Would I Live in Playa del Carmen, Mexico Again?

Would I Live in Playa del Carmen, Mexico Again?

By |2016-07-21T23:46:44-04:00March 7th, 2013|Mexico|91 Comments

Live in Playa del Carmen

During my lengthy stay back in 2010/2011, I had nothing but positive things to say about the town of Playa del Carmen, Mexico. It was as ideal of a destination as there could be for someone like me who prefers warm climates, beautiful white sand beaches, a laid-back environment, diverse food options, a town that is walkable, a location that is easily reachable from the US and a region with plenty of options for day/weekend trips to interesting sights.

To live in Playa del Carmen was living a dream as far as I was concerned, which is why I called it my ‘home’ for over 1 year.

Fast forward to last week…

I returned to Playa del Carmen for the first time since June 2011, wondering whether I would find the same ‘perfect destination’ as before. If I did feel the same way, I knew that I would have a hard time leaving and that the chances of me using Playa as my base once again where extremely high. On the other hand, there was always the chance that I would discover a completely different place this time around, one that no longer appealed to me as much as before.

One week into this visit and I still haven’t reached a conclusion.

The Beaches

Oh, they are still made of pure white sand and the water is still as turquoise and as mesmerizing as ever. The beaches do seem a bit more crowded during the day than I remember, even for high season, and it is harder to find a nice stretch of empty sand, something that wasn’t difficult at all a couple of years ago. But hey, whenever I do step foot onto the beach, and glance out at the Caribbean Sea and the island of Cozumel in the distance, I feel that same sudden ‘whoosh’ of calmness overcome me, just like when I lived here, and any negative feelings or bad mood instantly disappears. The beaches of Playa are still some of my favorite beaches on the planet.

The Beautiful Beaches of Mexico

(I managed to take a photo from above using my brilliant XShot Camera Extender!)

The Cafes

This might not seem like something that is important but for someone who works online and prefers not to sit in my apartment all day, having a nice variety of welcoming cafes to use as my ‘office’ is something I do take into consideration. When I was here before, there were about six cafes on my circuit, all of which offered comfortable seating in an air-conditioned setting, fast wi-fi, good coffee and staff who didn’t mind if I sat there for a few hours on my laptop (I would buy something every hour or so). Well, I was sad to see that out of those six cafes, only two remain these days. And after asking all of my friends who live here, many of whom work online as well, I have yet to find any other suitable replacements. (The cafe Ah Cacao is still my top choice to get some work done and it is now almost my only choice.)

The Costs

Without a doubt, this is the biggest change since 2011. While you can still live cheaply in this town, it is significantly harder to do right now. For those looking to spend long periods of time here, consider this…my 2-bedroom apartment that I rented for around $800 USD per month in 2010/2011, now goes for $1500 USD per month. Where $500 per month used to get you a very nice one bedroom apartment, that amount will generally get you a studio these days, and most likely not in the exact city center. There are exceptions of course but it is more challenging to find such good deals at the moment. And of course, costs for just about everything else have gone up as well – hotels, food and drinks (some restaurants and bars have raised their prices by 50% in 2 years), activities and just about anything else you need to spend money on. Playa del Carmen is no longer a dirt cheap paradise unfortunately, catering more towards those who have a good amount of extra cash to throw around. It’s not impossible to eat, drink and play cheaply, but you really need to ask around to in order to find the ‘out of the way’ places that don’t cater only to tourists.

The Food

For the most part, all of my favorite eateries, some ‘out of the way’ and some not so much, are still here and are still serving up the dishes that I couldn’t get enough of during my previous stay. From Dona Mary’s tostadas on Avenida 30th (where I made a video about how to actually eat a tostada) to El Fogon on Avenida Constituyentes, to the no-name quesadilla, salbute and panucho eateries scattered around, to Mr. Kiwi’s tortas and the always delicious breakfasts at La Cueva del Chango, among many others, I’ve been reliving my dining escapades from when I lived here. And if you do stick to the restaurants around Avenida 30th, you can still have a filling meal for around 40 pesos / $3.50 USD, keeping your food costs way down. (Buying food from the supermarket seems to cost about the same as before and is a great way to save money if you live down here.)

The People

Overall, Playa does have a different feel than I remember. I always used to state that despite the tourism here, it was still possible to go for an entire week without seeing another foreigner if you stayed in the more local areas of town. These days, that seems somewhat impossible as vacation rentals have spread into so many more neighborhoods and tourist-oriented restaurants and bars are now found in much greater numbers away from the main 5th Avenue. And with what appears to have been a massive increase in the number of foreigners now calling this town home, either long-term or for a few months, the time has definitely come to classify Playa del Carmen as a tourist town. Is it still possible to live here and stay somewhat away from the mass tourism? Yes, absolutely, but at the same time, being a part for the tourist culture is no longer completely avoidable.

I do want to note that the locals living in Playa have so far been as welcoming as ever and even on 5th Avenue, which is a 1.5 mile long pedestrian-only stretch of tourist shops, restaurants and bars, the atmosphere is still quite relaxed, with local vendors not nearly as aggressive as in many other similarly popular tourist spots around the world. People here are laid-back and for the most part, helpful and kind. While I have heard an unfortunate story or two from others living here, most of what I hear confirms that Playa has maintained its reputation as a friendly destination.

