A vacation in Playa del Carmen would not be complete without lying at the beach and devouring a book. Your first choice might be to bring the latest New York Times bestseller. But why not read a novel set in Playa del Carmen or one about the Mexican culture? It will give you just that more appreciation about life here. From easy reads to historical fiction, here are our top picks for the best books on Mexico and the Riviera Maya.
1. Playa Punch – A Mayan Trilogy
By C. J. Sharky
This fun and fast-paced book takes you on a journey through familiar places in Playa del Carmen and its surroundings. Reading it while on vacation here, you will feel like you are in the middle of the action. It’s an easy read and the perfect lecture for lying at the beach. Besides of being entertaining, it’s filled with inside information and local customs.
2. Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies
By Laura Esquivel
This is probably the best known Mexican novel in the world – for a reason. The fact that it was made into a film in 1992 isn’t the only one. It’s a wonderful novel about love. About Tita’s love to Pedro and, more importantly, to the Mexican cuisine. It’s a must read if you want to truly understand Mexico’s obsession with food and the role it plays in its society.
By Laura Esquivel
Another amazing book by the Mexican author Laura Esquivel. It tells the love story of Malinche, an Aztec girl, and the conquistador Cortés. While Malinche was demonized as a traitor by the whole world, Esquivel changes this point of view, mixing great fiction with historical truths.
4. The Secret Books of Frida Kahlo - A Novel
By F. G. Haghenbeck
The acclaimed Mexican novelist Haghenbeck was inspired by recently discovered notebooks that belonged to Frida Kahlo. As a result, he created a beautifully written fictional account of Frida and her life and even added some authentic Mexican recipes. If you liked the book, you might want to visit Playa del Carmen's Frida Kahlo museum too.
5. Terra Nostra
By Carlos Fuentes
This is perhaps the most ambitious novel from one of Mexico’s greatest writers. Covering not less than 20 centuries, it narrates the history of Spain and South America and the struggle between the conquistadors and the indigenous civilization.
6. The Ruins
By Scott Smith
This crime novel set in the Mexican jungle sure is a true page-turner. The set-up is simple. An American couple on vacation in Mexico goes somewhere they shouldn’t. What follows is a creeping horror, unlike anything they could have imagined.
7. The Labyrinth of Solitude
By Octavio Paz
The beautifully written discourse on Mexico’s quest for identity gives you a look at the country's “behind the mask”. It’s one of the most enduring and powerful works on the country and its people, character, and culture.
The quirky and spiritual novel describes how an eccentric “gringo” with a shady past becomes friends with a Mayan curandero and his apprentice. It is also a love declaration to Tulum, where (as the title suggests) a big part of the book takes place.
9. A visit to Don Otavio – A Mexican Odyssey
By Sybille Bedford
Travel back in time to the 1950s Mexico. Written with wit and humor, the European author describes her journey through Mexico and the people she met. Her observations are personal, sometimes insightful, sometimes naïve. But she manages to make you see the colors, taste the food, and get immersed in Mexico’s rich history.
Playa del Carmen is becoming more and more popular as a gay vacation destination. Besides of being a very open-minded town, its great climate, the gorgeous setting at the Caribbean Sea, and its vibrant party scene make Playa del Carmen the perfect getaway to relax, socialize, and get to know the Mexican culture.
Playa del Carmen attracts queer folks of all sorts from everywhere in the world. Gay women and men, older, younger, party animals, adventurers, families… This makes it an exciting place to meet new friends and to just have a great time.
Playa del Carmen is about a 50 minutes drive south from the Cancun airport. Playa Palms Beach Hotel guests can easily schedule a transfer with us (check out our promotion for a free hotel transfer). See alternative ways to get from the Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen here.
Playa del Carmen Activities
We’re located in the heart of the Riviera Maya, surrounded by innumerable natural wonders. There are the stunning beaches to relax at and get a tan. Plus, they offer all sorts of water activities. Just in front of the Riviera Maya is the world’s second largest coral reef, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. Explore the amazing underwater world snorkeling or scuba diving!
