Since arriving in Playa del Carmen in November, one of the highlights for us has been discovering all the great restaurants this very international city boasts. There are tons of Mexican places, of course, but these are joined by a plethora of Italian restaurants, seafood spots a'plenty, and many more.
If you avoid the pricier places that cater to tourists, dining out here is more reasonably priced than in the US (and much more so than on Ambergris Caye, Belize), so we do it more often. And although we have a nice list of favorite restaurants in our "rotation", we like to throw in a new one now and then for fun. And more often than not, it earns a place on our "list".
Last night's new find was no exception. Not only did it have whimsical decor, the food and service were both top-notch!
We were greeted by the mascot giving us a big "smile".
Yeah, I was having a little fun before entering the giant palapa that is El Oasis Mariscos and finding a nice, breezy table on a beautiful early evening. This place is on the west side of the highway so a nice little walk for us, and that works out well when you eat as much as we did. We ROLLED home.
I loved the various decorative items and lights hanging from inside the palapa roof.
Yep, even Spider Man was there! He seems to be pretty popular in Mexico.
There were so many choices on the menu, I got a bit overwhelmed: shrimp ceviche, fish tacos, spicy octopus, among many, many others -- all things a seafood lover like me would have enjoyed. Too many choices!
Finally, I settled on what I thought was a tropical grilled shrimp dish, but when it came, the shrimp were fried. Oops! I'm gonna check it on the menu next time we go; it's entirely possible that I made a mistake since the menu was so extensive and I rushed a bit when the waiter arrived to take our order. To be sure, it was delicious, but I had wanted something a bit healthier, and with veggies, and this plate did not come with anything green.
I was envious of the tropical grilled fish that Barry got. I had no idea it would be covered with additional seafood and veggies as well. I know what I am getting next time with no need to agonize over the menu. And there will definitely be a next time!
Barry's dinner was so healthy, in fact, that he was craving a little something from the dessert menu. Much to our surprise, when he inquired about postres, they brought out this huge dessert tray! A Mexico first for us! And of course, dessert trays always make the choice much, much more difficult.
I was stuffed so told Barry to pick two, which he did. Of course I couldn't resist the temptation, and still ended up eating some of each. Desserts are my weakness!
Needless to say, we rolled out of there. Good thing we had a fairly long walk to get back to our rental.
We also recently returned to Cheester's, a local Italian place far from the tourist zone. Portions are huge, and prices are small, a perfect combination! Based on the portion size from our first visit, we decided to switch it up this time and share a massive mango/chicken salad and just one pasta dish. This worked out well and was plenty to eat, especially accompanied with their delicious home-baked rolls.
After the salad, we didn't need much pasta at all, so took most of this home. It was sauced with fresh tomatoes, carrots, onions, and a touch of bacon. And we had enough left for an entire dinner the next night back at the ranch, with the addition of a salad.
Finally, we returned to Salt Rock Grille, which is the only 5th Avenue (i.e., the tourist drag) restaurant we have been to. It's a bit of a splurge compared to most of the places we dine, but still reasonable for 5th Ave.
We always enjoy going to Salt Rock, as we're treated so well, and the food is really good and creative. In addition to an entree special, they offer a different drink special nightly for only 45 pesos (approximately $3 US), like this yummy pomegranate daiquiri.
We went on this specific night to try the nightly special, ravioli with curry sauce. It was great! The raviolis were stuffed with lobster and a spinach/ricotta blend. Mmmmmm.... We also had house salads and bread with chutney.
Of course we couldn't resist Catherine's amazing desserts and ended up having to try two of them, since they sounded so wonderful. And they were! This carrot cake couldn't have been any moister.
And this warm, gooey chocolate-peanut butter brownie was to die for.
Really, we don't usually eat this decadently. But some weeks are just better than others!
Last Friday we took a short afternoon day trip to Tulum. With the excellent public transportation system here in Mexico, hopping on a first-class ADO bus for a very reasonable rate makes it super easy to take quick, spontaneous trips as well as longer overnights. So we went to Tulum for a late lunch!
Here's a map of the area so you can see the various cities in Mexico's Quintana Roo state. We're staying in Playa del Carmen, which is well-located to visit many other cities and a couple of islands as well.
You can see Tulum not too far south of Playa on the map. We previously blogged about our day trips to Isla Mujeres (Part 1 and Part 2) and Puerto Morelos. And we used to live in Ambergris Caye in Belize, at the very bottom of the map.
