Beaches and Beach Clubs
With thick white sand and mild surf, Playa Tukán (entrance at 1 Av. Norte at Calle 26) has long been the best beach in Playa del Carmen. There used to be a long stretch of “unclaimed” beach where anyone could stake out a patch of sand and sun for the day.
Today, condo developments have gobbled up large sections of shore, and two beach clubs cover much of the rest. The latter are open to the public, so there’s no question of being able to relax and enjoy the beach; it’s just that you’ll probably end up renting lounge chairs and an umbrella rather than laying out your towel somewhere.
On the bright side, beach clubs have bar and restaurant service, showers, lockers, and in some cases, small swimming pools. There are also small tour operators on Playa Tukán that offer snorkeling tours, Hobie Cat trips, kayaks, and more.
Playa Tukán’s beach clubs are each a little different, appealing more or less to different types of beachgoers. Generally speaking, Kool (at Calle 26, tel. 984/803-1961, www.koolbeachclub.com.mx, 8 a.m.–6 p.m. daily) is laid-back though classy, good for a slightly older crowd and families with young children, while Mamita’s Beach Club (at Calle 28, tel. 984/803-2867, www.mamitasbeachclub.com, 8 a.m.–5:30 p.m. daily) draws a younger, hipper set that’s into techno.
Prices are fairly uniform: around US$2.50 a day apiece for chairs and umbrellas, US$15–25 for beach beds and large palapas; snacks and drinks range US$5–15.
Playa El Faro
Playa El Faro (btwn Calles 8 and 16) is an excellent beach just steps from the action on Quinta Avenida. Named for the large lighthouse (faro) at one end, it is the widest beach in Playa, with plenty of room to lay out a towel, unlike other stretches that have been snatched by encroaching hotels.
It also is home to the well-recommended water-sports operator Jaime’s Marina (Playa El Faro, end of Calle 10, cell. tel. 984/130-2034, www.jaimesmarina.bravehost.com, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily).
The most popular beach club on Playa Faro is Wicky’s Beach Club (at Calle 10, tel. 984/873-3541, www.wickysplayadelcarmen.com, 7 a.m.–11 p.m. daily). An upscale, welcoming spot with a great restaurant, it offers free beach chairs and umbrellas as long as you buy something to eat or drink. Complimentary fruit and cool facial cloths throughout the day also are a hit.
Another option is Coco Maya Beach Club (end of Calle 12, 8 a.m.–7 p.m. daily), a low-key place with lounge chairs (US$5) and beach beds (US$20) for rent. At 9:30 p.m., the beach club reopens (and transforms) into a nightclub, with guest DJs or live bands pumping music until the wee hours of the morning.
For water sports, Coco Beach (between Calles 38 and 46), Playa’s northernmost beach, also is its quietest. This is the place to come if you just want to lay out on your towel, listen to the waves, and chill out.
Consider bringing snorkel gear, though—Chunzubul Reef, just north of Coco Beach, is considered the best place to go snorkeling in Playa.
© Gary Chandler & Liza Prado from Moon Yucatán Peninsula, 9th edition