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Tips & Pics: Playa del Carmen

Last updated: 31 March 2015

Coco Beach Playa del CarmenPlaya del Carmen, and its neighbouring paradise of Tulum, is one of my favourite regions on earth. I could stroll up and down Playa’s 5th Avenue all day. With the pristine beach decorated by yogis each morning, year-round warmth, endless amounts of bars and hotels, and its eclectic mix of restaurants – this is one place that I could never get bored. Whether you want to party all day and night, take a spiritual journey or a romantic trip with your partner, Playa del Carmen has it all.

Thanks to having a Mexican soulmate, I’m lucky enough to visit Playa del Carmen every year. When we visit, we usually spend around one month here, while I (slowly) learn to speak Spanish.

So, this is basically an Australian’s highlight reel for Playa del Carmen… Where to eat, where to learn spanish and where to practice yoga.


 — In a Nutshell —

If you’re familiar with Australia, I like to think of Playa del Carmen as Mexico’s version of Byron Bay.

The main area in Playa del Carmen is along Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue), referred to by the locals as “Quinta”, between Calle 2 and roughly Calle 36 (2nd and 36th streets) – in other words it’s a long drag! However almost everything is easily walkable. The mostly-pedestrian street is lined with restaurants, shopping and boutique accommodation.

For those coming to party, then you should stay somewhere around the Calle 12 area, as this corner is where all the nightclubs are, such as Blue Parrot, Mandela and Coco Bongo. This area is chaotic during peak season weekends, so if you would prefer to get some sleep after midnight I highly suggest staying a little further north around the streets in the 20s and 30s.  I personally prefer the northern end, which is where most of my recommendations below are located.

A regular question I’m asked, “Is it safe in Playa del Carmen?” My answer to that is a big huge YES! I’ve never felt unsafe here and I often walk around alone. I was going to make my own video tour of 5th Avenue to demonstrate just how busy and safe the area is, but I think this guy covers it pretty well:


— Where to Eat in Playa del Carmen —

Fresh Market – DAC

DAC Playa del Carmen

If you’re staying for a while and need to fill up your fridge with groceries, then forget about MEGA and Walmart. DAC is the place to be. It’s an organic market full of all the fruits, vegetables, grains, spices, and almond milk you’ll need. I just love browsing around aimlessly in this place every day. If you don’t usually eat organic at home due to budget restraints, you have no excuse while in Mexico!

For a good look inside, check out this YouTube video.

Opening Hours: 7am – 8pm, daily (closes 2pm on Sundays)

Address: 30th Avenue, between Constituyentes and Calle 20



 Fresh Eat La Ceiba de la 30

La Ceiba de la 30

Connected to DAC is one of my favourite restaurants – La Ceiba de la 30 – using all the fresh produce from the market. The veggie burritos and quesadillas are the tastiest I’ve ever had, and their wide selection of freshly-squeezed juices are delicious. I love this place so much that I visited everyday for my green-smoothie breakfast on my way to Spanish school (see below), and some days I’d even visit a second time for lunch!

The only downside is that it’s at least five-blocks from 5th Avenue.

How much did I pay? Less than 100 pesos for the vegetarian burrito pictured here, along with a HUGE freshly-squeezed fruit/vegetable juice.

Opening Hours: 7am – 8pm, daily (closes 2pm on Sundays) 

Address: 30th Avenue, between Avenida Constituyentes and Calle 20


Cheap Eat – Los Aguachiles

Aguachiles - Playa del Carmen (photo credit: Vuelta Abierta)

Aguachiles – Playa del Carmen (photo credit: Vuelta Abierta)

If you like seafood and want some authentic Mexican cuisine, then Los Aquachiles is a must-visit. The menu is mostly soft-shell tacos and tostadas, with a swarm of salsas at your table to top them off. They even have “Figurines” for those wanting something more healthy, with fresh seafood wrapped in lettuce leaves.

It’s far from glamorous, and you’d likely just walk straight past it without having been given the hot tip; but for a cheap, simple, and delicious Mexican meal, put this place on your to-do list.

