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Boats and a man on the beach in Playa del Carmen

A Week in Playa del Carmen: Part II

If you think spending a week in Playa del Carmen is too long, I think you’re wrong. We’ve written all about the Riviera Maya town before, and I’m sure we’ll write about it again. Because there is so much to see and do near this attractive beach town, just one hour south of Cancun.

Woman on the beach of Isla Contoy near Cancun, Mexico

I recently spent a week in Playa del Carmen for my friend’s birthday, and I could have easily stayed another week just to do all the activities we came across. And while I don’t want to bore you with the details, I do want to share some of the highlights that will hopefully prove helpful!

(Note: There had been a lot of violence reported in Cancun just before our trip to Playa del Carmen; however, I never felt unsafe walking through the town or on any of our tours. There was a relatively noticeable police presence, but it wasn’t overwhelming. And while I’d encourage you to take the sensationalized reporting with a grain of salt, always put your safety first.)

Annelise standing in front of the butterfly sculpture in Play del Carmen

Here is how I spent a week in Playa del Carmen:

DAY ONE: Get Settled In
Our group of seven all arrived in Cancun around 8AM. Since there were so many of us, we decided to hire a Super Shuttle for a round-trip fare of $120. Plus it was nice not to worry about arranging our ride back.

After about an hour, the driver let us out at the four-bedroom AirBnB we’d rented in Playacar. This is a nice gated community interwoven with the Hard Rock Hotel’s golf course. While it was a little ways from the bustling main strip, it was also a welcome reprieve. We had our own pool to lounge in privately and it was quiet at night. Of course there are a lot of options for accommodations in the area. We went with an AirBnB so we could have some privacy and still be all together. In this case the property manager was very accommodating, and provided drinking water as well as the number of a reliable, private taxi service. (Of course there are other ways to get around.)

After getting settled into our rooms, having a snack and getting groceries, we finally made our way out to dinner. We’d heard the restaurant at the Frida Kahlo Museum, but it was unfortunately closed for renovations. So we ate just across the street at Mi Pueblo. This is where my tour of shrimp tacos began. The food was good and the open air made for fun and easy people-watching.

Group of people in front of the Frida Kahlo mural in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

DAY TWO: Explore Your Surroundings
With everyone a little jet-lagged (except for me; I still woke up at 7:30), it was lunch time before we were all ready to go explore. So we walked into town and North of the pier to find a nice spot on the beach. And, although there was A LOT of seaweed on the shore this time of year, the beach was still beautiful and the water incredibly warm.

Ceviche at Patio 8 in Playa del Carmen

After a few hours, we walked a few blocks back toward Calle Quinta Avenida (5th street, a pedestrian path lined with shops, hotels, and restaurants), and went to Patio 8 for food and drinks. This place has great food and drink specials. Like most of the places we ate, its prices were comparable to American restaurants. But that didn’t keep us from sticking around for a couple of hours just eating and drinking and talking.

Marissa getting a birthday dessert at Patio 8 in Playa del Carmen

On our way home, we stopped to chat with the folks at Del Mundo Tours about snorkeling. They talked us into a multilingual excursion – our boat had French, English and Spanish-speaking groups – to Isla Contoy for about $120 USD per person. But we had to be up early, so it was straight to bed after that.

The port in Cancun where the boats leave for Isla Contoy

DAY THREE: Visit Isla Contoy & Isla Mujeres
We showed up in front of Del Mundo for pickup at 7AM (I told you it was early). They drove us to a port in Cancun, where they served breakfast and put us on a boat with about 30 other people.

Our guides, Lou Lou and Clal (who were seriously awesome), took those who wanted to go snorkeling just past the Mesoamerican Reef (the second-largest barrier reef in the world). In the span of about 45 minutes, we saw brain and fan coral, beautiful fish, and a nurse shark!

A boat on the water during a snorkeling trip near Isla Contoy

From there we stopped on the protected Island of Contoy for three hours. Here you can do more snorkeling or just float in the crystal waters until they serve a surprisingly delicious lunch. The only catch is that you’re only allowed to wear biodegradable sunscreen in order to protect the reef. And if you’re not a fan of mosquitoes, I’d suggest you skip the Island tour. The trip finished with quick, hour-long stop at Isla Mujeres before returning to Cancun and eventually Playa del Carmen.

A dock in the crystal waters off Isla Contoy, Mexico

For dinner, we had a reservation at Alux. This restaurant is a little away from town, but it’s so worth it. It’s set up in a cave that used to be part of the region’s underground river system (more on this later). They gave us a private room, let us choose our bottles of wine straight from the cellar, and even brought out a custom-made a birthday cake for us to share. As if the setting wasn’t reason enough to enjoy it!

A group in a private room at Alux restaurant in Playa del Carmen

DAY FOUR: Check Out a Beach Club
The best way to chase a birthday dinner? Birthday brunch.

We landed at Indigo Beach Club because they have a brunch buffet every day of the week from 7AM to 12PM for about $13 USD (not including drinks). Buuuuuut getting seven people to move is a bit like herding cats. So we got there for lunch instead. After food and drinks, we moved one-by-one from our table on the sand to their lounge chairs, where we continued to eat, drink, and enjoy the beach.

Group having drinks at Indigo Beach Club in Playa del Carmen

And this is where I sheepishly admit we spent ALL DAMN DAY at Indigo. There are two dangerous things right next to Indigo: a beach-front spa and a tourism kiosk. And we couldn’t resist either. The ladies in our group all got hour-long massages for about $30 USD (plus tip) at Spa Turquesa. And we went back and forth with the kiosk manager for a while before booking our adventure for the next day (ruins and more snorkeling!).

