When to head to Playa del Carmen for fabulous weather, fun festivals and hotel deals

When to head to Playa del Carmen for fabulous weather, fun festivals and hotel deals

While visitors arrive in Playa del Carmen all year long, most avoid the rainiest months of the year © m_boldrin / Shutterstock

Playa del Carmen has become a fast favorite among digital nomads thanks to its walkable center, excellent infrastructure and proximity to islands, reefs and ruins.

While this rising star of the Riviera Maya is a year-round destination, tourist numbers do ebb and flow throughout the year. Pick the right time to visit, and you might just have the place to yourself.  

Winter and spring see snowbirds and spring breakers pouring in; hotel rates are at their highest, and the beach town’s population increases tenfold. If you aren’t averse to some rain and extreme humidity, the best time might be to visit is in fall, when the crowds thin and prices dip. Thankfully, Playa never shuts down, and lousy weather rarely lasts more than a week.

Here is our thorough, season-by-season, month-by-month guide to the best times to visit Playa del Carmen.

Expect perfect weather in high season (December–April)

Playa’s peak season brings balmy days and cool evenings – but also huge crowds and high prices. Beaches bulge at the seams and hotel rates spike around Christmas and spring break. While moderate temperatures make sightseeing gloriously pleasant, don’t expect tranquility as revelers flock here for a good time. Be sure to book your travels a few months in advance.

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Enjoy a taste of culture in shoulder season (July–August)

Summer in Playa del Carmen means blazing heat and near-unbearable humidity. Despite that, Mexicans and foreign travelers flood in for their summer vacations. While there may be some downpours, the sun always appears between showers. Make the most of the temperate evenings and join in Playa’s celebration of its patron saint, la Virgen del Carmen, every July.

When to head to Playa del Carmen for fabulous weather, fun festivals and hotel deals

Visit Playa del Carmen in shoulder season – especially November – for the right balance of great weather and relatively small crowds © Emma Shaw / Lonely Planet

Score great travel deals in the low season (May–June, September–November)

Travelers tend to stay away during this season due to the scorching heat, tropical storms and sargassum – a more recent scourge. Since 2011, much of the Caribbean (including the the Riviera Maya) has seen massive amounts of this seaweed wash up on its shores. This typically happens between April and August, but it can be unpredictable. Even during the season, the beach may be blanketed in seaweed on some days and totally clear on others. 

Fall is the height of the hurricane season, when it’s not uncommon to experience high winds, torrential rain and power outages. If you’re visiting during this season, it’s wise to follow closely the news for hurricane warnings. 

Here’s a breakdown of what weather and events to expect in Playa del Carmen throughout the year.

January has warm days and cool evenings

The year begins with warm days and cool evenings, as holidaymakers continue to flock to Playa for some winter respite. The last bit of Christmas festivities carries on into the first week of January, with the celebration of Three Kings’ Day, popular throughout Mexico. While Playa del Carmen isn’t big on traditions, you’ll still find Rosca de Reyes (a cake typically eaten on the feast day) sold in supermarkets and bakeries. 

Key events: Día de los Reyes Magos

February is the month for parties

Perfect weather continues into February, when some of the best parties in Playa del Carmen take place. Happening all month long is the dance festival event ZoukMX, which culminates with a massive beach jungle party. Mexico’s biggest LGBTQ+ dance music festival, the Arena Festival cranks up the volume, while Carnaval parades take to the streets of Playa del Carmen.

Key events: Día de la Constitución, Carnaval, ZoukMX, Arena Festival

Spring breakers arrive in March

As the mercury rises come March, spring breakers arrive in droves, packing beach clubs in Playa’s city center with millennials and the young at heart. March is also the best time to visit Chichén Itzá, roughly 2.5 hours from Playa del Carmen by private car. During the spring equinox, the light aligns perfectly (and remarkably) to create the illusion of a colossal snake creeping slowly up the El Castillo pyramid’s monumental staircase.

