Heading to Playa del Carmen and wondering how much do you need to budget for your trip to Riviera Maya in Mexico? Look no further! In this post, I’ll tell you a bit more about prices in Playa del Carmen and a budget needed to stay in Playa del Carmen. We’ll look at a few different options (expensive, mid-range and very affordable), so you can find the best accommodation, restaurants and beach clubs that fit your budget!
Here’s what you can find in this post:
Let’s get started!
Where is Playa del Carmen and how different it is from Cancun?
First of all, let’s clear up some frequently asked questions. If you already know all the answers, just scroll down to the relevant section! If you don’t know the answers yet and you have never been to Mexico before, this might be very useful for you.
Playa del Carmen is the biggest town of Riviera Maya in Mexico. Riviera Maya is a large stretch of Mexico’s Caribbean coast, and it starts just after Cancun! However, Playa del Carmen is still served by Cancun International airport. You can check the prices and availability of flights to Cancun here.
Playa del Carmen is actually pretty close to Cancun – just around 45 minutes driving by car or 1 hour away by bus. If you want to read a bit more about the differences between Cancun and the entire Riviera Maya including Playa del Carmen, head to this post, which will tell you what kind of holiday can you expect from each of the locations.
How to get to Playa del Carmen from Cancun Airport?
This question is tricky! Unfortunately, there is no Uber or any other car-sharing service operating near Cancun Airport because of Cancun’s notorious taxi mafia. Cancun Airport taxis are known to scam tourists, and if you ask for a taxi AFTER exiting the airport, you will pay a lot more for a taxi because you won’t have other options!
Luckily, there are more options than just taking a taxi (which, by the way, costs at least $50-90 to Playa del Carmen). There is also a collective taxis, but taxi companies will try to upsell you ask you to take a private taxi telling you that you will have to wait 1.5 hours for a taxi shuttle (and they will make you wait on purpose).
Renting a car in Cancun Airport – how much will it cost
The first option is renting a car – you can do it through Rentalcars.com where you can see the providers offering the most competitive prices. The earlier you book your car hire, the more competitive the price will be. The price really depends on the season, however, you can often rent a car for a week for as low as $90 (without full insurance). If you rent a day before your trip, that price can be already around $500-600, and it’s even more expensive on arrival. Make sure to avoid providers like Hertz and National as they are known to scam tourists in Mexico by not including the third-party liability insurance in their rental price and then asking their customers to pay two to three times more without giving them an option to opt-out of this insurance. We rented cars twice: once from Sixt and once from Avis, and it all went very well, so I can only recommend these providers.
Taking a bus to Playa del Carmen
Another easy way to get to Playa del Carmen is by taking a shuttle bus called ADO. The bus takes around 1 hour – 1 hour 15 to reach Playa Del Carmen and costs around $11 per person (216 MXN as of January 2021).
The only downside is that it doesn’t go travel that often – sometimes there are gaps of 1 hour between buses, but during the peak times it goes every 30 minutes (it fills up very quickly though)
You can see the latest schedule and buy tickets here.
How expensive is Playa del Carmen? Prices in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Now let’s talk about prices in Playa del Carmen. If you’re wondering if Playa del Carmen is expensive, the answer is no, not really. However, it can be expensive if you want it to be. It can be very affordable, as well.
Accommodation prices in Playa del Carmen
The cheapest way to stay in Playa del Carmen would be staying in a hostel or apartment. An apartment would be much more affordable and convenient long term (e.g. if you’re planning to stay in Playa del Carmen for two weeks or more). You can find a very nice apartment close to the city centre and the beaches for around $200 per week.
If you have a bigger budget, there are plenty of hotels and resorts to choose from – from budget-friendly trendy millennial hotels in the centre of Playa del Carmen (e.g. The Reef 28) or luxury resorts like Mahekal and Grand Hyatt (and Palmaia if you want to stay a bit further from Playa del Carmen).
Alternatively, you can also split your stay into a resort part and more affordable apartment part, where you can enjoy two completely different experiences.
Resorts in Riviera Maya can cost between $150 per day and $600 per night while hotels without their own beach are significantly cheaper – $80-150 per night.
If you want to stay in a very nice resort close to Playa del Carmen, I recommend Andaz Mayakoba (just 10 minutes driving away) or Palmaia (probably around 5-7 minutes drive to Playa del Carmen – you can even walk there through the beach).
Food prices in Playa del Carmen
Now let’s talk about the food prices in Playa del Carmen. I found Playa del Carmen generally cheaper than Cancun when it comes to food. While Playa del Carmen is undoubtedly more expensive than other Mexican towns (especially the ones far away from beaches), it can still be pretty affordable.
There are plenty of restaurants for any budget. Cheaper options are usually located a bit further away from Playa’s 5th Avenue (5 Avenida), and they are often frequented by locals.
More expensive options (mostly for tourists) are located right on 5th Avenue.