Man and woman in the pool at Indigo Beach Club in Playa del Carmen

By the late afternoon we had migrated to their pool area (for a fee). Hear me when I say their pool is AMAZING. It’s two stories and the upper level is a hot tub with an underwater glass wall that overlooks the pool AND THE OCEAN. It’s no wonder we couldn’t leave. We ordered another bucket of beers and they brought us towels and cups and we stayed long enough to have dinner, too. (Get the chicken fajitas.)

Despite spending literally eight hours there, we only spent around $100 per person on food, drinks, and pool access. Well worth it, IMHO.

Hammocks in front of Indigo Beach Club in Playa del Carmen

DAY FIVE: See the Ruins & the Turtles
Once again we woke early for an 8AM pickup. A private bus picked us up and whisked us away to the Mayan ruins in Tulum.

Mayan Ruins overlooking the ocean in Tulum, Mexico

The tour we paid for included transport, admission, and a guide. Though frankly I’m not sure it was necessary; there is signage along that way that could be equally informative. After the tour, you can relax on the beach, do some shopping, or grab a bite to eat. We ate Don Cafeto Tulum Ruinas and I had the best chilaquiles of my life for $125 pesos.

Having lunch at the Don Cafeto restaurant at the ruins in Tulum, Mexico

From there, our bus took us to the Bay of Akumal to snorkel. Akumal is so special because the sea water merges with the freshwater from the underground river, causing different varieties of sea grass to grow. If you’re thinking, “Who cares about sea grass?” I hear you. But sea turtles come in droves to eat the grasses unique to the region.

At Akumal, our snorkel guide, Alejandro, gave us gear and took us around a roped area for about an hour. In that time we saw stingray, squid, and a handful of sea turtles—some even had suckerfish clinging to their shells! And unlike our open water snorkel, the water here was calm. It was easy to float and follow the guide while still being able to see everything going on below the surface. It was relaxing and enjoyable and highly recommended.

By the time we got home, we were so tired we ordered Dominoes for dinner, watched the rain storm, and went to bed early.

A rain storm in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

DAY SIX: Take a Dip in a Cenote 
Whatever you do, do not skip the cenotes! I repeat: do not skip the cenotes!

If you don’t know what a cenote is, you’re in for a treat. Mexico’s Riviera Maya is littered with them—more than 6,000 in total—and they’re easily one of the things that make this region so special.

Jardin del Eden cenote peeking through the trees near Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Basically, there is an underground river with fresh water that flows throughout the Yucatan Peninsula. As it moves, it erodes the landscape beneath the ground and creates caves filled with freshwater. When the ceilings of these caves collapse, you’re left with beautiful open-air pools surrounded by jungle. Or ocean or ruins or what have you. Most have some kind of life, like varieties of fish, and are so worth the trip.

A view of the bathing deck from one side of Jardin del Eden cenote near Playa del Carmen

There are so many cenotes near Playa del Carmen it can be hard to choose which one is right for you, and we tossed around the idea of going to one of the more developed parks like Rio Secreto. Ultimately, we decided to hire a car to take us to Jardin del Eden. Mostly because it was close and full of the same fish that eat your skin in fancy spas. Plus, there are two other cenotes close by (Azul and Cristalino), so we could keep exploring if we wanted to.

The entrance to Jardin is $100 pesos per person, and the snorkel rental is about $25 pesos plus a deposit you get back. Although we initially weren’t going to snorkel, I’m so glad we did. It’s really amazing to see how deep the pools are from below the surface. Jardin is also nice because they have sunbathing decks, plenty of shade, and a small cafe for when hunger strikes. We only spent a couple hours swimming around before returning to meet up with the rest of the gang.

A man slacklines at Jardin del Eden cenote near Playa del Carmen, Mexico

On our way through town we passed a restaurant called Fah and eventually returned for dinner. The atmosphere was great, complete with an incredibly talented live band and a guest performer who beat-boxed like you wouldn’t believe. If you go, order the tuna tartare because it’s to-die-for. Easily my favorite meal of the trip.

A bench in the jungle overlooking the ocean near Playa del Carmen

DAY SEVEN: Kiss Paradise Goodbye 
Okay, so maybe it’s a little less than a week in Playa del Carmen. Day seven was our last day, so we didn’t have much time.

We got up early to pack and clean house before doing some last-minute souvenir shopping at the edge of town. Our shuttle came for us at noon and we went our separate ways once we got to the airport.

And just like that, my week in Playa del Carmen came to an abrupt end. If I’d had more time, I would have definitely explored more cenotes.

Need more convincing? Check out the Planet Earth coverage on the Riviera Maya’s cenotes. And tell us how you’d spend a week in Playa del Carmen!

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riviera maya best cenote

Riviera Maya Best Cenotes: Take the Plunge

Wondering which are the Riviera Maya best cenotes? It can be hard to choose because there are literally thousands of the natural caves filled with fresh water in Mexico’s Riviera Maya. These underwater sinkholes were are formed millions of years ago when limestone caves collapse, revealing underground pools.

Today, you can explore Cenotes in a number of ways. Some Cenotes are unmarked and people just stumble across them while exploring the jungle, and others, like Rio Secreto, are massively developed and include tours and meals.

