Best Chefs of Mexico
There is no shortage of fabulous places to eat in Playa del Carmen and foodies can celebrate with the Best Chefs of Mexico.
The four-night October fiesta called “The Best of Mexico Riviera Maya” will be held Oct. 5 – 9 in Playa del Carmen. The prestigious event will feature 10-course tasting menus of original dishes honoring the richness of Mexican cuisine through the use of ingredients, seasonings, and techniques from the country’s different regions. The 5 world renowned chefs participating in the event are:
Chef Carlos Gaytan from Chicago!!!!
Chef Carlos Gaytan was named “Chef of the Year” in 2011 by the American Culinary Federation. He created a revolution in Mexican gastronomy with his Chicago restaurant Mexique, which has been celebrated with a Michelin star and awards from Michelin Bib Gourmand. Mexique opened in May of 2008, in Chicago. Now world renowned, Chef Gaytan is one of the Best Chefs of Mexico and with great creativity, love, and dedication he applies his knowledge of French cooking techniques and ingredients to his roots of traditional Mexican cuisine, creating a revolution of Mexican gastronomy.
Mexique has received much recognition since its opening, including one of Chicago magazine’s top new restaurants of 2009, best restaurant of 2010 and received its first star in the Michelin Guide in 2013.Most recently Carlos was awarded “Chef of the Year 2011,” by the American Culinary Federation.
Chef Francisco “Paco” Ruano, Guadalajara
Chef Francisco “Paco” Ruano began his culinary journey in Spanish Basque Country at the Escuela de Cocina Luis Irizar, then throughout Europe in some of the best restaurants in the world, such as Spain’s Mugaritz and El Celler de Can Roca, and Noma in Denmark. In 2013, he opened Alcalde restaurant, widely considered one of the best in Guadalajara’s exciting new dining scene. He’s considered one of the Best Chefs of Mexico.
Chef Mikel Alonso
Chef Mikel Alonso’s restaurant, Biko, is regularly named among the world’s 50 Best Restaurants. Biko is all about ‘techno emotional’ cooking – a term commonly associated with Spain and the progressive cuisine of chefs such as Ferran Adrià – the stuff most diners familiar with the style used to call molecular gastronomy.
Under executive chef Xavi Perez Stone (“Best Chef in Mexico” 2013 and winner of “Iron Chef 2014”) and alongside chef Bruno Oteiza, Alonso, one of the Best Chefs of Mexico, created the singular menu at Velas’ Cocina de Autor, in Playa del Carmen, the first all-inclusive restaurant to earn Five Diamonds from AAA. Food & Wine also named it among the world’s “100 Best New Food & Drink.
Chef Ricardo de la Vega, Mexico City
Chef Ricardo de la Vega’s passion for the culinary arts has taken him to leading Mexican hotels and restaurants in Puebla, Oaxaca, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo. As executive chef of Frida in Playa del Carmen, he focuses on modern explorations of Mexico’s culinary riches. He is widely considered to be one of the Best Chefs of Mexico
Chef Zahie Téllez, Mexico City
Chef Zahie Téllez’s culinary style blends her love for Mexican and Italian cuisine, enriched by her Lebanese and Mazatec roots. She’s greatly admired for her cooking skills as demonstrated for six seasons on television’s “El Gourmet,” as well as her popular restaurant, Jose Guadalupe Platos de Cuchara in Playa del Carmen and is considered one of the Best Chefs of Mexico .
The tastings take place at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Nightly rates start at $393 per person per night based on double occupancy, and include a luxury suite, à la carte gourmet meals at a variety of specialty restaurants, premium beverages, 24-hour in-suite service, and more.
Caminarte Art Walk
I have always loved buying paintings by local artists that depict the natural beauty or culture of an area. In Playa del Carmen there are lots of opportunities to buy lovely pieces. My favorite artists are Marco Pat, Jaccobo Roa and Jose Llehi Sol, and my favorite place to buy local art is on Fifth Avenue at the Caminarte Art Walk.
