Recently, Trip Advisor announced the Travelers’ Choice edition of the 25 top destinations in the world. To those of us who live or spend a significant amount of time in this little piece of heaven, it comes as no surprise that Playa del Carmen found its rightful place on the list. Some members of the Bric team have been residents of Playa del Carmen from two to five years, while others have lived here for a decade or more. Being here as long as we have, we felt it was time to share what we know so that you too can discover the many things that make the Riviera Maya such an attractive destination. Hopefully you can use this info as a guide to some of the lesser-known local gems to help you get the most out of your Mexican vacation experience!
From laid-back hippie-style watering holes to the most posh of eateries to sublime secluded beaches, we have covered a wide range of enticing choices for every type of traveler. Playa del Carmen not only showcases a thriving gastronomy scene, but the once sequestered fishing village, boasts world-renowned beaches, dive sites, and a friendly multicultural community, passionate about the arts.
Some of the most talented painters, writers, performers and musicians on the planet are drawn to the artistic air of Playa. Because of this growing collection of creative virtuosos who are transforming the city, those of us who are not so artistically inclined, can delight in the colorful murals, cultural centers, museums, theatres and sensational live music that continue to pop up around town.This intriguing directory of hot spots gives insight into the Playa lifestyle and the many reasons why we have chosen to call this seaside paradise home!
Here we present to you Bric Vacation Rentals’ go-to list of favorite places to indulge in good food and good times Playa del Carmen!
Claudia, the smiley ambassador at Paseo del Sol recommends the Eggplant Parmesan and Lasagna Bolognese at PapaCharly Pasta Factory. Cheesecake fans can savor a rich slice drizzled with cajeta. This quaint Italian restaurant located on Calle 30 and 25th Avenue features handmade pasta, made fresh daily, and a friendly staff that will make you feel right at home!
For a night out with friends, Claudia likes to head to Bar Ranita in La Rana Cansada Hotel (meaning The Sleepy Frog) on Calle 10 between 5th and 10th Avenue. The easy-going, beatnik ambience and comfortable couches are the perfect place to relax with a cold draft, listen to live music, and meet locals and fellow vacationers.
Aurora, our bookkeeping wizard’s favorite restaurant in town is El Diez, an Argentinean grill located on Calle 30 and 5th Avenue. She raves about the arrachera, a thin, skirt steak grilled over an open fire. To accompany the main dish, Aurora suggests a Piña Colada made with Amaretto instead of the usual Rum. The aromatic coffee is brewed to perfection at El Diez and is a nice end to a fantastic meal.
On a recent outing, Aurora, along with friends and family caught the one-hour ferry from Playa del Carmen to the Cozumel marina. From there they hired a captain to take them on a 4-5 hour journey around Mexican Caribbean Island. There was a special place, El Cielo, an undeveloped beach that she describes ‘Like nothing I have ever seen before. For a moment, I thought I was in Fiji!’ The water was crystal clear with the most striking shade of turquoise. The group loved that they were able to walk out hundreds of feet while the water level never went above their hips! There were also other points where Aurora and her crew stopped for snorkeling. The boat accommodated sixteen passengers and they were allowed to bring their own food and beverages.
For more information, call the Bric office or speak to your Bric ambassador who can arrange for one of these magnificent tours.
One half of our dynamic sales duo Susana, loves to dine at Cenacolo on 5th Avenue between Calle 30 and 32. The menu features a vast selection of exquisite Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, but Susi is always drawn to the Sombreditos Verdes. If you are looking for an upscale locale to enjoy a fantastic meal with friends or a romantic dinner for two, Susana can attest that the service and delectable offerings at Cenacolo will not disappoint!
Since she is a salsa pro, one of the places Susana loves is Zenzi on Calle 10 and the beach. Every night great local talent is featured on the main stage, but on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, an excellent house band plays from 10-12a.m. It’s an exotic beachside venue where salsa and bachata enthusiasts can tear up the dance floor. For beginners, they offer classes from 9-10pm.
Jonathan, in our administration department, is a very busy guy. Along with working in the Bric office, he is also a local radio host. So to unwind from his hectic schedule, he likes the warm ambience and buttery escargot at Byblos on Calle 24 and 10th Avenue. This charming French bistro has been around for years and offers an impressive selection of French and Italian dishes.
