Playa del Carmen (aka just Playa) is a port city located along Mexico's Caribbean (eastern) coast. The city has population around 150,000 and is part of Quintana Roo state. The port's location on Riviera Maya (Caribbean Mexican Riviera) makes it a popular tourist travel destination. Playa also hosts professional PGA Tour golf tournaments.
Playa del Carmen is also the principal cruise port to Cancun City (population around 900,000) which lacks a deepwater port. Directly in Cancun may dock only smaller-sized boats. Cancun is also visited via stops at San Miguel de Cozumel (Isla Cozumel).
Riviera Maya runs from south of Cancun to Tulum and Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve. Playa del Carmen is a stop for several cruise liners which dock at nearby Calica quarry docks, 10 km (6 mi) south of the city. Xcaret Eco Park is a Mexican "eco-archaeological park", which is a popular tourist destination situated south of the city in Xcaret.
Hurricane Wilma passed over Playa del Carmen in October 2005, remaining in the vicinity for 2 days and causing considerable damage and a temporary drop in tourists' arrivals. However, most of the damage was comparatively superficial and repaired within several weeks. Hurricane Wilma came from the Caribbean Sea, and passed over Cozumel before the landfall in Playa. It then moved along the Mexican coast, and hit Cancun very hard.
Originally a little fishing town, Playa del Carmen cruise ship tourism started with passenger ferry service to Cozumel Island across Cozumel Channel and a popular scuba diving destination. Playa has undergone rapid development with new residential condominium buildings, restaurants, entertainment venues and boutiques. Tourist activity centers on Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue), stretching from Calle 1 Norte to Calle 40. Fifth Avenue is a pedestrian walkway situated just 1 or 2 blocks inland from the beach, lined with hundreds of bars, restaurants and shops. There are many boutique hotels on and off Fifth Avenue as well as on the beach.
Playacar is a tourist development south of the main urban area in Playa del Carmen. Most all-inclusive hotels, the golf course and the aviary are located in this development. There are 2 phases, of which phase 1 is mostly residential (few hotels, several stores), while phase 2 includes the biggest all-inclusive resorts, the golf course and large number of residential properties.
Port's statistics show that an average cruise ship tourist spends around USD 125 per day while the ship is docked. The average daily spending by mega-yacht passengers is around USD 300 pp per day.
Playa del Carmen cruise terminal
This is a tender cruise port, which means that large cruise ships to Playa del Carmen anchor and transport their passengers to the ferry terminal via the ship's tender boats. The ferry pier is conveniently located near downtown's plaza.
- Often, after disembarking its passengers, the ship continues to and docks at some of the piers on the west coast of Cozumel Island.
- Passengers disembarked at Playa del Carmen join again their cruise ship by taking the ferry to Cozumel.
- Some ships may dock at Puerto Calica (aka Punta Venado). This cruise port is located approx 8 mi (13 km) south of Playa del Carmen. There are tourist buses and taxis outside the terminal. Taxi fares from Calica to Playa are around USD 10.
- Buses from Playa to Cancun leave every 15 min. Akumal (small beachfront resort) and Tulum (pre-Columbian Mayan walled city and main port to the ancient Mayan city Coba) are also a short distance away.
In 2017 started construction works for expanding the current dock with 100 m (328) in order to allow berthing of large yachts (by 2018) and with additional 220 m (722 ft) to allow large-sized cruise ship berthing (by 2019). The berth expansion project was budgeted around USD 20 million. The port's first (mega yacht) berth extension will allow handling of 20-30 large yachts annually
Port Calica is located approx 5 mi / 8 km south of Playa del Carmen. Currently, there is a small pier with several souvenir stands located nearby. Most passengers arrive here by ferry from Cozumel (approx 12 mi / 20 km away). There are two ferry companies running ferries that cost ~USD 15 pp (roundtrip ticket). Depending on weather, the crossing Cozumel-Calica is 30-45 min.
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