A Walk Along Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen

The past month has been one of my favorites since I moved to Mexico over 6 years ago. For three weekends in a row, we found great excuses to make the 1-hour drive from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. First we went to the Taste of Playa Food Festival, then the next weekend to the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival, then last weekend just to hang out! Because who doesn’t want to wake up to this…

The most famous area of Playa del Carmen is Fifth Avenue (or “La Quinta”, as the locals call it), a pedestrian street that runs parallel to the beach. All along this avenue, you’ll find charming hotels, tons of restaurants, boutique shops, local artisanry, beautiful cafes and chic nightclubs right on the beach.

Coco Maya Beach and Night Club

A predominantly European destination, Playa del Carmen’s Fifth Avenue is ideal for people-watching. You’ll see everything from luxury travelers to backpackers all on one unique street.

My personal favorite part of Fifth Avenue is a small off-street called “Calle Corazon” (Heart Street). Calle Corazon is filled with twinkle lights, cafes and art galleries, and I lose myself in its magical atmosphere every time I walk by.

Calle Corazon

 

From Fifth Avenue, it’s just a one-block stroll down to the stunning Caribbean beach, where travelers can indulge in enticing meals right on the sand at oceanfront palapa restaurants. But to be honest, sometimes we don’t even make it to the beach! Our favorite thing to do is to simply walk up and down Fifth Avenue and talk about how much we want to move to Playa del Carmen.

"Jellyfish Lanterns"

What’s your favorite travel destination?

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.

Yet Another Playa Weekend

So excited! Today after work we’re leaving for a short weekend in Playa del Carmen. The company my friend works for has a currently empty 2-bedroom apartment there, so we’re going to enjoy a couple’s weekend. It’s going to be chilly, but fun! Hope your weekend is awesome, too.

Sand and Sound at the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival 2011

This past weekend was the annual Riviera Maya Jazz Festival in one of my favorite places: Playa del Carmen. Held Thursday November 24 through Saturday November 26 at the chic Mamita’s Beach Club, the festival hosted some of the top current jazz artists in Latin America and beyond.

Saturday’s concert began at 7 pm , but Jorge and I didn’t arrive at Mamita’s Beach until around 8 pm. The beach was immense and PACKED. We estimated there were at least 2,000 spectators that night, but probably more. Many had brought their beach chairs, others were standing, and even more were hanging out on the sand talking to groups of friends. It was a very relaxed vibe despite the large crowd.

Throughout the evening, we got to hear music by Richard Bona, Alex Otaola and the Yellowjackets. I’m not a huge jazz fan, but even I was really getting into it! Some of the music was a bit bland for me, but the upbeat numbers were a lot of fun.

Juan and Viri joined up with us later on, and we got a new spot near the very back of the crowd. It was less crowded, and everyone in that area was just sitting on the sand talking to friends with a pretty clear (if distant) view of the stage. Juan had brought a 10-pack, so he and Jorge joked over their beers while Viri and I spent the evening talking and taking pictures. We’ll definitely be back to the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival in 2012! It was a fun, relaxed evening of beach, friends and music.

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.

Taste of Playa 2011

I’d been looking forward to this past Sunday for a year now, and I was not disappointed!

Jorge, Viri, Juan and I all made our way south to Playa del Carmen for the annual Taste of Playa culinary event, sponsored by Diamonds International. For those who haven’t had the chance to explore the Riviera Maya, the city of Playa del Carmen is well-known for its charming bars and restaurants. The entire Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue) is filled with all kinds of dining venues, ranging from casual sandwich shops to chic upscale restaurants. Local bars are open-air, ideal for people watching while indulging in a margarita or artisan beer.

At Taste of Playa,  the best of all these unique options come together at Parque Fundadores, set on the Quinta Avenida right by the Caribbean Sea. Guests lined up to purchase “Playa Pesos”, each costing $10 pesos (roughly $1 USD) each. With just 1 Playa Peso, you can purchase some mouthwatering tacos, a cold cocktail, a spicy ceviche or even sushi!

We each wandered around on our own, sampling from almost every vendor we saw. The favorites among our small group were the crunchy tacos and some chocolate-covered cream puffs. I’m always surprised how the simplest dishes often turn out to be the best.

