When I travel, I like to go to places that are not seemingly built specifically for tourism. That can be difficult for communities that exist in gorgeous locations, but it is possible. From what I had heard, Playa del Carmen had pulled that off. It’s south of Cancun on the Caribbean coast, but everyone who had been there told me it was more like a small town than a tourist destination. I had to go and see for myself. I had been all over Mexico, but never there. I had a few days to spare, so I booked a flight easily enough and figured I wouldn’t need transportation other than what I could find there. All that was left was to find a Playa del Carmen hotel room. I wondered whether or not that would be easy, as international hotel booking can be difficult at times.
I searched on my phone for hotel reservation apps, and I found one called HotelTonight. I hadn’t used it before, but I decided to give it a try. I searched for Playa del Carmen hotels and was quite pleased with all of the choices presented. I picked one that I thought looked like it would suit me and steeled myself for the booking process. I had been through this before, and actually reserving a room with an app can be time-consuming. It was anything but with HotelTonight. Within a few clicks I had my Playa del Carmen hotel room reserved and confirmed. I was ready to go and explore a new and beautiful place.
La Quinta is the downtown area of Playa del Carmen. While this is the part of town where you’ll find most of the Playa del Carmen hotels and other attractions for visitors, it’s far from some tourist center. There is a lot of character here in terms of the architecture, the layout of the area and the people you encounter. I walked around for a bit just soaking it all in, and then I spoke to some locals in my somewhat limited Spanish about where I should go and what I should do that day. I was reminded of how friendly the people of Mexico are and how much of a pleasure it is to speak to them.
Quinta Avenida may be part of downtown/La Quinta, but it deserves its own mention because of how interesting it is. This is a street that is mostly for pedestrians only, and it runs parallel to the beach. Here is also where you’ll find the main town square, and it’s always filled with locals, visitors and people just doing their own thing. I found a café nearby and sat down for a bit of a break, drinking a nice cup of coffee. This was a great place for people-watching, so I sat back and appreciated what I was doing that day.
I ventured away from the beach a bit down Avenida Juarez, heading more into town and into the neighborhoods where the locals live and where you’ll find very few visitors. This is the real deal part of the city where you get a true flavor of Mexico. It was wonderful. It was also a great place for lunch, or so I hoped. I asked around for recommendations and was told to try a place just around the corner from where I was at the time. I walked in and the smell of the place immediately excited me – this was going to be an authentic lunch. Boy, was it – I don’t remember enjoying a meal as much as that one. I was full and ready to get back into my afternoon.
I needed to do some shopping, and some people at the table next to me at lunch told me to do so in Playacar, which is somewhat touristy but also home to a lot of different shops. It’s south of downtown, so I took a taxi. I found a lot of shopping options here amidst all of the massive developments that were either already complete or in the process of being built. I filled a few bags with gifts that I was sure would be appreciated and figured it was time to head back more towards the center of the city to get some dinner.
While this area doesn’t necessarily have an official name, it’s an area that some people really appreciate. Only some people appreciate it because this is where you find the best beaches but also the smallest crowds. I walked the sand for quite some time, just listening to and smelling the surf as it rolled in rhythmically. I took in the sunset and decided to head back into the city for that dinner that I was now excited to enjoy.
As I savored my second feast of the day, I thought about how this place really was different than the tourist spots I had visited around the world in the past. Yes, there were things here for tourists but this city had not lost its soul or appeal. I went back to my hotel, and on my way I remembered how HotelTonight had helped make this entire experience happen. Finding a Playa del Carmen hotel room can be difficult, but not with this app that I would now use for all of my future travels. I couldn’t wait to see what the next day would bring as I fell asleep that night.