Snorkeling in a Cenote is a fun and unique way to see underwater life. It would be impossible to list them all, so I’ve put together a list of the Riviera Maya Best Cenotes for families.

Most of the Cenotes have a small entrance fee, ranging from US $5 to $10 per person per day. While some do have restaurant facilities, it’s always a good idea to pack a cooler with food and drinks when you head out for the day. water shoes (as opposed to flip flops) are a very good idea for safety and comfort. Also, it’s best to bring your own snorkel gear so you don’t have to rent it on site.

When visiting the Cenotes, be sure to respect the posted signs. Most Cenotes do not allow sunscreen, creams or lotions of any kind in the water as it causes massive damage to the natural underwater ecosystem. Bugs, especially mosquitoes, can be bad around some of the Cenotes, yet most don’t allow insect repellent to be worn in the water. Again, please respect this. You can spray yourself once you exit the water.

Here are the Riviera Maya Best Cenotes:

Gran Cenote

Gran Cenote is one of the Riviera Maya Best Cenotes and simply a must-see. Located just outside of Tulum, it is well marked and easy to find. Head into Tulum town on the 307 highway and take a right at the second stop light (this is the main road to Coba). After about 2 miles you will see the Gran Cenote on your right. Here you will find changing facilities, bathrooms and a small restaurant on site.

The water here is crystal clear and you’ll find impressive stalactites under water along with fish and sea turtles.

Dos Ojos Cenote

Located across the street from the Xel-ha water park, Dos Ojos consists of two connected sinkholes with a large cavern between them (accessible only if you’re scuba diving here.) If you plan on snorkeling, enter the 2nd Cenote (the one on the right) and take an immediate left at the bottom of the stairs. Walk until you find a nice entrance point for snorkeling, one of two wooden decks with stairs.

Dos Ojos Cenote in the Riviera Maya

It does get crowded to try to get here early in the day if possible. After you’ve explored the Dos Ojos Cenote, relax in one of the hammocks on site (or bring your own) and enjoy a picnic lunch.

Ponderosa El Eden

This beautiful Cenote is located about 3km south of Puerto Aventuras. After arriving at the Ponderosa El Eden Cenote, you’ll walk on a short path that takes you to the Cenote. Be sure to bring your own cooler for food and drink as there is no restaurant on site.

Ponderosa El Eden has a large island in the center of it. Kids love climbing up the large tree in the middle of this island and jumping into the water. Enjoy unlimited visibility under the water, and a wide variety of fish, eels, turtles and plant life. It’s easy to see what makes it one of the Riviera Maya best cenotes.

Chaak Tun

Located across the 307 highway across from Playa del Carmen (at Av. Juarez). To reach Chaak Tun, head past the guard and continue about 5 km to where the bumpy dirt road begins.

Chaak Tun is best visited after 1pm, when all the large tour groups have finished their morning tours.

Included in the price of admission is a safety helmet and life jacket. Walk down a few hundred feet through a well-kept wooden walkaway to where the cave opens to a small courtyard with tall trees that rise into the jungle and with a variety of birds, singing and making different sounds. While snorkeling keep your eyes peeled for a stone replica of the famous Virgin of Guadeloupe at the bottom of the water of the Cenote.

Rio Secreto 

Rio Secreto is actually a series of Centoes connected by an underground river. Simply look for the highway signs that mark the turn off about 5km south of Playa del Carmen.

Rio Secreto Cenotes in the Riviera Maya

If you are keen to learn more about the geology of Cenotes on an organized tour, you may want to consider Rio Secreto. While this option is more pricey than the do-it-yourself options listed above (adults are US $80 and children are half price) the 3 ½ hour tour offers a bilingual guide, equipment and they even serve you lunch after! Children must be at least 4 years old to visit Rio Secreto.

Want more? Check out our Riviera Maya Family Travel Guide.

Have you been to a Cenote in the Riviera Maya? What did you think?


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riviera maya family travel guide

Riviera Maya Family Travel Guide

If your family’s idea of a perfect vacation involves long, lazy days at the beach, be sure to consider Mexico’s Riviera Maya for your next getaway. With miles and miles of soft sand, safe swimming and clear, warm Caribbean water, the Riviera Maya is first and foremost an amazing beach destination.

The area known as the Riviera Maya stretches along the Eastern coast of Mexico, starting in Cancun and extending South through Playa del Carmen almost all the way to Tulum.

map of riviera maya

But in addition to these amazing beaches, Mexico’s Riviera Maya is super easy to access, safe, and offers a wide range of accommodations, including plenty of comfortable vacation rentals perfect for families and multi-generational groups.

There’s been a lot of development in this area, with parts of Cancun starting to look more and more like the Las Vegas strip. But there are still beautiful areas that have retained authentic charm and Mexican culture, and these are the gems worth seeking out for an amazing family vacation. I’ve gathered everything you need to know in this Riviera Maya Family Travel Guide.

Top Things to See and Do in the Riviera Maya

Take a ferry over to Isla Mujeres and rent a golf cart to explore the island.

The best way to explore the island of Isla Mujeres, including the charming town and dramatic cliffs around the sculpture garden, is to rent a golf cart. From the moment we set foot on the island, we were offered golf cart rental from a number of authorized rental companies surrounding the main pier, when walking to dinner along the main street, and from our hotel concierge. How much is it to rent a golf cart on Isla Mujeres? The prices ranges from about $50 – $75 per day. Here’s what you can explore in a day on Isla Mujeres.

Explore the underwater world in a Cenote.

