Beach scene Playa del Carmen

Once a fishing village with dirt roads and a few palapa beach bars, Playa del Carmen is now a major worldwide destination for tourism and immigration. Many immigrants from the USA or Canada choose Playa del Carmen as their new home. What makes this Riviera Maya destination so attractive – apart from the Caribbean sea and its white sand beaches? In this article we look at this lively beach town and help you decide if you too should move to ‘Playa’.

The City of Playa del Carmen

With a population of 250,000+ it is now most certainly a city, although it still has that small-town feel. Its popularity as a tourist and expat destination has seen it grow exponentially over the past 10 years. Once peppered with small one-story flat-roofed houses, it now houses resorts, high-rise condominiums and many gated communities. In the centre, you can still find studios for $300 USD per month, while penthouse apartments on the beach rent for $1000+ USD. Housing prices drop the further from the beach you go.

International Community

Although a hotspot for US and Canadian immigrants, Playa del Carmen also attracts Europeans, Latin Americans and Mexicans from other states. As a tourist destination, many services are offered in English and other languages. There are several bi-lingual or international schools for children and teenagers. 


Playa del Carmen now boasts a theatre, planetarium, weekly markets, and several public sports grounds. There are various shopping malls, gyms, yoga studios and parks for families to relax and perform activities in. The beach is obviously a focal point and the area is surrounded by cenotes to cool off from the high temperatures.


If you move to Playa del Carmen, the first thing you should do is apply for residency. This will get you local discounts on many things – activities, entrance to parks, bars and restaurants, and transport. Housing is significantly cheaper than the rest of North America, and supermarket prices are lower too. While some restaurants on the city’s famous Fifth Avenue have tourist /US prices, most places are cheaper to eat out at too.


While Mexico has an unfortunate reputation for crime and violence, this is generally the case only in certain areas and situations. While Playa del Carmen has its share of security problems, overall it is a comfortable place to live. As with all North American cities, be vigilant and take the necessary precautions you normally would: stick to more central neighborhoods and ones you know well; avoid walking alone at night; don’t carry significant amounts of cash with you; lock your house up when you’re leaving, and avoid illegal activity.


The nice thing about Playa del Carmen is you can walk everywhere in the downtown area. Local transport is cheap, although not for everyone. The colectivo mini buses aren’t for the faint hearted and often have no seatbelts. There are some bicycle paths, although these could be improved. Taxis are cheap and abundant – just agree on the price before mounting. There are even female-only taxi services for women. Parking meters cost $10 MX (50c USD) per hour.

So, will you move to Playa del Carmen? If you are curious about immigration to Mexico, or would like more information, email Adriana Vela at

Enjoying our blogs? Check out our last one: Immigration to Mexico – Who Does It and Why?