The Best Hotels in Playa del Carmen

March 7, 2021 0 Comments
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Wondering where to stay in the Riviera Maya?  Before I moved to Playa del Carmen, I worked for a luxury hotel brand for six years so talking about hotels is something I definitely get excited about!  My friends sometimes tease me for being a hotel snob because I got used to some pretty high standards in the luxury industry.  But nevertheless my hospitality experience taught what to look for in terms of design, amenities, and service standards.  Read on for my complete guide to the best hotels in Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya region. 

If you’re just starting your search for hotels and resorts in Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya, I know it can definitely be overwhelming.  There are literally HUNDREDS of hotels and resorts in this part of Mexico and figuring out the best brands and locations can be a lot of work.  So here are a few frequently asked questions to help simplify your search.

Where are the best places to stay in Playa del Carmen?

The town of Playa del Carmen is located right in the middle of the Riviera Maya, which is the name of the coastal resort district that spans from Cancun all the way down to Tulum.  Below is a map of the Riviera Maya region to give you an overview of where the hotels and resorts are located.  When booking hotels, check the location to see where they fall on the map.  Basically you have these main resort areas:

  • Downtown Playa del Carmen
  • Playacar
  • North of Playa del Carmen to Cancun (Puerto Morelos, Punta Maroma, Mayakoba)
  • South of Playa del Carmen to Tulum (Puerto Aventuras, Akumal)
Riviera Maya Resorts Map

Each area has its advantages and disadvantages so you’ll want to consider what kind of vacation experience you’re looking for. If you want an all-inclusive option or don’t plan on leaving the resort, I would recommend staying at one the many beautiful Riviera Maya resorts, where you’ll find more widespread beaches, landscaped grounds, and expansive pools. 

All inclusive hotels are an easy booking option that includes all of your food, beverage, and alcohol, but keep in mind these resorts are located further away from downtown Playa del Carmen. You can definitely still visit the city center but it just means you may have to take up to a 30 minute taxi, which can be costly going back and forth.

Downtown Playa del Carmen

If you want to be close to 5th Avenue and the restaurants and nightlife in Playa del Carmen, I would recommend staying in downtown Playa del Carmen, known as “Centro”.  The entire downtown area is pretty walkable, which makes it very easy to explore new restaurants, cafes, shopping, and nightlife.  

Downtown Playa del Carmen is a great place to be and there are some very nice beachfront hotels but to be honest the beaches in Playa del Carmen are not as beautiful or as widespread as those you’ll find at many of the Riviera Maya resorts. 


If you like the idea of staying at all-inclusive resort but still want to be close to the liveliness of downtown Playa del Carmen, I would recommend staying in Playacar, which is a gated community just south of downtown Playa del Carmen. There are many all-inclusive resorts and vacation homes in Playacar, and they also have some of the best beaches in Playa del Carmen. Plus, visiting downtown Playa del Carmen is just a quick 10-15 minute taxi ride away.

North of Playa del Carmen to Cancun

There are many all-inclusive resorts north of Playa del Carmen to Cancun, with the most popular areas being Mayakoba. Punta Maroma, and Puerto Morelos.  The best beach I have seen north of Playa del Carmen is at Punta Maroma, which has been voted as one of the best beaches in the world.  Another popular resort area is near the town of Puerto Morelos, which is a quaint fishing village however the beach here is a little rocky due to its proximity to the coral reef.

South of Playa del Carmen to Tulum

As you head south of Playa del Carmen towards Tulum, you’ll find just as many beautiful and massive all-inclusive resorts.  In my opinion, the beaches get better as you get closer to Tulum and especially near Akumal and Playa Xpu Ha so I usually recommend this area if you’re looking for a really stunning beach experience.  

What's the difference between a hotel and a resort?

Sometimes you may hear the words hotel and resort used interchangeably, however in hospitality terms they have different meanings.  Technically a hotel offers lodging and meals while a resort is defined as having added amenities and services, such as a pool, beach, activities, and unique experiences. In Playa del Carmen, most of the hotels on the beach are considered resorts.

What does all inclusive mean?

The majority of the resorts in Riviera Maya are all-inclusive, meaning that all of your food, beverage, and alcohol are included with your stay.  Some resorts even include room service and daily stocked minibars. You’ll want to check the all-inclusive policies at the resort to determine everything that is offered. 

Some Playa del Carmen all inclusive resorts state all taxes and gratuities are included, but I’ve found that when staying at an all inclusive resort it’s best to have some cash on hand to tip the resort staff for exceptional service.  It’s not required but just a nice gesture.

Best Hotels in Downtown Playa del Carmen

Disclaimer: I have not personally stayed at every single resort listed in this post but I am familiar with them in some way and feel confident recommending them based on my knowledge of the destination.

