Experience The Riviera Maya Like A Local: 11 Non-Touristy Things To Do In Playa del Carmen
Undoubtedly, this Mexican Caribbean region overflows with captivating experiences for both landlubbers and sea lovers. You don’t have to go far or spend hundreds to have wonderful encounters that will be stamped in your heart forever. We invite you to explore the back roads and engage with the locals in these out-of-the-way gems. This list of non-touristy activities provides a chance for visitors to live the Playa del Carmen lifestyle. But it comes with a warning: Playa life is addictive and may cause an intense urge to settle in permanently.
Mariscos At Muelle 115
For the most part, visitors stick to meandering Playa del Carmen’s main tourist hub. But there’s a myriad of exceptional eateries that make the venture beyond 5th Avenue worthwhile. In fact, you’ll discover a world of incredible Mexican fare on the west side of town. between 115th and 125th Avenue near Avenida 28 de Julio, choose from authentic tacos, pub eats, sushi and much more. Plus Plaza Punto 115 is a public market featuring a collection of eateries and open-air bars with lively atmospheres.
One in particular within this up-and-coming district, which consistently presents fantastic mariscos and friendly service is Muelle 115. Open daily from 1:00 pm to 9:00 pm (except Mondays), the menu is a savory seafood extravaganza. Delve into citrusy ceviches, fresh oysters, zesty aguachiles, fried octopus, and a variety of tasty seafood tacos.
Cocktails On The Rooftop Of IT Boutique Hotel
Tucked away on a quiet side street on Playa del Carmen’s north end, IT offers an upscale ambience along with an extensive wine and cocktail list. Close enough to the Caribbean, the sea breezes brush across the rooftop making IT a comfortable spot to sip and dance a sizzling night away.
Located on Calle 44 and 1 Ave Norte, the glistening strings of lights and incredible House music set the roof terrace aglow, playing perfectly into Playa’s quintessential vibe. On Tuesday nights, there is a small cover charge for Bachata and Kizomba classes starting at 7 pm.
Peruse The Sunday Street Market
The ‘tianguis’ is an important part of Mexican culture. Vendors set up booths typically in an open-air street market on a certain day of the week. You can find clothing, household items and utensils, tools, toys, street food, dried chiles, and much more.
In Playa del Carmen, the market is a modest one. Nonetheless, it is still fun to browse and gives a sense of the local scene. The stands are set up Sundays on 10th Avenue beginning near Calle 58. Streets are closed off to traffic and the market tends to bustle from about 10am to 1pm.
A Bacalar And Los Rápidos Road Trip
Although it’s a bit of a trek, seeing the impressive Lagoon of Seven Colors in Bacalar is worth the car rental and 3-hour drive. The Magic Town (one of Mexico’s 132 Pueblos Magicos) overlooks the picturesque body of water with its breathtaking hues of blues, greens, and sandy browns. Schedule a pontoon boat tour which sails to 2 different cenotes, bird island, as well as the Canal de Los Piratas. The excursion lasts about 2 hours and offers plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in the strikingly clear waters.
Additionally, kayak and paddle board rentals are available if you want to explore the vivid lagoon at your own pace.
On the mainland, you can walk through the Fort of San Felipe, read about the pirates who ravaged the town in the 17th and 18th centuries, and take a photo by the canons. The day at Bacalar would not be complete without a fantastic meal lagoon side at one of our favorite spots, La Playita.
If you can fit it in, a river float on the gentle rapids at Los Rapidos (about a 20-minute drive from Bacalar) is an experience to remember. Situated on a simple plot of land in the country, the setting is a peaceful paradise. There is a minimal entrance fee of about $150 Mxn pesos ($7.50 USD), a restaurant, and inviting hammocks sitting just above the palm-lined, turquoise river. Since not many know about Los Rapidos, relaxing in the natural beauty of this tranquil gem is an idyllic way to spend an afternoon.
Yoga Class And Lunch At Salade
As Starbucks is to America, yoga is to Playa del Carmen. You can find any type of yoga practice, retreat, or instructor courses on almost any given week throughout the Riviera Maya. Whether you’re looking for a full-body workout, a meditative experience, or you want to start your day from OM, Playa’ s vast class offerings are sure to meet your needs.
Conveniently located, Yogaloft Playa del Carmen sits on 10th Avenue in the heart of the city. The longstanding yoga school has earned TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence on numerous occasions. Owner, Michael Gannon has been leading yoga practices for over 2 decades. He and his group of exceptional instructors are world-class and will both challenge you and leave you feeling balanced.
