Colorful PDC Sign by Parque Los Fundadores

Gay Playa del Carmen – A Top Gay Travel Destination in Mexico

Written by Traivor Morrison
Updated on
With its beautiful turquoise waters, white sand beaches, and unbelievable luxury resorts, it’s no wonder Playa del Carmen's popularity with the LGBTQ+ community continues to grow. Playa, as it's known locally, consistently ranks as one of the top gay travel destinations in Mexico along with Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Tulum, and Zipolite. If you're planning a trip here, then read on as we explore the best hotels, restaurants, beaches, and gay clubs in Playa del Carmen!

DESTINATION HIGHLIGHT


A day trip to Chichén Itzá, one of the Seven New Wonders of the World, is hands down the highlight of any trip to the Yucatan peninsula. Chichén Itzá means mouth of the water hole or cenote of the Itzá tribe. The main temple in this once thriving city is the star attraction. Built for prayer and worship, it is also the best representation of the Mayan calendar. With 91 steps on each of the four sides plus the very top, the number of steps adds up to the 365 days in the year. Incredibly, twice a year on the equinox of March 21, the time to plant, and September 22, the time to harvest, the shadow of the serpent or snake can be seen on the temple. The snake was important to the Mayans as it represents life and fertility. Hire a car, catch the luxury ADO bus, or join an awesome tour for this DO NOT MISS experience!

Colorful Street in Playa
Colorful Street in Playa

Overview – An increasingly popular gay travel and retirement destination, Playa del Carmen, attracts LGBTQ+ from around the world with its stunning beaches and incredible gay nightlife. Playa also hosts Arena, Mexico’s biggest gay and lesbian dance music festival, in February. It’s a hugely popular time to come to Playa as is the growing Playa Pride in June.

Mamitas Beach Club
Mamitas Beach Club
Love on Fifth Avenue
Love on Fifth Avenue
The Fives - Rooftop Pool
The Fives Rooftop Pool
La Cueva Del Chango
La Cueva Del Chango
Cirque Du Soleil Joya Show
Cirque Du Soleil Joya Show
Sunrise at Parque Los Fundadores
Sunrise at Parque Los Fundadores
El Cielo or Heaven Beach in Cozumel
El Cielo or Heaven Beach in Cozumel
The Cenote Spa
The Cenote Spa
Cenote Dos Ojos
Cenote Dos Ojos
Day Trip to Chichen Itza
Day Trip to Chichen Itza

Top 10 Things to Do in Playa del Carmen


  • Hit the beach -
    Head straight to Mamitas Beach Club to hire loungers and an umbrella or lay out your own towel just north of Mamitas on the stretch of sand most popular with the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Stroll Fifth Avenue -
    Take a walk down the most famous street in Playa. This pedestrian only zone is lined with shops, restaurants, bars, and of course, colorful street performers of all kinds.
  • Party at a rooftop pool -
    Check the Facebook or Insta pages of Reina Roja Hotel or The Palm at Playa for weekly gay pool party deets. For the best rooftop pool in Playa, we love the Fives Downtown.
  • Discover restaurant row -
    Make your way to Calle 38 which has a mini restaurant row. Two of our favorites on this super cute street serving Mexican specialties are La Cueva del Chango and Trujillos Cantina.
  • See Cirque du Soleil's Joyà -
    Sip Champagne while enjoying dinner and a spectacular performance at Cirque du Soleil's first culinary and show experience and their first residency in Mexico! Click here for tickets.
  • Watch sunrise at Parque Los Fundadores -
    Enjoy sunrise next to the beautiful sculptures by the beach. Next to this park you will also find the colorful Playa Del Carmen sign as well as the ferries to Cozumel.
  • Find Heaven on Earth -
    Take the hourly ferry to Cozumel and book a catamarn tour to snorkel the second largest reef system in the world before playing with stingrays at El Cielo Beach.
  • Relax at Cenote Spa -
    Treat yourself to the Cenote Spa at the Grand Hyat Playa which is one of the best spas in the Riviera Maya. The highlight of this spa is the namesake cenote with a beautiful pool and open roof.
  • Go to a real cenote -
    No trip to the Yucatan is complete without a visit to one of the 6,000+ cenotes dotting the peninsula. A cenote is a natural sinkhole resulting from the collapse of the limestone bedrock.
  • Visit Chichen Itza -
    It's worth repeating from above, the highlight of any trip to the Riviera Maya is Chichén Itzá, one of the Seven New Wonders of the World. We were in complete awe!

