One of the biggest draws in Mexico is without a doubt the iconic Chichen Itza, the remains of a big Maya city. Impressive enough as it is, only twice a year you can witness a truly awe-inspiring event.
Even though you are probably visiting Playa del Carmen as a tourist, you might want to avoid an all too touristy experience. Our guests at Playa Palms Beach Hotel come here to relax, enjoy the beauty of the Caribbean, and get to know the Mexican culture. If that is your idea of a perfect vacation, make sure to keep it that way by staying away from these tourist traps.
Playa del Carmen’s most famous street itself is probably the biggest tourist trap. But, let’s be honest, would you expect otherwise? Some restaurants and bars have very high prizes that are unreasonable taking their food quality in account. But of course, there are also many very recommendable places. Our concierge at Playa Palms Beach Hotel knows the best places to have dinner or a drink.
Walking along the 5th Avenue, you will pass by many souvenir shops that advertise with “special prize” or “Sale” signs, or telling that they are closing soon, making you believe that they have an extra good deal for you. Only that it’s not true, they always have the same prizes. Better look at different stores and buy your souvenirs where you find the best price after comparing.
As in probably every city around the globe, the taxi drivers here usually try to rip you off. To avoid paying three times the actual prize, ask the staff at the front desk of your hotel how much a taxi should charge you for what distance or ask them to order a taxi for you.
Guests at Playa Palms Beach Hotel can explore the city center easily by foot, since restaurants, nightlife and entertainment are within short walking distance. For more information about getting around in Playa del Carmen, read here.
Playa del Carmen is surrounded by plenty of interesting places to visit, like Chichen Itza, Tulum or Xcaret. But not all excursions are created equal and if you asked different tour vendors, you’d find out that prizes vary widely. Talk to the concierge desk at your hotel to find out which tour guides and companies offer the best value for your money. The concierge desk at Playa Palms Beach Hotel knows the highest-quality tours in the area and can make the necessary accommodations for you.
Currency and exchange
You can pay pretty much everywhere in Playa del Carmen with US dollars. Just be sure to know the actual exchange rate. While for tours, parks or accommodations the prices in pesos or dollar usually are the same, at restaurants or bars they often use an exchange rate that doesn’t benefit you at all and you end up paying more using US dollars.
We recommend to always have Mexican pesos on you too. The best way to get pesos is by using an ATM. Make sure it’s an official bank ATM, not the blue ones on the 5th Avenue, since the exchange commission rate there is about 30%. For more tips about currency exchange, read here.
When you make your reservations at Playa Palms Beach Hotel, our staff will ensure you have the exclusive Riviera Maya vacation you were dreaming of.
Swimming with whale sharks is the ultimate bucket list adventure! The Riviera Maya is one of only a few destinations where you can swim with the gentle giants.
One of the most unique experiences is to dive with whale sharks. Growing up to 13 meters (40 ft) long, they are the largest known fish in the ocean. Their size might be intimidating, but they are harmless. Whale sharks actually don’t even have teeth, so, no there is danger of them ripping you apart.
One of the largest gatherings of whale sharks in the world is found between Isla Mujeres and Isla Contoy. When we say large, we mean literally up to hundreds of them. They make a pit stop here to feed, because during the summer months, tunas are abundant in those waters. A snack that no self-respecting whale shark could pass up.
Whale sharks can be seen in the Riviera Maya between June and September, peak season is July and August, which means right now! The best way to organize your personal meet up with a whale shark is by taking a tour with a professional guide. Our team at Playa Palms Beach Hotel is happy to help you book your whale shark encounter for a fair price.
You know that we not only care about the well-being of you, our guests, but also about the environment and the creatures sharing this planet with us. Tourism does have an impact on animals and nature, but you can make a difference by following these few simple rules. They not only protect the whale sharks, but keep you safe too!
- For your own safety, only go with a professional guide.
- Observe, don’t touch! It will stress them and also it makes them dive instantly, what spoils the fun for everyone else.
- Don’t use a flash light and avoid taking flash photography.
- Keep noise to a minimum: Enter the water by sliding slowly from the boat (don’t jump) and keep your fins under the water surface while you are kicking to reduce splashing.
- Keep your distance: Stay at least 5 meters (16 ft) away from the head and 4 meters (13 ft) from the tail. If the whale shark swims directly toward you, remain calm and split into two groups so that the shark can swim between you.