Across the street, fuel yourself for yet another sublime day in the Mexican Caribbean at Salade. This salad bar style eatery presents the choice of building your own creation with choices such as legumes, seasoned chicken, boiled eggs, and an endless selection of fresh vegetables.
Alternatively, you may order one a salad, wrap, bowl, or panini from their delicious menu. For something lighter, there is a long list of smoothie and fresh juice combinations to choose from. But we highly recommend their signature cucumber and mint juice.
A Paleta Por Favor
Along with fresh blended juices (aguas frescas), paletas are a common treat in Mexico. Similar to popsicles, they are frozen ice bars on sticks. However, paletas are made with natural ingredients and juice from tropical fruits including mango, pineapple, tamarind, and lime. For something more rich and creamy, try the coconut or nut flavors.
There are many paleterias scattered throughout the city, usually near the big grocery stores such as La Michoacana outside the Centro Maya shopping mall. But if you’re in the city center, try La Flor de Michoacan on 30th Avenue and Constituyentes.
Le Lotus Rouge
It cannot be explained as a bar, or a restaurant, or an event center. Le Lotus Rouge is an experience. Natasha, the eccentric mastermind behind this art concept unites artists of every kind with the community in unique and thought-provoking ways. You are encouraged to leave judgments at the door and open your mind up to the unordinary. It’s as if walking into a dream, a circus, and a dazzling artistic space all in one.
Through her many years as a Playense, Natasha has taught painting classes to all ages, created an unconventional museum of her own inspired sculptures and artwork, as well as showcased hundreds of talented musicians, comedians, and performers in Le Lotus Rouge.
When in Mexico…No Playa del Carmen vacation is complete without a visit to an authentic taqueria. Locals will argue over which is the best of the best, but there are three taco joints that typically make it on every list.
El Fogon has three downtown locations. If you asked a taxi driver to take you to his favorite taco place, you’d probably end up at one of them. Secondly is Don Sirloin, also with multiple locations. Finally, El Ñero on Benito Juarez in between 40th and 45th Avenue rounds out the list.
If you’re testing traditional tacos for the first time, go with el pastor— these are always crowd winners! Marinated sliced pork is slowly flame-grilled on a rotating spit. The mouthwatering tacos are usually complemented with a slice of pineapple. Topped with cilantro, diced onions, and a zesty salsa, el pastor is a Mexican cuisine all-star.
Take In A Show At Teatro de la Ciudad
This modern venue is on the west end (opposite the beach side) near Walmart on 115th Avenue. The theater is a performing arts hub, but also hosts speaker conferences, film festivals, and community events.
You can see live Spanish versions of popular Broadway musicals, Christmas concerts, orchestras, and local favorite ballet performance of The Nutcracker. Tickets are very reasonable (under $15 USD) and are available at the on-site ticket office near the day of the event. Visit their Facebook page for an up-to-date calendar of events.
Let Your Creativity Flow at a Painting Class
Rouse your inner Rembrant by participating in a fun and engaging painting class with Jesse and Angeles from Canvas & Cocktails Mexico. Each month, the dynamic duo (both in talent and personality) host group classes in lovely venues throughout the Riviera Maya.
In addition to igniting your creative side, the 4-hour classes present wonderful opportunities to connect with locals and the expat community. For more info on upcoming events, check out their Facebook page or reach out via WhatsApp to +52(984)118-7220.
Also, if you’re in search of the perfect gallery piece for your home, Art Angel Fine Art showcases a diverse collection of original fine art. As well, limited edition fine art canvas prints can be shipped worldwide and include a certificate of authenticity. To arrange a gallery visit, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sample Sensational Street Food
What is a trip to Mexico without stopping by a taco, tamale, or empanada stand? There are a few locations at which to immerse yourself in the local flavors. On the corner of 30th Avenue and Calle 38, there are a few stands from which to sample empanadas and tacos. Also, in the Mega grocery store parking lot on 30th & Constituyentes, you’ll discover various food trucks. Try the Tacos de Birria, shredded stewed meat served in corn tortillas with a side of flavorful broth for dipping.
Another spot to try insanely delicious casual eats is La Cochi-Loka on Calle 10 between 5th and 10th Avenue. Famous for their cochinita pibil tortas, the slow roasted pork sandwiches (marinated in achiote seeds) offer a traditional Yucatecan burst of flavor.
For more sensational street eats and hidden gems, be sure to tap into the treasure trove of insider information provided by your designated Bric ambassador.