Playa del Carmen is infamous for being one of the more touristy towns in Mexico, being Cancun’s little cousin. Though it is filled with tourists, it is the less touristic of the two, meaning that it also has a lot of backpackers opting for the slightly less tourist town after arriving from Cancun airport, a great hub for cheap flights to and from many locations. My accommodation in Playacar was in a more relaxed, wealthy area. Surrounded by American’s holiday houses and 5 star resorts made for an interesting contrast to the budget hostel I stayed at.
I can see why it is frowned upon by many backpackers, who seem particularly frustrated with the masses of all inclusive resort tourists in Mexico. Maybe my experience was different from meeting amazing locals and expats alike, one in particular who was kind enough to show me to some incredible places which tourists may be unaware of. The private cenote (freshwater sink hole) is an exception as you really need to know the right people (lucky me), but others, such as the shallow cenote next to the beach only a few kms east of the main town, and the trip to Akumal to see green turtles, are very accessible for the everyday tourist or backpacker.
Those with an interest in street art will also be spoiled here, with art everywhere, including on the Playacar beach and at the food market. Following on from the artsy attitude of the town is many great, healthy and reasonably priced food options. They’re not as cheap as other parts of Mexico, but the choice and quality is really good. I’ve been told the street food is great, though I never found any vegetarian options so didn’t indulge in these cheap and supposedly tasty options.
My theme in Mexico and Colombia has been to take it really easy. Like more than I ever have. Knowing this, it is no surprise I spent a week in Playa del Carmen before heading to nearby Cozumel Island.
Attend a couchsurfing event or meetup (Meetup.com) as well as contacting locals on these platforms – the Couchsurfing community is particularly strong here.
Get out of town – walk, ride, catch a bus – there is a lot to do in the surrounding areas
Walk back a few blocks – 5th Avenue will make you sick of Playa del Carmen in less than a day. The good food, art and people are back a few blocks from the beach.