32km (20 miles) S of Puerto Morelos; 70km (43 miles) S of Cancún; 10km (6 1/2 miles) N of Xcaret; 13km (8 miles) N of Puerto Calica
Though it no longer has the feel of a village, Playa still provides that rare combination of simplicity (at its core, still primarily a beach town) and variety (many unique hotels, restaurants, and stores). There is a comfortable feel to the town. The local architecture has adopted elements of native building -- rustic clapboard walls, stucco, thatched roofs, rough-hewn wood, and a ramshackle, unplanned look to many structures. Cheap-looking commercial architecture has intruded, with chain restaurants and stores, detracting from Playa's individuality, but Playa still retains the feel of a cosmopolitan getaway with a counterculture ethos.
A strong European influence has made topless sunbathing (nominally against the law in Mexico) a nonchalantly accepted practice anywhere there's a beach. The beach grows and shrinks, from broad and sandy to narrower with rocks, depending on the currents and wind. When this happens, head to the beaches in north Playa.
From Playa, it's easy to shoot out to Cozumel on the ferry, drive south to the nature parks and the ruins at Tulum and Cobá, or drive north to Cancún. Directly south of town is the Playacar development, which has a golf course, several large all-inclusive resorts, and a residential development.