Playa Del Carmen recommendations?
July 21, 2010 12:07 PM   Subscribe

What to do in and around Playa Del Carmen, Mexico?

Found a cheap flight and stay in Playa Del Carmen for the second week of August with my girlfriend. First time to Mexico for me, my girlfriend went when she was 11. Looking for advice/recommendations for eating, activities, etc. We're staying at Posada Mariposa. Read the older Playa threads, and some other forums, but direct fresh advice from MeFi members is always most appreciated!
posted by haveanicesummer to Travel & Transportation around Playa Del Carmen, Mexico (9 answers total)
I spent a couple of days in Playa in April so this is fairly recent info. I'm sorry for the lack of names but I never knew them, and Google Street View surprisingly has Playa but doesn't have the main tourist street because it's pedestrian.

Coco Bongo is quite an experience. Nightclub / drag show / circus / open bar. The one in Playa is pretty new, but there's been one in Cancun for a while. Kind of a love it / hate it thing. I had a blast.

There's also a great bar on the beach somewhere in Playa where after dark you sit on chairs on the beach, facing the bar proper where a band is playing. Pricey drinks but great atmosphere. On one of the streets that go down to the beach on the left, maybe 6th?

The bar on the main street with the swings is a complete rip-off despite looking like a dive.
posted by smackfu at 12:40 PM on July 21, 2010

I was there over new years. All of the bars are condensed into one square block. Our favorites were Om, the rooftop at Deseo (has a real Barca vibe to it) and Blue Parrot for day drinking on the beach. You may read about Alux; it was closed when we went there. We never made it to Mambo Cafe as its a bit off course. There was a pretty good techno beach club to right next to Kartabar and down the block from Om (forgot the name but you'll be able to see it easily...if you're into tech parties, they had a few MoS parties and had some solid djs spinning).

As for dining: great tacos at the little tacostand by the bus-station (no joke, and general rule for Mexico). As for fine dining, had fancy dinners at Casa del Agua (new years) and John Gray's. Honestly, it doesn't compare to quality dining in say washington dc, but if a fancy dinner is a must, enjoy it (it wasn't bad). The german hotel/hostel had a pretty solid lunch/brunch from what i remember (cant remember the name of the place). Once you venture up and down the strip, you'll get a feel for everything.

Have fun.
posted by Hurst at 12:49 PM on July 21, 2010

We ate great lunch at carboncitos, right off 5a (the pedestrian street) away from beach , but i can't remember the cross street. Some shrimp, bacon and cheese thing that was awesome. I also wish i could remember the name of the beach club we stopped at for beer. It was all concrete, plastic chairs and palapa, but the beers were cheap and the beach was good. Played bob marley AND had a mariachi band. It was just north of Mimi del Mar on the beach, at about 4th a block towards the beach from 5a Avenue pedestrian walk.

this is the second time in just a few days recommending this website, but whatever. great reviews, some from locals.

if you want a fun activity - look into swimming in a cenote in the area. we went on a tour that swam in Yal Ku lagoon and the el Jardin del Eden cenote and it was a blast. Lots of different cenotes to choose from and since it will be muy hot when you are there, the water is nice and cold.
posted by domino at 1:20 PM on July 21, 2010

I had no idea snorkeling could be as awesome as it is until I went to Playa Del Carmen. You could always consider diving as well. They give you a brief training course and then let you dive the same day!
posted by xammerboy at 1:25 PM on July 21, 2010

camp on the beach. that's what i did, and it was a complete and total blast
posted by angrycat at 1:33 PM on July 21, 2010

The Mayan ruins in Coba and Tulum are not far away and are worth experiencing. You can get to them by bus or taxi. The Yucatan is a beautiful part of the world with a unique culture and cuisine, so please try to break away from the tourist traps (Playa del Carmen is a cruise destination) and experience some of that. It's not Mexican food in the way you might be thinking. Get some huevos mouteleƱos for breakfast and find some pit braised cocinita pibil for dinner and sleep in a Mayan hammock under a grass palapa. Snorkel in a cenote. Have fun.
posted by chrchr at 1:44 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

The nightlife is fantastic (I'd stay away from Coco Bongo or the like, though; there are plenty of nicer places). Make sure that both you and your girlfriend bring a set or two of dressy "going out" clothes so that you can comfortably mingle with all the attractive Europeans.

Take the ferry to Cozumel and go snorkeling - it's an unforgettable experience, especially if you've never done it elsewhere. I'd skip the cenotes.
posted by halogen at 2:59 PM on July 21, 2010

It kind of depends on what you want from a vacation. My wife and I, and later our kids as well, spent many vacations at a tiny resort a few miles north of Playa over the course of 20+ years. We eventually stopped going, with deep regret, because the area had become so touristy. Still, I adore the snorkeling at Akumal and Yal Ku, even though the coral isn't nearly what it used to be; Xel Ha is also worth a visit, though it's pricey and the food is the worst food served in any public venue anywhere in the world (e.g., a piece of white bread with a smear of tomato sauce and a slab of American cheese = pizza for $5). The snorkeling at Cozumel isn't terrible, but it isn't nearly as good as the places I've already named. And if you could somehow get into the inland, and find a restaurant that serves authentic Yucatecan food (which is nowadays almost impossible to find on the coast), wonders await you...
posted by copperykeen at 4:47 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

We went swimming with dolphins there. That was pretty cool. Snorkeling was a little disappointing, but it was an overcast day.
posted by callmejay at 8:55 AM on July 22, 2010

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