If you can tear yourself away from the shade of a palapa or a dip in the ocean, other highlights include Playa del Carmen’s pedestrianised 5th Avenue – 22 blocks of shops, restaurants, entertainment and nightlife – the extraordinary natural ecological parks of Xcaret and Xel-Há – think diverse marine life, cenotes and lagoons, rope swings and tranquil swimming caves – and day trips to both Chichen Itza and Tulum. You can try cave swimming at Rio Secreto just a few minutes outside of Playa del Carmen, hop on a ferry for the 45-minute ride over to the beautiful island of Cozumel and head to the tiny of Akumal to swim among the endangered green sea turtle.
Where is the Mayan Riviera and Playa del Carmen?
Playa del Carmen is located in the Mayan Riviera on the Yucatan Peninsula. Running south of Cancun all the way to Tulum, the Mayan Riviera is on the Caribbean coastline in the state of Quintana Roo.
Pick up calaveras (Mexican decorative Day of the Dead skulls), designer swimwear and colourful sombreros. Along Fifth Avenue – which runs for 22 blocks parallel to the beach – you’ll find lots of shops, and slightly further afield you’ll find glitzy shopping malls (La Isla Shopping Village and Quinta Alegria) selling luxury brands. In towns such as Tulum and Akumal you’ll uncover unique local treasures such as cloth paintings and wood carvings.
Food and drink
Expect achiote, citrus, chilli and smoke but don’t worry, not all Mexican food is as spicy as you think. Just make sure to look out for the habanero (very hot chilli)! Yucatan food is seasoned and flavoured with marinades and citrus juices, and spices such as oregano, coriander and garlic. Meats are cooked to perfection on a pib (fire pit of hot stones and coals), seafood and fresh fish feature heavily and ceviche is a favourite. Don’t forget to try chilaquiles (fried tortilla strips in salsa) for breakfast and look out throughout the day for the colourful agua fresca, tamales and bread bicycles that stop along the Mayan Riviera selling sweet and sugary breads, hand-wrapped tamales and fresh mango and hibiscus water.
GMT -6 hours
11½ hours to Cancun
Tipping is a way of life in Mexico. Hotels and restaurants usually add 15% to the bill. If they don’t, tip 10-15%. Tip porters about 1US$ per suitcase, and tip hotel maids(further guidance will be given in resort).
Casual dress is usually appropriate. Swimsuits mustn't be worn away from the pool or beach, and flashy or suggestive clothing is inappropriate in smaller resorts and inland cities.