Also, don’t make the mistake I did and tear off the plastic around the plate they give you. Here I was naively thinking it was some kind of sanitation thing, but the plastic is there to eat on, making for easy cleaning!

How much did I pay? Around 20 pesos per taco – bargain.

Address: Avenida Constituyentes, between 1st & 5th Avenues 



Hole in the Wall Awesomeness – Kaxapa Factory

Kaxapa Factory Playa del Carmen (photo by Trip Advisor user)

Kaxapa Factory Playa del Carmen (photo by Trip Advisor user)

Owned by a Venezuelan family, this local favourite has loads of veggie and vegan options. They are big on supporting local farmers, using only local ingredients.  After receiving huge recommendations, I thought “WTF?” when I saw the place, but trust me and the 500 reviews on Trip Advisor that it is awesome. The family who owns it are the ones who serve you and they shower you with welcoming love. They play reggae tunes and even provide free samples of their unique Venezuelan juices as soon as you arrive. It’s a must-try.

How much did I pay?  Roughly 200 pesos for two well-fed people.

Opening Hours: 1pm – 10pm, Tue-Sun

Address: On Constituyentes, between Avenues 10 & 15


Healthy Eat – Bio-Natural

Bio-Natural-Playa-del-CarmenThis health food store and organic vegetarian restaurant is the perfect place to fill up on nutritious supplies like chia seeds, kombucha, quinoa, tea, snacks, herbs, etc., or for a delicious spirulina smoothie and body-nourishing feast.

The relocated in 2015, so I haven’t personally been to their new digs. The store images here were supplied by Bio-Natural, but I kept my photo of my meal (and menu) from their previous location. I’ve updated the new address and opening hours. Looks like a big upgrade so I cannot wait to visit again soon!

How much did I pay?  I had the vegan casserole with eggplant and a green smoothie (pictured – both so good) cost 120 pesos.

Opening Hours (Restaurant): 9am – 9.30pm, daily
Opening Hours (Store): 8am – 10pm, daily

Address: 10th Avenue, between Constituyentes and Calle 16



The Best Breakfast – La Cueva del Chango

La Cueva del Chango Playa del CarmenOriginally positioned in the middle of jungle-like surrounds when it first opened eight years ago, this place is now accompanied by loads of restaurants toward the north end of 5th Avenue, but they’ve managed to still keep the middle-of-the-jungle vibe as you sit inside a large hut with turtles swimming around the pond in the middle of the restaurant. Here you can expect quality traditional Mexican food for breakfast and lunch, while dinner is more of a modern Mexican style. I haven’t been for dinner, but I’ve been four times for breakfast and lunch and it was amazing every time.

This is the most popular spot for breakfast, so get there before 10am to avoid waiting for a table.

How much did I pay? Approx 80 pesos per dish. Click here for the menu.

Opening Hours: 8am – 11pm, daily (closes 2pm on Sundays)

Address: Calle 38, between 5th Avenue and the beach



Amazing Lunch – Fonda Regina

Fonda Regina Playa del Carmen

We decided to try this place after realising the wait was too long for La Cueva del Chango, located just next door… Let me tell you that was quite a successful decision! While La Cueva del Chango has such a great reputation for breakfast and lunch, newly-opened Fonda Regina offers some serious competition with the same jungle-vibe.

With only a small amount of tables, making you feel like you’re sitting in someone’s private backyard as you enjoy home-style recipes (apparently inspired by the chefs grandmother) using mostly locally-sourced organic ingredients, and healthy alternatives like coconut oil and Yucatan Caribbean seasonings. Angel and I were blown away by how amazing our seafood chilaquiles and ceviche was.

Seafood chilaquiles, orange juice and shrimp ceviche @ Fonda Regina

Seafood chilaquiles, orange juice and shrimp ceviche @ Fonda Regina

How much did I pay? I have a feeling they accidentally overcharged us, as the below photo cost roughly 400 pesos.

