HOME > Chowhound > Mexico >


Playa del Carmen-5 nights

My friend and I are vacationing in Playa del Carmen in a week for 5 nights and are adventurous eaters. We are not staying at an all-inclusive specifically because we want to eat out and experience true Yucatan cuisine.

Any restaurant/street stand recs? Places to avoid?

Thanks in advance!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I too am vacation in PDC for the first time (in July) and I've posted this exact same question on a few travel boards and I've gotten pretty good replies. Go to the Travel Talk section of Frommers.com and under "Mexico" search for "Playa Del Carmen -- authentic Non-Touristy Cheap Eats". Two owners of a local hotel (Luna Blue) wrote a long list that I think will help you. Also check out the list on tripadvisor.com under Playa del Carmen -- I got a lot a help there also.

    The one place that keeps coming up over and over is: El Fogon on 30th Ave near Calle 32. Obviously I've never been but I'll be going soon after I land!

    1 Reply
    1. re: tmontauk

      thanks i'll check it all out and report back when i go!

    2. If you take the ferry to Cozumel, there is a place that claims to do pizza and other things that's on the main front street... it's run by a man and woman chef team from Europe.. very good. Not just pizza... lovely fish etc..

      Also in Playa del Carmen, if you get desperate, the Domino's delivery there was the best I ever had. But that was after about 6 nights of Mexican food.

      1. I lived there a few years, and I keep up with Playa, so I think I can help. Regional Yucatan cuisine, as opposed to more generic mexican, will be somewhat limited. Yaxche, on 8th st. between 5 & 10 aves, is the only one that does emphasize Yucatec. Very good. smallish portions, pricey. Babes, on 10 st between 5&10 aves, is wonderful asian fusian, with great mojitos and half portions for a very fair price. Swedish meatballs on mashed is actually the signature dish. Dr. Taco, on 10th ave between 8 and 10 st, wonderful quick lunch spot -shrimp tacos, great fresh relish bar. 5th avenue at night is a spectacle somewhat unique in the world. The Tequila Barrel, on 5th ave between 10 & 12 st, is best for people watching. Best tacos al pastor: Pastorcita, 30th ave, 3 blocks n of Constituentes, on the left. Dinner only. Best street food: 30 ave and 30st, under the blue tarp. Thursday through Sunday mornings, they do a suckling pig and the tortas are incredible. Go early, it's sold out by noon. Best fine dining- Negrosal, on 16th between 1 and 5 ave.- glass floor is over the wine cellar, and food is equal to the ambience. I can offer a bunch more; give me some more guidance as to area, type, price range.

        18 Replies
        1. re: Veggo

          Like I mention previously in this thread -- I too will be going to PDC for a week. My husband is a seriously adventuresome eater -- can you recommend anything that might be local and really out of the ordinary? He especially loves things like kidneys, liver etc. We live in St. Louis and brain sandwhiches are very popular -- stuff like that.
          Also we both like very very hot food. I personally have a sweet tooth -- can you recommend anything there?

          1. re: tmontauk

            I saw your post, I'd love to help. July is nice there, setting aside the heat, which is oppressive in the afternoons. But the mornings are beautiful, and the water from Playa to Cozumel is 13 miles of glass. And later, beautiful puffy cloud rose sunsets (from the jungle side)
            I'm not an organ-eating guy; an occasional tripe or menudo or cabeza is my limit. The small area of Playa that actually is still the domain of mexicans and mayans is along 2nd st, along Juarez, and 1 st south ( streets are even numbers n of juarez, avenues are 5-10-15, up to 40., with a little bit of 1 ave north of 12th st) Some of the comida restaurants within those 3 blocks will have old fashion comida with all the critter parts. My favorite is on s1st, between aves 15&20, where they grill arrachera ourdoors everyday, and you can buy it buy the kilo along with roasted onions (cebolla) and baked potatoes. Very affordable, and the best arrachera you will find. 11-5 are best hours.Three levels of sauce; beware #3.
            El Chino on 4th st, between 10&15 aves, is one of few old original restos. The family includes some of the last Playa fisherman, and they can usually do a pescado entero (go with boquinette for your whole fish). Often I check with the local restos by day to see what they have for later, and usually "reserve" that special fish or lobster.
            The neatest place in the area, and maybe all of Quintana Roo, is the bar-resto called Mil Y un Aluz, which means 1001 elves. It is in a network of caves that has been worked into a marvel of underground catacombs.No bats, no ducking of heads. This place is a natural wonder. Juarez St. , 1/3 mile west across highway 307. Dinner only, closed Mondays. At least go for drinks and appetizers some evening. It will be a long-term memory.
            I'm rambling here- tell me if you'll have a car, and if not, roughly what part of town you are staying, and your comfortable walking radius. I'm not done yet!

