Best Places to Live: Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Get to know this expat-friendly Mexican town near Cancun, and one of the 20 Best Places to Live 2017. Get the inside scoop on Playa del Carmen, including where to eat, drink, play, and stay.
Just south of Cancun, this town is easy and affordable to get to and it has become genuinely international—lots of digital nomads have figured this out and are making Playa del Carmen their base. And with good reason: The beaches along this stretch of coast are gorgeous—from Playa del Carmen all the way south to Tulum. And, of course, with Cancun just 45-60 minutes north, there’s access to good hospitals and “American” amenities one might long for in more far-flung locations.
Playa del Carmen by the Numbers
Average July high: 90
Average January low: 66
Median home price: Condos average $300,000, while homes in the Playacar community just south of town start at $350,000 for a villa.
Average commute time: You’re a digital nomad. Zero.
Number of sunny days: 340
Best Beaches and Other Attractions
While there is lots of beautiful, cool sand along Playa del Carmen, if you want heart-stopping, spectacular shores, drive 25 minutes north to Maroma Beach, where several luxury resorts stake out a prime stretch of Caribbean-facing sands.
Splash your way among the stalagmites and stalactites of Rio Secreto: The guided tour of the Riviera Maya’s “secret river” winds through a portion of a vast network of caves and cenotes.
Xcaret is a combination eco-reserve, cultural center, and adventure park where you can swim or walk through caves, explore ruins and a living-history village in the jungle, meet local wildlife, and immerse in Mayan culture and lore at an evening dinner show.
And while it does lure tourists, the heart of expat shopping and dining in Playa del Carmen is Quinta Avenida, a miles-long pedestrian magnet that’s fantastic for strolling.
RELATED: The Best Beaches in Mexico
Where to Eat and Drink
Start the day off sweet and hot: With several locations in town, Ah Cacao Chocolate Café also sells a variety of Mexican chocolate products.
Less a cave than a freeform casa surrounded by jungle, La Cueva del Chango doesn’t monkey around when it comes to local food: Come here to discover how familiar tacos, mole chicken, and flan are supposed to taste. The sleek and service-oriented Oh Lala provides a break from Mexican cuisine (as tasty as it is) with colorfully presented salads and curries, and mains like filet mignon, New Zealand lamb, and tuna steaks.
Where to Stay
The magnificently modern Rosewood Mayakoba resort has luxury guest rooms crafted from indigenous materials and capped with rooftop sun decks; the 1,600-acre property includes a Greg Norman golf course, El Camaleón, protected beaches and rainforest, and a spa where you can experience the traditional Temazcal steam bath. The in-town location of the Royal Playa del Carmen puts this AAA Four Diamond resort within easy reach of Fifth Avenue’s shopping and dining as well as Playa’s famous beach.