The Mayan Riviera and Playa del Carmen are the center of our universe so we forget that not everyone knows where Playa del Carmen is and what actually makes up the Mayan Riviera, or in spanish, the Riviera Maya. Read this post cautiously. Once you find out where the Riviera Maya is located, what it has to offer, learn about Playa del Carmen and the beauty of this city, you may just travel here, travel again, and find that you too have the Riviera Maya and Playa del Carmen as the center of your universe. It happens, and it happens more than you think. The area is a magical and really is more than most people know!
The Mayan Riviera is an area south of Cancun that includes a variety of cities located on the beach that is home to the Caribbean ocean. The area starts in Puerto Morelos, a 20 minute drive from Cancun on the 307 highway, and ends in Tulum, a mayan town that includes the Tulum ruins and the entrance to the Sian Kaan biosphere. The cities of interest that are included in this area are Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Adventuras, Xpu-ha, Akumal, Chemuyil and Tulum. These cities are included in the Mayan Riviera as they are all located on the beach and the communities are beach communities. Originally the Mayans, an indigenous native Mexican community, lived for thousands of years in this area. Tulum, specifically the original city that is now referred to as the Tulum was the main port for the area with various sac-be routes to the other cities both on the beach and off the beach that relied on this port for the importation of goods and exportation of regional goods. In the 1970’s Cancun was developed as a tourist destination to support the Mexican economy. The opening of Cancun led to the discovery of the Mayan Riviera by inquisitive travelers who were looking for an alternative to the resort town. Originally this are south of Cancun was called the Cancun-Tulum corridor but was renamed in 1999 by destination marketing experts as the Riviera Maya. The continued marketing and awareness of this coastal area that parallels the Caribbean ocean has fueled the ongoing development of the region by both Mexicans and Foreigners. A once unwanted part of Mexico (unwanted as it was not an area that could not be developed agriculturally) has now become one of the most visited areas of Mexico. Small fishing villages are now cities, infra-structure supports the growth of this area and Playa del Carmen was once one of the fastest growing cities in the world.
Playa, the name that now identifies this city located in the middle of the Riviera Maya. Playa del Carmen was used as the port city to take divers to Cozumel in the late ’70’s after Jacque Cousteau discovered the exquisite reef diving just off of this island. It continues to take divers to Cozumel but many divers are happy to stay and dive in Playa del Carmen as the reefs are just as interesting. As people traveled from Cancun and found the deserted beaches of Playa del Carmen, the community grew slowly with a few hotels, some little beach shack eateries and a small path which is now 5th Avenue. The 1990’s saw the beginning of a business boom in Playa del Carmen as foreign and national private investment started to take hold on this little village. The draw of the Caribbean, the chill atmosphere, the community and the adventure has made Playa del carmen a super cool place to visit. For us, it is a super cool place to live and work. View a photo of Playa del Carmen in the 1980’s here.
The area is now not just about the beach. It is about the beach, the jungle, the cenotes, the culture, the diversity, the Mayans and the lifestyle. People venture inland to view the Mayan ruins, take in the magic of the fresh water and caves that are the cenotes, learn about eco-friendly and sustainable living and get involved with community projects that are very close to our hearts. There is more to the area than the beach and more people are enjoying things off the beach as the area develops.
Playa del Carmen is bigger than when we arrived but it still has a great community feel, still has some of the best beaches in the world and it is tourism friendly. Staff at local businesses work really hard to ensure that you have a great vacation and reflect the true nature of Mexican hospitality. The multicultural feel to the city is a nice mix of old world cultural Mexico with new world services. Spanish is the official language but you will hear over 15 different languages spoken on any given day when you stroll around town or hang out on the beach.
So that is where we live, how we live, who lives here and how the area developed. There is no need to be embarrassed now when someone tells you that they just returned from a vacation in the Mayan Riviera. You now know it all. Now you just have to experience it, if you have not already. What is your favorite part of the Mayan Riviera and Playa del Carmen, other then US! Share your experiences and vacation successes with others so they too can have a great vacation in a beautiful area.