Every Thursday night there are artists that set up easel on 5th Avenue at the Caminarte Art Walk. This program has successfully been going for years, supporting artist and the arts in Playa. It’s not just some mediocre artists – some of the artist are internationally recognized and just show here on the side. This is a great opportunity to buy from local artist as well to take a stroll and enjoy the vibrancy of 5th Avenue.
Where is Caminarte Art Walk?
The location is mostly from 24th Street until 32nd Street on 5th Avenue. Although the big night is on Thursdays, there often are smaller displays, often on Sunday nights next to Quinta Alegria Mall on Calle 16 between 5th Avenue and 10th Avenue, just a block from Porto Playa Condo Hotel and Magia Beachside Condo Hotel.
What can you find at the Caminarte Art Walk?
You will find paintings, photographs, small sculptures and more. Often artists work on their pieces during the show. They will greet you with a big smile and be happy to tell you about themselves or a particular art piece of theirs. Continuing your walk along Caminarte you might find glass blowers, airbrush painters and much more. Many times you will find musicians walking up and down serenading the visitors to Caminarte.
Caminarte” is a combination of two Spanish words, camino (walkway) and arte (art). Thursday nights on 5th Avenue, the main shopping and restaurant avenue in Playa del Carmen, you can walk and find yourself among the local artists participating on this special night. https://www.locogringo.com/caminarte-a-new-way-to-see-playas-5th-avenue/
Laura Winfree from Playa Realty Executives put together a great list of Playa del Carmen open air markets in or near Playa del Carmen. Her blog is reprinted below. Click here to go to her website
List of Playa del Carmen open air markets
Kava Kasa Market
Where: Kava Kasa at Calle 22 between 5th and 10th Avenues, Playa del Carmen
When: Every Tuesday from 11am to 2pm
Facebook pages: Kava Kasa Local Market Kava Kasa
Primarily a yoga center, the charming open-air palapa at Kava Kasa also serves as a local market on Tuesday mornings. Here, you’ll find all kinds of local products, including artisanal bread, coffees, handmade jewelry, artisanry, eco-friendly alternatives and healthy cuisine (like vegan tamales!). One of the best Playa del Carmen open air markets
Sábado de Tianguis
Where: Parque La Ceiba, Calle 1 Sur and Diagonal 60 in Colonia Edijal Playa del Carmen
When: 3rd Saturday of every month
Facebook page: Parque La Ceiba
The serene and lush setting of Playa del Carmen’s famed Parque La Ceiba provides the ideal backdrop for a nature-inspired local market. These weekend events not only feature a market selling local food and products, but also family activities like book readings, craft workshops, games and more. One of the most family friendly of Playa del Carmen open air markets
Puerto Morelos Market
Where: Casa Caribe B&B in Puerto Morelos, Avenida Rojo Gomez
When: Several events a year during high seasons (6 events coming up this 2016-2017 season: November, December, January, 2 in February, March, with the 1st market of the 2016 high season will be Saturday, November 26 from 11am to 5pm)
Facebook pages: Puerto Morelos Market Casa Caribe
This bright and colorful indoor-outdoor market is hosted in the garden area in the town of Puerto Morelos, a 30 minute drive north of Playa del Carmen. Each event has over 40 vendors selling jewelry, clothes, arts and crafts, and all kinds of delicious food. Best of all, the Puerto Morelos Market features 3 – 4 food trucks at the entrance. There’s not much mmore in Puerto Morelos, so it’s a popular Playa del Carmen open air markets. Organizer Jorie Germann Maloney tells us, “This year, we will be adding live music and a craft class at each market. (Each time it will be different.) Since we got perfect weather at all 3 last season we know that won’t be the case again, so we are renting shade/rain protectors for the whole property so it’s a rain or shine event!!”
