Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo

Population: 130,000

Time Zone: Central Standard Time

Airport: Cancun International Airport (CUN)

Elevation: Sea Level

Located just 40 miles from the bustle that is Cancun, Playa del Carmen has experienced a rapid growth in the past decade, transforming from a small fishing village to a surprisingly sophisticated town favored by a large European clientele, many who have taken up residence and opened businesses. A three-story limit on many new buildings has been enacted by the local government, helping to maintain the quaint ambience that helped attract what has become a large tourism attraction. As the geographic center of Maya Riviera, Playa (as it is called) is a good place to explore the nearby Maya archaeological sites and to enjoy the excellent diving and fishing in the turquoise sea and the fresh water cenotes found throughout the Yucatan peninsula.

The laid-back atmosphere of the town is a diverse mixture of mega-resorts in the south end and youthful backpackers who find plentiful, cheap accommodations in the north end of town. The main street is great for strolling, shopping, eating and drinking in a very relaxed setting, although the continued pace of growth may change that in the future.