Playa del Carmen Gay Travel
What is Playa del Carmen gay travel like? Discover the local gay scene, plus where to stay, all-inclusive hotels, experiences and gay travel tips.
The Gay Travel Experience: Playa del Carmen, Mexico
So, you’re interested in visiting Playa del Carmen. That may mean one of a few things. Maybe you want a cheap destination for some sun near beautiful blue waters. Perhaps you’ve heard of the bountiful all-inclusive resorts here. Or, maybe you just found a cheap flight direct to nearby Cancun from your home city.
Let me help you get oriented with Playa del Carmen gay life. I’ll go over the basics and explain if PDC is a good spot for you as a gay traveler.
I visited Playa del Carmen during the month of August while traveling with my amazing mom and one of my little brothers. We took advantage of low-season pricing and stayed ten wonderful days in an all-inclusive resort. It wasn’t the most “gay-oriented” trip I’ve taken, but I was certainly able to suss out the gay vibe for you!
Now…all-inclusive resorts are not normally my thing. I’m usually out exploring the most authentic areas of cities, taking in the local culture. However, when in Playa del Carmen, it’s most common that you stay in an all-inclusive. It’s what this town does best!
PDC is not really a city where you’ll want to lace up your sneakers to pound the pavement. There is of course a cute town center, but that is not why most people visit Playa del Carmen. Instead, people go to Playa for the leisurely resorts that line the oceanfront.
The Playa del Carmen Gay Scene
Playa del Carmen is primarily a family-oriented destination. Since the area is full of all-inclusive resorts, families book group vacations. This heavily outweighs the number of gay travelers in PDC. The gay scene in Playa del Carmen is small and mainly comprised of locals, but it does exist!
If your main question is “where do gay guys stay in Playa del Carmen,” then I can tell you that you’re likely to find them in the central PDC area. Gay guys are usually found here instead of resorts farther away. Why? It’s closer to gay nightlife.
I only noticed one or two gay guys at the hotel I stayed at north of central PDC. When I made a trip into the center of town though, there were some more bopping around.
The big exception to all of this is during the huge gay festivals that come to Playa del Carmen! WE Party, a giant gay circuit festival organization, partners with the ARENA International festival in Riviera Maya once a winter.
I have never been, but I can tell you it is a typical circuit festival like Barcelona Circuit or the like. ARENA 2020 takes place at the end of January. When this festival comes to town, expect gay guys everywhere.
A Note on Mexico Gay Rights
Mexico can get a bad reputation, especially if you’re used to hearing a lot of American media outlets talk about their neighbor to the south. Interestingly though, the gay rights situation in Mexico fares much better than that of the United states in many respects!
Both nations are fragmented, with state governments grappling to deal with federal laws. More secular areas have less LGBT protections. Even still, Mexico probably has a much better set of LGBT protections than you may have thought!
Head to the end of this Playa del Carmen gay guide to learn more, including the amazing help the country gives to HIV/AIDS patients.
Gay Playa del Carmen: Hotels & Where to Stay
When people mention Playa del Carmen, they may be referring to one of two things. Firstly, there is the town center of PDC. This is the part of town with narrow, pedestrian-friendly streets lined with stores and restaurants.
Then, there is the greater Playa del Carmen township area. This is the larger swath of resort property that is separate from the town center, but still within what is considered to be Playa del Carmen.
Before booking a PDC hotel as a gay traveler, you should decide if proximity to other gay men is a priority for you. Remember that the gay population in Playa del Carmen is slim and there are no official gay hotels in PDC.
Don’t believe me? The official “Everything Playa del Carmen” Website says it themselves! So ultimately, this decision more so concerns if you want some gays around, or if you’re are comfortable with having none.
If you prefer more gays than none, then check out some of the hotels in Playa del Carmen that claim to be gay favorites like The Palm at Playa. Otherwise, I siggest rounding up your gay friends and crashing whatever hotel you find to be the best suited to your liking.
Below, I’ll provide some general recommendations based on my experience in PDC.
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Riviera Maya All-Inclusive Hotels
I stayed at the Grand Riviera Princess Hotel in Playa del Carmen. I booked the hotel far in advance, and was able to get an upgrade to their Platinum Suites area, where we could take advantage of extra amenities. If by chance you stay here, I’d say it was more than worth it.
