Playa del Carmen is located within the Riviera Maya, which runs from south of Cancún to Tulum and the Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve. Playa is a stop for several cruise ships which dock at the nearby Calica quarry docks, about six miles (10 km) south of the city. The Xcaret Eco Park, a Mexican-themed "eco-archaeological park", is a popular tourist destination located just south of the town in Xcaret (pronounced "shkar-et").
In October 2005, Hurricane Wilma passed directly over Playa del Carmen, remaining in the vicinity for two days and causing significant damage and a temporary drop in tourist arrivals. Fortunately, most of the damage was relatively superficial and repaired within a few weeks of the storm. Hurricane Wilma arrived from the Caribbean Sea, passing over Cozumel before making landfall in Playa del Carmen. It then moved north along the Mexican coast, hitting Cancún especially hard.
Originally a small fishing town, tourism to Playa del Carmen began with the passenger ferry service to Cozumel, an island across the Cozumel Channel and a world-famous scuba diving destination.
Playa del Carmen has recently undergone extreme rapid development with new luxury residential condominium buildings, restaurants, boutiques and entertainment venues. Tourist activity in Playa del Carmen centers on Quinta Avenida, or Fifth Avenue, which stretches from Calle 1 norte to Calle 40. A pedestrian walkway located just one or two blocks inland from the beach, Fifth Avenue is lined with hundreds of shops, bars and restaurants. There are many small boutique hotels on and just off Fifth Avenue and on the beach.
Playacar is a residential and tourist development in Playa del Carmen just south of the main urban area. Most of the all-inclusive hotels, the aviary and the golf course are located in this development. There are two phases – phase 1 is mostly residential with a few hotels and some stores, while phase 2 contains the largest all-inclusive resorts as well as the golf course and a significant number of residential properties.
The city is home to Inter Playa del Carmen, an association football club founded in 1999, which competes in the south group of the Segunda División Profesional, the third tier of Mexican football league system.
The OHL Classic at Mayakoba is a PGA Tour golf tournament held at El Camaleón Golf Club since 2007.
The telenovela Peregrina takes place in Playa del Carmen. The Real Housewives of Vancouver featured Playa del Carmen in two episodes. The Amazing Race has shot on location in Playa del Carmen. The Celebrity Mole was set in the Playa del Carmen area. UK Reality Series Geordie Shore featured Playa del Carmen.
Playa del Carmen is host to several major annual events. the largest of these is The BPM Festival, a world-famous electronic dance music festival which takes place in January each year.
Notable residents include the following: