We happened to stumble onto this Caribbean paradise when spending time on its neighboring island of Cozumel after taking the 40 or so minute ferry ride to a sister resort just across the channel. This was in 2001 and have been returning ever since.
Founded in 1937, Playa del Carmen was a small fishing village before becoming a major destination for tourists. Playa, as known to the locals and frequent visitors, prides itself on keeping its tranquil fishing village feeling intact. But it is been a real challenge to keep this mecca of fun in the sun’s growth under control.
During our month and a half tour through the Yucatan Peninsula, we made a brief stop in Playa. We stayed in a nice boutique hotel on a side street just off the famous 5th Avenue. We did research on hotels before stopping in Playa, visiting the ones we earmarked and deciding from there. We negotiated a price and found a place to stay for the next four days. The Luna Blue hotel is situated in a great location and the price was very fair.
Having visited Playa del Carman for many years, we now know the area pretty well. We found a nice little café on one of the side streets leading off 5th Avenue and just a half block from the beach. Food can be inexpensive here if you stay off the main drag and utilize the peso to dollar exchange rate. We had two complete fish taco dinners and two alcoholic beverages and the bill with tip came to 450 pesos (approximately 30 USD’s). Breakfast is just as cheap, two full meals with bloody Marys at around $15.00 with tip.
We spent most of our time relaxing. We talked about our past three weeks in Belize and the upcoming trip to the other side of the Yucatan. We hung out on the beach around restaurants that had water front lounging areas with over-sized umbrellas. It is easy to lose track of time when you are having fun. The food is fantastic, the beverages are refreshing and the people are so friendly.
There are lots of hotels along Playa’s beautiful white sugar fine sandy beaches, ranging from small and quaint to larger contemporary hotels. The ultra and mega resorts are to the south in Playa Car, if that is preferred. The Internet is an ideal way to find a perfect match. The turquoise waters of the Caribbean-fed Gulf are picturesque against the solemn blue skies, something that I have a hard time pulling myself away from.
After spending a day or two on the beach relaxing and taking in the scenery, we took a short stroll to Playa’s older city park. This part of Playa del Carmen offers the traditional feel of the past. The park has a “Little White Chapel” that is always busy with weddings. Besides Sunday, the enchanting monument performs countless ceremonies every day of the week. We stood there for awhile and observed the wedding parties congregate around the small church entrance. Brides and grooms waited anxiously for the chance to fulfill their long awaited fantasy. When the time came, preparations where done and the fairytale moment began.
Playa’s Parque Fundadores (Founders Park) is also home to the Portal Maya Sculpture. They were finishing up final details on the 50-foot high and wide archway. The sculpture was designed by a local artist to commemorate the end of the Mayan calendar and the beginning of a new era.
We spent the rest of our time in Playa del Carmen wondering up and down the beach and around town enjoying the laid back atmosphere and the Mexican culture. Sand sculpting (pictured right) is a hobby to many locals. Fishing is a tradition that still supports many families in the area. The beach is dotted with lots of Pangas and other assorted water crafts.
Playa is approximately 70 km, or 44 miles, south of Cancun and is a place that can be enjoyed by families and couples alike. This part of the Yucatan Peninsula is very tourist-friendly, as well as safe. The day has come when we need to head northwest to our next adventure, but we can’t wait to return and possibly spend a month or two in Mexico’s Riviera Maya.
Author: Anthony Scopel
Photographer: Anthony & Maureen Scopel
Editor: Sheri L. Thompson