Playa del Carmen is one of the Riviera Maya’s most popular towns, and with good reason. It has miles of pristine shoreline, many opportunities for water sports, and a lively, hedonistic town culture.
Once you visit, or even look at pictures, you’ll understand why so many visitors flock here every year, including many who return.
Planning your vacation to Playa del Carmen is an exciting yet daunting prospect. You want your trip to be as good as possible! That’s why we prepared this guide to where to stay in Playa del Carmen to help you prepare for the trip of a lifetime.
Why You Should Visit Playa del Carmen in 2023
Playa del Carmen is one of the best destinations if you want a Mexican vacation of sun, sand, and surf. The best thing to do is obviously hang out on the beach, and with about 75 miles of it, you’ll certainly be spoiled for choice.
Not only can you swim and tan, but you can also enjoy other water sports such as snorkeling, diving, and kayaking.
When you get away from the beach, you can explore the stylish town. Playa del Carmen’s Zócalo, or central square, is where most tourists come to see and be seen (the town attracts mostly stylish tourists). There are plenty of stylish boutiques from local and international companies, especially along the street La Quinta Avenida.
Playa del Carmen is not all tanning and glamor. The town also offers easy access to exploring the history and natural wonders that make the Yucatan Peninsula so special.
The ancient Mayan ruins of the peninsula, such as the seaside palaces of Tulum, are a short trip away. You can also use your time on a day trip to explore natural wonders such as the underwater river of Rio Secreto.
Organized tours frequently depart from Playa del Carmen and handle all of the logistics for you. Many people consider Playa del Carmen the next Cancun. It has everything you would want from Cancun, such as beaches, boutiques, and clubs, but is far more laid back and feels safer.
The relatively laid-back atmosphere is also a main draw for visitors. That being said, Playa del Carmen has some safety concerns, which is why making sure that you are staying in a secure area is so important.
With so many options, figuring out where to stay in Playa del Carmen is the biggest challenge when getting ready for your trip. This guide can help you narrow down what you want to do.
The 5 Best Parts of Playa del Carmen
- Quinta Avenida: Best area for first-time visitors, shopping, and dining
- El Centro: Best area for nightlife, dining, shopping, and budget travelers
- Playacar: Best area for families and luxurious travel
- Mayakoba: Best area for luxury travel and resorts
- North Playa del Carmen: Best area for the beach, resorts, and quieter travel
The Best Areas & Hotels in Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen has diverse neighborhoods for such a small town. Whether you’re traveling with your family, as a solo backpacker, or with your spouse looking for an elegant vacation, there is something for you — as long as you don’t stay in the wrong neighborhood.
This guide to the different neighborhoods and the best hotels in each can help you figure out where to stay.
1. Quinta Avenida
Quinta Avenida is Playa del Carmen’s equivalent of 5th Avenue (literally — that is what the name translates to in English). This is Playa del Carmen’s main street and where anyone who is anyone in the town spends time in the evenings.
Quinta Avenida is packed full of interesting things for tourists to do. The street is pedestrian-only, making it a favorite for locals and visitors alike to take an evening stroll. The street is lined with restaurants and shops such as the Paseo del Carmen mall, perfect for picking up souvenirs.
If you want to add a more intellectual spin to your vacation, Quinta Avenida also has museums, such as the Gaston Charo Gallery.
Another benefit of Quinta Avenida is that it is close to everything you may want to see in Playa del Carmen — including the beach. Punta Esmeralda Beach with its famous turquoise waters is just a short walk away.
The convenient location and easy access to Playa del Carmen’s main sites is why so many people stay here when they visit the town for the first time.
However, Quinta Avenida is not perfect. Some people are attracted by the liveliness, while others complain that it is hard to sleep. Keep in mind that the party tends to continue until late at night, so maybe choose somewhere else to stay if you are a light sleeper.
Things to Do
- Shop for souvenirs at Quinta Alegria or Playa del Carmen mall.
- Dance until the early morning at beach clubs such as Mamita’s Beach Club.
- Check out art from one of Mexico’s most famous citizens at the Museum of Frida Kahlo.
- Take in the waves at Playa Esmeralda.