When we were eating in restaurants located on 5th Avenue, we would usually pay $25-35 for dinner for two (two mains and two cocktails). There are, of course, more expensive options like Harry’s Steakhouse or Sonora Prime, where you’d pay that price just for a steak.
Just two streets away from Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue), we were already able to eat just with $20 for two and we weren’t asking for the cheapest dishes!
Are beaches in Playa del Carmen free?
If you aren’t staying at a resort, chances are, your hotel/apartment won’t have access to the beach. While all beaches are public and free in Playa del Carmen, none of them will have sunbeds and umbrellas unless you go to a beach club.
Moreover, since a few years, Riviera Maya keeps having an issue with a lot of seaweed. While private clubs and resorts pay to clean their beaches, public beaches often get overlooked. If you don’t want to pay for a beach club, you can just sit on the beach in front of the beach club and enjoy a seaweed-free area.
However, I personally like beaches a bit further away from Playa’s town centre. If you’re keen on walking for 30-45 minutes on the beach, you can go to the right – to PLAYACAR or to the left – to lesser-visited public beaches. Make sure to bring an umbrella with you as well as a very strong mineral reef-friendly SPF like this one and maybe even an inflatable sunbed like this one.
How expensive are beach clubs in Playa del Carmen
Next logical question is how expensive are beach clubs in Playa del Carmen. If you decide that you want a comfortable stay on the beach, well, you can visit one of Playa del Carmen’s multiple beach clubs. For more information, detailed prices and the best suggestions about the beach clubs, head to my post about the best beach clubs in Playa del Carmen.
On average, it costs around $15-30 (per person) to visit a beach club for a day. As you see, it’s not cheap at all, as you can easily rent a decent hotel for that money. However, the good news is that many of Playa’s beach clubs give you that as food credit, so you can count it as a lunch – not too bad!
Going out in Playa del Carmen – is alcohol expensive?
If you’re planning to go out in Playa del Carmen, there are plenty of places for any budget. A lot of places are doing promos, e.g. a bucket of beers for $10-15. You can also find a lot of places with 2×1 for cocktails (a cocktail like a Margarita costs around $5) or places charging $10 for a cocktail but giving you almost a jug!
Playa del Carmen is considered an affordable party place, so going out there won’t break a bank!
Other costs/spendings in Playa del Carmen
Finally, if you want to see something besides Playa del Carmen, you have a choice of either a) hiring a car, b) taking a tour, c) taking a public minibus.
If you want to hire a car, make sure to do it in advance (e.g. 1 month in advance). The closer to the date, the more expensive the car hire will be. I recommend using Rentalcars.com as they have an amazing full-insurance option. Recently, Expedia has also launched full insurance for car rentals, so make sure to check it out as well. Hiring a car for a week can be as cheap as $100 if you do it in advance an as expensive as $1000 if you hire a car at the airport 1 day before the trip.
If you want to take a tour, they usually cost between $80-120 per person. Some of the best tours are these ones:
Finally, if you want to try the most affordable way to explore Riviera Maya – head to the main highway, Carretera Cancun – Tulum and waive when you see a white minibus that says Collectivo. It’s a public minibus that goes as far as Tulum, so you can take it to go literally anywhere along the road, from Xcaret to different cenotes or even Tulum.
Budget for 1 week in Playa del Carmen
Now, finally, let’s discuss a budget for Playa del Carmen. I calculated 3 options of budgets for Playa del Carmen for 1 week (I feel it’s the most suitable option for everyone).
Low budget breakdown for Playa del Carmen
Low budget option (staying in a private room, no hostels): $200 accommodation (divide by 2 if you’re staying with a friend/partner), food – $25 per day (or $175 for a week), going out – $10 per day or $70 for a week, 1-2 visits of beach clubs – $30, transport (collectivo) – $20 (to go to cenotes & Tulum), shuttle bus from the airport and back – $20, visiting cenotes – $8.
Total: $418 (or $518 if you will stay in a separate room). You can reduce this budget even more if you stay at a hostel, eat fast food and only visit public beaches (then it should be around $250)
Medium budget for a week in Playa del Carmen
It includes mid-range hotel, nicer restaurants, visiting beach clubs every day, hiring a car:
$600 – hotel (divide by 2 if sharing with a friend or partner), food – $40 per day or $280 for a week, going out $20 per day or $140 for a week, beach clubs – $140, hiring a car + tickets to attractions – $300.
Total: circa $1200 for a week in case you’re sharing a room with your friend or partner
Summary of prices in Playa del Carmen
I hope this post was useful for you and now you are aware of prices in Playa del Carmen a bit more. I only provided two relative budgets needed to stay in Playa – a low budget for an affordable weeklong trip to Playa del Carmen and a medium budget for a week in Playa del Carmen! I didn’t provide a budget for a luxury trip because I believe that there is no limit of how much you can spend on your trip and what is “luxury” also varies a lot from person to person. However, if you’re curious how much a luxury trip to Playa del Carmen would cost, try to multiple the hotel price by 3 and food price by 2!