Tips | Guide | Things to Do
in Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is a great city, and even better when you have some TIPS to help you save time. We love to travel and have been very lucky to have friends or meet people who give us invaluable tips in each city or country we visit. This kind of insider information has made each travel experience that much more special. So we created tips for our clients, so you can enjoy your vacation just a little more. Practical information as well as the local perspective on our favorite finds.
Often, the best tips come from our guests. If you find something special or if you have any feedback on our tips, we would love to hear from you, please send us a message. We wish you a wonderful stay and hope to see you again soon.
Things to do
All of the beaches beautiful and are public so you are free to bring your own beach chairs, umbrellas (or these items can be purchased at Walmart or Mega) and towels or blankets to use. If you are enjoying the day in the sand, you are welcome to bring food and drinks to enjoy.
Mamita’s Beach Club
There are many beaches in Playa del Carmen. A very popular beach club is Mamita’s Beach, which can be accessed from 28th Street Norte. This is a trendy beach club where you can relax, swim in the ocean, get a massage or take in the activities around. You can also rent lounge chairs and umbrellas and the best part of all is they will bring your drinks and food to you on the beach.
The beach is fairly wide and the water is nice at this beach. It is a beach for the popular set from around the world and you will notice a lot of 20-35 year olds. Needless to say it is a popular beach in Playa Del Carmen. So if you want to be seen and see the scene this is the place. Expect club music to be played at the beach clubs.
Kool Beach Club
Located on 28th Street Norte, Kool Beach Club offers cabanas and lounge chairs available for rent, as well as a bar and restaurant. Next to the beach club, there are plenty of water activities to engage in. Paddle boarding, catamaran boat rental, banana boat rides, jet ski’s and scuba diving are just some of the ways you can enjoy the Caribbean Sea
Further north is Coco Beach, which can be accessed from 38th Street. It is a quieter beach. They recently opened a beach club in that area called Cannibal Royal. They have great food, a hot tub on the roof and a splendid view of Cozumel in the distance.
Located at 48th street, on the north end of Playa del Carmen, Canibal Royal offers a relaxed atmosphere offering food and drinks and a small beach to relax and soak up the sun. This corner of paradise is a perfect location for this beach club because it attracts those that are looking for a lounge type environment with nice surroundings and not the hoards of people.
Playacar Phase 1
This Playa Del Carmen beach is in front of Playacar phase 1. Since all beaches are public, you are allowed on this beach even though it is in front of a private development. It offers a very wide beach away from some of the crowds (although it is gaining in popularity). There are also a few places that provide some rare shade for those who want a break form the sun. The water is usually free of seaweed and is great for swimming. A nice wide beach provides a good place for sports as well. You will see some kite surfing here on windy days. This beach is popular with local expats and people in that want to get away from the tourist.
There are no facilities so come prepared. That also means bring food and drink. The good thing is there is an Oxxo convenience store on your way to this beach. It is located on 10th Avenue just below Juarez Avenue and behind the Paseo Del Carmen shopping plaza.
To get to this beach, from the Cozumel Ferry Pier, walk south on the beach for about 7 minutes. You will see a wide beach with some newly planted small palm trees. Or you can walk down 10th Avenue just past the Paseo De Carmen shopping plaza and enter phase one of Playacar and walk to our right and follow the road to the beach.
Zenzi Beach Club
One of our favorite restaurants on the beach, Zenzi offers a great menu, live music daily at 5pm and a full bar, tables or lounge chairs to sit and enjoy your favorite drink. Salsa classes are offered once per week, check out their website for the full menu and schedule of events.
BEACHES OUTSIDE OF PLAYA
Between Playa and Tulum are some of the most scenic beaches you’ve ever seen. The sand gets softer, more powdery, and the water just gets bluer.
Tulum has some of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the state of Quintana Roo. A 40 minute drive from Playa de Carmen, the town of Tulum offers many great things in addition to their beaches. Tulum Ruins (the 3rd most visited ruins in Mexico), great restaurants and beach clubs, scooter rentals, cenotes and the bio reserves of Sian Ka’an.
