Playa del Carmen is a popular vacation destination for those looking for a more laid-back experience than what you’ll find in Cancun.
While only a little over an hour from its even more popular counterpart, the atmosphere has always been quite a bit different, with a more authentic and laid-back vibe. But as Playa del Carmen becomes more popular, is it still a quieter alternative?
We’ll attempt to answer that question so that you can decide if Cancun or Playa del Carmen is the better option for your Mexican Caribbean vacation.
Playa Del Carmen As A Vacation Destination
Playa del Carmen has many of the same things that Cancun has but on a smaller scale than the most popular vacation destination in the Mexican Caribbean.
It has beautiful white sand beaches, luxury all-inclusive resorts, plenty of restaurants, great shopping, and even a vibrant nightlife.
And many of the same attractions that Cancun visitors seek out are close enough to Playa del Carmen to enjoy too.
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Attractions Near Playa Del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is a great jumping-off point to see many of the most popular attractions in the Mexican Caribbean.
There are numerous cenotes within a short drive from Playa del Carmen and a number of fascinating Mayan ruins and archeological sites.
The Tulum ruins are only about an hour away from the town, and the most well-known ruins in the Riviera Maya, the Chichén Itzá ruins, are only approximately 2.5 hours away.
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The Popularity Of Playa Del Carmen
Millions of tourists visit Playa del Carmen every year, with the most recent numbers going well over 15 million.
And although it is quite a bit less than Cancun’s 30 million that it received last year, 15 million is nothing to shake a stick at.
This year, tourism is expected to grow even more, with predictions that Playa del Carmen will welcome visitors in record-breaking numbers for 2023.
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Playa Del Carmen’s History
Playa del Carmen started off as a small fishing village but started becoming popular as a vacation destination in the 90s.
The increase in popularity was the result, in part, of a ferry service to the island of Cozumel beginning operations, making it easy to get to the island from Playa del Carmen.
The close proximity to the region’s main airport hub, Cancun International Airport, which is less than an hour away, has also contributed to the popularity of Playa del Carmen.
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Where The Tourists Go In Playa Del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is made up of two distinct areas that are frequented by tourists, which include the downtown area and the beach area.
The downtown area consists of El Centro, which is the center of the town, and 5th Avenue, or Quinta Avenida, which is where all of the nightlife, shopping, and restaurants are.
The beaches in Playa del Carmen are expansive and some are more secluded than what you’ll find in Cancun.
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Tourists In Playa Del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is not the sleepy fishing village it once was by any means, and although it only gets about half of the visitors that Cancun does, its smaller size makes it feel just as busy and crowded.
At any time of day, you can see tourists on the most popular beaches in the town, and 5th Avenue is flooded with visitors drinking, dining, shopping, and having a good time.
Furthermore, during the busiest seasons, hotels are often at nearly 100 percent capacity.
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So Is Playa Del Carmen Quieter?
Despite the fact that there are fewer tourists in Playa del Carmen versus Cancun, it can hardly be considered a quieter destination.
Millions of tourists visit the small town every year, and it’s still growing as a vacation destination.
Still, it has more of a small-town feel compared to its counterpart and certainly has plenty to offer if a small-town vibe is what you’re looking for, just don’t expect it to be the quiet sleepy town that it once was.
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