We share our best travel tips in this complete guide to the gorgeous Playa Del Carmen: practical safety tips, where to stay, go out, party and tan!
The men are hot. The drinks are bottomless. The beaches are never-ending. The weather is gorgeous. There aren’t enough nice things to say about Playa Del Carmen.
As a sassy Frenchman and a Greek guy, we like to see ourselves as quite a fiery duo. Yet on our first trip to Mexico years ago, we quickly realized we were nowhere near as vivacious as we aspired to be. We went from feeling like a spicey paella to a chicken stew very quickly. Yet the more we visit, the more the spirit of the nation takes hold.
Playa del Carmen is a gorgeous little nest in the wider fabulously gay Riviera Maya that embraces its visitors and thrusts them into the high energy, passionate, and wildly invigorating atmosphere. The parties are some of the most outrageous we’ve ever seen, with loud music, extravagant performances, and a free-spirited crowd.
Despite all this, it can still be a relaxing and tranquil place to unwind. The beaches are long and wide, with clear ocean waters and white sands, ideal for sunbathing and sprucing up that tan. Their hotels often have excellent spa amenities that help revitalize the mind and body, so you feel like a whole new person by the time you leave.
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Shake your tail feathers with a gay tour of Mexico City!
Our friends at Out Adventures just launched an all-gay tour of Mexico City and its surrounding sites. The short and sweet escape ticks off the megalópolis' best-known attractions such as Frida Kahlo's house, Chapultepec Castle, and nearby Teotihuacan. Best of all, the tour mambos over to Zona Rosa where boys, booze and bad decisions await.
Is Playa Del Carmen safe for gay travelers?
Playa del Carmen is one of the more touristic and international parts of Mexico. We generally found Mexico to be very welcoming towards gay travelers, albeit with pockets of that awful notorious machismo attitude in the more rural areas. However, none of that in Playa del Carmen! This cutesy resort town has a strong Bohemian laidback feel to it. We found the locals here to be very open and super welcoming to us as a gay couple visiting.
In terms of booking a double bed in hotels, we never had any issues with this. All the places we stayed at including family-run guesthouses had clearly welcomed LGBTQ travelers before and no one showed any signs of concern that two guys wanted to share a bed.
Playa del Carmen also has a few gay bars and clubs to check out, which we've set out below in more detail. A few times on the main beaches we even noticed a few gay couples holding hands and be close to each other – no one around seemed to bat an eye! Read more in our interview with local boy Andres from Mexico city about what gay life in Mexico is like.
Gay hotels in Playa del Carmen
Whilst Playa del Carmen doesn't have any exclusively gay hotels, many of the places we sought out are very gay-friendly. None of the hotels we stayed at had any issue with two guys sharing a bed.
Of course, if you're booking yourself into a place and aren’t 100% sure if they are gay-friendly, it never hurts to call/email ahead to make sure. We've listed below some of our favorite gay-friendly hotels covering all budgets.
Hilton Playa del Carmen
In a nutshell
- All-inclusive gay friendly adults only resort
- Incredible pools and wonderful spa
- Seven excellent on-site restaurants
- Walking distance to the best of Playa del Carmen
Oh mama, you don’t know what relaxation is until you’ve stayed at the Hilton Playa.
Standing on the fabulous white-sand Mamitas beach, this gay friendly adult only hotel is a haven of serenity. Each room has views of the ocean plus its own minibar, so the party can continue after you’ve retired for the evening. They also have a balcony and massive tubs – many a night we spent here together… before relaxing in the pool outside our bedroom in the morning. A swim-up suite is a must!
Every morning we also loved going face down at breakfast – which you can have at two different restaurants (with a variety of yummy dishes) or the on-site coffee house. In the evening we had the choice of seven different restaurants within the hotel itself, from Italian to traditional Mexican cuisine, Caribbean fusion and Mexican-French fusion – all very highly rated!
