Discover 5th Avenue Playa del Carmen Restaurants, Shopping, and More
Quinta Avenida is the hub of activity in this small city. 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen is where you can find shopping, delicious food, Mexican gifts, and much more. It’s full of fun things to see and do, tons of tourist traps, and some of the best people watching you’ll find in the Riviera Maya. It makes our list of the 15 Best Things to Do in Playa del Carmen, and is an absolute must-see for any first-time visitor.
As it’s a big street with a lot going on, I want to offer a few thoughts about what to see on 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen. I’ll cover some shopping tips, a few of our favorite restaurants, what to avoid, and how to actually approach this attraction and see it!
Staying in Playa del Carmen? Be sure to check out our favorite hotels in Playa!
The Basics of 5th Avenue Playa del Carmen
First, let’s discuss what 5th Avenue is all about in case you’re not familiar with it. Located just a couple of blocks from the beach, 5th Avenue is the tourist hub of Playa del Carmen. It’s a street that was closed off to cars in the early 2000’s, making it a beautiful pedestrian space.
The avenue runs from Juarez Avenue at the south end, up to about 40th street. The actual stretch is about two kilomters (or a mile and a quarter) long, and super easy to walk. Past 40th street, you may find some street vendors and action still going on, and I expect coming years will see an extension of the pedestrian-only part of the avenue. Also, since 5th Avenue is such a hub, you’ll find quite a bit going on up and down the cross-streets, and on adjacent parallel avenues.
On 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen, you can do quite a bit. If you just want to walk and see the local area, this is a great place to do so. You can shop for Mexican gifts, at designer stores, find great food, and take tours to Cozumel or out parasailing on the water. It’s really the place to start in Playa del Carmen. You can go to the bottom of this guide to 5th Avenue to see how you should approach it, or check out each section to see our recommendations for your visit to the famous Quinta Avenida in Playa!
5th Avenue Shopping
First, let’s talk about the shoppping on 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen. We will separate this out into two sections: international designers, and local goods. We will talk more about the little gift shops and Mexican items in the art and culture section, focusing more on things like clothing and accessories here. So, let’s start with the desingers and more international stores. At the south end in the mall, you’ll find a big Old Navy, Tommy Hilfiger, Zara, Lacoste, and more. Down on 12th Street to Avenida Constituyentes, you’ll find other big brands like Sephora, H&M, Forever 21, Victoria’s Secret, and Nike. If you’re looking for these stores, you should stay between 12th and Avenida Constituyentes, or head just south of the park and ferry to the mall (you can’t miss it when you’re nearby).
There are also many local shops selling swimwear, clothing, shoes, and more. It can be hard to find the right ones, know the right price, and figure out what places you want to shop at. Try to check to see where items are made, where the company or group is from, and what the items are made of. You may find places like Ay, Güey, a store with Mexican clothing and pieces. They’re based out of Mexico City, and make some cool stuff. You may also head down to the north end (around 38th Street) to find some street vendors selling beautiful sandals and handmade leather purses. Feel free to explore, and just remember to think before you act too impulsively with your desire to buy something! When first heading to 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen to shop, you may be tempted to buy everything you see!
5th Avenue Playa del Carmen Restaurants and Food
Trying to jump into the restaurants and food on 5th Avenue is a bit overwhelming. There’s a seemingly endless supply of places to eat, but let’s talk about a few of our favorites. Full disclosure, a couple of these are actually a block or two off 5th Avenue, but are totally worth mentioning! Here are a few of our favorite restaurants on 5th Avenue. If you’re willing to head a bit more into town, we strongly recommend checking out the local favorite, El Fogón. To dine at home, check out our list of our favorite Mexican cookbooks for some inspiration!
El pirata is a little seafood restaurant at the north end of 5th Avenue. It can be found on 40th Street, just a few meters west of 5th Avenue. If you enjoy seafood, you absolutely must visit El Pirata. For about 200 pesos, you can get an order of shrimp ceviche that can feed three people. They make fresh guacamole, offer beautiful catches of the day, and really stand out with amazing seafood. I recommend trying to shrimp ceviche, some of their fresh conch, or one of the whole fish they offer (especially the snapper if they have it).
Soma Urban Sushi Bar
If you want a newer and more international experience, check out Soma Urban Sushi Bar. Located on 10th Street between 5th Avenue and 10th Avenue, this is one of the pricier options along the strip here. However, their sushi is pretty darn good. They have fresh fish, delicious rolls, and I have had excellent service with my visits. I read some reviews before I went that complained about service, but we have been multiple times and I have never had a reason to complain. They do play some music in the evenings, and their upstairs area is really beautiful
El Güero is a small restaurant right on 5th Avenue between 40th and 42nd. It’s reasonably priced, although certainly not the cheapest. However, the portions may surprise you with how large they are! It’s hard to say what is good at El Güero, because I’ve loved everything I have tried there. It’s a perfect medium-priced restaurant. When the two of us go there, we usually spend about $400-500 pesos total, and leave way too full. The service is great, staff is super friendly, and they don’t tend to up prices or mess with tourists at all. Super welcoming place with arguably the best authentic food on the avenue.
