Typically, Playa Carmen sees long rights and nice short lefts. This makes it popular with longboarders, although it's not uncommon to find shortboarders slashing through the crests of the waves. The waves also tend to get more intense – with faster breaks and steeper walls – as you head north towards Santa Teresa.
As with all beach breaks, the positioning of sand bars changes quickly. Ask around at some of the surf shops in town to get the latest information.
Aside from surfing, visitors will still enjoy the scene at Playa Carmen. It is less rocky than the beach at Malpaís and broad enough that you won't be too crowded by other people. Horseback rides in the morning or sunset photo sessions are fun as well. There are several small restaurants nearby that serve cold drinks and warm food.