Xcaret Eco Park is one of our guests’ favorite places to visit during their Playa del Carmen vacation. The huge park is like a mini-Mexico, representing the country’s vast culture, history, and nature. Here’s an overview of Xcaret’s best attractions.
A vacation in Playa del Carmen would not be complete without lying at the beach and devouring a book. Your first choice might be to bring the latest New York Times bestseller. But why not read a novel set in Playa del Carmen or one about the Mexican culture? It will give you just that more appreciation about life here. From easy reads to historical fiction, here are our top picks for the best books on Mexico and the Riviera Maya.
You sure tried Tequila at some point in your life. But have you tried mezcal? The ancient Mexican liquor has become the hot new drink trend – not only in Mexico.
Legend has it, that a long time ago, an Aztec tribesman witnessed a lightning struck an agave plant, cooking and opening it, releasing the liquid inside. Eventually they discovered that the sweet sap fermented became a beverage with powerful properties. By drinking it, they could communicate with the gods, which is why it was called the elixir of the gods.
Fast-forward a few hundred years. While Mexico is worldwide known for its tequila, mezcal has long been its poor cousin, “firewater” for the lower class and hardly known beyond the Mexican border. Over the last few years this has changed a lot, with fancy mezcalerias popping up all over the world, serving not only pure mezcal, but all sorts of drinks that contain the spirit.
Now, whatever your beliefs are, and even though mezcal is quite different from the liquor used in pre-Hispanic times, the fact that they used it to communicate with their gods sure enough shows that you shouldn’t underestimate how strong the liquor is. And if that’s not enough, according to Greek mythology Agave was the goddess of desire who helped raise Dionysus, the father of bacchanals and profound inebriation. Just saying, be careful, mezcal is no light weight spirit.
Mezcal comes from the Nahuatl word mezcalli, what means cooked agave. Hence, mezcal refers to all types of alcohol made from the agave plant. Mezcal can be made of 30 varieties of agave. This makes tequila, made only of one specific type of agave (Blue agave), a type of mezcal.
The center of the Mezcal universe is Oaxaca, with nearly 90% of the mezcal production. Good Mezcal is still handcrafted, using century old methods. The agave hearts, called piñas (because they look like giant pineapples) are cooked during several days in an underground, earthen pit that is lined with volcanic rock.
The cooked piñas are crushed with a stone wheel turned by a horse or a donkey. The mash is then fermented and the resulting liquid distilled in either clay or copper pots.
If you visit Mexico you should definitely try mezcal. Always remember the saying “It should be kissed not shot”, meaning don’t down it in a gulp the college-spring-break-way, but savor it. These are the best places to drink mezcal in Playa del Carmen:
Besides of traditional Mexican food, they serve a selection of the best artisanal mezcal. On the menu are also cocktails with mezcal. They seek to revive Mexican culture and traditions, informing their customers of the history, concepts and forms of consumptions of their products, what makes it the number one place in Playa del Carmen to try mezcal. (Street 34, between Avenues 5 and 10)
This is the perfect place to start your night out with a couple of friends. The small bar only fits about 20 people, and they serve mainly mezcal drinks of all sorts. If you speak some Spanish you can learn quite some wisdom from the quotes covering their walls. For example the Oaxacan saying “Para todo mal, mezcal. Para todo bien, también” (For everything bad, mezcal, and for everything good, too). Try their mojito with mezcal and their mango mezcal martini! (10th Street, between Avenues 5 and 10)
This disco and bar just a few steps from Playa Palms Beach Hotel is not a place to hang out and chat with your friends, since they play loud music. But to dance, have fun or just stop by for their famous shots of flavored mezcal. Our favorite flavor: Passion fruit. (12th Street with Avenue 1 bis)
One of the first things that come to mind when you think of Mexico is the Mariachi music. With its beautifully dressed musicians playing this oh so very Mexican music. Mariachi is indeed such a fundamental element of the Mexican culture that in 2011 UNESCO inscribed it on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
This traditional Mexican music style is a result of indigenous music mixed with European and African influences. Its Mexican origins lie in Western Mexico, probably in the state of Jalisco. Originally Mariachis played only string instruments, and the trumpet, today an established component, was added until later. Still, the most remarkable instrument remained the guitarrón, a large, deep-bodied acoustic bass that’s solely played by Mariachis.
Initially Mariachis were associated with the rural lower class, since mostly ranch workers played this kind of music. In the early 1900 however, they began to gain acceptance in the upper class. Around the same time Mariachis started dressing in the particular black or white charro suits they are famous for today: a short jacket and high tight pants, both often with silver decorations, and a wide-brimmed sombrero. Women sometimes use a long skirt instead, with the same decorations.