Where to Eat
- Have a taste of French luxury at patisserie Chez Celine (Playa del Carmen has surprising European influences).
- Try Argentinian steak at La Vaca Gaucha.
- Treat yourself to a fine dining experience at Casa del Agua.
- Try traditional seafood tostadas at Las Hijas de la Tostada.
Quinta Avenida Budget Hotels
- Hotel Mariachi by Kavia 5th Av has beautiful local touches such as colorful local blankets and monstera-covered walls, plus great amenities such as air conditioning and a pool.
- If you want a bit more space, book the suites at Sole Suites and get a kitchenette, dining area, seating area, bedroom, and spacious bathroom in each unit, plus access to a rooftop pool.
Quinta Avenida Mid-Range Hotels
- Hotel Lunata is a surprisingly calm Quinta Avenida hotel. Previous guests adored the rooms, done in a traditional Mexican style, the above and beyond service that even offers medical services, and the balconies with gorgeous views.
- At Villas Sacbe Condo Hotel and Beach Club, just a few feet away from Quinta Avenida, enjoy spacious apartments, an outdoor pool, and other amenities. If you stay in the penthouse, you get extra luxury and your own pool.
Quinta Avenida Luxury Hotels
- The Thompson Playa del Carmen Main House is a member of the Hyatt chain, and features luxuries guests of Hyatt are used to such as a pool, fitness center, organized activities, and even free bathrobes.
- The airy Hotel Colibri Beach is just steps away from Quinta Avenida, directly on the beach. Enjoy luxurious rooms, suites, and cottages, an in-house restaurant with free breakfast, and tours.
2. El Centro
El Centro, or the downtown area of Playa del Carmen, is where everything interesting in the town happens. This neighborhood, branching out around Quinta Avenida, features the best shopping, dining, and nightlife in the entire town.
It also has the highest concentration of accommodation in Playa del Carmen, including many budget options that are popular with backpackers.
When you need a break from the hustle and bustle of downtown Playa del Carmen, you can sit in Los Fundadores Park, a green oasis in the middle of the town. The Park has bronze sculptures commemorating the Maya, and performances of traditional arts such as the Dance of the Flyers.
The main beach in town is also a short walk away. El Centro also contains Calle 12, the main street in Playa del Carmen for nightlife. The street is lined with bars and nightclubs which are popular among visitors.
It’s a great place to let loose and meet other travelers. However, the same activities that attract some travelers to El Centro may frustrate others.
The lively nightlife makes this the loudest part of Playa del Carmen. If you were hoping to get a good night’s sleep with an early bedtime, you’re probably better off staying elsewhere.
Things to Do
- Check out the nightlife at Calle 12 and dance long into the night.
- Gasp in awe at the traditional Mayan dancers performing in Los Fundadores Park.
- Head to Playa Caribe, Playa del Carmen’s main beach, and swim in the waters.
- Take the ferry to Cozumel, a remote island with some of the best scuba diving in the world.
Where to Eat
- Have al pastor tacos at El Fogon.
- Have delicious seafood dishes, including fish tacos, at Los Culiados Mariscos.
- Enjoy the best grilled chicken in town at Asadero El Pollo.
- Venture to Mi Kfe for delicious Venezuelan food.
El Centro Budget Hotels
- Colorful Hacienda Maria Bonita Hotel has Mexican-style traditional décor, as well as modern amenities such as air conditioned rooms.
- Simple, comfortable Hotel Colorado has large, colorful rooms, great service including a tour desk, and a garden to relax in.
El Centro Mid-Range Hotels
- Hotel Casa de las Flores has character thanks to its Mexican-style décor, including a mural of Frida Kahlo. Other amenities include air conditioning, wifi, and a pool.
- Stylish Hotel Posada Sian Kaan has air conditioned rooms with individual terraces, a tropical garden with a pool, and great service, all just a few steps away from the beach.
El Centro Luxury Hotels
- Airy Aalada Playa del Carmen is located right on its own private beach and has excellent amenities such as a pool with cabanas. Despite its central location, it is very quiet.
- All guests at the Syrena Luxury ApartHotel stay in their own apartments with bathrooms, kitchens, and terraces, and have access to the tennis court, tour desk, and pool.
