Playa del Carmen
212 hotels in this place
Playa del Carmen, or just "Playa" as it is also commonly referred to by locals, is a coastal resort town in Quintana Roo on the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. Approximately 70 km south of Cancún and 20 km west of Cozumel, it is at the center of the Mayan Riviera and offers a more relaxed atmosphere, smaller boutique lodgings, and a distinct European flavor.
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Points of Interest in Playa del Carmen
About Playa del Carmen
Quinta Avenida, also referred to in English as 5th Avenue, is the main tourist thoroughfare in Playa. It is a pedestrian only, cobblestone lined street which spans approximately 20 blocks. Along 5th Ave. you will find a variety of restaurants, bars, clubs, shopping opportunities and various services. In Playa, nearly everything starts from this street.
You may see many boats on the beach in Playa del Carmen waiting for a deep sea fishing charter. Most of these boats are unlicensed and provide the bare necessities. They are generally small "pangas" which may or may not even offer shade. The equipment is generally sub-par. The professional charter fleet is in Puerto Aventuras which is about ten km south of Playa. Puerto Aventuras is the oldest and nicest marina on the Riviera Maya. The protection is so good that the Cozumel Ferries park there in bad weather. There are numerous charter boats available from 29-47 feet. For not much extra money (if any) you can upgrade to a private boat. Just walk past the charter boats and you will find private boats. These boats are privately owned by affluent owners who maintain them with an open check book. Some of them offer their boats for occasional charter. The extra effort is well worth it.
Scuba diving and snorkeling is plentiful around Playa, though the reefs are off the shore require a boat to get to. The offshore reef is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest coral reef system in the world. All hotels have a dive shop, though many can be found on 5th Ave. Better open-water scuba diving can generally be found in Cozumel so if this is the focus of your trip it is best to stay there. Excellent snorkeling is located at Puerto Morelos, located roughly halfway between Playa del Carmen and Cancun, and in the lagoon at Akumal, on the way to Tulum. Several dive shops in Playa del Carmen do offer cenote diving south of town.
Cenotes are cavernous freshwater sinkholes which are found all over the Yucatan peninsula. Many of them are open to the public for swimming, diving, and exploration. Many are open, however some of them are partially underground and the caves associated with these cenotes can run for miles underground. Cenotes also vary in size with openings as little as a foot wide to as large as a small lake. The water clarity in these cenotes is often unsurpassed, often exceeding 200 feet, and makes for exceptionally good swimming. Some of the bigger cenotes are available as tourist destinations, many are locally owned, and many more still are either undiscovered or undeveloped. Entrance to the commercial cenotes is correlated to the amount of development (i.e. if there are washrooms, restaurants, showers, etc.) with fees ranging from USD1-20.
- Abyss Dive Center and Training Facility.
- AlwaysDiving. A good place to do your diving or scuba diving classes. Scuba diving for everyone, from beginners to professionals.
- Cenote Dive Center (in the town of Tulum). For cenote snorkeling tours or cenote dive excursions.
- Scuba10 (Avenue 10 between 10 & 12 St). Great option if you want to do cenote diving with an experienced operator in Playa del Carmen.
- Academia Columbus, Av 30 Norte x 6 Bis (Take Ave 30 and turn on Calle 6 bis, an orange building), ☎ 984 873 2100. 09:00-14:00. Academia Columbus offers Spanish language courses for international students at the most affordable prices. Small classes of no more than 5 students per class. Price varies.
- International House Maya Riviera (Calle 14 off Quinta Avenida).
- Playa Lingua (Calle 20 between Quinta Avenida and Avenida 10).
There are nearly 75 restaurants in Playa, with foods of every type and price range. There are also various pizza stands with prices ranging from MXN10-20, most of them remain open up to 06:00 when bars begin to close. As is the case in much of Mexico, the street food is not to be missed. Simply walk south down 5th Ave until you reach the pier and taxi stand. There are generally five or six carts there serving tacos of various types. Every seafood taco is generally outstanding, along with the carnitas, pollo, and chorizo. Also, try the stuffed poblano tacos. Tacos are typically in the USD2-3 range. For the best and freshest tacos arrive mid-morning before the lunch rush as the carts are setting up.
