Curio Collection Local Guide, Playa del Carmen
We sent Mexico based Yodeler Vicky Navarro to The Fives Downtown Hotel & Residences, Curio Collection by Hilton to create a Playa del Carmen, Mexico Local Guide. From the colors and culture of 5th avenue to the picture-perfect white sand beaches of the Caribbean, The Fives Downtown Hotel offers the perfect mix of city and sea and the ultimate place to plant yourself when exploring Riviera Maya. Vicky created an incredible travel guide full of local secrets and destination tips just for you.
Name? Vicky Navarro
Occupation? I am an architect and photographer
Preoccupation? My preoccupation is architecture
Place you live? I live in Tulum, México (45 minutes south of Playa del Carmen)
How long have you lived there? I have lived in Tulum 4 months, but I also spend a lot of time in Mexico City.
Can you sum up Playa del Carmen in a paragraph? Playa del Carmen is located in México’s Riviera Maya, a collection of white sand beaches stretching south from Cancun along the northeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Tourists come to this region for a lot of reasons, but most come for its laid-back Caribbean beach scene, beautiful coral reefs, biologically diverse interior jungle, and rich Mayan history. Delightful local cuisine, colorful arts and crafts, and a relaxed multicultural vibe add to the mix. No wonder so many people from all over the world come for vacation and then end up staying.
What is the best thing about Playa del Carmen? The local food, beach, and art scene are stand-outs, but Playa del Carmen’s location along the Yucatan Penninsula exposes visitors to an abundance of world-class activities that few other regions can match. For example, the Rivera Maya’s coral reefs and underwater caverns are considered one of the premier snorkeling locations in the world. Other watersports, such as kayaking, windsurfing, and scuba diving are also very popular. Deep sea fishing tours for barracuda, wahoo, kingfish, bonito, and tuna are available year round, and the area around Playa del Carmen boasts some of the most impressive Mayan ruins in Central America.
What is a perfect day in Playa del Carmen? A perfect day in Playa del Carmen starts with an authentic Mexican breakfast, such as huevos estrellados or chilaquiles with Mexican sauces (habanero for those who are brave!). One of my favorite spots for breakfast, La Cueva del Chango, has been around 15 years and offers fresh, natural food in a lush, jungle setting. After breakfast, take a walk along 5th Avenue, Playa del Carmen’s main walking street. The street is lined with local handicrafts shops, good restaurants and a wide range of beach bars. On 5th Avenue, between 26 N and the 34 N Ave. you can shop for dresses, textiles and home décor items made with gorgeous homemade fabrics. At Biuriful, you will find a perfectly curated selection of Mexican fashion designers offering a great selection of lovely swimwear, jewelry, hats, and sunglasses.
Then, of course, it’s off to the beach for a day on some of the softest and whitest sand in the Peninsula, if you want to explore a little further afield, go to Tulum, a charming, small town with a lively main street just 45 minutes from Playa del Carmen. While you are there visit the Tulum Mayan Ruins, and enjoy the magnificent view from the bluffs high above the Caribbean Ocean.
Returning to Playa del Carmen head to El Tigre for a tequila and mezcal tasting (they have over 100 varieties), then catch the sunset from Purobeach rooftop at The Fives Hotel Downtown. Then go to Diablito Cha Cha Cha for dinner. The restaurant, which juts out into the sea, offers a beautiful view. The menu includes authentic Mexican cuisine, but Asian specialties as well. The cocktails are outstanding; most are prepared with artisanal Mexican liquors and bitters, It’s a perfect place to end the day because if you still have the energy you can go upstairs where DJ’s setting up for a long night of music and dancing.
What are the people like in Playa del Carmen? Playa del Carmen is a melting pot of people from Mexico and many other countries around the world. You will hear lots of different languages spoken on the street, and there is a large community of ex-pats who came on vacation and stayed. The community is known for being friendly, laid back and welcoming.
If Playa del Carmen was a character who would it be? Sebastian, the crab from The Little Mermaid., Sebastian’s tropical vibes and care-free attitude are felt from the streets of Playa del Carmen to the beaches.
Tell us about your experience staying at The Fives Downtown Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton: I felt so at home at The Fives Downtown Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton. Every Team Member, from the bellhop to the bartender knew me on a first name basis. The lobby is awe-inspiring and uses the vibrant colors of Mexico in its overall design to create a warm and welcoming environment. These colors are then carried throughout the hotel in design details like the cushions, carpet and room accessories.
One of the things that are most important to me when I travel is whether or not a hotel uses high-quality local products and how it approaches its impact on the environment. I was very well satisfied with The Fives Downtown Hotel in this regard. I really enjoyed the local coffee, Marley Coffee, provided in the room, artwork and the room was quiet so I was able to get a great night sleep.
What details of The Fives Downtown Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton stood out? The hotel design is outstanding. As an architect, I pay close attention to the details, and it’s obvious that this hotel’s designers and Team Members do as well. I especially liked how the hotel uses colors and light to create different atmospheres in the different public spaces within in the building. Again, I can’t say enough about the Team Members. They were warm and helpful, giving me a tour to show me what was happening in every corner of the hotel.
I also loved the rooftop infinity pool and spent the day there with a nice mezcal margarita while reading a book. Even though I live in a sleepy beach town just south of Playa del Carmen, my work keeps me moving constantly, so this was the perfect local getaway to sit back, relax, and work on my tan.
If a friend was visiting Playa del Carmen for 24 hours what would you suggest they do? My friend should start by waking up early in order to see the sunrise from the hotel’s rooftop. The colors are beautiful, and they change every second. Then, I recommend breakfast at Chez Celine, a restaurant located at 5th avenue and 34 St N. This restaurant has a wonderful bakery with everything from sandwiches to freshly baked pastries. After breakfast, walk about 15 minutes and see what is happening along the 5th where the best souvenirs from small, locally owned businesses are sold. From there head to the beach. There are a lot of good beach choices, but there is a very nice spot just out front of the hotel. When it is time for lunch, head to El Zorro Plateado, for really excellent, authentic Mexican cuisine. Try the grilled octopus or the ceviches, but if you are taco lover then definitely try one of each. And choose from the wide selection of good beers.
In the afternoon, head back to the hotel’s amazing rooftop bar where you can enjoy a cocktail and the infinity pool. After a heavy meal, my favorite cocktail is the Carajillo — a shot of espresso, a shot of Licor 43 (a sweet vanilla-citrus flavored liquor), and a lot of ice. It´s fresh, and a perfect digestive. And as long as you are there, stay and enjoy the sunset.
In the evening, walk to the main plaza at Los Fundadores Park, where traditional Mayan dancers, Voladores de Papantla, perform every hour. In this unique and spectacular program, four men ascend a 100-foot pole, and then, with their feet attached to ropes, “fly” around the pool, slowly descending to the ground while a ceremonial ritual is performed for the audience.
From Los Fundadores Park, walk to La Cueva del Chango, for a lovely Mexican dinner in a natural setting. Try the guacamole and chips and the catch of the day. The fish is a big dish so it can be shared. The passion fruit margarita is also a must. Finish out the night by returning to the beach to dance until your body hurts at Diablito Cha Cha Cha, a funky “palapa” with a live DJ and a 50’s tropical vibe that will remind you why Mexico is always a good idea!