One other thing I do need to say is that on several occasions, I have been absolutely shocked by local people who have actually remembered me from 2 years ago. So far, there have been five instances when I have walked into a cafe where I used to spend time working on my laptop or into a local restaurant that I used to frequent, and one or more of the staff members immediately yelled out “Derek!” (they don’t know me as Earl). And I can’t even explain how that makes me feel considering that it has been 20 months since my last visit and that most of these cafes/restaurants have hundreds of ever-changing customers every single day. It’s really incredible and it has blown me away each and every time.

The Conclusion

As far as what I look for whenever I’m thinking of staying put for a while or as I continue my search for the ‘perfect home base‘, there is no doubt that Playa del Carmen offers just about everything I could possibly want. I’ve had a blast this week running around to all my favorite spots and the time spent on the beach and in the water has so far been nothing but therapeutic.

Does everything feel as comfortable as it did when I lived here? No, and that’s why I have yet to reach a conclusion as to whether or not Playa really is the perfect location for me.

Perhaps it’s just that I’ve been gone for so long that I feel more like a stranger right now. I don’t know many people here these days and it’s hard to ‘settle in’ when I know I’ll only be here for just a short time at first.

Or maybe it’s simply because things are rarely the same the second time around. As travelers, we often revisit certain places in the hopes of reliving our previous experiences but rarely do they prove to be as rewarding as the first time.

Of course, I’ve only been back here for a week. So it is possible that after a few more freshly-prepared tostadas, watching a few more sunsets while floating in the Caribbean Sea and making a few more new friends, I could very well find my groove again and make the decision to call this beach town ‘home’ one more time.

(Note: This post looks at Playa del Carmen as a place to live for a while, not as a place to visit short-term. I will always love this town/region as a travel destination and I absolutely cannot wait to share my favorite spots with the group of 10 cool individuals who are arriving in a couple of days to join my Wander Across Mexico Tour!)

Photo: Playa del Carmen Beach (Wiki Commons)

Does Playa del Carmen sound like a place you would want to live?

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  1. SEAMUS HOBAN August 22, 2018 at 12:21 pm - Reply



  2. Rio April 28, 2018 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    Hi! I happened to stumble across your blog because lately I’ve been dreaming about living abroad and PDC is the place I always go back to when I think of where to live the rest of my life. I am 38 and had a late start on my career and for me, a professional job brings me no satisfaction or happiness. I feel like i have done nothing significant in life. A tragedy in my life put some things into perspective on how to truly live peacefully and with positive energy. I am now in the initial stages of planning a permanent move. I know it won’t happen quickly but I think the hard work in the meantime will be worth it. I am giving myself 5 years to work my ass off, save every paycheck, and then leave. I don’t own a home in the US and have no children to care for. My plan is to buy a decently priced home or condo and st some point rent a room or the home to travelers. I am married and don’t really worry so much about my stepkids as they will be much older by then and will be gone.

    My mother is from Mexico and I’m looking into how I can become a citizen of Mexico. I speak Spanish fluently so I think I got a lot going for me. I’m thinking I could have a little hustle to make some money but all the money I have saved in 5 years will be enough to support me for a good while. I am a very simple person. I illustrate this by telling people I have owned the same car for 15 years. Lol

    What do you think? I would love to wake up to the sun, the ocean, the white sand, Mexican food and culture. That for me would be the LIFE.

    • Derek April 30, 2018 at 8:38 am - Reply

      Hey Rio – All I can say is, why not? Everything is possible if you’re determined to make it happen and it sounds like you are more than determined!

  3. Jorge Yagual March 15, 2018 at 12:33 am - Reply

    Hello Earl! Hope all is well. As I read the introduction on your blog, I immediately felt a connection. -interesting, though. I’m a expat from Ecuador living in the USA since I was 10 yo, now 50 yo. For the past 6 years I’ve been in the search for the next place I want to call home. Reasons? Well… don’t want to go there on this plaform. Looking for the perfect place, I have travelled extensively to Europe and South America, but, never Mexico. I love Mexican people and have many Mexican friends here in NYC. -love the food, though. I often fantasize with Mexico, living there, etc. PDC has often come to be a spot on the Mexican map that I spend a great deal dreaming about, as I cruise the beatiful places this awesome country has to offer to northerners, exhausted from brutal Winters. I’m in the process of becoming a yogi, (I’ve been practicing yoga, meditation and Aikido) I am also a registered dietitian with a Master’s in Public Health. Im into the holistic, wholesome way of living, experienced in sustainable development as it relates to preschool settings. I’m also an organic farmer who loves proximity to the beach. -ho’e I have not bored you by now. Here are my questions: are there any farm lad in the outskirts of PDC? What are the prospective of forming a business that includes yoga, meditation, wholesome lifestyle? I understand that PDC is a party town, but there’s gotta be a crowd that wants more in such a beautiful place. Your response is greatly appreciated. All the best, Jorge.

    • Derek March 23, 2018 at 3:51 pm - Reply

      Hey Jorge – Thanks for the comment! And actually, PDC is only partly a party town. Just as big as the partying is the yoga/healthy living focus. There are dozens of yoga studios, meditation classes, sustainable living communities and all kinds of stuff in that regard. It’s already everywhere down there and is the main reason why many people live there!

      As for land, there really isn’t farmland outside of PDC since it’s mostly jungle but there are plenty of plots for sale. As for forming a business, that’s a bit challenging for a foreigner with all the bureaucracy and opportunities for others to take advantage. It’s possible but definitely not an easy pursuit and having some reliable Mexican connections will be very useful/necessary.

      Overall, it’s an excellent place to live and I think you’ll find it a good match for your interests. But if you’re looking for a place to set up a business, there will already be plenty of competition down there given its massive popularity with like-minded people for so long now.

      It’s definitely worth going down there to take a look though!