- Ah Cacao Chocolate Café (5th Ave. at Constituyentes). A chocolate-themed coffee shop, selling chocolate in all its forms (including pure cacao beans). Famous for the brownies. Probably serves the best lattes and espresso in Playa.
- El Asador de Manolo. Argentine-owned restaurant with the best steaks in Playa. On 5th Ave between 30 and 32 St, it's not in the middle of all the tourism, but still nearby. A tenderloin-steak costs about MXN170, and is well worth the money - especially compared to the many very expensive restaurants located down 5th avenue. The crew is friendly and the atmosphere is relaxed and cosy.
- Babes Noodles and Bar (Two locations: Calle 10 between 5th and 10th, and 5th Ave between calle 26 and 28). Very popular restaurant bar serving Thai-style noodles, loud music, and lots of beer.
- Benito Juarez and 5th Ave Street Cart. At the corner of Benito Juarez and 5th Ave there are carts every morning where all the hotel and shop workers stop for breakfast. Gathering starts at around 06:00, they stay there until around 11:00. It is right outside of the main ADO bus station and at the start of the walk to the ferry to Cozumel so it is easy to find. The price in September 2011 was MXN18 each, (around USD1.50, give or take the exchange rate). One is enough to fill most people. These can be put together in different combinations and if you want something specific (like eggs alone), they will cook it on the spot.
- La Casa del Agua (On 5th Ave at 2nd St). Great ambiance. The calamari is excellent as is the fish. A little pricier than other restaurants, but well worth a try. Their indoor waterfall is a variation of a small pool of water cascading down rocks. The method cools nicely and is emulated in several restaurants.
- Club Nautico Tarraya (On the beach between Benito Juarez and Calle 2 Nte). Specializing in seafood, it's almost certainly the cheapest place on the beach, with ceviche for around MXN40 and fried fish for less than MXN100, and beer to wash it down with costing a mere MXN20. The atmosphere is slightly spoiled by cheap white plastic tables and very clinical white lights after sunset, but at these prices that's par for the course, and the quality and quantity of the food itself is excellent.
- Cockteleria Veracruz, 10 Avenida Sur (Between Benito Juarez and Calle 1 Sur, diagonally opposite the main ADO bus station). An unassuming exterior hides a cheap, tasty and very friendly seafood restaurant specializing in seafood cocktails. Mama runs the restaurant and personally makes sure all guests are happy. Note that the oysters in some cocktails are raw - but deliciously fresh. Portions are large, so even though the cocktails and ceviches are considered entrées, anything other than a small portion is a meal on its own.
- La Cueva del Chango (Calle 38, between 5th Ave and the beach.). Contemporary Mexican food in an offbeat jungle garden setting. A refreshing change from the frenetic pace of the 5th Avenue restaurants. The "Monkey Cave" is open for breakfast, lunch, and supper and frequented by locals and many expats who live locally. The morning breakfast is tops and the coolness of the day makes the open air setting enjoyable. Try the Chaya crepé. (Chaya, a local favorite, is a "tree spinach" native to the Yucatan. Do not eat raw chaya as it contains a cyanogenic glucoside that acts as a poison to humans.) The changos (monkeys) are temporarily not present because they were disturbed by the current condo construction.
- La Fragata (Calle 26 between 1st & 5th Ave). Small hole-in-the-wall restaurant with scrumptious food. Tasty fish tacos and seafood pasta that popped with flavor.
- HC Monterrey (Calle 1 Sur between 15th and 20th Avenidas, well off the tourist strip of the Quinta Avenida, and a second restaurant on Constituyentes between 25th and 30th Avenidas, opposite the MEGA hypermarket). The arrachera nacional is so tender it almost melts in your mouth. The meat is served simply with a foil wrapped potato and half of an avocado. If you are looking for something a little different, but truly delicious, try HC. With prices around MXN85 a person for the meat alone and 135 for the full meal, make sure to get there early, they are open until only 19:00.
- Ileana's Il Pescadore (the North end of Playa). Italian Restaurant that is a must on any visit to Playa. The wwner, a lady originally from Italy, is entertaining. The calamari is great. The tiramisu is delicious. The homemade pasta is superb. The portions are a decent size, but you do not leave thinking you overate. Cash only.
- King of the Grill, Aviacion Ave (aka Airport Rd) (Between Federal Highway 307 and 15th Ave. This is the road that runs on the south side of the airport near Playacar Phase 2. In a building on the south side of the road 500 or so metres going towards the highway coming from 10th Ave), ☎ +52 (984) 879 4219. Tu-Su, 14:00-21:00 or later if busy. Great Mexican grill. Actually a Weber BBQ shop (for rent or sale) that has a small number of tables and serves great food cooked on the Webers. Slightly off the tourist strip and menus only in Spanish. Friendly owner speaks English and was very helpful in explaining the menu. Hamburgers, steak and ribs are all highly recommended. Prices are very reasonable. MXN150 for full rack of ribs, MXN180 for a large rib eye steak, MXN100 for a Wagyu beef burger.
- Media Luna (5a Avenida between Calles 12 and 14). The locals think highly of the restaurant, as do others. The restaurant offers vegetarian dishes, fresh fish, wonderful pastas and salads. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Oasis. Mexican seafood. Battered shrimp tacos, seafood soup, fried fish. Attracts mostly Mexicans and Playa locals. Prices are reasonable and the quality is consistent.
- La Parilla Mexican Grill (Upstairs on the corner of Calle 8 and 5a Avenida). The mariachi band was excellent and would play any single song that they knew for USD10.
- Perros Calientes. If you want to eat a great big hot dog, walk two streets from Fifth Avenue to this place and you will enjoy good hot dogs.
- La Pesca (Avenida 30, near Constituyentes, across from the Mega grocery store). Daily till 21:00. Maybe the best seafood in Playa. Reasonable prices, awesome food. Try the cazuela de camaron. If you choose a main course costing less than MXN140 you will probably be told that it is "not recommended", and will be advised something in a pricier category. If that happens, just persevere, they will happily serve the cheaper dish too.
- PlayaMaya Hotel (At the beach). Octopus Tacos, wonderful.
- Yaxché Cocina Maya (5th Ave, between 22th and 24th St, a half block from 5th Ave). A Mayan cuisine restaurant. The soup with grouper is excellent. The shrimp plate is also tops. Try the creamed Chaya soup. The menu for lunch and supper are the same as are the prices.
- Yogo Chango Yogurt Bar (Calle 6 between 5th Ave and 10th Ave). Frozen yogurt made fresh with seasonal fresh fruit toppings, as well as creative and dry toppings. You can also enjoy smoothies, milkshakes, yogurt smoothies, espresso, frappuccino. Internet is free (laptops are available for free).
Nightlife is definitely happening in Playa del Carmen, but is not as wild as its neighbor to the north, Cancún. Typically, Playa's shops and restaurants close around 22:00, but nearly all of the clubs stay open through most of the night. A number of the best nightclubs are located on the beach. If you are interested in nightlife (dancing, drinks late until the evening/morning), then be sure to visit Blue Parrot, El Pirata, Santenera, and Hotel Deseo. The Blue Parrot has an intense and spectacular nightly fire show at 23:00 and offers beach dancing, swings at the bar, and plenty of dancing. Santenera has a beautiful roof deck bar. Deseo also has a roof deck bar, but it comes with beds. Very relaxing and beautiful.
There is no shortage of great bars in Playa, many of which can be found on the beach. Alternatively, if you are on a very tight budget, many shops outside the main tourist area will sell drinks in bottles and cans that you can pack into a cooler for the beach. Prices at the bars in Playa are consistent with any major tourist area, but a USD1 beer is not uncommon.
Liquor can be bought from any number of tourist shops, which typically sell Kahlua and a variety of tequilas at a price which is generally the same. If you are requiring a more diverse liquor supply, there are places in and about Playa that can accommodate. The most prominent is Covi Liquors, on Hwy 307 in Playa, which offer a wide variety of liquors at prices that are generally cheaper than those shops which cater to tourists on 5th Ave.
Fifth Avenue is packed with restaurants and bars but most close before midnight. There are two main streets to find clubs and bars that close after midnight: The 8th street between 5th and 10th Ave is frequently visited by locals and backpackers, bars like "Los Secretos" offer live music and pool tables and Red Bar offer cheap beer, 2 x 1 Drinks and great music (closes at 02:00). The 12th offers more tourist places like Blue Parrot, Coco Maya and Om  in the beach area and Bali Club and Santanera near 10th Ave.
The Dirty Martini Lounge on 1st Avenue between 10th and 12th Street gives you an alternative place to party and chill without all the hustle and bustle of the other bars. With a hotel on-site and pizza served to your table for the late night munchies, this community is a great place to spend the evenings in Playa Del Carmen 
- El Bistro at La Tortuga (Hotel La Tortuga), 10th Ave, & Calle 14th, ☎ 984 87 30626. 7-23. El Bistro at La Tortuga & El Bistro en la Quinta. Two gastronomic options of good food in a relaxed atmosphere but always with excellent and consistent service, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 12.
- Coffee Stop, Calle 10 North between 10th Ave & 15th Ave, ☎ 984 803 4365. 07:30-19:30. Small independent coffee shop selling filled bagels, croissants, and a selection of great cakes and pastries to accompany real Mexican coffee (from Chapias). Away from the main hustle and bustle of 5th Avenue, it's a calm place to eat, drink and catch up on your email. very reasonable.
- Hangover Bar Playa (Bar Playa Del Carmen Restaurant and Karaoke) (Calle 28 Norte & Cozumel), ☎ 984 142 2310. 10:00-02:00. One of the best bars in town. Featuring he amazing recipe of beer with a special juice. During the day they play good uplifting music with a friendly atmosphere. At night, they plays the same kind of music and the mic is open for karaoke for whomever is brave enough.
The touristy part of Playa is laden with shops selling 'artesanias'. These basically sell the same products - shirts, bracelets, and souvenirs, but for varying prices depending on the mood of the shopkeeper and your haggling/seduction skills. Haggling is accepted in the less formal shops in Playa, as is the rest of the Yucatan, though it is worth remembering that if you are able to afford an international vacation your income is many times higher than the storekeeper's (most of whom struggle just to pay the very high rents). It is possible to buy both Mexican and Cuban cigars here, but Cuban cigar prices are not particularly cheap. Counterfeits are commonplace in Mexico, so due diligence in the selection of cigars is advisable. If you are young or have long hair, many shop keepers are likely to also offer you marijuana. Marijuana is illegal in Mexico, though its use is widespread among tourists.
There are three large supermarkets in Playa del Carmen: Wal-Mart (30 Ave and Calle 8), Comercial Mexicana MEGA (30 Ave and Constituyentes), Chedraui (Highway 307 between Playa del Carmen and Playacar). There is also a Sam's Club (Hwy 307 in front of Playacar).
There are two large shopping centers on the outskirts of town: Centro Maya (on the right of Highway 307 heading towards Tulum - opposite Playacar) and Plaza Las Americas (entrance is on the right side of Hwy 307 as you head to Cancún, by the large traffic circle with statue at the entrance of Playa del Carmen). Both shopping centers have multiscreen cinemas and large supermarkets (Soriana and Chedraui, respectively).
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Playa del Carmen on Wikivoyage.