Cenotes, natural pools formed by collapsing bedrock, are unique to the Yucatan Peninsula. Swimming or diving in their impossibly clear water in a magical cave or under the jungle-framed sky makes for a truly unforgettable experience.
And of course, there are many awe-inspiring Mayan ruins that make you imagine how the Mayan people lived. Nestled on the coast of the Caribbean Sea, the ruins of Tulum sure are among the most beautiful. Close to them is Cobá, overlooking the jungle. And, the most famous for being one of the 7 World Wonders, Chichen Itza. All of them make for a great day excursion.
Playa del Carmen Gay Nightlife
Since Playa del Carmen is a very gay-friendly town, there are only a few places destined for the LGBT audience. You will be pleasantly surprised to find quite a mixed crowd at most locations.
This is the one and only gay nightclub in Playa del Carmen, on most days entertaining you with a drag show. Club 69 is right on the 5th Avenue, with 6th Street (walk down the alley to the left of the 7 Eleven shop), and opens on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The party usually doesn't really start before 2 am. The entrance fee is 50 pesos (about 2.50 USD).
La Cueva del Maya-T
Famous for its gay (male) strip shows, this rather casual bar attracts mainly locals. On some evenings they have an entrance fee of 50 pesos. The bar is a bit outside of Playa del Carmen’s center, on the 1st Street South between the Avenues 40 and 45. The best way to get there is by taxi.
This club on the famous 12th street, Playa del Carmen's party mile, isn’t really a gay club. But usually, you find a gay crowd there. It’s the perfect place if you just want to dance, have fun and are looking for fair priced drinks. They play a bit of everything and have themed evenings like wet t-shirt contest or twerking contest.
Click here to get a general overview of Playa del Carmen's nightlife.
Playa del Carmen Gay Beaches
Playa del Carmen’s most popular beach attracts a very mixed crowd – straight, gays, young, old... It’s all about seeing and being seen, so if you are looking for the hottest gays in town, this is where you will place your towel. There is a beach club, or you can just stay at the beach in front of it. Mamita’s is at the 28th Street, about 10 minutes walking distance from Playa Palms Beach Hotel.
Coralina Beach Club
Imagine a nightclub at the beach under the sun. Coralina is your place to be if you are looking for party and meeting new, fun people. This beach club is at the 26th Street, close to Mamita’s.
This is your beach if you prefer a quiet place to escape the crowds for a while. To get there, walk up to the ferry station and cross the Señor Frog’s Restaurant next to it.
Click here to see the most beautiful beaches of the Riviera Maya.
Gay Events in Playa del Carmen
Other than the Playa Pride Parade in June (usually the second or third weekend), Playa del Carmen hosts Mexico’s biggest LGBT dance music festival. The Arena Circuit Party takes place every year at the beginning of February and turns Playa del Carmen into gay paradise for a week. In addition to a great line up with international house DJs, you will dance your feet off at the most fantastic locations along the Riviera Maya. Imagine dancing under the stars in the middle of a jungle, at the beach or at a cenote! The festival attracts a very international gay crowd that is growing from year to year.
Playa del Carmen Gay Hotels
Xcaret Eco Park is one of our guests’ favorite places to visit during their Playa del Carmen vacation. The huge park is like a mini-Mexico, representing the country’s vast culture, history, and nature. Here’s an overview of Xcaret’s best attractions.
Let’s start by answering some FAQs. To begin with, we highly recommend buying an entry that includes food and transportation. Everybody leaves Xcaret at the same time – when the show ends – and it’s difficult to get a taxi and public buses get full up quickly. During high season it can even be difficult to find a parking space. With your transportation booked beforehand, you can get back to your hotel in Playa del Carmen comfortably and hassle-free.
Once you enter Xcaret, make sure to get a map to provide you with an overview of the park and its different activities. There are a total of 45 free activities and some extra activities that you need to pay for.
The size and many activities Xcaret offers can easily fill up more than a day. To help you decide what to do and make the most out of your day, here are Playa Palms’ 5 favorite Xcaret activities – all of them included in the entry fee.