Just next door to the Grand Riviera Princess Resort is a similar hotel called Ocean Riviera Paradise Hotel, another all-inclusive spot. I took a walk around the grounds of this hotel and it’s magnificent! Their swimming pools were built with this white concrete that makes their water look super blue. I’d say Oceans Riviera is definitely worth checking out.
If you stay in the Playa del Carmen town center, I recommend staying at one of the hotels on the beach. Just a few blocks inland will start to feel a bit bland. Staying along the waterfront will give you awesome views, quick beach access and close proximity to all the fun activities happening nearby.
Playa del Carmen Experiences for the Gay Traveler
Cool off inside at the Quinta Alegría Shopping Mall in the Playa del Carmen town center. Inside you’ll find all the typical modern brands. The mall is indoor-outdoor, so it’s a great spot to stroll around, grab a snack and buy some new threads.
Why did you come to Mexico again? The wonderful weather, of course! You don’t need me to tell you to get out and catch some rays. If you’re wondering, the beach in downtown Playa del Carmen is perfectly swimmable.
In my opinion, the town center beach was not any cleaner or murkier than the beaches near the resort I stayed at. It all seemed the similar.
While on the subject of sun, make sure to wear an appropriate amount of sunscreen. There’s nothing worse than getting burned on your first day of vacation. Plus, sun damage causes wrinkles, and not just on your face!
Grab a bite to eat or a few margaritas at Señor Frog’s. The Señor Frog’s restaurant is a favorite chain of mine, especially because it’s a familiar spot for me in Miami Beach. They have an awesome elevated terrace where you can people watch on the streets below. Sometimes you just need a good chain establishment to be satisfied!
PDC Dolphin Swimming Experiences
One of my mother’s dreams was to swim with a dolphin. Neither of us had done it before, and so we had to make it happen! I know all of the animal rights advocates are not going to like me for this, but I booked a half-day dolphin experience with my family! Before you get too angry, let me explain the circumstances
We went to Dolphin Royal Swim at “Dolphin Playa del Carmen.” We each had some time with a sea lion, a dolphin and a huge manatee! I must say that every sea animal we touched and interacted with had huge amounts of free space to roam.
The animals seemed happy and appeared to love their trainers. I didn’t see any signs of mistreatment, abuse or unnecessary captivity. For example, when the sea lions weren’t interacting with us, they swim and relax in huge open areas of water.
For those wondering more about this experience, here’s some more detail about the general options. Usually, dolphin experiences take place in small groups of five and eight people. Each person takes turns doing the same activity with each animal. Personally, I loved the manatees because they’re so huge, slow and easy to get up close to!
Playa del Carmen Gay Bars
La Cueva Disco Bar is a local gay bar in Playa del Carmen that is a little seedy but a ton of fun. It more closely resembles a strip club that also has drag performances. Since La Cueva is a little farther outside the town center of Playa del Carmen, you’ll find tons of locals there. Definitely not a tourist bar!
I also have a few friends that have been to La Cueva Disco Bar and liked it very much. If you’re in the area of central PDC, go give it a try. Check out the La Cueva Facebook Page for events.
Playa 69 is a PDC gay bar in the main town center. This is the only officially-labeled “gay bar” in Playa del Carmen. I unfortunately did not have the chance to go! It’s a small space and there is a cover charge. If you give it a try, let me know how you liked it.
Don’t forget about the popular ARENA Riviera Maya gay festival held every winter. If you love circuit parties, I am sure this will be a perfect option for you.
Playa del Carmen Gay Travel Tips
To visit Playa del Carmen, you will fly into the Cancun International Airport. It is best to arrange transportation in advance to your hotel in order to avoid getting ripped off. Some of the prices for private transportation are absolutely ridiculous.
I recommend using Bookaway to book a shuttle from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. They also can arrange price car transfers.
On-the-spot taxis can demand the equivalent of up to 200 USD for one way! If you’re more flexible, there are also coach busses that go to central PDC.
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Should I Visit Mexico in the Summer?
Summer is the tourist low season in Mexico for the obvious reason that all of North America and Europe have other destinations that tourists flock to. Mexico is much cheaper in the summer, and so those who want even more of a bargain may decide to visit Playa del Carmen in the summer.
I think this would have been more avoidable if the hotel I was staying at had a cooler pool temperature. I’m not exactly sure how you can check this for a specific resort. But escaping the summer heat is difficult if the pool water is also hot!
If you prefer the shade, then you really shouldn’t have an issue! For me, the overly warm pool water made it difficult to relax.