Farmer’s Market at El Pueblito
Where: El Pueblito area of Mayakoba resort about a 20 minute car ride north of Playa del Carmen. One of the more higher end of Playa del Carmen open air markets
When: No set schedule, but roughly once a month (next Farmer’s Market is Saturday, September 17 2016 from 5pm to 8pm)
Facebook page: El Pueblito at Mayakoba (El Pueblito posts a calendar for upcoming events on their Facebook page at the beginning of every month)
This charming Mexican-style square has become a gathering place for Riviera Maya locals thanks to their frequent family events, with outdoor movie nights, yoga, concerts and more. Over the past few months, their Farmer’s Markets have provided a beautiful atmosphere for an evening of Mexican cuisine and locally sourced products. El Pueblito says this is “an event for the whole family, where local producers offer a wide variety of gastronomic products, artisan products, and healthy products.
All this surrounded by good music and activities for children.” Even though it’s located at the luxurious Mayakoba Resort, entrance is still free!
Coco Beach Eco Market
Where: The pool area of Les Alizes condos, Calle 46 and Calle Flamingos, Playa del Carmen
When: Friday mornings from 9am to 11am (the market is currently taking a break for the summer, but they will be back starting October 7, 2016)
Facebook page: Coco Beach Eco Market
A popular choice for the Playa del Carmen expat community, the Coco Beach Eco Market features a variety of healthy, fresh, locally-made cuisine and food products set around the lovely pool area of Les Alizes condos. In addition to health food, you’ll also find products like handmade jewelry, home décor, and plants.
Mercado Vegano Playa
Where: Varies between different park areas of Playa del Carmen
When: Every few months
Facebook page: Mercado Vegano Playa
Designed especially for vegans living in the Riviera Maya, this vegan event in Playa del Carmen is much more than just a market. In addition to stands selling locally made products, you can also enjoy vegan-themed workshops, presentations and cuisine made right at the event. Mercado Vegano has also started hosting similar events in Cancun.
Enjoy paintings, food, art, jewelry and more at Playa del Carmen open air markets which are steps from our properties in Playa del Carmen in the heart of the Riviera Maya/Mayan Riviera (a 40 minute ride from the Cancun Airport). Stay at any of our 6 properties, all are a short walk toPlaya del Carmen open air markets. Contact us for rates and availability at El Taj Ocean, Porto Playa, Magia Beachside, El Taj Beach, Maya Villa, or Villas Sacbe.
Visit our website or call Anna at 708-305-7972 for information, rates and availability
Looking for Something to do In Playa del Carmen this weekend? Try Playa Fest
From September 1 – 4, 2016, Mayakoba resort will be hosting Playa Fest, an event designed for visitors and locaals in the Riviera Maya. Playa Fest will feature yoga, stand up paddle boarding, culinary classes and races… and it’s all to honor the 10-year anniversary of the Fairmont Mayakoba hotel. Playa Fest plans to take full advantage of the resort’s turquoise blue waters and white sand beaches for all kinds of “beachy” activities. You can participate in family-friendly SUP races or take on the Mayakoba Playa Fest Challenge, not to mention mouthwatering culinary events.
Mayakoba is located about 15 minutes north of Playa del Carmen.
Scheduled Events Include:
Thursday, September 1
7:00 p.m. Opening Cocktail Party
Friday, September 2
8:00 a.m. Yoga on the Beach with Jessica Cichra
9:00 a.m. Mangrove Sustainability Workshop
10:00 a.m. Stand Up Paddle Clinic with Nicolas Melani
10:00 a.m. Stand Up Paddle Yoga with Jessica Cichra
11:00 a.m. Sand Sculpture Competition (for junior guests)
11:00 a.m. SUP 1k and 5k Race
1:00 p.m. Cooking Class with Chef Diane DiMeo
2:00 p.m. Awards Ceremony and Lunch with Chef Kori Sutton
3:00 p.m. Beach Volleyball
8:00 p.m. Dinner with Chef Jesus Gibaja
Saturday, September 3
Mayakoba Playa Fest Challenge
8:00 a.m. Sunrise Yoga with Jessica Cichra
9:00 a.m. 5k Fun Run
10:00 a.m. Stand Up Paddle 3k
11:00 a.m. Sand Sculpture Competition (for junior guests)
1:00 p.m. Awards Ceremony and Lunch with Chef Kori Sutton
3:00 p.m. Beach Volleyball
8:00 p.m. Closing Dinner at El Pueblito
Click here to visit the official website with full details on each event and participating chefs and instructors, as well as available packages and pricing with and without accommodations.
