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1. Biuriful

Behind a quiet stone facade, you’ll find a cacophony of palettes and motifs to help you fit in and stand out on the Riviera. Owner Alejandra Anglada curates a collection of unique clothing items (not one of which seems to be in a single solid colour) from independent local designers, including graphic takes on huaraches and Panama hats, trunks, skirts, swimsuits and dresses in the liveliest of tropical patterns, plus Frida Kahlo-inspired jewellery.

Calle Quinta Avenida and Calle 32, 52-984-803-4980,

2. Vida Aquática Dive Center

After 20 minutes on a speedboat, skipping across the surface of azure waters, you arrive at a corner of the Mesoamerican barrier reef, the second largest in the world. Guides Roman and Dominic are excellent at seeing things others don’t, like a risk of young lobsters. If you’re lucky, you can get a decent workout following a personable sea turtle as it bobs for air and makes its rounds.

Calle 38 at the beach, 52-984-803-2517,

Mahekal Beach Resort

Photo: Chris Wimpey

3. Mahekal Beach Resort

Playa del Carmen may have left its tranquil roots behind, but the Mahekal, established 50 years ago, hasn’t. Though it has grown to nearly 200 rooms and palapas from the original six huts, when you’re swinging in your hammock, 10 steps from the ocean (or two from your plunge pool), nursing a mojito, you’d never know the city’s buzzy 5th Avenue (Calle Quinta Avenida) is so close by. At Fuego, one of the five on-site restaurants and cantinas, dine on locally caught octopus and Caribbean grouper prepared over a wood-fire grill. Book an oceanfront suite for easiest access to sea breezes and sunrise dips.

Calle 38, 52-984-873-0611,

4. San Mezcalito

“Mezcal,” says a woman perched on a stool at the bar, “is for kissing.” Before you lean in for a smooch, the friendly staff will clarify: The agave distillate is to be sipped, not shot. Pick from the dozens of varieties on offer at this neon-lit hole in the wall on the sleepier end of 5th Avenue – we puckered up for Ensamble de Lula, a softer take on the smoky spirit, capped with a bite of cinnamon-dusted lemon.

Calle Quinta Avenida and Calle 38, 52-984-138-0131

5. Los Aguachiles

Stroll up Calle 34 for a back-to-basics lunch under a huge palapa-style roof, where locals and expats gather around plastic tables for generous servings of the namesake dish, a serrano-chili-spiked style of ceviche. Here, the mixed seafood aguachiles has chunks of raw shrimp and scallops bathed in a lime sauce and served on a bed of sunflower sprouts and crispy fried onions. Wash it down with Pescadores’ floral Pale Ale, brewed in the Yucatán.

Calle 34 Nte and 25 Avenida Nte, 52-984-142-7380

Playa del Carmen

3 Spots That are a Little More Loco

Owned by Saúl Hernández, frontman for Caifanes, a well-known 1980s Mexican rock band, Kitxen dishes out lively acoustic sets with an edge (sometimes by Saúl himself).

Calle Quinta Avenida near Calle 20,


With granny-chic couches, painted tabletops and tiling, and light bulbs galore, Almirante Pech is a bright spot for margaritas and more.

Calle Quinta Avenida and Calle 30,


For a more urbane approach to cave diving, head to Alux Caverna Restaurant & Lounge to explore the cavern system with a rose-petal martini in hand.

Avenida Juárez Mz 217, Lote 2, 52-984-206-1401,



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