Playa del Carmen is a lively beachside town about an hour’s drive from Cancun. It’s packed with restaurants, bars, a really crowded beach, and an impressive 5-mile-long pedestrian street. If you’re a wheelchair user curious to check out what the buzz is all about, you might be wondering if Playa del Carmen is accessible. In this guide, I’ll cover the highlights of what you need to know to make the most of your time at this Yucatán beach spot.
Note: The information here is based on my observation as a non-wheelchair user. If you have firsthand experience as a wheelchair user in Playa del Carmen, please let me know about your time there and your recommendations in the comments section. I appreciate it and know that our future readers will, too!
General Accessibility in Playa del Carmen
The tourist area of Playa del Carmen offers decent wheelchair accessibility for Mexico standards. It’s a relatively new town, so they built shops, streets, and beach access with wheelchair users (partially) in mind.
The main tourist area of Playa del Carmen is entirely flat, with the exception of a small knoll starting at the intersection of Calle 14 N. with 5th Ave. In the winter of 2021, the town tore up its old cobblestone brick and replaced it with wheelchair-friendly flat brick slabs.
Tourist shops in Playa del Carmen are about 50% wheelchair accessible. Restaurants are closer to around 70 – 80% accessible, thanks to outdoor seating.
Sidewalks directly around 5th Avenue have dropdown curbs. However, if you wander outside that area, the sidewalks become nothing short of horrendous. Even in areas where they attempted accessibility, their efforts fell short. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s an example:
Accessible Things to Do in Playa del Carmen
Once you get settled into your hotel (more details shortly on accessible hotel recommendations), you might be wondering: what’s there to do in Playa?
Below are some of the best accessible things to do in Playa del Carmen.
1. Hit the Beach
It’s the obvious go-to here. And thankfully, nearly every beach access in Playa del Carmen is accessible. Even so, there are some better options than others. Below is an accessibility overview of some of the most popular Playa beaches.
Beaches in downtown Playa: These are the beaches branching off the pedestrian 5th Avenue. From 5th Ave, follow any of the brick paths towards the water. The paths are wide and primarily pedestrian. They have a gentle downward slope.
Once you approach the beach, the brick will either meet the sand or there’ll be a small wooden ramp that takes you down into the sand. A couple of the beaches in downtown Playa have an accessible path directly to the water (photos with locations below). However, regardless of where you enter from, the beach is very narrow, so there isn’t much distance to cover!
Although the beach is beautiful, it gets really crowded during the day. Furthermore, the area where the water meets sand has lots of long chunks of (dead) coral rocks, making entry into the water trickier.
Some noteworthy downtown beaches include:
Beach on the intersection of Calle 2 Norte with 5th Ave:
Beach on the intersection of Calle 4 Norte with 5th Ave:
Beach on the intersection of Calle 6 Norte with 5th Ave:
Note: The first photo of this blog post is also from this Calle 6 Norte beach access.
Playa 88: This beautiful beach located north of downtown Playa is both designed for accessibility and is an overall better beach—it’s longer, wider, has fewer people, and the water has fewer rocks. Playa 88 offers accessible parking, an accessible path leading out to the beach, and accessible restrooms.
In theory, Playa also offers an accessible outdoor shower. However, there aren’t any modifications for the shower, just a sign indicating the spot is for wheelchair users.
2. Stroll Down 5th Avenue
And by “stroll,” I mean you can take a 5-mile meander down this pedestrian-only boulevard.
Trendy 5th Avenue starts at the Paseo del Carmen Shopping Mall (near the ferry pier to Cozumel) and ends miles later in a more local part of town.
Since it’s only a block from the beach and follows the coastline, you’ll get to enjoy glimpses of the ocean with each intersection you pass.
Speaking of intersections, watch out for cars! It’s easy to become engrossed in the tourist shops, vendors selling coconut water straight out of coconuts, and street Mariachi bands.
5th Avenue is one of two areas in Playa del Carmen where you’ll have access to countless accessible restaurants (although, in some cases, it’s only via outdoor seating).
3. Explore 10th Avenue
10th Avenue is like 5th Avenue’s little sister. Located a block behind 5th Ave, 10th Avenue is where (slightly) cheaper restaurants are located and where tons of nightlife takes place.
There’s quite a bit of traffic on 10th Ave, so it’s not as easy to explore as 5th Ave. However, you have two options for getting around: either using the sidewalk, which is manageable (although it gets narrow in certain places), or using the bicycle path.
There are drop-down curbs all along 10th Avenue. However, if you venture further inland, you’ll encounter crumbling sidewalks, electricity poles blocking the path, and a lack of drop-down curbs.
4. Hang out at Parque Los Fundadores
With the installation of Playa’s new brick streets, the town also revamped its Parque Los Funadores. This ocean side park is fully accessible thanks to a gently sloping brick path that winds through the entire park.
At the bottom of the park, by the ocean, you’ll encounter Playa’s iconic statue with two mermaid-like figures forming an arc. Get your camera ready—it’s a must-have Playa photo!
5. Take a Day Trip
Playa del Carmen offers an excellent base for exploring other parts of the Yucatán. Most notably, Cozumel is only a 30-minute ferry ride from Playa’s pier. Check out our guide on Wheelchair Accessibility in Cozumel for more details.
Wheelchair Accessible Restrooms in Playa del Carmen
Accessible restrooms in Playa del Carmen are relatively more abundant and spread out throughout the town than some other Yucatán destinations. You can access accessible restrooms in the following places:
- Paseo del Carmen Shopping Mall
- Ferry pier
- ADO bus terminal on 5th Avenue (5 peso fee)
- Quinta Alegría Shopping Mall
- Playa 88
- Mega Supermarket
- Aki Supermarket
Accessible Restaurants in Playa del Carmen
As you know by now, there are lots of restaurant options for wheelchair users in Playa del Carmen, mainly due to the availability of outdoor seating.
However, if you’re on a budget or are wanting to try out some non-touristy restaurants, we’ve put together a guide on wallet-friendly Mexican Restaurants in Playa del Carmen. Keep an eye out for the blue boxes, which describe wheelchair accessibility.
One thing to note is that you’ll likely need to drive to many of these restaurants as, in many cases, poor quality sidewalks prevent direct access.
Accessible Hotels in Playa del Carmen
Sylvia Longmire from Spin the Globe has personally visited and tested out accessibility at five resorts in Playa del Carmen. She reviews the following hotels, labeling them as either “mostly accessible” or “partially accessible”:
- Playacar Palace
- Iberostar Paraiso Maya
- Iberostar Paraiso Beach
- Royal Hideaway
- Iberostar Paraiso Lindo
You can view Sylvia’s review of these hotels here.
Wheeling Around the Yucatán?
If so, good news!
We’ve put together a number of other accessible blog posts on destinations around Mexico’s stunning Caribbean peninsula. Check them out below:
Get Your Sunscreen Ready
Blue water, loads of tacos, and a lively pedestrian boardwalk all make Playa del Carmen worth the visit. With a little preparation, you can enjoy the many wonderful activities that this former sleepy fishing town has to offer.
Do you have questions about traveling to Playa del Carmen as a wheelchair user? Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help. Alternatively, if you’ve already traveled to Playa as a wheelchair user, please share your experience here. Our readers will surely appreciate your insight!
Laura has been wandering the globe for over a decade. She’s an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she’s befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister. You can learn about their accessibility endeavors here.