Playa del Carmen
The de facto capital of the Mayan Riviera was once a sleepy fishing village. It's now home to high-end resorts, barefoot restaurants, and an awesome shopping area along the bustling town’s Fifth Avenue. Tenders pull up to the center of it all for easy access to beaches, excursion offices, and some of the region’s favorite eateries.
What We Love
Coba: Unlike their wildly popular counterparts, these Mayan ruins set deep in the Yucatán jungle can be blissfully crowd-free. Rent bikes or hire a pedicab to explore the expansive site, hike the peninsula's tallest pyramid, and check out two ancient ball courts and a sophisticated road system.
Bahia Soliman: Ditch the beaten-path beaches for this crescent of golden, semiprivate sand up the road from the town of Tulum. Set up camp at the shoes-optional restaurant on the beach and spend the afternoon swimming, strolling, and kayaking in the pristine bay. Or take a siesta in one of the hammocks.
Best Known For
Tulum: It’s both a see-and-be-seen beach spot among the young jet set and the site of some of the world’s most impressive ancient ruins. Where else on the planet can you experience a pre-Colombian city above a glittering cove? Bring your swimsuit for some great body surfing. Later, enjoy an ice-cold cerveza at one of the many toes-in-the-sand watering holes in town.
Food, Glorious Food: While regional dishes are celebrated throughout the Riviera Maya, the latest addition to upscale Mayakoba is El Pueblito, a breezy patio that houses a selection of restaurants from the trio of luxe resorts in the complex and promises delectable tastes for all palates.
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Who It's Best For
Samplers: There’s truly no way to feel bored. From various ruins sites to popular shopping and dining areas, to enormous eco-friendly parks and underground cave excursions — not to mention all the fun in the sun you expect from a resort destination — there’s truly something for everyone.
Party People: With a Señor Frog’s, Margaritaville, Coco Bongo, and Wah Wah Beach Bar interspersed among smaller watering holes, you can find a tequila shot and a cheap margarita without having to wander too far.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It's a People-Palooza: The town can be overcrowded not only with cruisers, but also with guests from the endless stretch of resorts nearby.
Bars Are Boozy: It’s not uncommon to see folks stocking up on “One Tequila ... Floor” T-shirts. Spring breakers, bachelor parties, and other rowdy party types spill (and fall) into the streets near the dock.
Jenna Mahoney is a Brooklyn-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Allure.