Hotels and Resorts
Playa del Carmen has a huge selection and variety of accommodations, from youth hostels to swanky resorts to condos and long-term rentals. Most all-inclusives are located in Playacar, just south of town.
Youth Hostel Playa (Calle 8 near 25 Av., tel. 984/803-3277, www.hostelplaya.com, US$13.50 dorm, US$34 s/d with shared bath) is Playa del Carmen’s best hostel, despite being somewhat removed from downtown and the beach. The dorm rooms are narrow but clean and have thick, comfortable mattresses, individual fans, mosquito nets, and free lockers. The private rooms are kept spotless, although light sleepers may be bothered by street noise. A well-equipped—and amazingly well-kept—kitchen has plenty of space to work your culinary magic, as well as a good cubby system to prevent groceries from disappearing. Best of all is the hostel’s enormous common area, which is perfect for eating, playing cards, reading, watching TV, or just kicking back.
Happy Gecko Hotel and Backpackers Hostel (10 Av. near Calle 6, cell. tel. 984/147-0692, happygeckohotel [at] gmail [dot] com, US$13–15 dorm with a/c, US$18–50 pp private room with a/c and bathroom) is a combo of dorm and private rooms set up in two sections: new and old. (Needless to say, the “new” section is markedly better). Dorms are single-sex and mixed, and all have air-con, lockers, sheets, and towels. Bathrooms are a bit sketchy—mostly because there aren’t really enough to go around—and complaints of a lack of hot water are frequent. The private rooms are nicer, spacious, and stark; many also have kitchenette. A rooftop lounge, reminiscent of a frat house with its old couches and beer-bottle pyramids, is a popular place for guests to party until late.
Cabañas Popol-Vuh (Calle 2 near 5 Av., tel. 984/803-2149, www.popolvuhplaya.com, US$30–38 s/d with shared bath, US$40–47 s/d, US$52 s/d with a/c) has nine cozy cabañas and three hotel rooms facing a small sand lot with hammocks—direct access to the beach is via a short sand alley. The cabañas are simple wood-paneled structures, some with palapa roofs. They’re all comfortable enough, with good screens and strong fans, although the ones with en suite bathrooms are better maintained. (For those using the shared bathrooms—wear your flip-flops!—they need a serious scrub down.) The hotel rooms, though lacking the Robison Crusoe feel of the others, are a step up: cable TV, quiet air-con, and private bathrooms. In this town, these units are a steal—reserve early. Wi-Fi and a full breakfast are included, too.
Tucked into a quiet leafy courtyard, Club Yebo (Av. 1 at Calle 14, tel. 984/803-3966, toll-free Mex. tel. 800/681-9510, toll-free U.S./Can. tel. 888/676-4431, www.clubyebo.com, US$45 s/d bungalow, US$69 studio with a/c, US$95 one-bdrm apt. with a/c, US$115 two-bdrm apt. with a/c) is a small hotel offering tasteful studios and apartments with modern furnishings and fully equipped kitchens. All have quiet air-con, cable TV, Wi-Fi, and daily maid service—perfect for longer stays or if traveling with kids. There also are two comfortable thatch-roofed units (fan only), which do not have cooking facilities but are cheaper. Common areas include a small pool and two palapa lounges with hammocks. The only downside is if you need front desk assistance after hours, you must go down the street to its sister establishment, Playa Palms Hotel.
Hotel Casa de las Flores (20 Av. btwn Calles 4 and 6, tel. 984/873-2898, www.hotelcasadelasflores.com, US$80–90 s/d with a/c) offers a cheerful hacienda-esque exterior that gives way to a leafy courtyard and garden, with a small stone-paved pool and rooms arranged on two levels in back. Americans will appreciate the air-conditioning, Europeans the bidet, and no one can complain about the simple but classy decor. Higher-priced rooms are bigger and have better light or small terraces, plus a minifridge.
