Playa del Carmen

Located 45 minutes south of Cancun's airport is the beach town of Playa del Carmen, familiarly referred to as Playa. Even though Playa is growing by leaps and bounds, it still preserves a certain small-town charm and bohemian following.

Almost everything in Playa is within walking distance. It's main strip is flanked by numerous sidewalk restaurants, interspersed with stores selling native Mexican crafts, tequila, amber and silver jewelry. Shops also sell a variety of handmade goods from neighboring Guatemala, casual resort clothes and fine cigars.

Playacar, the residential and resort development south of the ferry dock, is home to the Playacar Golf Club, an 18-hole course designed by Robert von Hagge that is open to the public. Also located here is Xaman-Ha park, a lovely refuge for guacamayas, parrots, pelicans, toucans and pink flamingos. Enjoy the birds as they roam about the park freely.

A Playa-based ecotourism outfit, Alternative, offers expeditions to surrounding attractions. These include including rappelling or diving in nearby cenotes, and visiting to local Mayan communities.

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