Playa del Carmen has one of the most gorgeous beaches on the coast and enjoys a small-town atmosphere. The offshore reef offers spectacular diving, and less than an hour away by boat is the island of Cozumel with some of the best diving in Mexico. There are numerous dive centres offering reef and cave diving in the limestone caverns along the coast.
The small commercial town centre is packed with souvenir shops, trendy bars and cafes, along with restaurants, hotels and designer boutiques on 5th Avenue. Souvenirs range from bright and beautiful sarongs to lovely Mexican blankets and sombreros, as well as genuine Cuban cigars. The resort's main shopping malls are Plaza Pelicano on 10th Avenue and the Paseo del Carmen close to the ferry pier.
Its vibrant nightlife caters to the smaller beach settlements nearby so vacationers can enjoy the best of both worlds. Revellers can dance cheek-to-cheek under the stars, learn how to salsa, sip margaritas on a rooftop or soak up live jazz. Numerous open-air bars are in operation until the early hours, while some offer live music, DJs and dancing.
It can get very overcrowded with day-trippers from Cancun, as well as cruise ship passengers. South of town, the expanding Playacar development caters mainly for package tourists, its beach packed with sunbathers and deckchairs, and lined with hotel complexes. There is also an 18-hole golf course.