Aqualuna Hotel (Av. 10 at Calle 14, tel. 984/873-1965, www.aqualunahtl.com, US$71–91 s/d with a/c, US$111 suite with a/c) is an intimate hotel with Mediterranean style. Units are simple and airy, with whitewashed walls, blue accents, and original art from Jalisco; they all open onto a leafy, winding courtyard. Amenities are upscale: flat-screen TVs, in-room phone, safes, and Wi-Fi; guests also enjoy beach access and pool access at sister establishments. Gay friendly, and service is impeccable.
Hotel Barrio Latino (Calle 4 btwn 10 and 15 Avs., tel. 984/873-2384, www.hotelbarriolatino.com, US$59 s/d, US$65–75 s/d with a/c) offers charming rooms with mosaic-tile bathrooms, stone-inlaid floors, and private balconies. A complimentary continental breakfast is served in a leafy courtyard with a palapa-roofed lounge—a good place to write postcards or play cards. Wireless Internet access and most international phone calls are also included in the rate. Uppity service is the only complaint.
An adults-only hotel, Luna Blue Hotel (Calle 26 btwn 5 and 10 Avs., tel. 984/873-0990, www.lunabluehotel.com, US$80–110 s/d with a/c) is a leafy oasis, and an excellent value, just off busy Quinta Avenida. Rooms are tidy, if a bit sterile, and range from standard-issue hotel rooms to suites with a kitchen to “Treetop Terrace” units with private balconies. Most enjoy views of the garden, with its colorful Adirondack chairs and canopy of tropical trees. A fully stocked bar (complete with friendly bartender) is a popular place for guests most afternoons and evenings. Wi-Fi, beach club passes, and purified water are all included. Complimentary coffee, tea, and homemade muffins offered in the mornings, too.
Hotel Riviera Caribe Maya (10 Av. at Calle 30, tel. 984/873-1193, www.hotelrivieramaya.com, US$58 s/d–130 s/d with a/c) offers bright rooms with hand-carved Mexican furnishings and modern amenities like mini air conditioners, cable TV, in-room phone, and minifridge. Many have patios or balconies that look out onto the hotel’s small inviting pool, which is tucked into a pleasant courtyard. The more expensive rooms are located in a newer building and are larger, with wood-floor balconies and deluxe features like king-size beds and Jacuzzi tubs. Wi-Fi and continental breakfast are included in all the rates.
Hotel LunaSol (Calle 4 btwn 15 and 20 Avs., tel. 984/873-3933, www.lunasolhotel.com, US$104–114 s/d with a/c) offers 16 comfortable rooms, all with private balconies or terraces, that are spread out between two modern thatch-roofed buildings. The rooms are a bit sparse for the rate but have nice tile bathrooms, minifridges, and flat-screen TVs. Ask for one on the 2nd floor—those have high ceilings and the best natural light. Best of all, in the garden there’s a fully equipped outdoor kitchen for guest use as well as a gorgeous swimming pool complete with an attached Jacuzzi.
The front and back sections at Aventura Mexicana Hotel (Calle 24 btwn 5 and 10 Avs., tel. 984/873-1876, www.aventuramexicana.com, US$118–132 s/d with a/c, US$144 deluxe s/d with a/c) are similarly priced but are worlds apart in terms of quality. The boutique-inspired deluxe rooms have muted colors, elegant furnishings, and high-end amenities, and open onto a nicely manicured garden and inviting pool—these (and the pool) are reserved for adults only. By contrast, the standard rooms have plain-Jane decor and furnishings, springy beds, and a long and thin pool crammed in the center of the courtyard. The back area is for families (and cheaper), but the stark difference in quality makes you feel a bit like a second-class citizen.
The Blue Pearl Suites (1 Av. btwn Calles 10 and 12, tel. 984/803-2379, www.thebluepearl.com.mx, US$132–207 suites with a/c and kitchen) offers stylish, comfortable, and ecofriendly apartments that typically sleep 2–4 people, but some have room for up to eight. All have fully equipped kitchens (complete with recycling and composting bins) and a private balcony or patio with hammocks and an outdoor tub. Rooms have gorgeous original art but otherwise pleasingly minimalist decor, plus Wi-Fi and daily cleaning (even your dishes!). There’s a nice public beach around the corner, though a small rooftop pool and solarium are nice for enjoying the sun and impressive view. Be aware that some units have steep spiral staircases, and noise from nearby bars may disrupt light sleepers, especially on weekends (the a/c units help mask the din, however).