When to go – The weather is near perfect from December to April with day time temps in the 80’s and lower humidity. This is high season along with super high season around New Year and Easter which should be booked many months in advance! We prefer shoulder or even low season for fewer crowds even if there are periodic rain showers. Rainy season lasts from May through October. Also, the highest risk of hurricanes in the Cancun-Riviera Maya region are from September to October. On our honeymoon at the Rosewood Mayakoba  in October of 2020, we experienced a Category 2 hurricane in an overwater bungalow. It was quite a memorable experience. The weather was sunny until 4pm before the hurricane hit that night and then sunny again by the following afternoon! Other popular times to be in Tulum are for the numerous music and art festivals like the Gay Arena Music Festival in Playa and Art with Me Tulum.

Luxury ADO Bus
Luxury ADO Bus

Getting here
– Playa Del Carmen is located on the coast of the gorgeous Mexican Caribbean Sea about 30 miles south of Cancun International Airport (airport code: CUN). On arrival, transit options to Playa include renting a car, organizing an authorized taxi or taking the ADO bus. The taxi option is about 1200 pesos or just under $60 USD for the 45-minute to an hour trip. Also, just outside of the airport exit you will find the red ADO buses and ticket counter. The ADO bus costs around $10 USD and is by far the best way to get to Playa given how expensive taxis are in the Riviera Maya. You may want to book your ADO bus online ahead of time as they are extremely popular and can book up fast!

Pro tip – There is no Uber in the Riviera Maya except in Cancun, so many expats use the ADO bus to get to their destination and then rent scooters or bikes to get around. Also, if you are heading to Tulum or Chichén Itzá or even Holbox after Playa, ADO is also your best bet! They are super clean, spacious, and easy to use. For private transport from Cancun International Airport to any hotel between Cancun and Tulum, which includes Playa, pre-book here for worry-free travel. An English-speaking driver will meet your flight with a sign with your name on it, provide you with bottled water, and escort you to your air-conditioned private transportation to your accommodation.

The Fives Downtown
The Fives Downtown
Rooftop Pool at The Fives
Rooftop Pool at The Fives

Where to stay
– For gay-friendly hotels, our favorite in town is the Fives Downtown for location and amenities, including a fitness center and the best rooftop pool of the many options in Playa. The hotel is part of the Curio Collection by Hilton, so you know service and cleanliness are top notch. The hotel is also pet-friendly which we love. We've stayed here many times over the years.

The Fives Downtown - One-Bedroom Suite
One-Bedroom Suite
The Fives Downtown - Bathroom with Double Sinks
Bathroom with Double Sinks
The Fives Downtown - One Bedroom Suite - Kitchen
Kitchen and Bar
The Fives - Rooftop Pool
The Fives Rooftop Pool
The Fives Downtown - Pride Pool Party
Gay Pride Pool Party
The Fives Downtown - Pool Tacos
Delicious Shrimp Tacos

In terms of room choices, you are spoiled for choice at the Fives Downtown. Options include deluxe and superior rooms, junior suites, one and two bedroom suites, and even a two bedroom penthouse suite. In other words, they have rooms for all budgets.
Grand Hyatt - Pool
Grand Hyatt Playa Pool
Grand Hyatt Cenote Spa - Cenote Pool - Andy
Cenote at Cenote Spa

The Grand Hyatt Playa is another one of our top LGBTQ-friendly hotel chocies in Playa. It's also located directly on the beach and has perhaps the best spa in Playa, the Cenote Spa.
The Thompson Downtown - Pool
The Thompson Playa Downtown

The Thompson is also a solid option with a fantastic rooftop pool. It’s one of the host hotels for the Gay Arena Music Festival and also part of the Hyatt brand of hotels.
The Palm At Playa - Gay Pool Party
The Palm at Playa
The Palm At Playa - Irene Drag Brunch
Drag Brunch at Irene

Another gay popular hotel that hosts many LGBTQ+ events throughout the year including drag brunch and gay pool parties is The Palm at Playa.
Beach Dining
Beach Dining
Overwater Villa Dining & Living Area
Overwater Villa Dining & Living Area
Plunge Pool
Plunge Pool
Bedroom
Bedroom
Bathroom & Outdoor Shower
Bathroom & Outdoor Shower