After an hour or two of culinary inspiration at Taste of Playa, our small group walked up and down Quinta Avenida to enjoy the laid-back vibe of Playa del Carmen before heading back to Cancun (where we immediately went to a taco joint, surprise surprise).

Since a picture’s worth a thousand words, I’ll let the slideshow do most of the talking. Try not to drool onto your keyboard:

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.

Taste of Playa Returns to the Riviera Maya!

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve already got my calendar marked for November 20. The city of Playa del Carmen will once again be hosting its annual “Taste of Playa” event, where guests can sample the favorite dishes and drinks from the city’s most popular bars and restaurants all in one stunning beachfront location.

My long-time readers may remember that Jorge and I got to go last year, and it was an amazing day filled with beer, cupcakes, shrimp and Caribbean views. (They obviously know exactly how to win over this couple!)

In my excitement to go back, I scored an interview with friend, Playa del Carmen resident and fellow blogger Michele Kinnon from Life’s a Beach, who has helped organize the event ever since its beginnings. I love her insights on PDC cuisine!

Michele, how are you involved in Taste of Playa?

My husband Rob and I are proud to be corporate sponsors for Taste of Playa. This is our third year supporting this community event. As expats and business owners in Playa del Carmen, we are always looking for ways to give back to the community that has given us so much. Taste of Playa is exactly the kind of event we try to ally ourselves with as it truly celebrates the diversity of the region. For the first two incarnations of Taste of Playa I had the role of Marketing Chairperson for the event, a job that I found challenging but rewarding in many ways. I got to work with an amazing group of women, all business owners in Playa del Carmen and all committed to promoting the Riviera Maya as a tourism destination.

How did Taste of Playa begin?

The idea for Taste of Playa was conceived in 2009 by a group of Playa del Carmen businesswomen. We were looking for a way to draw positive attention to all the wonderful things the Riviera Maya had to offer, ultimately increasing tourism to the area. This new culinary event was the culmination of hundreds of hours of planning and preparation volunteered by the Executive Committee and dozens of committed and passionate sub-committee members.

Why do you think this event has become so popular so quickly?

I think the event has been so successful because it appeals to many different people for many different reasons. For locals, it is a fun, affordable festival to enjoy with family and friends. For foodies it is a chance to scope out new restaurants and get some face-time with favorite chefs and restaurant owners. For tourists it is a destination event, one which many people now plan their travel around, that offers the opportunity to try the signature dishes of 40 plus local eateries all in one place, something they would likely not be able to do within the span of the average vacation week. For everyone, the event is a way to try great cuisine at a very accessible price whether you go for the VIP pass or buy individual tasting tickets.

What makes Taste of Playa different from other culinary events throughout the world?

What distinguishes Taste of Playa from many other food festivals and culinary events is its diversity. There is no one cuisine that represents The Riviera Maya. Certainly, we are in Mexico and Mexican and Maya cuisines are well represented here in hundreds of restaurants and eateries. What is different here is that unlike in most cities, which are divided up into neighborhoods such as Chinatown and Little Italy, all of the chefs and restauranteurs who have brought their unique cultures and cuisines to the Riviera Maya are working and living side by side with chefs from the local Mexican community. Walk down La Quinta in Playa del Carmen and you will find an Indian restaurant next door to a sushi joint, next to a taqueria, an Italian pizza place, an Argentinean steak house and so on. It’s like a great big culinary melting pot and Taste of Playa was designed to reflect just that!




What kind of cuisine can we expect to see at Taste of Playa this year?

As the Riviera Maya has a culturally diverse population made up of people from all over the world, we can expect that the cuisines represented at Taste of Playa 2011 will be equally diverse! Expect to see influences from France, Italy, Thailand and Spain mixing it up with traditional and contemporary Mexican cuisine! Many of the participants from years past will be returning but we also have quite a few new restaurants coming on board. I’m excited to see what they will bring to the table!


Thanks, Michele!

All photos courtesy of tasteofplaya.com

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.

Riviera Maya Road Revamp

As Cancun and the Riviera Maya continue to grow and flourish, any local following the #traficun hashtag on Twitter knows just how crazy traffic can get.

Highway 307 has especially affected by luxury resorts, new attractions and the discovery of hidden beaches. This coastal road begins in Cancun and continues south through Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Bacalar, all the way through the entire Riviera Maya.

