Playa Del Carmen for Digital Nomads: An Honest Guide

Playa del Carmen has become a controversial destination among digital nomad circles in recent years. This Mexican beach town was once a hugely popular hub for digital nomads and remote workers, but opinions now seem divided on its suitability.

In this guide, we aim to provide an honest, unbiased assessment of life in Playa as a digital nomad. We will evaluate factors such as infrastructure, amenities, connectivity, affordability, safety, and overall livability based on our own on-the-ground experience in Playa del Carmen.

Our goal is not to persuade you in one direction or another, but rather to offer objective insights and perspectives for you to factor into your own decision-making as a digital nomad considering Mexico. So, without further ado, let's dive in!

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

In its early digital nomad days, Playa del Carmen quickly grew in popularity for good reason. Its relaxed beach town vibe provided a charming backdrop for indie entrepreneurs launching their businesses, remote workers looking to ditch boring offices, and adventure-seeking digital nomads chasing new lifestyles.

Getting around Playa's centro was super easy on foot. Nomads could walk to cute cafes, coworking spaces, grocery stores, and all the key spots. And fast WiFi everywhere made it a great place for remote workers looking for reliable internet.

Living costs and decent apartments were also fairly affordable compared to other resort cities, and safety wasn't much of a concern either in those times.

However, this once low-key spot has been undergoing some major changes lately. With mega hotels and high rises popping up all over, Playa has lost some of its beach town magic. And the tourists...well, they took over big times.

Is Playa del Carmen Still Worth Visiting as a Digital Nomad?

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Despite losing its charming small-town vibe and getting increasing tourist attention, we believe Playa can still be an excellent place for those just starting out as digital nomads.

This is because navigating the main neighborhoods is extremely simple – you could probably walk anywhere from your accommodation. You'll also likely cross paths and connect with fellow nomads, as they are still numerous in Playa.

And well, we already mentioned how WiFi here is incredibly fast. Like crazy fast in some places!

So, if you want to soak up charming cafés, beach clubs, taco stands, and lush jungle cenotes while working remotely, read on for details on making Playa your next nomad home!

Where is Playa del Carmen Located?

Playa del Carmen is situated in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, in the eastern region of the Yucatán Peninsula along the Caribbean Sea. It sits in the middle of the Riviera Maya, which runs from south of Cancún to Tulum and the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve.

This beach town centers around Avenida Constituyentes, the pedestrian walkway parallel to the ocean. Most hotels, restaurants, shops, and other attractions catering to tourists and digital nomads exist either along this sandy artery or the small residential streets branching inland from there.

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Fun Fact: The very first evidence of chewing gum in North America came from the ancient Mayans in Playa del Carmen! Over 4,000 years ago, they chomped on chicle sap, believing it quenched thirst and suppressed hunger. Pretty cool, right?

How to Get to Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen seen from above

To reach Playa del Carmen, there are several convenient transportation options, depending on your starting point and preferences. Here are the options you can choose from:

By Air

The nearest airport to reach Playa del Carmen is Cancún International Airport (CUN), located about 56km to the north. It has regular flights on both domestic and international carriers from destinations like Mexico City, Guadalajara, Medellín (where many nomads often come from), Monterrey, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Toronto, London, Paris, and more. From CUN, you can complete the roughly one-hour trip to Playa del Carmen via ADO bus (our recommended and cheapest option), rental car, shuttle (also known in Mexico as collectivo), or taxi.

By Bus

Playa del Carmen’s downtown bus terminal is situated along 5th Avenue and Juarez Street. Providers like ADO (the most popular one in the whole Yucatan peninsula), AU, OCC, and Mayab run regular, comfortable bus routes to and from other Yucatán Peninsula cities, including Cancún center and Cancun Airport, Tulum, Mérida and Chetumal. The fares vary based on the destination, carrier, and service class but are generally pretty affordable.

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We found that buying bus tickets online from the actual providers is a bit tricky (i.e. sites not in English, buddy systems, and slow websites), and in person at the bus station, there are often long queues. We then started using the website Busbud to buy tickets online, and we had a great experience with it. It's in English, easy to use, and gets the job done (although they charge you a tiny fee for it), so it's worth checking out if you want a hassle-free experience in buying your bus tickets in Mexico.

By Car

The last option you have is renting a car, although it's also the most expensive choice. It allows you though to explore the Riviera Maya region at your own pace using Federal Highway 307, which hugs the coastline. While road conditions are generally decent, we recommend being careful with speed bumps, traffic, and tolls along the way. Also, we recommend securing mandatory Mexican auto insurance for the duration of your rental to avoid any issues (better be safe than sorry).

