When you are visiting a new city, it’s helpful to do your due diligence and gather useful information so that when you arrive at your destination, everything runs a little smoother. With travel tips, you can minimize the unknowns and be more prepared when you find yourself in unfamiliar territory.
Tips such as where to find top-notch authentic cuisine, or the best way to get from point A to point B, can help to enhance your overall experience, especially when these recommendations come from locals who know the city well.
Aligning with our mission to provide the most exceptional vacation experiences possible for our clients, we have created this list of Playa del Carmen’s 10 Bests. Based on customers’ frequently asked questions, our Bric staff was given a survey. Of the hundreds of incredible dining experiences to be had in the city, it was very difficult to narrow the choices to just three per category. We’re sharing the winning votes so that when you come to Playa del Carmen, you know where to go to enjoy the city’s best!
1. Best Margarita In Town
Gold: La Piola
(Calle 38 between 1st & 5th Ave)
La Piola has been around for years and has a big local following. Besides great margaritas, they are famous for basil martinis and delicious brick oven pizzas.
You’ll love the Playa-esque setting with light bulbs strung through the trees. Some nights, it is the place to gather to watch the game, while on other evenings, you can enjoy incredible live music while you sip your icy margarita.
Silver: Casa Sofia (Plaza Paseo Coba on Aviation Road)
Bronze: Tiny Tiki Hut (20th Ave between Calle 6 & 4)
2. Best Authentic Mexican Restaurant
Gold: La Cueva Del Chango
(Calle 38 between 1st & 5th Ave)
La Cueva Del Chango (meaning The Monkey’s Cave) is a longstanding favorite in Playa del Carmen. You can choose a seat outside in the lush garden or under the thatched palapa at one of the tables surrounding the Koi fish and turtle pond.
Here you can expect some of the best service in town for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The owners are proud to support local farmers and the freshness is evident in each delicious dish.
Silver: Doña Mary (30th Ave & Calle 28)
Bronze: Axiote (Calle 34 in between 5th & 10th Ave)
3. Best Fine Dining
Gold: Harry’s Prime Steakhouse and Raw Bar
(5th Avenue between Calle 12 & 14)
Harry's prides itself on offering only 100% fresh cuts of the top three best meats in the world; USDA PRIME, Australian Black Onyx pure Black Angus Beef, and Japanese Kobe.
Patrons tout the upscale Playa del Carmen restaurant as ‘fine dining at its best.’ Featuring a superior wine selection, ice cream made right at the table, the biggest lobster tails you have ever seen and steaks so tender they melt in your mouth, it’s best to make reservations if you’re planning a special night out.
Silver: Imprevist (1st Avenue between Calle 14 & 16)
Bronze: Sonora Grill (5th Ave & Calle 12)
4. Best Breakfast
Gold: La Cueva Del Chango
(Calle 38 between 5th & 1st Ave)
La Cueva Del Chango takes home the gold once again for best breakfast place in town. The enchiladas are some of the best in town, however you can try other great local flavors in their fresh, blended house juices, as well as the empanada, crepe, chilaquile, and omelette dishes.
The menus are in English and Spanish, the prices are fair and you can always count on service with a smile.
Silver: Chez Celine (5th Ave & Calle 34)
Bronze: Lara and Luca (Aviation Road)
5. Best Tour
Gold: Xel Ha Park
The Xcaret Experiencias Group has six (plus the soon-to-open, Xavage) remarkable ecoparks under their belt. But if we had to pick our favorite, it would be Xel Ha. Although you would undoubtedly have an unforgettable day or evening at any of their parks, travellers of all ages have a blast exploring the phenomenal nature at Xel Ha.
Among some of the thrilling features within the expansive park are modest zip lines, The Cliff of Courage (for confronting your fear of heights), Children’s World with slides leading into the turquoise waters, snorkelling bays, cenotes and the Lighthouse. This newer addition towers over the park and presents a magnificent 360-degree view.
You can also take a mini expedition into caves, traverse over jungle paths on a bike and float along a picturesque river enclosed by mangroves. Xel Ha is all-inclusive, which means you can leave your dinero in the lockers and eat and drink to your heart’s content.