After walking over to the ADO bus station on Avenida Quinta (5th Avenue) and purchasing our one-way tickets to Tulum for 62 pesos apiece (just over $4 USD), we had a little time to kill, so I walked over to the beach. I can't believe this is the first photo I have taken of this huge, and well-known sculpture!
When we arrived in Tulum, we realized that our tickets only went as far as the "Zona Arqueologica", i.e., the Maya ruins, not into the city itself. There's an ADO bus station right downtown, several kilometers farther south, but I guess you have to ask specifically for "Tulum Centro" when you purchase your ticket, since most tourists only go to the ruins for the day.
Hmmmm...we must look like tourists.
Since we'd already been to the Maya ruins on our first trip to Tulum in 2012, we didn't need to go back again. But we did need a baño, so we headed into the touristy complex near where the bus let us off.
We were dismayed to see a Starbucks and a Quiznos, but we did enjoy seeing these guys in colorful garb spinning round and round up on some sort of a Mexican merry-go-round way up off the ground.
After finding a rest room (a free one at that; pretty unusual here), we headed out to the highway and hopped a colectivo southbound into the center of town. The short ride was reasonably priced at 20 pesos apiece; however, from reading an article I found online afterwards, we may have gotten "gringo pricing". According to the article, the cost to go all the way from Playa to Tulum in a colectivo is 40 pesos per person, and we went only a small fraction of the way.
Once we got off in the center of Tulum, we hoofed it to the south side of town to our favorite "cheap eats" seafood restaurant, El Camelo Jr., as we were starving for lunch. Still not sure what the camel has to do with Mexico or Tulum, but the sign is cute!
Barry had a big plate of grilled fish, rice, and beans, and I went with the fish tacos. Yum!
This drummer played for the restaurant patrons, so we gave her a few pesos afterwards. This is a common practice at the many open-air restaurants in Playa del Carmen as well.
This adorable little guy was sitting in his person's lap and catching a snooze while she had lunch!
Well-fed, we headed out to walk back to the center of town.
We passed a fruit market on our way back to the bus station and couldn't resist stopping. We bought a papaya, pineapple, and a few mangoes. Pretty, aren't they?
Some street art on the way back...love the creativity.
ADO bus terminals had to install new clocks for our new time zone in Quintana Roo, which I blogged about earlier. For a few weeks, we were synchronized with eastern time in the US, but now the US has gone to Daylight Savings Time, so we're one hour behind the east coast once again. We're on either Central Daylight Time, Eastern Standard Time, or the new Southeastern Standard Time for Quintana Roo and Quintana Roo alone! Aren't we special? ;-)
A couple final shots of downtown Tulum from the ADO bus station.
You may have noticed that there are no shots of the absolutely beautiful Tulum beach. We had thought we'd head over, but it would have been a taxi or another colectivo ride since the beach is several kilometers from Centro. We were pretty tired of walking and it was a hot day with full sun, so we ended up bailing on it this time. But here's a teaser shot from our 2012 trip.
I mean, just look at this beach! Might just have to head back there another time....
We bought our ADO tickets back to Playa, and after a very short wait, we hopped onto the bus and headed back north. Another walk from the bus terminal in Playa, and we were back at our rental.
There's nothing like busing it to another city for lunch!
While I was enjoying my coffee last Sunday morning, Barry was out taking his daily morning walk before breakfast and our bike ride. He happened upon quite an event in Centro Playa del Carmen: a 5K Paint Run! I wish I'd known about this since I've been running at the track near our rental and would certain have been up for it, but somehow I never saw a poster, announcement on the Playa forum, or anything. Darn!
He took some great action shots that really show this colorful, festive event off, so I wanted to share them even though we didn't get to participate.
Here's where the event began and ended, at the Palacio Municipal.
Here's the fun part: As they made their way around the course, runners got blasted with various colors of powdered paint. Near the end, where Barry was taking photos, the final color was a pretty Carolina (!) blue. From the photos, it appears that a lot of folks wore oversize, inexpensive (I hope!) sunglasses to keep the paint out of their eyes.
Hold yer breath!
Blue paint explosion!
Another angle...I love the faces of the people coming through the balloon banner -- some serious but most smiling.
These colorful characters were at the Municipal Palace to greet the participants as they came in.
The aftermath! It's great to see kids participating as well as adults.
After running, everyone gathered at the Palacio, where there was upbeat music playing and participants jumping around, dancing, and exercising on the stage. A very festive celebration!
COLOR me very disappointed that I missed this "funday Sunday" event. Maybe next year?!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
Favorite Travel Blogs