I like to put things down in words. But, words alone do not provide an adequate visual of Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen. You gotta have some photos as well.
Fifth Avenue begins near the pier around Avenido Benito Juarez (that is pretty much First Street). The tourist section of Fifth Avenue continues for about twenty block until around Calle 40. (If you're really mathematical, you might ask how that is possible? Calles (streets) are only even numbers in Playa. So, if you walk from Avenido Juarez to Calle 40, it's around twenty blocks.)
My favorite sites in all of Fifth Avenue are right around the pier area. The pier area is where you, of course, will notice the sculpture entitled Portal Maya (Mayan Gateway). Perhaps you remember that the Maya calendar ended on December 21, 21012 with all kinds of predictions for the end of the world? (The world didn't end and I celebrated my birthday the next day.) I guess nobody in Playa del Carmen believed it would end either. They commemorated this bronze statue then to promote a new era of light and prosperity. The statue, designed by Mexican artist Arturo Taravez, portrays a man pushed high into the air by the whirling wind while a woman is pushed just as high by the swirling water. Included in the sculpture are other symbols important in the area including jaguar, shells, and the rings used in a Mayan ball game.
Beneath the statue is where you will see the Aztec musicians perform on the beach and nearby the Valadores dancers swing towards the earth, upside-down, from a very tall pole about 100 feet above the ground. You can't just walk on by. You have to stop, stare and then grab your camera or phone.
As you walk on down the direction towards Calle 40, you'll pass McDonalds, Starbucks, mariachi bands, designer stores, ice cream shops, Aztec kings, souvenir shops, gourmet restaurants, bars, more souvenir shops, fish spas (where fish nibble the dirt right off your feet), hotels and even more souvenir shops. You'll also pass so many tourists. I'm told that October is the low season for the entire year. Still, I was shocked by the number of people who made their way to Playa this month.
I was shocked. Merchants were hungry. Low tourist season is no fun when you try to feed your family. Hawkers tried to lure me into their shop along each block. Women offered massages at their studios right on the street. I was also approached to see if I wanted to buy drugs. That offended me. I asked one person that I met if I seriously looked like someone who wanted drugs. His answer was, "Hey, you're white." Well, the real answer is, "NO, I don't do drugs."
After a week, I have to confess that Fifth Avenue lost some of its charm. I still stop every time I see an Aztec king, but I've been wandering other streets instead, in search of a Mexican experience. In my observation, most tourists stay in the vicinity of Fifth Avenue. The heart of the area for hotel, condo rentals and apartments runs from Avenido Juarez till about Calle 30 and then about five blocks deep. When you walk in this area, you'll always be among gringos. And, I must admit, I feel sorry for those visitors who only experience that very touristy experience in Playa.
My friend, Javier, invited me to his mother's diner on Avindeo Colosios. I didn't have a map. I just knew the general direction to walk. And, I walked. Avinedo Colosios was somewhere near Calle 70, more than 25 blocks from my rental. It was more of a walk than I expected. But, I made one very interesting observation. If you ever walk that far away from the tourist heart of Fifth Avenue, you will be the only gringo in sight. It quickly became my favorite part of the city.
I already learned how to take the bus there.