We love a warm-weather getaway, and even better is a beachfront destination that’s trendy yet exclusive. While Tulum is a favorite for the stylish set, another top-tier Mexico vacation spot for luxury-loving travelers is the coastal town of Playa del Carmen. Located off the Caribbean shoreline between Tulum and Cancun, the resort town offers palm-lined beaches, stunning coral reefs and a jungle vibe. And with a diverse downtown scene only 15 minutes away from prime resorts, it’s the perfect grown-up getaway for some of the best shopping, restaurants and nightspots along the Riviera Maya. Here, your guide on where to stay, eat, drink and of course, shop—because we’ll take any excuse to rock swimwear after a long, cold winter.
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
For a luxurious and tranquil resort experience, The Banyan Tree Mayakoba is a must. Surrounded by a freshwater lagoon, mangroves and intricate coral reefs, the luxury hotel transports you to Southeast Asia through its Asian- and Mayan-inspired motifs, plush garden setting and indigenous fish and bird species; the sleek, private villas also offer spectacular plunge pools and a pristine beach club. Indulge in the elegant cuisine varieties, explore the 600-acre Mayakoba property via boat tour, bike ride or walking trails, and enjoy luxe amenities (including a first-class spa) and impeccable service from the incredibly friendly staff.
Though the Banyan Tree offers plenty to explore, a day trip to the Gran Cenote along the Riviera Maya is an experience unlike any other. Roughly 45 minutes from the Mayakoba resort area near Tulum, this popular site allows you to swim through crystal-clear waters in some of the world's best underground river systems. With a jungle-like setting atop the cavernous water landscape, you can bask in the sun for hours after snorkeling or scuba diving through the stunning rock formations and water wildlife. (Entrance is about $10.)
For a diverse shopping excursion, head downtown to Fifth Avenue for a combination of upscale brands, department stores and local shops. Take in the regional flavor by pursuing handcrafted goods from local artisans—and expect to bargain for a good price. (Fun fact: US dollars is an unofficial currency, so paying by credit card is an option for big-ticket purchases.) Post-shopping, hit up some of Fifth Avenue's many bars, ice cream shops and restaurants for a lively cocktail hour or meal. If you're looking to dance, an array of vivacious bars and clubs line 12th Street (aka Calle 12).
For an enchanting dining experience, Aldea Corazón offers Mexican fare with a Mayan twist. Located right off Playa del Carmen's bustling Fifth Avenue, you'll dine among an ancient Mayan garden (read: tropical greenery, cenotes and a tranquil waterfall) and enjoy a diverse menu that includes traditional tortilla soup, fresh local fish and a curated cocktail list.
For a hotspot vibe in downtown Playa del Carmen, the Thompson Hotel boasts stunning ocean views, a plethora of cabanas and lounge chairs with open restaurants where you can imbibe a spicy margarita or piña colada. For a daytime cocktail, Cinco offers an open-air atmosphere with picturesque panoramas, while Catch opens in the evenings for more of a nightlife feel.