Tips for Finding Condos or Hotels in Playa del Carmen
Although we own condos in Playa del Carmen that we rent out, once a year we stay in other condo properties to see what they are like and what amenities they offer. I consider myself pretty savvy about what to look for, but every now and then I still get burned and pick a place that annoys me. These are Tips for Finding Condos or hotels in Playa del Carmen that I’ve learned and hopefully will help you find the right place for your stay.
Condo, Hotel or All-Inclusive
Condos and hotels are similarly priced in Playa and although I’ve stayed in both, I prefer a condo because there is more space, a refrigerator for our juices, fruit and champagne as well as leftovers, and overall more comfortable. I get up early (it’s still dark), and I like to make coffee and work for an hour or 2. In a condo I don’t wake anyone else up doing this. In a hotel you only have the 1 room.
I’ve written before about all-inclusives. I’m not a fan of them in general, but especially in Playa. All-inclusives keep you on their properties, have mediocre food in most of the restaurants, great pools, and usually all-you-can-drink options. The all-inclusives are very large in Playa – thousands of rooms. One is as good or bad as another. They charge you a lot of money if you want a taxi to downtown Playa, which means 5th Ave. It is half the price to return from Playa.
Playa del Carmen has the best restaurants you can imagine, and some are very inexpensive. There are something like 15,000 Italians now living in Playa so the Italian restaurants are as good if not better than eating in Italy. There’s also fish caught that morning, fresh fruits and vegetables. Add to that 5th Avenue, the clubs, shops and music venues and it’s impossible to understand why anyone would stay locked into an all-inclusive property.
Location, location, location
In Playa that can mean many things so let’s break it down.
Staying on or close to the beach is usually the first choice for most people. 1ST, 5th, 10th, and 15th (there are no streets in between them) all run parallel to the beach. East of 5th is more expensive than west of 5th because you are closer to the beach. The premier zone goes from Juarez in the south end to Calle 38 on the north end. This is where you’ll find most of the restaurants, shops, grocery stores, clubs, coffee shops, etc. The heart/middle is Constituyentes and 5th Ave.
You can find hotels and condos north of Calle 38 and west of 15th, but now you are out of the area that most people like to stay within. In these areas there aren’t as many people on the street after 8pm and some areas aren’t well-lit. The hotels and condos are older, but least expensive. You will walk further to get to the beach, 5th Ave. and most of the restaurants.
Remember Playa del Carmen is very European and people like to walk to dinner, shopping, clubs, etc. 5th Avenue is a 3 mile long pedestrian only street geered to people walking. It goes from Juarez (on the south) to Calle 40 (on the North). There are cabs everywhere if you prefer to ride, but part of the joy of Playa is walking 5th Ave. especially in the evening. Bikes are becoming popular in Playa but you can’t ride them on 5th.
HomeAway/VRBO and Airb&b allow owners to post maps of where properties are located. Use them.
Street Map of Playa del Carmen. Calle’s run East/West. Streets run parallel to the beach 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th, etc.
Do you need/want a view of the pool, beach or water? Maybe you don’t care as long as you’re at a beachfront property? Partial ocean view can mean many different things, so be sure to ask questions if it matters to you.
I recently stayed at a nice property on Calle 38 and the view was of a mangrove field. That would have been acceptable, but the only windows in the entire unit were 3 sliding glass doors that faced the mangroves. The unit was narrowest at the doors and got wider at the opposite end giving the illusion of being in a cave.
Pay attention to what’s in the Condo or Hotel room
Everybody’s different and some things matter more than others. When choosing a place to stay here’s a checklist for you to consider and make sure the property you are considering has what you want:
Pool – Let’s face it, most of us want a pool. Look for pictures of the pool. Is it big enough? Clean? Are there chairs available around it? Is it deep enough to swim in? Shallow area for kids?
Maid service/housekeeping. Some include daily or weekly in the price, others charge additionally for it.
Dishwasher, washer dryer. Does the condo have them? If there is no dishwasher and no housekeeping are you OK washing dishes? Is there soap in the unit or do you need to buy some?
Towels – Some condos provide them, some don’t. If they are provided are they also replaced? If yes, how often? Some places are daily or as often as you want. Others aren’t and you will pay to get replacements.
Linens– Some condos have very nice sheets and others are thin. If there is no housekeeping, are sheets replaced? How often? Some places replace as often as you want, others do not replace regardless of your length of stay.
Stocked kitchen– to me that means refrigerator, stove, microwave, toaster over, coffee maker, blender (who doesn’t want a margarita?), silverware, glasses, dishes. I hate to get to a place and find out they don’t have soap or wash for the shower, or coffee filters for the coffee maker.
