Mexico is a country that’s so diverse and beautiful it’s hard to decide where to visit, let alone live. After living there for nearly five months, I can highly recommend staying on the Yucatan Peninsula, specifically, Playa del Carmen. But, of course, there are upsides and downsides to every city – in this post, I’ll share with you the pros and cons of Playa del Carmen.
The weather is warm, and the people are friendly, but there are certainly some struggles that come with living in Mexico – just like any other foreign country. Personally, I believe the pros outweigh the cons – but you can judge for yourself.
15 Pros and Cons of Playa del Carmen
The list below is based on my own personal experience, conversations with other expats and travelers, and reading other people’s thoughts online. There certainly seems to be consensus across the board, and it’s definitely knowledge you’ll want before heading out on your travels.
Keep reading to learn more about the stunning city in Mexico, and what you can expect if you relocate or stay for an extended period of time in this list of pros and cons of living in Playa del Carmen.
What is Playa del Carmen?
Playa del Carmen is located south of Cancun and north of Tulum on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Nestled along the shores of the Caribbean Sea, it’s known for its white sand beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters, and laid-back vibe.
Millions of tourists flock to Playa del Carmen every year, and thousands of expats and digital nomads have called it home. Just a short flight from the U.S., it’s no mystery why this beach town has quite the draw. There’s an almost endless list of things to do in Playa del Carmen.
Pros of Playa del Carmen
There are so many advantages of Playa del Carmen and staying there long-term. Here is what I found during my five-month stay.
1. Digital Nomad-Friendly
One of the biggest pros of Playa del Carmen is its accommodations for online workers and digital nomads. With coworking spaces, cafes, beach clubs, restaurants, and coffee shops galore, you’ll always find a spot to pull out your laptop.
Playa del Carmen is growing exponentially, which means its infrastructure is improving as well. High-speed internet can be found all across the city, so you’ll always be able to meet those work deadlines.
2. Breathtaking Beaches
The number one advantage of Playa del Carmen is that it’s a Mexican paradise. The beaches are like something out of a postcard, and you can swim year-round. Talk about a dream life!
There are miles of walkable beaches that are all easily accessible by car, bike, or foot. Along the beaches, you’ll find white sands, lounge chairs at restaurants and bars, and vendors selling artisan goods.
Playa del Carmen’s beaches are surrounded by a coral reef, so the water is shallow, generally calm, and at the perfect temperature. Keep an eye out for sea turtles, dolphins, and other marine life.
3. Cost of Living
I found that a major perk of living in Playa del Carmen was the affordable cost of living. The current exchange rate (in 2023) is $17.20 MX (pesos) for each $1 USD. This isn’t actually that great due to the economy (I’ve seen it at $22.00 MX); however, it’s still much cheaper than the U.S.
Apartments in Playa del Carmen range anywhere from $400 to $1500 on average, depending on the neighborhood and the amenities you’re looking for. You can find basic studio apartments or luxury condo apartments with a rooftop pool.
Food is relatively cheap as well, especially if you shop at the supermarket or local markets. You can easily buy fresh fruits and vegetables from a local fruiteria for less than $5 USD. Of course, going out to eat can range from inexpensive local taco trucks to restaurants that are quite high-end.
4. Surrounded by Nature
A huge benefit to Playa del Carmen, if you love the outdoors, is the amount of nature that surrounds the area. Not only is there the pristine beach, but there are cenotes (freshwater underground springs), jungles, nature preserves, and more to explore.
Within a 30-minute drive, you can feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. You can go for day hikes on jungle trails, go snorkeling to explore the coral reef, and swim in the crisp, clear waters of the cenotes. There’s always something to do outdoors.
Nature lovers will fall in love with Playa del Carmen. Although it doesn’t have any hills or mountains, it makes up for it with a landscape you can’t find anywhere else.
5. Ease of Transportation
Getting around Playa del Carmen is extremely easy. The central beach area is very walkable, and you can get around to most places within 15 minutes. You can also get around by bike quite easily.
For further excursions, you have a few options. Playa del Carmen offers Uber as a simple option; they also have taxis that are constantly driving around the streets looking for a fare.
If you’d like to travel like the locals, you can also hop on a “collectivo.” These are essentially vans that transport people on certain routes around town and even to nearby areas like Tulum, Cancun, and other towns. They charge a fee based on distance, and it’s usually extremely affordable.
6. Immersed in History
In terms of the pros and cons of living in Playa del Carmen, and the Yucatan Peninsula in general, one of my favorite pros about this place is that it’s absolutely teeming with history. From the Mayan culture to the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs, there is certainly a special energy in this part of the world.
Learn about the rich history of the area by exploring famous ruins and pyramids like Tulum, Coba, and Chichen Itza. All of which are within a day’s trip from Playa del Carmen.
There are also museums and sites in the city for you to learn about the culture, like the Museo Frida Kahlo, Riviera Art Gallery, and the central plaza with historical architecture.
7. Fun Attractions Around Every Corner
As you’ve probably gathered by now, the pros of Playa del Carmen are pretty enticing. In addition to the free natural wonders of the city, there are also tons of attractions and parks to explore.
Thanks to its beautiful natural landscape and inlets of the Caribbean Sea, numerous water theme parks incorporate the ocean itself into the park. Snorkel, swim, zipline, and more at places like Xel Ha, Xcaret, and Xplor. Some even have rollercoasters!
