A night out in Playa Del Carmen
So, I covered a bit about what 5th ave is like, but things change when the sun goes down. You go from this:
Crossroads (quick video I took early in the night)
or this (walkaround from someone, posted about a year ago)
a few notes before we dive in:
- drinking age is 18. There will be youngsters afoot.
- Drinks are as expensive in the tourist part as anywhere else in the world I’ve been. Prepare your wallet accordingly
- The clubs (discos, en espanol. Just don’t go expecting Abba) stay open until 4 or later. Rest up.
So, if you are in PDC and looking for nightlife, regardless of how you START the night, you WILL end up at the crossroads below 5th and 12th. With that as a truism, let’s start your night out on a nice, relaxed note with a few drinks at some nice places with cool, chill atmospheres, then steadily ramp up into a train wreck that stops short of being thrown in a Mexican jail.
Start your night right on the beach. Recommended drink: Cuba Libre. Fusion has a fire show at 10, which is followed up by a Cuban band doing some mean salsa. There’s a wooden plank dance floor right on the sand in front of the band for dancing. The beach, lighting, open air, and music make this pretty much the pinnacle of romance. If, you know, you are into that sorta thing.
More live music! How can you go wrong? Righ on 5th, Fah is a good place to have a seat right on the strip and have a beer while listening to whatever cover band they have that night.
Food here is pretty weak compared to all your other options, so I’d recommend just getting a cerveza. The bands range from “do they know what a key is?” to “Why are these guys not touring?”. Your mileage may vary. However, I haven’t seen a night yet without a band, so you’ll always get something.
Next, try out Ula Gula, just up the block. You must get the Caipirinha. Best I’ve had anywhere. Sour like lemonade but a touch of sweet and completely refreshing on a warm night (which is every night in PDC). They always have a DJ here playing House music (anywhere from progressive to tech for you electro-heads out there). Great place to watch everyone walk on by as they head out to the crossroads for the night.
After your tasty, tasty Caipirinha, head to Deseo. It’s right off 5th up some mayan-esque stairs, so many people miss it. Easily, hands-down my favorite vibe anywhere in PDC. House music is much more towards the Eurotrance style, so it’s very chill, relaxed, yet still energizing. Sit back with your drink by the rooftop pool and enjoy the projection on the wall of whatever b-grade black and white movie they are showing. My favorite so far was Santo en el Tesoro de Dracula. Wow. So. Awesome.
Okay, so now the night begins to slide downhill. Literally. You descend into the madness at the crossroads. Diablita is a great place right on the corner where you can watch the fray ensue. The bartenders are great, and if you catch them at a slow point you can ask them to make you whatever drink they think is good with <fill in liquor>. The Elder did this with rum and I wish I would have gotten pictures of it. It took 4 separate glasses, a plate, a muddle, 2 minutes steeping time for various ingredients, and ended in a goblet glass with cinnamon on top. Impressive.
Kartabar (sorry no image, my phone’s camera didn’t do well in the dark)
If, however, you feel a bit munchy, you can to next door to Kartabar and get some pretty decent falafel and hummus. The seats (couches) here are way too comfy, you might just finish the night here if you settle in. Again, you have a front-row view of the madness of the crossroads.
By now it’s probably very late if you are still out, so it’s time to just dive into pure silliness. You have 5 choices for how to finish the night:
This is the first mega-club you will run into on entering the crossroads, and will stay the most packed throughout the night. By the end of the night, it will be standing room only across the three floors they have. You will have to pay 100 pesos cover, unless it’s early and you are an attractive woman.
Usually free cover, 2 big dance floors with separate types of DJ (top 40 and whatever the guest DJ that night is doing at the back bar), plus an upstairs that will open if the place fills up which is unlikely because it’s huge. Sand separates the two floors, and the back bar is open to the beach so you get a fantastic breeze coming in as the night winds on. Pretty hard to beat in my opini0n. Also, if it’s early and you are an attractive woman, they may give you an “open bar” wristband letting you drink for free all night. Danger.
You WILL be pestered by hawkers on the street trying to sell you an armband to give you “open bar” at the Parrot. They are there to funnel people into the Parrot, and it’s worked wonders for them for years. The Parrot is on my list as most disappointing because 3 years ago when I was here it was all sand and open to the beach and they had fire dancers throughout the night. Now the sand is gone, there are no fire dancers, and I have completely outgrown the crowd. Music is all top-40 like you’d find in any club in the states. They have themes every day (Disco, carnival, foam party, etc) but it all feels rather cheesy. Still: they prepare quite a mountain of foam:
just opened. They chose their party theme to be… cows. Yep, nothing says a rockin’ good time like a cow flying overhead.
this is a nightclub that is NOT on the crossroads. I know! Madness! How will they survive? Apparently pretty well. They are only open Thursday – Sunday, but when they are open they get packed out pretty well. Lots of large parties go here and everything focuses around one central dance floor.
Depending on your tastes, I would recommend any of these.
Not recommended: Coco Bongo. (click on link only if you like obnoxiousness)
Unless you are 22, have never seen a Cirque show before (this tries to come close but ultimately fails) and have too much money making your pants just not fit well anymore. In which case, well, youth is for making mistakes!
As for the Mexican Jail: you will see LOTS of federal police patrolling. It can be somewhat disconcerting at first, until you realize that tourism is basically the entire industry for the area from Cancun down to Tulum. They patrol mostly to make their presence known. I have yet to see anyone have any altercation with them whatsoever. So, just treat them as part of the show.
Now go get some sleep. You’ll need it.