  4. Jocelyne February 4, 2018 at 7:43 am - Reply

    Hi Earl. Interesting. We have been coming to Playa since January 2011 for one to three months during winter, we also saw the changes. What really got me was the destruction of Calle Corazon, that was a little street that I really like.
    I have a question for you – would you know the story behind the abandoned building (house) on 4th Calle between 5th and 10th avenue. Such beautiful construction.

    • Derek February 4, 2018 at 11:02 am - Reply

      Hey Jocelyne – Thanks for commenting and I agree, the loss of Calle Corazon was a real shame. That was a great little area that added something special to 5th Avenue. And I actually don’t live in Playa any more. I’ve been trying to picture it but I can’t seem to remember off the top of my head which specific building you’re referring to.

      • Jocelyne February 4, 2018 at 1:52 pm - Reply

        If I could I would share with you.

        It is on the same side as Hotel Cielo, in front of Restaurant Las Brisas.

        It is big and the architecture is beautiful. If it was a private home, the owner must have had money.

        • Derek February 6, 2018 at 11:34 am - Reply

          Hmm…I’m not too sure. The next time I’m down there I’ll take a look.

  5. James Piccolo November 3, 2017 at 10:49 am - Reply

    Wish I had seen this in March of 06. I’m a cash buyer looking to move there with my wife and 7 year old son.

    • Derek November 16, 2017 at 12:33 am - Reply

      Hey James – Definitely had some great opportunities back then! Now it’s a different story, much, much more expensive unfortunately. Still a great place to live but not the same at all as it was until 2014 or so.

      • James November 16, 2017 at 2:44 am - Reply

        Thanks so much! So we’ve been looking at Playa only because we have a 7 year old son and that’s my biggest concern. He must have a great education and we are monolingual. We’ve even considered Tulum but we need the schooling for our English speaking boy. Any advice there?

        • Derek November 21, 2017 at 10:02 am - Reply

          Not too sure about Tulum. I’ve been many times but only on day trips to the beach or ruins for the most part. I know a lot of foreigners enjoy living down there but it was always too small for me.

          • James Piccolo November 21, 2017 at 10:54 am

            Derek: Last question. What about private schools in Playa del Carmen for an English child? 2-12th grade. Any advice is so appreciated.

          • Derek November 24, 2017 at 10:09 am

            I don’t have specifics but they definitely exist. Playa is a huge destination for expats with a ton of families from around the world living there. The school options from what I know are quite extensive.

  6. Randall June 18, 2017 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    Happened on the site..just a few comments. Word travels fast, especially with social media and the net, in general. Everyone north in winter is seeking a place in the sun…I have a boat in Key West..and have spent most winters there having returned from overseas as many years downrange. But, a little tired of Key West..and like most here looking for a place in the sun near the water. As a surfer and kiteboarder, I happened on Cozumel which has some waves and an active kiteboarding community. I will be going down for a 30 day look see to determine if Cozumel or any other place on the coast is suitable.

    Personally, I try and avoid tourist crowds..for all the reasons most recognize. If anyone wished to comment on “their” paradise along the Mexican Coast from Playa del Carmen south to Tulum, please do so.

    • david pomerantz March 8, 2018 at 8:24 am - Reply

      Hi randell: Do you have an e mail. I would like to talk to you about Tulum and Playa
      I speak fluent Spanish.

  7. Ben sheerman May 24, 2017 at 2:24 am - Reply

    Your photo makes you look like a smooth criminal. A true shyster you are!!! I was in playa DC in 2007 and am here now. The differences are:-

    -Beer slightly pricier
    -excess taxis
    -excess drug/silver/massage vendors

    The similarities:-
    -Lots of Hispanics/Latinos in hostels
    -Hostels still filthy cheap (150 mxn peso with good breakfast included – 22/5/2017)only 3$ more than 9 years ago :0 – where you staying you posh delinquent earl
    – cheap tacos if look in less glamarous/out of main strip eateries
    -a lot more hostels
    -Walmart was and still is there
    -hot tanned girls in red mini dresses walking around…especially Walmart 00)

  8. HP September 12, 2016 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    Do you still have the house? I want picture. Thanks!

  9. Enrique J. Burton March 29, 2016 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    Hey! If any of you are considering moving to Playa del Carmen, a friend of me (he’s in bad health condition and must return to his home town close to Mexico City) is selling his house 220 sqmt, 400 mts to the beach in a quiet local area of the city. Very nice one story house, fresh, big garden with high trees, all urban services. Two bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, living room, kitchen, one comercial space separated from the main house. We can send you pics. Price: 75k usd

    • bill defazio April 10, 2016 at 1:48 pm - Reply

      Hi Enrique,
      My name is Bill and I just came back from visiting the whole coast for the 1st time leaving the states (62 yrs.old) and chose Playa and purchased a preconstruction investment condo at “The Five’s” and now am looking for a place to move to live. I could use the commercial space especially. This sounds interesting, could you send pictures.
      Bill DeFazio

    • Dan Polier April 11, 2016 at 4:16 pm - Reply

      I would love to see photos of the house. Thank you!

    • juan September 29, 2016 at 4:00 pm - Reply

      If the place is still available please send me as many photo I am looking for a place down there. Thanks

  10. Paul Gallagher March 24, 2016 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    Earl, do you know what was on the land between the Blue Diamond and Secrets Capri before it was cleared out? Do you know why that land was cleared out? Do you know who owns that land now? Do you know what the plan is for the land between Blue Diamond and Secrets Capri? Do you know someone that might know the answers to these questions?