Best Beachfront Hotels in Playa del Carmen

There aren’t a ton of Playa del Carmen resorts that are located directly on the beach but below are the best options for beach hotels in Playa del Carmen.  As I mentioned, the beaches in downtown Playa del Carmen can be very nice but are not the most stunning when compared to other beaches in Riviera Maya.

Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen

If you are looking for luxury in downtown Playa del Carmen, I would definitely recommend staying at the Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen.  It’s the newest and most modern hotel on the beach in Playa del Carmen.  The Grand Hyatt has an impressive ocean view lobby, infinity pools, and canopy lounge beds directly on the beach.  Some rooms even have private pools.  With multiple restaurants and a unique cenote spa, it’s a great option for an elevated experience in the heart of Playa del Carmen. 

Thompson Beach House Playa del Carmen

Another popular oceanfront hotel in Playa del Carmen is the Thompson Beach House, which is a contemporary boutique hotel with only 27 rooms and suites.  The beach area here is pretty small, but the pool and outdoor seating area is very cute and trendy.  It’s located right in the center of downtown Playa del Carmen, so it’s a great option for small groups, intimate weddings, or family celebrations.

Thompson Beach House Playa del Carmen

Mahekal Beach Resort

Personally I think Mahekal Beach Resort is the most beautiful hotel in Playa del Carmen and it would probably be my first pick if I had to choose the best hotel in Playa del Carmen.  Located on the beautiful 38th Street, Mahekal is located on one of the best beaches in Playa del Carmen.  

With bungalow style accommodations, private terraces, and personal hammocks, the resort exudes a bohemian vibe and offers an authentically Mexican experience.  It also has multiple pools and restaurants, boutiques, and a full-service spa.  And its beautifully landscaped grounds offer a serene tropical retreat while being still close enough to the liveliness of 5th Avenue. 

Hilton Playa del Carmen

Recently renovated, the Hilton Playa del Carmen is a beachfront all-inclusive adults only hotel in Playa del Carmen.  Located right next to the Constituyentes ferry, it has a great central location just one block from the shopping on 5th Avenue. I used to think the resort was pretty outdated but it’s gone through a complete renovation with impressive new suites, restaurants, bar, and lobby.  All of the rooms are suites with private balconies, jetted tubs, and daily stocked minibars. 

Hilton Playa del Carmen

Panama Jack Resorts Playa del Carmen

Located right across the street from the Hilton you will find Panama Jack Resorts, which is a family-friendly all inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen.  Featuring an oceanfront swimming pool, beachfront lounge beds, and a beach volleyball court, the resort offers many amenities for a relaxing getaway. The beach area right in front of Panama Jack is pretty small and a little rocky but the views from the oceanfront pool are pretty great. Plus all of the accommodations have a private terrace, stocked minibars, and 24 hours room service. 

Panama Jack Playa del Carmen

Paradisus Playa del Carmen

Paradisus Playa del Carmen is one of the largest all inclusive resorts in Playa del Carmen and is located less than 2 miles north of the downtown area. Since it’s a little further away from the city center you still get the resort experience with the convenience of being closer to downtown.  

The resort offers an expansive beachfront property with 22 restaurants and bars, free form swimming pools, and a swim up bar.  It’s also a great family friendly resort in Playa del Carmen with a water park on site.  For an adults only option with elevated service check out the Reserve for Adults at Paradisus Playa del Carmen.

Best Non-Beachfront Hotels in Playa del Carmen

Hotels in Playa del Carmen that are not on the beach are still a great option because they are less expensive but still very close to the beach. Pretty much all of the hotels in downtown Playa del Carmen are less than a 15 minute walk to the beach, where you can rent lounge chairs from a beach club or bring your own beach gear.  

Hotel HM Playa del Carmen

Hotel HM Playa del Carmen is a stylish boutique hotel with a very central location right in the heart of Playa del Carmen and just two blocks from 5th Avenue.  It’s a more budget friendly hotel with lovely Mexican design elements and an enticing courtyard pool.

Thompson Playa del Carmen

Located in the heart of the downtown area, the Thompson Hotel Playa del Carmen is a chic hotel with a killer rooftop pool.  It’s not located on the beach, but just a few blocks away.  I would definitely recommend the Thompson Hotel for bachelor or bachelorette parties as it’s known for its rooftop pool parties and is just a block away from the most popular spots for Playa del Carmen nightlife.

Thompson Hotel Playa del Carmen
Photo Credit: Thompson Hotel Playa del Carmen

The Fives Downtown Hotel

Located just two blocks from the beach, the Fives Downtown Hotel is a Hilton Curio Collection Hotel that is one of the newer and more modern hotels in Playa del Carmen.  They have an amazing rooftop pool and restaurant with an alluring infinity pool overlooking the ocean and all of downtown Playa del Carmen.

