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.
Amanoarte and Folk 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. Alas Olas will come to you and create a fashionable custom bikini as a souvenir of your beach vacation.
Go on a hunt for endless shopping treasures in Playa del Carmen.
10 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, Diesel and Benneton and restaurants like Rolandi's, Hard Rock Cafe and Carlos & Charlie's. 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.
9 Centro Maya
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)
8 Pineda Covalin
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)
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)
6 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)
5 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)
4 Alas Olas
Every woman is looking for the perfect bikini. If you're on vacation in Playa del Carmen, look no further than Alas Olas, a small business created by Alin Salazar and Alex Padilla. This dynamic duo of designers will create a custom bathing suit for you. Get creative and choose the ideal material, style and details yourself. Although Alas Olas does not have a retail store in Playa del Carmen, get this, they'll come to you and take your measurements and help you to choose the style and fabric for your bikini. You can also find bathing suits made by Alas Olas in La Bikineria and Uca Luca on 5th Avenue and Dani Sailing on 28th street across from Mamitas Beach Club. (984 859 3368)
Folk is a charming boutique that sells unique bathing suits, jewelry, bags, fans, accessories and embroidered blouses. Each piece is one of a kind, and there are items available for all budgets. The shop is one mother's dream come true. When Tania Amaro started designing bathing suits for little girls, she came into contact with countless independent Mexican designers that shared her dream of uniting with indigenous Mexicans to create clothing, jewelry and accessories that represent both Mexico's past and present. Folk is located on 14th Street (Calle 14) and the beach and is open every day from 10am to 7pm. (984 127 0826, 984 803 0612)
This lovely little shop in Playa del Carmen, which will soon celebrate its one year anniversary, sells modern clothing and accessories adorned with lovely embroidery which is hand-stitched by local indigenous women. The goal here is to unify artisans and designers, in turn assisting indigenous women in earning a living wage and connecting designers and customers with ancient Mexican culture and history. Shoppers will find lovely purses, t-shirts, dresses and more at more economical prices than on popular 5th Avenue. These treasures are so much more than souvenirs. Amanoarte is located on 10th Avenue between calle 14 and calle 14 bis. (av 10 norte entre 14)
1 Quinta Avenida
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 3 year old son, and she enjoys sharing her experiences and discoveries with others through writing and social media.
Read more about Kristin Busse here.