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We use Rentalcars.com to find our car rental deals. It's great because it allows you to compare dozens of car rental companies and easily find the best prices around. This saved us the hassle of visiting each rental company in person and negotiating with them in our terrible Spanish (not fun!).

Where to Stay in Playa del Carmen as a Digital Nomad?

Let’s check out the districts in Playa that you can call home during your stay. Each area has its own distinct vibe, peaks, and, of course, pitfalls. Let's look at the most popular ones among the nomad crowd.

Gonzalo Guerrero

This district rocks that (in)famous 5th Avenue drag – think shops, grub,, and nightlife for days. It's also beachside, with pads ranging from hostels to luxury hotels. If you thrive on full-blast action, parties, and people, this high-energy hub puts you in the thick of it. However, expect nonstop noise, dense tourist crowds, and (potentially insane) prices that could also tank your experience (don't say we didn't warn you!).

Zazil-Ha

Just inland and north of Gonzalo Guerrero lies this quieter and residential spot that is still walkable to central attractions but way more lowkey. Its budget-friendly rents, plentiful coworking spaces, cafes, and eateries will let you achieve location convenience without sacrificing comfort or sanity.

Luis Donaldo Colosio

In Playa's northern quarter, authentic Mexican culture thrives in the Luis Donaldo Colosio neighborhood with fewer tourists and cheaper prices. Local markets and tasty street food rule here alongside no-frills apartments with awesome bargain rents. Just don't expect to stroll to beaches or 5th Avenue without some wheels easily – you will likely need to rent a bike or scooter.

Playacar

Situated in the southernmost area of Playa del Carmen, this gated community blends fancy resorts, golf courses, and ritzy beach villas for high-earner remote workers wanting amenities, security, and seclusion and don’t mind the premium prices. It has its own crystal-clean beach, which stays less chaotic too, although potential boredom could set in with little to no transportation to Playa's centro.

Nomad Accommodation Options in Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen has lots of great options for places to stay during your visit. Choosing what works best depends on your budget and priorities.

Anana Coliving in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Anana Coliving in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Coliving Spaces: Best Option for Community

If being part of a community sounds good, look into coliving spaces.

  • Coco&co Studio Coliving: it's nestled in the laid-back La Veleta neighborhood, which offers a calm yet connected atmosphere, and it's just a few miles from the beach and La Quinta Avenida. It's a sweet spot for those who love a mix of serenity and accessibility.
  • Anana Coliving: it's not that far from El Centro but in a way more quieter area. It has been the go-to spot for a couple of years now, drawing travelers with its warm, community-focused vibe. Some rooms have shared kitchens, and you will be able to use a nice outdoor area, which will make it easy to connect with new people.

Hostels: Best Option for Socialising and Meeting Travelers

Hostels cater to the social butterfly in all of us, and you have a couple of interesting options here:

  • Maui Hostel Playa del Carmen: it has an unbeatable location, just 3 blocks from Mamita's Beach. It gets points for its courtyard pool and its nice rooftop bar with decent prices. It's a great hub for party lovers – though a heads-up: it's a mixed bag regarding cleanliness and noise. It's ideal for night owls and social butterflies for sure, though!
  • Why Not Rooftop Party Hostel: this hostel is perfect for those, well, you guessed it, who want to party. Its lively on-site bar pumps out drink specials, and you will have a great time with its pool with an awesome ocean view. Do keep in mind the cozy rooms, summer nights with AC after 10 pm, and the 'everyone's-a-friend' vibe. It's perfect for those who live for the buzz and don't mind sacrificing a bit of comfort (and sleep) for a few nights out.

Long-stay Apartment: Best Option for Privacy and Comfort

To really slow down and take your time in Playa, renting an apartment can definitely be a good alternative. Neighborhoods like Luis Donaldo Colosio and Zazil-Ha are interesting areas for digital nomads. You'll be able to cook your own meals, which saves money for sure. Grocery stores like Walmart and Oxxo offer most everyday ingredients and products. And don't forget the local markets! Being able to come and go as you please is a major perk over hotels. Just be prepared to buy your own towels, soap, and other basics, of course.

Useful resources for long-term rentals include websites like Long Term Lettings, the ol' Airbnb, Playa Rentals, and Facebook groups like Mexpats Club or Rentas y Roomies. Or you could just look out for "Se Renta" signs posted outside, which can unlock some hidden gems (if you speak Spanish, of course). Collaborating with other digital nomads to rent a larger house can also be a cost-effective option.