The Hilton has reserved lounge chairs for guests, so you don’t have to compete with the rest of beachgoers for a spot…you know how competitive people can get. Just steps away from the hotel is the famous Fifth Avenue, full of designer shops, restaurants, and bars. The resort's swimming pool has a swim-up bar, serving delicious cocktails and beverages, or there's Tequilera for all the best Mexican tequilas to sample.
You definitely won't get bored at the Hilton either, with activities like scuba diving or salsa dancing lessons on offer, along with an excellent gym and a rooftop tennis court! At night there is live music and entertainment. But most importantly of all, we HIGHLY recommend spoiling yourself in their spa, which features a beauty salon, massage rooms, hydromassage bathtub, and sauna.
Prices at Hilton Playa del Carmen start from $356 per night:
STAY WITH A GAY LOCAL
Misterb&b is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, voiding any nasty surprises when you check-in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off our first booking.
Hidden Beach Resort au Naturel
In a nutshell
- Clothing optional, adults-only resort
- Nightly entertainment
- Champagne on arrival
A handy way to avoid extra baggage costs is to not pack any clothes!
Therefore, staying at Hidden Beach au Naturel might just save you a pretty penny. This is an adults-only nudist resort tucked away on the coast of the Mexican Caribbean. Featuring 42-beachfront suites, this is the perfect option for gay couples who want to inject a little spice into their love life! We recommend staying in the Oceanfront Junior Suite as it has its own hot tub, as well as cozy furniture and a massive TV to binge-watch telenovelas.
From the moment you enter, everything is taken care of. At check-in, we were given a glass of bubbles, before being escorted to our luxurious room. They have an on-site restaurant as well (with a daily changing menu), where couples often choose to go nude – saves us the argument on who gets to wear the fancy tie…
Everything is situated in lush gardens, with the pool facing right onto the beach. There's even a ‘lazy river' and a hot tub which also faces the beach. There's nothing like relaxing in bubbles while watching the waves crash. There's also an on-site fitness center with a sauna and steam bath, if you fancy getting a workout in – got to look good while running around in your birthday suit, right?!
The resort also provides tons of couple's activities, like coconut painting, water volleyball and tequila tasting – not at the same though, wouldn’t that be a trip? They regularly host themed entertainment nights, like cabaret where you are encouraged to break out some nice lingerie, or a classic karaoke night, where you can break out some vocals.
Prices at Hidden Beach Resort start from $500 per night:
Illusion Boutique Hotel
In a nutshell
- Rooftop swim-up bar
- On-site restaurant/bakery
- Excellent location for beach and shopping!
Due to its proximity to gay bars like Club 69, and the noticeable amount of LGBTQ clientele staying here, we’ve gone ahead and declared the gorgeous Illusion Boutique Hotel the “unofficial” gay hotel of Playa Del Carmen!
Even though Illusion is the most budget option on our list, you are not going to miss out on any of the fabulous amenities that make a beachside resort in Playa del Carmen so heavenly. It's a two-minute walk from the hotel to either the main beach or the city's famous Fifth Avenue.
The rooftop pool has a swim-up bar, which we took full advantage of. The ocean is visible from the pool, so you can sip on a cocktail whilst soaking in the crystal blue waters. It’s up quite high, so it meant we could re-enact that moment from Titanic with Jack and Rose at the bow of the ship – thankfully, our night had a happier ending…
Each room is relatively simple in terms of space and decoration, but provide a lovely spot to sleep each night after lots of exploring, partying and working on that tan. The Vision Cabañas room use warm colors and contemporary design to create a thoroughly relaxing atmosphere, just what you need to unwind. Attached to the hotel is Pierre's, a restaurant and bakery with excellent coffee. Don't miss the colorful umbrellas hanging overhead, perfect for that Insta pic!
The staff at Illusion are the best, really helpful and friendly, they seem to know every guest's name as soon as they arrive! We enjoyed visiting the spa, as we could indulge ourselves in a couple's deep-tissue massage. It was one of the best experiences of our stay here.
Prices at Illusion Boutique Hotel start from $63 per night:
LOTE4 LGBTQ Studio Apartments
In a nutshell
- Gay-owned, adults-only retreat
- Very intimate with just three studios
- Lovely terrace and pool area
- Friendly hosts and a very friendly pooch!
