Do you want a beach holiday in paradise? Then visit the Caribbean coast of Mexico. Fine white sands, beautiful beaches and lots of palm trees make you escape from everyday reality and enjoy some time in paradise. Whether you visit Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Cozumel or any of the resorts alongside the coast, you will have an enjoyable experience.
In this post, we are sharing our experience of an all inclusive vacation at Playa del Carmen and some of the great places we visited during our stay.
Playa del Carmen is located in eastern Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula, along the Caribbean Sea in the state of Quintana Roo. Due to its geographical location in Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen features a wide array of tourist activities with lots of places to visit nearby.
The climate is tropical, influenced by the Caribbean Sea. We went there in June and the weather was just perfect with average temperature of around 31 °C (88 °F). Coming from London, it felt really hot for the first couple of days and then we just got used to it and we loved it!
The official language in Mexico is Spanish. English is also widely spoken in resorts and tourist areas. In general, the Mexicans are friendly and also appreciate if you try to speak with them in Spanish. You don’t have to be fluent but a few words here and there will for sure attract some good attention.
The local currency is the Mexican peso or “peso” but American dollars are also widely acceptable. Staff do appreciate tips for their service, so make sure you have some pesos or one dollar bills for tips.
The time zone is GMT -5. Our journey started in London and it took us a few days to adapt to the time and stop waking up early in the mornings 🙂
How to get there and where to stay?
We booked an all inclusive holiday with flights, transfers and hotel included. We flew from London to Cancun International Airport (CUN), which is the closest airport to Playa del Carmen. From Cancun to Playa del Carmen is around 68km and if you don’t have a transfer arranged to your hotel, you can get a taxi or a bus.
We booked a package holiday with TUI, but if you prefer to organise your own trip, check our tips on how to plan a holiday. Read more about advantages and disadvantages of package holidays vs. independent travel here.
There are so many beaches and resorts in the Cancun area that one can find themselves spoilt for choice. After some research, we decided to go a bit further from Cancun, hence our choice of staying in the Playa area. We chose a hotel called Hotel Grand Riviera Princess and we really enjoyed our stay there!
You are likely to spend most of your day on the hotel premises, so choose wisely your hotel. We always go for village-style hotels as we feel they offer best value for money.
We had a great experience in Playa del Carmen, Cancun and felt safe inside the hotel but also when exploring the local area. We spoke to some very friendly Mexicans and enjoyed a good conversation. The service at the hotel was at a very high standard and we were impressed. The beach was really nice and the only downside was the seaweed.
Top things to do in Playa del Carmen
The first thing we do when going on a beach holiday is to relax! Once you see the amazing beach with white sands, clear water and lots of palm trees, you can’t think of a better place to escape from everyday reality and just chill. The beaches are truly amazing and you just can’t get enough. Just have a look for yourself:
Check the hotel’s activity board
There are plenty of activities you can do at the hotel, usually many will be organised at the pool or at the beach. Some of the things we did include snorkelling, playing beach volley, joining a foam party at the beach and enjoying lots of cocktails.
There were plenty of animals at our hotel from iguanas, to interesting birds, monkeys and coatis. We haven’t seen coatis before and were really intrigued, we even called them “fake monkeys” 😀 The coatis have a long snout of a pig, the tail of a raccoon, and the tree-climbing ability of a monkey. We had lots of these at the beach and enjoyed feeding them.
For cultural experiences, we attended the hotel evening entertainment and enjoyed seeing traditional dances and performances from the different states in Mexico. Every evening we enjoyed live music, margaritas and other cocktails and lots of dancing.
A highlight was the Mariachi performance – first time experiencing this and it was amazing! Mariachi music is often present at important events and celebrations in the lives of the Latino people e.g. at baptisms, weddings, on holidays, and even at funerals.
Shopping on 5th Avenue
From the hotel, we had a shuttle taking us to Playa del Carmen city centre, which was handy. We spent an afternoon exploring the city, going downtown and shopping on 5th Avenue.
Parque Los Fundadores
We enjoyed a little break at the famous Parque Los Fundadores – beautiful spot for pictures with the Beach arch and a walk along the beach. You have live entertainment with flying men and can also watch the ferries from there.