Opening Hours: 8am – 10pm, daily

Address: Calle 38, between 5th Avenue and the beach



Fine Dining – Maíz de Mar

Toasted corn and mint infused water at Maiz de Mar (photo by Carla Danieli)

Toasted corn and mint infused water at Maiz de Mar (photo by Carla Danieli)

A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. Famous Mexican chef, Enrique Olvera, opened this restaurant in June 2013. They are all about local, quality foods with unique (and delicious) combinations. Plenty of tables spilling out on to pedestrianised 5th Avenue for lots of people watching. The kitchen is on display, which I love – one in the middle of the restaurant and the main kitchen downstairs on the way to the bathroom with a huge window to peak in at the cleanliness).

How much did I pay? Between four of us, we had five share plates and two main dishes, we each had one cocktail and one infused water (a must try) and desert. We paid roughly $50 each. For the quality and experience, I believe that is a bargain.  Check out the menu here.

Opening Hours: 2pm – 12am, daily

Address: 5th Avenue, between Calle 30 & 32

A Touch of Europe – Chez Celine

This French bakery is always busy – especially for breakfast. For those who love a coffee and homemade cake, this is a must-visit and the almond croissant is a must-try! They also serve quiches, sandwiches, salads, etc.  I haven’t been for dinner, but they service cheese, crepes, wine, etc Try their specials of the night, to pare with a glass of wine: cheese and cold meats platters, terrines, vol-au-vent and their savory and sweet crepes! Natural products, 100% homemade, high quality ingredients and lots of love… !

How much did I pay? Click here for the menu

Opening hours:  8am – 11:30pm, daily.

Address: Corner of 5th Avenue and Calle 34

For Something UniqueAlux Restaurant

Alux - Playa del CarmenAlux is a Mayan restaurant with a twist – tucked inside an old, dried-up cenote. As you walk down the stone staircase, you enter the cave which is full of winding pathways through the large restaurant, with separate private dining areas, bar, and a large event space – all surround by the raw elements of the cenote. It’s a bizarre feeling, and can get a little humid/stuffy under there as you’re literally inside an cave. Most importantly, the food is excellent and so are the cocktails. They are accommodating to vegetarians, so just ask about variations that aren’t listed on the menu. This is a great place to go for a romantic dinner.

How much did I pay? Roughly 300 pesos per main dish. Check out the website for the menu.

Opening Hours: 5.30pm – 11pm, daily

Address: Av. Juárez Mza. 217 Lote. 2 Col. Ejidal entre diagonal 65 y 70 (give that address to your taxi driver – this is not walkable from 5th Avenue)

Juice TherapyGreen Box

Green Box Playa del CarmenI love stopping by Green Box for a freshly-squeezed juice and a hand-made wrap or bagel. Don’t stop by here if you’re in a hurry though, as it’s all genuinely freshly made by the solo person working inside the “green box”, so speed is not their biggest asset, however the wait is always worth it, and the staff is so friendly that I usually end up just chatting with them in “Spanglish” as they perfectly handcraft my order.

UPDATE 1 Jan 2014: While the original “to go” stand is still located on the corner, Green Box has also opened a proper restaurant, just a few meters away!

How much did I pay? Juices are only around 45 pesos. Check out the menu here.

Opening Hours: 7am – 10pm, daily

Address: Corner of 5th Avenue and Calle 38

Beachside Lunch & Cocktails – Canibal Royal

Angel kicking-back at Canibal RoyalCanibal Royal is at the north-end of central Playa del Carmen, at Coco Beach. Slightly far out, but worth it if you’re in town for a little while and want to mix up the scenery for your afternoon cocktails, and the food is so good. 

On the weekends it gets really busy, turning into a day club. During the week it’s pretty peaceful. This was our “local hangout” last year, as our apartment was next door – I could easily eat here daily.

Menu: Click here (sorry I could only find it in Spanish)

Opening Hours: 10am – 7pm, daily

Address: On Calle 48 and the beach



— Learn Spanish in Playa del Carmen —

I’ve been to two language schools in Playa del Carmen. In 2011 I took two weeks at IMAC, and in 2012 I took two weeks at Solexico. I loved each school and learned a valuable amount at each of them, but if I had to pick a favourite, I’d recommend Solexico.


Two of the IMAC classes with our "Dia de Muertos" decorations.

Two of the IMAC classes with our “Dia de Muertos” decorations.

