The once sleepy village of Playa del Carmen doubled twice in population in the last few years, mainly due to Europeans who discovered the alabaster-white beaches, gentle surf, coral reefs and slow lifestyle were the equal of the more expensive island of Cozumel just across the straits. Playa's dock is the pier for the 'people ferry' to Cozumel, so it's only a short trip over to snorkel or dive on Cozumel's incredible coral reefs. The strong foriegn influence has created a unique vagabond traveler ambiance. Numerous outrageously delicious restaurants provide sustenance and several foreign-owned hotels raise the standards of service to exacting levels. Combine that with a relaxed Mexican-Caribbean feeling and a sprinkling of American free- spirits and you've got Playa. It's definitely not the place to 'get away,' but it is a place to enjoy marvelous beaches by day and a lively nightlife in the evening. The mix of backpackers, archeological buffs and New Age sun worshippers makes Playa very interesting and worth some time.