May 11, 2011

5th Avenue, Playa del Carmen

Avenida 5, Playa del CarmenThe hustling, bustling heart of Playa del Carmen is Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue to you and I). The street runs parallel to the Caribbean Sea for around twenty blocks. It is fully pedestrianized, cobblestoned and lined with flea markets, shops, restaurants and hubs of entertainment, as well as amazing street theater.

But this alone is not what makes it so special. It's the atmosphere. It's the community hanging out, shopping, dining, having fun. Some of the restaurants have roof terraces, upon which it's a beautiful thing to sit and watch the world go by.

The daytime there feels relaxed and happy, despite the meandering of folk from store to store. That just adds to it. At night, it feels truly electric there. The perfect tropical avenue and the pulse of Playa's cultural offerings.

Some of the stores on Quinta Avenida are common throughout many city centers; others are the recurring tourist orientated shops that spring up in any Mexican resort. However, the charm of shopping here comes in the majority of small, family-owned premises that give this avenue its character. You will also find large number of them in streets and alleys leading off the main stretch.

There are handmade, unique pieces of jewellry to be found here, which will never be created again. The chain stores will sell the stereotypical Mexican clothing, but some of the small boutiques have what Mexicans really wear. There are equisite, authentic handicrafts. Amongst the sombreros and ponchos, there are souvenirs of your visit that you will want to wear or display long after you have returned home. There are also luxury boutiques with merchandise catering definitely for the yachting classes.

Avenida 5, Playa del Carmen

Avenida 5, Playa del Carmen
Day and night, on 5th Avenue, Play del Carmen

As a rule of thumb, the closer to the ferry dock you are, then the louder the music and the more young, hip and trendy it is. As you progress away from it, then the culture gets more refined, the music quietens to accoustic and the merchandise on offer grows ever more expensive, as the quality grows. There really is something for everyone here. Just pick your ambience!

In the flea market especially, but also in some of the shops, be prepared to bring out your bargaining skills. Prices may initially start high, as the retailer is expecting you to negotiate a deal. For those unused to this way of shopping, this is how it's done in Mexico! If you feel uncomfortable, just say 'no gracias' (pronounced 'no gra-the-ass') and continue you on your way. You won't have offended anyone! (For more tips: How to Haggle for Goods at the Mercado.)

There's not just shopping on Quinta Avenida. Throughout the length of it, there are other places of interest to visit. Art galleries and studios, exhibitions, small museums and churches are amongst them.

Avenida 5, Playa del Carmen

Quinta Avenida is known for its street theater, alongside the entertainment happening inside the bars themselves. People strolling along the avenue never quite know what they will encounter. Performers range from the traditional to the bizarre, but always draw a crowd.

I was able to catch on a Saturday night a reenactment of a Mayan dance ritual perfomed by Mayan Indians, just off of 5th Ave. Words can't describe the costumes, performance and sounds that I witnessed, it was just incredible. We were a group of approx 50 people who gathered around them and watched in amazement.
MissMissPia on TripAdvisor

As well as fire juggling, circus performances, acted scenes, music and dancing, there is also street art. Whether on canvas, paper or on the pavement itself, these artists are often surrounded by passers-by, enthralled at the talent on display. It all adds to the general buzz of the place.

Avenida 5, Playa del Carmen
The Blue Parrot. There's a fire show, nightly, at 11pm.

Quinta Avenida is a marvellous place to just wander along, seeing what's there to be seen; sampling local fare; pausing by an artist or street performer; exploring the shops or drifting into a bar.

Please note that throughout this blog, I've been saying 'stroll', 'drift', 'meander' and 'wander'. Quinta Avenida isn't somewhere to rush down, it's all about an amble to take in all the sights, sounds, smells and color.

If you are in Playa del Carmen, then it's definitely not an avenue to miss out. Once you're done, then turn a corner and you're back on the beach again.

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  1. Excellent pictures. It looks like a really nice place. All I hear frmo playa del carmen are great experiences... I must go!

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