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Diving, Touring, Exploring

Diving Mexico's ReefsPlaya del Carmen is a fun town. Good for going out, eating out, and laying out. The beach is pretty, can be crowded, and is a good place to meet people. There are plenty of dive shops to pick from in Playa del Carmen, likeCyan Ha.

Playa del Carmen is convenient for tours up and down the coast. Alltournative Expeditions has amazing eco tours of mayan ruins and culture, and the natural beauty of the area. You can see Playa del Carmen from the air with Aero Saab Airplane Tours' fun flight, or they can take you to Chichen Itza or Holbox Island to see more of Mexico quickly.

For a good time outdoors, take a taxi down to ATV Jungle Tours (on the highway just past Playacar, and before Xcaret). They run the original jungle tour in the area and you get to drive these 4 wheel ATVs through the jungle, climb a Mayan temple, explore a cave, and swim in a crystal clear 60 foot deep cenote. Caribbean Coast Travel can set you up with tours and transportation to all the popular Mayan Riviera destinations.

Shopping for fun

Quinta Avenida, the main shopping street in Playa del Carmen, is open exclusively for pedestrians. It can get crowded sometimes, like when a cruise boats stops between Playa and Cozumel and disgorges passengers for 4 hour shopping excursions. In the mornings and afternoons, there is hardly anybody on the street. There are dozens of travel agencies and a few dive shops.

Paseo del Carmen is a modern shopping area with high end brands and franchise restaurants. Further north, there are a couple of blocks you might want to avoid. This is an area of market style arts and crafts and t-shirt sales where the vendors have a more aggressive approach, and your stroll down Fifth turns into a mission to avoid vendors.

Unfortunately there are a lot of “tour desks” which are really timeshare sales points. If you are interested in this kind of purchase, by all means we encourage you to do research, talk with owners, and go prepared. They are known to be able to make you buy the condo of their dreams with a very direct and pressure style sales technique. If you still want to enjoy your stroll down this first 2 blocks you can... there is a law which prevents vendors from stepping 2 meters away from the booth. So you just have to keep walking.

The goods sold in Playa del Carmen's shops are from all over Mexico and the world. There are some swank galleries featuring artists from San Cristobal or Oaxaca. Others sell T-shirts and snow globes. An amusing trend right now is that 10+ stores are selling dresses and sarongs from Indonesia. Keep a look out for Mayan Ear Candles and cute Mayan clothes for Barbie.

Take a break from busy Quinta Avenida (5th Ave.) at the little plaza between 6th and 8th on 5th Ave. It has a very nice courtyard with trees and flowers and a gazebo where you can sit and rest. There is an Italian restaurant (Casa Mediterranea) with a pleasant atmosphere and good food. In the same area, there is a store selling wooden masks and paintings and artsy stuff from around Mexico.

Another beautiful detour from Quinta Avenida is Calle Corazón home to Spa Itza (a pampering spot), Bontan (art book store), Pachamama (lovely handicraft), and the native jewelry of Joe Natural. At the very end you can find a branch of Botanicus, a nice natural beauty product store.

Playa means beach in Spanish

The Beaches of Playa del Carmen, MexicoThe beach in Playa del Carmen is a good place to meet people, especially around the Blue Parrot Hotel. Most of the chairs are rental only, and many of the women are topless. There are hotels and bars that will allow you to use their chairs as long as you purchase drinks from the bar. Almost everyone has an Indonesian sarong (called a Pareo here) which doubles as a beach towel.

At the Northern side of Playa you can find Playa Mamitas and Nikky beach. A lot of Playa´s concerts and events take place here, like fashion shows, mini volleyball or soccer tournaments, and the annual Jazz festival. The atmosphere of this beach is made by modern chill out lounge day beds with DJ music playing on the background. A few meters away you can still find some quiet spots where “being seen” is not a priority, and families and friends gather to enjoy the beauty of the Caribbean Sea.

It is however comforting to know that Jack de la Playa and his dog Filla can still be found renting chairs and umbrellas in front of one of the last remaining houses in the beach in Dos Palmas, South from the new pier, and that El Paraiso still serves cold cervezas for a reasonable price. A little bit of the old Playa del Carmen. The best remaining secret is that you can still have a very good ceviche, catch of the day or your cold chelada sitting under palm trees in La Tarraya, on second street, with the same quality, service and prices from years ago.

If you decide to snorkel or swim far out, be sure to pick your head up every few minutes to watch for boats. Boats do slow down near shore, but they can miss unwatchful swimmers. Xel Ha is much safer for snorkeling, but you can stay safe in Playa del Carmen just by picking your head up once in a while to see and be seen. Also, if the waves are high do not go out unless you are a strong swimmer because the undertow can surprise you. This advice seems like common sense, but there are no lifeguards and you need to watch out for yourself.

All in all the beach is still safer than the ones in Cancun - Playa del Carmen has fewer rip off artists and a weaker undertow.

If you want something to show off on the beach, ScreamInk on 10th Street between 5th Avenue and 10th Avenue does tattoos and piercings. They do cool work, have the best reputation in town, and run a clean shop.

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