Located only 10 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, Paamul is a small town, that has great snorkeling, powder white sand beaches, diving and kayaking. Enjoy ceviche, tacos and a cerveza at the beachfront restaurant. A place where you escape the business of life and find harmony in the natural landscape, an exquisite tapestry that appears to be captured by an artist, with the whitest of beaches and a turquoise sea alive with coral reefs and tropical fish.
XPU-Ha and Xcacel
Further south, you will find Xpu-Ha and Xcacel beaches. If you are into Kiteboarding, this is the place to be! A popular local beach, Xcacel offers a cenote, sea turtle sanctuary as well as restaurants and a beach club. The cost to enter is 10-20 pesos, all money goes to protect the turtles. Please be mindful of the turtle nesting should you visit this beach during the season (May – November).
Our favorite destinations are listed below in order of relative proximity to Playa del Carmen with the closest attractions at the top of the list. See the next section (Private Tours) and contact us to set up a great experience while you are on vacation in the beautiful Yucatan Peninsula.
X-plor – located 6km (~4miles) south of Playa, is a natural adventure park that boasts a zip line circuit that has you flying over the tree tops, a lengthy amphibious vehicle trail that runs through the jungle and through caves, and an amazing raft ride through cenotes that contain stalagmites and stalagtites. It is a full day of fun and the buffet, which is included in the price, is excellent.
X-caret – located only 32km ~(20 miles) from Playa, is billed as a ‘majestic archeological park’. It really is an extraordinary Mexican adventure park where you can see ‘the recreation of a pre-Hispanic ball game, a party charro, a Mexican cemetery, a coral reef aquarium, a butterfly farm and play in the underground rivers, beaches and natural pools’. This is definitely worthwhile and will take a full day. Don’t miss the show.
Akumal – One of our favorite things to do is to spend the day at Akumal’s public beach that is famous for it’s sea turtle population. Akumal is about 30 – 40 minutes from Playa, it is between Tulum and Playa. You can rent snorkeling equipment there for about 140 pesos (12 – 15 USD) walk a few steps on the powder white sand and ease right in to the warm water. The turtles are usually only 200 meters from the beach. Finish the day at one of the beach side restaurants enjoying fresh seafood and a cool beverage.
Tulum – located about 40 minutes south of Playa, is one of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites. Visit the ruins within the walled city overlooking the ocean & then enjoy the many luxury bohemian restaurants along the waterfront. The beaches are beautiful and the ruins are very interesting. A wonderful day trip.
Xel-Ha – located ~193km (~120 miles) south of Playa (75 miles south of Cancun), is a natural aquarium park offers a whole host of water activities like swimming with dolphins, Snuba® (combination of snorkeling and diving) or Sea Trek® (walking under water). The activities are fun but not too extreme – expect lots of walking or cycling, rope swings and even cliff jumping (which sounds much more scary than it really is).
If you are very active, you can probably do Xel-ha and Tulum in one day.
Chichen Itza & Merida – If you have a little more time and want to explore a little further we would suggest a trip to the famous Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and a visit to the beautiful colonial city of Merida. The drive is about 2.5 to 3 hours to Chichen Itza and 4 hours to Merida.
5th Avenue is brimming with shopping opportunities, great silver, souvenirs, bikini stores and the list goes on and on. Here are a few of our favorites.
Silvia Suarez – located just off of 5th Ave in a U shaped shopping area between 34th and 38th Streets, is named after Oaxacan fashion designer, Silvia Suarez whose modern takes on traditional Mexican textiles have won her great acclaim. This store has great clothes but also very creative stuffed animals, bags and more. Definitely worth the time to stop in.
Located on 5th Ave and Constituyentes. On the top floor is Sanborns, a major department store in Mexico. It has magazines in many languages, cd’s, music, electronics, books, handcrafts, chocolates etc. Their restaurant has surprisingly good food. We recommend Enchiladas Suiza.