Snorkeling in a Cenote is a fun and unique way to see underwater life. It would be impossible to list them all, so I’ve put together a list of the Riviera Maya Best Cenotes for families.

Sneak away from the kids and practice yoga with some amazing teachers.

According to my research, about 20% of the hotels in Playa del Carmen offer yoga, and nearly all of these classes are open to the public. Given the number of hotels offering yoga, I’m confident you can find a hotel that fits your budget, travel style and will allow you to work in some yoga during your vacation. Here’s a complete list of all the hotels in Playa where you can join a yoga class.  

Don’t miss the famous Mayan Ruins located in the Riviera Maya.  A visit to one of these ancient sites is a nice complement to a relaxing beach vacation. Especially for kids, this is a great way to learn about the history and culture of Mexico.

There are several well-preserved sites and this guide to the Riviera Maya ruins should help you decide which site fits in best to your vacation itinerary.

Explore an underwater cave and river.

Rio Secreto is an underground cave and river system. While there are many caves in the area, including the popular fresh-water snorkeling holes called Cenotes, this one is still a living cave with a river streaming throughout the network of caves, many of which have not even been explored.

Swim with Sea Turtles in Akumal.

The whole family will love snorkeling with the giant sea turtles in Akumal, Mexico. This is a fun (and free!) opportunity to view wildlife of the Yucatan Peninsula!

Check out the underwater world just off shore.

The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef runs the length of the Riviera Maya. Located very close to shore, this is a great opportunity to book a snorkeling trip and see this living coral reef.

Riviera Maya Family Travel Tips

My family always books an airport transfer when traveling to the Riviera Maya. This allows for a stress-free start to our trip. Here’s why we love Transfers USA.

Playa del Carmen is a charming, beachfront town on Mexico’s Riviera Maya. Here you’ll find plenty of restaurants, bars, hotels and of course white sandy beaches. It’s easy to get around on foot, by taxi and more. Here’s what you need to know about getting around this town.

The Riviera Maya has so much to offer. One way to make it easier to plan the perfect vacation to Mexico’s Riviera Maya is to narrow down your search by general location. First, start by determining where you want to stay, Cancun vs Playa del Carmen, then you’ll be better able to organize the perfect beach vacation from there.

Save money by indulging in tasty and cheap street tacos while in Mexico! Here’s where to find the best street tacos in Playa del Carmen.

Family Friendly Accommodation in the Riviera Maya 

Here are a few options if you’re looking for an all-inclusive resort. for your family in the Riviera Maya…

Paradisus Playa del Carmen is one of the most family-friendly all-inclusive resorts I’ve ever experienced. Rooms feature kitchenettes, 24-hour room service, and some are even swim up! Kids LOVE that! Here are five reasons why Paradisus Playa del Carmen is an ideal all-inclusive for families.  

The Hacienda Tres Rios all-inclusive resort is located about 10 minutes north of Playa del Carmen on Mexico’s warm Caribbean Sea. Set in a lush, natural mangrove forest, all 273 rooms here are just a quick walk to the beach, fashioned in a semi circle around a winding chain of pools. This resort is super family friendly, but what we loved most is the natural lagoon and the Cenote, or freshwater, underground pool, right on site.

And if you’re in the process of expanding your family and looking to book a Babymoon in Mexico, be sure to check out the Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Imagine being shuttled between your expansive suite and the beach in an air-conditioned van.  Drifting to sleep each night ensconced in massive, soft pillows. Enjoying a variety of dining options, with something to quench each and every craving. Grand Velas is the perfect getaway for moms to be!

Despite massive development and rapid growth along Mexico’s Riviera Maya coastline, the charming town of Puerto Morelos has amazingly survived as a laid-back fishing village. The town’s locals are dedicated to preserving the nearby coral reef, which is the second largest barrier reef in the world. As a result, Puerto Morelos has seen very little large-scale resort development. If you’re planning a family vacation to the Riviera Maya, consider staying in Puerto Morelos where you’ll find plenty of family friendly accommodation options.

And finally, here are a few other suggestions of family-friendly hotels in Playa del Carmen.

Want more? Consider heading further South to Tulum. Check out my Tulum Family Travel Guide here!


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cancun vs playa del carmen

Cancun vs Playa del Carmen: Where Should You Stay?

Deciding where to stay in Mexico is an ongoing battle, and today we take the showdown to Cancun vs Playa del Carmen.

Mexico’s Riviera Maya is one of my favorite beach destinations in the world. Easily accessible from most of North America, miles of beautiful white sandy beaches, plenty to do and a wide range of places to stay make the Riviera Maya a perfect beach destination.

However, because the destination has so much to offer to a wide range of travelers, researching and planning travel to the Riviera Maya can be overwhelming.

One way to make it easier to plan the perfect vacation to Mexico’s Riviera Maya is to narrow down your search by general location. First, start by determining where you want to stay, Cancun vs Playa del Carmen. Then you’ll be better able to organize the perfect beach vacation from there.

Where to stay in Mexico: Cancun vs Playa del Carmen!

Beach-front hotel in Cancun Mexico

The Cancun resort area is actually an island located just off the coast of Mexico, connected to the mainland via two short bridges. Here you’ll find mostly large, all-inclusive resorts spread out along the northern and eastern sides of this island.  Alternate accommodation options that let you save money and offer flexibility for your trip are Cancun timeshares.