1 The Animals at Xcaret
At its heart, Xcaret is considered a natural reserve, dedicated to protecting endangered species. For example, they have the world’s largest macaw breeding program – you can see the colorful birds flying around everywhere in the park! Plus, Xcaret is home to Jaguars, spider monkeys, tapirs, and many more. If you are an animal lover, the park’s Wildlife Breeding Area and Aviary is a must see. Have a peek at baby macaws, flamingos, the beautiful Quetzal bird and other animals, such as baby crocodiles for example.
One of Xcaret Park’s highlights certainly is the Coral Reef Aquarium. It exhibits over 5000 living marine organisms. Among them are tropical fish, sea horses, turtles, mesmerizing jellyfish, nursery sharks, rays… You can even touch some of the animals!
Xcaret is also home to one of the largest Butterfly Pavillons in the world. In its gardens, which make you feel like you are in the middle of a rainforest, you can see colorful butterflies of more than 20 species up close.
2 Mayan Village and Cemetery
Another highlight of Xcaret is its replica of a Mayan village with a beautiful cemetery. You get to know how the traditional Mayan people lived, with people going about everyday activities and artisan work.
The spectacular cemetery is a colorful tribute to life, located on a shell-shaped hill, called the “bridge to paradise”. Its shape should remind of the shells Mayan used to communicate with their gods. A narrow spiral path leads up the hill, through 7 levels representing the 7 days of the week. It passes by 365 beautifully adorned graves that will entertain you with their sometimes meaningful, sometimes humorous inscriptions.
3 Xcaret's Underground Rivers
Xcaret has 3 underground rivers. Equipped with life jackets and snorkeling gear, you can float and paddle through the natural caves and artificial tunnels at your own pace. They take you past (real) Mayan ruins, mangroves, flamingos, and along a beautiful mysterious scenery.
4 Hacienda and Folk Art Museum
Hacienda Henequenera, fully furnished with antiques, gives you a glimpse of how wealthy Mexicans of the 19th century lived. Walking through the impressive mansion, you will learn a lot about the history of the Yucatan Peninsula. But what is most impressive are the creations of renowned Mexican artists exhibited throughout the Hacienda.
5 México Espectacular Show
For Xcaret’s probably most outstanding attraction you have to wait until sunset: their famous night show. It is a real tribute to Mexico and, as its name suggests, really spectacular. The first part of the show takes you on a journey through Mexico’s history, starting at Prehispanic times up to modern Mexico, featuring incredible costumes and set designs. The second part shows typical dances from Mexico’s different states, accompanied by the most representative music.
Years ago, to book a hotel room, you could either contact a travel agent or call the hotel directly. Nowadays, there are many more possibilities. Most people book online through third-party websites like Booking.com or Expedia, who lure with seemingly amazing offers. They sure became a very helpful tool to compare hotel prices. But when it comes to booking your room, you definitely benefit more from booking directly with the hotel.
Here are seven exclusive benefits you only enjoy when booking your room directly at Playa Palms Beach Hotel.
1 best rates
Booking directly with Playa Palms Beach Hotel ensures you the best price – we promise! Still found a lower rate? We will beat it. But make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Please check that you are comparing prices for the same date, the same room type and double check if the rates you are looking at include the 19% tax fee. If you’ve done all that and are still sure that the rate you found online is lower than what we offered, send us a screenshot and we will adjust our rate.
An advantage many people don’t know is that when booking direct you are also in direct contact with us. This means that if you change your travel plans and for example want to arrive on another day to Playa del Carmen or leave earlier, we are there for you and help you find a solution. Whereas if you book through a third party, you need to deal with their agents first. This often involves unpleasant long waiting times at the phone. Also, at the time of booking, we can give you detailed information about the property, our rooms, amenities, and the service we provide.
3 Best Room
We reserve our best rooms for direct bookers and take your special requests into account. Maybe you prefer to stay on the top floor or, on the contrary, on the main floor. No problem - we will place you in your preferred hotel room. Of course, it’s always subject to availability.
4 Best Offers
Besides our regular offers, we have special offers for direct bookers. Every month, we have a new deal for you. Some offers are permanent. For example, if you stay 7 nights or more, you benefit from a free airport transfer and return guests get a special discount. You can check out our current deals and promotions on our website or contact us.