            1. re: Veggo

              This is fabulous information. We will not have a car. But will be staying at La Tortuga which I think is on 10th and 14th. The beach club our hotel uses is Mamitas which I think is up by 28th so we'll be walking that way a lot. We are in our mid-30s and 40s and fairly healthy and don't mind a hearty walk. We will be able to rent mopeds and bikes from the hotel.

              That said, we are really looking for affordable, food of the region. We are fine spending the entire 7 days eating in roadside joints and cafes and w/plastic table tops. We are thinking maybe one nice meal -- what would you recommend for one nice place?

              We are looking at this vacation as a time to relax, meet people, drink beer, sit on the beach. My husband was especially interseted by the suckling pig post you mentioned earlier -- he's a fan of snoots, tails and trotters -- so roasted pig under the tent sounds great. Also cerviche -- any recs?

              We are also thinking of taking the bus down to Akumal or Tulum for the day? Maybe Cozumel -- but maybe not.

              Tracy in St. Louis

              1. re: tmontauk

                You may remember an armored car robbery about 8 years ago in the Carolina area, and a subsequent apprehension with lots of cash, in Playa? It was at La Tortuga! I noticed it has been fixed up and the rooms have AC units, which you will want even if there is an extra charge. (not uncommon) Great central location. Mamitas is easily the best spot for a day at the beach and lunch. You can rent two lounge chairs, umbrella, small table on the nicest beach for the day, and the beverage service and lunch menu is pretty good. They have mixed ceviche which is ok, (I'm a tough grader) and they do fish fillets and sometimes whole fish. Watch your personal belongings carefully.
                A moped suggestion; day trip to Cozumel. Ferry is hourly, about $8 each way, per person. Nice boat (AC if you want, rear deck seating ,too, 45 minute crossing time). A moped tour around the ring road on the south half of Cozumel takes a couple hours and is beautiful. Best conch ceviche anywhere is at "Bob's Marley Bar" (sic) at the south end of the island, just past the lighthouse road. It was ruined by hurricane Wilma, but has been rebuilt. It is just slightly on the windward side of the island, where waves crashing on the ironstone are fantastic.
                Back to the Tortuga neighborhood, my close friend Sharky owns the Beer Bucket on 10th st between 5&10 aves, and my wonderful friends Joel and Ronnie own Java Joes, across the street. Get your morning coffee and gossip there. Joel lives for the suckling pig -torta de lechon- he'll probably drive you there! And you are right down from Dr. Taco.
                I have a couple ideas for nice dinners other than Negrosal, which is very pricey but extremely good. I'll get back.

                1. re: tmontauk

                  Mi Abuelita, on Avenida 30 and Calle 22, for tasty and cheap pancita.
                  They have good pozole, too. Across the street from them is Cactus, for Chiles en Nogada. La Tarraya, on the beach at Calle 2, for a yummy seafood lunch. Sometimes they don't open until about 1. La Bamba Jarocha on Av.30, for stone crabs or cazuela de mariscos.

                  1. re: Deskhenge

                    At Cactus, Frederique, the owner and chef from Madagascar, does a warm and a chilled version of Chiles en Nogada. Chilled is better. It may be the only place in Playa that offers the dish. For a tiny place with six tables, she does some interesting french-mexican items, although she should keep the lid on the onion soup.
                    La Tarraya has been there forever and gets the first of the local fish catch every day. Mostly locals there (a good thing). I would often eat the "hamburguesa de pescado"; lightly battered fish slices on a bun. The salsa they serve with fried tortillas is pure habanero heat that could make a freight train take a dirt road. It's on a pretty section of beach, with lots of palm trees.