Hotels: Best Option for Premium Nomad Stays

For those prioritizing premium accommodations, amenities like fast Wi-Fi and services, Playa del Carmen's broad hotel landscape spans stylish boutique establishments to decently priced hotels. Hotels are ideal for short-term stays or for those who want to treat themselves and have a hassle-free experience. Some of the best hotels for digital nomads in Playa del Carmen are Terrasse Hotel Playa del Carmen, Quinta Margarita Boho Chic Hotel, Balkon Boutique Hotel, and Hotel 52, which offer stylish rooms, good amenities, and a reasonable location.


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Internet Connectivity in Playa del Carmen

Speed test in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Speed test in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Having a steady internet connection is vital for digital nomads in any location, and Playa del Carmen does not disappoint!

Most hotels and vacation rentals now include Wi-Fi access, and beyond your accommodation, the many cafés and coworking spaces in Playa allow you to work productively.

However, for more independence, you might want to get your own internet connection, whether a portable WiFi device, a prepaid SIM card or an eSIM.

Pre-Paid Local SIM Cards for Mexico

Several carriers, mainly Telcel, AT&T, and Movistar, offer tourist SIM cards in Mexico.

1. Telcel

Telcel dominates as the largest, most far-reaching network with varied plans. Purchase Telcel SIM cards at the airport, OXXO shops, 7-Eleven. You can even buy them online on Amazon, and you can find all the plans and prices for each mobile operator below:

2. AT&T

You are probably familiar with AT&T if you are from the US. Their Mexican SIM cards are sold online at AT&T stores or online on Amazon. These are the options you have:

3. Movistar

Movistar is another option, currently offering the following plans:

  • Movistar Sim Card with Unlimited Calls and 1GB Data (14 days) – MX$50 (~US$3)
  • Movistar Sim Card with Unlimited Calls and 4GB Data (30 days) – MX$100 (~US$6)
  • Movistar Sim Card with Unlimited Calls and 5GB Data (30 days) – MX$200 (~US$12)
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If you decide to buy a SIM card directly in Mexico, you will need to provide your passport details and register your phone number with the authorities. This is a legal requirement for all mobile users in Mexico. You will be able to do this at the store where you buy your SIM card.

eSIM Plans for Mexico

Alternatively, you can buy an eSIM for Mexico, a downloadable digital SIM for compatible smartphones. The main advantage is you can purchase one online before arriving in Mexico, and you can activate it instantly upon arrival without swapping physical SIMs. Pretty cool, right?

In our experience, the most reliable eSIM providers for Mexico are Airalo and Holafly. Below you can find the data allowances for each provider and the different plans.

Airalo eSIM Plans for Mexico

Plan Data Validity Price
Chorro Fon 1 GB 7 Days US $8
Chorro Fon 2 GB 15 Days US $15
Chorro Fon 3 GB 30 Days US $21
Chorro Fon 5 GB 30 Days US $32.50
Chorro Fon 10 GB 30 Days US $49

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Holafly eSIM Plans for Mexico

Validity Data Price
5 Days Unlimited data with calls $19.00
7 Days Unlimited data with calls $27.00
10 Days Unlimited data with calls $34.00
15 Days Unlimited data with calls $47.00
20 Days Unlimited data with calls $54.00
30 Days Unlimited data with calls $64.00
60 Days Unlimited data with calls $84.00
90 Days Unlimited data with calls $99.00
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Not all phones support eSIM technology, so you need to check your device compatibility before buying one. 

Best Places to Work in Playa del Carmen

Finding a quality spot to get things done in Playa isn't hard at all. Here are some cafes and coworking spaces we personally recommend checking out.

Cafes

Playa's cafe scene reminded us a lot of Chiang Mai's! With so many options, each spot caters to a different vibe:

Basic Foodie

Basic Foodie in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Basic Foodie in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Our personal favorite, Basic Foodie offers a quieter environment away from the main tourist areas, with super-fast wifi speed and comfortable seating for deep work. Outdoor power outlets are limited, but the friendly staff more than make up for it – they even gifted us fresh conchas when we camped out all day!

Choux Choux Cafe

Choux Choux Cafe in Playa del Carmen
Choux Choux Cafe in Playa del Carmen

Known for its vibrant community vibe, Choux Choux is ideal for short work sessions due to its busy atmosphere and limited seating. It's a great place to meet fellow digital nomads and remote workers.

Bajo Cafe

Bajo Cafe in Playa del Carmen
Bajo Cafe in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

A gastronomic market just a short walk from El Centro, Bajo Cafe is a top pick for digital nomads seeking a workspace that's not too loud or quiet. It has fast Wi-Fi, comfortable seating, and plenty of power outlets.