LOTE4 LGBTQ Studio Apartments are relatively new on the Playa del Carmen scene, but they provide beautifully intimate accommodations for queer visitors to this fabulous destination!
While we haven't stayed here ourselves – yet! – they look delightful while being both gay-owned and adults-only. Gay couple Jeroen and Carl are well-traveled themselves, so they know what gay travelers want when it comes to somewhere to stay.
LOTE4 is the epitome of intimate romance and relaxation, with just three intimate studios to choose from, two with direct access to that gorgeous pool. The one without direct access has its own private garden and, of course, you can still spend your downtime relaxing on the sun loungers or swimming a few laps.
Carl and Jeroen have thought of everything you might need, with space and WiFi if you need to get some work done. You can also cook your own meals in the fully equipped kitchen if you don't feel like going out, but they're also full of helpful tips on where to go when you do fancy a night on the town! And a bonus for the dog lovers out there, their pup POP also loves socializing with guests!
Prices at LOTE4 start from $53 per night:
Gay bars in Playa del Carmen
The gay scene in Playa del Carmen is small, which makes sense given the size of the place. Since La Cueva del Maya-T closed down the gay scene was pretty bleak, but recently some new venues have opened up and even some of the more ‘straight' bars now have regular gay nights. For more gay nightlife your best bet is to head to Cancun, but we definitely recommend checking out what's on offer in the Playa!
La Diabla in Playa del Carmen
Note: We have received reports that La Diabla has closed but not been able to confirm this yet – watch this space! Updated November 2023.
Get down and dirty with the devils at La Diabla! This gay bar has only recently opened but already has a reputation for fierce nights filled with sexy guys strutting their stuff in very little clothing. There are some very cool performances here, from fire-twirling to Go-Go dancing, so there's always something to keep you entertained. They also have drag battle nights with some of the most stunning queens, so all in all it's a great choice for a wild night out in Playa!
Open: La Diabla is open Thursday to Sunday nights from 8pm until around 3am the next morning
Location: You can find it at Calle 10 Norte between 5 and 10 Avenida
Provenza PDC in Playa del Carmen
Another relatively new spot to check out is Provenza Playa del Carmen, the number-one spot for drag karaoke in town! We love the decor here, which feels like you're inside a kind of jungle or Tiki bar. There's a big stage where the performers and drag queens strut their stuff, with fun themes for the many party nights they organize. There are drag shows and Go Go dancers nearly every night of the week so it's one of our favorite places to start the night off.
Open: Every day from 7pm until 2am
Location: You can find Provenza PDC at Calle 32 Norte, 69, Gonzalo Guerrero
Laser Hot Bar in Cancun
Of course, the name Laser Hot Bar caught our eyes. We popped in ready for an evening of strong-tasting cocktails and sweaty dancefloors. And that’s exactly what we got! If you want to see some fun drag performances, cheeky hosts, and epic lip-syncs, then you also need to pop in for a visit. They often have themed gay events or a featured guest, which they post about on their Facebook page. Drag Race icon Valentina has performed here alongside other beloved Latina queens. These girls have dazzled the audience to within an inch of their life!
Open: Laser Hot Bar is open Wednesdays to Sundays from 8pm to 3am
Location: You can find the Laser Hot Bar at Avenue Paseo Tulum in Cancun
Gay clubs in Playa del Carmen
Since it's a more modest resort town, Playa doesn't have much in the way of gay clubs, now that Playa 69 has closed down. If you really want to party and go all out, we suggest grabbing a cab (around 45 mins and $25-45 each way) over to Cancun which has a much larger gay scene. If you want to stay closer to Cancun, take a look at our selection of the best gay resorts in Cancun.
When we did this, we went with a group of friends so we split the cost of the taxi ride between us. Below we've summarised the gay club of Playa along with another gay-friendly club called Coco Bongo and our favorite gay club in Cancun called 11:11.