The southern part of Playa del Carmen, Playacar, is technically part of the center, but feels as if it is a whole world away. This quiet gated community has an exclusive, luxurious feeling to it.
It is far less overwhelming than El Centro or Quinta Avenida, while still being close to the attractions, making it a great vacation destination for families.
Playacar is close to the beach, making it perfect for a relaxing vacation. Another nearby attraction is Xaman Ha, one of the most unique attractions in the Mayan Riviera.
Xaman Ha was an old Mayan city, and the ruins are now free to explore, and located smack in the middle of the Playacar gated community. Although Playacar is fairly close to the dining and bars of El Centro, it doesn’t have much to do within the neighborhood.
Some people may enjoy this relaxation, but for people that want a livelier experience of Playa del Carmen, this is not the best neighborhood. Playacar is also one of the more expensive neighborhoods.
Things to Do
- Swim in the pristine waters of Playa Playacar.
- Visit the unique ruins of Xaman Ha.
- Go shopping in the Plaza Playacar shopping mall.
- Spot the many celebrities such as Kim Kardashian that may be staying there with you!
Where to Eat
- Head to nearby Loncheria Los Machacados for traditional machacados, a sweet frozen dish, and other Yucatan specialties.
- Have Mediterranean specialties at Casa Sofia.
- Chow down on good old American burgers at Playacar Burger.
Playacar Budget Hotels
- City Express Suites by Marriott Playa del Carmen is one of the few more budget-friendly options in Playacar. Amenities include wifi, a pool, and transportation to the Frogs y Kool beach club.
- The Residence Inn by Marriott Playa del Carmen is great for long term stays. All guests stay in apartments with kitchenettes and seating areas. Shared amenities include free breakfast.
Playacar Mid-Range Hotels
- The all-inclusive Riu Lupita hotel offers guests elegant rooms, and amenities such as a tennis court, pool, free bike rentals, and more.
- The Wyndham Garden Playa del Carmen is a comfortable hotel with elegant rooms, event rooms, and a beach park.
Playacar Luxury Hotels
- The adults-only Royal Hideaway Playacar is a luxurious resort that has multiple pools, including an infinity pool, a spa, daily entertainment, and small luxurious touches such as champagne for all guests on arrival.
- The stunning Riu Palace Mexico is an all-inclusive resort with amazing amenities such as a pool, gym, and restaurant. The resort is kid-friendly with a playground and kid’s club.
Mayakoba, a district to the north of Playa del Carmen proper, is the most luxurious place to stay in the town. The private gated community is surrounded by lush tropical plants and is one of the best places in Playa del Carmen for staying in pristine nature.
The “away from it all” feeling is what attracts luxury travelers to this area, and Mayakoba is full of excellent resorts. Mayakoba is a great destination for ecotourists as the community has preserved so much of the surrounding nature.
There are countless nature trails for you to explore, as well as pristine beaches and lagoons for guests to swim in. Mayakoba is fairly far away from the center of Playa del Carmen.
If you’re looking to get away from it all, that is a great option, but not so much if you are hoping to experience the nightlife and culture of Playa del Carmen. Mayakoba is also the most expensive part of Playa del Carmen.
Things to Do
- Check out the jungle trails (if you’re lucky, you might even see a coati).
- Try your hand at golf at the PGA golf course El Cameleon.
- Explore the entertainment complex of El Pueblito Village.
- Relax and get pampered in your resort — you’re on vacation, after all!
Where to Eat
- Enjoy contemporary twists at Cocina de Autor, the Grand Velas Resort’s restaurant.
- Try the tequila tasting at Tinta del Pulpo (Andaz Mayakoba’s beachfront restaurant).
- Try surprisingly good Thai food at Saffron Banyan Tree Mayakoba.
Mayakoba Budget Hotels
- There are no budget hotels in Mayakoba, only slightly more affordable resorts. The Hyatt Zilara Riviera Maya is one of them. This adults-only all-inclusive resort offers guests plenty of restaurants, a pool, and spa services at a lower price than other resorts.
- The Fairmont Mayakoba is a serene resort whose highlight is the massive spa with treetop services. Other amenities include a golf club, restaurants, and kids club.
