The Riviera Maya is one of the most highly touristed regions in the world, known mainly for its Caribbean beaches, five-star all-inclusive resorts, and wonderous system of cenotes. The never-ending options of beautiful swimming spots and outdoor activities is the biggest allure, but the Riviera has even more to offer with its eclectic array of restaurants, cafes, and bars. Here tourists, travelers, and locals unite to enjoy a great meal, a refreshing beverage, and a welcoming atmosphere. Here are my favorite dining and drinking spots in Playa del Carmen.
Playa is, after all, a coastal town, so seafood abounds. A popular local seafood restaurant located right on the beach is La Tarraya, serving up filets of the days fresh catches and offering lounge chairs and umbrellas for a post-meal siesta. Chiltepin is another very popular seafood restaurant that is actually a franchise found in the Riviera that offers an array of delicious seafood dishes including tostadas and tacos. The two most popular ceviche spots for locals are La Barracuda and El Doctorcito. La Barracuda is located in a local neighborhood and is family-friendly and super casual with giant family-sized portions of various different ceviches. El Doctorcito is a younger, hip scene with DJ sets and a full bar.
If you are looking for deliciously authentic Mexican food in Playa, I recommend El Fogon as it has a widely varied menu, various locations, and is always packed. If you are looking for central Mexican style tacos, Tacos Nero is the place to eat, and its open late! La Perla Pixan cuisine is a high-end Mexican restaurant that serves beautifully presented and elaborate traditional dishes, and often has live traditional music from different regions. They also serve their own plain and cured pulque which is certainly a treat in southern Mexico.
Playa has an incredible variety of international cuisine as many of the tourists and travelers visiting are often so enamored of the Caribbean, they decide to stay and open up food businesses. There is a huge Italian population in Playa, and thus a number of great Italian food restaurants. My two favorites are Cheester and Don Chendo. Chester is a classic, red and white checkered table cloth family-style pasta and salad restaurant serving up meals in enormous quantities meant to be shared. There are around 30 different pasta dishes to choose from and around 20 different salads, plus there is oven-baked hot fresh bread for accompaniment. Don Chendo is an Italian restaurant specializing in deep-dish pizza, with the most delicious and gourmet pizza pies around, you will not be disappointed!
Comet is an American 1950’s style diner with hamburgers, hot dogs, curly fries and milkshakes; however, there is one defining characteristic: everything is vegan! Do not let that scare you meat-eaters. Everything is absolutely delicious, made to order, and the atmosphere is really fun with an old-school jukebox, pictures of famous movie stars from the ’50s and big luxurious and sparkly booths modeled after old convertibles.
My favorite spot for falafels in Playa is Eat bar. Owned by Israelis, Eat bar offers some of the best falafel, hummus, and Mediterranean fare this side of the Atlantic. They are a small take-out joint with delivery service as well.
The best brunch and patisserie in Playa is without question, Chez Celine. Located on the famous la Quinta, Chez Celine is primarily outdoor seating with the inside acting both as the kitchen and a French bakery. I have never had better almond croissants in my life! DAC is a local outdoor organic and specialty grocery store with a small restaurant annexed to it. The restaurant has delicious fresh juices, smoothies, and coffee along with a wonderful breakfast menu, and as they are a local grocery store, all ingredients are fresh and organic.
Panneria is a vegan bakery and café with delicious pastries, breads, coffees and juices. They also offer gluten-free bakery items and packaged bread.
There are three go-to bars for locals between the ages of 25 and 40 in Playa: La Verbena, La Chancla, and Cerveceria Chapultepec. La Verbena is my personal favorite as it has the tastiest beverages, botanas or bar snacks, and always has great live music or a really good DJ. La Verbena is all outdoors and kind of looks like a tree house inside, definitely the most unique and fun atmosphere of the three bars. La Chancla is the after-hours bar, so definitely expect debauchery and dancing. Cerveceria Chapultepec is the most popular spot for drinks as every drink and bar snack costs a mere 20 pesos. Despite the cheap prices, both drinks and snacks are surprisingly and consistently good.
Whether you are looking for authentic Mexican food, international cuisine, elaborate brunches, or a night of bar hopping, Playa has a wide array of options for you!
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