Located on 5th Ave between 12th and 14th, has many well known retail shops such as H&M, Michael Kors, Hollister, Tumi and several others.
Paseo del Carmen
Paseo del Carmen mall is located just outside of Playacar Phase 1, on 10th Avenue and Calle 8 Sur. Offering a wide variety of shops and restaurants including Zara/Zara Home, Nike, Old Navy and Pull and Bear. In the center of this outdoor mall are several restaurants, coffee shops and a nice lounge area to people watch. There is also a food court located downstairs.
Located on 5th Avenue between 38th and 40th, Tierra Huichol is a beautiful gallery of colorful folk art – intricate ‘paintings’ made with yarn, beadwork sculptures and more.
Art on 5th Avenue
Every Thursday night, local artists display some of their pieces in the middle of 5th Avenue from ~ 32nd Street down to ~16th. It is our favorite night to stroll 5th Avenue!
Extra Services & Our Connections
Our sister company, Playa Tours & Transportation offers many services to ensure a smooth and enjoyable vacation. The transportation is in a private, air conditioned shuttle. They offer door to door service to our condos from the airport, as well as trips to the grocery store or nearby attractions. Cold beers, sodas and water are available in the shuttle!
Our sister company, Playa Tours & Transportation offers private tours to the most popular attractions in the Yucatan Peninsula. The private guide we work with is a Certified International Tour Guide and Biologist. Her name is Edith, she speaks English and Spanish, and offers great prices to our guests!
Ditch the large group of strangers, and take your own private tour! Our tours provide an private experience for you and your friends/family at the same price as the large group tours of 30 people or more. This allows for a more tailored tour for your group, the option to spend more or less time in a certain place, or design your own tour! Transportation, lunch, soft drinks and all entrances to the parks and attractions are included in the price, as well as pick-up and drop-off at your condo.
Popular tours are Chichenitza, Holbox, Tulum, Punta Laguna (Ziplining), Coba, Cenotes, Muyil, Ria Lagartos and many more!
There are over 900 restaurants in Playa del Carmen. So we thought we would help you out by listing some of our favorites. Enjoy!
Ah Cacao – has two café’s in Playa. Both on 5th Ave – one on 5th and Calle 28, the other on 5th and Constituyentes . Their coffee, cookies and brownies are to die for.
Chez Celine – located on 5th Ave and 34th, this casual French pastry shop makes everything on site. The smell from the street is magnetic – it is almost impossible to walk by without stopping in. Our favorite is the almond croissant and espresso. They have great egg dishes for breakfast and salads, quiche, sandwiches and soup during the day.
Restaurants on the Beach
Zenzi located on the beach and Calle 10, Zenzi is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They have live music (not electronic) at 5pm every day. They also offer free salsa lessons every Thursday evening. They are located right on the beach and have lounge beds with umbrellas, and no minimums! We think their ceviche is the best in Playa. CLICK HERE for our 10% off coupon!
Cannibal Royal is located in front of Coco Beach between Calle 42 & 44. The 3 story retro design of the building is very cool. They beach bar has many seating and lounging options, the restaurant on the second floor is outstanding and the solarium on the top floor has a hot tub and amazing views of the sea. Food and drinks here are fabulous!
Kool Beach Club is located on the beach and Calle 28 just across the street from Mamitas. It is also open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Their 95peso all you can eat breakfast buffet is very popular.
Mamitas Beach Club is located on the beach and Calle 28 (Mamitas), open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Perhaps the most popular Beach Club in Playa, Mamitas has lounge beds for taking sun, a swimming pool and electronic music. They host various events on the beach year round.
Aldea Corazon located on 5th Ave between Calle 14 B and Calle 16 has great traditional Mexican food but it’s atmosphere is what sets it apart from all others in Playa. Enjoy a romantic dinner in the glow of candle light sitting at the edge of a natural cenote and listening to the sound of a waterfall.
