Newport House is on 10 Avenida Norte, a short stroll from Calle Quinta, Playa del Carmen’s bustling beachfront strip.
The most convenient airport is Cancun, which can be reached directly from London Gatwick. If the traffic plays nicely, it’ll take around 45 minutes to drive to Playa del Carmen; the hotel can arrange a one-way transfer for two people for US$85, or US$145 for a return.
You shouldn’t need a car if you’re planning on sticking to the city: you’re within walking distance of the beachfront and cabs can whisk you to bars and restaurants that are further afield. If you’re planning on exploring the wider peninsula, a car will definitely come in handy.
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel is designed so that you can live like a local, exploring the city and beachfront in your own time. You can borrow bikes, longboards, snorkels and paddleboards for free, making it a breeze to get around and enjoy the ocean. In the late afternoon, pedal home for a sunset dip in the rooftop pool, which is best enjoyed with an ice-cold beer. In terms of local sights, your first port of call should be the hotel’s excellent concierge – they’ve got the insider track on the hottest beachfront bars, salsa clubs and places to pick up a new bikini. If you’re looking to escape the city for a day, hop on a ferry to Caribbean island Cozumel, a 45-minute ferry ride from the coast. It’s covered in lush forest, mangroves and impressive karst formations, making it a legendary destination for scuba diving. It was once a Maya settlement too – the most famous ruins are at the San Gervasio, a former pilgrimage site for Maya women, who journeyed to the island to worship Ix Chel, a goddess of childbirth and fertility. If you’re into wild swimming, don’t miss the Rio Secreto, an underground river just south of the city. The 1km route involves hiking and swimming through still turquoise pools, which are overhung with stalactites and surrounded by rock formations that date back millions of years. If you’re more interested in cavern diving, try the beautiful cenotes at Chikin Ha, a 30-minute drive from the city centre.
In Playa del Carmen, some of the best places to get a bite to eat are unassuming hole-in-the-wall restaurants that you wouldn’t look twice at. As always, the size of the queue is a reliable indicator of which places are best, but if you’re apprehensive, have the concierge recommend a few failsafe spots. If you’ve skipped breakfast, swing by El Gallinero du Chocolat, a bakery and breakfast specialist serving some of the best crepes, croissants and ice cream in town. No trip to Playa del Carmen is complete without a trip to El Fogon, a legendary taqueria that almost any local will recommend. You can usually count on a queue at peak times, but it’s well worth waiting for their charcoal-grilled chicken al pastor, which is lauded across the city. For dinner, try La Perla Pixan, a rustic Maya restaurant off the main strip. The roof is thatched, the food is served on earthen plates and there’s usually a live band playing, but this is no mere tourist trap. Everything from the tacos to the smoky mezcal cocktails is made with love and care, and the service is slick yet friendly. Occupying a 10,000-year old cavern, Alux takes the biscuit when it comes to the city’s destination dining. Start with the king crab, then follow with the smoked deer or the seasonal fish, which is cooked in dill chimichurri.
If there’s one thing that Playa del Carmen has in spades, it’s bars. Try Trujillos for craft cocktails, Alux for fine wines and La Perla Pixan for a long list of mezcals. As in any good-time town, new places crop up all the time, so ask the concierge for the latest spots.