Silver: Rio Secreto
Bronze: Coba Archaeological Site & Cenote
6. Best Beach Club
(Calle 10 & the beach)
For over a decade, Zenzi Beach Bar has been a fixture on Playa del Carmen’s picturesque coastline. A perfect place to “Eat Drink and Chill” with your toes in the sand, Zenzi attracts visitors and locals alike, showcasing incredible live local talent on their main stage.
Zenzi offers one of the best locations in the city to partake in salsa classes (every Monday, Thursday and Saturday at 9pm.) On other evenings, you can enjoy the amazing fire or acro yoga shows that never fail as crowd pleasers. The beloved beach club also serves as an excellent venue for events such as art expositions.
Silver: Kool Beach Club (Calle 28 & the beach)
Bronze: Lido (Between Calle 10 & 12 and the beach)
7. Best Romantic Restaurant
(Avenida Juarez between 60th & 70th Ave)
This underground cave dining experience is truly one-of-a-kind. Imagine sampling creative plates highlighting the unique tastes of the region as the light from candles and chandeliers reflects against centuries-old stalagmite and stalactite formations.
Alux features an impressive wine cellar for tasting, a main dining area, a lounge and bar area, as well as a handful of private tables tucked away in hidden crevices, creating the ultimate romantic atmosphere.
Silver: Aldea Corozon (5th Ave between Calle 14 & 14bis)
Bronze: Sundowner Yacht Club (Plaza Paseo Coba on Aviation Road)
8. Best Island Daytrip
Gold: El Cielo
Although technically El Cielo is on the island of Cozumel, (our runner-up) it is a full-day tour in and of itself. Your boat captain makes stops at two vibrant reefs, bursting with a rainbow of colourful coral and fish on route to El Cielo. This stunningly beautiful bay area is only accessible by boat, which means on most days, your group will be able to enjoy the strikingly clear waters to yourselves, with the exception of maybe one or two other boats.
Stingrays frequent the heavenly spot, plus you’re likely to encounter starfish, sea turtles and grouper in the shallow waters, which resemble a pristine pool.
Bronze: Isla Mujeres
9. Best Pub For Cheap Beer
Gold: Cervecería Chapultapec
This popular pub seems to be popping up on a new corner every month in Playa del Carmen. People love the concept of offering each menu item – from cocktails and beer to tacos and burgers – at one price! What first peeked our curiosity about La Cervecería Chapultapec were the crowds that filled the space on a nightly basis. With so much competition, it is not an easy feat for a Playa restaurant and bar to pack the house on any given night.
But, what really blew us away when we finally had the opportunity to visit La Cervecería was the value you get for your money. After receiving the bill, we had to check twice to see if the server had forgotten to charge for something. We could not believe that three of us could eat and drink for under $400 pesos!
There are two central locations (10th Avenue and Calle 14 or 1st Avenue and Calle 22) to choose from. The lively pub atmosphere is the ideal place for a casual night out in Playa del Carmen.
Silver: Tiny Tiki Hut (20th Ave between Calle 6 & 4)
Bronze: La Verbena (Calle 34 between 5th & 10th Ave)
10. Best Tacos
Gold: El Fogon
Of all things Mexican, there is nothing more authentic than the taco as far as food goes. That’s why a visit to a taquería is a must and El Fogon sits at the top of our list for best tacos in Playa del Carmen.
Whether you’re taking the family for tacos al pastor (a vertical spit-roasted marinated pork) after a day at the beach, or need some late-night grub after a few beers at the club, tacos are a good idea any time of day!
Currently, this well-liked eatery has three downtown locations. There is one on Constituyentes between 25th and 30th Avenue. Another sits on 30th Avenue at Calle 32 and the third is on 30th Avenue and Calle 8 kitty-corner to the Wal-Mart.
Silver: El Gran Taco (Across from Centro Maya Mall on Calle 41 Sur)
Bronze: Los Hijos Del Mar (30th Ave between Calle 24 & 26)
The number of dining establishments can make choosing seem overwhelming. But this list of Playa del Carmen’s best offers a perfect start point to discovering the city’s phenomenal gastronomy scene. For more suggestions on local cuisine, our BRIC Vacation Rentals ambassadors are happy to share more of their favorites!
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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.