Why go to Playa del Carmen?
Still retains a laidback, village-y feel, if you know where to find it
Can feel like a bit of a tourist trap
Beautiful beaches stretch along this coast but unchecked development is eroding its charm
Playa del Carmen Cruise Port Facilities?
The small port at Calica, roughly 6 miles south of Playa del Carmen, is no longer used by cruise lines. Instead, you'll arrive by ferry from the busy port in Cozumel, just 12 miles across the water. Three different companies -- Barcos Caribe, Mexico Waterjets and Ultramar -- all offer ferry service for as little as $8 round trip. The crossing normally takes between 30 and 45 minutes, depending on the weather and the boat you take. (Catamarans are the fastest choice.)
Good to Know?
Strolling along Fifth Avenue can be exhausting -- the amount of times you'll be asked if you want a massage, or marijuana, to come into a restaurant, to change money or buy generic drugs -- is tiring. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is walk along the beach instead.
On Foot: The ferry terminal is at the far south end of Playa del Carmen. Walk across the town square and you'll find yourself at the beginning of Avenida Quinta, the main thoroughfare.
By Taxi/Colectivo: You'll find taxis lined up beside the main bus station. An alternative and cheaper option is to jump in a colectivo, which is basically a shared taxi van. The driver waits until the van fills up, and then drops each passenger off at his or her desired stop.
By Bus: The main bus terminal is a two-minute walk diagonally across the town square from the ferry terminal. Here, you'll find buses to Tulum, Chichen Itza and further afield.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
The Mexican peso is the official currency. However, most taxis and vendors will accept U.S. dollars, and guides are happy to be tipped that way. That said, your change will be given in pesos regardless. Credit cards are not generally accepted in small family restaurants or tiny shops, so ask if you're not carrying cash before you sit down or start browsing.
Several large banks are located on Juarez Avenue, just a few yards away from the ferry dock. Hours of operation are typically 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but 24-hour ATMs are common. You'll also find plenty of currency exchange booths in the area, some of which stay open as late as 10 p.m. For current currency conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com.