WHAT TO DO IN PLAYA DEL CARMEN
Playa del Carmen used to be a colorful fishermen town facing the Mayan Riviera. Ten years ago, the face of this village was absolutely different. One could see small lively houses painted with cheerful colors, craftsmen and women selling their products on the streets as well as fishermen working on the beachfront. It´s been a while since my last visit and I had a huge surprise to see how “Playa” has experienced a huge change.
DANCING AND ENTERTAINING
Coco Bongo: a night club pretty famous for its amazing shows and dancing parties. The place remains on the same place as 15 years ago at the corner of “Décima Avenida” and 12 street. Shows that feature Michael Jackson, Madonna, Spiderman and many more will keep you entertained for sure. People love the place and that is the reason why is still standing after Playa´s transformation. Tickets are not cheap but include drinks and the show. Entrance is not permitted to people under 18 years old. Check if your hotel is under the pick-up area (the big ones are). However, they won´t drop you back (grab a cab).
Doors open around 10 pm and shows run until 3 am. Dress informally.
Before traveling this last time to Playa, I had heard that shopping had become a major turning point. However, I must confess I was astonished as I found many malls built along the past 5 years. Many international brands opened a store on “Quinta Avenida” (Fifth Avenue), the main shopping street. One can find big H&M, Zara, Forever XXI big stores. Also, Stradivarius, Bershka, Victoria Secret, Nike and many more labels have decided to settle there. Be patient as lots of tourists are on the area enjoying what “Quinta Avenida” has to offer -and, yes! it´s crowded! Stores are all spread long this Avenue and people try to shop after beach time.
One can also find the typical Mexican handcrafts: be ready to discover painted skulls and decorative dishes or the classic colorful Mexican hats to handmade beautiful jewelry. Although I must admit that this last trip I found nicer pieces -rings, necklaces, bracelets, etc- at the beach and with better prices. Don´t worry the sellers will find you! Other characteristic stuff are tequila bottles and embroidered clothes.
Be aware -although is a tricky system- that you are entitled to tax return at the airport (about 10% of the price). The steps at the shops are easy: you must ask for an invoice (besides the regular ticket). The drawbacks are waiting at the airport. Sometimes long lines for the tax return; others the surprise that if you paid in cash, they only accept tickets up to $1.000 Mexican pesos (which is a low amount). But there´s also a limit if one paid with credit card (of course, another member of the group can join you and use the other tickets and enjoy the discount, something very tricky). So, at the time of shopping don´t expect to receive the total tax return you honestly believe you deserve. It´s not the European Union. And of course, the passport is required, and forms must be filled and signed.
DINING on QUINTA AVENIDA
“Celia” is a cool open door “Taquería and Cervecería”
(which means that “tacos” and beers” are served).
¨Patio 8” is similar to “Celia”: casual clothes, informal dinner, loud music and lots of fun.
“Mandarina Café” offers a more relaxed ambience, also more gourmet dinner. For people who prefer to speak without lots of noise and soft music.
MUSEUMS AND ART GALLERIES
There are many art galleries located on “Quinta Avenida” and you are always welcome to visit them. There are also street art galleries with local painters working in the middle of the streets while one passes by. Very interesting. The Frida Kahlo Museum offers a different approach as it doesn´t have any original paintings from Frida, but some objects and personal belongings such as her dresses as well as pictures and a life-timeline that help understanding her suffering and her work. I wasn´t able to go (the picture below is from the oustide entrance) but many people love it and recommend it.
For more information: http://museofridakahlorivieramaya.org/
One thing I got clear is that there´s no way that you get bored in Playa del Carmen! A totally two thumbs up place for a real holiday!
Coming soon: “The Mayan Ruins of Tulum and Coba” post!