                    1. re: Veggo

                      veggo, we are going to mayakoba late march. i have heard of a restaurant named john grey. ever hear of it? thanks

                      1. re: stevenpol

                        It's in the triangular courtyard of shops/restos on 14th st between aves. 5&10 in Playa del Carmen. Short menu, not mexican, items are well prepared. Totally enclosed, air conditioned, no views. Good non-mexican food. He opened a second restaurant in Cancun last year; I haven't been. Among the best fine dining in Quintana Roo. I'll be back to Mayakoba next weekend for the PGA golf tournament.

                        1. re: Veggo

                          vewggo, we will be staying at the rosewood mayakoba. how far is it into playa del carmen? how do we get in touch with the restaurants you mentioned? how was the golf course at mayakoba? are there any other courses worth playing in the area?

                          1. re: stevenpol

                            I¨m in Playa now. It`s a difficult course- the PGA tournament was there this past weekend. High scores on the windy days. I may play it Wednesday.
                            The better restaurants like Negrosol have web sites. I ate at Negrosol last night and it wasn´t that busy. I suggest you do some recon during the day when you get here, check menu´s, etc.Not too many take reservations and they usually wouldn´t be ncessary.if you arrive before 8¨pm. Some get pretty busy after 8 on weekends.
                            Your hotel is about a ten minute drive north of Playa.

                        2. re: stevenpol

                          A quick follow up on John Gray- he now has 7 or 8 tables in the courtyard, which is quite pleasant until it gets too hot, say by May.

                          1. re: stevenpol

                            don't go there he might yell at you

                    2. re: Veggo

                      The cenote restaurant you describe sounds like Alux...same place?
                      I agree, definitely worth at least a drink

                      1. re: porker

                        Yes, Alux was originally called Mil Y Un Alux (1001 elves), and was shortened to just Alux a few years ago. It is currently closed for renovations, according to the website. I'm not sure how one renovates a cave but I am hopeful that it reopens.

                    3. re: tmontauk

                      We used to visit Playa quite alot, but not as often now.
                      Last year, we were walking on 10th Ave just north of Juarez and passed by a place called Carnitas La Padrino (its next to a paint store I think). The guy was ladling a mess of innards out of a cauldron of tepid oil. I had intestine, tripe, and maybe lung. It seemed like he was just opening at about 10:00am. Maybe you can get your offal here?
                      FWIW, when we asked a cab driver to bring us to the best of the Fogons, he brought us to the one on the corner of 30th Ave and 6Bis Norte ("the Fogons are good, but I like this one best" he said - true? I dunno as I didn't eat elsewhere to compare). I like eating here at night and watching everyone inside and out.
                      I always recommend the carts at the bottom of Juarez, next to the church, for breakfast. They have some amazing cochinita pibil tortas (ask for extra crackling and to dip the bread into the pan drippings). Get there before 10:00am as they come and go pretty quick.
                      As other people mention, a stop at the Mega is interesting. You can have cheap eats there as well. Even the Wallmart might be a worthy stop as it ain't exactly your mother's Walmart.
                      Yaxche: generally you love it or hate it. Me, I love the concept of showcasing yucatec and Mayan cuisine...but I feel this place is too slick, expensive, etc
                      I wholeheartedly agree with La Bamba Jarocha - really good seafood.
                      Ask around on who does good chicken (grilled on charbon) as it seems to change from time to time - maybe Veggo can suggest.
                      If you find yourself racked with fever, chills, cramps, aches, pains, dysentary-like symptoms and have a hard time imagining eating anything, maybe won ton soup might do the trick.....Hong Kong on the highway has pretty good Chinese food and does delivery - just a little tricky with gringo Spanish like mine...
                      What to avoid? Fancy schmancy places on 5th: Playa is on the Cruise line shore-leave circuit, so when a ship coughs up 2000 visitors, everyone is looking for such a place and they don't have to try hard...

                      1. re: tmontauk

                        Taqueria Gomez. Brain tacos, (tacos de sesos,) nerve tacos, tacos of all kinds of offal and eyes and specialty meats. Calle 2 Norte between Av. 15 and 20. Looks like white-tiled men's room. Tripas doradas is my favorite taco there (when I have to go there.). Inexpensive, very Mexican, clean, noisy, busy.

