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Set amid the tropical splendor of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Playa del Carmen is a luxurious beachside vacation town that hugs the sparkling blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. Here, visitors can choose to explore ancient Mayan ruins, join nature tours in the vibrant semi-tropical forest, enjoy a day at interactive theme parks or stroll along secluded white-sand beaches. A wealth of water-based adventures include sport fishing charters, scuba diving expeditions to pristine coral reefs, jet-skiing, parasailing, and kayaking, as well as more relaxed cruises on yachts and catamarans. Located south of the more hectic and party-fuelled Cancun strip, Playa del Carmen offers a relaxed vibe. Though many visitors choose to stay at smaller boutique hotels for a more private experience, there exists a number of all-inclusive resorts that offer stress-free accommodation and services for visitors looking for an all-in-one holiday experience. Below, a handful of our favorites.
Best Overall: Grand Velas Rivieras Maya
Surrounded by verdant mangrove forests and facing a beautiful beachfront, the Grand Velas Rivieras Maya sets the standard for sophisticated and elegant accommodation in the Playa del Carmen area. Once guests enter the sumptuously designed lobby —with marble floors and a lofty wooden ceiling — they're escorted to luxurious rooms featuring contemporary décor and modern amenities. Plush private cabanas and shaded sun lounges line the private beach. Three separate pool areas offer a variety of ambiances, but each features an imported marble lining, swim-up bar and serene beach and mangrove vista. The spa is considered one of the top in the world and offers everything from fish pedicures and private whirlpool spas to traditional Mexican and Mayan treatments. Eight restaurants run the culinary gamut from sophisticated French cuisine and contemporary molecular dishes to relaxed Mexican eateries and classic buffet options.
Best Budget: The Fives Azul Beach Resort Playa del Carmen
While ‘budget’ and ‘all-inclusive’ may seem like mutually incompatible terms, The Fives Azul Beach Resort offers all of the services, amenities and ambiance of an upscale resort for a significantly cheaper rate than comparable properties. Set approximately five miles outside the downtown Playa del Carmen strip, this hotel offers a sense of privacy and seclusion. Modern and tasteful rooms feature muted color palettes, dark wood furnishings and expansive ocean views. Five courtyards offer infinity pools, swim-up bars and lazy river rides. Guests can avail themselves of the poolside drinks service while lounging on deckchairs or on the adjoining beachfront where kayak and snorkeling equipment is provided free of charge. Nine restaurants provide contemporary cuisine from traditional Italian dishes and freshly-rolled sushi to light bites like tapas which can be enjoyed inside oriental-theme restaurants, on ocean view terraces, or in the privacy of guests rooms thanks to 24-hour in-room service.
Best Boutique: Live Aqua Boutique Resort Play del Carmen
Surrounded by the shopping malls, restaurants and cafes of downtown Playa del Carmen, the adults-only Live Aqua Boutique Resort is an oasis of sophisticated peace and tranquillity. Though it only has sixty rooms, it retains the benefits of a larger all-inclusive property with several restaurants, a spa and fitness center and a scenic rooftop terrace with wooden decking, an infinity pool and padded poolside lounges. The hotel has a sleek, modern design with minimalist décor in the stylish guest suites, black stone baths and rainfall showers in the lavish bathrooms and sliding glass doors leading onto private balconies. Chic restaurants serve traditional and contemporary fusions in dining rooms filled with modern artworks and intricate mural designs. The chill poolside bar serves cool drinks and tasty snacks to guests relaxing in hanging chairs and comfortable couches while enjoying coastal and city views.
Best for Families: Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Esmeralda
With pristine native jungle hugging both sides of the Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Esmeralda, the hotel is a tropical playground perfect for family getaways. Large suites have the capacity to house families of any size in comfort and style, with modern amenities such as large-screen TVs, iPod docks and well-stocked minibars. Kid-friendly activities are hosted throughout the day with treasure hunts, talent shows and cooking classes keeping kiddos occupied in a safe and supervised environment while parents indulge in a soothing hydrotherapy circuit in the well-appointed spa. Older kids will enjoy the rock climbing wall and video games in the activity room. On the hotel beach, kayaking and snorkeling provide endless entertainment and parents can enjoy beach bar service while relaxing in a private cabana. The Activities Pool provides water sports, water slides and live music. Fourteen restaurants offer a variety of international flavors and dishes in elegant dining venues and relaxed, open-air poolside terraces.