Halloween and Day of the Dead
Halloween and Day of the Dead are a big deal in Playa Del Carmen! In Playa Del Carmen it is usually a four or 5 day holiday with Halloween events beginning with a parade on 5th Ave October 29, continuing with parties and costumed trick-or-treaters on October 30th and 31st, and continuing with Day of the Dead events on November 1st and 2nd.
Halloween is typically celebrated the same way in Playa del Carmen as in the US with costumes and parties. Consider bringing a costume for yourself and joining the fun! Most bars will have costume contests and parties till the wee hours in the morning. The most popular areas are from Juarez Avenue until 34th St. all along 5th Avenue.
One thing that is different from other countries is the happy vs. scary. When you are out on Halloween night in Playa Del Carmen you will notice how HAPPY everyone is! Families, adults, kids, dogs, everyone is smiling and having a good time. It is not really about scaring people compared to other places and perhaps this is a carry over of the Mexican view of celebrating life and not making death a scary thing. At any rate, Halloween is an amazing time in Playa Del Carmen! Tip: Bring small coins and candy for kids who dress in costumes and travel the street in groups. Children do not really go house to house trick-or-treating here but it is a local custom to bring kids in their costumes to 5th Avenue and walk around and get candy.
For those of you that want to see a lot of costumes and stroll around for free, 5th Avenue in Playa Del Carmen becomes one big parade of scary and funny creatures from October 29 – November 2. If you are in Playa Del Carmen during this time of year you should definitely plan to go out these nights.
Day of the Dead: Day of the Dead, on the other hand, is an important Mexican Holiday celebrating and honoring loved ones who have passed away. You will also see altars set up in numerous public areas honoring someone who has died and inviting them to return to earth for a visit. Altars are built for a specific person who has died and will contain items that have reflect the character and personality of the deceased, personal possessions, or items that had special meaning to that person. The altar invites the deceased back and shows that the family has not forgotten the loved one. Common items include a picture of the deceased, Day of the Dead symbols like skeletons, orange and yellow flowers, colorful perforated paper and more. Day of the Dead followers believe the spirits of the dead will return to earth to visit with their families. It’s a long hard journey from the afterlife back to earth, so traditional Dia de los Muertos altars include nourishment and refreshments for the returning souls, toilet articles to freshen up,
History of Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos originated centuries ago in Mexico, and is a festive, joyous holiday for celebrating, remembering and honoring those who have passed. Day of the Dead is Mexico’s most important holiday, which means they invest a lot of time and money into celebrating Dia de los Muertos, moreso than any other holiday.
The Day of the Dead falls on November 1 and 2 of each year, coinciding with the Catholic holidays All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.
Most people celebrate Day of the Dead out of love and commitment to their loved ones, but some people celebrate this holiday out of fear! Mexico is rampant with folk tales that tell what happens if someone neglects their ancestors on Dia de los Muertos. If a spirit returns to find that no one has built an altar for them, or that their loved ones only left them paltry offerings, they will feel sad and angry… especially when they see what bounteous offerings other spirits received!
Neglected spirits may seek vengeance on those who have forgotten them. Additionally, many folk tales describe how those who ignore their deceased loved ones fall immediately ill and even meet their death shortly after the holiday!
