The Weekender: A Guide to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
Photo: Courtesy of Banyan Tree Mayakoba
The Weekender

The Weekender: A Guide to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

A stylish look at what to do and where to stay in this relaxed beach town.

Welcome to The Weekender, Coveteur’s travel series where seasoned globetrotters share their insider guides to top destinations across the world. Read on for the best spots to eat, stay, and enjoy.

I recently took the most delightful four-day trip to the Yucatan beach town of Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Easily accessible (most major U.S. cities offer direct flights) and about an hour drive from Cancun, PDC (as I like to call it) isn't necessarily an undiscovered destination, but it's a very special one. I had traveled there several years back and stayed at an all-inclusive mega resort, and while that was lovely, that wasn’t the vibe my husband and I wanted this time around. Our goal was a really intimate and luxurious experience that allowed us to bask in the imaginative restaurants and local cuisine, take in the idyllic and untouched beachfront, lounge quietly poolside for hours on end only to be disturbed by the refilling of a cocktail, and also experience the culture and impeccable design of the area.

We found all of this and so much more. Ahead, my recommendations of the stylish places to know and discover in the charming beach town of Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.

Where to Stay

Banyan Tree Mayakoba

Photos: Courtesy of Jessica Teves

Without a doubt, this Asian-inspired hideaway is the place to stay. Nestled within a private gated resort community that’s deep within the mangroves (a protected tree of the region), this five-star resort straddles the most stunning sandy-white beach and is home to some truly fabulous restaurants and activities.

We chose to stay in a pool villa that was as close to perfection as it comes (it was also larger than all of my NYC apartments combined). Upon arrival, we were introduced to our private concierge who escorted us to our villa to explain the extensive offerings of the hotel, help us settle in and assist with reservations, and get our preferred choice of pool temperature (a balmy 98 degrees was my request, if you’re curious).

Like all great experiences, details matter, and at Banyan Tree, they think of everything, down to the customized scent of your private space, the type of organic cabernet for poolside evening cocktails, and the never-ending kindness that had us feeling like we were amongst friends. It’s basically world-class service and beauty everywhere you turn. Without a doubt we'll be back next year.

BOOK IT

What to Do

Go Nature Walking & Biking

Photos: Courtesy of Jessica Teves

I find relaxation and renewed creativity in fluid exercise, so every morning we took our bikes and covered the miles of bike trails, taking in the local vegetation and wildlife. It was as picturesque and heavenly as it sounds.

Golf With a View

Photo: Courtesy of Mayakoba

The 18-hole golf course at Mayakoba was designed by the legendary Greg Norman and features views of the ocean, lush greenery, freshwater canals, and some very challenging holes. It’s worth taking an afternoon away from the cocktails and relaxing to play on this masterpiece.

Experience the Wellness Sanctuary

Photo: Courtesy of Banyan Tree Mayakoba

In November 2021, Banyan Tree opened a state-of-the-art wellness sanctuary, which is worth the visit alone. On top of countless varieties of therapeutic massages and customized facial treatments, the spa also hosts daily yoga, fitness experiences, and a stunning gym with equipment of every shape and size. Bonus: The spa exclusively carries one of my favorite luxury skin-care brands, Natura Bissé. (Pro tip: Stock up on its tinted sunblock because it’s not sold in the U.S.!)

Take a Sunset Cruise

Photo: Courtesy of Banyan Tree Mayakoba

This is a special experience that can only be summed up as surreal. The concierge helped us coordinate a sunset cruise on a picturesque and adorable catamaran that took us through the canals of the resort and its neighboring properties. Dare I say, the photos here were worth the trip alone.

Where to Eat & Drink

Sands Beach Club

Photos: Courtesy of Jessica Teves

I’m not sure you can imagine a more idyllic and perfect space to imbibe in icy cold dirty martinis (Chopin, extra dirty is my order) and fresh locally caught seafood, while relaxing near the beach and pool, than the Sands Beach Club. It’s the vibe I dream about when I'm WFH eating a tuna fish sandwich at my desk. Dreamy, people. Very, very dreamy.

Saffron

Saffron is the sort of setting one imagines in a really well-executed Nancy Meyers film. From the inventive boardwalk seating to the delicately strung tea lights, every last detail in this Thai-focused restaurant delivers a culinary experience full of exotic flavors and memories that will stay with you for a lifetime.

Agave Azul

Inspired by the longstanding Asian culinary influences found throughout Baja California, Agave Azul features a range of locally caught seafood, creative interpretations of classics, and a sampling of specialty cocktails, including Mexican-produced sake that is definitely worth a try.

Shop Playa Del Carmen Packing Essentials:

Jennifer Top

Solkissed
$80

Smocking Praia Top

Tropic Of C
$85

Daphne Fedora

Eric Javits
$350 $240
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