Key events: Spring break, spring equinox

When to head to Playa del Carmen for fabulous weather, fun festivals and hotel deals

Playa del Carmen’s beach clubs fill up during the Easter holiday in April © Ernesto Velazquez / Shutterstock

April brings the Easter-holiday crowds

Tourism kicks into high gear once again for Semana Santa, when Mexicans escape to the coast for their annual Easter holidays. Sargassum seaweed starts to make an appearance on the beaches, too. There isn’t any formal Holy Week celebration in Playa, but the churches brim with locals on Easter Sunday. The Riviera Maya Film Festival takes place in the middle of April, with a week-long series of free showings around town.

Key events: Easter, Semana Santa, Riviera Maya Film Festival

Enjoy a Mayan ritual in May

May is when the rain starts to fall – as do tourist arrivals. And after the crowds disperse, great hotel deals abound. Cinco de Mayo isn’t a big affair in Playa, though bars usually have drinks specials to celebrate the occasion. At the end of May, the Sacred Maya Journey commences with the launch of traditional giant canoes at Xcaret. The regatta recreates an ancient Mayan ritual in which pilgrims made annual journeys to Cozumel Island to pay tribute to Ixchel, the goddess of fertility.

Key events: Cinco de Mayo, Sacred Mayan Journey

June is the month for hotel bargains

The rainy season officially begins this month, with hot sunny days and spurts of rain showers, usually in the late afternoons. Tourists remain few and far between, and prices reach their lows for the year.

Vacation with Mexican families in July

The humid and scorching weather continues, but the summer holidays bring Mexican tourists and higher prices. In mid-July, Playenses celebrate the Festival of Virgin of Carmen ardently, with ladies dressing in embroidered huipil and parading with gilded figures of their patron saint. At the Feria del Carmen (fair), the Palacio Municipal plays host to a medley of cultural events, mariachi performances and live music shows.

Key event: Feria del Carmen

Hot August days bring afternoon storms

During one of the hottest months of the year, Playa continues to receive hordes of summer vacationers. The searing heat and rainy days signify the onslaught of tropical storms. The last of the sargassum seaweed washes up on the beaches.

September is the height of hurricane season

This is the height of the hurricane season, although the sun often peeks out in between showers. Potential flight cancellations, power outages and flash floods usually keep tourists away. In the middle of the month, locals celebrate Mexican Independence Day by painting their faces with red, white, and green paint and echoing “¡Viva Mexico!” through the streets. This is your chance to experience El Grito, a reenactment of the battle cry, at Palacio Municipal.

Key events: Independence Day

The rains continue in October

Playa del Carmen is deluged with rain at this time of the year; though most restaurants and hotels stay open they slash their prices. The beaches are empty, and the sun might slip through if you’re lucky. The end of October marks Halloween, a holiday that Mexicans have adopted. Families stroll along Fifth Avenue in costumes while the little ones ask for candies. Party-minded grown-ups, meanwhile, usually get dressed in costumes and hit the clubs till the wee hours. 

Key events: Halloween

When to head to Playa del Carmen for fabulous weather, fun festivals and hotel deals

Día de Muertos celebrations every November are lively in and around Playa del Carmen, especially Xcaret © Tati Nova photo Mexico / Shutterstock

Celebrate Día de Muertos in November

The rains have subsided but the crowds have yet to return: November could be the best month to visit Playa del Carmen. The first week of November is when Mexico celebrates one of its most important festivals: the Day of the Dead. While Playa’s celebrations pale in comparison to those in other Mexican cities, the Día de Muertos event at Xcaret makes the pricey entrance fees worthwhile. Small parades occur on and around Fifth Avenue, while locals usually convene at the municipal cemetery at midnight.

Key events: Día de Muertos, Día de la Revolución, Riviera Maya Jazz Festival

The high season begins in December

The skies finally clear up and Playa regains its picture-perfect image. An influx of international tourists means busy beaches, fully booked resorts and sky-high prices. Restaurants start filling up in mid-December, when Mexicans gather for posadas (Christmas parties), singing festive songs and breaking into piñatas. Almost everyone in Playa goes out for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, so make your restaurant reservation well in advance.

Key events: Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Christmas, New Year’s Eve

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