It’s not just the glamorous beaches that make holidays to Playa del Carmen so enticing. The dusk ‘til dawn parties and the effortlessly cool 5th Avenue are just as irresistible.
On Mexico’s sun-soaked Caribbean coast, Playa del Carmen – or just Playa – was popularised by backpackers who came for its spotless beaches and coral reefs. This mellow fishing town has developed quickly in the space of a few years with an extra cluster of hotels in Playacar to the south of town. But it’s still a world apart from swaggering Cancun, its nearest neighbour up the coast.
Playa’s shoreline is an uninterrupted ribbon of milky white sand, lapped by the turquoise Caribbean Sea. Central Playa del Carmen, just south of the main pier, is the family beach. It lines up gently shelving water, watersports, and boat trips to the coral-haloed island of Cozumel. Past the pier it becomes North Playa del Carmen, a glamorous section of sand that’s home to beach clubs where DJs spin tunes to the guests stretched out on sunloungers.
Just a couple of blocks inland is Quinta Avenida, or 5th Avenue, the town’s main artery. Though not quite in the same league as its New York namesake, it’s not a million miles off. Back-to-back boutiques, bars, restaurants and hotels line up along the strip. And while a recent influx of art galleries and designer stores are bringing a streak of chic, its craft stalls, street performers and tasty taco vans still exude a warm Mexican personality.
Close to Cozumel
Cozumel, a beautiful island and one of the planet’s top diving destinations, is a 45-minute boat ride from Playa pier. Its shallow reefs brim with a cornucopia of multi-coloured fish, while its underwater caverns and tunnels turn up the difficulty level a notch or two. The island is also home to Rio Secreto, a network of limestone underground caves.
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