If Playa del Carmen is known as the heart of the Mayan Riviera, then its 38th Street could be considered today as the blood that fills it with life.
Few years ago
Just a few years ago, the famous Fifth Avenue, its restaurants and boutiques went all along from Plaza Paseo del Carmen to 38th Street.
Fundadores Park was then the ideal place to spend a relaxed afternoon in front of the sea, have an ice cream and enjoy the “Voladores de Papantla” performance. After witnessing the ancient ritual, it was normal to walk down 5th Avenue, go through a couple of shops and choose a nice restaurant for dinner. Later in the evening, approaching 12th Street and choosing one of its bars or clubs until the sun came out was considered routine.
If the walk (or the shopping) extended all along 5th Avenue, 38th Street would have marked the end, and only few ventured to walk “until there”. Today, everything has changed.
Playa del Carmen today
It is true that the Fifth Avenue is still a real trendy strip. Its more than four kilometers of shops, boutiques, stalls, bars, restaurants and nightclubs go across the city from north to south. From big international chains like iHop, Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret, and H & M, to rock star bars, pubs, or art galleries, Fifth Avenue has something for everyone.
However, 38th Street, which used to be the end of the route, has now become the main street and the most beautiful one in Playa del Carmen.
While you walk towards the north on 5th Avenue, after passing 34th Street, you will find a small roundabout. Turn right on the direction to the beach, you will find an unmistakable street thanks to the large trees that (apparently) want to intertwine with each other to form an arch. At night, the warm lights hanging from those trees make the path more romantic and give the street a bohemian touch.
This street has a special atmosphere compared to the hustle and bustle of 5th Avenue, but at night, it really comes to life. The lights of restaurants and bars give a colorful and unique touch that mixes with the music of each place.
Two years ago I moved to a beautiful condo very close to 38th Street. Today, I couldn’t be happier. The walks with my husband, the baby and my dog have become much more pleasant. By day, the trees refresh us with their shade. At night, the atmosphere that accompanies our walk brightens our path and makes us feel very safe. Every week I spend an afternoon on the beach at the end of 38th Street, although it is true that it doesn’t have any facilities, I usually stay for a while under the shade of a palm tree reading a book. If you prefer something with more life, you can walk one block left to 40th Street where the music of La Martina beach club DJ awaits you.
Playa del Carmen offers a wide variety of haute cuisine options. On 38th Street you will find everything: cafés, restaurants, bars, ice cream shops, and even French bakeries!
For breakfast, few places serve chilaquiles as good as in La Cueva del Chango: red, green, spicy, vegan, however you want them! It is a classic and unforgettable place in Playa del Carmen.
Another very Mexican option is La Vagabunda, whose doors opened just a step away from the beach starting in 2019. Without a question, it is one of the favorites among expats.
But if you prefer freshly baked bread, LABRIOCHE is a French artisan bakery that offers traditional delicacies such as tartines and viennoiseries. The only place where you can have breakfast at any time of the day!
For lunch, Amate, an open-air restaurant, offers typical Yucatecan cuisine under the canopy of large trees. Next to the tables runs a stream with fish and turtles that gives life to the place.
Da’ Martina signature cuisine is a small Italian restaurant that I consider the hidden treasure of Playa del Carmen. They constantly renew their menu proposal surprising their visitors with new dishes. It is not a typical Italian restaurant. This place will give you a complete culinary experience of excellent quality created by the youngest chef in the city.
For dinner, definitely my favorite is Trujillos Cantina de Selva, a Mexican restaurant nestled among lush trees that will make you feel inside the jungle. In addition to having very traditional dishes (and delicious), the space and the environment will make you connect with the deepest of Mother Nature. Don’t forget to try their Chayote with Kastakán or their Grilled Octopus.
Another interesting offer is the restaurant-bar La Piola, a classic in Playa. The atmosphere is always very pleasant. Both locals and foreigners meet there to taste their famous pizzas. My favorites: Beef Carpaccio and Pizza Maremonti.
If your palate is more exotic, the Gluay Maai Thai has a Thai chef who has prepared an authentic menu from his home country. The romantic atmosphere with warm light gives it a special touch, but the best is the food. Everything is delicious! It has vegetarian options and a spicy level to choose from.
These are just some of my recommendations. Certainly, 38th Street has something for everyone. Its popularity has grown so much today, that more and more establishments seek to open a space to be in the trendiest place in Playa del Carmen. Come and see it for yourself!