Our first stop in the Riviera Maya was the lively beachtown of Playa Del Carmen. We heard about it's amazing food and thriving craft cocktail scene and couldn't wait to visit. The main street in Playa is Quinta Avenida (5th Ave). It is the main street in the downtown area and is lined with beautifully designed restaurants and bars. It runs parallel to the beach only a few blocks up.
We found an AirBnB close to the beach that was at the end of 5th Avenue and we were easily able to walk around and explore. It was only $55 a night for a one bedroom apartment with a kitchen, AC, fast wifi, and a pool. What else do you need?
We spent three days lounging on the beach and getting a feel for the area. Expats from around the world end up settling in Playa because of its perfect climate, affordable prices, and a semi-westernized feel. If you want a real deal Mexico experience, Playa Del Carmen isn't the place to go. If you want a mellow intro to Mexico with plenty of great restaurants, bars, and beaches this is a great first stop.
Relax at the beach
The beaches in Playa del Carmen are beautiful and are completely public. You can walk along the entire beach from one end to the other. Bring your own blanket and cooler for the day and claim your own spot in the sand; or pay to use a chair and umbrella at a beach bar. Either way make sure you log some beach time. It seemed that the further south we went the nicer the beaches got!
Swim in a Cenote
When visiting the Riviera Maya you cannot miss a visit to one of the fresh water cenotes found here in the Yucatan.
There are many different types of cenotes; some are inside caves while others look like tiny jungle lakes. The usual entry fee it only between $5-$10. The water in the cenotes is fresh and crystal clear. There are several different species of fresh water fish who live in the cenotes so make sure to bring your snorkel and mask. We visited the Garden of Eden cenote which was only a short 20 minute taxi drive from Playa Del Carmen.
TIP: To keep the water in the cenotes clean and clear they prohibit the use of sunscreen and bug spray with deet. Because of this some of the stores in town sell deet-free bug spray. Remeber to grab a bottle before you visit one of the cenotes.
Take the Ferry to Cozumel
For a fun day excursion hop on the ferry and go to the tiny nearby island Cozumel. These ferries run every hour and only take 45 minutes. When we visited Cozumel we rented a moped and explore the island. There is only one road that goes around the island and there is very little traffic which is perfect for a moped. Where the ferry drops you off is the touristy side of the island, get out of there as fast as possible! The other side of the island offers perfect beaches and beautiful turquoise water. We had a blast cruising around the island and hitting different beaches and bars along the way!
TIP: When in Cozumel head to the east side of the island and look for this tiny mojito bar. The mojitos served here are made with a pestle and mortar and were the best we've ever had! We are still dreaming of this delicious green cocktail.
30 Avenida Nte., Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
Our favorite restaurant in Mexico! No trip to Playa del Carmen would be complete without at least one meal at one of El Fogon's two locations. This casual taqueria is always packed because the food is insanely good and cheap. With a completely open kitchen you will see a huge al pastor spinning on a spit and two chefs cooking up all the food on a flat top grill. The al pastor here is the holy grail of taco meat, find it, eat it, repeat.
TIP: Try one of everything! We especially loved loved the al pastor tacos, chorizo tacos, and chorizo queso. (Pictured above)
Av Constituyentes Manzana 63 Lote 3, Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
A great little restaurant between 5th Ave and the beach. This outdoor restaurant focuses on seafood tacos, ceviche and tostadas. We loved this spot and came back twice! We especially liked the variety of sauces put on each table, it allowed you to spice up your tacos to accommodate your taste buds.
TIP: Try the tempura shrimp taco here. It was one of Ang's favorite from the entire trip.
5 Avenida con calle 34, Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
Follow the scent of freshly baked bread and you will undoubtedly find yourself at Chez Celine. This authentic french bakery on 5th street serves homemade pastries, breads, snadwiches, coffee, crepes and more. Come here for a long brunch or grab an espresso here in the evening and enjoy this little french bistro in Mexico.
Calle 10 Norte 27, Playa del Carmen 77720
A literal hole in the wall, La Cochi-Loka is an awesome little find in Playa. This walk up shop specializes in "cochinita pibil" which is a traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork from the Yucatán Peninsula. We had it on a torta with homemade bread, queso topped with purple onions and habanero sauce. For only few bucks this is the perfect spot to grab a quick bite.
Las Hijas De La Tostada
5 Avenida, Calle 38, Playa del Carmen 77710, Mexico
This restaurant is one of the most popular spots on 5th Ave and specializes in one thing. tostadas! The menu has a variety of creative tostadas with seafood and delicious sauces. With a fun atmosphere, good drinks and sublime food this place is always packed.
La Perla Pixan
Calle 34 Norte Entre 5ta Y 10, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77720 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
If you are a big fan of mezcal (like we are) La Perla Pixan is the place for you. This bar exclusively makes cocktails containing mezcal. We came back to this bar a couple of times and had the chance to try a few of their unique cocktails and also some different types of mezcal. We loved how the mezcal shots came with lemons, cinnamon, and coffee to try with the smokey flavors of the mezcal.
Calle 38 Nte. 152, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77720, Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
With a sophisticated craft cocktail menu and a beautifully designed bar, Trujillos blew us away. With giant trees literally shooting out through the roof; this place was stunning. The cocktails were complex, made with fresh ingredients and highlighted local spirits. The bartenders were great here and after some chatting they had us sampling some really unique ingredients and liquors native to the area.
Inside the Mahekal Beach Resort, Calle 38, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R.
Coconut Kiwi cocktails and fresh Pina Coladas at Fuego! We stumbled across this beachfront bar in the Mahekal Beach Resort while walking down the beach. The tropical beach setting at Fuego is complete with hammocks, twinkly lights and sits directly on the main beach. Stop in for a piña colada, they are just right here.
We hope you enjoyed this blog post on some of our favorite spots in Playa Del Carmen. If you are planning a trip to the Riviera Maya we hope you have a great time in this lively beach town.