If you’re on a budget, there’s not much to see & do in Playa del Carmen – but if you find yourself here, soak in the ultra-chic vibe & check out our tips to see you through!

Known simply as “Playa” to locals & tourists alike, Playa del Carmen has come a long way from its humble small town, fishing village roots.

Tourism started with the passenger ferry service to nearby Isla Cozumel, a world-class scuba diving destination – Playa hasn’t looked back since. Development has sharply increased over the past 10 years, inspired by the success of Quinta Avenida.

Here, life revolves around this long shopping strip, also aptly referred to as Fifth Avenue. It’s a pedestrian-only, shoppers-paradise, lined with shops, boutiques, restaurants & bars – there’s even Mexico’s only H&M store, among much more exclusive labels.

It might not quite be New York City, but the ultra-chic atmosphere & look of Quinta Avenida feels much closer to Miami than anywhere in Mexico.

Ferry terminal at Playa del Carmen

I didn’t get a picture of Quinta Avenida but look – even the ferry terminal looks chic!

The beach vibe, however, is distinctly European. This is the home of the fit, tanned & beautiful of the Mexican Riviera.

The water near the ferry terminal is surprisingly gorgeous – clear & turquoise. The sand is a little thin in parts but still packed with tourists in the latest Euro-beach fashion.

If you’re after some serious beach action, head out of the city centre to Playa Norte.

Cosmopolitan Playa del Carmen is not an ideal budget base. Avoid staying here if possible but do make time for a quick visit as you’re transiting through to Cozumel or beyond. However if you find yourself stuck here, cheap food & affordable accommodation can be found, with similar prices to elsewhere along the coast.

Playground & public art on Playa

Playground & public art at the beach front

Where to Stay in Playa del Carmen

We spent a night at La Tortuga Azul hostel.

A bed in a 10-bed dorm with shared bathroom cost M$160 pesos – as with all hostels on the Yucatan peninsula, booking online is cheaper than booking in person, even at the last minute.

Dorm at La Tortugal Azul Hostel

La Tortugal Azul Hostel may be your cheapest bed in Playa

How to Get to Playa del Carmen

From Cancun, ADO buses & colectivos depart very regularly to Playa del Carmen. The prices are the same, M$34 pesos, and the rides takes just over 1 hour.

The cheapest way to get to Tulum is by colectivo. They depart very regularly from Calle 2 near Avenida 20. The ride costs M$40 pesos & takes 45 minutes.

For more information on Cancun, see our post Cancun Budget Travel Guide & Best Beaches.

For more information on Tulum, see our post Tulum Village, Ruins & Beach: Budget Travel Guide.

Mexico Wateriest ferry

Mexico Wateriest ferry from Playa to Cozumel


5 Shovels-2

Super easy DIY travel around city centres

*** The Final Word – Drop-by Playa del Carmen for a short & sweet visit! ***

What do you think of Playa del Carmen – love it or hate it?

Visited in July 2016