Known as Xaman-Há in ancient times, Playa del Carmen has come a long way since its start as a sleeping fishing village. Once the embarkation point for the sacred island of Cozumel, today it is one of the fastest growing communities in Mexico and is considered to be the heart of the Riviera Maya.
While small fishing boats still bob lazily in the bay, the once narrow dusty streets lined with a handful of shops and an occasional café have given way to posh pedestrian malls dotted with busy cafes, trendy bistros, scintillating bars and upscale shops bursting with brilliant booty.
Spend a few hours browsing Quinta Avenida (Fifth Ave), a lengthy pedestrian-only path where a slew of bistros, restaurants and cafes vie with boutiques overflowing with designer duds, upscale jewelry, Maya carvings, shiny silver and colorful Mexican handicrafts for your attention.
The southern end of town boasts the newly created Paseo del Carmen, an open-air mall with yet more designer stores and tony restaurants. Plaza Pelicanos is the place for some of the trendier shops. Adjacent streets showcase Playa’s older charm in smaller, more typical locales lining the still cobblestone streets.
Some of the area's best all-inclusive resorts and condo hotels are located here.