Mayakoba Mid-Range Hotels
- At the Andaz Mayakoba, guests can enjoy little touches such as free bathrobes, four on-site restaurants, a spa, and organized activities. Opt for the regular instead of all-inclusive package to save money.
- The elegant Banyan Tree Mayakoba offers villas with their own sun terraces and spaces for guests. Shared amenities include a whopping 11 restaurants serving Mexican and international food.
Mayakoba Luxury Hotels
- Even in luxurious Mayakoba, the Grand Velas Riviera Maya stands out with its SE Spa, which includes traditional Mayan wellness rituals, its Zen suites, and excellent service.
- At the Fairmont Heritage Place Mayakoba, enjoy 5-star luxuries such as a terraced pool, spacious apartments, and a kids club so the whole family can enjoy the trip.
5. North Playa del Carmen
North Playa del Carmen is the stretch of beach in between Mayakoba and the center of town. It is also a popular resort area but has more affordable resorts than Mayakoba and Playacar. The resorts are still very high quality.
The main attraction in North Playa del Carmen is definitely the beach. The stretch of coast along this area is among the most beautiful in Playa del Carmen, far less crowded than the main tourist beaches further south.
Xcalacoco Beach with its white sand is the main attraction. You can access the center via a short drive or a 20-30 minute walk from North Playa del Carmen, but it is still far away from the action in the center of town.
There is also not much to do in the area itself besides hanging out on the beach. Although it is more accessible than Mayakoba, it is still not the best place to stay if you are excited about exploring the town itself.
Things to Do
- Enjoy the beautiful shores of Xcalacoco Beach.
- Enjoy the amenities of the resort you are staying in.
- Take a trip to El Centro to shop for souvenirs.
Where to Eat
- Have barbecue at Asados Patzcuaro.
- Start your day off with brunch from family-run spot XG Sabor Extra.
- Have an upscale dinner at the resort restaurant Los Murales.
North Playa del Carmen Budget Hotels
- Hotel Punta Esmeralda is maybe the only true budget option in North Playa del Carmen. The no-frills hotel offers guests clean, air-conditioned rooms, a pool, and a terrace.
- The Mareazul Beach Front Resort Playa del Carmen is one of the more affordable resorts in the area. Its amenities include a pool, private beach access, and big suites that are perfect for families.
North Playa del Carmen Mid-Range Hotels
- The stylish Mvngata Beach Hotel offers guests a lush outdoor pool, private beach with beach chairs, and a rooftop terrace.
- The Royal Haciendas Resort & Spa is one of the most famous resorts in the area, with good reason. Guests can enjoy lush garden surroundings, a massive spa with Turkish baths, and additional touches such as a shuttle to town and museum tickets for Cancun.
North Playa del Carmen Luxury Hotels
- At adults-only Secrets Moxché Playa del Carmen, you’ll have everything you could ever wish for, including sports such as tennis and pool, a wide range of dining options, spectacular pools, and elegant rooms with marble bathrooms.
- For a truly special stay, stay right on the water at the Palafitos Overwater Bungalows at El Dorado Maroma, with waves lapping at your bungalow stilts. Other perks include nightly entertainment including karaoke, dining, and a pool.
So, Where Should You Stay in Playa del Carmen?
|📷 Best for First-Time Visitors||Quinta Avenida|
|🍹 Best for Nightlife||El Centro|
|👪 Best for Families||Playacar|
|💎 Best for Luxury||Mayakoba|
|🏖️ Best for the Beach||North Playa del Carmen|
Playa del Carmen has a few places where you can stay. The town is most popular with young travelers and those on a budget. First-time visitors usually stay on or near Quinta Avenida, the main drag.
Staying in El Centro is another option, especially if you are looking to party or are on a tight budget. If you want a quieter experience but still want to stay closer to town, then the gated community of Playacar is a great choice.
Playacar is also perfect for families. To the north of the town proper, there are quieter resort areas. Mayakoba is a remote resort community with lots of luxury resorts (although no budget options), while North Playa del Carmen is more affordable and has the best beach.
Make sure that you pick the right area for your interests and especially for your budget. Happy travels!