Nomads of Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen

We won’t claim Playa del Carmen is an undiscovered gem known only to a few. It’s not. The once pristine backpacker hideout has exploded into a sprawling city which in some ways rivals Cancun in terms of tourist overload. Expat housing developments, malls, posh restaurants and designer shops have replaced the solitary dune-backed beaches of yore. There’s even a huge Walmart!!!

So why does the town pop up over and over again on so many travel blogs from Wandering Earl to Never Ending Voyage to Travel with Bender? The answer to that question is that the town provides a modern infrastructure with monthly apartment rentals, excellent Internet, and fantastic transportation options. It also has some pretty impressive beaches, especially to the north. It’s the perfect base from which to explore the Mayan Riviera. Playa, like Berlin and Chiang Mai, seems to have become a nomadic hub. Not a shabby place to get some work done.

In fact, when we came to Playa del Carmen, fellow nomads and friends Kit and Nick from Seek New Travel established themselves here as well (lead pic). And there are several newbie bloggers getting their start here. But not everybody loves it. 91 Days chose to base themselves in more authentic Merida instead, but they did spend some time here on their way to Cozumel.

Playa del Carmen beaches

Playa del Carmen is definitely not perfect. Like all large beach towns, it struggles to keep beach erosion and algae growth in check. If you’re here for a week in an expensive beach resort, pray there isn’t a seaweed die-off. But if you set off north or south, the coast is still quite beautiful and you can find a nice stretch of white sand to call your own.

And all that development means that you can find whatever you need. I think the food options are much better here than in Cancun, and there are tons of cafes, coffee houses and bars to hang out in and make some friends. You also have an unlimited supply of tourist crap shops, which can be fun to walk through to giggle at the garbage that people buy as souvenirs (sometimes humanity scares me).

Playa del Carmen

More importantly for us, Playa has the dive facilities to dive the world famous cenotes located nearby as well as local reefs and the reefs off Cozumel. A range of packages are available. (More on that in an upcoming post).

A bit of practical info, many of the nomads arrange long-term accommodation through Liz Aceves. Liz found us a perfect little apartment in the north of Playa. Here’s her contact info:

Cell: 984-156-3855 / +52 (1) 984-156-3855
Email: [email protected]rentingplayadelcarmen.com
Website: www.RentingPlayaDelCarmen.com
Facebook: www.Facebook.com/RentingPlaya

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen

4 responses to “Nomads of Playa del Carmen”

  1. avatar Greeneyes says:

    Looks like a great place to park yourself and relax away from the high towered luxury resorts.
    Love the village photo

  2. avatar Sam says:

    Despite some of these negatives, I definitely still intend to make what seems to be the digital nomad pilgrimage to Playa at some point. Hopefully it won’t have eroded away by the time Zab I and get around to coming!

  3. avatar laurelle says:

    Yeah. Huh. Not exactly what I remember from my 1989 sojourn there. It really was a sleepy little dirt-road town at that time. We stayed at a little posada, on what was then the north end of town, called The Blue Parrot. It was probably the nicest room we rented the whole 6-week trip.
    It was toward the end of the rainy season, and when thunder storms came through and made us uncomfortably chilly, we got in to the ocean to warm up.
    We also traveled on foot some distance down the coast – I actually can’t remember from where to where – but I do remember stopping to snorkel in the freshwater outflow of Xel-Ha – a place which I see from a quick Internet search has turned into an aquatic Disneyland.
    “Sigh”
    The whole Quintana Roo coast was in recovery from Hurricane Gilbert of 1988, which pretty much flattened the place. Ask somebody there who lived through it. Seriously, when that coast sustains a direct hit again, a lot of resorts will go bye-bye.

    • avatar Tony says:

      Yes, the “progress” would definitely not make you happy. It’s not just Xel-Ha, it’s a whole list of nature and culture themed amusement parks with astronomical entry fees. Essentially, everything from Cancun to Tulum is now at least partially developed. There gaps here and there, but it is way overbuilt. Tulum seems to have developed a little more carefully (so far). South of Tulum, there is the Sian Ka’an Preserve which covers a huge stretch of coast and wetlands, although some resorts have started “leasing” land in the reserve, so I don’t know how long that will hold out.

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