Even during the busiest months between February – April, you’ll find plenty of room to spread out and enjoy these world-class beaches. The ocean-side beaches are by far the most popular, and most of the hotels in Cancun face the ocean. The lagoon-side is more often used for water sports like jet skiing and kayaking.

Here are few reasons why you might want to stay in Cancun vs Playa del Carmen on your beach vacation:

Cancun Offers Easy Access from the International Airport

Most of the resorts in Cancun are only a few miles from the main Cancun International airport. Especially if you are sneaking to Mexico for a quick weekend getaway, this might be reason enough to select a place to stay right in Cancun. Minutes after landing, you will be sipping your welcome cocktail while checking into your resort.

All-Inclusive Resorts Dominate Cancun

If you’re looking for pure rest and relaxation at an all-inclusive resort during your Mexican beach vacation, Cancun has a variety of options at a range of price points. There are more than 170 all-inclusive resorts in Cancun, and most of them are located on what is actually an island; The Island of Cancun.

You’ll find familiar brands like Club Med, Iberostar and Riu, as well as some recent new additions including Nizuc, Temptation and Dreams.

Women enjoying the hotel pool in Cancun Mexico

For the best beaches, select a resort on the east, or ocean side of the island. For easy access to the shopping malls, bars, restaurants and water sports, select a resort on the lagoon side.

Cancun’s White Sandy Beaches Don’t Disappoint

Cancun was founded in the 1970’s. That’s right. The city of Cancun, now with a population of over 700,000 people, didn’t even exist fifty years ago. And the main reason for it’s rapid growth? The amazing natural beaches. These white sandy carpets of Caribbean bliss were the original draw for tourism to be developed in this beautiful land, and remains the main draw today.

If you prefer laying on the beach instead of pool side, you can’t go wrong with Cancun.

Sunbathing on the beach in Cancun

Some of the best of the best beaches in Cancun include Playa Caracol and Playa Nizuc. Located right in the middle of the hotel zone, Playa Caracol is popular among families with small children thanks to its clear, shallow water and a sandy (not rocky!) bottom. (Tip: Consider bringing water shoes for the rocky beaches!)

Playa Nizuc, located at the southern tip of the main hotel zone in Cancun, is set away from the large crowds and the biggest hotels and is a great, less-busy option. But be sure to pack your own water, food, and umbrella as there are no public facilities available in the area.

But what about Playa del Carmen?

Ocean pier in Play del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is located about an hour south of Cancun. The city spreads outwards around the main public beach and the main ferry docks for transport to the island of Cozumel and where day-tip cruise traffic parks. The main beach in Playa del Carmen starts at the ferry docks and runs to Calle 14 and Gran Porto Real.

And here are some of the reasons you may want to consider staying in Playa del Carmen on your beach vacation.

Discover Authentic Mexican Culture in Playa del Carmen

Speaking of growing cities, Playa del Carmen’s roots are as a sleepy, bohemian beach town on the Riviera Maya, about one hour south of Cancun. And while this city has grown rapidly over the years, it maintains the heart and soul of this palapa-and-hammocks beach town.

The Mayan Riviera has somewhat of a quirky “show” culture, and Playa del Carmen is perhaps the epicenter of that culture. On any given night you can find fire dancers on the beach, live music in the many bars and restaurants, and the intimate Playa del Carmen resorts offer a range of shows and entertainment featuring local performers.

Toddler on the beach in Playa del Carmen

But perhaps most interestingly, you’ll see locals walking to school, doing their shopping and on the weekends enjoying their own beaches. Playa del Carmen is a growing city with lots of locals out and about as well. While Cancun has mostly tourists, here in Playa del Carmen you’ll have the opportunity to interact with locals.

Playa del Carmen is a Walkable City

Built around the pedestrian-only zone of 5th Avenue, Playa del Carmen is super easy to get around on foot. The main area of the city where you will find most of the bars, restaurants and hotels, is only about 10 blocks long. Wander through the street to find amazing authentic local food (hello street tacos!), stock up at the grocery store, or wander the length of the beach.

Gift shops on the streets of Playa del Carmen

If you’re keen to venture a bit further or explore the town a bit more, consider renting a bike during your stay. You don’t need a rental car unless you plan on exploring beyond Playa del Carmen. There are a number of trustworthy, high quality transfer companies that can get you from the airport in Cancun to Playa del Carmen.

You can even walk to your nighttime entertainment, such as the popular Coco Bongo show. Or stay at Hotel Deseo, which is less than one block away, as a perfect home base between beach and the town.

(Tech Tip for the Digital Nomads: Whether at Cancun or Playa del Carmen, use your virtual pc in the cloud through CloudDesktopOnline and collaborate and share using SharePoint through Apps4rent. You can access your work from anywhere with iOS/Android mobile devices as well as PCs and Macs.)

There’s a Wide Range of Accommodation Options in Playa del Carmen

Where Cancun is the land of the all-inclusive resort, many more options abound in Playa del Carmen.

If you’re looking for an all-inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen, The Royal is the best option. Located on a beautiful beach right in the middle of town, you can easily walk down the beach or one block into town to hit the pedestrian only 5th Avenue.

However, if all-inclusive resorts aren’t your thing, you’ll be spoiled for choice in Playa del Carmen. You’ll find plenty of boutique hotels both on and off the beach, as well as thousands of vacation rentals. I love companies like Vacatia and Loco Gringo for narrowing down the options when it come to vacation rentals.

You’ll find plenty of condos on the beach that are new, tastefully decorated and include pools and other family-friendly amenities. Plus, most vacation rentals come with parking, if you do opt to rent a car and explore activities throughout the Riviera Maya.