IMAC has an excellent location in Playa del Carmen, in the heart of all the Fifth Avenue action. The two-storey building is called International House, and the classrooms surround the small gardens in the center where you can hire bikes, and order freshly-squeezed juices and snacks.

My class had six students in the first week, and I think one or two more in the second week (my memory is being tested), all from a diverse mix of nationalities and ages. Our teacher was lovely, however she couldn’t speak any English. At first we were all overwhelmed by trying to keep up with everything being explained in spanish, however I grew to believe that this was the best way – as we were forced to eventually catch on, and associate our growing vocabulary of verbs with pictures and acts of charades. However, I now believe otherwise – as explained in my Solexico review. In the end, I felt I had learned a great base of the language out of my two weeks there.

The school offers cheap accommodation for students, however my boyfriend and I organised our own place.  Some after-school activities were offered at an extra cost, such as cooking classes, however I unfortunately didn’t attend any of them.

How much did I pay?

Week 1 – $220.00 USD
Week 2 – $220.00 USD
Material – $25.00 USD
Total – $465.00 USD

Address: Calle 14, between 5th & 10th Avenues




The beautiful grounds of Solexico in Playa del Carmen.

The beautiful grounds of Solexico in Playa del Carmen.

Solexico is located five blocks inland from the southern end of Fifth Avenue, and is a fantastic place to study Spanish. It is a decent walk if you’re staying by the beach on the opposite end of town, however taxis are exceptionally cheap in Mexico, so you shouldn’t pay more than 25-30 pesos for a ride if you’re feeling lazy.

The classes are held outdoors in the tropical garden, in small villas accommodating no more than six students each. My class only had two students for the first week, and then four students for the second week. So I felt the classes were like having private tuition. Again, the students were from a wide spread of cultures and ages.

The teachers were excellent, and they all spoke English. I particularly loved that the program was divided into standard classes, and then optional conversation classes afterwards. My teacher for conversation class was different to my teacher for grammar, and because I did multiple weeks, my teachers changed each week. I found this to be a really strong bonus. By the end of the two weeks I had learned from four excellent teachers, each with different teaching styles.

As I said above, I had believed for a while that having a teacher not speak any English was better, but I realised almost immediately on my first day at Solexico that having the support of the English-speaking teacher to ensure we’re following along, is much better. The teachers would mostly speak in spanish, however whenever they saw a look of confusion, they bring you straight back up to speed. I feel like I learned double at this school in comparison to IMAC. This could be a combination of not wasting so much time trying to figure out what the teacher is saying (so actually missing large portions), and also largely reliant on me having a stronger base in the language when I went to Solexico.

Solexico also provides cheap housing for students, which I didn’t use. If you like social activities, then Solexico is most definitely for you. Leon takes so much pride in running Cafe Social, which is basically “Wednesday night drinks”, each week. They also organise beach volleyball every Friday afternoon, and plenty more if you’re up for a good time.

How much did I pay?

Week 1 – $271.00 USD
Week 2 – $271.00 USD
Material – $45.00 USD
Total – $587.00 USD
(Week’s 4+ reduce to $243.00 USD per week)

Address: Calle 6, between 35th & 40th Avenues


— Yoga in Playa del Carmen —

I’ve been to two yoga studios in Playa and they happen to be easily confused with their similar names…

Yoga by the Sea

Yoga by the Sea - Playa del CarmenI only made it to the beginner class at Yoga by the Sea, so I didn’t get a full experience, however I can say that the location is fantastic. The class is held on the rooftop of Kool Beach Club, located right on the beach. You can’t beat the feeling of the sea breeze, and sound of the waves crashing as you vinyassa through your morning. I would have loved to go more, however they only run classes in the mornings, which conflicted with my spanish classes.

How much did I pay? USD $15 per class, or a 3-class pass for USD $35.

Address: Kool Beach Club, Calle 28 on the beach



Yoga by the Way

Yoga by the Way - Playa del CarmenYoga by the Way is excellent. I  went to Ellen de Jonge’s 6pm class every night. David Campos runs the 7.30pm class, and while I always went at 6pm, he took our class a few times while Ellen was away, so I was glad to experience both teachers, who are equally fantastic – and each pushed me further than I’ve ever gone before. The class always has around 10-15 students, with an even split of men and women. A lot of the students are amazingly talented and experienced at yoga – I think many may be teacher training graduates – however there are plenty of beginners too, so don’t feel intimidated about giving it a go.

