What’s New in Playa del Carmen for 2009
Posted by Tony & Cheri on January 1, 2009
For the second year in a row, we’re going to start the new year with a blog about what’s new in Playa del Carmen. Playa is growing so quickly we could probably do a “what’s new” blog every couple of weeks, but given our schedule, particularly during high season, we’re lucky to do this once a year. So here goes.
This year mostly we’re mostly reporting on our own neighborhood of north Playa, Playa Norte, or as we call it, North Beach. When we first took over the hotel (four years ago February 1), North Beach was the outskirts of the resort zone. We were practically in the boonies. Fifth Avenue had only recently been paved at our end and was not yet closed to traffic. There were few restaurants and stores, and the Luna Blue Hotel (at that time, the Hotel Zanzibar) was one of the few reasons to journey that far north on Fifth Avenue. Boy has that ever changed.
The North Beach section of Playa (north of Constituyentes) has become the new happening center of Playa’s restaurant/bar/shopping scene. Here are some of the newcomers from late 2008:
The Luna Blue Bar, Calle 26 between 5th Ave & 10th Ave. Our very own Luna Blue Bar officially opened this year, just in time for St. Paddy’s Day, but it has really come into its own in the last few months. Parrothead Cheeseburger parties, Pet Shelter fundraisers, and spontaneous happenings like lap dance lesson night have all made the ‘Blue a fun place to hang out. And starting Tuesday January 6th, one of Playa del Carmen’s favorite local musicians, Chris Bolister, will be doing an acoustic set at the bar every Tuesday night. Tony will probably be grilling his famous Papa burgers on those evenings. Chris Bollister is known around town as a great rock ‘n roll performer, but his up close and personal acoustic sets in the intimate setting of our bar show a whole other side to his personality.
Garden of Eating, Calle 20 between 10th Ave & 15th Ave. Another rather new restaurant in Playa is the Garden of Eating. The owner of a great old house in Playa refused to let her building be torn down for modern condos and instead created this interesting new restaurant. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, with dinner having an Indian influence with a special influence on curries. We just ate there tonight and had a tasty and interesting meal. We’ll definitely be back.
Molusko, 5th Avenue between Calles 28 and 30. Just next door to our favorite Italian restaurant Antica is newcomer Molusko. They have tostadas, tacos, ceviche and many more items on a largely seafood menu. Again, it’s on our “to try” list.
Ben & Jerry’s, 5th Avenue between Calles 28 and 30. As quality ice cream never goes out of style, regardless of the country, Playa has added to its list of ice cream parlors with a new Ben & Jerry about three doors down from North Beach’s Haagen Dasz. You now have a choice of where to buy very expensive high quality American ice cream!
1847, 5th Avenue between Calles 28 and 30. This is a new traditional Mexican restaurant and bar.
La Destileria, 5th Avenue between Calles 22 and 24. La Destileria is a gorgeous new restaurant which features an eclectic nouveau Mexicano cuisine served in a beautiful modern dining room or in an open air palapa bar. It is the latest in a series of upscale restaurants in Playa. La Destilleria is part of a chain that has restaurants in the larger Mexican cities, and its presence here in Playa shows how north Playa is suddenly on the “in crowd” map. We’ve eaten here several times and really recommend this place.
El Muelle, 5th Avenue between Calles 28 and 30. Another rather large bar on the same “foodie” block of Fifth Avenue between Calle 28 and 30. They were having electrical problems the night we were visited, so we’re unsure what the atmosphere is, but our first impression is that it is of the terminally hip thump thump music type popular among a crowd younger than us.
Corsi’s, Calle 28 between 5th Ave & 10th Ave. For those who like their ice cream with an Italian twist, Corsi’s joins the roster of many gelato cafes to be found in Playa. The emphasis is on gelato, but they appear to have coffee drinks and other small snacks as well. In a quiet side street café style setting. Very reasonable prices for ice cream/gelato, at least in this town.
Evolve Health Club, Calle 24 between 5th & 10th Ave. This new ultra modern health club is the talk of the town. Locals are pretty thrilled with its amazing array of fantastic workout machines & cool classes. We’ve already joined in anticipation of taking off our extra holiday pounds. And, we’re pleased to announce that guests of the Luna Blue Hotel can purchase day passes for only $100 pesos (normally $150 pesos). It’s by far the largest and nicest health club in Playa.
Airborn, 5th Avenue between Calle 22 and 24. Mens clothing store with an emphasis on guayaberas.
Soho, 5th Avenue between Calle 22 and 24. Soho clothing store has opened a second, larger location here in North Playa. Cute clothes, reasonably priced. Now they’ve added the latest ankle breaking high heel fashions for shoe divas.
Zingara, 5th Avenue between Calle 22 and 24. This is the third Zingara in town that we know of. They sell the latest in miniscule bathing suits, one of which ended up under our tree as a present for Cheri. Cute stuff and reasonable prices.
Maria Vazquez, 5th Avenue between Calle 22 and 24. Upscale womens clothing.
Mimosa, 5th Avenue between Calles 28 and 30. Upscale womens clothing.
KumKum & Mezcal Room, 5th Ave at the corner of Calle 28. This one is pretty bizarre. It’s a combination mezcal bar and jewelry store. It appears you can sip mezcal (a raw distant cousin of tequila) while you shop for high end silver jewelry, something we prefer to do sober.
Crybaby’s, Calle 24 between 5th & 10th Ave. Visitors who crave American food and can’t go a week without a burger, fries and a chocolate shake, should find what they want at this new Fifties style restaurant. The prices are pretty hefty ($8 to $11 for a burger) but they are big enough to split, and the fries were hot and crunchy, although they were out of onion rings the day we were there.
Road to the Mamita’s & Kool beach clubs, Calle 28 between 1st Avenue & the beach. Underneath the new and still under construction Aldea Thai condos, a large number of stores and restaurants are being prepared and opened. There’s one small burger joint already open. Our friends at Mexico Blue Dream Dive Shop are also relocating there in early February.
Last but not least, there has been a major change in the central part of Playa. The legendary Coco Bongo, which is a dance/nightclub with locations in Cancun and Mexico City, has now opened in Playa del Carmen at the corner of Calle 12 and 10th Avenue. We were privileged to attend the invitation-only VIP Grand Opening last week and were favorably impressed. The senses are assaulted with a never-ending stage show, trapeze artists, air and confetti cannons, flashing lights, booming surround sound and the endless pouring of liquor. It’s expensive with a $20 admittance for cash bar or a $50 all you can drink ticket, but we think it’s worth the price. It is crowded beyond belief, and movement in the club is difficult but not impossible. But still, it’s a little slice of the exotic that many people in Playa will enjoy. And the former Bali dance club has now opened as Dubai, on Calle 12 between 5th Ave and 10th Ave, right next door to CocoBongo. We haven’t checked it out yet.
Oh, and did we mention Playa now has its very own Dairy Queen? Woo hoo! 5th Ave between Calles 8 & 10. The taste of childhood is so sweet.
2009 looks to be another incredible year for Playa del Carmen. Despite the economic woes in the world, people are still flocking to our little home as one of the hippest vacation spots around. We’ll do our best to keep our blog readers up to date on whatever is new and fun down here in paradise. One thing that hasn’t changed of course…the beautiful Caribbean Sea is still here, and that’s where you’ll find us tomorrow morning to greet the new year.
Feliz Año Nuevo….Happy New Year.