Playa del Carmen is a Top World Destination
Playa del Carmen is one of those places that I never miss visiting whenever I go to this part of Mexico. The charm and character this city exudes is amazing. Whether you are strolling along Fifth Avenue (Quinta Avenida), enjoying the white sand beach, or off the beaten path, this place has something for everyone and loads to see and do!
And according to Trip Advisor it’s just been named to their list of Best Destinations in the World – it’s #15 to be exact – yes number 1, 2 and 3 were your typical Paris, London and Rome – and you might well expect them to be. But have you ever gone to the beach in Paris? I didn’t think so!
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#4 on the list is Bali – well ok, I won’t argue the beaches there – pretty stunning, but do they have Quinta Avenida. About a mile and half of all kinds of fun and crazy goings one – from high end jewelry shops, cosmetic boutiques and clothing stores, to locally owned souvenir shops where their favourite saying is “hey lady, remember me – I was your waiter at [insert name of your resort here]”
From the very first time I visited, in 2012, to my recent visit in January 2018 – I never tire of the sights and sounds of this beautiful place! To most tourists it is simply Playa, and few venture off Fifth Avenue. They stay within the 20 or so blocks (a few more now) that have the fancy shops, large restaurants and big named bars.
I love the way that Playa del Carmen is often described in publications and tour guides – it’s called more European and American in style – blended with Mexican traditions. They even call it hippier! I love that – you definitely get a bit of a Bohemian feel when you are strolling Fifth Avenue and see the mix of people!
A Little About Playa
To put this little city in perspective – the population in 1995 was around 17,000 people. Fast forward (and how fast would call this?) to 2014 it swelled to 187,000. As astounding as that sounds, growth has actually slowed in recent years – to about 5% per year.
To put that in some kind of perspective, I live just outside Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and we are growing at a rate of just under 15% per year right now.
What is crazy is the first five years – from 1995 to 2000 Playa grew 20% per year, year over year, then 18% for another five years. Fortunately for the citizens it dropped after that. I can’t imagine how in a country like Mexico they were able to keep up with pressure on basic services – electrical, water, and so on.
Maybe that’s why, when you go to Home Depot, which is just off the Highway bypass by the way, there is a giant electrical tower (you know the ones that look like they could turn into a Transformer or Decepticon at any minute) right in the middle of the parking lot!
On my most recent trip I had the good fortune to learn about a walking food tour that took you on a journey through both the history of the people of Mexico but their food and where it came from. The Riviera Maya Food Tours is a wonderful experience, not to be missed! We ate so well, laughed, and walked around an area that was close to Fifth Avenue, but still not at the same time.
Hotels and Resorts on Fifth Avenue
There are so many lovely places to stay right on Fifth Avenue. Everything from little Boutique hotels to high end Resorts. Here are a sampling of a few.
This hotel offers 3 different rooms types including a 1 bedroom suite and some offer full kitchens – a lovely option if you are looking to do some of your own cooking, seeing as it’s very close to both Mega and Walmart.
This beachfront resort offers over 300 rooms, a non-all-inclusive stay, but luxury abounds!
This charming boutique hotel provides breakfast every morning to its guests. One of the things guests raved about in their reviews was the ability to bring in a local chef to cook their dinner in the interior courtyard, which was arranged by the Hotel for the guests.
There are many little hotels located above the shops and bars, you just have to look in between them to find them, otherwise you would never know they are there!
Located down near Calle 32 where they are just developing Fifth Avenue and it hasn’t hit its busyness yet – you will find Live Aqua – from the road it looks a bit like an upscale condo building – white, glass, stone. But don’t let that fool you – this place is luxury and class and relaxation!
The first picture in this post shows the Playacar – one of the largest resorts in town. And being situated right beside the ferry terminal it is one of the few that is right on the beach – giving it a prime location!
No list of resorts in Playa del Carmen would be complete without mentioning the Royal. This is the #1 honeymoon and wedding destination in the area. This stunning resort is huge beach area, gorgeous rooms and suites and more!
Dining and Bars
From Senor Frogs to Guy Fieri’s brand new place and even McDonald’s you can find loads of dining and drinking options on and just off Fifth Avenue. The closer you get to either end there are amazing places! I have favourites that I love and ones that I love to avoid.
My most recent favourite is Karen’s Seafood Steakhouse & Pizza. This place may have a long and complicated name but I love it for a few simple reasons – it serves buckets of chicken wings – only two flavours, bbq and spicy louisiana; and it has a glass enclosed seating area in the back. When it is 30°C and you want an ice cold beer, spicy wings and A/C!
On the other end of the scale is Los Rancheros – you can read my second review here – I thought the food was fair, I just don’t appreciate the pricing and the fact they find things to charge you for that you don’t expect.
My fault for going back a second time without realizing it. I now avoid them every trip. And they make a point of going into the street to try to bring you in, no thanks. Won’t make that mistake again, ever!
I also really enjoy stopping in at 100% Natural. They offer a menu that is eclectic, organic and fresh! Best of all they are located in and under the tree canopy right along Fifth Avenue. Very unique setting, great on a hot day – you can sit outside but in the shade and enjoy the breeze.
Used to be exclusively juices and smoothies, but they have added food – which is great. We usually stop in and order one of their juice blends – something under the Jugotherapy – juices that are blended for health benefits. Even just a simple thing like orange juice takes on new heights.
We had the opportunity to try an off the main path place called Los Buzos Restaurant and Bar on our food tour (I’ve included a link – to show them off) – we will definitely be stopping in here on future trips!
This out of the way place has live tanks for its seafood. We tried the shark pescadillas which were amazing – I was so surprised (that I even tried them)! Check them out next time you are there – it’s so worth it!
Thank you for taking time to read this today!
I hope to get the opportunity to show some of you the amazing place that Playa del Carmen is – there is so much history and culture here! So much to see and do! I’d love to have you join me on one of my group adventure! You can find details on them here.