For the ultimate in luxury, we are huge fans of the Rosewood Mayakoba just a few minutes north of Playa. We stayed here for our honeymoon in an overwater villa and loved the amazing welcome cocktails on private boat ride to your room! It’s a splurge but very romantic and memorable for sure.
Restaurant Trattoria del Centro - Music
Music & Cocktails at Trattoria del Centro

Where to eat and drink – Our favorite restaurant in town is Trattoria Del Centro. They have the best pizzas in Playa. They also have amazing homemade bread, salads, pastas, and cocktails. The experience is complete with live music most nights. Arrive early as there are no reservations and it’s quite popular.

Restaurant La Cueva del Chango - Chilaquiles
Chilaquiles at La Cueva del Chango
Bar at Trujillos Cantina
Bar at Trujillos Cantina

For the best Mexican restaurants, there’s a mini restaurant row on Calle 38 with two standouts. First, La Cueva del Chango serves up probably the best chilaquiles we’ve ever had in a jungle-like setting. We also love Trujillos Cantina for amazing cocktails and food. The central bar here is also simply gorgeous.

Bajo Cafe
Bajo Cafe
Peace & Bowl
Peace & Bowl
Yum Yum By George - Mixology
Yum Yum Mixology
Yum Yum By George - Appetizer Platter
Appetizer Platter at Yum Yum
Yum Yum By George - Curry With Rice
Red Curry with Rice
Belmonte Restuarant
Belmonte Restaurant

Now for the best of the rest. We love a ‘go to’ breakfast spot that is pet-friendly and all around perfection. In Playa, Bajo Cafe/Peace & Bowl fits the bill. They have excellent coffee and amazing smoothie bowls in a relaxed setting. You’ll also find lots of digital nomads in this spot.

Another of our favorite places for lunch or dinner is the Thai restaurant Yum Yum by George. Their upscale sister restaurant next door called Belamonte is also very popular with many of our neighbors in Tulum. This corner also seems to attract some of the best eye candy in Playa, so we definitely recommend requesting a table outside.

Provenza Gay Bar in Playa del Carmen - Dancing
Provenza Gay Bar in Playa del Carmen

Where to find gay nightlife – In terms of gay nightlife in Playa, the most popular is the newer gay bar Provenza. The most well known was Playa 69 Gay Dance Club on Fifth Avenue, but it closed along with the lesser known and more local drag and strip club called La Cueva. We certainly hope La Cueva reopens in a new location as it was our favorite.

Provenza Gay Bar - Entrance
Provenza Gay Bar
Provenza Gay Bar & Club - Beautiful Bar
Beautiful Bar
Provenza Gay Bar & Club - Drag Show
Drag Show
Provenza Gay Bar & Club - New Friends
New Friends

For the best looking crowd we've seen in the Riviera Maya, we are huge fans of Provenza. On our last visit for Día de Muertos celebrations, we met guys visiting from Chile, Panama, and of course, Mexico and the U.S. The nightly party kicks off around 10pm with a drag show and karaoke followed by a strippers and dancing. The location is also close to 5th Avenue and a short walk from all of the hotels recommended above. In terms of pricing, we like to order a bucket of 10 small beers for the best value. Total cost is 350 pesos or about $20 USD.

View to Entrance at La Cueva
View to Entrance at La Cueva
Our Bucket of Beers Arrived
Our Bucket of Beers Arrived
The Show Begins
The Show Begins

If you are looking for more amazing local drag interspersed with all-the-way strip shows, reserve a stage-side table at La Cueva. Please note they moved locations to Calle 24 Norte just above the Federal Highway. Google Maps still shows the old location, so we recommend re-confirming the location and upcoming events on their Facebook page. It also looks closed from our last visit, so again check their Facebook page in case they reopen or move locations again.

Gay Beach North of Mamitas
Gay Beach North of Mamitas

Where to find the best gay beach or pool club – The gay section of Playa is located just north of Mamitas Beach Club. Between 2-3pm, you will see a steady stream of guys in speedos begin to arrive.