Coco Bongo in Playa del Carmen
Coco Bongo is a mixed club with a largely straight crowd along with many queer couples and singletons. Once you step through the front door you already feel as if you’ve stepped into a whole other universe. We found that it’s not so much a place to go dancing but more a place to stand in one spot with your mouth on the floor as you watch the show in utter amazement! With flying acrobats sailing through the air, a massive stage area featuring world-class performers, and pulsing dance music, Coco Bongo gave us extravagant Cirque du Soleil vibes all night long…
Open: Coco Bongo is open Tuesday to Saturday from 6.30pm until 11pm
Location: It can be found at Calle 12 Norte at the corner with Avenida 10 Norte
11:11 Club in Cancun
As superstition goes, make a wish at 11:11, and your dream comes true. Let’s just say ours certainly did at 11:11 Club! Shirtless dancers, excellent bar service, and delicious drinks, it’s basically our gay fantasy world come to life. We spent hours here dancing under the disco lights to classic queer anthems mixed in with Latino favorites. The sound system is incredible, so much so it felt like the music was pulsing through us. All genders are welcome here, though from what we noticed, it was mostly young gay guys.
Open: 11:11 is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10pm until 4am
Location: You can find it at Av Tulum on the corner with Calle Claveles in Cancun
Gay beaches in Playa del Carmen
Known for their white sands, prime sunbathing spots, and calm blue waters, Playa del Carmen beaches are top-notch. Seby and I love to spend as much of our lives as possible on an exotic beach somewhere in the world (just look at our Instagram!), so we feel we're quite the experts when it comes to judging the fabulousness of them! And we can certainly say that Playa del Carmen ticks all the boxes. Here's a summary of where the bulk of the gay guys head for vitamin sea time in PDC:
Mamitas is one of the main beaches in Playa and therefore also one of the busiest. It has an unofficial gay section around the Mamitas Beach Club, although main the crowd was a mix of families and tourists/locals of all persuasions. We particularly loved how smooth the beach was, as other areas of the coast can get a bit rocky.
Playacar is locally known as the unofficial gay beach of Playa del Carmen, named after the neighborhood it's close to – Playacar. It's located outside of the center of Playa del Carmen towards the south, there's a path onto the beach just off Paseo Xaman-Ha between the two hotel complexes of Hotel Tucan and Sandos. It's more remote than Mamitas, but that means fewer crowds and families, and more gays!
Playa Delfines in Cancun
Playa Delfines is around 45 minutes cab ride away from Playa del Carmen. It’s a long, winding beach with white sands and plenty of sun umbrellas so you’ll find space to sunbathe and relax. There are a handful of restaurants lining the beach, including a seafood joint and an Italian restaurant close by. There are often sightings of dolphins hopping around in the ocean, which was enough of a reason for us to go check it out.
Pride and other gay events in Playa del Carmen
For such a small place Playa del Carmen packs a punch when it comes to gay events thanks to Playa Pride and the famous Arena Circuit Party every January. Here's a summary of the best gay events in Playa del Carmen to look out for:
Arena Circuit Party (January)
Arena Circuit is the biggest gay party in all of Mexico! It typically takes place in January, attracting thousands of music lovers from around the world. Whilst your mates back home will be suffering through dark mornings and cold rain showers, those in the Arena Circuit will be dancing in their tight speedos in the early hours on the gorgeous PDC beaches. In past years, the festival lasted for 6 days and nights, with non-stop partying.
Playa Pride (June)
For most of the year, Playa del Carmen is calm, serene, and tranquil. That all changes during Pride! Every June, rainbows splash across the town, bringing it alive with celebration and love. Playa Pride honors the amazing LGBTQ community that helped make the city so unique. The festival includes various beach parties and a glorious parade. Look out for the Playa Pride app which summarises all the latest events.
Cancun Pride (June)
We've included Cancun Pride due to its proximity to PDC. Also taking place in June, this is another massive rainbow-packed festival. It takes over Cancun with Pride-themed events, parties, and a large parade that makes its way through the city center. It’s a time of unabashed gay celebration and a party you’ll be dying to be part of!
