Just south of Cancun, sitting on one of the world's most beautiful 80 miles of shoreline (hugged by the second largest reef in the world), you will find hotels of spectacular quality. As you stroll along an incredible white sand beach, you will be captivated by the magnificence of the dazzling turquoise Caribbean on one side and the beauty of the exuberant jungle on the other. This area's ageless natural beauty flourishes in harmony with the new world now built within it.
32km (20 miles) S of Puerto Morelos, 70km (44 miles) S of Cancun, 10km (6 1/2 miles) N of Xcaret, 13km (8 miles) N of Puerto Calica.
Playa del Carmen is growing quickly. It lies on one of the best stretches of beach on the coast and is perfect for enjoying the simple (and perhaps the best) pleasures of a seaside vacation--taking in the sun and the sea air while working your toes into soft, white sand; cooling down with a swim in clear blue water; and strolling leisurely and aimlessly down the beach while listening to the wash of waves and feeling the light touch of tropical breezes on your skin. The beach grows and shrinks, from broad and sandy to narrower with occasional rocks, depending on the currents and wind.
If solitude is what you're looking for, go elsewhere. Playa draws crowds of visitors with its lively nightlife and burgeoning restaurant scene. South of town, in the Playacar development, are 13 large all-inclusives, and farther south is the cruise-ship pier. Together, these account for a lot of street and beach traffic. The town itself has a casual feel. The local architecture has adopted elements of native building--rustic clapboard walls, thatched roofs, lots of tropical foliage, irregular shapes and angles, and a ramshackle, unplanned look to many structures. All of this reflects the toned-down approach to tourism. Recently, though, slicker architecture has appeared, and chain restaurants and stores have arrived, which detract from Playa's individuality.
Though no longer having the feel of a village, Playa still can provide that rare combination of simplicity (in the form of a small town that can be crossed on foot) and variety (in terms of the many one-of-a-kind hotels, restaurants, and stores). It is this aspect of cosmopolitan counterculture getaway that makes Playa so different from the rest of the coast. And from here it's easy to shoot out to Cozumel on the ferry, to drive south to the nature parks and the ruins at Tulum and Coba, or to drive north to Cancun. A strong European influence has made topless sunbathing (nominally against the law in Mexico) a nonchalantly accepted practice anywhere there's a beach.
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