Unofficial Gay Nude Beach South of Playacar
Unofficial Gay Nude Beach South of Playacar

For the unofficial gay nude beach, walk about 45-minutes south of the Cozumel ferry pier and past the busy Playacar beaches to the last small beach. We're not sure it's worth it unless you value privacy, however, we enjoyed a skinny dip in one of the most beautiful parts of the beach that was shockingly sargasso free (see above) in the height of sargasso season! For group outings, check the local nudist group Naked & Proud Riviera Maya-Cancun Facebook page for more information.

Rooftop Pool at The Fives
Rooftop Pool at The Fives
Alessia Day Club at Thompson
Alessia Day Club at Thompson
Roof Club at The Palm
Roof Club at The Palm
Social for Gay Pool Party at The Palm
Social for Gay Pool Party at The Palm

For rooftop pool clubs, our favorite is the Fives Downtown. Another popular choice is the Alessia Day Club at the Thompson Hotel. In addition, check the socials for Reina Roja Hotel and The Palm at Playa. The Palm also periodically hosts a drag brunch on Sunday at their downstairs restaurant called Irene, so again check Insta to confirm the latest.

Day Trip to Chichen Itza
Day Trip to Chichen Itza
El Cielo or Heaven Beach in Cozumel
El Cielo or Heaven Beach in Cozumel
Tulum Ruins
Tulum Ruins
Cinco Beach Club - Tulum
Cinco Beach Club - Tulum

Where to go for the best day trips in and around Playa Del Carmen
– In addition to a Chichen Itza tour from Playa as highlighted above, we also highly recommend a snorkel tour to El Cielo on Cozumel. You’ll see amazing marine wildlife, including starfish, turtles, sting rays, and many other colorful tropical fish.

For Tulum, you could combine the Tulum ruins by the sea with a Cenote and trip to see the turtles with this tour. It’s also super easy to take the ADO bus to Tulum for the day. You could rent a bike and head to the Tulum ruins followed by a swim at the beach or reserve at a lounger and umbrella at a fabulous beach club like Cinco, which is part gay-owned.

Other Services


Banking – There are national and international bank ATMs available at Cancun International Airport. We recommend getting Mexican Pesos (MXN) here on arrival. For reference, $1 US Dollar (USD) is worth just under 20 pesos (it’s recently been fluctuating between 17-20 as of the publication date of this article). In Playa, there are plenty of ATMs on Fifth Avenue although we would likely avoid these assuming fees are higher than a few blocks away at national and international banks like HSBC, Citibanamex, Scottiabank, and Santander, among others just a few blocks away on 10th and 30th Avenues.

Always DECLINE to SAVE!!!!
Always DECLINE to SAVE!!!!

Pro tips – Always pay in local currency when you travel (both in cash and on your credit card). If you pay in USD at a restaurant or shop for example, the posted foreign exchange rate is always 5-10%+ less than the interbank rate your bank or credit card company would charge. In other words, you will pay extra for the convenience of paying in USD. Again, always pay in local currency to save.

When withdrawing money from ATMs in Mexico (and now throughout the world), one thing to note (which we learned the hard way) is knowing to always decline the conversion offered by ATM to save. If you accept the conversion, you are agreeing to an additional 5-12% fee on top of the ATM use charge. That’s INSANE! Also, we initially thought declining the conversion would cancel the transaction, BUT it does not. It simply saves you the extra markup. For extra savings, look into the Schwab Checking Account that reimburses all foreign ATM fees. We’ve saved thousands in ATM fees over the years with this account!

To learn how to get the most pesos for your dollars, watch our 7 Tips to Get the Most Pesos for Your Dollars in Mexico. We’ll also cover some common scams and money mistakes to avoid, so we can save you even more money.

Grand Hyatt Playa Fitness Center
Grand Hyatt Playa Fitness Center
Evolve Fitness Club
Evolve Fitness Club
The Gym Playa
The Gym Playa

Fitness/Gym– To burn off those holiday calories and stay in shape while enjoying Playa, the two air conditioned gym options, other than the luxury fitness center at the Grand Hyatt Playa, are Evolve Fitness and The Gym. Both have day, week and month passes. Evolve also has a gym in Tulum and you can access both Evolve locations with your membership.

La Europea Entrance
La Europea Entrance
Selections
Selections

Wine/Liquor store
– By far the best and one of the largest wine and liquor stores we found in Playa was La Europea Plaza in the Quinta Alegria Shopping Center at Calle 16 Norte and 10th Ave.

