Fifth Avenue is a pedestrian strip that runs for about 2km parallel to the beach. It's the resorts main centre of activity both day and night. The avenue is full of restaurants and shops catering to the visitors needs. As you walk along it vendors will constantly try to entice you in to their shop or restaurant. They weren't pushy though and the place felt safe and had a relaxed atmosphere all day long. I did however get totally sick of being offered Cuban cigars every few yards.
If you want to go shopping, Playa del Carmen is the place for you. Look for the 5 th avenue, a street with more than a mile long filled with shops, cafes and restaurants. You can also catch the ferry to the nearby island of Cozumel. The bus terminal is also located at Playa Del Carmen, on the 5 th avenue.
As a traveller in Playa Del Carmen, a good part of your life away from the beach will revolve around 5th Avenue (Avenida Quinta). It's where you go for coffee in the morning, to look for something for lunch, to shop for everything from crafts to expensive silver or perfume, to people watch, to browse art, to have dinner, to go dancing, to see and be seen. Don't get me wrong, there are so many charming (and cheaper) restaurants and shops in the surrounding side-streets, but 5th is the blood and lifeline where everything else branches out from. 5th Avenue is a pedestrian-only cobblestoned street and on a nice warm evening, it can be intoxicating just to walk up and down the length of it several times.
5th Avenue is becoming more developed all the time and seems to expand in length at about a block a year. Sadly, more and more retail food chains are moving in pushing local businesses further from the centre of the action.
I love 5th, and I'd venture to say it's one of my favourite places on the planet because of the sights, sounds, and smells. Mariachis play on the corners, blues bands play at the "Bourbon Street Restaurant", there are open air restaurants ranging from quick pizza to tableclothed fine-dining, fire bursts from barbeques as they cook local chicken dishes or kebabs, Italian wine, French coffee and pastries, Mexican tequila, British draught, Cuban cigars, people dressed in Gucci, people dressed in beach-slob gear, people barely dressed at all, street performers, motorcycles on display, the occasional stray dog roams with its own intent. It is as though a joyous god took Mexico, Cuba, parts from all over Europe, and the Los Angeles Sunset Strip and crammed them all together into one single fantastic kilometre.
I put off writing this tip for so long because I find 5th so indescribable; in letters home I wrote, "Every day feels like Christmas here."
2007 Update: Way, way, way too many people on 5th these days! Just compare my photos against the year taken.
Near the beginning of the 5th avenue pedestrian mall, I wandered to an opening and looked over into the forest and park and saw two wild pigs grazing. This was close to the McDonald's, and is inside the old Mayan walled city Xamen Ha that occupied virtually the same space as the original fisherman's village of Playa del Carmen.
At other sites, at several of the resort hotels in Playacar and also near the Xamen Ha condo hotel I caught sight of a sereki (a local rodent about the size of a rabbit and resembling a rabbit with short rounded ears and with a groundhog type tail). I was told that sereki are welcomed by local gardeners because they are considered good luck and because they keep out pests.
On the grounds of my hotel, there was a coatamundi, a racoonlike mammal, that scampered before I got his picture. Iguanas might be encountered almost anywhere, near the murallas close to 5th avenue, at a ruin site, or in the aviary, where I spotted this one.
5th Avenue is a street that runs parallel with the beach. It's the main street of the pedestrian zone where you will find numerous stores selling tourist crap as well as restaurants and hotels. There are clothing stores selling the latest trends from Europe as well as Cuban Cigar and Rum stores. It's an interesting place with a bunch of things to watch. I've seen fire breathers, boa constrictors, people selling tours, the talking parrots, and a bunch of characters parading down 5th. People watching is actually my favorite activity on this street.
5ta Avenida, 5th Avenue, is a street that goes paralell with the beach. It's a pedestrian zone and is lined with hotels, restaurants, cafées, bars and all kinds of touristic shops. You can find all you want in this street, but try to explore a bit of the rest of the city too. The things you find in this street can be a bit expencive. But go away from this street and you will find many cheaper things. There are some really good and cheap mexican restaurants just a few streets away, and the salespeople are not as "pushy" as on 5ta Avenida.
If you stay in Playa del Carmen it is hard to avoid 5th Avenue, the main pedestrian street through town. It is filled with shops with their owners delivering lines such as "it's practically free", "a special deal just for you" and "hey honeymooners", restaurants offering 2 for 1 drink specials and all you can eat meals and people selling excursions.
We found ourselves walking quickly through the area every morning as we were off on excursions, it is much quieter than in the evenings. And at nights we would stroll through looking for a place to eat although we ended up off 5th Avenue on all but one night.
In Playa you can walk down the 'Quinta Avenida' . This street is a succession of shops, bars and restaurants. You'll can enjoy the cheerfulness and the colours of Playa. You can go shopping, sit down at a bar and drink a beer listening to the music, take a snack at an itinerant stall or simply walking while the sellers call you 'Hey amigo! Mira!'.
You can also make friends with the local fauna!!
Very tourist but at the same time - interesting to see and show.
Good to party at and wonder in the night.
Lovely to eat out at and just stroll around.
Best time to visit is after 6pm.
Walk the streets of Playa del Carmen. The main street is the 5th Avenue. Here you will find lots of shops, cafes, restaurants. You can listen to mariachi or have a margarita in a bar.