Best for Romance: Royal Hideaway Playacar
A member of the prestigious Leading Hotels of the World family, the Royal Hideaway Playacar is an adults-only retreat that exudes classic elegance and luxury. Housed within a graceful colonial-style building, guests enter through a long hallway lined with a red carpet and wooden couches before landing in the soaring lobby filled with marble floors and glowing chandeliers. Beautiful rooms combine traditional wooden furnishings with modern minimalistic aesthetics; marble bathrooms offer walk-in showers and bathtubs. Guests can partake in free water activities, play tennis or enjoy massage treatments in the small but peaceful spa. When it comes time to eat, guests can dine on hearty Italian cuisine on an open-air marble terrace with limestone columns and serene ocean views. Classic cocktails and a top-shelf drinks selection are offered in the elegant Piano Bar, sophisticated Lounge Bar or the casual alfresco Bar Allegria.
Best for Luxury: Playacar Palace
Elegant rooms at Playacar Palace feature stylish modern décor and luxurious design details like full-length wall-to-wall windows for uninterrupted ocean views. The Awe Spa offers herbal massages, exfoliating scrubs and detoxifying facial treatments as well as warm hydrotherapy pools and calming relaxation rooms. A curving, split-level infinity pool overlooks the adjacent beach and ocean and is served by a poolside bar stocked with refreshing drinks and light snacks. Tennis courts, bicycle tours, a fitness center and Zuma, Pilates and Aqua Spinning classes are available for guests looking to keep active even on vacation. Guests can dine at a casual buffet in the central lobby, enjoy classic Italian dishes at the a la carte restaurant or enjoy Asian fusion cuisine. Classic and contemporary cocktails and small Thai dishes are served among angular red pillars and plush sofa chairs in the late-night lounge.
Best for Singles: The Royal Playa del Carmen
Excellently situated next to the bars, clubs and cafes of renowned Fifth Avenue, the Royal Playa del Carmen is an ideal home base for solo travelers. A sprawling pool courtyard features hot tubs, semi-submerged sun lounges and an elevated cabana courtyard, and is surrounded by the graceful white columns and colonial façade of the hotel building. The swim-up pool bar always offers plenty of opportunity for socialization and regular pool parties are another great way to meet fellow guests. A huge range of dining and drinking options are available, from the Mexican/French fusion cuisine and traditional hacienda décor of Marie Marie to the nouvelle dishes in the elegant Spice restaurant and fresh Mediterranean dishes on the alfresco terrace at Pelicanos. The Trade Winds pool bar, chill Lobby Bar and authentic Tequileria serve drinks throughout the day and evening, and the 24-hour lounge allows for self-service drinks and snacks at any hour.
Best for Business: Hotel Riu Yucatan
With the beautiful Caribbean to the front and the green links of the Hard Rock golf course behind, the Hotel Riu Yucatan offers a picturesque backdrop to business seminars, conferences and meetings. The grand lobby — with its magnificent chandelier and wooden balustrades — makes a great first impression, and the satellite TV, minibar and personable safe in spacious rooms offer homey comforts and peace of mind. With six meeting spaces and a capacity of up to 120 people, functions of any size can be organized and catered by dedicated hotel staff. More casual business can be conducted over a la carte or buffet dining options at one of five themed restaurants, with fare ranging from classic steakhouse to contemporary Mexican and Asian. Guests can keep active with a range of sports and activities, including tennis courts, beach volleyball and kayaking, followed by evening drinks in the casual elegance of the lounge bar and social pavilion bars.
Best Hostel: Hostel 3B Chic & Cheap
The lively and energetic 3B Hostel brings all the fun, relaxation and good-time vibes that would be expected from a beach hostel. Dorm rooms are simple, but also bright and cheerful in shades of white and yellow. A well-equipped and modern kitchen is available for guests to use at their leisure. Though the common area, with comfy lounges and Xbox games consoles, is a great place to meet other guests, the real action happens on the rooftop bar terrace. During the day, the pool, sun lounges and BBQ area are full of active guests, and this energy only intensifies in the evenings when beer pong tables and a five-hour open bar are busted out. Regular Sunday parties feature pool games during the day and international DJs playing underground electronic tunes on a massive sound system.