Looking for more Mexico travel information? Have a look at the complete Riviera Maya family travel guide here!

So what do you think? Have you been to either of these Riviera Maya cities? How would you compare Cancun vs Playa del Carmen?



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tulum yoga hotels

The Ultimate Guide to Tulum Yoga Hotels

Mexico first stole my heart nearly a decade ago and the Tulum yoga offerings have kept it ever since. Between the miles of white sandy beach, intriguing jungle and a unique, laid-back culture, we fell in love with this beautiful corner of the world. Over the years a lot has changed in Tulum, but even as more hotels and restaurants have been built and the secret of this magical beach has gotten out, Tulum has retained its intimate and authentic charm.

One of the best things about Tulum is that hotels on the beach are right on the beach. You wake to the light of the sun rising over the ocean and the sound of the waves lapping at the sand literally only a few feet from your bed.

More recently, Tulum has absolutely a destination that has become well known as a special place to practice yoga. But why? I’m always interested why certain destinations become know for yoga.

Of course Tulum has amazing weather, pristine white sandy beaches and a bit of a counter culture happening. But, as one of the hotels I spoke with for this article put it, “Tulum is indeed a perfect place to unwind and soak in the beauty of this ancient Mayan place with its pristine beaches and its healing energy.” Ahh, the magic words: healing energy.

I guess you’ll have to visit Tulum, practice yoga at one of these Tulum hotels listed below, and experience that healing energy for yourself! If you prefer to bring your own mat, I recommend checking out this compact travel variation.

Nearly every day, travelers find this travel blog by searching for hotels in Tulum that offer yoga. I regularly answer questions on email and social media about the best hotels in Tulum for yoga. So, I decided to finally get all of the information down in one place!

Here, in alphabetical order, is every Tulum Yoga hotel on the beach:

Ahau Tulum: Constructed almost entirely of natural materials, Ahau Tulum is a quintessential casual beachfront Tulum hotel. Rates are very reasonable for Tulum, ranging from a $249 to $409 per night. All cabanas are under massive thatch roofing, and there is a restaurant on site serving up dishes made from natural and local ingredients. Ahau offers a full schedule of daily classes, with a focus on Vinyasa flow. You’ll also find Silk Ariel and Capoiera from time to time!

Ahau Tulum offers scheduled daily yoga classes, currently happening at 8am and 10am, along with sunrise meditation and a few other classes throughout the week. All scheduled yoga classes are held in their beautiful oceanfront yoga studio. The Wednesday night candlelight yoga even includes wine and chocolate! Yum!

Ahau Hotel in Tulum Mexico

Amansala: Amansala was one of the first Tulum yoga hotels to offer classes and retreats. This eco-chic resort is immediately recognizable for the bright orange and pink colors covering beach loungers, the bright pink and orange chairs and colors of the hotel. These days the rooms at Amansala (priced from only $285 per night including breakfast) are joined by Casa de Miel (Amansala Chica), just one minute walk from Amansala Grande.

At Amansala it’s all about health and wellness; the restaurant serves fresh fish, local produce and an extensive vegetarian menu. But after all this is the beach, so don’t miss Amansala’s famous mango margaritas! Join a scheduled retreat or book individually and enjoy daily yoga, and other wellness activities, on site.

Amansala Yoga Hotel in Tulum, Mexico

Amoreira: Amoreira is a classic Tulum yoga eco-resort with the unique twist of all rooms being perched at “canopy level,” or on stilts. Enjoy the cool ocean breeze from the basic, clean rooms. There is no bar or restaurant on site, but you only need to walk few steps up the beach to neighboring Le Zebra. This Tulum hotel has a lovely large yoga studio with walls open to the jungle where guests can organize classes upon request with this well-known teacher of Tulum yoga.

Azulik: Azulik is also one of the original hotels in Tulum. This eco-resort is perched high up on a rocky outcrop above the ocean quite near the main T intersection along the main beach road in Tulum. Azulik offers yoga at the hotel right on the beach in Tulum. While there are no scheduled classes, simply organize with the friendly staff at check-in for ether a private lesson ($50 per person) or group lesson ($12/per person for 3 or more people).

If you would like to take a scheduled class, simply walk next door to neighboring hotel Papaya Playa Project. Here you’ll find Tulum yoga classes every day at 8am (a different style each day). Scroll down for more about the Papaya Playa Project.

Azulik hotel in Tulum, Mexico

Be Tulum: Be Tulum is one of the newest, and one of the most luxurious, hotels in Tulum. Each of the 20 suites includes a secluded terrace and a private pool, a very unique amenity for Tulum yoga. The property also has a beach club, which is open to the public fro 8am until 10am daily.

Yoga at this Tulum hotel takes place at the neighboring Yoga Shala where guests can practice every day at 10 am. Classes vary each day, but include Vinyasa and Hatha styles of yoga.

Pool at the Be Tulum Hotel in Tulum

Casa de las Olas: Owned and managed with a very personal touch (very quick and friendly response to my questions via email!), Casa de las Olas is a private Tulum villa with only four rooms. Breakfast and snacks are served on site, but there are plenty of restaurants nearby for lunch and diners. You can easily organize private lessons on site at the villa, and Casa del las Olas also provides plenty of yoga mats for guest use if you wish to join one of the regularly scheduled yoga classes at another hotel or in town. They are also currently promoting a small yoga retreat and run a series of sustainable food workshops (aptly named Eat Retreats!)

