Located south of Cancun in Mexico’s Riviera Maya is Playa del Carmen. Once a fishing village, Playa Del Carmen is now a major tourist hub with cruise ships, luxury condos, high-end shopping, and restaurants. The heart of the shopping and fun can be found down on 5th Avenue (Quinta Avenida).
It’s down this pedestrian-friendly street you can get all your souvenir shopping done, have some really great local food and can we add a million opportunities for photos.
We’ve been heading down to Playa Del Carmen for the last 13 years and it’s changed and grown so much! In the last few years, there have been new additions such as some of the usual mall brands like Old Navy, Zara, and Benetton, to some European brands and upscale stores.
If you’ve never been down to 5th Avenue in Playa here’s what you should expect
- It gets HOT! The best time to get down there (unless you’re good with heat) is when everything opens at 10 am. That way you have time to meander, have some lunch and do some shopping before you boil.
- There are a LOT of tourists, in fact, it’s mostly tourists down on 5th Avenue, and English and Spanish is spoken.
- If you’re staying at an all-inclusive, try and hide your all-inclusive bracelet. As a tourist, you’re an opportunity for a sale. One trick is for vendors to look at your hotel bracelet and so if someone stops you and says “oh, hi, remember me? I’m your waiter at the Riu?” don’t fall for it.
- Playa Del Carmen is safe assuming you’re not into anything illegal and you stay on the tourist path. Like anywhere else especially when traveling, keep your wits about you, don’t bring your valuables and all your money down to 5th Avenue. Safe doesn’t mean that you can’t be pick-pocketed, it can happen here like it could happen anywhere.
- There are MANY little tourist shops where the staff will get you to come into their store. You’ll hear “it’s free to look” a LOT. Here’s the deal. You can barter with these guys, start low and meet them somewhere in the middle. If bartering isn’t your thing, don’t worry, there are lots of stores with fixed prices to make shopping stress free.
Drinks and Food
One thing you’ll have to do while down on 5th Ave is to eat…and drink. If you need a quick beer to cool down check out a pharmacy or these stores that look like giant dollar stores. In these stores, you’ll find drinks (beers plus pop and water) for $1 US. As for restaurants? Well… there’s lots and honestly, your best bet is to check out the insides and the menus. If you can stick with the local restaurants versus the chains you’ll get a much better and more authentic taste of the regional food, which I know can be difficult when you’re traveling with kids. At a minimum, most restaurants have chips, salsa, and guacamole.
- Don’t fall for the gimmicky 2 for 1 drink specials…these drinks are watered down, and you’re better off heading to another restaurant for better quality drinks.
- Always check your bill and do the math (pull out your phone calculator).
- Tipping is not included in the bill and you’re expected to tip the same as in Canada and the average tip is around 15%.
- If you see a bar with swings … that’s the universal sign to stop and have a snack and a drink.
If you’re not into shopping, 5th Avenue can be a bit of a nightmare, but there’s so much to see in terms of architecture and the colours and MURALS. This trip we saw so many new murals which were beautiful, but honestly, every time we go there’s something new to see and do and eat. And if all else fails.. the beach is one block over from 5th Avenue!