The beach scene in Playa del Carmen is a little unconventional because it is dominated by beach clubs. While the beach is public, it is quite narrow. When the tide is in, there might be only room for one row of loungers between the water and the private hotels and beach clubs lining the beach.
Many people who visit the Riviera Maya stay at an all-inclusive resort and most of these resorts are beachfront. If that is the case for you, skip the rest of this article. For anyone staying at a regular hotel or a condo like we are, continue reading.
The beaches have fine white sand, but there have been a few issues over the last few years that many people have commented on. First, there is the erosion of the beach from hurricanes and rising water levels.
To combat the erosion, 8-10 years ago, they had installed what they called “whales” about 100 yards offshore. They were huge cylinder-shaped bags filled with sand. The bags would deteriorate over time and release the sand back to the beach. This approach seemed to work pretty well, and all of the whales are gone now.
The second issue with beaches in Playa del Carmen has been seaweed. I don’t know the whole story, but the seaweed blooms near the beach turned the water brown and made swimming unpleasant. The town has a mitigation program in place and there are now lots of places to swim, but you still see quite a bit of seaweed in the water and on the beach.
As I mentioned before, the beaches are public including the one at the end of our street. Thankfully, the beaches are not full of trinket sellers, but there are churro, empanada and mango vendors walking up and down the beach. Vendors also set up pairs of folding chairs with umbrellas that you can pay to use for the day. Entrepreneurism is alive and well in Playa del Carmen.
Beach clubs are definitely a thing here, there are at least eight of them along the beaches of Playa del Carmen. The way most of the work is you pay a fixed price for the day, then you get all or a portion of the price back in food and drink.
Surprisingly, at the beach club, we went to, the food and drinks weren’t overpriced as you might expect. Your admission fee gets you a beach lounger and an umbrella or a plush sun-bed. Some beach clubs also have swimming pools. At some places, pricing is graduated depending on the desirability of the beach chair, proximity to the beach or pool, or distance from the main tourist hub of town.
There are always ropes or fences between the private portion of the beach and the public portion. There are also lots of minders out to make sure you don’t take a chair without paying. Since you pay for the day, most people go out before lunch and stay well into the afternoon to get their money’s worth.
We choose a Sunday to go to the beach because that was really the only day to go with our house guest. The beach club that we wanted to go to was full because we didn’t get ourselves out there until about 1 pm. Plan B was the place next door, which turned out to have really good food and drinks.
Beach Club Pricing
At this club, we paid 500 pesos per person (roughly $27) and got all of it back in food and drinks. Next door, the price was 100 pesos for the chair with no credit and external food and drinks are not allowed. Further down the beach, the price was 300 pesos for the chair plus 300 minimum spend on food and drinks.
The prices were 1000 pesos and 1200 pesos with some portion allotted to food and drinks closer to the tourist area. All that said, don’t come to Playa del Carmen and skip the beach.
Our day at the beach was one of the most pleasant days we have had in Playa del Carmen so far. It is very relaxing to lay in the shade at the beach and listen to the surf all day.
Are you ready for a visit to the beach?