Just ten years ago Playa del Carmen was a small town, popular with travelers looking to escape the big smoke of Cancun. The beach has beautiful water and it was a nice place to hang and live cheap by the Caribbean. Development often follows close on the heels of the backpackers though and Playa del Carmen has been growing at an incredible rate with hundreds of Mexicans moving there every month in the search for work.
The main boulevard one block back from the beach has turned into a commercial strip that is pure Gringoland. Many of the prices for the trinkets and t-shirts are listed in dollars because the average American tourist has trouble multiplying by ten to calculate the price in pesos. Add a zero, yeah but at which end?
The restaurants and bars along here play on the Mayan theme and have reproductions of Mayan gods and shamans outside on the strip. The tourists then whip out their cameras to make absurd poses next to the sculptures and you can’t help wondering what the ancient Mayas would have thought of it all.
Playa del Carmen is still pretty small and if you go back five blocks you’re already approaching the highway. There are almost no tall buildings so it keeps a small town feeling but all the cranes and construction make it clear that it’s going the way of Cancun.
You can find a good standard of living in Playa del Carmen if you choose to hang around here but it’s not a chill beach to hang out on. The water is still lovely but it’s full of idiots on jet skis, the police patrol on buggies and you get hassled a lot by vendors trying to make a buck.