When he feels he needs to de-stress, Jon and a group of friends go to Palazzo Disco on Calle 12. Top local DJs create the ultimate dance environment that can last all night long if you’re in the mood to party!
The cheerful Veronica, one of our efficient ambassadors and longtime Playa del Carmen residents prefers the pasta Carbonara at Cheester’s on Calle 4 and 40th Avenue. The staff and casual atmosphere are fun and the portions are generous, but be sure to save room for one of their sensational desserts!
Cenotes are so inviting in this warm climate. So it’s no wonder Veronica chose Cenote Eden as her favorite spot in the Mayan Riviera. Located approximately 20 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, this open, sink hole has a cliff for jumping into the crystalline, natural pool, underwater caves in which to dive through, and palapa picnic areas with grills. For a memorable day, she loves to pack some food (and charcoal for the barbecue pit,) her snorkel gear, and a towel which comes in handy after swimming in the cool waters and sublime setting at Cenote Eden.
The martial artist of the group, Arturo, front desk representative at the Bric Hotel, loves the easy access to an abundance of fresh seafood in Playa. For tasty shrimp tostadas (Tostadas de Camaron) his pick is Los Aguachiles located on Calle 34 and 25th Avenue or Constituyentes between 1st and 10th Avenue. They also serve one of the best Micheladas (beer, lime and spices) and Ojos Rojos (beer, clamato and spices) in town! This casual eatery is a great place for a cold drink and light lunch after a day on the white sand beaches of Playa del Carmen!
If you are looking for adventure, Arturo suggests Xplor, just 5 minutes south of Playa del Carmen. He loves that he has a chance to play Indiana Jones and partake in an adrenaline-fueled adventure! Arturo has visited the park many times and is still thrilled to fly over hundreds of feet of pristine jungle on zip lines, ride rafts through the stalactite river, explore behind water falls and drive through caves on amphibious vehicles. To take the excitement level up a notch, he recommends going to the park at night with only the light of the moon and torches to guide you!
Lene, our chipper, Norwegian ambassador, spends her workdays mainly at The Royal Palms and Lotus buildings. When she is not taking care of guests, she loves to receive a little pampering of her own at the hip beach club, Papaya Playa, in Tulum. She loves the good food, good music as well as the beautiful beach and declares it her favorite seaside spot to relax and soak up the warm Mexican sun. In fact, when Lene finds it too hard to leave, she’ll even spend the night in one of their cozy bungalows on the beach. Waking up to the sound of the waves is one of her greatest pleasures.
In Playa del Carmen, when she’s got a hankering for great Italian food, Lene goes directly to Romeo’s on Calle 4 between 10th and 15th Avenue. For a starter, she often has the deep fried calamari and the pesto lasagna is her top selection for a main course.
The other half of our dynamic sales duo, Erika, seconds Romeo’s for its superb Italian cuisine. She savors the 4 Cheese Gnocchi with a glass of wine. This busy, little eatery is well known for its fresh, handmade pasta, pizzas and salads including a tangy, warm octopus salad.
For her top choice destination in the Rivera Maya, Erika chooses to head to the Mezzanine Tulum with friends. The beachside hotel presents striking ocean views from its terrace and offers a delicious Thai menu. With her background in culinary arts, she appreciates exquisite food and recommends the Bolsitas de Dinero (Money Bags), or wontons filled with shrimp and jicama served with a spicy ginger sauce. Another favorite are the Triangulos De Oro (Gold Triangles) or wontons stuffed with goat cheese, nuts and basil with mango sauce. For breakfast, lunch, dinner or drinks, this is Erika’s top pick.
Miguel, our easy-going, personable ambassador at The Elements, prefers the octopus tacos and tuna tostadas at Chiltepin on Calle 34 and 20th Avenue. The seafood is fresh, the drinks are cold and the atmosphere is laid-back, just the way Miguel likes it!
If a more secluded beach is what you’re after, he will point you in the direction of Xpu Ha, about 25 minutes south of Playa del Carmen. Miguel suggests walking to the far right side, where he says is the perfect place to chill with some music, food and an ice-cold beer. A few beach clubs speckle the white sand at Xpu Ha, but there is also the option to pack your own cooler and find your very own place under a palm on this rustic stretch of heavenly shoreline.
Damien, our manager of operations at Bric, loves the Japanese dishes at Kampai on 5th between Calle 30 and 32. The upscale sushi eatery sits along 5th Avenue and offers not only delicious food and excellent service, but is a perfect location from which to people watch over drinks with friends.