5 Breakfast Upgrade
All reservations at Playa Palms Beach Hotel include breakfast. Usually, a Continental Breakfast with the option to upgrade with eggs or other dishes for an additional charge. However, direct bookers enjoy a complimentary American breakfast with eggs, sausages, hash brown, bread, fruits, juice, and coffee or tea. All breakfasts are served to your room., where our guests usually enjoy it on their balcony with an ocean view.
6 Any Special Occasion?
Are you celebrating your honeymoon, your birthday or an anniversary in Playa del Carmen? We will accommodate your special day as best as we can at Playa Palms Beach Hotel. Of course, we will decorate your room no matter how you booked your stay, but only direct bookers enjoy this amenity free of charge.
7 We are full or sold out?
If you find there are no more rooms available on any online booking website, contact us directly because not all our rooms are listed on these websites. Also, sometimes last-minute cancellations make rooms available again.
We always prefer dealing directly with our guests, to make sure you receive the full personal service you deserve. Click here for more information about Playa Palms Beach Hotel or to book your next vacation in Playa del Carmen!
Playa Palms Beach Hotel
Avenue 1bis between Streets 12 and 14
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Reservations: +52 984 803 3966
toll free from US & Canada 888 676 4431
Front Desk: +52 984 803 3908
There are many types of travelers and knowing which one you are will help you organize the perfect vacation. Take the Playa Palms quiz to find out what type of traveler you are and, consequently, what activities suit you best!
1 What kind of accommodation do you prefer?
a) A cute boutique hotel that really makes you feel that you are in Mexico.
b) A really cute hotel where I can take great photos.
c) A hotel downtown from where I can explore the city.
d) An all-inclusive where I can just relax and get spoiled all day long.
e) Wherever I get the best promotions or maybe a hostel since they are budget friendly
2 Do you like lying on the beach all day long?
a) No, I prefer to explore the city and meet locals.
b) Not all day, only enough time to take a few selfies to make my friends back home jealous.
c) No, I want to visit Mayan ruins and do hiking tours.
d) Yes! Beach, sun and a couple of margaritas are all I’m looking forward too.
e) Yes, but only if I can bring my own drinks. Beach clubs are always so overpriced.
3 Which of the following tours would you prefer to take?
a) Chichen Itza, It must be amazing to see how the Mayan people lived.
b) Tulum, because it’s so photogenic! I NEED a photo of myself at that beach!
c) An ATV tour through the jungle or a snorkeling tour to explore the coral reef
d) Tour? Can’t I just relax on the beach?
e) I prefer to go on my own, it’s cheaper than paying for a tour.
4 What do you bring on your vacation in Playa del Carmen?
a) A historical novel.
b) My camera.
c) My hiking shoes.
d) Flip-flops and my swimsuit. Do I need anything else?
e) I try to bring the exact amount of money I need, so I don’t spend too much.
5 How does nature make you feel?
b) Great, #naturephotos are very popular on Instagram!
d) I0m not sure... does the beach count as nature?
e) It depends. Do I have to spend money to get there?
6 When thinking of your Playa del Carmen vacation, what are you looking forward to most?
a) Getting to know the Mayan and Mexican culture.
b) All the beautiful photos I will bring back home! I will make a new Facebook photo album.
c) All the amazing animals I will see when snorkeling the coral reef and hiking in the jungle.
d) The beautiful beaches
e) That it’s a rather economic vacation destination.
We usually give you a lot of ideas about what to see and do during your Playa del Carmen vacation and in the Riviera Maya in general. But today, we are focused on what you should not do in Playa del Carmen. Never. Ever.
1 Don’t stay only on the 5th Avenue
The 5th Avenue is fun to walk along on your Playa del Carmen vacation. Especially if you call people watching a hobby. But with everybody trying to sell you something and lure you into their shops, it can also get very exhausting with the time. Bring out the adventurer in you and explore Playa del Carmen beyond the 5th Avenue! You will be surprised by the cute shops you find and delicious restaurants with WAY lower prices.
2 Don’t stay at a big all-inclusive