This is an ideal home base for a larger family group or a girlfriend getaway for Tulum yoga.

Casa Violeta: The rooms at this simple, eco resort in Tulum are whitewashed and clean with dark wood accents. You’ll find hammocks draped all over the property, which adds to the relaxed and laid-back charm. Casa Violeta has recently completed a brand new yoga pavilion on site, and offer a full schedule of classes as well as private lessons on request. They currently hold a class open to the public daily at 8:30am and the cost is US$15 per person.

Yoga Class at the Casa Violeta hotel in Tulum, Mexico

Cenote Encantado: Cenote Encantado is unique; an “experiment” in the words of the proprietors. Accommodations here are a Camping Village, where you’ll find tents equipped with beds, sheets, a rug and bedside table. All have electricity and a fan inside. This Tulum hotel has yoga on site, including yoga dance and acro yoga. All classes can be booked with management, and run with a minimum of 2 people. And not to be missed is their private Cenote, a magical and transformative experience.

Coco Tulum: Here at Coco Tulum (the sister hotel of the former Playa Azul Hotel) you can choose between regular and tower rooms, which have a 360-degree view of Tulum’s almost endless beach and the Yucatan jungle as far as the eye can see. The rooms are white washed, light and airy.

The restaurant on site serves up some of the best Italian food in the Yucatan peninsula. Enjoy pizza fresh out of a brick oven, lasagna, gnocchi and ravioli.

They have a small yoga space, called the Zen Zone, on site that can accommodate a maximum of three people at a time. Classes are available from Friday to Tuesday at 4pm and can be organized by the front desk and cost $20 for a one-hour class.

The beach view at the Coco Tulum Hotel in Tulum Mexico


Dos Ceibas: In addition to dance, energy circles, anniversary celebrations, Dos Ceibas holds Tulum yoga classes every morning on a terrace facing the sea. This is also a hotel full of music, and it’s not uncommon to find musicians playing drums, guitars, harps and violins during evenings at Dos Ceibas.

El Pez: Part of the Colibri Collection, El Pez offers simple, eco-chic rooms with ceiling fans and beds draped with mosquito netting. While the immediate beach is a bit rocky, it’s only a short walk around the bay to the wide-open beach. A new on-site Latin Fusion restaurant has just opened to rave reviews.

The Tulum yoga hotel provides plenty of yoga mats available free of charge and can also arrange a yoga instructor for private or group lessons (beginners to advanced) at an additional charge.

Hemingway: Hemmingway Tulum is all about the romance. Rooms are authentically Mexican, with brightly colored décor in all of the four different styles of bungalows on offer. Join one of the group classes held in the spa daily at 8:30, 10:00 and 11:30 for $15 per lesson per person.

Jashita: Located in Soliman Bay, one of the most protected and secluded bays in the Riviera Maya, Jashita hotel underwent a massive refurbishment in 2010 and is now one of the most luxe Tulum yoga hotels. They can organize private and group yoga classes on request.

Interior of the Jashita Hotel in Tulum Mexico

La Luna: Cabanas La Luna consists of 9 unique suites largely built with natural materials. The 2-story Captain Dale’s quarters remind me of something of Robinson Crusoe’s island! This Tulum hotel can be rented on exclusive use as well). La Luna offers yoga teacher training retreats, so if you’re looking for much more intense Tulum yoga experience, this may be right for you.

La Zebra: La Zebra is one of the original hotels on Tulum’s beach strip and also offers yoga. Rooms are quaint little rondavals dotted around the property. Their beachside cantina and beach bar are always busy and La Zebra is super family friendly as well. There is a super fun bar and dancing stage (salsa lessons on Thursday!) and Tulum yoga can be organized on request.

Las Ranitas: This Tulum yoga hotel has one of the more beautiful yoga studios on the Tulum strip complete with beautiful wood floors, stained glass windows and the ubiquitas natural thatch roof. At Las Ranitas you’ll find five room types, all bright, light and airy. Yoga can be organized on request.

Los Lirios: This Tulum yoga hotel is an affordable option in a great location. The rooms are basic and there is a small pool on site. Los Lirios includes daily group lessons included in the rate of the room and can also organize private lessons at an extra charge.

Luv Tulum: With only 12 rooms, this small hotel is also a good affordable option in Tulum, Mexico. The rooms are clean yet warm, with white wall, dark wood accents and splashes of color from pillows and chairs. Luv Tulum hosts yoga retreats in association with nearby Yoga Shala throughout the year.

Maya Tulum Retreat: This Tulum yoga retreats and wellness resort hosts near-weekly yoga events and retreats, with 50 on the schedule for the upcoming year. Maya Tulum Retreat is a great option if you’re looking to join a formal retreat or group or if you are traveling solo. You’ll find a wide range of yoga on offer throughout the year.

The hotel is on the larger side for Tulum, with 49 rooms.

Mezzanine: A small, nine-room adults-only Tulum yoga hotel, Mezzanine is perfect for a quick romantic getaway. Rooms are well-appointed, with a small pool snaking throughout the property. Lounge and dance music play throughout the day and into the night, and here at the restaurant you’ll also find the perfect Pad Thai (who knew in Mexico?!). Also part of the Colibri Collection, private yoga classes can be organized at Mezzanine or one of their sister properties.