With more and more commuters, weekend warriors, tourists and locals using this coastal highway over the past few years, traffic jams became so common that the stoplights, intersections and slower speed limits in each town along the road were more of a headache than a help.

A bridges and tunnel system was planned for popular traffic jam areas along Highway 307, like southern Cancun, Bonfil, Puerto Morelos and Playa del Carmen. Cancun kicked off this new system with a tunnel and traffic circle combination at the intersection of Avenida Tulum and Avenida Kabah, whose stoplight used to cause ridiculous lines at rush hour.

Avenida Tulum tunnel in southern downtown Cancun

As you drive 5 minutes south of the new tunnel, the Bonfil intersection is also undergoing the tunnel treatment, making a trip from downtown Cancun to the airport a breeze. (I used to drive through this intersection twice a day, and trust me… that stoplight had to go.)

The soon-to-be Bonfil tunnel

As you continue south along Highway 307 and make your way along the coast of the Riviera Maya, you won’t have to stop or even slow down thanks to the new overpass in the small fishing town of Puerto Morelos.

The convenient overpass bridge in Puerto Morelos is small, yet beautifully adorned!

The most impressive project of all is the new bridge/overpass system running through Playa del Carmen.Driving through this city used to cut 10-20 minutes off of travel time, but not any more. A set of several impressive bridges, combined with many entry and exit ramps, makes it easy for travelers and Playa del Carmen locals to get where they need to go.

Exit ramp by the Playa del Carmen bridge

 

These bridges are perfect for cutting travel time

So far I’m loving this new system! It’s so much faster and easier to get to the airport and travel through the Riviera Maya. No more stoplights for this gringa aventurera!


Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.

 

Xcaret

This weekend, I made the quick trip from Cancun to Playa del Carmen with Jorge’s family to visit one of my favorite places in the world: Xcaret.

Xcaret is an immense ecopark filled with unbelieveable attractions. I’ve been there 4 or 5 times already, and I still haven’t seen everything! The park has Mayan ruins, an underground river, a Mayan village, an hacienda, greenhouses, a huge butterfly pavilion (my favorite part), stunning beaches, dolphins, jaguars, sharks, a lookout tower, amazing restaurants, an aquarium… and the list goes on. All this is surrounded by lush jungle and winding paths, making you feel as if you’ve stepped into another world.

This park isn’t just about nature, though. It’s about Mexico. Combining Mexican culture, Mayan roots and the stunning jungle setting of the Riviera Maya, Xcaret is heaven on Earth. (Except for the snake that slithered across my foot at the entrance… sent that thing flying with a high kick and a scream!)

We started the day wandering around the hacienda near the entrance, with beautiful courtyards and unique colonial artwork, followed by amazing views of the Riviera Maya from the lookout tower. Then, we stopped by the orchid greenhouse (WOW) and took a turn on a riverboat.

A few of us jumped into the underground river, where we swam through caves and vine-covered cliffs, exiting into a beautiful enclosed jungle filled with vibrant butterflies. We walked past jaguars, tapirs and monkeys on our way to explore some Mayan ruins, then stopped by Xcaret’s large aquarium.

After a quick dip in the Caribbean Sea in one of the park’s crystal clear inlets, the family grabbed a quick dinner and headed to Xcaret’s famous show. Mayan warriors greeted us along the fire-lit path to the immense theater, where we sat back and watched the Mayan ball game, Papantla flyers and traditional dances from all over Mexico.

The evening ended with the show’s final song, “Mexico en la Piel” (Mexico In Your Skin), which brings tears to my eyes every. single. time.

Exhausted, I took a little cat nap on the car ride back to Cancun, thinking how much I’m dying to go back already.

[slideshow]

You can follow Xcaret on Twitter via @XcaretPark

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.

Mexican Independence Day Parties in the Riviera Maya

While all my fellow Americans are fast asleep in bed tonight, everyone in Mexico will be partying it up Independence Day style. Here, we don’t just shoot off some fireworks, eat some apple pie and call it a night… oh no. In Mexico, it’s not September 15th if you’re not staying up until the wee hours singing banda music with friends, family, or maybe even several thousand of your closest friends. I mean come on, the party doesn’t even officially start until El Grito just before midnight.