- Snorkel calmly and slowly: Do not chase whale sharks and don’t block their path. Approach the shark from the side and swim alongside near its pectoral fin. If the shark rolls over and presents its back, back away. Let the shark control the encounter!
- Please use only biodegradable sunscreen and don’t litter.
If you’re lucky enough to already have gone snorkeling with whale sharks, let us know below what it was like!
Isla Contoy is a must for nature lovers: an absolutely breathtaking island of pristine beauty with an abundant wildlife. Daily, only a few visitors are allowed access. Don’t miss your chance to be one of them!
Its pristine landscape, secluded sandy beaches and crystal clear waters make you feel like you are a part of nature yourself. The side facing the open sea is formed by dramatic rocks, while the opposite side has heavenly white beaches. To minimize the impact of tourism on the islands natural resources, access is restricted to only 200 visitors per day. But with an actual daily average of less than 100 visitors, it makes the tour a very exclusive experience.
The island is a true gem, located 30 km north of Isla Mujeres, measuring about 8,5 km in length and only 500 m in width. It is protected by the Mexican Government since 1961, and 1998 it was declared a National Park.
Over 150 bird species inhabit Isla Contoy and it’s an important nesting place for turtles. The reef is home to many animals, which are easy to observe in the clear and shallow waters. The manta rays living there are curious and approach arriving boats and even swimmers without fear. Apart from its rich flora and fauna, only a handful of biologists live temporarily on Isla Contoy, to monitor and study the island’s ecosystem and guide the visitors.
The easiest way to visit Isla Contoy is to book a tour. Only a few companies are permitted to bring tours to the island, and they only sail out 2 or 3 times per week, usually every Wednesday and Sunday from Isla Mujeres or Cancun. It takes about one to two hours to get there, and it can be a rough boat ride, so make sure to bring some medicine for travel sickness if you have a sensitive stomach. If you rented a boat and want to get there on your own, you need to apply for permission in the park offices in Cancun or Isla Mujeres.
On the island is a visitor’s center with a pier, a museum and a souvenir store, a resting area where you will be served freshly caught fish, a watch tower that offers stunning views over the island and two walking paths to discover the area. You will see lots of animals and lie at the most beautiful beaches you’ve probably been to.
Make sure you bring (biodegradable) sunscreen and repellent when you visit the island, binoculars if you wish to observe its wildlife and your camera of course!
For more information or to book a tour, ask our Concierge Carlos or our staff at the front desk.
Rain? In the Caribbean paradise of Playa del Carmen? Yes, it happens. But that shouldn’t keep you from enjoying your vacation, as there are plenty of activities to do when the weather strikes. Check out our suggestions below!
Head underground and visit one of the many cenotes. Even though outside it’s pouring, you won’t feel a bit of it while exploring underground rivers.
In Rio Secreto for example you can hike and swim through canals while admiring stalactites and stalagmites. The nature reserve forms the longest partially flooded cave system in the Yucatan peninsula. Expect a lot of awe and adventure!
Also very close to Playa del Carmen is the cenote Chaak Tun. Chaak being the Mayan god of rain – maybe while you are at it, ask him to calm the pouring down a bit? The cenote is only a short cab ride from downtown Playa del Carmen and definitely worth a visit.
If you don’t mind getting wet a little and are looking for fun and adventure, Xplor might be your choice. Fly on zip-lines over the trees and enjoy the view over the Mexican Caribbean! Or drive an amphibious vehicle through the jungle and caverns, and discover the underground rivers on a raft. For a very special experience, visit the park after sunset.
Definitely worth a visit, regardless of the weather, is Xcaret. The natural park is focused on Mexican culture and has a lot to do and see. Like a beautiful Mayan cemetery, an indoor-aquarium, or a hacienda. Make sure you don’t miss the epic show at night!
Just as epic is the Cirque Du Soleil’s Joya Show. Music, dancing, animals, planets, flavors and the Mexican culture are part of the show. It can be booked with or without dinner, and why not start the evening with drink at the cenote?
Shopping malls are a good choice too. You cannot only explore the stores there, but also go to the movies. About a ten minutes cab ride from downtown is Plaza las Américas, or visit the significantly bigger Plaza las Américas in Cancun. Both malls have a cinema, you can check online what movies they are showing and if they are shown in English.
For further information or to book a tour or transportation to one of the places mentioned, just ask Carlos, our concierge.
Most importantly, don’t let the rain get you down and make the best of it. Good news is, it probably won’t last for long.