What used to be a sleepy fishing village has rapidly exploded into one of Mexico's most popular beach resorts. Though development has been rapid (the population is now over 200,000), Playa del Carmen does still retain a degree of charm. For example, developments are generally low rise (unlike in Cancun, which is 30 minutes travel North), and the atmosphere remains quite laid back and hip.
Playa del Carmen's beaches are fantastic too - long, white, sandy beaches with very calm, crystalline waters. As one of the Riviera Maya's larger resorts, there's plenty of activities on offer too - sailing, scuba diving, snorkelling, bike riding etc. Playa del Carmen also proves a good base for visiting some of Mexico's nearby ruins such as those at Chitzen Itza and Tulum. There is also a range of excellent sophisicated restaurants, as well as many bars and a buzzing nightlife, especially so during spring break, when hordes of young North Americans descend on this coastal region of Mexico - the Yucatan Peninsula.
Playa del Carmens' hotels are highly varied in standard - all budgets are catered for. Note that during Mexico's low season, prices are often as much as 40% less than during the peak tourism seasons, when the resort can get very busy. There's certainly no shortage of hotels - in the centre, almost every building seems to be a hotel. Hotels are generally upmarket, and there are many good boutique style hotels to be found.
Playa del Carmen rivals Cancun as the Maya Riviera's top vacation destination. If you seek a buzzy, vibrant destination with fine beaches, it's a great option. While Cancun is rather blighted by large franchise and chain hotels, Playa del Carmen retains a more individualistic feel to the place. It's also less expensive, and there are more budget hotels to choose from.