Beach at the Mezzanine Hotel in Tulum Mexico

Mi Amor Boutique Hotel: This is part of the American-owned Colibri Hotel Collection, including El Pez, La Zebra, Messanine and Yemaya. Tulum yoga hotel Mi Amor is the newest addition to the collection, and is all about sensual relaxation. The words chic and adventurous are used to describe this Tulum yoga experience. Yoga can be organized upon request.

My Way Luxury Resort: With only 7 suites, My Way Luxury Resort in Tulum is an intimate and relaxing place to stay. You’ll find fresh, natural and healthy food at the restaurant on site. This Tulum yoga hotel offers yoga through the lovely Richelle Morgan over at the Yoga Dicha yoga studio in Tulum town.

Papaya Playa Project: The Papaya Playa Project hotel consists of 2 sections, an older group of small and basic huts in the back, and a group of newer, more modern rooms near the front. If you’re looking for an affordable hotel in Tulum, the older rooms here will do the trick.

Yoga class at the Papaya Playa Project in Tulum

The Papaya Playa Project hotel offers daily yoga classes (the style and instructors change daily) as well as a series of yoga events throughout the year. Enjoy a fabulous and reasonably priced restaurant on site where you can watch the kite surfers float over the ocean fro sunrise to sunset.

Pico Beach: Pico Beach includes rustic beachfront cabins and one large exclusive-use beach house in Tulum. Yoga retreats are offered through their beach club next door, Akiin Tulum.

Playa Kin Ha: This is a very basic beach hotel at reasonable rates. Yoga is offered through their sister hotel in Tulum town, a few miles or a 15-minute bike ride away (link to getting around).

Retiro Maya: This hotel is a lovely example of a soft footprint eco hotel in Tulum. While this hotel runs a number of private retreats throughout the year, it is also possible to organize private and group lessons for guests. This is a great option if you’re looking to join a group retreat. You’ll find a delicious kitchen on site with an ample vegetarian menu.

The exterior of the Retiro Maya hotel in Tulum

Sanara Tulum: One of the newest luxury hotels in Tulum, Sanara literally means “you will heal” in Spanish. They are actively marketing the property to retreat leaders, so expect to see lots of yoga retreat groups here year-round. If you are not part of a scheduled retreat, not to worry. Sanara Tulum holds at least six yoga and meditation related activities every day.

Shambala Petit Hotel: Colorful images of Indian deities are painted on the stucco walls of the 10 freestanding rooms. When there is not a scheduled retreat in progress, vigorous Ashtanga-style classes are offered at 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. in the seaside studio. This hotel is all about yoga. One of the things I love here is you can do Spanish lessons and cooking classes too, in addition to your yoga! The best way to know what yoga retreats are happening at the moment is to reach out to them directly.

Suenos Tulum: Dubbed an “art boutique hotel’ this place is all about art and design. Suenos Tulum has a lovely pool (a rarity in Tulum).  Suenoe runs a series of retreats throughout the year which accommodate all levels of yogis, from beginner to advanced. With only 13 suites, this property is intimate and private. There is a Mexican restaurant on site which is open to guests only.

Jungle outside the Suenos hotel in Tulum Mexico

The Beach Tulum (sister property to Hotel Cabanas Tulum): This funky, adults only Tulum hotel has a fun 2nd story yoga palapa studio and offer Yoga classes for guests every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:30am. Classes are one hour and fifteen minutes and cost $15 per person. Be sure to connect with The Beach Tulum via social media to keep in the loop on schedule changes and the latest yoga information. The hotel currently has certified Teachers for Hatha, Vinyasa and Iynegar.

Woman doing a forearm stand at The Beach Tulum yoga hotel


Uno Astro Lodge: I love this Tulum hotel’s branding and overall unique design and atmosphere. Uno Astro Lodge has a full schedule of activities including several yoga classes held daily.

Utopia Guest House: Christina Thomas, an American who has been part of the Tulum yoga scene for over a decade, has lovingly restored this cozy and charming beachfront house into one of the newest Tulum hotels. This before and after blog post shares her story of how Utopia Guest House came to be. Utopia Guest House can organize private or group lessons for you. Everything is custom here so be sure to ask and craft your own Tulum yoga adventure!

Yoga Shala: As you can probably guess by the name, this hotel is all about yoga. But you won’t find competition or pretention here. If you’re coming to Tulum to further develop your yoga practice, Yoga Shala is a great option. They offer more styles and classes than any other studio in Tulum including Hatha, Ashtanga and Kundalini, among other styles.

Here you’ll find yoga classes scheduled daily, Monday through Friday at 9am, weekends at 10am plus a 5:30pm class every day of the week.

Accommodations are basic, including room options with private and shared bathrooms starting as low as $49 per night it’s one of the cheapest hotel options in Tulum.

Yoga class at the Shala Yoga Hotel in Tulum Mexico

Zen Serenity Resort: This Tulum hotel is all about wellness and holistic health. The rooms and spa at Zen Serenity Resort are all finished in pristine white décor and open right onto the white sandy beach. Kundalini, Ashtanga, Maja and Hatha yoga classes are all included in the rate, but the schedule changes all the time so be sure to ask when you arrive or email a few days in advance for the latest schedule.

I hope this directory of hotels in Tulum that offer yoga has been helpful to you! Click here to read up on the best way to get around Tulum. I will strive to keep this Tulum yoga guide as up-to-date as possible. If you have an update or correction to this list, of if you are a hotel, operate Tulum yoga retreats and want to be added to the list simply email me at [email protected] with more information. Happy travels, and namaste!


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