…the exclusive and upscale resort area…
When I first arrived in Playa Del Carmen, I had a Mexican buddy who kept saying something about Playacar.
Poor guy, I thought, he’s mixing his English and Spanish and thinking you can drive a car on the beach.
My Spanish always improves when I’m drunk so I gave him five shots of tequila.
He kept saying Playa-car.
But a few days later I discovered that I was wrong.
It’s a real place!
I’m going to give you a run down of the area and also a map to help guide you along!
What Is Playacar?
Rather than string the high-end resorts all over Playa Del Carmen, the local government designated a purpose-built hotel zone called Playacar.
It’s a four-mile stretch of beach that is exclusively designated as a tourist zone.
Unsurprisingly it’s smack dab on the beach and combines the three things most high-end tourists are looking for; sunbathing, turquoise ocean, and luxurious facilities.
Playacar prides itself on being exclusive and containing everything a tourist might need.
So they have their own shops, bars, restaurants, activities etc.
Some people come to Mexico and only see Playacar and the Cancun airport.
Playacar Map….Where Is This Exclusive Place?
Playacar is at the south edge of town and you can walk there from 5th Avenue (actually the main entrance is on 10th Avenue) in about 10-15 minutes.
It starts at the southern side of the ferry dock where you take the boat to Cozumel.
There are two sections.
Phase 1 is a gated community with very exclusive villas and condominiums.
You can’t take your own car in without permission. However, you can walk, bike, or take a taxi inside.
I’m pretty certain that there are a load of famous people living there.
My Mexican buddy reckons Brad Pitt has a villa there.
But then again, isn’t Brad Pitt supposed to have a villa everywhere?
Continue following the beach south and you’ll reach Playacar – Phase 2.
It’s built around a golf course and is where all the expensive hotels and all-inclusive resorts are located.
Below is a picture of a woman I met named Elizabeth Sanchez as I was riding my bike around taking photos of the area.
She sells tickets to Xaman-Ha and also runs a small tour company. If you see her, tell her that Rufus says, “Hello.”
The Playacar Beach
Of course the developers had picked the most impressive beach to build on.
There’s no doubt that the beach in this area is beautiful.
Ah, white sand and palm trees.
It’s the combination that all the big travel agents love because they know it sells vacations.
However, the Playacar beach has been suffering from erosion–and green sea monsters.
Acually, this is not a picture of the beach. Just a green water fountain found in Playacar.
There are leprechauns everywhere here!
The wind sweeps against the coast and takes loads of sand with it.
And Hurricane Wilma in 2005 didn’t really help matters.
The problem is that the Playacar beach lies south of Cozumel Island so it isn’t protected from the Caribbean wind.
The hotels do their best to prevent it, and some hotels have been able to restore great beaches.
But others like the Allegro Playacar don’t really have a beach anymore.
Ironically, it’s quite cool when they have no beach.
You can be sunbathing right next to the ocean but don’t have to deal with sand everywhere.
What Are The Hotels And Resorts Like In Playacar?
The hotels and resorts in Playacar are mainly for families and older couples.
It’s not the best place to go if you’re a single dude.
Most of the women I see on the beach in Playacar look like they’ve spent their whole lives on a sunbed – or sunbathing on the bow of a yacht.
I have my own place in Playa Del Carmen, so I haven’t stayed in any of the resorts here (as of this writing).
But I have been checking them and admiring their facilities.
If you want high-end luxury, then this is the place you should come.
They tell me the resorts in this area are very affordable as well.
A couple of times I had drinks in somebody’s room, and I was insanely jealous.
They had a bed that was bigger than my bedroom and a balcony that overlooked the ocean.
What Hotels And Resorts Are On The Playacar Map?
If I’m honest, most of the hotels look very similar to me.
It’s like looking at photos in a travel brochure.
How do you pick the best one out?
I would draw you a Playacar map but I’m terrible at drawing.
So just imagine a map with some white (the sand), some blue (the sea), and some boxes (the hotels).
These are the hotels and resorts in Playacar going from north to south (if I missed any, please tell me):
- Riu Palace Riviera Mayan
- Viva Wyndham Azteca
- Occidental Allegro Playacar
- Royal Hideaway
- Riu Playacar
- Viva Wyndham Mayan
- Riu Palace Mexico
- Riu Yucatan
- Iberostar Tucan
- Sandos Playacar
There are also two all-inclusive resorts that aren’t actually on the beach.
These are the Riu Lipitia and Riu Tequila.
I tried to pretend to be a guest at the Riu Tequilla and get myself some free shots of the good stuff.
Two big security guys threw me out.
Boo hoo hoo. They had no pity on your poor narrator.
Can Everyone Go To The Playacar Beach?
In Mexico all the beaches are supposed to be public and open to everyone.
But that’s not really the case at Playacar.
You can walk along the beach without any problems.
For passers-by, the Playacar beach is open to everyone.
But if you’re not a guest, then don’t sit on the sun loungers or sunbathe beneath the umbrellas–chairs and sun loungers mean private property, and you’ll be asked to leave.
Even putting down your towel in this area will probably provoke someone from the hotel moving you on.
