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Playa del Carmen Travel Guide

Cheap Flights to Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen, or just Playa for short, is everything visitors arriving on cheap flights to Cancun, its brasher, bigger, louder neighbour to the north, will not experience.

That is to say that it has not forgotten its roots as a small fishing town and leaves much of the bright lights, big city attitude to better known destinations.

However, that is not to say that there exists a shortage of things to do here. This understated resort offers everything its more popular destinations do, only on a smaller, more laid-back scale. Indeed its position at the heart of the Riviera Maya, which stretches from Cancun in the north to Tulum (and the Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve) in the south, rightfully suggests a key role in the area's attractiveness to anyone seeking to get away from it all.

The first thing that travellers arriving in Playa Del Carmen will notice is its sub-tropical climate which ensures that it is almost always warm with temperatures rarely moving away from about 27 degrees, regardless of the time of year.

Located on the Caribbean coast in the north east of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, Playa Del Carmen is a stopping point for cruise ships plying the area so it naturally also caters to the whims of visitors who may not have the luxury of time to explore the town. Its relative compactness also helps in this regard.

Most of the town's activity is centred around the Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue) which stretches between Calle 1 Norte until Calle 34. Unlike its better-known namesake, Playa's version is a pedestrian walkway and runs much of the length of the town, parallel to the beach. It offers anything and everything to its strolling customer base, from restaurants and bars to shops and hotels. Of course it is worth mentioning that there is a premium to be paid for the centrality of the street and so it follows that things get cheaper the further one gets from the avenue.

All this talk of small and intimate should not give anyone the idea that it is a sleepy place with little to do after dark. Nothing could be further from the truth though, again, the nightlife in Playa is lower key. However, live music fans can choose from a variety of beach bars and cafes around the town that host a variety of acts ranging from folk to reggae and mariachi.

Travellers often arrive on flights to Mexico keen to experience the varied cuisine. In Playa del Carmen, as is the case in most resorts in Mexico, restaurants serving a variety of international cuisines including Italian, Thai and French cater for most tastes.

However, local Mayan cuisine is also on offer. The local diet is rich in cereals, herbs and meat (chicken, pork and rabbit) and utilises fillings such as beans, sweetcorn and Serrano and Havana chilli peppers, making for often spicy combinations. Rice also holds a prominent place in local eateries and can be both an accompaniment to a meal or even a dessert. Because of its seaside setting, local restaurants will also include a variety of seafood dishes, notable among these are Tikinxic, a barbecued fish dish, and Pan de Cazón or tortillas with fish and black beans.

It does not take new arrivals long to settle into the relaxed pace of life here but anyone wishing to leave the comfortable surroundings for a change of scenery, can consider one of several day trips.

Tourism to Playa del Carmen began with the passenger ferry service to an island across the Cozumel Channel and world-famous scuba diving destination of the same name. These days many head directly on cheap flights to Cozumel, while visitors to Playa Del Carmen have the luxury of choosing from a number of additional outings that are also possible.

An excursion to nearby Mayan ruins can offer the amateur archeologist something to ponder while a more laid-back destination is the island of Isla Mujeres. The ruins at Tulum, Coba or Chichen Itza are all accessible via a local bus and offer a fascinating window on the area's ancient Mayan civilisation.

Meanwhile, at 7km long and just 650 metres wide, the Isla Mujeres is perfect for a day trip. In ancient times, the island was devoted to the worship of Ix Chel, the Mayan moon goddess, and was given its modern name that translates to Island of Women by the Spanish because of the many images of the goddess on display.

In addition to diving and snorkelling, the island offers visitors a choice of restaurants featuring local cuisine. It is also home to a sea turtle sanctuary that is open to the public.

No matter what moves you to set off, before you book your flights to Mexico remember to check out the travel guide to Mexico to help you find the perfect destination for you.