Travel is nothing without the excitement of trying new foods, and restaurants in Playa del Carmen are as varied as the world itself. Whether you want authentic Mexican, sushi, Thai food, falafel or a full dinner for under $3, there’s a restaurant in Playa del Carmen for you. I even met two Canadians who ate poutine at a Canada-themed restaurant!
This isn’t your traditional “best restaurants” list. I just put together my favorite restaurants in Playa del Carmen so you have a varied list of affordable dining options without all the research. ¡Buen provecho!
Accommodations, Activities & Restaurants in Playa del Carmen
Here’s a little overview for visiting Playa del Carmen. If you just want the restaurant tips, skip over this section. 🙂
It’s easy to feel at home in the fastest-growing city in Latin America. Whether you want to grocery shop, buy new jeans, lounge by a rooftop pool, eat lunch or get a dose of authentic Mexican culture, it’s all within walking distance in Playa. I’ve been to Playa two times now, both times solo for vacation and freediving, and on my most recent trip, I started to find my bearings and frequent a few restaurants.
Accommodations in Playa del Carmen
If you’re cool with hostels, I recommend Sayab Hostel or The Yak. Sayab has a beautiful pool and nice dorm/bathroom setup with a dive center right on site that practices in the pool. Plus, it’s just up the street from both Falafel Nessya and El Fogon which I mention below.
The Yak has the friendliest staff I’ve ever met at a hostel (probably because the hostel treats their staff so well!) and a fun activity every night of the week. There’s happy hour, slack lines, hammocks, mojito-making lessons and more. I stayed in a private room which was in the next building over but the dorms look pretty standard and everything was clean.
If you are traveling with friends or family or want to be alone, there are tons of dazzling Airbnbs in Playa with price options to suit any budget. Think like $15-50 per night for an entire apartment! Or, if you have money to blow, Playa has plenty of upscale hotel options. I would probably stay in Thompson Beach House, Thompson Playa del Carmen or Hilton Playa del Carmen.
Activities in Playa del Carmen
The number one thing you should do in Playa is try freediving with Amancay Freediving (I’m biased because I love freediving, but Mexico actually does have some of the best freediving sites in the world). Other than that, Playa del Carmen has the Frida Kahlo Museum, beautiful beaches, excursions to Mayan ruins, cenotes and to snorkel and dive in Cozumel.
Restaurants in Playa del Carmem
Now, on to the restaurants!
You can find every style cuisine and ethnic food you can imagine in Playa del Carmen. On Quinta Avenida, you’ll find plenty of delicious dining options, but there’s more authentic food and lower prices once you get off Quinta and leave the main tourist stretch.
El Fogon $
Av Constituyentes, Quintas del Carmen, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77720 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
You’ll find El Fogon on most “best restaurants in Playa del Carmen” lists because it’s authentic, cheap and delicioso! If you read the reviews, you’ll see the F word in the context of “really good f***ing food” more than once.
You can’t miss its bright yellow and orange appearance on Avenida Constituyentes—only about a 10-15 minute walk from Quinta Avenida.
What to Try: I recommend the al pastor tacos and chorizo tacos with an Indio beer, or the taco loco if you want a burrito as big as your head filled with all kinds of meats and cheese.
I stayed at the Yak Hostel and this sweet guy that worked there recommended Cochinita Pibil, “the place with the pink sign across the street” and it ended up being my favorite place to grab a quick dinner. Tacos are just 18 pesos each (that’s less than a dollar people!) and you should order two more than you’re planning because they are oily and exploding with flavor. The only thing better than tacos sober is, well, tacos not sober, and this little restaurant is open 24 hours! So you can stuff your face for under $5 after you dance the night away at Santino.
What to Try: Don’t even bother with the pollo tacos, go all in with cochinita pibil and carne molida—I’m pretty sure I was audibly moaning as I ate them at the counter.
Po Thai $$$
Av. 10 Norte entre calle 14 y 14 bis, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
I don’t care what country I’m in, if there’s Thai food, I’m trying it! It’s actually kind of funny, I like to eat Thai food when I’m feeling home sick because Thai food is such a big part of my life. Anyone else?
Po Thai has an authentic Thai menu with everything you’re hoping for, including coconut milk soup, papaya salad, pad thai, curries, stir fry dishes, Thai Tea, coconut juice and more. On top of the high-quality food, everyone who works in this restaurant is so friendly and treats you like royalty.
What to Try: I tried the red curry and pad thai and both were 10/10. And when you get the coconut juice, don’t forget to ask for a spoon so you can scoop the coconut chunks out of your glass…no shame!
Falafel Nessya $
Calle 6 Norte entre avenida 10 y 15, Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
Funny story trying to find this restaurant. I knew the general area it was in because it was near where I stayed on my first trip to Playa but on my walk there I was stopped by a guy on a bicycle that said “Shalom”. There are a TON of Israelis in Playa del Carmen (everywhere in Mexico/Central American really) and when I said “Shalom” back, he started speaking to me in Hebrew. I just stood there looking at him and finally said, “I don’t speak Hebrew” and he said:
Israeli: Vhat?! You’re not Israeli?
I: Okay, Jewish though?
I: I could have sworn you were an Israeli girl
M: Can you take me to the good falafel place?
I: Of course
We ended up becoming friends and when we got to the street I knew the falafel place was on he started taking me to another, newer Israeli restaurant.
M: Hey, this isn’t the falafel place I was talking about
I: Ah… but it’s really good and it’s new. Come have lunch, it’s on me.
M: Honestly, I would have but now I really want to eat at the other place just because you tried to trick me.
It was all really funny and he went on to tell me that I must be traveling solo because I scare all the guys away with my independent attitude…okay. Anyway!
What to Try: This place has the most delicious falafel and it’s cheap cheap cheap! Definitely ask about the homemade paletas (popsicles) for dessert, too.
The first time I ate here, it was out of pure laziness. I was starving walking down Quinta Avenida where someone is trying to sell you something at every turn and when the workers here told me to come sit down and eat, I followed. You’ll find typical American prices here but the tacos are definitely authentic and there are jumbo margaritas. Grab a table out front and you’ll enjoy the varied peoplewatching Playa del Carmen is famous for.
What to try: Tacos, hot sauces and margaritas.
Cervecería Chapultepec $
1 Avenida Norte 1, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77720, Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
My freediving instructor recommended this place to celebrate me getting my level two certification and to say goodbye to new friends. I absolutely loved the atmosphere and menu, but the music was so loud no one could hear each other. We had delicious mezcal shots and left because of the music volume. Most items on the menu are just 21 pesos so you can eat and drink for just a few dollars!
And remember, when in Mexico, eat as many tacos as possible!
What are your favorite restaurants in Playa del Carmen? I’m definitely going back so I want all the recommendations I can get! Please let me know in the comments below!