Best Riviera Maya Resorts

Best Luxury Riviera Maya Resorts

As I mentioned I know a lot about luxury hotels so I can confidently say the ones in Riviera Maya are pretty spectacular.  All of these resorts I’ve listed below are designated as AAA 5 Diamond hotels, which is the highest distinction that all luxury hotels strive to achieve.  

A 5 Diamond hotel must pass a strict inspection by a luxury expert and is noted for world class luxury, amenities, and indulgence for a once in a lifetime experience.  Keep in mind a diamond rating is different than star ratings, which are not really official designations and are often just based on user reviews. 

Rosewood Mayakoba

Rosewood Mayakoba is a luxury AAA 5 Diamond resort located in the exclusive Mayakoba community, which is an expansive area of Playa del Carmen luxury hotels all connected by lush lagoons and coastal waterways.  One of the most unique things about Rosewood Mayakoba is that gondola boats are used to transport guests to their own private docks at their accommodations.  

The resort offers 6 outdoor pools, and all rooms have their own private plunge pools.  In addition, there are 8 restaurants and bars to enjoy, including a new bar called Zapote featuring locally sourced hand crafted cocktails.  

Fairmont Mayakoba

Located in the exclusive Mayakoba community, Fairmont Mayakoba is a luxury AAA-5 Diamond resort nestled on the Caribbean coast just north of Playa del Carmen.  With over 400 accommodations, it’s an expansive resort offering lush lagoons as well as a pristine Caribbean coastline.  All inclusive packages are available or you can dine on your own at one of the 5 restaurants and bars.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Grand Velas Riviera Maya is a luxury all-inclusive resort just 15 minutes north of Playa del Carmen. All suites have private terraces, spa bathrooms with jacuzzis, and some with private plunge pools. The Playa del Carmen 5 Diamond resort also offers five signature restaurants, casual lounges, bars, beachfront bistros, and 24 hour suite service.

Fun Fact: For my reality TV buffs, Grand Velas Riviera Maya is where the Netflix series "Love is Blind" was filmed.

Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun

Located on the world famous Maroma Beach, Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun is a luxury adults only all inclusive resort that has also earned the AAA 5 Diamond Award.  The resort offers 13 outdoor pools, 7 different restaurants, as well as a coffee shop.  In addition, the suite accommodations have hot tubs, marble baths, furnished terraces, and minibars.  Maroma Beach is one of the most beautiful and widespread beaches in the Riviera Maya, making it the perfect place for an adults only getaway.

Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun
Photo Credit: Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun

Hotel Xcaret

Recently opened in 2017, Hotel Xcaret is a modern luxury hotel that has also earned the AAA 5 Diamond award.  The coolest thing about staying at Hotel Xcaret is that they have an “All-Fun Inclusive” concept meaning you have unlimited access and roundtrip transportation to the 9 Xcaret parks and tours: Xcaret, Xel-Há, Xplor, Xplor Fuego, Xoximilco, Xenses, Xavage and also Xenotes and Xichén.  Entrance fees to those parks can be very expensive on their own so it’s a great opportunity for families or if you have any interest in visiting the adventure parks. 

Travelista Tip: Learn more about the Xcaret adventure parks here.

Best Boutique Riviera Maya Resorts

A boutique hotel typically has less than 100 rooms and offers upscale accommodations and more personalized experiences than some of the larger hotel chains. While the majority of the hotels in Riviera Maya are very large, there are a few really stunning boutique hotel concepts.

Hotel Esencia

Hotel Esencia is the cutest Mexican boutique hotel located right on Xpu Ha Beach in Mexico.  I discovered it on Instagram when I first moved to Playa del Carmen and have been obsessed with it ever since.  It’s a high end boutique luxury hotel and the minimalistic Mexican design elements on the property are just stunning. 

Blue Diamond Luxury Boutique Hotel

Blue Diamond Luxury Boutique Hotel is a new boutique adults only hotel featuring 128 rooms just north of Mayakoba. Accommodation options include spectacular beachfront casitas, private docks, ocean view rooftop terraces with sun chairs, rooftop infinity pools, private pools, and more.  All inclusive packages are available or you can dine on your own at one of the 3 restaurants and 3 bars.

Newest Riviera Maya Resorts

Riviera Maya has been a popular resort destination for many years, so some of the large resorts can feel a little dated and in need of some renovations.  Here’s the newest resorts in the Riviera Maya if you’re like me and prefer something a little more modern.

