Continued from The Beach Lover's Guide to the Riviera Maya...PLAYA DEL CARMENPatronized by a hip, international crowd, Mexico's fastest-growing city, Playa del Carmen, fronts a broad, clean beach whose best sections lie north of the main drag, Constituyentes. Playa's hub is Fifth Avenue, a pedestrianized street a block from the beach that's lined with lively restaurants, shops and galleries. Within walking distance of Playa is Playacar, a gated complex that contains condos, several all-inclusive resorts and a golf course; visitors can find good deals on accommodations there. However, intensive building has taken a toll on its slender beach, which is buttressed in places by large sandbags in the water.Check out JUST BACK Playa del CarmenWhere to StayOnly a smattering of Playa's hotels occupy the beachfront; most lie a block or two inland but compensate for that with affordable rates. One perennial favorite is La Tortuga, a sexy 51-room hideaway just off Fifth Avenue, wrapped around a channel-like pool and embraced by lush gardens. Rates start at $114 in low season ($160 high). 011-52-984-873-1484; hotellatortuga.comFour-story Playa Maya is a beachfront bargain, with simple rooms that open right onto the sand. From $100 in low season ($135 high). 888-866-2988; playa-maya.comIn Playacar, the 434-room all-inclusive resort Riu Palace Mexico has eight restaurants, a swim-up bar and spacious junior suites stocked with liquor. Guests can use the facilities of the five neighboring Riu resorts in the complex. Rooms start at $416 all-inclusive in low season ($728 high), but check with your travel agent or local newspaper for discounts. 888-748-4990; riu.comAlthough its beach is narrow, the 270-room Viva Wyndham Azteca packs in the amenities, including four restaurants, 24-hour room service and live nightly entertainment. Rates from $234 all-inclusive in low season ($366 high). 800-996-3426; vivawyndhamresorts.comWhere to EatTwo blocks north of Playa del Carmen's ferry pier, rustic La Tarraya is the town's oldest restaurant and a great place for an inexpensive beachfront lunch of fish tacos and ceviche on the sand. 011-52-984-873-2040 A few doors down, Maramao is a trendy joint that serves lunch and dinner with creative presentation and moderate prices. 011-52-984-873-0001There are more than a dozen restaurants along Fifth Avenue, some of them open for dinner only. The gringo hangout La Parilla has tables overlooking the lively street and potent margaritas. 011-52-984-873-0687Media Luna offers an inventive menu that features Mexican-, Asian- and Mediterranean-accentedpastas, served alfresco on a balcony. 011-52-984-873-0256Hot StuffMamita's is a cool beach club on Playa's finest stretch, where you'll find a pageant of white day beds, a DJ spinning club music, spa services, a pool and a seafood restaurant. 011-52-984-803-2867; mamitasbeachclub.comAfter dark, the action moves to party central, Calle 12, which bisects Fifth Avenue. In a three-block stretch there are more than a half-dozen bars, including the famous Blue Parrot, which has a dance floor right on the sand. 011-52-984-206-3350; blueparrot.comPAAMUL and XPU-HÁFour miles beyond the theme park Xcaret, Paamul is a throwback to the Riviera Maya of bygone decades, an era of ramshackle, unplugged fishing hamlets. There's no real village, but the modest restaurant overlooking the crescent cove is the perfect place to while away the afternoon with a margarita (or three). There's a dive operation at the boat ramp, and although limestone guards much of the shoreline, there are sandy entry points and good snorkeling at either end of the bay.Two miles farther south is Xpu-Há, where the idyllic beach is broad and white. Large all-inclusive resorts anchor each end of the sand; the signs to Al Cielo lead to the best sections.Where to StaySet on a two-mile stretch of beach, Esencia is a 29-room, 50-acre estate - formerly owned by an Italian duchess - where guests can enjoy an intimate experience akin to an elegant house party. The spa specializes in treatments using indigenous ingredients. Rates from $459 in low season ($545 high). 877-528-3490;hotelesencia.comJust south of Xpu-Há, clothing-optional Hidden Beach Resort is a relaxed 42-room hotel that welcomes guests with champagne and rose-petal turndown. Rates at the adults-only all-inclusive begin at $440 in low season ($500 high). 888-754-3907; hiddenbeachresort.com Where to EatXpu-Há's rustic-chic Al Cielo occupies a large thatched palapa surrounded by colorful umbrellas piercing the sand. It would be hard to find a more lovely lunch setting, with white linen and china set against a backdrop of dark wood furniture and a tourmaline sea. The Mediterranean menu featuring beautifully prepared squid dishes, pastas and paella is worth every peso. (Al Cielo's four-room hotel is another good find: $190 per night in low season, $280 high.) Reservations are recommended; no credit cards. 011-52-984-840-9012; alcielohotel.comHot StuffA visit to Xcaret, a 250-acre theme park south of Playa, makes a fun family excursion that includes river tubing, dolphin encounters, cultural shows, a beach and a small, 4-foot-deep snorkeling cove ideal for kids. 011-52-998-881-2451; xcaret.net>>> Continue reading the Beach Lover's Guide to the Riviera Maya
Beach Lover's Guide to the Riviera Maya - page 2
Beach Lover's Guide to the Riviera Maya: The scoop on a dazzling, 81-mile shoreline that's home to inviting hotels, imbued with history, and known for great, inexpensive food and drink.