  11. ana reachi July 5, 2015 at 8:28 pm - Reply

    Hello Earl,

    Thank you so much for having this site.

    I am Cuban born, raised in Mexico—–language(s)culture no issue.
    I live in the US and now retirement/disability may be upon me……..I can buy a house outright in Playa. I have been to Tulum twice on vacation. When purchasing groceries my intention is to go where locals go, I don’t go out really (coffee), don’t watch tv.

    I fear that I may not be able to live on $2200.00 a month there and that the heat/humidity will feel intolerable…………just thought I might sound these off you and hear/read what you have to say about it. Thank you, Ana

    • david pomerantz March 8, 2018 at 8:25 am - Reply

      Hi Ana: I am in your shoes. Just retired and interested in Mexico.
      I speak fluent Spanish as well.
      Get back to me

  12. Rick May 1, 2015 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    Hi Earl. I love coming back to your blog from time to time and learning new things. So, I’m in Playa, and as you alluded to, I’ve found a studio for $500/mo for 6 months. Near 5th, but in a pretty quiet area. I’d like to work while I’m here and a few people I’ve asked seem to think it’ll be easy for me to get a bartending or waiting job, although I haven’t yet seen many expats working in restaurants. Did you meet any expats tending bar or waiting tables while you were living here?

    Also, is Playa a good place to learn Spanish? I pick up languages fast and tend to seek out locals to this end, but sometimes a place just has too many gringos, ya know? ;o)

    My next option is Baja and Todos Santos. And maybe Sayulita? Any opinions on these places? Thanks in advance and happy travels! Rick

    • Wandering Earl May 5, 2015 at 9:44 am - Reply

      Hey Rick – Playa is a good place to learn Spanish as long as you stick to it and don’t give in to the temptation to use English. There are obviously a lot of foreigners and many of the locals there also speak English, so it’s easy to give in. But if you can stick with it and hang out around Avenida 30 in terms of eating/shopping for the basics, you’ll have plenty of chances to speak Spanish.

      As for work, it’s not really that common for foreigners to work in the restaurants or bars down there unless they come from a Spanish-speaking country. The thing is, Mexico is a developing country after all and so the wages are much lower than what a foreigner would expect/want and there are plenty of locals who need jobs too. So that makes it tough to find work in Playa overall.

      Sayulita is a great place but it’s almost all gringos 🙂

  13. […] selbst hat die Stadt ziemlich wahnsinnig gemacht nach einem Tag. Für andere ist es der Traum um eine wenig zu verweilen. So gehen die Meinungen also […]

  14. julia vandever February 21, 2015 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    Hi Earl, I am in my early fifties looking to start a new life. I have lost my husband, job, and home. I live in St. Louis, Mo. How and where do I start? I am thinking of a studio, I have no kids and single. I am all for working and would like advice with that. I taught for 30 years. I am also experienced in food and beverage service. I am hip, fun, and easy going. I’d like to try for 6 months. I am mourning, pissed, and my life needs to change. Pls help.

    • Gaelle August 12, 2015 at 5:52 am - Reply

      Hello Julia,

      I am currently living in Playa since November 2014. As part of homework I have to do for my business school, I need to interview people for market research. I thought maybe we could help each other? Would you like to have a skype or a Facebook call? I would ask you several questions. Really there is nothing to sell! and I could give you answer as best as I can. Feel free to send me an email at [email protected] if you d like to set up a time.

    • Lucy December 31, 2015 at 7:40 pm - Reply

      Hi Julia and Earl,

      Julia-I know this reply is a little late but I was wondering if you ever ended up moving to PDC and how were your experiences.

      Earl-I currently live in and have grown up in Sydney, Australia and a friend of mine has just moved there to take over a hotel and since visiting him over there I have totally fallen in love with the place, the cuture, the food etc etc I am 33, single without any real commitments and Sydney life is hard for most people especially the category I fall in. I have been a pre school teacher for the past 5 years and have just enrolled to do the CELTA course in PDC, I would love to find some work in the PDC preferably (because that is where my friend is based) or somewhere else in the Riviera maya area. I also want to build my own life there, meet friends, find a place to live etc Do you have any advice on teaching english in Mexico, the CELTA course or just basically any starting up advice?

      • Wandering Earl January 2, 2016 at 12:26 am - Reply

        Hey Lucy – The thing is, in PDC, it’s a bit tougher to find a good teaching job because a) most people there speak English since tourism is the main industry and b) many foreigners love the town so there is a surplus of people willing to teach English.

        So it will probably take some time and effort to find a decent teaching gig there. You could try offering private classes by advertising in certain key places and then do some one on one instruction. That might work.

        It’s much easier to find a teaching job in other parts of the country where tourism isn’t the main way of earning a living for the local residents.

        • Lucy January 3, 2016 at 7:02 am - Reply

          Thank you for the reply Earl! And for the advice! I have heard THA PDC can be quite competitive, I know August is supposed to be a good time to go job hunting which is when I would have finished my course, if not Playa then I would still look in the Quintana Roo area. But the private lessons is a great idea thank you! Fingers crossed I come across a job that suits me 🙂 I love ur posts btw

          • Betty Spinks January 3, 2016 at 10:25 am

            Hi Lucy–

            Your preschool teaching experience gives you a tiny advantage, but there are two main problems:

            1. Everyone in tourist zones is an English teacher. It’s like moving to Hollywood and saying you’re a writer. Join the club! The advantage is that many people aren’t that serious about teaching, so if you’re a relentless and shameless self-promoter, you may be able to cobble together a small business for yourself. Continuing that train of thought, the other problem is that

            2. So many individuals are making a small business for themselves teaching English that enrollment in English classes at schools is down, so that these already financially-strapped schools are cutting back on classes, so there are virtually zero opportunities for teachers.