Hotel Unico 20°87°

Hotel Unico 20°87° is a brand new adults only resort located on the beach near Akumal offering luxurious accommodations and amenities.  With three pools, as well as a spa and wellness center, it offers guests a relaxed luxury experience.  The hotel has beautiful design elements and has also earned the AAA 5 Diamond award.  I really love the design of this hotel and it’s usually my top pick for the best Playa del Carmen all inclusive adults only resort.

Barcelo Riviera Maya

Barcelo Riviera Maya is a brand new modern adults only all-inclusive resort located just north of Playa Xpu Ha. It just opened at the end of 2019 so it’s one of the newest hotels in Riviera Maya. Guests with an all-inclusive plan can also access the other hotels in the Barcelo Resort complex adding endless options for restaurants and entertainment.  

Guests can also enjoy a shopping center, bowling alley, 24-hour sports bar, 3 theaters, and a nightclub.  Another unique feature of the Barcelo complex is the Ventura Fly and Ride, which is an adventure park with zipline circuit and all terrain vehicles.

Travelista Tip: If you stay at Barcelo Resorts, be sure to check out Eden Cenote, Cenote Cristalino, and Cenote Azul, which are some of the best cenotes in Playa del Carmen and located just across the highway from the hotel entrance.

Palafitos Overwater Bungalows at El Dorado Maroma

For a truly unique experience, check out the luxurious Palafitos Overwater Bungalows at El Dorado Maroma.  This resort offers the only overwater bungalows in Mexico, similar to those you might find in the Maldives or Bora Bora.  The resort consists of only 30 overwater bungalows on the beautiful Maroma Beach, each featuring private decks, direct ladder access to the ocean, infinity pools, glass bottom floors, and butler service. Pretty amazing right?!

Best Mid-Range Riviera Maya Resorts

Not all Riviera Maya getaways have to be super expensive.  There are many resorts in Riviera Maya that offer incredible value, amazing dining experiences, and comfortable accommodations.  These are my picks for the best mid-range Riviera Maya resorts that are more budget friendly. 

Catalonia Playa Maroma

I stayed at Catalonia Playa Maroma for a weekend getaway with some girlfriends and had a great experience. It’s an all inclusive Playa del Carmen resort that provides a great overall experience but won’t break the bank.  I was very impressed with the dining options at Catalonia Maroma, which includes a variety of international restaurants, cafes, and food trucks.  And its location on Maroma Beach can’t be beat!

Travelista Tip: Be sure to sign up for Catalonia Maroma's "Privileged" program for exclusive access to added benefits and upgrades.

Ocean Riviera Paradise

The Ocean Riviera Paradise is a newer and larger Riviera Maya all inclusive resort located just north of Playa del Carmen.  The resort has 974 modern rooms and suites all decorated in a contemporary design with maritime touches. Guests can enjoy 5 pools, a children’s pool, tennis courts, a diving center, bowling alley, theater, casino, and night club. If you want an adults only option, book at the sister property Ocean Riviera Paradise – El Beso Adults Only.

Best Resorts in Playacar

Located less than 15 minutes away from downtown Playa del Carmen, Playacar is an exclusive gated community that has some of the best beaches and all inclusive resorts in Playa del Carmen for families and adults.

Best All Inclusive Resorts in Playacar

Sandos Playacar

Before I moved to Playa del Carmen, I stayed at Sandos Playacar for a week with some friends and it was very fun all inclusive experience on one of the best beaches in Playa del Carmen.  The resort is definitely older but it is very well maintained and offers a ton of dining experiences.  They’ve since added a new waterpark with ocean views, which makes it a fun resort for families.  You can also book accommodations in the Select Club, which is an adults only program offering exclusive beach access, rooms, and premium amenities. 

Sandos Playacar

Riu Palace Riviera Maya

Riu Palace Riviera Maya is a Playacar all inclusive resort that was recently refurbished in 2019. The resort features direct beachfront access as well as 2 swimming pools and a swim up bar.  There are five other Riu hotels in the same complex (Lupita, Tequila, Playacar, Palace Mexico, and Yucatan) which guests also have access to, but the Riu Palace Riviera Maya is the nicest and most recently renovated.

Playacar Palace

Playacar Palace is another one of the best all inclusive resorts in Playa del Carmen that offers an amazing location as it’s closest to downtown Playa del Carmen and just steps from the shops on 5th Avenue.  The resort can be seen just on the other side of the Cozumel ferry as you pass through the entrance to Senor Frog’s. Playacar Palace offers 201 tastefully decorated suites with ocean views, whirlpool tubs, and in-room liquor dispensers.  All inclusive packages also include brand name liquors.

Are you ready to book your Riviera Maya vacation? I hope this best resorts Playa del Carmen guide was helpful in your vacation planning.  Which do you think is the best Playa del Carmen hotel?  Any others I should add to the list? I personally want to stay at them all!

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By vivalatravelista

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