Water – this is a biggie. Tourists don’t drink the tap water for good reason, so you want a water cooler that has 5 gallon water bottles. Some places include the water in the rental price, others charge additionally for it and others make you get it yourself if you want it. It’s not expensive (about $4 US as of January, 2020), but do you want to go to the corner 7-11 or Oxxo and carry it back yourself?
If you are staying at a hotel, do they have a water purification system? Some do, some don’t.
Concierge/Property Management– Anyone who owns a condo and rents it out has to have someone available in Playa to help guests. Some are worthless. Some call themselves concierges, but don’t do anything you ask of them.
Ask your owner to make sure they have the things available that mean something to you. I asked our concierge to order us Chaya juice to have in the unit when we arrived. She gave me a phone number and told me to call myself. Since I don’t speak Spanish, I couldn’t take care of this.
Property Managers are supposed to meet you when you arrive, show you the unit and property and answer any questions you have. Yes, there are horror stories of guests waiting for hours for their property manager to show up. A place with 24 hour front desk is more reliable for check-in and help during your stay.
Front desk – some condos have a front desk, but it’s not like a front desk at US properties. They have you complete a registration form when you arrive. That’s it.
Some are staffed limited hours, some 24 hours. I prefer 24 hours, just like a hotel. Look for condo hotel properties.
Hotels in Playa usually have front desk staffed 24 hours a day and in smaller ones the staff also act as concierge helping you with reservations, tours, etc. Larger hotels have dedicated concierge people.
Parking – this is becoming a big deal as parking is now at a premium in Playa del Carmen. Street parking is no longer free and there are pay stations for parking on the streets. If you will have a car while you are in Playa, look for a place that has complimentary parking. Valets at hotels are expensive. Not all condos have complimentary parking.
Concierge – Lots of places say they have concierge services, but the term is very loosely used. A concierge should help you with everything from arranging or recommending tours, dinner reservations, rental cars, side-trips, beaches, etc. to greeting you when you arrive and handling any issues you run into, to arranging transportation to/from the airport to your condo building. Get a full-service concierge property and they do it all. Other places offer concierge services that only arrange transportation to/from your condo because they get tips from the car service companies.
Phone service– Some places have phone service in the unit and others don’t. It’s not a big deal to me either way, but maybe it is for you.
The beach, seaweed and erosion in Playa del Carmen
We’ve been coming to Playa 4-5 times a year since 1993. I can say with great accuracy that the beach changes every time we come. Playa has had an on- again/off again problem with seaweed for a couple of years as have 29 other countries in the Caribbean. The beach can change dramatically in 1 day and be seaweed free one day and horrible the next. The government has crews that clean it up quickly, but the water might be murky for several days. No one can predict when the seaweed will occur or when we have our beautiful beaches. Also, it can be fine on 1 beach and bad on a beach 500 yards away. The seaweed is fickle.
Erosion also happens as a result of storms. A property can literally lose its beach overnight. It will come back, they always do, but it might take a month.
The beach could be bad when you book your unit, but perfect by the time you get there. Don’t let seaweed or erosion scare you away – if it’s bad in one spot it will still be good in another nearby spot.
Many beachfront condos and hotels have their own beach clubs where you will get complimentary chairs and umbrellas and food service for an additional charge. Does your property have a beach club or is it associated with a beach club?
I hope you’ve found these Tips for Finding Condos or hotels in Playa del Carmen helpful. Here are questions you can cut and paste and email to your condo owner before booking.
1. What is the view from the condo?
2. Is housekeeping/maid service included? If not, how much is it?
3. Do you have a water cooler in the unit? Do you provide the water?
4. Are towels provided? How often?
5. Are you associated with a beach club? If yes, what does that include?
6. Is there a washer/dryer? Is soap provided?
7. Is shampoo, body wash/soap provided?
8. Do you have a 24 hour front desk?
9. Do you have concierge service? What services do they offer?
10. Is there a dishwasher? Is soap provided?
11. Do you have a restaurant on-site?
12. Is parking available? Complimentary or fee?
There are many beautiful condo hotel and hotel properties in Playa del Carmen. Use these Tips for Finding Condos or Hotels in Playa del Carmen! Please post additional tips you have learned or found.
Please contact Marcela or Laura for additional questions you might have or to let us help you find the right place for your needs. Also see http://www.laurasbeachfrontcondos.com You can look at the 90+ condos we have available and book directly at http://secure.condohotelsplayadelcarmen.com/aff-default.aspx?affid=43