            So you know what that means, right? You have to start your own school! 😉

  15. lawrence Tinkham October 13, 2014 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    It’s time to quit my job,
    It’s time to sell my Car,
    It’s a good time to live in the sun !

  16. Billie Groom February 15, 2014 at 6:22 pm - Reply

    Hi, I just went to Playa and as much as I consider myself to be independent, I was glad to read that my response was typical. I was disgusted by the commercialism the first few days, and then came to appreciate the area off of 5th (the local scene). I went to volunteer in the SoselArca shelter and to bring back a dog. I used to travel extensively in Central America, but have not left Canada in 15 years, so I needed a reason to travel besides rotting in an all-inclusive. I stayed at CoCo Rio hotel just off 5th – great hotel! I spent my time with the locals from the shelter or walking the dogs or in the vet clinic (Playa Pets – Dr. Diego is amazing!) Bringing back a dog is easy and these are amazing dogs. If you are coming to Regina, pls consider bringing a dog and I will meet you at the airport to take the dog. If you need more info on this rewarding and easy thing to do, contact the shelter http://www.soselarca.org or I can give more info. thnx!

  17. Daisy January 8, 2014 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    Thank you very much for such a quick response 🙂
    Sounds quite hard and expensive. I have a nail/beauty salon in UK and just wanted to maybe create a salon there as well. I guess its maybe better to live somewhere away from PDC.
    Thank you again for your quick response, we will be visiting PDC again in march2014 to see if thats the place to settle 🙂

  18. Daisy January 8, 2014 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    Hi Earl, what a nice blog!

    We have been to Playa Del Carmen 2 times and i am totally inlove with that place!
    We live in Brighton in the UK and i have 3 little children ( they have also been to PDC). And we all would love to move there and rent a nice 3 bed house close to the sea but we are far from wealthy, only mentally 🙂
    What prices are realistic for the rent?
    Plus i want to get a commercial retail premises on the 5th, where do i start?

    • Wandering Earl January 8, 2014 at 3:18 pm - Reply

      Hey Daisy – To be near the sea, you would have to rent an apartment as there really aren’t any houses right near the beach. But either way, for 3 BR you could expect to pay around $1800 – $2500 USD per month at the moment. As for a commercial retail premises on 5th Avenue, that’s a very long process. You need a business lawyer first and the last I checked there was a 2 year waiting list. Then you have to not only pay the rent but you have to pay a ‘guante’ which is a fee to the business association to be in such a prime location and that fee is usually equivalent to six months rent up front. It really is a hard place to rent right now…a couple of blocks away is much, much easier!

  19. […] after reading Erin and Simon’s post about the city and Wandering Earl made it sound like the perfect place for digital nomads. It seemed […]

  20. […] their home base. Most seem to set up their mobile offices in places like Chiang Mai, Thailand, or Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I suppose that is mostly because of the lower living costs of developing countries (and the […]

  21. Matthew Leafloor August 27, 2013 at 9:20 am - Reply

    Thx for the tips, this is our 9th year in Mexico but our first off the resort, really looking forward to it and maybe meeting a bunch of ex-pats for beers and Playa experiences, we will be in Playa most of February, 8th-28th, can hardly wait.

  22. Matthew Leafloor August 22, 2013 at 8:47 pm - Reply

    Earl: My wife and I and three other couples are going to Playa for feb/2014, and we were wondering where your choices are for great meals off the beaten path(5th), and my wife is worried about getting sick at these places, any concerns?
    Also what is the going rate for a cab ride from airport to playa?

    • Wandering Earl August 23, 2013 at 2:06 am - Reply

      Hey Matthew – Just head over to Avenida 30 (30th Avenue) and there are plenty of places such as Nativo, El Fogon and Dona Mary’s that serve excellent local food that I can highly recommend. And there’s nothing to worry about in terms of getting sick. You’ll be quite surprised with the conditions down there once you arrived 🙂

      I’m not sure of the taxi far though, it’s usually around $70 USD I think. But you can also take the ADO bus from the airport directly to the center of Playa for 120 pesos (about $10) per person. Much better option.

  23. dimitri laz August 5, 2013 at 1:20 am - Reply

    headin out to PDC next month!
    thanks for the excellent blog!

  24. Michael July 14, 2013 at 10:02 pm - Reply

    Earl, please get me in touch with yor friend organizing the condos – viewings in Playa. Just moved there and looking for a nice place for long term.

    Thanks Michael

    • Wandering Earl July 15, 2013 at 1:29 pm - Reply

      Hey Michael – Her name is Liz and you can contact her here: facebook.com/renting.playadelcarmen

  25. […] cities and we covered a distance of around 2000 kilometers (1200 miles) from the starting point, Playa del Carmen, to the ending point, Oaxaca. Basically, we traveled across the entire southern part of […]

  26. Jennifer March 17, 2013 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    Oh, I didn’t know that you have lived in Playa. I love, love, love that place! I’ve spent almost 6 months in Mexico now, came home to Sweden yesterday. I lived in Sian Ka’an (diving and working with the reef) but went to Playa every weekend. I’m thinking about going back to Playa in september and stay for a long, long time. I don’t know what I’m going to do there but it’s the perfect place for me right now. And the mexicans are amazing people. Really, truly amazing and so friendly.

