The very best of Playa Del Carmen – Calle 4
Spending three months in Playa Del Carmen on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula turned out to be the perfect place for us to, start our Latin American adventure. With plenty of cheap language schools in which to learn Spanish, great weather, fast wifi and a modern infrastructure, Playa always felt safe and comfortable, although it wasn’t always the traditional Mexican town that we were looking for, or expecting in this part of Mexico.
Walking down Playa Del Carmen’s 5th Avenue (the main tourist street) is either heaven or hell, depending on your desires – full to the brim with tourist souvenirs (enormous Mexican sombreros made in China), cigar shops and countless overpriced restaurants and bars – which, for the hordes of tourists plying this jam-packed avenue, seemed to be everything they needed and wanted, but for us, this wasn’t the Mexico we had envisaged.
During our 3 month stay, we were able to pick and choose the very best bits of Playa – of which there are many – and none of them were along 5th Avenue (with the exception of the fantastic Club de la Cerveza – a great little bar with beers from around the world) or on the sardine tin of a beach in-front of 5th Avenue, which was by no means the best beach either. No, we were happy to let the masses squeeze into that packed little stretch of town while we retreated into the shadows and enjoyed the very best of Playa Del Carmen.
Throughout the town, along its pretty avenues and calles, we found countless cute little taco restaurants, great international cuisine and cafes in which to spend long hot afternoons with a cooling juice, wicked chocolate brownies or good strong coffee. But the area which turned out to be our very favourite was in fact the street on which we lived – Calle 4.
This long, quiet street that stretched right from the shore of the Caribbean right past our front door had everything we needed and wanted. Lively yet not loud, authentic and family-orientated, we always felt safe and welcome and we loved to wander along it venturing into the local shops on our way to our favourite beach.
Here are some of our highlights of Calle 4.
Our Apartment: Located on Calle 4 / Avenida 30, it was just far enough away from the tourist crowds but within walking distance of everything we needed, this little apartment was our sanctuary in which to work and relax.
Ice cream shops: Dotted throughout town, (although not on 5th) these shops sell the most amazing natural fruit juice ice lollies, packed with real fruit too and at just 12 Mexican Pesos each (£0.55, USD$0.93, €0.67) we enjoyed plenty of them!
Spicy Mexican street food: Just on the corner of the next block sat a number of little fast food stalls. Cheap, enormous and delicious lunches aplenty – not to mention super spicy!
Our bikes: Playa isn’t a big place but on foot it can be a long walk in the sun. Using the great facebook community we quickly found some great bikes which made getting around much faster, cooler and cheap too!
The pescaderia: Although we were just a few blocks from a huge supermarket, we enjoyed buying our produce locally and got to know a few of the locals too. One of our favourites was the fish shop just a one minute walk away from our door. Each time we went in, different varieties of fresh fish were available and the owners were just so nice and often gave us freebies of freshly cooked tuna!
Just across the street from the fish shop was a great little fruit and veg shop, run by a big grumpy Mexican guy – we loved going in and buying litres of fresh juice and fresh tortillas for just a few pesos!
The taco shops: Dotted all along Calle 4 were many taco shops, seafood tacos turned out to be a staple!
The town square: where all the festivals happen.
Sundays on ‘the local beach’: Sundays are when the locals get their one and only day off, and so ‘the local beach’ as we called it, always came alive each weekend.
Cosmopolitan Street: The Belgian chocolate shop, the German beer garden, the strange French art house and the Italian cafe and pizza shop were all located on Calle 4, and each greatly appreciated and used too.
Chichen Itza Language school: As ‘long term stayers’ in Playa, we were eligible for the very affordable Spanish classes at the family run Chichen Itza language school where we enjoyed a month of classes with great teachers and a really friendly, chilled out atmosphere. We also enrolled with International House for a month of free Spanish classes, as guinea pig students for the trainee teachers on a teacher training course, meaning we ended up getting two months of Spanish lessons very cheaply.
We also loved:
The beach at the end of the road in the evenings, when it was quiet and we could watch the moon rise and drink a beer.
The ‘Bad Boys Beach Bar’ and ‘Wah Wah’. Cheesy bars, with cheesy live music, but lots of fun too.
Being just a 10 minute bike ride from our favourite bit of sand at Playacar.
And last but not least, we loved the fact that our front door was right at the drop off point when returning from one of the many great day trips to do from Playa – we were spoilt, really.
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