The restaurants and bars are also for guests only.
If you are with people staying at the hotel, I’ve found that it’s usually okay.
But don’t go in on your own–you’ll get the boot like I did.
What Are The Strange Things On The Playacar Beach?
When you walk down the Playacar beach, you’ll see these strange objects that look like beached whales.
And before you ask, no, they’re not English girls lounging in the sun.
They’re called geotubes.
Which is just a posh name for sandbags.
I’ve always associated sandbags with the army (which is probably why the hotels wanted to use a different name).
The geotubes stretch out in the ocean and are supposed to be restoring the beach.
Some are obviously working, while others have been there for years and have seemingly achieved nothing.
They are a little ugly, but aren’t all beached whales…
However, they also make some neat little seats in the ocean if that’s your thing.
Playacar Golf Course
The Playacar hotels and resorts were built around an 18-hole golf course.
Playing golf is seemingly what tourists coming to Playa Del Carmen want to do.
I could make some jokes about spending more time in the sand than David Hasslehoff, but golf is not really for me.
I think it ruins a good walk.
However, if it takes the guys away – and improves the male to female ratio on the beach – I’m not going to complain.
Playacar Real Estate
One thing I have noticed about the villas in Playacar is that they always seem to be for sale.
So if you’ve got $1million+ to spend, then get yourself a luxury villa in Playacar.
If you don’t have that much, then send me a message and I can put you up on my sofa – it can actually transform into a bed, so you’ll be extra comfortable.
Playacar real estate requires some serious cash.
But if you have it, then you’ve got yourself a villa or condo in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Anything Else About Playacar
Some people will love Playacar.
Other people will hate it.
It’s essentially a high-end resort area, and these places always seem to divide opinions.
I’m in the middle.
It’s beautiful and it’s nice to check out the hotels, even if you can’t afford them.
And if you want to really treat someone, then it’s worth the $$$.
But the people around Playacar aren’t usually those I hang out with.
So I don’t mind just walking through and not lingering.
I’ll see you on one of the beaches in or near Playacar soon…
Lots of love,
It’s your turn. What do you think of Playacar? Please tell us in the comments section below!
Rufus..I’m Kimberly from Thunder Bay Canada..I loved your little pitch..good job..see you in February 2019..
Thanks you so much!!! I’m glad you like the page.
Hope to bump in to you while you’re here.
Lots of love,
We have been going to Playacar for many years. We have stayed at the Iberostar, Riu Palace Mexico, Sandos, and our absolute favorite is the Riu Palace Riviera Maya. We have no complaints about any of the hotels, we simply appreciate the “old Mexico” look of the the Riu Palace Riviera Maya. Riu renovated the Riu Palace Mexico a few years ago, and converted it from the beautiful “old Mexico” look to a much more modern look, which does not appeal to us at all. The food, the service, the beach are fantastic at all of the resorts in our experience. However, at the Riu Palace Riviera Maya you do not need to make reservations at any of the gourmet restaurants anymore, which is a bonus.
Our only issue with the area is the Sargasso seaweed problems they have been having for the last few years. In the last 5 years or so, we ran into ungodly amounts of seaweed on two of our trips. The workers were using manpower and machinery to remove and/or bury it, but there was nothing they could do about the mats of seaweed in the ocean, which turned the water an ugly brown rather than crystal clear blue. We normally spend hours in the water, “bobbing down the beach” past Sandos, where the beach becomes uninhabited. We missed being able to do that due to the seaweed.
In any case, we LOVE Playacar, and plan to go back this June, assuming that the seaweed will not be there. You can get a forecast for the seaweed at SEAS.com, which is what we will be looking at before we book.
Thank you for all the information about Playacar. Yes, the RIU Palace is absolutely beautiful, as are all of the RIU properties. I’ve never stayed in them, but I have visited them when I did some interviews about hosting a wedding there.
I agree with you about some of the renovations. In an attempt to make resortS more swanky and upscale, sometimes the designers go overboard. At some point, they begins to look completely ridiculous, almost like a dead-broke wannabe rapper wearing a thick gold chain (that’s clearly only gold plated).
In regard to the seaweed, you are absolutely correct. It has been a factor here for a few seasons now. Unfortunately, it is a natural occurrence. Frankly, there is nothing that you or I can do about it.
In fact, what makes matters worse, is the fact that the seaweed is actually good for the beach. Despite this, the tourism industry cannot stand the seaweed because the tourists don’t like it.
The question is: do you want to pay now, or do you want to pay later? Because, if they remove the seaweed, the beach recedes. Sure, they can get tourists for the moment, but in the future when there is no beach, there will be no tourists. On the other hand, if they leave the seaweed there, there will be less tourism now, but the beach will be around in 20 or 30 years for people to still enjoy.
In my opinion, they should leave the seaweed on the beach, or at least mixing in with the sand somehow. Although it may hurt tourism in the short-term, if it provides longevity to the beaches, it’s good for everybody.
Thank you so much for all the information about your experiences in Playacar.
I wrote this page for people who have never visited the area and are not sure what Playacar is. However, it is always great to hear from people who have spent time there and can add to the conversation.
Hope to see you here soon…