    I found it easy to find very cheap places in Playa. Food, apartments, and so on. But only when I went thru “a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who…”… And the mexicans always gave me a lower price when they realised that I knew about the prices they give other mexicans. Like when I went on the collectivo one day and they told me “200 pesos”. I asked “why 200 pesos when it’s normally 50?”. They’re not stupid, they will try to charge you more some times if you look foreign 🙂

  27. Max March 15, 2013 at 10:30 am - Reply

    Oooh, I love that quote.

  28. Andy March 11, 2013 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    Wow… why the nasty price hikes? Is that for Playa only – or all of Mexico?

    • Steve C March 11, 2013 at 8:25 pm - Reply

      Remember a few years back when there was all the violence in Mexico and many tourists were scared off? Well, they had to drop their prices just to stay alive with hardly any customers. Now, tourism is coming back and they are getting their prices back up to where they should be.

      • Wandering Earl March 14, 2013 at 6:45 pm - Reply

        Hey Steve – That may be the case to an extent but the current prices are definitely not where they would normally be. The odd part is that there are plenty of apartments available for rent all over the place but people get greedy when they see some people getting $2000 per month in rent. They refuse to budge on their own inflated price, even if that means their apartment will remain empty for the next six months.

        • Steve C March 15, 2013 at 3:06 am - Reply

          Another thing that may be influencing the prices is that Spring Break is just around the corner and they want to be ready to reap the “Big Pesos”. They may be able to get a couple months rent for just a week’s worth of desperate Spring Breakers.

          But, you may also be right in that Greed is more the driving force. Remember that the Mexicans that are able to own rentals are usually not the ones that are living pay check to pay check. Sometimes the supply / demand forces get out of whack.

    • Wandering Earl March 14, 2013 at 6:46 pm - Reply

      Hey Andy – So far that seems to be only for Playa. I think people are just trying to take advantage of the current influx of people moving there/ I’m sure the prices will go down again once the apartment owners realize that their apartments will remain empty if they continue to insist on crazy rental prices.

      • Andy March 15, 2013 at 9:36 pm - Reply

        Ah, OK. I first thought it might be a nation-wide trend due to economic growth or so.

  29. Emilie March 11, 2013 at 12:48 am - Reply

    This is not directly related to the post, but I love your blog! Travelling the world is pretty much the only thing I want to do with my life. Almost everyone I know is in the middle of settling down, working normal jobs, having kids.. great for them, I guess, and I sometimes feel like a failure for not even having a university degree yet.. but at the same time I think, what the hell. That’s not the kind of life I want to live anyway, I want to experience the world! Thanks for sharing your experiences, and thanks for giving me motivation and inspiration! Someday I’ll hopefully set of on my own eternal journey 🙂

    • Wandering Earl March 14, 2013 at 5:58 pm - Reply

      Hey Emilie – Thanks for that great comment and if you ever have any questions at any time, just let me know and I’d be more than happy to help out!

  30. Terri March 10, 2013 at 4:27 pm - Reply

    Hi Earl. My honey and I visited Playa back in October and fell in love with it. I went home and started reading everything I could about it, which is how I found your blog. Ive been an addicted fan ever since. You inspire us. Sometimes, we can make a difference in people’s lives without ever knowing it, and you have done that for us.
    4 days ago we moved to Playa! (still so excited to say that!). We sold most everything and moved here with a few suitcases of stuff and are loving every minute of it. In this post, you talked about many of the things we love about Playa. One of the things that we love so much is the diversity. The “touristy” areas offer plenty of great restaurants, bars and shops, but just a few blocks away you get such a different vibe. We are enjoying eating our way down Ave 30 at the “no name” places and exploring the local neighborhoods.
    Did you happen to be at WahWahs yesterday? I saw someone there that I thought looked like you, but at the time, I didnt realize you were in town. Probably best I didnt know, it saved me from a potentially embarrassing “fan girl moment” and Im much too old for that 🙂
    Anyway, while you are in town, we would love to buy you dinner sometime. We kinda feel we owe you.

    • Wandering Earl March 14, 2013 at 6:03 pm - Reply

      Hey Terri – I was at Wah-Wah’s!! The rain kept my group (I’m leading a group around Mexico for 2 weeks now) from partaking in other activities so we just relaxed there until the rain let up. You should have come over and introduced yourself! If I make it back to Playa I’ll let you know and we can definitely meet up then. In the meantime, enjoy that great town!

  31. Lauren @ roamingtheworld March 9, 2013 at 5:29 pm - Reply

    Hi Earl,
    Ya know, I had never heard of Playa del Carmen until I started reading Somewhere Sarah’s blog and turns out she was inspired by you!
    Love the small travel blogging world!
    Seems like such a great place! one day…

    • Wandering Earl March 14, 2013 at 5:53 pm - Reply

      Hey Lauren – It is a small world in general! You’ll make it to Playa at some point if you stay focused on your goal! Perhaps I’ll see you there…

  32. Sam March 9, 2013 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    Really interesting post, Earl. I kind of always assumed that you’d want to go back there and use it as a base for a while, considering all the great things you’d said about it before. In fact, when Zab and I were considering whether we’d made a mistake coming to Argentine and Chilean Patagonia at the beginning of our trip because it’s so expensive, I did look up flights from Buenos Aires and Santiago to Cancun with the idea of spending a while in Playa del Carmen to cut back on costs and get some of our projects started. And it was you who put Playa in my head as a potential place to ‘live’! Anyway, hopefully you’ll discover whether it’s right for you after you’ve been back a while. Good luck!