Where to eat in Playa del Carmen
People associate Mexican cuisine with fiery dishes, hot tapas, and tons of salsa. Not gonna lie – it's a thing – and we live for it! There is a good reason why UNESCO included Mexican cuisine in its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Here are some of our favorite recommendations for places to eat in Playa del Carmen.
Porfirio's is a classy and romantic spot in Playa del Carmen to try traditional Mexican cuisine, with a modern flair! It's located in the heart of the city's fancy Fifth Avenue and on weekends a live Mariachi band will entertain you during your meal. The food is incredible, with dishes like suckling pig, soft shell crab tacos, juicy steaks, and bone marrow soup on offer. Their cocktails are also amazing and the lovely staff will make you something based on your personal preferences, sometimes at your table with a cute little cocktail cart!
Recommended by many of our friends, this place superseded our expectations by miles. With a massive menu, El Oasis Mariscos is a seafood lover's dream. The staff were super helpful in suggesting what we might like. Even though the place was busy, they made time for us and answered (the many!) questions Seby had… The food itself was incredible – the fried calamari alone is worth the plane ticket back to Playa del Carmen!
The Traveler's Table is not just a restaurant, it's a whole experience! Taking place right on the beach at an exclusive Punta Venado beach club, this is a night to remember, starting with a cocktail-making class and followed by five incredible courses with drink pairings. This evening of degustation also gives you the opportunity to learn more about traditional local cuisine, including how to correctly drink tequila. We would go back in a heartbeat!
Things to do in Playa Del Carmen
Aside from gorging on spicy goods, enjoying a siesta on the beach, and splashing around in the tropical Caribbean waters, Playa del Carmen offers tons of memorable experiences that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. Here are a few of our favorites to inspire you:
Xcaret Nature Park
This is a massive theme park full of underground rivers, caves, tunnels, and animals. Trust us, you'll never get bored here. We spent hours exploring, wandering around, and enjoying the feeling of just getting lost in nature. Our tip is to hop on a boat trip, which takes you through the winding passageways of the park, discovering the hidden creatures that lurk in the trees, and the mossy cave walls. Elsewhere in the park are ancient cemeteries, Mayan ruins, and spots to go swimming in the river – so bring your swimsuit.
Underwater sea caves and a “crystal museum”. When we saw this, we knew we had to check it out. Most tours of the Rio Secreto explore the jaw-dropping geological stalagmites and stalactites, then hike/swim along a 1km route to spot natural wonders that date back over a million years. We highly recommend paying to visit the “Salon de la Paz” (aka the “Room of Peace”) – an interactive experience that transports you back in time to experience a type of silence we'd never felt before!
The Cenotes Caves are freshwater sanctuaries in the green jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula. They were significant in Mayan culture because they were believed to be the link between the Earth and the “netherworld” (i.e. the underworld). As such, the water in the Cenote Caves is considered to be very sacred by locals. We recommend joining a snorkeling tour in the Cenote Caves to get up close to the caverns and see the world's largest underground river system along with beautiful stalactites, stalagmites, and some unique light effects.
We love a cruise! Especially one that allows us to take in the sunset together. The sunsets around the Mexican Caribbean never ceases to be breath-taking. It cascades your surroundings in tones of reds and pinks, providing the perfect backdrop for an intimate smooch! There are some wonderful packages available to hop aboard a cruising yacht with a cocktail to hand whilst taking in the magical Caribbean sundown.
Xenses Park is a dreamland come to life where we got to release our inner child! It's full of fantastical adventures, optical illusion rooms, and forest zip-lining that makes you feel like both a giant and a dwarf – trust us, this makes more sense when you go there. Xenses Park also has tons of other wonders to discover, including an Eden-like garden and a quirky Mirror Labyrinth. Make sure you visit it for yourself.
Plan your trip to Playa del Carmen
We've put together some handy hints and tips to help you plan your own trip to Playa del Carmen. Read on to find out everything the gay traveler should know before they go.
