Top tips for your stay in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

My Top 7 Tips for Playa del Carmen, Mexico

I must-ache you a question… Have you ever been to Mexico? Playa del Carmen is a town on the Yucatan Peninsula, in the state of Quintana Roo. It’s situated an hour south of Cancun (you will likely fly into the airport here) and is a popular tourist destination in Mexico. Here are 7 tips for Playa del Carmen that I’ve learned from living here.

  • Do I need to know Spanish to go to Mexico?
  • What is the main street in Playa del Carmen?
  • What is there to drink if I don’t like tequila? 

Watch the video or read on to find out the answer to these questions and more tips for visiting Playa del Carmen

The weather app shows rain. Will it rain?

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Tip #1: Ignore your phone's weather app

Ignore your weather app when visiting Playa del Carmen. It may show a lot of rain, but the rain often only lasts a short time and the rest of the day is sunny.
Playa del Carmen Weather Forecast

Playa del Carmen can get hot. And humid. You may need a sweatshirt or light jacket at night in the months of December to February. But unless you are coming then, you will likely only need shorts, t-shirts, and of course a swimsuit.

And your weather app might show that it’s going to rain every day, but then you’ll have a full day of sun. Or maybe you just lathered up with some SFP 50 sunscreen and it starts to rain. The weather is hard to predict and can change fast. And remember, when you are looking at the upcoming week and see rain each day, it just shows that it is likely to rain at some point in the area and does not indicate how long it will rain at your specific spot.

Even a 40% chance of rain means 60% chance of no rain. And, if you do find yourself in a rainstorm, chances are it will be over fast. Ignore the weather app, and have a great time.

Will Street Vendors Rip Me Off?

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Tip #2: Politely decline street vendors

The main strip in Playa del Carmen is 5th Ave (Quinta Avenida). This is where most stores, restaurants, and tourists are. You’ll walk a lot. And you will get offered drugs and people will holler out at you try and get you into their stores. One of my favorite lines is:

“I got crap for sale. Want to buy some crap?”


“Hey, you remember me from the hotel? I was your waiter!”

These are just ploys to try and get you to engage them so they can try to sell you something. It can get annoying. Actually… super annoying. But just say “no gracias” and keep walking. They are just trying to make a living like we all are. If you do engage with them, it’s likely you’ll end up in a jewelry store taking sips of tequila while they show you rings made with gold, silver, and other gemstones that are priced like a bargain compared to in the United States. You will think you got a bargain until two weeks later when the stone falls out and you find out whatever you bought was fake. 

By all means if you find something that you really like then go ahead and buy it, but your baseline assumption should probably be that it’s fake. The only gold or silver I’d buy along 5th Ave is the tequila, and even then I might regret it the next morning.

Is Playa del Carmen safe to leave the tourist areas?

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Tip #3: Get of 5th Avenue and out of the tourist zone

5th Ave is the main tourist street in Playa del Carmen. It is lined with restaurants and bars designed for tourists. Go explore other areas
5th Ave in Playa del Carmen

The main tourist area of Playa del Carmen centers around 5th Ave (Quinta Avenida). The avenues run sorta north-south and then the streets (calles in Spanish) run sorta east-west. So, this area is a grid which makes it very easy to get around. Anything from the beach westward to at least 30th Ave, and maybe even to the highway can safely be assumed to be within the tourist area. I definitely recommend you staying in a hotel or Airbnb within a few blocks of 5th Ave.

All that about the area surrounding 5th Ave brings me to my next tip for Playa del Carmen… get the fuck off 5th Ave. I know I said 5th Ave is the heart of downtown with many shops and restaurants, BUT…

You’re going to be walking down 5th Ave, and you’re going to see colorful restaurants filled with tourists. Some will even have live music. And you’re going to think “hey, this place looks great!” And you’re going to stop. I get it. They look fun. And they might be. And yes, a Dos Equis here will be the same as a Dos Equis elsewhere. Bu once you get the overpriced tacos you ordered, you’re going to ask yourself “These are what tacos are like in Mexico?” They will look like microwaved chicken on a tortilla.