  33. Talon March 9, 2013 at 4:20 am - Reply

    We recently returned to Playa and noticed how much it had changed since we were there with you guys. I was not fond of the changes at all. Good luck in your decision-making process!

    • Wandering Earl March 14, 2013 at 5:38 pm - Reply

      Hey Talon – Just like the first time it seems to have taken a while to get used to it. By the time I left Playa yesterday, I had started to enjoy it much more again. But it’s not for everyone.

  34. Kristin of Be My Travel Muse March 9, 2013 at 1:31 am - Reply

    They say you can’t go back… I was thinking of moving to Otres Beach in Cambodia next year because i fell so in love with it when I was there, but i have to be prepared for it to change. Sometimes that’s the hardest part – letting go of a place that was so magical, but everything is impermanent. As travelers, we really come to realize that.

  35. Spanish translator @Latinabroad March 8, 2013 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    Oh, Playa Del Carmen! I love love that town. Was there for the first time on November 2012 — even considered moving there for a bit as well!

    Interesting to see that in as little as 2 years, prices have gone up by 50%. Absolutely nuts

    -Maria Alexandra

  36. Maria March 8, 2013 at 8:11 pm - Reply

    D.E. There is a lot to be said for ‘whoosh’ – that alone makes a strong case for relocation.

    • Wandering Earl March 14, 2013 at 5:36 pm - Reply

      Hey Maria – Very true. It is a powerfully refreshing feeling.

  37. alyson March 8, 2013 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    Hey Earl. Just letting you know you rock. Thanks for having such amazing blog.

    • Wandering Earl March 14, 2013 at 5:35 pm - Reply

      Gracias Alyson 🙂

  38. I haven’t checked prices in Playa, but it sounds like it’s double to triple the price of Cancun. You were just at our place the other day, and I told you for the studio I was renting out back I was only paying 5,500 pesos per month for fully furnished 2 floor studio fully stocked + Internet + gas + electric (which is rare, as most owners charge you for the electric so they don’t have to pay the AC bill in the summer) all included, which means I live for around $650 per month for total costs including food and entertainment.

    I’ve found 5 bedroom houses, fully furnished, for 7,000 pesos to 10,000 pesos per month. That’s between $600 and $900ish dollars per month, more or less. Studios can be found for 4,000 to 6,000 pesos (350ish to 500ish USD), 2-3 bedroom places range from 6 to 8k on average (500 to 650ish USD). Centro, Cancun.

    Obviously not within walking distance to a beach, but no tourists, completely bohemian, Mexican, full of the same culture/etc.

    Prices are higher in Playa because of the more direct access to the beach.

    Granted, it’s different now because I’m renting the two 2-bedroom apartments for the retreat members, but for example our landlady has properties all over Cancun, and her prices hover in the 6k to 8k range for the 1-2 bedroom places, 100% utilities + Internet included and all 100% fully furnished.

  39. jonny March 8, 2013 at 4:27 am - Reply

    I spent three months in Mallorca, Spain back in 2010 and had an amazing time. It really was a summer whirlwind. I went back last year and the place was just like any other resort area. I couldn’t see anything special about it – none of my friends were there with me (they had all stayed just the summer, like me), and it was just missing something. I realised I will never have access to that place again.

    I also lived in Mexico for a year (Aguascalientes), and have booked a flight to go back in mid May. I am really excited, but also petrified that I’m going to arrive and be underwhelmed, because I know the magic of that year is probably not able to be recaptured.

    Interesting post, Earl.

  40. Rafaelinho March 8, 2013 at 12:34 am - Reply

    I have lived in Playa of and on since 2007 and have been visiting for close to 20 years. One suggestion regarding the beaches would be to head down South to the towns of Akumal, Paamul, or Tulum. They still have the vibe that Playa had back in the 90’s. Playa has gotten more expensive and the neighborhood in North Playa is the next one target for development. I have seen old apartments building being converted to swanky new condos. Playa has become too popular and many foreigners with $$ have come down looking for a place to live. That’s just the way it goes. I still love it and look forward to returning any chance I get. I might go down there later this month. If you are still around, let’s go for drinks. First round is on me. Cheers!

    • Wandering Earl March 8, 2013 at 11:43 am - Reply

      Hey Rafelinho – You’re right and I do enjoy Akumal a lot as well, especially the beach there. Luckily, north Playa still has some empty stretches of sand so it’s still possible to have a quiet beach experience but you have to go a lot further up these days. And I probably won’t be here at the end of the month as I’m leaving in a few days with the group I’m taking around the country for a couple of weeks.

  41. Shey March 8, 2013 at 12:15 am - Reply

    “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

    • Wandering Earl March 8, 2013 at 11:41 am - Reply

      Hey Shey – Indeed.

  42. Carla March 7, 2013 at 7:20 pm - Reply

    For me, what you said about the first time vs. the next time you travel somewhere wasn’t true for Barcelona. The first time I was there for only 3 days and overslept the first day, seeing only a couple of places. And I ended up at a hotel way out near the airport after my hostel didn’t even answer calls. But Barcelona was still so cool that I wanted to go back. The next time I spent a week and it was amazing. I try to learn some things from each trip I go on, and write down mistakes I made, to improve the experience next time I travel. I am worried about the first trip vs. second trip thing with London and Venice though. I’m wondering if my next time in those cities won’t be nearly as enjoyable. I’ve never been to Mexico but thanks for this post, it makes me want to see the beaches of Playa.