Oxiote is located on Calle 34 just east of 5th. They serve amazing upscale Mexican food, and are vegetarian friendly. The duck tacos and tacos de Pibil are amazing, along with almost everything else!
Lat 20 is located between calle 12 and 14, looking down on 5th ave. It is located above the Bath and Body Works store. This is an upscale Mexican Cantina. Very fun, live music often and huge screen tv or futbol and other sporting events. As your waiter to explain the TOCES to you (pronounces Toe-case). Always a good time!
Aguachiles is located on Calle 34 and 25th Avenida. Los AguaChiles is a very basic, truly local restaurant. A “high end” taco stand is probably the best way to describe it but serves arguably the best ceviche in Playa Del Carmen. They recently remodeled and have a new menu to offer!
Fogon is located on Avenida Constituyentes, between 25th st and 30th st. .is a small and quaint “taqueria” specializing in typical Mexican tacos. They have great prices and are open at night
*La Cuerva del Chango is located on Calle 38th between 5th Avenue and the Sea (close to Shangri – La Hotel), is a great choice with friendly staff and good prices. They serve authentic 100% natural Mexican food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Everyone loves this place. It is a favorite of locals and visitors alike.
La Fragata is located on 1st avenue and 26st Street, this is a Mexican/French owned very casual restaurant that has great specials of the day and is very cheap. It is great for lunch.
*La Vagabunda – located on 5th Ave between 24th and 26th, is known for it’s great breakfast menu which includes both Mexican standards like Huevo Estrellado served with Chilaquiles as well as international fare like eggs benedict.
Mario’s is located on Calle 44 between 25 and 30th ave. Mario’s is a true, local seafood restaurant. It is very small and not fancy at all, but the food is GREAT! Order the pescado frito (fried fish served whole), quesadillas de cameron (shrimp tacos) and the guacamole and ceviche are amazing. Don’t miss this diamond in the rough.
Plank is located on Calle 16 between 1st and 5th ave. They are known for their salmon cooked on a plank. They also have a great brunch on the weekends from 9am – 2pm.
Fisheria is located on 5th, between Calle 20 and 22. They have a great selection of dishes and is also a great place to people watch.
Catch is located above the Thompson Hotel on Calle Corazon (5th and 12th). The entrance is on 12th street between 5th and 10th ave. Dine up high, with good views during the day. Great seafood, good service and lovely atmosphere.
*Afrodesiac is located on 26th between 5th and 10th. This is one of our favorite restaurants. Very good italian food, small quaint place, and the owner is always there chatting with guests. You will not be disappointed!
Casa Mediterranea – Tucked away off of 5th Avenue, (find an opening between 6th and 8th Streets on your left hand side when facing south), Casa Mediterranea is located in a small courtyard that they share with a few local art galleries. Enjoy handmade pasta dishes, and fresh seafood based on Nothern Italian recipes. Reservations recommended. 984-806-4679. We recommend the tagliate, the brusqueta and ensalada de pulpo y papa.
Cenacolo is located on Calle 32 and 5th ave. This exquisite restaurant is exceptional in food quality and service .. No detail is spared.. Great wine list.
*Como-Como is located 5th Ave between 38 and 40 st. Como-como boasts one of the best Chef’s in Playa. The food is sensational. Definitely make a reservation; 984-859-1646.
*Negroamoro – Located on 5th Ave between 34th and 38th, Negroamoro is where local Italian’s often congregate so you know the food must be great. My favorite dish here is not on the menu but you can ask for pasta with alfredo sauce, salmon, asparagus and other vegetables, but everything is terrific and the prices are good.
La Bodegita is located on 5th ave and Calle 34. Serving authentic Cuban cuisine and live salsa music every night!
Kampai is located on 5th ave between 28th and 32nd. Great sushi, 2 for 1 rolls Monday – Thursday.
Alux is located on Benito Juarez (across the freeway) between 60th and 70th, this restaurant is found inside a cenote and is very trendy!! GOOD place to go for a drink. www.aluxlounge.net.
