Now that I've been to Playa del Carmen eight times I don't feel the need to schedule quite as many daytrips, often we find ourselves just lounging on the beach with a good book or a pile of magazines. If you stay in Playacar, your resort will have lounge chairs, small sailboats, kayaks, jetskis (extra charge) and volleyball nets along the beach with plenty of palm trees to shade you. If you are not staying at a resort in Playacar, the beach is public as long as you don't use the amentities at the resorts. Every year it seems like the beach is wider and you can walk further, past the last resort on the south end you can still walk 30-40 minutes, almost to Xcaret, with no resorts or beach chairs or volleyball nets if you want to get up and stretch your legs or work off a bit of the buffet meals you've been eating. Along the way you might spot iguanas sunning themselves on the rocks along the beach if you approach quietly, pelicans perched on the rocks searching for their next victim or little crabs in the sand.
Going north from Playacar you can walk into Playa del Carmen, go over or under the ferry docks, along the resort beaches, over the 2nd ferry dock and there's still plenty of beach past there. We did a 2 hour walk south the 2nd morning and a 2 hour walk north the 3rd morning and could have kept going both directions.
The large sandbags that we saw near the Riu in 2009 (photo 5) have been removed, they are sometimes placed there to stem the erosion of the beach but currently the beach is gorgeous and not in need of the sandbag "whales". When you wade out, there is a sandbar in the water, not sure if this was put there or if it's natural but it might perform the same function as the whales.
Two major leisure activities in Playa del Carmen are walking Avenida 5 and walking the beach (or just hanging out at the beach). This is a great beach, with expansive stretches of smooth, white sand. Different areas of the beach have somewhat different atmospheres. Close to the ferry pier it is a little less fun - noisier and seemingly a little dirtier. But going north from there you can keep walking and never end. You'll pass several beach bars and clubs, which you can ignore or stop by for a pricy drink. Then there is a designated swimming area, and further north, closer to the next pier, there are many fishing boats. These you can hire to try sport fishing. Continuing north you come to two relatively big hotels (still, nothing like the Cancun high rises) on either side of the pier. North of here the beach is great, with a few beach clubs where you can pay a little and hang out on a chair under an umbrella and relax and get served drinks. If you feel like walking further, you can just keep on going....
If you are only here for a day, I'd suggest you walk up Avenida 5 until you get tired of it, and then down the beach (or reverse). Then you will see both sides of tourist Playa - the beach and the tourist street.
If you want to relax and enjoy a restful stay on your trip to Playa...then rent a beach chair o the beach (we chose the Blue Parrot), get a shade umbrella and enjoy your whole day...lounging. You can order cervezas, nachos and whatever else you want. Read a book, sleep, and feel pampered. For about $20, we could spend a whole day, eating, drinking and napping on our chairs...and at the end of the day, feeling relaxed and happy. Of course, if you want, you don't have to spend any money, but for $20 bucks...on vacation, why not!
Playa Maroma is a long and large beach, with very soft white sand and an incredible emerald green and warm sea. There are very few resorts in the area (comparing for instance with Playa Bavaro in the DR). The beach is perfect for a long walk (early in the morning is the best time to do it), or just to lie in the sun and dive in the warm sea. Off the coast there is a large reef perfect for snorkeling. To get there you must go by Boat. You can catch one in different locations in the beach.
If nights are spent on 5th Avenue, then the beach is where to spend your days. The beach in Playa Del Carmen is the place to relax and soak in every precious minute of sunlight you possibly can. This beach is busy but never overcrowded and you can always find a place to lay down your towel, an empty deck chair, or a swing seat at a bar. Walk from one end of the beach to as far as you can go in the other direction, stopping to take several swims along the way. The sand is fine and white; the water is beautiful neon blue. This is a place to see and be seen, to hold hands with your girlfriend, to wink at others if you're single, to have philosophical conversations with foreigners over drinks, to look at fishing boats and hear the tinkling noises their masts make, to compare scuba notes with other divers, to watch grown women play and roll in the surf as though they're little girls again. If 5th Avenue is the "heart" of Playa, then this is its "soul". Or could it be the other way around? However, they play a perfect yin and yang to each other. Guys, pay careful attention to this next statement: This is some of the best bikini-watching in the entire world.
The primary activity in Playa is the beach. We spent hours laying about, swimming , and snorkeling. Closer to town people wer playing volleyball, windsurfing, and playing beach soccer.
The water was clear and refreshing, but not biting cold like in California! I was stung by some unknown little creature and navigating out past the coral reefs proved a bit tricky in flip flops but we could not get enough water time.
Playa means beach dummy. So go hit it. All of the spectacular white sand beaches in Playa del Carmen are public so feel free to explore. Playa is not over-developed like Cancun so there are still places to get away from it a little bit. There are plenty of places still to find an umbrella propped along the breathtaking Mayan Riviera beaches and sip on a margarita.
Playa has some of the best beaches in the world. The sand is soft, the water is clear, and the sun is hot. Look for some of the more secluded beaches a little south of town. Buy a cooler (10 pesos), some cervesa (6 pack-100pesos), and you are good to go. Beaches are very safe, take regular precautions.
It might be too hard to wake up early... Just party until six in the morning and go to the beach right after that.
Watch the people doing yoga or other sort of sports.
Quiet! Not too many people... You just get to listen to the waves and the sea.
Don't miss one of this! Just walk all the way along the beach.
Playa del Carmen has beautiful colored ocean water. Although it is not as clear as the Carribbean islands, it is still clean, warm, and colorful. If you want to snorkel you will have to go elsewhere to one of the parks, inlets, or lagoons, as this does not have much plant life or colorful fish. However, the beach sand is soft and they keep it very clean.
If you are traveling to Playa del Carmen you are probably going there for the beach. And this is a great picture of their beach. One end has the local's fishing boats, while the other is for swimming. It is fun to watch the locals coming in from the ocean with their daily catch. The water is warm, relatively clear, although not for snorkeling. There were not a lot of fish or underwater life, so you'll have to snorkel further down towards Tulum. But it is a great beach for laying out. It is a topless beach because of the numerous Europeans, so don't be surprised to see entire families where the ladies have on no tops.
If you follow the beach north of the city, you will find a long stretch where you can be almost alone. There are tourorganizers very close where you can go snorkelling, scubadiving or rent jetskis.
The coco reef is quite close to land at this beach. You can see the waves breaking out in the water. On a calm day you can swim out and explore the reef with your snorkel. But remember that you have to go swimming the whole way back again, and take care with the boats and jetskis out there.
The beach here is really great. Fine, white sand and warm, turquise water. Close to the ferrydock it can be a bit crowded, but a walk a bit north and you can find places where you can be almost alone on the beach. One of the best are Coco beach, just north of the Reef Coco Beach hotel are some of the best places. Here is also the best place to go snorkelling as the reef is quite close to land.
The town beach goes all the way to Avenida Constituyentes. The hotels that line it have beach bars and rent out sunbeds. Even at the busiest time of the day it didn't feel too crowded.
Playa Norte is situated north of Avenida Constituyentes. As my hotel was here, I got to stroll along it early in the morning when it was almost deserted.