The holiday resort of Playa del Carmen lies along the Yucatán Peninsula’s Riviera Maya strip of Caribbean shoreline. In the state of Quintana Roo, it’s known for its palm-lined white sandy beaches, gorgeous blue sea and coral reefs. The main street is Quinta Avenida, which runs parallel to the beach, with lots of shops, restaurants and nightspots ranging from laid-back bars with live music to trendy night clubs.
Playa del Carmen began as a quiet fishing village thirty years ago but is now a bustling vacation paradise just 45 minutes up the coast from Cancun. It is now the number one destination in Mexico, and there’s so much to see and do from diving and snorkeling to visiting the nearby Mayan archaeological sites. You may want to try a central luxury hotel like the Acanto or somewhere a little cheaper down town like the El Acuario but don’t miss the incredible Frida Kahlo Restaurant — Playa Del Carmen’s newest and coolest place to eat.
If you have the budget, The Acanto Boutique Hotel, is in a perfect central location. Just a few yards away from the main street, Quinta Avenida, the Acanto is a quiet haven tucked away down a side street on the way to the beach. There is a choice of luxury suites plus a rooftop penthouse that has its own outside terrace and barbecue and views out over to the beach and the Caribbean Sea.
The Acanto Condominium Hotel is a hacienda style hotel, built around a charming enclosed courtyard, so it remains private and peaceful surrounded by its own tropical gardens. It has a swimming pool and sun deck with lounge chairs. You can use the hotel towels here, or take them to the beach for a small deposit. The hotel is quite new and there are still plans for further expansion to include a gym. There is a car park available underground and all the suites are spacious, with bedrooms, seating and kitchen areas, and the Acanto can accommodate large parties if required. Most are one bedroom suites but the largest suite has three bedrooms.The hotel doesn’t have its own restaurant but Acanto staff can hire in a professional private chef for you, if you need to cater for a number of people.
There are fully equipped 1, 2 and 3 bedroom private accommodations with all the comforts of home and Acanto is pretty much the most popular condo hotel in town. The rooms are furnished in a modern style and include King, Queen or Twin beds, marble bathrooms and have marble floors. There are granite kitchens with state of the art appliances, central air conditioning, ceiling fans, security safe, plasma TV, your own terrace and views out into the courtyard garden. Every comfort of home!
The furnished apartments here are also for sale and if you purchase one, Acanto Hotel staff can help rent it out for you. There are already happy owners from the USA, Mexico and New Zealand enjoying a luxury property here in Playa Del Carmen.
The Frida Kahlo gastromapping Restaurant
There are lots of dining options in Playa Del Carmen but I’ve never seen a restaurant quite like the Frida Kahlo Restaurant! They say you eat with your eyes, and at no other restaurant I’ve ever been to is that statement more true, than at the Frida Kahlo gastromapping restaurant in Playa Del Carmen.
As the name suggests, the Frida Kahlo Restaurant honours the memory of Frida Kahlo, the internationally celebrated, eccentric Mexican painter whose colourful, bold artwork, which very often consisted of self-portraits, was highly influential. As you might expect, the menu features creative dishes with Kahlo’s artwork adorning the walls. What really sets the restaurant apart, however, is its use of projection mapping (gastromapping) to turn dining into an interactive experience.
The environment is full of art, the menus are art, and the presentation of the food is very theatrical too, which I loved. Each dish on the menu has a particular unique artistic twist and it is a lot of fun to eat here. The food itself is delicious and is a culinary modern fusion of Mexican cuisine. The gastromapping show is a kind of a 3D film about Frida Kahlo’s life and art projected onto the plates of a dining table. It’s hugely colourful and entertaining like a sort of Kahlo kaleidoscope. Colourful patterns and pictures of Kahlo’s face spin and spread out and settle across the white plates. There is a huge 3D artwork of Frida’s face at the entrance of the restaurant in full day of the dead makeup. Her huge eyes swivel from side to side now and again, and in truth, it was this striking image that caught my eye as I walked down Quinta Avenida. The first gastro mapping restaurant was opened in Mexico City and this one in Playa will be celebrating its first birthday this December.
I love Kahlo’s art, I love the strong Mexican colours and bold primitive style of painting, so this unique restaurant is a very special way to celebrate this talented woman and to have a great fun dining experience at the same time!
If your budget is more modest, the fun, friendly and colorful El Acuario Hotel could be the place for you in downtown Playa. It is a few blocks from the beach but is in a great central location, minutes walk away from the bus station and taxi terminus.
The hotel has just twelve rooms and one suite and has been at the heart of Playa Del Carmen for the last twenty years. The hotel has recently had a colourful face lift with vibrant colours and murals creating a bright and happy vibe about the place. The aquarium of the ‘El Acuario’ title is in the reception area and there is a pond of turtles in the little courtyard. More and more turtles have been donated from different people when they can’t keep them as pets any more, and there’s quite a little colony there now. There’s a small swimming pool and relaxation area if you want to stay in, but the hotel is only 10 minutes walk from Playa’s stunning white sandy beach and the turquoise Caribbean sea.
If you like a bit of retail therapy, the main shopping street, Quinta Avenida, is just as close and provides a dazzling selection of purchasing opportunities from margarita glasses to ceramics, Mayan masks, silver jewellery and other arts and crafts. All rooms have air conditioning, a fan, fridge and small kitchenette, in case you want to make your own meals. All rooms come equipped with a balcony overlooking the pool. Free Wi-Fi is also available (so important these days — who can live without it now?). There are lots of reasonably priced places to eat nearby, and some very cheap tequila to be had in the local mini market.
El Acuario Hotel
Address: Avenida 25 Entre Calle 2 y 4 Colonia Centro
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Playa Del Carmen: the top Mexican destination
There are lots of excursions and activities you can do if you can tear yourself away from the gorgeous beach life and entertainment of Playa Del Carmen itself. Close by are the Mayan ruins of Tulum, which are well worth a visit, not least because of their stunning location, set next to a picturesque village on the cliff side of the Caribbean Sea. Or why not try the amazing Eco-park of Xel Ha Park where you can snorkel with of shoals of tropical fish or take part in other fun outdoor activities. The incredible Mayan site of Chichen Itza is just a day trip away, or you could just chill out by the pool with a Mexican margarita. When you get hungry, have some local tacos or empanadas or treat yourself to an unforgettable meal at the Frida Kahlo Restaurant. Playa Del Carmen has something for everyone and with its fabulous year round sunshine, it makes an unbeatable winter holiday destination.
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