How much did I pay? 10-class pass for 700 pesos

Address: Calle 26, between 5th & 10th Avenues



As a final note, I must admit this town has changed a lot over recent years. I adore it, but Playa del Carmen is slowly turning into a replica of Cancun with commercialisation taking over 5th Avenue such as the opening of a multi-storey Forever 21 inside a ginormous mall on Quinta. While I find this unfortunate, some may appreciate this if more comfortable with the familiarity of home – each to their own! If you’re looking for something a little more “untouched”, I suggest Tulum as a better option, just 40 minutes south of Playa del Carmen (or 1.5hrs south of Cancun).

LG x



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    May 24, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    Hi there!!
    I’m mexican but this was my first time in Playa del Carmen. I was really lucky to find your information and I just wanna thank you because your it is very precise and it helped me A LOT during my trip. It allowed me to save some money while eating healthy and I enjoyed everyday. You’re the best. (By the way, sorry about my english… I’m still studying).

    • Reply
      Lynn Gilmartin
      July 1, 2015 at 11:22 pm

      Sorry for the slow reply Cynthia, I just saw your comment now! I am so happy to hear this, thank you so much!! (And your English is fantastic!)

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    February 7, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    Hi there! Going to honeymoon this Oct with my fiancé and neither of us speak Spanish very well (will brush up some, but doubt it’ll be much.) is it hard to communicate with people there? Also looking at visiting Alux one evening. Do they have an English menu and/or English speaking staff so we know what we’re getting without being too annoying/touristy?

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      Lynn Gilmartin
      February 8, 2015 at 12:37 am

      Hi Shannon, most locals speak English in Playa. Especially those that work in service such as waiters, shop attendants, etc.

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    January 28, 2015 at 4:05 am

    Ahhh Thank you for your Aussie insight into Playa Del Carmen…. Hubby and I ( from Sydney) planning our first visit in May (early 20th anniversary)…. We are looking forward to a little bit sun, food, romance, party and a great time…… will definitely try your recommendations…. Ps…. Great to hear of fellow Aussies loving living abroad….as we did 20 years ago

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    December 22, 2014 at 6:33 am

    This is great! We’re going to Playa del Carmen in a week and will definitely use your tips!

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    April 2, 2014 at 5:50 am

    Hi Lynn! Thanks for all the great info. on Playa. I have not been there since 2007, but I’m looking forward to going back and possibly even relocating there. 🙂

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    Michelle Jenkins
    February 17, 2014 at 12:06 am

    My husband and I are playing to stay in playa car Paradise. Is there a lot of children at this resort? Also do you know if this is a good resort to stay at? This will be our first visit for our 20th wedding g anniversary.. any tips would be much appreciated.
    Thanks you!

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    February 4, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Great post Lynn!
    I’m heading to mexico mid year, plan on doing my yoga tt in puerto vallarta so I’ll head here for sure!
    Thanks for the tips and to get me very very excited again xx

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    January 11, 2014 at 6:07 am

    Great post!! Wondering if you can help, looking for the name of the most amazing street taco place in Playa, description is here: http://aweekatthebeach.com/2014/01/08/a-week-at-the-beach-in-playa-del-carmen-mexico/

    Will definitely be following along on your journey!

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      Lynn Gilmartin
      January 14, 2014 at 1:43 pm

      Hey there, great post! I see you discovered the name of the place! I haven’t tried El Fogon, so I will next visit. Thanks for letting me know about it 🙂

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    January 7, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    Great write up…..I would love to visit!!!

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    October 11, 2013 at 2:50 am

    Any idea how long it takes to walk from Heliko to Sorianna on corner of calle 38th and 30.

    • Reply
      Stephen Klein
      November 3, 2013 at 10:49 am

      Heliko is at 44 th and first ave.