Now I’m not saying not to stop at these places. But I am saying that they cater to tourists, charge high prices, and often the businesses turn over quickly. There are some great restaurants on 5th Ave if you know where to go, but I have found that most of my favorite restaurants in Playa del Carmen are not on the main strip. Street carts on 30th Ave will have better tacos for 1/3 the price. And if you have a car, I highly suggest you venturing even further than that. Other than a few areas to the far west of the city that you probably wouldn’t go to anyway, there’s really no areas to avoid.

Is Mexican food spicy?

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Tip #4: The salsa might be spicy

Salsa is served with everything in Playa del Carmen. Some of them might be spicy, but not all.

Most meals at Playa del Carmen restaurants will come with free tortilla chips a variety of salsas. Some may give you an aioli or a chipotle sauce but the most common are a red salsa and a green salsa. And the GREEN one is usually the spicy salsa. I’m sure there are exceptions, but I suggest you start with a small dab on your tortilla chip to test it first. Otherwise, your tongue may go numb before you get your tacos.

Other than that, you won’t find as many spicy food as you might expect.

What is the local food like?

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Tip #5: Burritos are not very common, but get tacos everywhere!

Whie burritos aren't very common, tacos can be found everywhere in Playa del Carmen
Tacos in Playa del Carmen

You might get lunch at Chipotle when you are home in the U.S. You order your chicken burrito and think to yourself “I can’t wait to try a real Mexican burrito when I head down there on vacation.” Well guess what? This burrito that means “Little Donkey” in Spanish isn’t really that Mexican. It’s a sort of American-Mexican item that can be found in the north on either side of the US-Mexico border. Although they do exist in Playa, I’ve only seen them on a handful of menu’s. It’s not really an item you will get here. 

Tacos however, are a different story. These you can get everywhere. And you should.

Is There Anything Besides Tequila to Drink?

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Tip #6: There are things to drink other than tequila

Tequila is everywhere in Playa del Carmen. the tourist area is lined with shops that sell it.
Tequila in Playa del Carmen

I mean, you don’t have to drink tequila, but you should at least try some of the different varieties that are available.

Tequila is everywhere. There are tequila stores all along 5th Ave. But if you’re one of those people that doesn’t like tequila since you drank too much of it that one time on college spring break, you can easily find other things. Other spirits, Mexican craft beer, cocktails such as mojitos, or even Mexican wine are everywhere. You’ll be fine. But if you do decide to wade back into the waters and confront your demon from years past, much of the tequila is much better than the Jose Cuervo you typically find in the U.S.

Mezcal might be a great thing to try. But also, Mexican wine is finally starting to make a name for itself. Most of the wine you find by the glass will be the cheap stuff, but if you go to Chedraui or a wine store such as Off the Vine on 38th St, you can find some great Mexican wine. In fact, Casa Madero began planting thier vineyards in 1597, and is the oldest winery on the entire Americas.

Do I need to Know Spanish?

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Tip #7: You don't need to know Spanish, but learn a few words and phrases

You don’t need to know Spanish to get by, as most people here know English pretty well. And there’s typically and English menu too. In fact, when they see you look like a tourist, they are likely to bring you the English menu without you even asking for it. I prefer when the menus have both English and Spanish on the same menu so that I can learn.
Because although you don’t need to know Spanish, you should try to learn some anyway. At the very least, say phrases like “gracias” or “Buenos dias” when you greet someone. Or of course the very important phrase “uno cerveza mas por favor”.

Learn some basic phrases

Buenos días, buenos tardes, buenos noches: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening

Por favor: please

Lo siento: I’m sorry

Cómo está?: How are you?

¿Cuánto cuesta?: How much does this cost?

Dónde está el baño: Where is the bathroom

Trujillos is one of the best cocktail bars in Playa del Carmen. It is located on 38th Street

Playa del Carmen

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