Best Coworking Spaces in Playa del Carmen

Nest Coworking in Playa del Carmen
Nest Coworking in Playa del Carmen

For those seeking a more traditional workspace, Playa del Carmen doesn't disappoint either:

BUNKER

Centrally located in Playa, BUNKER offers modern facilities with high-speed internet, private booths, and communal areas, catering to both focused and social work modes.

WORK IT

Known for its professional environment and some of the fastest internet speeds in Playa, WORK IT is a great spot for feeling productive and getting work done.

Nest Coworking

An eco-friendly workspace located centrally near the beach and the bustling Fifth Avenue​​, Nest Coworking perfectly balances private areas for deep focus with communal networking zones.

Work Zone Coworking

Catering to long-term nomads seeking an affordable, Work Zone Coworking is a peaceful workspace, a bit removed from the tourist chaos.

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Click on the name of the place to get the Google directions. From there, you can see pictures and reviews from other people to see if that's your vibe!

Cost of Living in Playa del Carmen

Breakfast in Playa del Carmen
Breakfast at Basic Food in Playa del Carmen

Wondering what to budget for living expenses in Playa? Generally, Mexico tends to be pricier than other regions like Southeast Asia. And Playa del Carmen is no exception – according to Numbeo, consumer prices here run 34.5% higher than in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for example.

That said, for Playa's vibrant digital nomad community and oceanfront lifestyle, the slightly elevated costs feel justified compared to other resort areas in Yucatán, like Cancún or Tulum. Let’s break down average expenses:

Accommodation

Monthly rents for a 1-bedroom apartment in the city center average MXN 12,000-21,000 (~$700-$1300 USD). We saved money by opting for an apartment slightly farther from El Centro, where you can expect to pay MXN 8,000-15,000 (~$450-$900 USD).

Eating Out and Restaurant Costs

Dining out can quickly eat up budgets if you're not careful! While street food stands offer cheap eats at around MXN 125 (~$7 USD) or lower per meal, sit-down restaurants average MXN 684 (~$40 USD) for two with drinks.

Grocery Costs

Stocking up your fridge with basics like bread, eggs, rice, and milk won’t break the bank. This is why having a kitchen in our accommodation saved us the most money. Milk costs approximately MXN 100 (~$6 USD) per gallon, and fresh white bread rings in around MXN 31 (~$2 USD) per loaf.

Coffee and Cocktail Prices

Frequent cappuccino runs and happy hour beers at MXN 60 each (~$3.50 USD) aren't expensive per se but can add up over time when tallied.

Taxis

As ridesharing apps like Uber or Lyft are not available, so getting around Playa means relying mainly on traditional taxis. The starter rate is MXN 50 (~$3 USD), then drivers charge around MXN 72.42 (~$5 USD) per mile. Prices add up fast, so when possible, take advantage of the centrally-located neighborhoods that let you get around easily on foot or bike instead.


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Culture, Nature and Food in Playa del Carmen

Cenote, Mexico
Cenote close to Playa del Carmen

In addition to being a great spot for remote work, Playa del Carmen offers many attractions to enjoy when you need a break. From Mayan ruins to underground caves and street food, Playa has plenty of cultural and natural attractions to take advantage of during your free time.

Mayan Heritage

Playa del Carmen has a rich and varied culture influenced by its Mayan heritage and Mexican traditions. You can discover the culture of Playa del Carmen by visiting ancient Mayan ruins, such as Tulum and Coba, where you can learn about the history and architecture of this civilization. Another cultural highlight is the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos), a festival where locals honor deceased loved ones with colorful altars, parades, and traditional offerings.

Cenotes, Jungles and the Sea

For nature enthusiasts, Playa del Carmen is a haven. One of the most unique features of the region is the cenotes, natural sinkholes filled with fresh water, where you can swim, snorkel, or dive. Some of the most famous cenotes near Playa are Cenote Azul and Cenote Cristalino. You can also visit the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site covering tropical forests, lagoons, and coral reefs. Here, you can see a variety of wildlife, such as monkeys, crocodiles, flamingos, and dolphins.

Eclectic Food Scene

The culinary scene in Playa del Carmen is a delightful exploration of flavors, with street food being a highlight. Empanadas, despite their Argentinian origins, have found a home here, reflecting the town's diverse expatriate community. Kibis, a traditional Yucatan snack, and sweet crepes offer a taste of local and international cuisine right on the streets. Fresh fruit stands selling jugos and agua fresca provide refreshing treats to beat the Caribbean heat​.


