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Guide to Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Guide to Playa del Carmen - where to stay, places to eat & drink and things to do

We visited Mexico a few years ago and have been looking forward to going back ever since. Mexico is a country that has lots to offer than just margaritas, tacos and white sandy beaches. As a whole Mexico has a lot of culture, history, some of the best food in the world and an abundance of things to do. This visit to Mexico was in March, a great time to visit if you are in search of sunshine. This blog post is a guide to Playa del Carmen but I also visited Tulum and Bacalar.

Playa del Carmen Mexico
Playa del Carmen

We flew from London to Cancun with British Airways. The flight is about 10 hours and as you go back in time, it meant we arrived in the morning. The main purpose of our trip was to go to Tulum, but to see more of Mexico we decided to stop off for 2 days here. Playa del Carmen is about an hour's drive from Cancun Airport, making it the perfect stop off on the way.

Reef 28 - Adults Only Hotel

Reef 28 Playa Del Carmen

We booked 3 nights at Reef 28. We wanted somewhere central to the town and this hotel was perfect because it was in the very centre...straight out the door and you are amongst the bars and restaurants of Playa del Carmen.

Reef 28 Playa del Carmen

I was travelling with two of my friends and we were really happy with the size of the room. We had a 'Deluxe Junior Suite' which had two large double beds, a seating area and a balcony. We loved the hotel decor, it was clean and the staff were friendly.

The best part of the hotel was the rooftop pools. Jetlag meant we were up at the crack of dawn watching the sunrise on the roof and hitting the pool for a quiet morning swim whilst everyone else was asleep. The views were amazing, what a start to the day and the holiday it was! In the afternoons the vibe COMPLETELY changes. We were not expecting to arrive back to a pool party on the roof but we loved it - great fun with a DJ and several bars. There were quite a lot of stag/bachelor and hen/bachelorette parties going on.

Another highlight of Reef 28 were the breakfasts. So much to choose from at the buffet (sweet & savoury) as well as freshly made food such as omelettes. We loved eating here.

The hotel also had a spa (that you have to pay extra to use the pool). We visited it to have a look but didn't actually use it as wanted to be out in the sunshine and the loved the pools on the roof.

Reef 28 Playa del Carmen

Restaurants in Playa del Carmen

As soon as you arrive in Playa del Carmen you will see there are bars and restaurants everywhere. Here are some of our favourites and places we considered to be the best restaurants in Playa del Carmen:


This restaurant is great for dinner as it has fantastic food, music and service. Particular highlights were the corn, steak cooked on a stone, crispy squid and salmon ceviche.

La Perla Pixan Cuisine & Mezcal

We went to La Perla Pixan for a late lunch and it didn't disappoint. The best guacamole and spicy margs. We tried a variety of ceviche which was all fantastic. Would recommend taking cash with you as their card machines weren't working when we went.

La Vagabunda

Went here for a casual Mexican dinner of margheritas and nachos. It's a fun vibe there with live music. Eat dinner and people watch.

La Vagabunda Playa del Carmen

Beaches in and around Playa del Carmen

Playa Punta Esmeralda

A short walk from the centre of Playa del Carmen. This beach was probably our favourite one as it was close by, it was clean, quiet and nice for a swim. Take food and drink with you though as there isn't much there apart from a couple of small stands selling cold drinks (which took cash only).

Playa Punta Esmeralda

Akumal Beach

We saw photos of this beach and it looked amazing, so we decided to take the 30 min taxi to check it out. The beach is set on a national park and you have to pay around $6 (USD) to enter. The public part of the beach is very crowded and busy, then the rest of the beach is private for guests staying at hotels there. The sea is also very busy with snorkelers as it is meant to be a great spot for seeing turtles.

Akumal Beach

Day Trip to Cozumel Island

One thing on everyone's list when visiting Playa Del Carmen was to visit the island of Cozumel. We were debating about staying there, but decided we wanted to be in the town and a day trip was enough to see the island. Just a 30 min ferry from Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel is known for its beautiful beaches, clear blue sea and snorkelling.

Getting from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel

There are regular ferries from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel. We took a short walk from the centre to the ferry port. There were lots of people coming up to us offering us tickets to purchase, but I had read before that to always buy them direct from the ferry terminal to avoid being sold fake tickets. There are two ferry companies that operate from this terminal, but both are going to the same place. A ferry leaves for Cozumel every hour and return ticket costs around 20 USD/ 500 Pesos. The ferries are big, comfortable and you have the choice of sitting inside or outside, as well as purchasing drinks and snacks.

Cozumel Mexico

Getting around Cozumel

You can walk around the main town of Cozumel, but to get to the main beaches, they are quite far so walking isn't really an option. There are a few options for getting around Cozumel including taxis, renting a bike or another vehicle. We decided as we were only there for a few hours to get a taxi. There are loads of taxis as you exit the ferry, but be sure to ask how much your journey is going to be before you get in.

ISLA DE LA PASION - a hidden gem!

We went to Cozumel with the intention of finding a beautiful beach and relaxing for the day. After some research online we discovered Isla del la Passion, a tiny island off of Cozumel. We spent the day swimming and sunbathing and it was the relaxation we needed to get over our jet lag. I would recommend taking food and drinks with you as there isn't very much going on there.


Getting from Cozumel to Isla de la Pasion

We got a taxi from the port as we arrived in Cozumel. We told the taxi driver we wanted to go to the island and he knew exactly where to take us. The taxi drive was about 25 mins from the port and he took us to a small fishing pier where you then get a smaller boat to the island. Tell your taxi driver what time you want picking up because there were no other taxis around and we had no phone signal.

It seems like a lot of logistics, but it was so easy and 100% worth it when you get there!

Cozumel Mexico

Hemmingway Lounge & Restaurant, Cozumel

We saw this restaurant in our taxi back from the beach and decided to stop here for a late lunch before we got the ferry back. It did not disappoint, the food was great and the setting was even better. The restaurant is set on the beach, so you can eat, drink and go for a swim. The snorkelling was good there as well.

Hemmingways Cozumel

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