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The Mexican Riviera refers collectively to twenty cities and lagoons lying on the western coast of Mexico. Although there are long distances between these cities, they are often referred to as the Mexican Riviera because of their popularity among tourists. Cruise ships often visit three or four of these destinations on their longer cruises. In a 2005 interview Stanley McDonald, the founder of Princess Cruises, mentioned:
The call of the "Mexican Riviera" was coined by Princess Cruise Line. Now everyone refers to it as the Mexican Riviera. I believe that it really spoke to the quality and beauty of what people would see down there. We all know the French Riviera -- the Mexican Riviera was something we had in the western hemisphere.Some areas that are considered part of the Mexican Riviera, listed in order from north to south:
- Ensenada, Baja California 
- Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur 
- Mazatlán, Sinaloa 
- Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco 
- San Blas, Nayarit
- Manzanillo, Colima 
- The Ixtapa resort near Zihuatanejo, Guerrero
- Acapulco, Guerrero
- Salina Cruz, Oaxaca
- tourism to Playa del Carmen began with the passenger ferry service to Cozumel, an island across the Cozumel Channel and world famous scuba diving destination.
Playa del Carmen, or just "Playa", has undergone rapid development over the past two years with many new luxury residential condominium buildings, restaurants, boutiques and entertainment venues. Currently there are plans to develop six luxury boutique hotels, several internationally recognized chain restaurants including PF Changs, Hard Rock Cafe, Ruth's Chris and the Cheesecake Factory as well as a small upmarket shopping plaza offering designer boutiques, a small cinema, luxury condominiums and the first international House of Blues entertainment venue. Avenida Quinta is slated to become a cultural and economic stronghold for the Yucatan peninsula with the development of civic venues and up-market retail. Several luxury brands are currently developing retail locations, those under construction or already open including Louis Vuitton, Carolina Herrera, Paul & Shark, Hugo Boss and Christian Dior. El Palacio de Hierro has also begun construction of a luxury department store at the corner of Avenida Quinta and Constituyentes. Luxury department store Liverpool will open their Riviera Maya flagship store in Playa del Carmen in 2012. Liverpool will anchor a large urban lifestyle center that includes retailers: Zara (retailer), Zara Home, H&M, Massimo Dutti, Armani Exchange and Lacoste. Several international retailers will be new to Mexico including: West Elm, Design Within Reach, Apple Store, Chipotle Mexican Grill and REI.
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 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"). Tourist activity in Playa del Carmen centers on Quinta Avenida, or Fifth Avenue, stretching from Calle 1 norte until 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 Fifth Avenue as well as just off Fifth Avenue and on the beach, such as Luna Blue Hotel & Bar, Fusion Beach Hotel Bar & Grill, Deseo, Basico, Casa Ticul, Barrio Latino, La Tortuga and many others.
Playacar is a residential and tourist development in Playa del Carmen, just south of the main urban area. In this development most of the all-inclusive hotels, the aviary, and the golf course are located. There are two phases, phase 1 is mostly residential with a few hotels and some stores. Phase 2 contains the largest all inclusive resorts along with the golf course and a significant number of residential properties. Playacar was developed starting in 1979 by Mr. Fernando Barbachano's company: Compania Impulsora Turistica de Playa del Carmen, S.A., The development was later sold to Aircoa, an American Corporation, which later sold the development to SIDEK of the Martinez Huitron Family and more recently sold to Mr. Ernesto Echeverria.
There is a significant Canadian, European and Argentinian influence in Playa, with a number of local business proprietors drawn from the American, South American and European expatriate community. In addition a significant amount of Playa's tourists include thousands of backpackers from around the world, who pass through Playa while touring Mexico and the surrounding region.
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.
Recently Playa del Carmen city planners have taken initiative and have begun making the town more pedestrian friendly. A 4 km foot and bicycle path will run the length of the town along 10th Avenue in Centro, along with two additional foot and bicycle paths which will connect two commercial corridors near Centro Maya in south Playa del Carmen and Col. Las Americas where a state of the art municipal facility, city hall and theatre is being constructed alongside the largest master-planned urban development in Mexico. The city has also completed several urban spaces designed to provide a safe environment for families to enjoy outdoor activities, this includes two junior skate parks, an outdoor fitness gymnasium, tennis court, basketball court, volleyball court and children's play zone all of which are located underneath the federal highway, creating a covered space which is shaded throughout the day and well lit at night. This space also provides shelter for pedestrians during inclement weather.
Originally a small fishing town,