Playa Del Carmen
Playa del Carmen—or “Playa”—is spread out along 15 km (9 mi) of gorgeous Caribbean beach. A bit of history: for the Mayans, this area used to be called Xamanhá, which means “northern waters.” It was the main departure point for their trip to Cozumel to worship the goddess Ixchel. To prepare for their visit, the pilgrims would fast for several days, pray and take steam baths to purify their body and soul before heading to Cozumel, which was then called Kuzamil (pronounced koo-sa-MEEL).
If you haven’t been to Playa in a few years, boy, are you in for a surprise! Playa is all grown up and is now the place to see and be seen. It’s only a 50-minute ride from the Cancun International Airport via the four-lane 307 Highway and still ferry central for jaunts to Cozumel, plus it’s right next door to the mega-resorts at the Playacar development, all of which has helped the city grow to about a quarter of a million residents—some local, some national, with a very heavy sprinkling of foreigners.
It also has plenty of day visitors from all over Riviera Maya and via cruises (both from Cozumel or those docking at Calica, just 10 km/6 mi south) who stream in to enjoy its excellent shopping, dining, people watching, and calm, beautiful beach. Two blocks inland and parallel to the sea is La Quinta Avenida, Playa’s answer to 5th Avenue, only beachier, funkier and a whole lot more fun.
This busy iconic pedestrian byway now stretches about 20 blocks (4.5 km/2.8 mi) from the Paseo del Carmen outdoor shopping center at the southern end all the way north into the city.
Easily the hippest, most internationally diverse street in the entire Caribbean, it’s “divided” into the Old Quinta and the New Quinta. The Old Quinta extends more or less to 15th street and the Quinta Alegria Mall, and it’s busy with restaurants, nightlife with DJs and clubs (especially around the corner of 5th and 12th avenues), plus great shopping at Calle Corazón and Quinta Alegría, where your credit cards are accepted and will get a workout (you can expect to find well-known domestic and international brands). When you hit Calle Corazón don’t miss a visit to L’Aquarium, where your entry fee contributes to coral farming and opens the door for you to see over 3,000 different species and a special cenote room, so you don’t even have to get your feet wet to view the wonders of our Caribbean Sea. Farther down, the New Quinta is more laid-back, with a cool bohemian vibe at its restaurants and bars.
|Currency used||Mexican Peso|