Escape the crowds in Playacar
I first visited Playa del Carmen, a coastal fishing village turned luxury resort destination, several years ago. I spent a couple of weeks traveling along Mexico’s beautiful Riviera Maya, and I was sure that I had seen most of the major area attractions. It’s only now that I’m living in town, that I’m finally realizing how much I had missed out on during that first visit!
Playacar is one of the places that I had originally overlooked on my first visit to Playa del Carmen; now that I’m a couple of weeks into my half marathon training, I’ve been wanting to check it out – mainly because I’ve heard it’s a great place to run outdoors. The other day, after a quick trip to the immigration office, I finally had a chance to walk the roughly 3.5 mile (5.6 km) loop, along the perfectly landscaped and palm-lined Paseo Xaman Ha, the main avenue that loops through Playacar. Since then, I’ve been back a couple of times to jog the loop and hit the beaches.
Located directly south of Playa del Carmen, Playacar is a gated residential community and upscale resort destination. It’s divided into two sections or fases (phases). Phase I extends along the coast and is lined with all-inclusive luxury resorts. Here you’ll also find the Aviario Xaman Ha (Xaman Ha Aviary), a shopping plaza and a Starbucks. Phase II is a primarily residential area with condominiums, vacation rentals and private villas built around a golf course.
Among the all-inclusive luxury resorts that you’ll find in Playacar are Sandos Playacar, the Iberostar Quetzal, the Reef Playacar Resort and Spa, the Occidental Royal Hideaway, the Wyndham Maya Resort, the Hotel Riu Playacar and the Playacar Golf Club and Spa. The expansive 18-hole Playacar Golf Course at the Playacar Golf Club and Spa was designed by world-renowned course architect Robert von Hagge and is recognized as one of the top golf courses in Riviera Maya, Mexico.
As for whether or not Playacar is a good place to go for a run, it definitely is. Sidewalks extend the length of Paseo Xaman Ha, and they’re far less crowded than in downtown Playa del Carmen. Pedestrian crosswalks are clearly marked and you don’t have to navigate any busy intersections. You’ll encounter very few obstacles – there aren’t any street food carts taking up space on the sidewalks in Playacar – instead, all that you’ll really need to watch out for is the occasional biker, and you can easily enjoy a pleasant and largely uninterrupted run, walk or jog along Paseo Xaman Ha.
Mornings are a popular time to run outdoors in Playa del Carmen, and your best chance for beating the mid-day heat. Of course, if it does get too hot, you can always head out to the beaches and cool off with a quick dip in the ocean. Like most Caribbean destinations, Playacar’s beaches are spectacular and one of my favorite places to spend a beach day in Playa del Carmen.
Playacar’s resorts are set back from the water’s edge, leaving wide expanses of powder white sand that see far fewer visitors than the beaches in town. Most importantly, all of Mexico’s beaches are public and you’re welcome to enjoy all of them, whether or not you’re a guest at any of the resorts.
If You Go: The main entrance to Playacar is located at the end of 10 Avenida Sur in Playa del Carmen. Playacar’s beaches begin just south of the Cozumel ferry terminal and extend for almost 2 miles (about 3 km) along the coast. If you’re not a guest at one of the resorts, then accessing the beaches from Paseo Xaman Ha can be tricky as beach access via the resorts is often restricted to guests (although I’ve heard that Playacar residents are also allowed resort access to the beaches). Everyone else can access the beaches via some of the smaller beachfront streets within Playacar as well as a staircase that leads down to the beach near Señor Frogs, a beachfront restaurant and bar located at the end of La Quinta Avenida (5 Avenida Norte) across from the Cozumel ferry terminal.
For runners: Looking for a fall race to run? The Maratón Ecológico de la Riviera Maya (Riviera Maya Marathon) is scheduled to take place on Sunday, October 28, 2012 in Playa del Carmen; more info at www.maratonrivieramaya.com.