued free of charge upon arrival. If there is a cost, it is usually absorbed in your airfare. Be sure to hold on to the tourist card, as you will need to present the card upon departing the country. For more information on entry and exit requirements, visit the U.S. State Department's website .
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