Travel insurance: It's not something anyone wants to think about when traveling, but the reality is sometimes things just go wrong. From missing a flight, to losing your luggage or getting sick, not having adequate travel insurance can ruin a good holiday. We've been using Heymondo Travel Insurance for years and always recommend them to other travelers. Their cover is both affordable and comprehensive, plus it's really easy to make a claim online when you, inevitably, need to!
How to get there: The easiest way to get to Playa del Carmen is to fly into Cancun International Airport and then catch a taxi or bus to your accommodation in Playa del Carmen. It takes at least 45 minutes to get to Playa del Carmen, depending on traffic, via bus or taxi. We personally prefer to pre-book a private airport transfer so we can avoid any hassles with navigating public transport or haggling with taxi drivers while juggling our luggage in the heat.
Visa requirements: Citizens from most North American and European countries don't need a visa to visit Mexico on holiday for up to 180 days. Make sure you check your visa requirements before making arrangements to visit Playa del Carmen though, and always ensure your passport has at least six month's validity from your arrival date.
Getting around: You can easily explore Playa del Carmen by walking. For going further afield (or back up to Cancun) the best method of transport is via bus, taxi, collectivo (little white vans you will see all over the place) – or joining a tour!
Vaccinations: All travelers to Mexico should make sure they're up to date with routine vaccinations for things like measles, mumps, and chickenpox, as well as Covid-19. Most travelers should also be vaccinated for hepatitis A and typhoid. Some travelers may also need vaccinations for hepatitis B, malaria, and rabies, depending on what you'll be doing/where you'll be going. Check the CDC website for the most up-to-date info for Mexico and also speak to your local doctor or travel nurse before making travel plans for Playa del Carmen.
Currency: The currency used in Playa del Carmen, and the rest of Mexico, is the Mexican Peso, which uses the currency code MXN. The country uses the dollar symbol though, so don't get confused by prices for dinner being $200 as they mean 200 pesos! To give you an idea of values, $1 (USD) converts to around 19 pesos and €1 is worth about 21 pesos.
Tipping culture: Tipping is generally expected in Mexico, especially in popular tourist destinations like Playa del Carmen. Most local workers earn a pretty low wage so they rely on tips to make a living. In restaurants, we recommend tipping between 10-20% for good service. In hotels or resorts, tipping a few pesos each day will ensure you get that extra special treatment! Check out this guide to tipping in Mexico for more information.
Internet access: Most hotels, restaurants, bars and other establishments will have free WiFi in Mexico, which is better quality than you might assume. Otherwise, consider buying a local SIM card when you arrive, or even a portable WiFi device so you can connect multiple devices at faster speeds during your time in Playa del Carmen.
Accommodation: We love using Booking.com to organize our accommodation in Playa del Carmen. They have a huge selection of properties at the best prices and many offer free cancellation. We often change our minds on how long to spend somewhere, but luckily with free cancellation it's easy to be spontaneous! Booking.com's online customer support is also excellent and available 24/7.
Sightseeing and adventure: We also love to find fun things to do on our travels at GetYourGuide. They provide so many exciting tours, excursions and experiences that you will be having the time of your life no matter what your interests or travel style. They also have online support available 24/7 and it's super easy to book online.
When to visit: There's no bad time to visit Playa del Carmen, as the weather is lovely pretty much year-round. That being said, the more popular times of year mean you will have to deal with many more crowds and prices of everything getting jacked up. The Christmas/New Year period is one of these, but if you want to experience the incredible parties just make sure you book well in advance! In the off-seasons like January-February, late April-early June and October the weather is still warm enough for swimming and everything is much more affordable. But it's all down to personal preference really!
Gay map of Playa del Carmen
This is our gay map of Playa del Carmen to show you where everything we've mentioned in this article is located. Use it to find out where all the best gay friendly hotels, bars and activities are for your gay vacation to Playa del Carmen!
For more inspiration:
- For more Mexico, here's our gay travel guide to San Miguel de Allende
- As well as the best gay resorts in Puerto Vallarta, another fabulous spot in Mexico
- Check out our complete gay guide to Puerto Vallarta
- And find out what it's like to experience gay Pride in Puerto Vallarta as well