A palpably urban hipster hotel, Básico (5 Av. near Calle 10, tel. 984/879-4448, www.hotelbasico.com, US$135–275 s/d with a/c) has high-end rooms with an industrial-warehouse feel; apparently, oil tankers plying the Gulf of Mexico provided the inspiration (seriously!). Needless to say, despite the stark, cement look, the rooms are ultraplush—deep beds, fine linens, flat-screen TVs, floor-to-ceiling windows, even big tubs in some. There also is a retro seafood restaurant/lounge (5 p.m.–2 a.m. daily) on the top floor with views of the Caribbean; it’s ultracool and ultraloud: Techno will keep you up—or dancing—late into the night.
A classy beachfront hotel, Playa Palms (Av. 1 Bis near Calle 14, tel. 984/803-3966, toll-free Mex. tel. 800/681-9510, toll-free U.S./Can. tel. 888/676-4431, www.playpalms.com, US$135–235 s/d with a/c, US$185 suite with a/c) has airy rooms with high-end furnishings and colorful Oaxacan decor. Many have balconies with ocean views, and all open onto a thin pool that snakes through the leafy interior courtyard to the beach. Complimentary coffee and pastries are available every morning, though room service is offered for breakfast in bed. Wi-Fi, cable TV, iPod docks, and basic cooking facilities (microwave, coffeemaker, fridge, and sink) complement already very comfortable rooms.
Playa Maya (on the beach btwn Calles 6 and 8, tel. 984/803-2022, www.playa-maya.com, US$150–200 s/d with a/c, US$175 suite a/c with kitchenette) is one of relatively few small hotels in Playa del Carmen that have direct beach access—a great feature. All 20 rooms are modern and comfortable, including some with kitchen, balcony, and ocean views. The beach is attractive and relaxing, and the hotel has lounge chairs and shaded tables right on the sand. But the beach entrance has its drawbacks, too—you may end up lugging your bags across the sand if there’s no porter around to help, plus there’s no handicap access. There’s also a minimum stay of 4–5 nights, depending on the season.
Fronting one of the best beaches in Playa, Hotel Las Palapas (Calle 34 btwn 5 Av. and the beach, tel. 984/873-4260, www.laspalapas.com, US$170–270 s/d with a/c) offers 75 rooms in one- and two-story thatched-roof bungalows, opening onto either a lush garden brimming with native flora or a white-sand beach with breathtaking views. All units are peaceful, with comfortable beds, ample patios with hammocks, and radio access to an exceptional staff—no phones here (though there are TVs). A stone-lined path leads guests to an inviting freshwater pool, a clubhouse, a full-service spa, a dive shop, and—of course—beach chairs and umbrellas on the Caribbean. Be sure to climb the tall lookout platform for a spectacular bird’s-eye view of Playa del Carmen. Rates include a full buffet breakfast; half-board rates are available.
Mosquito Blue (5 Av. btwn Calles 12 and 14, tel. 984/873-1245, toll-free Mex. tel. 800/999-6666, toll-free U.S. tel. 866/547-8756, toll-free Can. tel. 866/940-5518, www.mosquitoblue.com, US$262–299 s/d with a/c, US$336–516 suite with a/c) boasts lush interior courtyards with two amoeba-shaped pools, an impressive palapa-roofed lounge, and striking fine art throughout. Rooms, though somewhat cramped, are beautifully appointed and have high-end amenities: digital safes, minibars, Egyptian linens, cable TV, and Wi-Fi. Its sister hotel, Mosquito Beach (Calle 8 at the beach, same tels., www.mosquitobeachhotel.com), has a similar style and rates but is located on the beach. Adults only for both.