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During your stay in Playa del Carmen, Cancun or Tulum, you can leave the hotel and go on some day trips such as visiting the nearby island of Cozumel, exploring Chichen Itza, the Tulum Archaeological Zone, dipping in a cenote, snorkelling, shopping and many more. You will find travel agents and local companies offering excursions with pick up from the hotel; don’t be surprised if you are approached at the beach by people selling day trips. To get the best excursion deal, make sure you negotiate your price and maybe even consider buying more than one trip. Here is a preview of what we did.
One of the main reasons we went to the Yucatan Peninsula, was to visit this place. Chichen Itza is one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World” due to its large concentration of culturally-significant, ancient manmade wonders and is a must see.
Chichen Itza was founded by the Maya, an ancient people native to the Yucatan Peninsula built around 600-750 A.D. Today, the site is home to the remnants of many ancient Mayan structures, including the famous and most astonishing Mayan Ruin – the Chichen Itza Pyramid or El Castillo which dominates the landscape.
Swim in a cenote
Definitely add this to your list! A cenote is a sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater. There are at least 6,000 cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, where they were commonly used for water supplies by the ancient Maya.
We went to Suytun cenote and the experience was unforgettable! You get to swim in the fresh water whilst enjoying the blessing of a shaman. This one is a closed cenote with a small hole in it, with stalactites hanging from the ceiling.
The water is cool, but not cold and perfect to dip in on a hot day. Apparently the Mexicans prefer swimming in a cenote, not in the sea.
After the visit to the cenote, we had lunch in the area and enjoyed a traditional performance with people dancing with bottles on their heads.
Valladolid is a charming town in the Yucatan Peninsula. You can just wander around and explore the buildings and their facades. The colonial Spanish architecture is unmistakable, with its colourful pastel buildings, and the old historic churches – make sure to check out the main cathedral Iglesia de San Servacio!
Sit down in the park opposite the cathedral and enjoy traditional Mexican dances. You will see some fun couples chairs or love chairs, which actually make a lot of sense.
Food and drinks
The Mexican food is so delicious and refreshing. We ate a lot of guacamole, an avocado-based dip, which was a perfect addition to the nachos (heated tortilla chips). Nachos are usually served with guacamole, fresh salsa and cheese and we had these every day, sometimes during breakfast, lunch and dinner (no judging).
We also really enjoyed the tacos – a traditional Mexican dish consisting of a small corn or wheat tortilla topped with a filling of your choice. The best thing about them is that they are so versatile and you can customise your tacos to your taste.
If you ever wondered how food is prepared at an all-inclusive hotel, then read our article “Inside an All-Inclusive Kitchen” for more details.
We found a very nice place at Playa del Carmen serving marquesitas. These are a favourite local treat and an absolute must try! Marquesitas are made up of a crispy crepe that is rolled up and traditionally filled with melted shredded cheese and a sweet filling of your choice. We chose Nutella and banana filling but you can choose what you want.
Drinks … well what is Mexico famous for? Tequila – the soul of Mexico! We tried a number of brands and the bartenders at the hotel recommended their favourite – the one they drink with their families, so we had to try all of these. Needless to say margaritas were the main drink of the holiday.
We had a great time in Mexico and will certainly recommend this as a holiday destination. Playa del Carmen is a great place for families with kids or for couples and young adults like ourselves. You can enjoy a lovely beach holiday, recharge your batteries and visit some great places.
Swimming in a cenote was a highlight of our trip, so we would strongly recommend this as an activity. Visiting Chichen Itza was an amazing experience and now we can say we have visited one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.
If you are looking for other paradise-like destinations, read more about Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic here.
Ready to book? Below are some recommendations to get your trip started:
- Flights – we use flight aggregators such as Skyscanner and Google flights to find the best options. You can find more information about finding cheap flights here.
- Flight compensation – Compensair or AirHelp for flight delays and cancellations.
- Accommodation – would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. We also use TripAdvisor to read reviews.
- Transport – consider Rentalcars.com for car renting or if you rely on public transport, you can use Omio for trains, coaches, ferries, airport transfers and even flights.
- Activities – a great option is GetYourGuide or Viator for tours, excursions, experiences and tickets to many tourist attractions.
- Travel money – we have Starling Bank accounts (UK residents only) with 0% fees on FX and a good Mastercard exchange rate. Revolut is another good option.
- Internet abroad – with Airalo you can access a wide range of eSIMs (digital SIM cards) available for different countries and regions.
- Luggage storage – if you need to store your bags whilst exploring the destination, you can use Radical Storage to find your closest luggage storage and enjoy your journey until the very end.
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