Diablito Cha cha cha is Located in 12th street and 1st avenue offers Mexican/ Asian fusion. It is a ‘very cool’ place with a retro vibe, great music, excellent food and creative drinks.
*Imprevist – located on 1st Ave between 16th and 14th , is in our view, the best restaurant in Playa. While they are open for breakfast and lunch, our favorite time to go is dinner. They serve Mediterranean and Mexican cuisine with Asian touches. Every dish is exquisitely prepared, the service is impeccable and the wine selection is excellent and well priced.
Vegetarian/Vegan Options….there are many places around town, these are just a few we have enjoyed!
Salade is located on Calle 10 and 15 ave. Fresh salads, wraps and breakfast food.
Kaxapa is located on Calle 10 between 15th and 20th ave. Just across from the municipal building. They have Argentinean food for vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters!
Bio Natural is located on10th ave and Constituyentes. They have a small organic grocery store, as well as a restaurant great for breakfast or lunch.
100% Natural is located on 5th between calle 10 and 12. Nice outdoor restaurant and good people watching.
La Brocherie – owed by a French couple that are chefs, specializing in roasted chicken. It is very cheap, very good and a nice atmosphere, just a few blocks away. On Avenida 15 between calle 4 and 6.
Mu – hamburger place just 3 blocks. Turn right out of the building on 40 ave, it will be a few blocks up on our right, just before the Oxxo.
Romeos – Really good Italian place. Always busy, you will need to make reservation. They are only open for dinner. Calle 4 and ave 15
Don Sirloin – Little taco place, cheap, fast and really good. 10 Ave between Calle 12 and 14.
El Fogon – Traditional Mexican food that has been in the neighborhood forever, very famous. This is the best location, although there are several around Playa del Carmen. On the corner of Calle 6 BIS and 30 avenue.
Mr. Marios – local fresh seafood place, always busy. Calle 42 between 20th and 25th.
Yum Yum – New Thai restaurant. 10 Avenue and Calle 6.
The Fives Rooftop – Great new rooftop restaurant and bar with infinity pool and great views of the Caribbean Sea.
Cafe Antoinette – Coffee, pastries, fresh baguettes, light breakfast. Down by the beach and ferry. Walk toward the beach on benito juarez, turn right on 5th and then your first left (1 Sur), its small, about halfway down the street.
Salade – Good salad and wraps – Calle 10 and 15 avenida. Very fresh, breakfast and lunch.
Restaurant Row – There are several good restaurants on calle 10, between Calle 6 and Calle 16.
Chez Celine – Busy breakfast and lunch place. Fresh pastries, bread coffee and a full menu. Very good little cafe to people watch. 5th ave and Calle 34
After 11 or 12 p.m. 5th Avenue is very slow. If you want to enjoy the night life most bars and clubs are located on 12 Street. Some popular spots are:
Almirante Pech – on the corner of 5th Ave and Calle 30, has a great vibe, lots of outdoor seating and a great open interior. No dancing, just great drinks, good music and usually, lots of beautiful people.
Bodeguita del Medio – Located on 5th ave and 34nd Street, this famous Cuban restaurant has amazing live Salsa music and great dancers. Founded in 1942 in Havana Cuba, they are known for introducing the world to authentic mojitos.
Coco Bongo – this is a small version of a Las Vegas dance show. Very very entertaining. You pay an entrance fee and it is all inclusive for drinks. Definitely worth the money.
Mandala – located on 12th Street between 5th and 1st the most successful disco. Typically quite crowded
Thompson Rooftop – located on 12th street and 5th ave. This is a beautiful rooftop to enjoy day or night, with great views of Playa del Carmen.
Be Playa Rooftop – located on 10th ave and 26th street. This rooftop pool, bar and restaurant is fun day or night. A younger but sophisticated crowd, the prices are good and they do not require a minimum spend to enjoy the pool.