You’ll also find plenty of shows and festivals around town at any given time of the year. Watch a vibrant show at the famous Coco Bongo Club, or keep an eye out for music festivals that are a regular occurrence.
8. Plenty of Shopping
Whether you need groceries, clothes, electronics, or home goods, Playa del Carmen has hundreds of shopping choices for you. There are malls, mom-and-pop shops, department stores, and nearly everything you’ll find in the States.
Along the popular and touristy 5th Avenue, the street is lined with boutiques, clothing stores, art galleries, and local vendors. You can also find shops full of trinkets and souvenirs as well.
The central area is home to stores like H&M and Louis Vuitton and all around the city you can find a shop for your every need. The most popular grocery stores are Walmart, Mega, and Chedrui.
9. Affordable Medical Treatments
It’s no secret that people travel abroad for more affordable medical and dental treatments, and Playa del Carmen is a popular destination for that. In fact, I’ve even taken advantage of treatments myself. From eye doctors and dentists to general wellness and plastic surgery, you’ll be able to find a doctor or specialist for far less than you would in the United States.
I needed to see a dentist for a crown that had fallen out, and I couldn’t believe how nice the office was. The entire staff spoke English, and it was very professional. They charged me $50 to fix the crown, whereas, in the States, it would have been $200.
Of course, as with any medical or dental procedure, it’s important to do your research. Look into the doctor, read reviews, and ask questions.
Cons of Playa del Carmen
Despite all the pros, there are also some cons to living in Playa del Carmen. As with any international destination, it’s important to educate yourself before making a commitment to a lengthy time period, or even visiting a new city or country.
1. Hot and Humid Weather
A downside to living in a tropical climate is that it always comes with a very hot and usually wet season. Playa del Carmen is no exception.
Generally speaking, the weather in this area is very pleasant. However, from July through September, expect hot and humid weather with occasional heavy downpours. There were times I remember the entire street being flooded in a matter of seconds.
Many places in Playa del Carmen don’t offer air conditioning or have an open storefront. So, oftentimes, you might find yourself very sweaty with frizzy hair.
2. Heavy Crowds During Peak Season
Since Playa del Carmen is so beautiful and special, it attracts millions of tourists every year. During peak seasons, it can be hard to find accommodations, get into restaurants, find beach chairs, or even walk down the street!
There are two major peak seasons in Playa del Carmen – Christmas and Semana Santa (the weeks before and after Easter). Not only are there tourists galore, but the locals also have vacations during that time, and the city is packed.
I happened to be in Playa del Carmen during Semana Santa, and I was blown away by how busy it was. The beach was a sea of people, with no room for any more towels. And the partying continued well into the early morning hours.
3. Noisy and Rowdy
Speaking of partying until the early morning hours, if you like your peace and quiet, you’ll want to choose your location wisely. Playa del Carmen, particularly during the peak seasons, is known for being a party town – and it certainly lives up to its reputation.
Around 10 pm at night, the vibrant nightclub scene comes alive. DJs, live music, and reveling are happening on every corner in the central area. If you need your beauty sleep, you might want to avoid this neighborhood as the clubs can stay open until 5 am.
Also, beware of major holidays because the locals don’t mess around. In their culture, it’s completely normal to party and celebrate until the sun comes up.
4. You Can’t Drink Tap Water
When considering the pros and cons of living in Playa del Carmen, one of the major disadvantages is the fact that you can’t drink the tap water, meaning you’re constantly going to the store to buy more bottled water.
If you’re planning on staying there long-term, you’ll definitely want to invest in a five-gallon water dispenser. It’s a pain to bring them home and then have to refill them, but it at least saves you some trips and reduces your garbage waste.
Some people say not to drink the ice at restaurants and bars, but the ice they use is generally purchased from the store and is safe to drink.
5. Lots of Construction
As mentioned earlier, Playa del Carmen is growing rapidly, and with that – comes construction. On nearly every corner, you’ll find a new condo building going up – and there are certainly no signs of this stopping, or even slowing down, any time soon.
Because of this, you’ll often find heavy traffic, closed sidewalks, and lots of dangerous debris on the walkways and roads. Don’t be surprised if you eventually find yourself with a flat bike or car tire.
Sadly, the construction is also devastating the local wildlife because of the land clearing. Part of the growing pains of an expanding city.
6. Crime Awareness
As with any other foreign country, it’s important to be aware of your safety at all times and aware of the general crime rates. Overall, Playa del Carmen is safe; however, there are certain things to be aware of.
The Mexican cartel is a very real and dangerous group. Although they don’t generally target tourists, sadly, people can be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Always be aware of your surroundings.
There are also crimes targeted at tourists. Things like pickpocketing and theft, price scams, and druggings do occur. Practice good common sense and if something feels off, avoid it. Keep your valuables close and avoid walking with large volumes of cash.
Is Playa del Carmen Worth It?
Absolutely! Despite the cons, the pros of Playa del Carmen far outweigh them. It’s gorgeous, it’s full of charm, and the culture is wonderful. When weighing up the pros and cons of living in Playa del Carmen, I can confidently say that I enjoyed my time in this city and would happily go back again.
Playa del Carmen is a place where you can build a beautiful, happy life in the sun without the high costs of many other Western cultures.