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A lively town on the Riviera Maya with a party scene but places to escape to see the real Mexico

When we stay on the Riviera Maya on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, we avoid going into Cancún at all costs, especially during the Spring Break season. As an alternative we tend to head into the small town of Playa del Carmen, some 45 miles (70km) south. It is a lively town and definitely has a party scene, which luckily is contained along one busy street; Avienda 5 (5th Avenue). Along this pedestrianized street you’ll find a lot of bars, restaurants, cafes and shops, including many of the American chain stores. Every step along the way you’ll be greeted by someone using some corny sales pitch to lure you into a store or restaurant. At one end of Avienda 5 is the Parque Los Fundadores (Founding Fathers Park), which is one of the original areas of Playa Del Carmen. Two of the most recognizable landmarks of this park are La Iglesia Nuestra Senora del Carmen, a stunning white stucco church and the Portal Maya statue, a 52 foot high bronze sculpture depicting the Mayan calendar and celebrating the 21st December 2012.

La Iglesia Nuestra Senora del Carmen
Portal Maya

To be honest this is not why we come to Mexico, so we prefer to wander away from the more touristy areas to find the more authentic Mexican parts of town, and there are some delightful places and hidden gems that you’ll find as you delve deeper into the backstreets.

Playa del Carmen of course is a coast town and a few blocks down from Avienda 5 is the beach. It is a narrow strip of sand lined with beach clubs offering the comforts of beds, shade and drinks. What is left of the beach is filled with locals, especially at the weekends. From here you can peer across the Caribbean Sea towards the island of Cozumel, that is reached by taking one of the ferries that leave regularly from Playa del Carmen.

Vegan dining.
Of course, when visiting somewhere new (or old) we like to try out the local vegan food options. Using the trusty Happy Cow app we identified a couple of vegan restaurants in town; the Pitted Date and Succulenta. Indeed, there were more that we sadly didn’t get a chance to try out.

The Pitted Date.

Local 6, Avenida CTM between 1a Ave & Calle Cozumel,
77720 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico

Located close the Avienda 5, but in a quieter area, the Pitted Date, was a wonderful find. Being a completely vegan café it makes life so much easier when choosing from the menu. There is a lovely shaded outside area to sit or if you wish you can head inside. The staff were lovely and extremely helpful.

We chose a couple of smoothies, the only problem was deciding which ones to have! They were totally amazing. For our main courses we ordered a sandwich and a quesadilla, which were beautifully presented and tasted equally good. By this time we were bursting at the seams but having gone into the store to use the restrooms where you pass by the display case full of tasty bakery goods, we could not resist the temptation of the chocolate cake.

We would highly recommend the Pitted Date to anyone wanting some delicious vegan food. Even non-vegans would really enjoy this place!

La Senda

Avenue 10 North, between 10 and 10 Bis streets col. centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen
+52 984 803 0499

Google Maps

We arrived at La Senda in a bit of a rush as we had a reservation for a show. It is only a short distance from the bustling Avienda 5 but feels a million miles away. There is no outdoor seating but the interior is very light and airy. The waiter who greeted us was extremely helpful and explained the all vegan menu and which dishes would take the least time to prepare. The description of the bowl options sounded amazing so we selected a couple of dishes and sat back and waited.

Before we knew it our food had arrived. The bowls were beautifully presented and as we tucked out taste buds were mesmerized by the delicate flavors and textures of the food. Sadly, we were in a hurry so had no time to try any more of the delicious food from the menu. The deserts looked tempting but we had to leave!

Our experience at La Senda was terrific. The atmosphere of the restaurant was friendly and welcoming, the staff we met were helpful and accommodating. And as for the food – amazing! We highly recommend checking out this place if you are in Playa del Carmen.

Mark & Karen Hobbs

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