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Best Time to Visit Playa del Carmen

Beach in Playa del Carmen

With sunny shores and lively cultural events calling year-round, deciding when to visit Playa depends on your priorities and preferences. Let’s explore the pros and cons of each season.

Winter: Perfect Weather and Crowds

The months of December through February see peak tourism for a reason — bone-dry days with warm weather make beach escapes ideal between lively events like NYE parties, Christmas, and the famous BPM Festival. However, this is also the most expensive and crowded time to visit, so you should book your flights and hotels well in advance and expect higher prices and longer lines.

Spring: Mild Temperatures and Sargassum Seaweed

For those looking to avoid the high-season crowds, the spring months from March to May are a good time to visit Playa del Carmen. Pleasant 77°F (25°C) days and little rain create prime conditions for open-air fun between cultural events like Semana Santa (Holy Week) and Cinco de Mayo. The only downside? Pesky sargassum seaweed occasionally sullying up shoreline beauty.

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Predicting sargassum is not easy task, as it depends on many factors, such as ocean currents, winds, temperature, and human pollution. However, you can check out sources like Sargassum Monitoring, which provides sargassum forecasts and updates based on satellite images, models, and citizen science.

Summer: Heat and Budget Deals

The low season in Playa del Carmen runs from June to August when the weather is hot and humid, and there is a higher chance of rain and hurricanes. It can be a good option if you are looking for lower prices and fewer people. You can also enjoy some water activities, such as swimming in cenotes, as well as some local festivals, such as the Virgen del Carmen Festival. Just don't forget the bug spray!

Fall: Shoulder Season and Local Festivities

Before peak season strikes again, September through November in Playa offers a budget-friendly shoulder season. The weather is still warm but less humid and rainy than in the summer. This is also a great time to enjoy Playa's natural side and its archaeological sites. You can also experience some important cultural events, such as the Hanal Pixan (Mayan Day of the Dead).


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Top 6 Things To Do in Playa del Carmen

1. Visit Parque Los Fundadores

Parque Los Fundadores, Playa del Carmen

This public park features the Portal Maya Statue, a gorgeous sculpture depicting two figures rising up to touch each other. It was inaugurated in 2011 to commemorate the Mayan calendar and has since become an iconic image of Playa Del Carmen. In Parque Los Fundadores, you can also watch the famous Voladores de Papantla, a ritual dance where four men swing from a pole while playing flutes.

2. Explore Cenotes

Cenote

The whole Yucátan region is dotted with cenotes, natural swimming holes that offer clear, fresh water for snorkeling and swimming. Some of the most famous cenotes close to Playa include Cenote Azul, Cenote Cristalino, and Gran Cenote, each providing a unique experience of underwater formations and crystal-clear waters.

3. Discover Ancient Mayan Ruins

Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza

Nearby archaeological gems like Chichen Itza, Tulum, and Coba provide windows into the impressive ancient Mayan empire through guided tours. These sites are accessible through organized tours or on your own, with options to combine visits with cenote swims​.

4. Relax at the Beaches

Beach in Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is home to beautiful beaches such as Playa Mamitas and Parque Fundadores beach. For a more secluded experience, escape to Punta Esmeralda or Playacar Sands.

5. Enjoy Nightlife

Fusion Beach Bar in Playa del Carmen
Fusion Beach Bar in Playa del Carmen

Fusion Beach Bar is one of the most famous spots for nightlife, offering lively shows and facing the beautiful Caribbean ocean. Additionally, there are numerous bars and clubs along 12th Street where you can experience the local party scene.

6. Take a Ferry to Cozumel Island

Cozumel Island

Catch the quick ferry from Playa del Carmen to soak up Cozumel’s laid-back island life and natural beauty. Renowned for diving along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the island also impresses with stunning beaches, parks, and Mayan ruins.

Is Playa del Carmen Safe to Visit?

While no popular tourist destination on earth can promise safety 365 days a year, Playa del Carmen is largely considered safe for visitors. Stick to well-populated streets and avoid flashing expensive gear or wandering sketchy areas alone, especially at night. Pickpocketing and theft are the main concerns in Playa – particularly in busy tourist zones like La Quinta Avenida.


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Does Mexico Have a Digital Nomad Visa?

Mexico does not currently offer a specific digital nomad visa. However, remote workers can apply for a Temporary Resident Visa, which allows them to live and work in Mexico for up to 4 years.

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Ready to Make Playa del Carmen Your Next Nomad Destination?

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We'll see you there, Freaking Nomads!

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