                        1. re: Deskhenge

                          Love Tacos Gomez! That is a favorite "late night after the bars" stop for me and my husband. Another favorite from 7am to 6pm (mas o menos) is Carnitas Teresita on 1 sur between calles 20 and 25, sort of close to El Pequeno Mundo bookstore. They have the best carnitas in town and fresh chicharron. Try the tacos surtidos with masiza, kastacan and buche! Yummo!! Another favorite morning stop is for empanadas from Senor Luis on the corner of Ave. 20 and calle 12 bis! Get there early. he is generally sold out by 9:30am!

                      2. re: Veggo

                        Hi Veggo!
                        Does this place still exist?:
                        "Best street food: 30 ave and 30st, under the blue tarp. Thursday through Sunday mornings, they do a suckling pig and the tortas are incredible. Go early, it's sold out by noon."

                        Does this place still exist?:
                        Alux - Mil Y un Aluz

                      3. I'm recently back from Playa and I'm being haunted by memories of Carboncitos, on 4th St., just off 5th. The best guacamole I had in my week there, wonderfuls salsas, charro beans, pork in the "pastor" style (you'll see it cooking just inside), a memorable dish of shrimp sauteed with bacon, peppers, and onion. Everything was wonderful and inexpensive. You may well wind up with everything on your table at once--courses seem to be a hazy concept--but you won't care.

                        El Fogon is an outdoor spot patronized by locals. The tacos pastor and fruit drinks were really good and really cheap. The mixed dinner for two of different meats, nopales (cactus), onions, potato, and queso fundido was tasty. But the quality of the meat, apart from the pastor, is not top-notch. Go for the experience and you'll enjoy it.

                        For breakfast, I liked La Cueva del Chango (on 38th, off 5th). The jungly garden setting is gorgeous, the waitresses are charming, and the food is first rate. Do wear some bug repellent there, though. Also good was 100 Percent Natural (on 5th). Apart from the good food and smoothies, I liked the fruit and vegetable arrangements in the fountain--like a tomato on a pepper on a melon.

                        ETA: Try the El Fogon on Constituyentes and 25th (I believe). It should be easier to get to than that other spot. It's opposite the big Mega store, which is interesting to see in itself.

                        1. Los Carboncitos - Just off 5th, can't remember the street exactly right now. Great cheap eats.
                          Check out this board for Playa info: www.playa.info
                          There are lots of different types there, but you get answers fast, from people who live there, and/or travel there too much!!

                          1. We're back from the Quinta Roo area. In Playa, our favorite was Casa Meditterean off of 5th Avenue. Exceptional homemade pasta. We were also a fan of Carbonocitas off of 5th. We also tried Ah Cacaos which only serves chocolate, but I recommend skipping. Dry brownie, overpriced drinks for the quality.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: pyescamilla

                              Isn't the famous Monkey Cave in Playa del Carmen? We will be there in October and were thinking of trying it. Though I am worried that it might be a tourist joint (after all, even Rachel Ray found it), other reviews suggest that it is just as it sounds - great fresh food, prepared simply. Has anyone been there?

                              1. re: Just Visiting

                                Cuevo del Chango is a wonderful family run restaurant set into the jungle in the north end of Playa on 38th. The food is honest and fresh. The atmosphere is great. I always remark to my husband "This is what we came to Playa for". It is not over-run with tourists although breakfast has always been very popular. It should be on everyone's list of places to visit while in PdC.

                            2. There is a great, up-to-date list of restuarants complied here:


                              Download the doc and print it. It is invaluable!

                              When I was down there, didn't stay in Playa, so only used it for a couple restaurants. Both were right around the corner from each other, off the tourist strip, and right by the Mega (Mexico's "Wal*Mart"). Seafood was great at La Pesca, and very inexpensive. We also ate at a very local place called El Fogon, which had great tacos al pastor, among other things.

                              The forum itself has great suggestions at tips, too:


                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ChefBoyAreMe

                                Another vote for Carboncito's. Great pastor, a little greasy but still thinking about it almost a year later!

                                For your one nice dinner I would say go for Yaxche. I know a lot of people say this place is overpriced and touristy, but I think it's a great place to get an introduction to Mayan cuisine. Plus the wine list is very decent (for Mexico).