If you want to hit the town and experience the sensational nightlife of Playa del Carmen, Damien’s favorite places in the city include Diablito Cha Cha Cha for a precursor – drinks and appetizers, then Salsanera for a few spins on the steamy dance floor! Both are located on Calle 12 in the club zone.
One of our longtime employees Abril, who works at the front desk of the Bric Hotel, thinks Piola on Calle 38 between 5th and 1st Avenue deserves an honorary mention. She is a big fan of the pizzas here and believe it or not, Abril’s #1 topping is a beaten egg! Unusual yes, but tasty, she swears. The ambience is fun, casual and welcoming towards families. They offer a vast selection of specialty drinks including a basil martini, and the pizzas are some of the best brick-oven pies in town!
Even on a rainy day, Abril is happy to bring her family to the Coba ruins for a day of exploring by bike and climbing the ancient pyramids. She says that once you arrive at the top, it is the most peaceful feeling to look out over the lush green jungle which reaches as far as the eye can see.
Josue, our fun-loving and always-on-the-go ambassador found it difficult to choose just one restaurant so he offered these for his preferred picks 1) La Floresta, best seafood (mariscos) tacos in Playa del Carmen, located on Calle 14 along the Federal Highway and 2) La Buena Vida beach club in Akumal for casual eats like ceviche and fish tacos. There are hammocks, beanbags chairs and plenty of shade from which to enjoy a laid-back afternoon and incredible turquoise views.
To spend a memorable day by the water, Josue suggests Blue Venado, situated 5 minutes south of Playa del Carmen. After snorkeling or horseback riding along the rustic beach area, the shaded lounge beds are a comfortable spot to relax with a good book or some music and of course, a bucket of ice-cold beer!
For the most delicious homemade hamburgers, sea salted fries and ranch dressing dipping sauce, our spa manager Jackie recommends La Buena Vibra on 115th Avenue just off the new highway 305. It’s a hole in the wall but the food will not disappoint and the staff is very welcoming and friendly.
Zenzi is also Jackie’s choice for a fun night out in Playa del Carmen. The tables are in the powdery-soft sand, surrounded by palms with strings of lights running through them. Quality musicians and DJs every night of the week make this a first rate hang out for locals and visitors alike.
Perhaps one of our most knowledgeable and adventurous ambassadors in the realm of gastronomy, Isaac recently discovered Mar Bella at the Puerto Juarez ferry terminal in Cancun. Next time you are planning a day trip to Isla Mujeres, Isaac suggests making a pit stop at this fantastic seafood restaurant. It is slightly hidden and you have to go through a convenience store front, then up a back staircase, but once you arrive, the panoramic ocean views are captivating. If you love fresh seafood, this is the place to find the best and biggest lobster he’s ever come across in the region!
In his downtime, Isaac likes to visit the Gran Cenote located 4 km from the town of Tulum (south of Playa del Carmen.) There are white sand beach areas, open, natural pools surrounded by lush vegetation, and caves in which to dive and snorkel through.
The fun-loving and spunky Ivonne, one of our on-site ambassadors at The Elements, has spent many nights out with friends at Almirante Pech. She loves the cool vibe and sophisticated environment. Menu items such as the tuna tzatziki and beet salad are flavorful and light and the artisanal beer and extensive bar in this tropical tavern make it a top choice for an elegant dinner out or drinks.
Our take-charge administrative assistant Janet enjoys the simple pleasures of life including cooking for her busy family of four kids. Her ideal meal involves picking up some fresh fish at El Pirata on Calle 40 between 5th and 10th Avenue and preparing a home cooked feast!
There you have it! So now that we let you in on our secret hideaways here in the Riviera Maya, we hope you will take the time to check them out for yourselves! May this list of Bric staff picks come in handy when you are looking for good food and fun options on your next trip to Playa del Carmen!
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About the Author
Juanita grew up in a small town in the middle of Canada. Having experienced twenty years of ruggedly cold climate, she had seen enough snow to last her a lifetime. After moving to and working in Vancouver for thirteen years (where she was ecstatic to see the odd palm tree) she jumped at the opportunity to move with her husband and three children to Playa del Carmen. She calls it a ‘dreamy existence’ and cherishes year-round, backyard barbecues with friends, road trips and watching the sunrise over the Caribbean. She writes for Bric Vacation Rentals.