Playa del Carmen
The first recorded visitors to the beaches of what is now Playa del Carmen came during the Early Classic Period (a.d. 300-600) of the Mayan civilization. Then called Xaman-Ha, or "waters of the north," Playa del Carmen was a rest stop of sorts for travelers making their way from the great cities of the Mayan world to the island of Cozumel. These travelers readied their dugout canoes and prepared for the journey across the straits on the same shores that now house the restaurants, hotels, and nightspots of modern-day Playa del Carmen.
During the post-Classical period (a.d. 1000-1500), the areas around Playa del Carmen, Cancún, and Cozumel served as a major trade route and religious center, and the Mayan culture flourished and prospered. At its height, the walled city of Tulum contained splendors beyond belief, and the nearby town of Cobá was a spiritual center of the entire Mayan empire, with a population of nearly fifty thousand. Near the end of this period, the populations dwindled as the natives dispersed due to storms and wars and to seek gentler climates.