Funky Finds, Exclusive Treasures and Tacky Souvenirs in Playa del Carmen
By Kristin Busse
Cancún Local Expert
Playa del Carmen started out as a small fishing village where people caught the ferry to the island of Cozumel. However “Playa” (the locals’ name for the town) has become one of the most popular tourist towns in Mexico. No matter how big it gets, Playa never seems to lose its relaxed, bohemian feel.
Pedestrian street La Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue) is the soul of Playa del Carmen. This charming walkway that runs parallel to and a block up from the beach is home to many of the boutique hotels, bars, restaurants and shops that visitors frequent, but there are many other places to search for the perfect souvenir or gift, a new outfit or anything else you might be looking for.
Biuriful and La Milagrosa are funky independent shops that sell unique merchandise. If you’re looking for artwork to take home as a keepsake, Riviera Art Gallery sells Mexican art for all budgets. Plaza Playacar Shopping Mall is within walking distance of many Playacar resorts. If you feel like catching a movie (American movies are shown in English in Mexico with the exception of children’s movies which are dubbed over in Spanish) and doing some shopping Centro Maya is your best bet. For exclusive gifts, perfume and cosmetics, Pineda Covalin and Ultrafemme await. If you're look for a modern, American-style mall, head to Quinta Alegria Shopping Mall.
Go on a hunt for endless shopping treasures in Playa del Carmen.
Centro Maya is a shopping center located on the highway in Playa del Carmen that is frequented by both locals and tourists. Shops and services include superstore Soriana, warehouse club City Club, a Cinemex with nine theaters, Coppel department store, Marti, which sells tennis shoes and sports equipment and apparel, Shasa, which sells women's fashions, Office Max and Zingara, a beachwear boutique. Restaurants include Subway, McDonalds and Italianni's. There is also an ice cream shop, a Flexi shoe store, Sunglass Island and other shops. Catch a movie and then go shopping for a new bikini or sunglasses that you can wear to the beach when the sun comes out tomorrow. (984 803 9339)
Plaza Playacar Shopping Mall
Playa Playacar's motto is, "Take Home Mexico," which is very fitting considering the fact that this shopping center sells many different types of Mexican souvenirs, clothing, jewelry, tequila, gifts, silver, handicrafts, cigars and art. This small colonial-style open air mall is in Playacar, the upscale, quiet neighborhood in Playa del Carmen, and within walking distance of many resorts, like the RIU Playacar, Club Viva Playa, Royal Hideaway and more. In addition to the many shops and kiosks, visitors will find services like an internet cafe, a car rental, a bank, a photo lab and a drugstore. There is live mariachi music at Plaza Playacar on many evenings. (984 873 0006, 984 873 0008)
Ultrafemme is a gorgeous, first world, luxury shop that sells brand name perfume and cosmetics. You'll find Ultrafemme stores in Los Cabos, Cancun and in three locations in Playa del Carmen. There are knowledgeable sales clerks to help you choose the perfect skincare line or make-up palate. Ultrafemme sells luxury brands like Dior, MAC, Burberry and Chanel and more accessible lines like The Body Shop, Victoria's Secret, Maybelline and L'Oreal. In the store located on 5th Avenue at 14 Bus they also carry fine jewelry and watches. The other two Ultrafemme stores in Playa are located at 5th Ave. and 12th Street and in Plaza Paseo del Carmen. (984 803 4665)
Riviera Art Gallery
Riviera Art Gallery, located on 20th Street between 5th and 10th Avenue in Playa del Carmen, sells oil and acrylic paintings, lithographs, photographs, sculptures, hand crafts and prints of original works for all budgets and tastes. Their hope is to bring the general public and the art world closer together, in order to make art financially accessible to all collectors. Many works for sale are by local artists, including members of the Mayan community. Riviera Art Gallery also sells "Art Cards" which are meant to be given as gifts. The recipient can in turn use the card to redeem any original piece of art or limited edition print available in the gallery. (984 803 1037)