Book now for Halloween and Day of the Dead and join the festivities!! Stay at any of our 6 properties, all are within a 1-2 block walk to 5th Avenue where everything takes place. Contact us for rates and availability at El Taj Ocean, Porto Playa, Magia Beachside, El Taj Beach, Maya Villa, or Villas Sacbe.
Cenotes are natural swimming holes formed by the collapse of porous limestone bedrock resulting in a subterranean world of groundwater pools. The name cenote means ‘sacred well’, and Mayans settled villages around these spiritual wells believing that they were a portal to speak with the gods.
Most cave cenotes have fresh water that has been filtered, making them so clear and pure that you can see straight through to small fish frolicking in the plant life many meters below. Open-air cenotes also have pristine, clear water, where swimmers share the wow moment of paddling in the fresh turqoise water, with small fish zipping below you. Underwater photographers will be thrilled with the clear waters, which allow for aquatic-playground shots in high-definition clarity.
All three of the Coba cenotes are underground caves with water. The entrance to each cenote is 55 pesos (About $5 US). Here is a brief description of the three so you can select which one you wish to visit.
Choo-Ha is the closest cenote to the Coba Ruins and good for just looking if you are not interested in swimming and it’s easier to visit if you have young children. This cenote has shallow water and a lot of stalagmites.
Tamcach-Ha is the second cenote you come to. As you enter the small opening in the ground you descend down a wooden spiral staircase. What makes this cenote special is the two platforms you can jump off. One is 5 meters high and one is 10 meters high! (jump at your own risk) The cenote has a large pool of water to swim in and an easy shallow area where you can enter the water. This is the most popular cenote.
Multun-Ha is a little farther then the others. It is the best cenote if you wish to snorkel and it has the clearest water.
What to bring to Cenotes
Bring swimwear, sunscreen, water, sandals/flip flops and a towel, and leave valuables at home.
Also visit the Coba Ruins, the only accessible Mayan ruins in Mexico
A day at Coba Cenotes can last a few hours. While visiting the Cenotes, take another hour and visit the Coba Ruins, the largest Mayan ruin in Mexico. Add up to 2.5 hours if you walk the site, 1.5 hours if you take advantage of the Coba bicycle rentals or an hour if you opt for the Mayan limo, a chauffeured tricycle where you just sit and take in the sights. Both bicycle options are inexpensive and super fun!
The Coba ruins has the tallest temple pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula, the Nohoch Mul pyramid, which is 135 feet high, 120 steps. The most famous Chichen Itza is a bit smaller with 91 steps leading up to the top of the Kulkulkan Pyramid, but tourists are no longer allowed to climb it. The entire Coba site spreads over more than 30 square miles or 80 square kilometers with many yet-t0-be uncovered buildings.
Getting to Coba
Cobá is about a 90-minute easy drive from our condo/hotels, and Playa del Carmen. You can rent a car and drive, go with a tour group, or hire a driver for the day and go at your own speed (about $100). Our guests at El Taj Ocean, Magia Beachside, Porto Playa, Maya Villa, and El Taj Beach can make arrangements through our concierge! Let me know if you need help and please post your pictures and comments below if you visit Coba. Let the world know what an awesome place it is!
Many people have heard of Chichén Itzá, the famous Mayan ruin in Mexico, and want to visit the ruins when they visit Playa del Carmen, but what they don’t know is that although tourists can walk around Chichén Itzá, the stairs and climb have been closed to tourists since 2006 when a woman fell down the stairs and died. Other Mayan sites have followed suit, roping off their pyramid temples, with the exception of Coba. Coba is the largest Mayan ruin in Mexico and has the tallest temple pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula, the Nohoch Mul pyramid, which is 135 feet high, 120 steps. Chichen Itza is a bit smaller with 91 steps leading up to the top of the Kulkulkan Pyramid. The entire Coba site spreads over more than 30 square miles or 80 square kilometers with many yet-t0-be uncovered buildings.