In almost every city in Mexico you see them playing in restaurants and bars, serenading a señorita on her birthday, or waiting in a plaza for someone to hire them. They are the heart and soul of any real Mexican celebration. As anywhere in Mexico, also in Playa del Carmen Mariachis are often hired for weddings.
If you want to make your Mexico vacation real Mexican, you definitely can’t miss a Mariachi concert. We checked out the best places to listen to Mariachi music in Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya:
If you want to taste, listen and experience Mexico in the Riviera Maya, this is the place to go. Board one of the traditional trajineras, some kind of gondolas. You will be served Mexican dishes and Tequila while you listen to Mariachis play. At latest after the second Tequila you feel like dancing along.
2 5th Avenue
As you stroll along the 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen at night, you’ll sure stumble over some fancy dressed Mariachis playing outside a restaurant or on the street.
3 La Parilla
One of the most typical Mexican restaurants in Playa del Carmen, from the food they serve, to the decoration to the music. Every evening at 8 pm they have Mariachis play. On Constituyentes between Avenues 5 and 1.
4 Mi Pueblo
Taste authentic Mexican delicacies prepared in the open style kitchen while you sing along with the Mariachis. On the 5th Avenue with Street 8.
Are you planning your destination wedding and feel like Mariachis are a must? Contact us, we at Playa Palms Beach Hotel are happy to make your dream come true.
All you need to know about Mexico’s most famous dish and where to get the best tacos in Playa del Carmen.
Mexico’s cuisine is not only delicious, but also very diverse. Every region has its own specialties, flavors and textures and food plays an essential role in Mexico. Of all the possible dishes you could eat in Mexico, probably the most famous is the taco.
Tacos itself come in an incredible variety of filling and preparation. Any possible kinds of meat (think further than just flank steak, think brain or tongue) combined with different spices, chili peppers and salsas.
Facts you should know about tacos:
- Authentic Mexican tacos never come in a hard shell. Never. Ever. They are wrapped in a palm-sized soft corn tortilla. If they’re made with wheat tortillas they’re considered burritos.
- You eat them by hand. The less messy it gets, the more Mexican you are.
- Squeeze lemon on your taco.
- Put salsa on your taco. Friendly advice: make sure to ask which one is the real spicy one.
- The taquero might ask you if you want your taco con todo (with everything), meaning if you want it with coriander and onion.
As in any Mexican city, there are hundreds of taquerías in Playa del Carmen. These are Playa Palms’ 6 favorite taco places:
1 El Fogón
The tourist favorite spot to try Mexico’s most popular taco: the taco al pastor. You’ve surely seen the huge chunks of vibrant red colored pork meat on a vertical spit, suspended in front of a flame that reminds of shawarma or kebap. That’s the meat you use for the tacos al pastor. It actually derives from the original shawarma, brought to Mexico by Lebanese migrants in the early 1900s. It’s marinated with different spices and chile peppers, and the tacos typically come with a piece of pineapple, coriander and onion. (Constituyentes, between Avenues 25 and 30 / Avenue 30 between Streets 6 and 8)
2 Taquería El Ñero
The local’s favorite. With their chef being from Mexico City, they serve tacos which are difficult to find elsewhere in Playa del Carmen, among them tacos de suadero and tacos de tripas. Suadero is a very tender cut that comes from underneath the cow’s skin. Tripas are the cow’s intestine. Maybe non-Mexican palates need to get used to it first, but according to most Mexicans it’s the most delicious taco of them all. Once you dared to try them , how about some tacos de sesos (brain)? (Ave. Juarez, between Streets 40 and 45)
3 El Buen Taco
Try the grilled beef taco arrachera. They have several condiments and extra fillings you can add to your taco, like potatoes, nopales (cactus, you should definitely try it!) or cucumber. The green salsa is to be handled VERY carefully, it’s hotter than the hinges of hell. (Constituyentes, between Avenues 35 and 40)
4 El Borrego Loco
They serve incredibly delicious barbacoa style tacos, meaning lamb tacos, which are usually eaten for breakfast. The meat is slow cooked so it’s very tender. In case you’re not a heavy eater early in the morning, you can eat them for lunch too, they’re open until 3 pm. Oh, and apparently they’re an excellent hangover cure. (Highway road, just north of Ave. Constituyentes)
5 Lajam Tacos Arabes
Again, you can taste the Middle Eastern influence on Mexican food. The Arab-style tacos are also based on spit-grilled pork meat, but induced with oregano, thyme and onion. Traditionally they’re served in pita bread, but nowadays you can order them with a tortilla. (32 Street between Avenues 5 and 10)
6 El Oasis
The place to go for seafood in general, but one of their most popular dishes are fish and shrimp tacos. Originally from Baja California, these delicious tacos found their way to the Riviera Maya. (12th Street, between Avenues 5 and 10)
Spoilt for choice? If you’re staying at Playa Palms Beach Hotel just ask anyone of our staff – we all love tacos!