An urban-chic hotel, Deseo (5 Av. at Calle 12, tel. 984/879-3620, www.hoteldeseo.com, US$205–235 s/d with a/c) has rooms that look as if they were in a modern art museum between exhibitions. Think empty, stark white walls, floor-to-ceiling white curtains, a mesh bag or note hanging from the wall, and photo-shoot lamps. Add minimalist furnishings, including a low-lying bed, and streamlined fixtures. Now, pump in some modern bossa nova. That’s the room. Just outside the door is the hotel’s bar/lounge/pool area, with queen-size mattresses serving as sun loungers and flowing white curtains strung high above. Very cool. Unless, of course, you want to sleep. Music from the lounge blasts until 2 a.m. The hotel provides earplugs, though—use ’em or join the party. A continental breakfast is included.
Mahékal Beach Resort (Calle 38 near 5 Av., tel. 984/873-0579, toll-free Mex. tel. 800/836-8942, toll-free U.S. tel. 877/235-4452, www.mahekalplaya.com, US$232–338 s/d with a/c, US$461 suite with a/c, US$504 casita with a/c, including breakfast and dinner) is made up of three sections of palapa-roofed bungalows with private terraces: Aventura, set apart from the rest of the resort, is the most upscale with entirely oceanfront units; Caribe is family oriented, with both garden-view and ocean-view bungalows (bathrooms are in sore need of updating, though); and Pueblito is in a tropical garden setting for adults only. Units all feature air-con and safety deposit box; there is no TV, phone, or Wi-Fi in the rooms. The resort’s facilities are kind of average, too—a mix of dated and renovated guest rooms, swimming pools, restaurants, and bars. The resort’s beach, though, is gorgeous. And that’s where you’ll probably end up most days. If you find a good Internet deal, nab it.
Most of Playa del Carmen’s all-inclusives are in Playacar, an upscale hotel and residential development south of town.
Iberostar Tucan (Av. Xaman-Ha, tel. 984/877-2000, www.iberostar.com, US$260–450 d all-inclusive) has a spacious lobby-entryway and wide attractive beach with palm trees, beach chairs, and mild surf. Separating the lobby and the beach is a broad patch of healthy, well-maintained coastal forest, where you can spot monkeys, parrots, and other native creatures in the treetops. After so many sterile and manicured resorts, this place feels like a welcome change of scenery. The pool is huge and near the beach. Rooms occupy large buildings along the property’s edges and are clean and comfortable, though plain. Junior suites have sea views.
Riu Palace Riviera Maya (Av. Xaman-Ha, tel. 984/877-2290, www.riu.com, US$260–575 d all-inclusive) is one of six all-inclusive Riu resorts clustered together in Playacar and the most upscale, though each resort in the group has its own appeal. The Palace Riviera Maya has an old-world look, with a soaring marble-floored lobby, ornate ironwork, and Renaissance-style paintings and artwork. The suite-only accommodations feature additional sitting areas, restrained colors and decor (unlike the gaudy mess common in so many all-inclusives), top-shelf liquors, and modern bathrooms, including hydromassage tubs. The beach and pool areas are spacious and appealing, and there are well-supplied gym and spa areas. Nightlife here can be a bit sedentary—it’s generally an older clientele—but the advantage of the Palace category is that you have access to the other Riu resorts, like the Tequila or Yucatán, which are often more lively.
Playacar has scores of houses for rent of all sizes and styles. Prices vary considerably, but expect to pay a premium for ocean views and during peak seasons. A number of property-management companies rent houses, including Playacar Vacation Rentals (Calle 10 s/n, tel. 984/873-0418, toll-free U.S. tel. 866/862-7164, www.playacarvacationrentals.com) and Vacation Rentals (Plaza Antigua, Calle 10 s/n, tel. 984/873-2952, U.S. tel. 205/332-3458, www.playabeachrentals.com). Both offices are south of Avenida Juárez near the Playacar entrance.
© Gary Chandler & Liza Prado from Moon Yucatán Peninsula, 9th edition