                                I also really enjoyed Babe's pan-Asian when I was there.

                                For something a little different in atmosphere, how about having a taco from a volkswagen van? Senor Tacombi's the place.

                                My entire series of travelogues through the Rivieria Maya is here: http://donnacooks.wordpress.com/2006/...
                                The first few days were in Playa del Carmen, then we proceed south. See if you find any helpful information.

                              2. Cactus and La Bamba Jarocha were both excellent for Alta Cocina and mariscos veracruzanos respectively.

                                There is a supermarket with a little outdoor restaurant attached across the street from Cactus that had excellent and healthy breakfast, but on the street was this glass container with a street vendor selling tacos de "cochinita pibil" and tacos de "pavo en relleno negro".These were some of the best tacos I've had in my life, along with some scorching salsa habanero.Relleno negro is a classic Yucatan dish of turkey covered in a jet black sauce of sensuous delights.It's a must!!

                                1. There's an amazing Mayan restaurant that we discovered in Playa del Carmen called Yaxche (pronounced Jag-shey) in the main shopping district in "downtown" Playa. Fabulous and unusual salads, entrees and notably juices Here's the website.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: chicgail

                                    Yaxche was the most dissappointing meal I had in Mexico. It was worse than the worst food I had at my all inclusive. I had shimps with rice and some sort of sauce. Horrible deep fried greasy shrimp devoid of any flavor. Overpriced garbage for sucker tourists like me. Don't do it. From what I've heard, it used to be good and is living off old glory.

                                    1. re: food face

                                      "El Faisan y El Venado," on the Carretera at about Calle 2 North. Large Yucatecan restaurant, genuine, nice, large complex menu. Better than Yaxche and cheaper.

                                      1. re: Deskhenge

                                        Very much so. You can get lucky or not with how you order, but at yaxche you're guaranteed sub street cart food for tourist trap prices

                                      2. re: food face

                                        Sounds like the three years that have passed have made a difference. Too bad.

                                    2. I went to PDC a few months ago and discovered Los Aguachiles (recommended by a local). It is hands down the best fish tacos I have ever had!!! We loved it so much, we went back 3 times in 5 days. By the 2nd visit, the waiters knew us already :) Their ceviche is also very good, but to me nothing beats the fish tacos (not fried, but steamed)... ask for the secret smoked tuna version with cheese. Salivating as I write this... can't wait to go back.

                                      Only drawback- it closes at 630pm. Los Aguachiles is around calle 34 & avenida 25.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: javabean116

                                        On Calle 40 north, between Av. 5 and 10, my favorite fish place. You choose your fish from the ice chest in the room next door, and they cook it and garnish it wonderfully with a rainbow of vegetables. Plastic tables, open mostly at lunch, has a liquor license. They make superb and enormous ceviche and other dishes. Mostly a Mexican clientele. They have a private room in back for small parties and have cabellitos of tequila with pin-ups for special friends. You pay by the weight of the fish--not bad.

                                        1. re: Deskhenge

                                          That would be Cocteleria El Pirata, a great local place. Having eaten many times at both, I think the quality is better at Aguachiles but they don't have whole fish.

                                          1. re: QdeBro

                                            Gotta have that boquinette entero, and any place that tries to sell me counterfeit grouper (mero) I gong for life - and there are many in Playa that try.

                                      2. You mentioned maybe heading to Tulum. You'll be glad you did - if you do! The beach is fabulous. Many excellent restaurants up and down the entire beach. I'd be dropped off at El Tabano (restaurant) and go from there. Spend the day in the water and beach bars. Dinner, then back to Playa. In Tulum (Pueblo) you'll need to grab a taxi to get to the beach - but it's cheap and quick. Excellent street food all over Tulum as well.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Maggie19

                                          Agreed- Street food in Tulum is OUTSTANDING. My favorite being the one where the rotisserie chicken is charcoal barbequed. Also, the little fair at night has some awesome treats such as Churros and home made mexican french fries and all kinds of weird and wonderful deep fried foods!

                                          Should have it's own thread really....

                                            1. re: Maggie19

                                              Amazing. Good to know. Thanks Maggie19!

                                              1. re: Maggie19

                                                Is Pollo Bronco the only one left? Seems there was a half dozen roadside Tulum-chicken joints.