Home to some of the best nightlife in the world, Cancun and the Riviera Maya are no exception.

A local Independence Day show in downtown Cancun

In the early evening most Mexicans spend time with the family, maybe having dinner, going to a bar, or enjoying a local Independence Day show. At midnight, everyone crowds around the radio or TV to hear the president give El Grito. Cheers are made, hugs and kisses are given, and then it’s every man for himself. The older crowd will usually spend the rest of the night chatting, drinking and laughing at a friend’s house, while Cancun’s younger crowd will head out to the clubs in the Hotel Zone (if they’re not there already).

September 15 is a great night to explore Cancun’s Party Center since it fills up with both tourists and locals, all looking to celebrate Independence Day the best way they know how. Music, cheers and the green and red of the Mexican flag all come together in a rush of energy. Nightclubs like Coco Bongo, Dady O and The City host excited locals and visitors, and the thrill in the air becomes contagious. This is the best way to experience Cancun nightlife.

Another great spot to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day is in the laid-back city of Playa del Carmen in the Riviera Maya, where you’ll find a much more casual vibe along with excited crowds. Fifth Avenue and the surrounding streets overflow with partiers. Here, you can grab a beer at a local store and party in the street with crowds of thousands, or duck into a chic yet laid-back tropical bar to celebrate with your closest friends.

No matter where you are in the Riviera Maya on Mexico’s Independence Day, you’ll find exciting parties lasting all night. This is a country that really knows how to celebrate!

**Note: This is a blog hop! Feel free to check out any of the following blogs for more Mexican Independence Day fun! (Listed manually because WordPress is a jerk and won’t let me post the linky… WordPress, I think we need to talk.)

Mexico's El Grito de la Independencia

Celebrating Independence Day Around Mexico

Dolores Hidalgo: Cradle of Mexican Independence

The Story of El Grito and Mexico's Independence Day

United Mexico: Their Independence Day Traditions

16 Tips for a Great Mexican Independence Day


16 Little Known Mexican Facts

The Mexican Tequila Bandera

Viva la Independencia!

Mexican Independence Day Parties in the Riviera Maya

Where to Eat for Fiestas Patrias

10 Ways to Celebrate Mexican Independence

Mexican Independence Day in Cancun

 

 

Chiles en Nogada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.

Sunday in Playa del Carmen

This Friday, Jorge and I will have our 1-year wedding anniversary… I know, time flies, right? Since we’re booked up with plans for our friends’ wedding next weekend, we decided to celebrate yesterday by heading down to Playa del Carmen for the day.

We had a late night Saturday (bachelor and bachelorette parties) and didn’t wake up until 12:30 pm! We didn’t arrive in Playa until about 4 in the afternoon… which actually worked out great because we avoided the heat!

After a quick late lunch at Subway, we walked down to the beach. Jorge and I aren’t huge fans of the water in Playa del Carmen (we’re too spoiled from all or trips to Isla Mujeres), but you can’t beat the vibe of Playa! There were acoustic artists and bands playing at the nearby beach clubs, providing us with a great soundtrack to our afternoon.

Once the sun started to go down, we walked up and down Playa’s 5th Avenue (great for people watching!), then decided to try Wicky’s Beach Club for dinner since so many people have recommended it. It had very cool modern design, and a great location set right on the beach. When we sat down and looked at the menu, however, we realized it was a bit out of our price range for the day (embarrassing! although I suspect it’s more affordable at lunchtime), so we just ordered some smoothies. I highly recommend the blackberry smoothie. It blew me away!

Shamed by our lack of cash, Jorge and I decided to go to an old favorite… 100% Natural. This beautiful outdoor restaurant is filled with towering trees and vines, giving it a jungle-like atmosphere. As always, I had to test out my nighttime photography skills. Definitely improving! (sort of)

I had garlic shrimp with veggies (I have never had such fresh, delicious veggies in all my time in Mexico! I’ve never been so happy to see a green bean) with agua de jamaica, while Jorge got some kind of immense and amazing chicken sandwich.

By then it was pretty late, so we walked back to the bus station and made our way back to Cancun. I think I’m the only person in history who has ever been SAD to return to Cancun… what can I say, I love Playa del Carmen!