Santanera – located on 5th Ave and 12th Street, this roof bar gets busy around 2 a.m and is open very late. They are known for their great dJ’s.
Mega is a large grocery store that has just about anything you could possibly need from food to alcohol to school supplies, kitchen and bath items, batteries etc. It is located on Constituyentes and 30th.
DAC is the best place in town to find unusual ingredients. It is mostly a fresh vegetable market but they also have basics like cheese and bacon and canned goods. DAC is located on 30th Ave and 20th St (Calle 20).
Walmart is located on 8th Street and 30th Avenue.
Sam’s Club is located about 15 minutes away from 5th Avenue, heading south on the highway.
Police – 060
Red Cross Emergencies : 065
Emergencies : 066
Fire department: 611
Hyperbaric Chamber: 984-873-1365
Highway emergencies: 078
Hospiten Riviera Maya
This is a very modern hospital that can facilitate most needs. They accept many insurances and English is widely spoken.
Federal, Playacar Fase II in Playa del Carmen
77710 Quintana Roo.
Phone: +52 (984) 803 10 02
FAX: +52 (984) 803 16 06
The Mexican Peso is the official currency of Mexico. The exchange rate is always changing, but most recently (2017) the exchange rate is around 20 pesos to $1 USD. most places of business will accept US dollars, Euros, and Canadian dollars. Keep in mind they will not give you the best exchange rate, and your change will be returned in pesos making it difficult to ensure you paid the right price. You will receive the best exchange rates through a bank, or ATM machines attached to the bank. If you need to cash travelers checks you should go directly to a bank for the least amount of hassle. In addition, although more and more places are accepting credit cards there are still many businesses who do not accept them as a form of payment. Make sure to check before you order or buy. Also keep in mind some places will charge you up to 6% additional when you use a credit card!
We STRONGLY suggest NOT using the stand-alone ATM machines on 5th ave or around town. They have been known to have card readers, and your credit card information is more at risk when using these machines. Using the ATMs attached to actual bank branches, or at the grocery stores are best.
The best rates to exchange other currency to pesos are often given at the banks. You will also find currency windows throughout town, that will exchange your money as well. Make sure to bring your passport as you will need to show it to the teller before they exchange your money.
We encourage you to support the local community by choosing local purveyors. In this way, the community roots become deeper and Playa continues to attract talented chefs, artisans and service providers.
Playa del Carmen is a safe city, but we nonetheless recommend that all valuables be stored in the safe box. To set your code, you need to push the reset button found on the side of the back of the safe door. After pushing the reset button, go to the front of the door and enter any 4 numbers you make up plus the letter B. Before you close the door, reenter the same 4 numbers and letter B and you will see the green light go on. Next close the door and reenter the 4 numbers and the letter B.
Tap water in Mexico is not the same as tap water in your country and most people here don’t drink it. Your apartment has a 5 gallon bottle of water, but if you need more, you can buy one for a nominal amount (50 pesos + tip). Just call us and we can arrange for the care taker of the building to deliver water to the apartment when the water bottle (20L) needs replacement or just ask one of the guys that works around the building.
We suggest that you clean your fruits and vegetables using a product that rids them of bacteria. There are several brands, but the most popular is called Bactericida. Just a few drops in a bowl of tap water does the trick. A small bottle can often be found in the kitchen or may be purchased at most grocery stores.
Tax and Service Charges
A 10% value-added tax called IVA is added to all goods and services within the State, including hotel rooms and rental cars. Be sure to ask if the tax is included in the quoted price on the menu in restaurants.
It is customary to leave a 10-15% tip when being served at a bar or restaurant.
Charities and Volunteering
Las Flores Properties proudly supports the KKIS Project (Keep Kids in School) in Playa del Carmen. KKIS provides school supplies to the primary schools of Playa del Carmen, scholarships for secondary school and volunteer opportunities (short and long term). Should you desire to volunteer while you are in town, they make it very easy to sign up and get involved. Donations can be made on the KKIS website.