5th Avenue or Quinta Avenida in Playa Del Carmen is a bustling commercial street that stretches about 2 kms parallel to the Gulf of Mexico shoreline. It is a charming colorful street with a variety of shops - selling souvenirs, artifacts, traditional mexican clothing, cuban cigars, tequila; boutique stores selling beachwear, shoes, bags; big brand stores like Victoria’s secret, Steve Madden etc.; many restaurants and bars serving authentic mexican and international cuisines; street vendors selling more souvenirs, intricate beaded jewelry and other knick knacks, and also booths selling ferry tickets to Cozumel.
We parked at Mamitas beach club that offered valet service and straight away followed directions to 5th avenue. We started our stroll at Calle 32 Norte and 5th, which is pretty much the starting point of the touristy portion of the street. We walked south all the way to the end of the street and back checking out all the stores.
We were immediately attracted to the artfully crafted "Jellyfish gourd lamps" that were sold by many vendors on the street. These lamps are made by local mayan artists using natural materials and enhanced with beads, seashells, glass etc. Dried regional gourds and fruits form the outer shells of these lamps, on which designs like sun, moon and other motifs are cutout. When turned on, light casts a reflection of the cutout designs and colors on the walls creating a magical ambience.
Its no mystery why this street is so popular. It is artsy with a splash of color and happening with full of energy. A great way to learn about the various art forms of Mexico that have been preserved and handed down for generations. Or just hangout at one of the restaurants and bars or experience nightlife.
We stopped at La Vagabunda for lunch, that served delicious authentic yucatan and mexican food in general.
The other thing that caught our attention was the huge display of white and colorful embroidered clothing, what looked like modern variations of "Huipil", a traditional garment worn by the indigenous women of Mexico and Central America. Many vendors also sold elaborate beaded neck pieces, skulls and other souvenirs.
The beaches were gorgeous as all the other beaches on the coast. Beautiful turquoise water, fine sand, coconut trees and a lively atmosphere. We pretty much took every cross street that lead to the beach even though we were looking at the same water just few meters away from the previous.
We were glad we did not back off after reading about other people’s experiences of being pushed and pressured by the shopkeepers. They did invite us to their shops, perhaps a little pushy. We only stopped when we were drawn to something, otherwise we just ignored and kept walking. It turned out to be a memorable place and experience.
Back at the parking lot we realized the space was reserved for beach club customers so we had to pay 200 pesos (less than 10 USD) for using the lot. Our money probably went into the valet’s pocket, which we didn’t mind because he saved us the trouble of finding a spot on the street.
We used Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens. As a secondary camera Fuji X-70.
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Where to stay: We stayed just north of Playa del Carmen as it is a good center for multiple attractions in surrounding area. We stayed in Senses Riviera Maya by Artisan. Other best rated hotels in that area: Hotels in Playa del Carmen.
Getting there: We had rented a car. Driving is relatively straight forward if you are coming from US. From Cancun drive south on highway 307 and take the Av Luis Donaldo Colosio exit to the left. Drive straight till you hit the dead end on 5th avenue. If you are already staying in Playa Del Carmen it should be very easy, just ask your hotel staff or any local.
For parking: Best park on one of the cross streets (avoid yellow paint) or find public parking lots on 10th and calle 14, walmart on 30th.
Time to spend: 2-4 hrs.
In you bag: Sunscreen, sunglasses, swimsuit, hat, plenty of water and a camera.