La Cueva del Chango
Ah, La Cueva del Chango. It’s hard to write about this spot without craving it a bit. This is one restaurant that’s just off 5th Avenue, on 38th Street toward the ocean. La Cueva del Chango is the best breakfast option in Playa del Carmen that we’ve found. It’s often filled with locals, and they serve everything from traditional breakfasts in the US like eggs and bacon to the Mexican favorites like chilequiles. They have great coffee, fresh juices, delicious pan dulce, kind staff, and an awesome environment. You can sit out in the garden for a more jungle-feeling breakfast, or inside (kinda) for a more enclosed experience. They also offer some pretty solid vegetarian options!
Just off 5th Avenue a few blocks, you can find a hub of street food. We eat here frequently, where tacos run about 50¢, and you can find quesadillas, gringas, tortas, and many other local food. You can find the street vendors at Parque Portal Maya, on 15th Avenue and Benito Juarez Avenue. Keep in mind that you pay at the end, so don’t be shocked if they just start handing you food! It’s hot, fresh, and just straight delicious. For your money, it really doesn’t get any better than the street vendors!
Art and Culture
There are quite a few legitimate art galleries on 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen. On 16th Street between 5th and 10th Avenues, you will often find a bunch of artists working and displaying their pieces on the street. On Thursday evenings, a stretch from 26th Street heading north is often blocked out for artists (local and international). Some popular art galleries on Fifth Avenue include:
There are also many shops and stores selling “Mexican” goods. We put Mexican in quotes there, because many of them are actually selling Chinese goods that are made to emulate traditional Mexican items. The big pharmacies and shops that are well-light, air-conditioned, and huge tend to not be authentic. It’s up to you what you choose to buy, but I do want to share that there are many local people working hard to produce items that are much more authentic, less taxing on the environment, and support local economy and small business. Obviously, I am opinionated on this matter!
Anyway, there are some great places up and down the streets. Stop and chat with the people on the street selling goods, find places that are truly producing things in Mexico, and be smart. You can find wonderful gifts and souvenirs for family and friends down here on 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen.
Playa del Carmen Nightlife
There are a ton of bars and clubs in Playa del Carmen on 5th Avenue and in the surrounding area. As with the food, several of the good places are actually just off Fifth, but super close! Keep in mind that drinking can be expensive at tourist spots, and to make sure you keep your belongings on you. Safety is priority, but there hasn’t been a history of too many problems at the clubs and bars in the area.
Try checking out some of the bars down on the beach, and a few of the ones up a block on 10th Avenue. Everything Playa del Carmen has a great guide to the nightlife at http://everythingplayadelcarmen.com/the-everything-guide-to-the-best-bars-in-playa-del-carmen/ that we recommend checking out.
Tourist Traps on 5th Avenue
When traveling around 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen, there are tourist traps left and right. Remember that many of the workers here are paid largely on commission. Their job is to get people to sign up, to buy things, and to interact. You don’t need to stop and talk to anyone. It feels rude at times, but it’s just simply part of the culture to keep walking past the people yelling at you with a polite, “No, gracias.”
Here are a few things we recommend avoiding. Keep in mind that these are pretty subjective. First, watch out for tours, ferry tickets, and activities. Many of these stands and vendors are third parties that are marking up the fee. For example, if you want to take the Cozumel ferry, the cheapest place to buy a ticket will be right at the ferry terminal itself from the actual company. For the tours, you can often find cheaper prices online or directly from the company. Buying a tour or ticket from someone right on 5th Avenue will likely just leave you paying a bit more. It may be worth it for the convenience, but we wanted to give you the heads up!
The second one we’ve already mentioned. Most of the big stores that are well-lit and air conditioned and sell thousands of little knick-knacks are not actually Mexican stores. They’re big companies using Chinese manufacturing and shopping there doesn’t really do you much good. The prices are often too high for what they’re offering, the quality is pretty low, and you’re not supporting local Mexican business.
Finally, there are a lot of tourist traps in the bars and restaurants. Perhaps most famous is Señor Frog’s. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this bar/restaurant, but it’s essentially an overpriced drinking experience. There are many other places like this. We recommend trying to go more for the local experience! You may also consider getting travel insurance to cover any costs should anything happen and you lose some money!
You may also want to avoid using the ATMs on La Quinta. Get your pesos out elsewhere, and avoid paying in US Dollars. When considering using pesos or dollars in Mexico, pesos are the clear winner.
Where to Start on 5th Avenue
If it is your first time visiting 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen, it can be overwhelming to approach. It’s a big street with a lot going on. Here’s what we recommend doing to give it a visit. Start down at Avenido Benito Juarez at the south end. Walk up Fifth Avenue to about 40th Street, taking your time to see what’s in store. If you have the energy, you can walk back to where you started. Instead of walking straight back down 5th, you can try walking down 10th to see something a little different and less touristy, or go a few blocks down to the beach and walk back on the beach!
This is what we always recommend, as it offers you the opportunity to see all of Fifth and what grabs your attention, and see something a little different on the way back. With this trek, you should be able to get an idea of what the street has to offer, and where you want to go back to. Remember to take your time, as there’s a lot going on! It takes a good hour or so to walk to the end and back, but is a great way to spend your day outside and moving. You’re sure to get some good people-watching in as well!