Biuriful is a fashionable boutique located on La Quinta Avenida between 30 and 32nd streets. The name is a play on the word "beautiful". This chic shop carries sunglasses, accessories, jewelry, clothing, shoes and various unique handmade items for both men and women. Merchandise includes both national and international brands, and is distinctive and made by smaller, independent companies with design, elegance and quality in mind. Prices vary enormously, from an accessible 20 usd to a 1000 usd splurge. This is the place to shop for unique items that you will treasure. (044 984 803 4980)
Pineda Covalin is an exclusive Mexican company whose merchandise is sold in boutiques of the same name all over the country. You may have seen a Pineda Covalin boutique in the Cancun or Mexico City airport and there is also a shop located in Playa del Carmen on 5th Avenue. The high quality, beautiful bags, scarves, ties and clothing are made from the finest silk and feature vibrant colors and creative designs. Pineda Covalin's creations combine Mexican history, culture and tradition with a modern esthetic. These upscale items aren't souvenirs, but high fashion treasures that never go out of style. (984 803 2285)
Mimosas Atelier / La Milagrosa
Mimosas Atelier combines chic fashion with traditional Mexican craftsmenship. The colorful garments are lovingly made in collaboration with Mexican indiginous groups including Otomi, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Huichol, and Totonac artists, with the goal of preserving Mexican traditions and folklore. All embroidery is unique and done by hand preserving more than 5000 years of tradition. The corsets, whether they showcare Frida Kahlo, La Catrina, or brightly colored flowers, are literally works of art. Claudia Bo's breathtaking creations can be purchased at La Milagrosa, located on 5th Avenue (La Quinta Avenida) between 6th and 7th streets (other artists work is sold here as well) or at the boutiques in Rosewood Mayakoba resort.
Paseo del Carmen at Playacar
This outdoor shopping mall is located at the very end of the quiet, upscale Playacar neighborhood. Pedestrian-friendly paths wind between the shops and restaurants including clothing stores Guess, Zara and Benetton and eateries like Rolandi's and Sushiitto. There is also a good selection of locally owned boutiques that sell everything from bathing suits and clothing to cigars and jewelry. In the evenings, street performers juggling fire and doing acrobatics entertain the shoppers. Hours and credit cards accepted vary by store. Paseo del Carmen is being remodeled and some of the shops have changed and/or closed.
Quinta Alegria Shopping Mall
Quinta Alegria Shopping Mall is three floors of shopping in downtown Playa de Carmen, right on famous Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue). Locals, expats and tourists alike were all thrilled when this sparking U.S.-style mall opened and brought Forever 21, Bebe, Aldo, Victoria's Secret (sans the bras and panties), American Eagle, The Body Shop and much more. Grab a coffee or a treat at Starbucks or Haagen Dazs, or a meal at well-known Mexican chain, Sanborn's, which makes up the entire third floor. Plenty of trees and plants and sitting areas complete the experience. Underground parking is available. (984 803 2358)
5th Avenue (La Quinta Avenida) in Playa del Carmen needs no introduction. This is the lively pedestrian street located one block from the beach that is the heart of Playa's (as it is called by locals) shopping, dining and nightlife. 5th Avenue keeps getting longer and longer and more shops open every day, but it never loses its funky bohemian charm. Visitors will find stores, shops and boutiques that sell souvenirs, clothing, bikinis, art, tequila, silver and everything and anything else they are looking for. You can be entertained for hours without spending a dime in "La Quinta's" shops, but that doesn't mean you won't want to.
About Kristin Busse
After vacationing in Mexico many times, Kristin decided to move to Cancun "for a year". That was in 2001. Kristin grew-up in Michigan and studied Communications at Michigan State University. Chicago was her home for the next 9 years. Mexico has been good to Kristin, she became a mother and achieved her lifelong dream to become a professional singer. She loves to explore the area on the weekends with her 5 year old son, and she enjoys sharing her experiences and discoveries with others through writing and social media.
Read more about Kristin Busse here.