Animal House Playa del Carmen
Animal House Playa del Carmen
Animal House - Pool for Dogs
Pool for Dogs
Animal House - Pattie's Annual Checkup
Pattie's Annual Checkup

Vet/Dog boarding – If you bring your furry friend with you on vacation and require a health certificate for onward travel or doggie daycare/boarding, we highly recommend Animal House. They are conveniently located on the Highway that runs from Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen to Tulum, making them an easy stop no matter where you are staying in the Riviera Maya.

Travel Resources


Hospiten Hospital - Andy Waiting To Be Checked Out By The Doc
Hospiten Riviera Maya Emergency Room

Travel Insurance – Don’t forget to add global travel medical insurance that covers you while traveling outside of your home country. We recommend Safety Wing. You can buy it even if you are already abroad. Most health coverage in the U.S. for example does not cover you in Mexico, thus it’s extremely important to protect yourself from out of pocket costs due to a medical emergency. We learned this the hard way which you can watch here. To learn more about Safety Wing, click here.

Cancun Airport - T2 Domestic Priority Pass Lounge Entrance
Cancun Airport T2 Domestic Lounge Entrance
Cancun Airport - T3 International Departures And Arrivals Priority Pass Lounge Bar
Cancun Airport T3 International Lounge Bar

Travel Credit Card – For the best travel credit card, we recommend the Chase Sapphire Reserve. We use it to book free stays with reward points, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, primary car rental insurance, lounge access through Priority Pass, and to avoid foreign transaction fees just to name a few of this card’s incredible perks. To learn more, click here.  Even though there is a hefty $550 annual fee, you get a credit of $300 for travel (i.e. airfare, uber, etc). For the remaining $250, the card easily pays for itself with free food and drinks at the complimentary airport lounges we frequent, including multiple lounges in Cancun’s domestic and international terminals. If connecting through Mexico City, the Grand Lounge Elite is our favorite lounge so far in Mexico. There’s even a tiny lounge available at Huatulco airport, the gateway to Zipolite. Also, if you don’t have global entry yet, another card benefit covers that application fee! Trai has had the card since 2017, and it’s his only credit card.

Two Gay Expats - Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico - Tulum Ruins Day Trip - Trai & Andy
Tulum Ruins Day Trip with Get Your Guide

Travel Experiences – Discover authentic, unforgettable experiences and explore the world with Get Your Guide. They offer top-rated tours and activities in Tulum. We have used Get Your Guide for numerous adventures around the world.

Two Gay Expats - Travel Essentials - Universal International Travel Power Adapter
Our Favorite Universal International Travel Power Adapter

Shop Our Travel Essentials – To keep all of your electronics charged around the world, we recommend this universal international travel power adapter. It’s also the one airline crew receive! For more of our favorite travel essentials, check out our Amazon Storefront.

Want to see more? For additional footage of our adventures in Cancun-Riviera Maya, check out our Gay Cancun and Gay Tulum Youtube videos and be sure to smash that like button and subscribe! And, of course, follow us on social media @twogayexpats on your favorite socials for more gay travel inspiration!

Found this post useful?
The easiest way to support Two Gay Expats is to subscribe (free!) to our YouTube channel and tell your friends and family about us to help us grow (also free)! And if you find our content helpful and/or entertaining, please consider joining our channel membership to directly support our videos and gain access to exclusive content. You can also buy us a coffee or two (and we love coffee)! We greatly appreciate your support!


Did we get something wrong?
Has a business we highlighted closed or perhaps something new and fabulous opened? Are you interested in working with us? In all cases, we’d love to hear from you! Email us at hello@twogayexpats.com.

Latest Blog Posts

Our most recent travels
Trai - Andy - Pattie - Circle

Hi! We're Two Gay Expats
Let's travel!

Hola amigos and welcome to our gay travel blog! We are Andy and Trai, a gay couple traveling the world with PRIDE 🌈  …and our rescue dog, Pattie!

After meeting in San Francisco in 2018 and later moving to Chicago, we decided to quit our jobs in 2021, sell everything, and become Two Gay Expats!

If you’d like to follow our adventures, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel and add us on social media using the links below. We’d also love to hear from you and meet up if we’re in your city!

❤️ Andy + Trai