    • Wandering Earl March 8, 2013 at 11:41 am - Reply

      Hey Carla – I think the difference is that the first time you were in Barcelona, it was only for a very short period of time. So there was still plenty to do and see the next time around. But since I lived in Playa for 1 year the first time, and had amazing memories from so many activities, people and places, it is hard to find something ‘new’ to do that might make it as exciting again. I’m sure you’ll be fine with London and Venice 🙂

  43. Steve C March 7, 2013 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    Very good critique Earl. I agree with Arjen above about the difference between the first and second time to the same place. The old saying “You can never go home again” is true to some extent. It’s hard to compare one place to another, (apples and oranges) and it’s also hard to compare one place against itself with the passage of time. Everything, everyone and everyplace moves on. And so do we. And it’s not a bad thing. It’s life.

    My first trip thru PDC was in the 1970’s. It was only a very small fishing village with one main street, the highway. It was there because that was where the ferry was to go over to Cozumel, which we did. I couldn’t believe the difference on my second trip through there, 20 years later. I can’t imagine what it must look like now, another 20 years later.

    I think one must always live in the present without making comparisons to some other point in time. Do I like this place, today? Maybe someday we’ll be “Time Travelers”.

  44. Arjen - On My Way To Freedomland March 7, 2013 at 4:57 pm - Reply

    There is nothing like the first time. The real magic is gone the second time and you always end up comparing. Just what you did actually ;). Anyways, I just had my first time in Playa del Carmen and I definitely liked it. The atmosphere was good, the people were relaxed (not pushy at all) and the food was nice. Prices were very reasonable in my opinion and it is easy to stick around in this place for a while. Although, after walking the 5th for 6 weeks, the place started to feel a bit small. I am sure if I ever come back, things will feel different as well but then again, it doesn’t have to mean worse 🙂 ! Take care.

    • Wandering Earl March 8, 2013 at 11:39 am - Reply

      Hey Arjen – I agree with you and definitely have the experience of revisiting many places over the years. And believe me, I still love it here in Playa but I just don’t know if I could live here again as I would always be comparing it to the ‘first time’. Still a great place though!

  45. TravelingFirefighter March 7, 2013 at 11:19 am - Reply

    Hi Earl/Derek,

    I was quite interested in this follow up on PDC as you had something to do with me visiting there for the first time a year or two ago which I’ve always appreciated. I, too, enjoyed my first visit there.

    I’m curious, how long were you there the first time? Also, when I was there I noticed many signs in windows of empty condo’s etc with phone numbers for rent. How difficult was it for you to: a. Negotiate prices down while not speaking the language and b. actually see many places since the owner’s would have to meet you there at the property. I envision waiting around for long times waiting on homeowners to show up to show you the rental thus not being able to see the inside of very many each day.

    The first time I went I coincidentally stayed in the exact place you took pics about and wrote about (2 balconey’s…I paid much more than you did). I booked thru airbnb but always thought I could do better calling those numbers in the windows but the difficulties above concern me. Anything you can add here?

    Thank you.

    • Wandering Earl March 8, 2013 at 11:37 am - Reply

      @TravelingFirefighter: The first time I was here for about 1 year. As for negotiating, it wasn’t so bad but I did speak a good amount of Spanish which definitely helped. And it was easy to see many places…I just called the numbers, made appointments and that was it. However, there are people in Playa now who help do this for you. You pay about $75 and they will arrange dozens of appointments for you at apartments that fit your needs/budgets, making the process even easier.

      I have a good friend who actually does this now and I’ve sent dozens of people to her. She’s helped many of them find great apartments are great prices. If you’re interested, send me an email and I can provide her details.

  46. Ryan from Jets Like Taxis March 7, 2013 at 11:15 am - Reply

    Back in Mexico! I’ll be interested to hear how things went with Tim.

    I haven’t been to Playa del Carmen since 2009. I found it to be typically touristy along the boardwalk/pedestrian zone and all the chain bars. However, I found it to be fantastic outside of that.

    Getting away from those areas made all the difference for me. I’m sad to hear that it’s getting more expensive and expanding, but that’s unfortunately the nature of the beast. I have a good feeling that you’ll find something in Mexico that’s a little less exposed during your journey, and look forward to seeing what it is.

    Enjoy your time in Mexico, and we wish you the best on your tour!

    • Wandering Earl March 8, 2013 at 11:35 am - Reply

      Thanks Ryan! And the couple of days I spent up in Cancun with Tim and his group were excellent. I had a great time and we all had some very interesting discussions. Their group will be heading down to Playa on Monday as well so that we can all hang out one more time. It would be great if you were here as well!

      • Ryan from Jets Like Taxis March 10, 2013 at 8:24 am - Reply

        Glad you had a good time. We won’t be in Mexico until at least the end of the year. But, we’ll catch up with you at some point!

  47. Tristan March 7, 2013 at 10:59 am - Reply

    Interesting. I just came from a month in Playa and yeah, I spent $500ish/month for a studio apartment pretty far north of the city center. The downside was that I was far from the center, the upside was that the beach was far less crowded and no less beautiful. I’m on Cozumel now (been here for a month and will be here for another two) and like it a lot. It feels more like Mexico, if that makes sense. The beaches on the west side of the island here aren’t as nice as those in Playa, but the snorkeling is better.

    I liked Playa a lot and was glad I was there for a month, but I don’t think I’d spend another month there. One was enough.

    Anyway, interesting writeup, and I can definitely relate to your search for the perfect home base. I’m actually heading to Georgia (the country) for two months once I’m finished here in Cozumel. I don’t know if it’ll be perfect, but the apartment I’ll be in is in the center of town and there’s apparently good Wi-Fi. What more do you need? 🙂

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