Holidays in Playa del Carmen are some of the most popular for tourists travelling to Mexico. With white, sandy and palm-lined beaches, and beautiful warm water with coral reefs to snorkel around, it comes as no surprise. Like many Mexican coastal settlements, Playa del Carmen started as a fishing town and has since been transformed into a cosmopolitan area full of hotels, restaurants and beach bars. From hip young things to families with kids, many are attracted to this Riviera Mayan Town and its beaches, which are its biggest selling points.
The central Playa del Carmen beach is split into two halves. Split by the long, low pier that provides the starting point of many excursions, the northern beach is busier than the south. In fact, the area to the north - at the foot of Juarez Avenue – is a bustling hub of bars and cafes with a wide expanse of soft sand ideal for volleyball and keeping an eye on young children. The area south is more relaxed and leads down to a dive centre and captivating caves to explore.
Mamitas is one of the best-known, most action-packed beaches in Playa del Carmen. It's named after the Mamitas Beach Club where you can hire sunloungers and umbrellas and partake in table service food and drinks. For a more energised day you can go jet-skiing, have fun on the catamarans, mess around in banana boats and go parasailing. So whether you want to dip your toe in an activity or be waited on hand and foot, you can at Mamitas Beach. If you still want more after the sun goes down, there are often DJs playing or live music to keep you dancing into the night.
This beach is gaining in popularity but you can still find a space away from the crowds. Playacar is a beach resort south of Playa del Carmen. There are no restaurants or clubs by the beach as it's an exclusive resort with high-end, All Inclusive hotels. This means it's a rare untouched spot just for you, but you should come prepared with food and drink. Trees provide natural shade and on windier days it's perfect for kite surfing.
Surrounding the Canibal Royal Beach Club, this beautiful beach is a little hard to get to, which is why you won't find many people on this stretch. Go north past the beach club and you won't be disappointed with the tranquil nature around you. Bring your snorkelling gear and you can gaze in wonder at the breathtaking marine life.
Providing your own food and drink is recommended as the beach club is the only thing around and is in the higher price range, but if you do decide to treat yourself, it's new, cool and comfortable and many hours could be spent eyeing the beautiful scenery it looks over.
Only a 15-minute drive from the centre of town, Playa Mayakoba is an idyllic setting with straw parasols, nearly white sand and rich blue water. Beside the beach is an 18-hole golf course and five swimming pools, with an infinity pool just for adults, so you can sneak off and have some you time. But you don't need money to enjoy the sand beneath your feet and the breath-taking views Mayakoba has to offer.
Paamul is a relaxed village 20 minutes south of Playa del Carmen. Perfect for families, you can all enjoy snorkelling to see fish, sea urchins and turtles. Or simply sunbathe under the many palm trees in a setting like something straight from the pages of a travel guide. Unfortunately you can't bring your own food or drink but if you use the restaurant you can use the pool and there are free loungers available. You won't find busy and loud crowds here, just the perfect opportunity to relax and enjoy yourself away from the tourist hot spots.
Xcacel Beach is extra special and definitely one that cannot be missed. Get there early and you could be the only ones on the beach, it is the natural wildlife that really separates this beach from the rest. It has a small natural cenote filled with fish which you can find through a path in the mangroves. It is also a perfect place to body surf or even spot some iguanas.
You will be asked to pay a donation of between 10 to 20 pesos but this is to help protection of wildlife and to ensure the sand is free of rubbish. If it does get too busy you can easily walk down the beach for more seclusion, guaranteed. No restaurants, no hotels. Just untouched beauty.