      • Reply
        November 4, 2013 at 12:35 am

        Know the locations. Just wondering about walking time at an average pace.

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          Stephen Klein
          November 4, 2013 at 1:33 am

          Should be about 15 – 20 minutes at a normal pace .

  • Reply
    Stephen Klein
    August 1, 2013 at 1:39 am

    Thanks for the info we are planing two months this winter and are at Heliko the walk to the grocery store is to far to walk with groceries so how much is the cab fare?

    • Reply
      Lynn Gilmartin
      August 1, 2013 at 1:45 am

      Cabs anywhere around Playa are usually between 20-50 pesos – it’s very cheap to get around. It’s also a really flat area so it’s pretty easy to ride a bicycle with small loads of groceries. Thanks for stopping by, I have no doubt you will love your two months there!

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    July 16, 2013 at 9:42 am

    I lived in Playa for 6 months – You did a great write up.

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    June 19, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    My husband and I are planning a trip to Playa Del Carmen and our 14 year old daughter is worried about our safety. We will be staying at a resort so I feel we should be safe while on property but I was hoping to enjoy the night life of the city. My husband is concerned about that idea due to safety. What do you think?

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      Lynn Gilmartin
      June 20, 2013 at 12:17 pm

      Hi Brandy, thanks for reaching out. I have never felt unsafe in Playa Del Carmen. I walk around 5th Avenue (the main street) often by myself after my night-time yoga class. The nightlife is great and it gets quite busy – mostly all with tourists. I have no doubt that once you arrive you will feel completely safe 🙂

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      January 14, 2014 at 6:24 am

      Hello – we have been to play five times (6th next month) with our now teenagers – took them when they were 6 and 8. Never have a worry in Playa – we stay in the tourist areas – large police presence. mexican people are so warm and friendly. can;t wait til i retire and spend more time there —

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    Christian Harder
    February 25, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    Hey Lynn, cool writeup. Love DAC. Have you been to Luna Maya? http://www.lunamayarestaurante.com/ Fine dining but the best place in PDC IMO!

    • Reply
      Lynn Gilmartin
      February 25, 2013 at 11:02 pm

      Hey Christian, thanks so much mate 🙂 I did go to Luna Maya actually – JC Alverado took us there a couple of years ago. Awesome place, I will add that in for sure. Thanks for the reminder, and for stopping by!

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    February 6, 2013 at 7:12 am

    Hello Lynn, thanks for the information. My wife is looking to go to Solexico for two weeks in April or May. I will be at home with the kids during this time so I was curious if the area is safe for women traveling alone? She may have some friends in her Spanish 3 class here in Texas going but they haven’t confirmed yet so she may do the two weeks immersion class by herself. It would be her first time in Mexico and we’re not sure what to expect. Thanks for your review of the programs.

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      Lynn Gilmartin
      February 10, 2013 at 9:02 pm

      Hi Keith, thanks for stopping by! I definitely believe it is a safe place – I’ve never feel uneasy about Playa del Carmen. I used to walk to and from school each day, alone, without a single issue. For one week I was staying at the other end of town, so my walk was about 20 minutes, and I felt completely safe. Mexicans are very welcoming and friendly people, so I have no doubt that your wife will feel at ease as soon as she arrives. Sometimes when I was feeling lazy, or running late, I caught a taxi which cost around $2-$3. The taxis are safe, well marked, and everywhere! In some latin american cities I’ve experienced unmarked taxis that try to hustle for a ride, but I haven’t seen that happen in Playa del Carmen. Lastly, the staff at Solexico really go out of their way to make students feel welcome by planning activities with teachers and students – so she won’t feel alone. They will also be able to provide your wife with any local information she may need while she is there. Feel free to ask if you have any more questions. LG

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    January 25, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Hi Lynn, thanks for great info. Do you have any suggestions of low cost, clean motels/hotels to stay at playa with walking distance to the beach?

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    January 11, 2013 at 5:42 am

    Awesome read! Looks like you had a great time.

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      Lynn Gilmartin
      January 11, 2013 at 5:55 am

      Thanks Zach! The blog is still a work-in-progress as I have an endless amount of places I want to add! It’s such an awesome spot.

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