Playa del Carmen is seen as wild escape for party going millennials, while Tulum is positioned as the bohemian mecca for luxe hipsters. However, after living in Riviera Maya for over a decade, what has become evident is that there is more than meets the eye in both of these exciting destinations.
Beyond the Party of Playa
Playa del Carmen is a place where local Mexicans eat, work and live. It is an incredibly vibrant place that has a bad reputation for being a crazy party destination. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Like any popular place, there are crowded areas, tourist traps and a club zone. But if you take the opportunity to step off of the main street, you would discover a town full of culture and diversity. It is a place where locals thrive and business is good. A place that is inclusive and casual. A place where artists paint the streets and can be seen every Thursday showcasing their work during “Art Walk.” This is the town where we live. It is the original hippy destination in Mexico where many young local people fled to live their vegan fueled, yoga-bound lifestyles. There is a pulse here that is not about trends but about real life. On Calle 38, where Hotel La Semilla is located, we are lucky to be positioned on the quiet, more artistic part of town. As you bike farther up the road, you will soon feel miles away from the crowds and “scene.” Along the water, the landscape gets more wild and the streets quiet. You can feel the local pulse where there are a plethora of small restaurants, local shops and beautiful architecture to discover. While, Tulum usually gets all the hype these days for being a wonderfully hip and trendy; it is Playa del Carmen where you can actually interact and experience local life and culture. In Tulum, these worlds stay quiet separate.
Tulum’s Bohemian Paradise
Tulum may need no introduction, as it is the epicenter of the hip, bohemian-luxe movement in Mexico. Practically an institution for Manhattanites, this quaint town has made quite a splash among the cultural elite. Exquisite restaurants and chic artisan boutiques line the dirt road between the Mayan jungle and Caribbean Sea, which is an area known as the “hotel zone” of Tulum. Each night you can experience the mellow buzz of travelers dining by twinkle-light and meandering along this never-ending hotel zone. Artisan coctelerías offer bearded bartenders mixing uncommon flavors to surprise and delight even the most sophisticated connoisseur. The soft hum of mellow Spanish music serves as soundtrack to this wonderful scene and makes one feel that the whole scene is lost in time and space. To be in Tulum is to fall in love with yourself and a wild abandon that fuels the Laissez-faire attitude of business owners and travelers to this place. It is a destination to explore and to be— while revealing a more spiritual (and arguably much cooler) part of you. Nature is an important theme here and the preservation of the flora and fauna is strongly on the minds of every person that calls Tulum home. As exciting as Tulum is as a destination, it’s beauty is intensified by the arguably fleeting nature of it’s greatness. It seems to be a place untouched by major development– but that may not be the case in the future. Now is the time to experience this amazing place and to savor an area that has been built on the backs of true artisan and purveyors of the “slow-living.”
Maximize Your Trip
Each destination delivers a different type of experience with equal value. Tulum is certainly the more popular destination for discerning travelers. To be in Tulum is to be in a different world. It is charming, exciting and completely exotic. One could argue that it doesn’t have a very strong Mexican feeling, as it is a world created by an international community of artisans and visionaries. Regardless, it is truly unique– but, at times, can be quite expensive. Prices are comparable to New York City in most restaurants, hotels and boutiques. That said, there is no other place like it in the world.
Playa del Carmen is somewhat of a paradox. It can be exactly what you expect and it can be something entirely different. Playa is a wonderful destination for travelers who want to dig deeper. Those who want to make an effort to understand Mexico and the people that make it wonderful. You can sit side-by-side with local people eating their cherished, traditional food. You can speak to them about their lives and their experiences. This you cannot find in Tulum in a genuine way as frequently. That said, one cannot deny that the tourist areas of Playa are very touristy. The clubs are very “club-y” and the peddlers on the street are very vocal along the main tourist areas. We encourage you to look elsewhere and make an effort to see the glimpse of Playa that we see and, hopefully, gain an understanding of the locals living here. There is beauty in that.
A truly holistic experience would touch upon these two places. We are lucky to have properties in both locations and have many guests who split their time between Playa del Carmen and Tulum during their vacation. The choice is yours. Travelers looking for help deciding where to go are always welcome to send us a note. We would be happy to help make your decision a little easier (if your time is limited). Either way, Mexico is an unbelievable place filled with wonderful people and extraordinary food. We hope that all guests visiting our fine country takes the time to appreciate this place in a deeper way all the gifts Mexico has to offer which will enrich your mind, spirit and belly.