Coba is the largest Mayan ruin in Mexico
archeologists first learned about the site in the mid 1800′s, but dense jungle, the Caste War and lack of funds made this site a difficult area to penetrate. This Mayan site is still largely unexcavated (only about 5% has become open to the public) making it a true wonder in the Yucatan. Visitors can enjoy shaded walkways that are the original sacbe (white roads), three settlements that show the architecture and vast area of this once large city, 2 ball courts and climb the highest Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan, Nohoch Mul. Cobá was finally opened to the public as an archeological site in1973. Archeologists have estimated that 6,000 structures exist, but only three settlements are for public viewing.
What makes this site different from Chichen Itza is its accessibility and that Coba is not a single site but a large group of sites connected to the central pyramid, connected by over 16 Mayan ceremonial “white roads” (sacbéob). The three main areas that can be viewed in the Coba Ruins are the Nohoch Mul structures (main pyramid), Conjunto Pinturas (spiritual area) and Macanxoc structures (close to the lagoon that bears the same name). Although more than 50 sacbes (white roads) have been discovered within the Coba settlement, only 16 are open to the public.
A day at Coba can last up to 2.5 hours if you walk the site, 1.5 hours if you take advantage of the Coba bicycle rentals or an hour if you opt for the Mayan limo, a chauffeured tricycle where you just sit and take in the sights. Both bicycle options are inexpensive and super fun! Add the cenotes (see below) where you can swim, snorkel and/or dive in underground caves, and make it a day trip!
Scrambling up the 42-meter (138-foot) Nohoch Mol pyramid is not for the faint of heart. The steps are steep and uneven. They can be slippery, even when grabbing onto the fixed safety rope that extends from the bottom to the top. The decline is particularly tricky, and many visitors resort to going down the steps, crab-like, on their bottoms.
At the top, where animals were once sacrificed to the gods, intrepid climbers are rewarded with a spectacular view of the jungle that surrounds the site and the nearby lakes from which Cobá takes its name. You can also see other ruins peeking up above the trees and undergrowth, remnants of this former commercial hub whose estimated 6,500 structures cover about mostly still unexcavated 70 square kilometres.
Three cenotes (a unique type of cave that has been carved out by water) have opened for tourism in Coba and are owned by the local Mayan community and tourism supports the local people.
The cenotes are about 6k from the ruins. Previously this was a bumpy ride down an old road. Now there has been significant investment to open this area a little more to tourism. The cenotes also have added shower and changing areas, bathrooms and parking lots.
The three cenotes are Choo-Ha, Tamcach-Ha, and Multun-Ha. All three of the cenotes are underground caves with water, as opposed to some cenotes where the roof collapses and they are open pools. The entrance to each cenote is about 55 pesos ($5US). For additional information, please click here.
Getting to Coba
Cobá is about a 90-minute easy drive from our condo/hotels, and Playa del Carmen. Cobá is much closer and not nearly as crowded as Chichén Itzá. You can rent a car and drive, go with a tour group, or hire a driver for the day and go at your own speed (about $100). Our guests at El Taj Ocean, Magia Beachside, Porto Playa, Maya Villa, and El Taj Beach can make arrangements through our concierge! Let me know if you need help and please post your pictures and comments below if you visit Coba. Let the world know what an awesome place it is!
There are several golf courses in Playa del Carmen and the nearby Mayan Riviera, including: Mayakoba (a Fairmont Hotel) offers the El Camaleon’s golf course, the most famous in the area. Designed by Greg Norman and home of the Mayakoba Golf Classic, the only PGA Tour Event in Mexico and the first official PGA Tour event ever held outside of the United States. Held yearly in February.
People rave about this group! They’ll pick you up or . . . . . . . you can ride ATV’s there. A new and exciting tour concept, combining exciting activities at the top of the most ancient and tall trees of this region, with an unforgettable journey through the magical jungle of the Riviera Maya.
Chichen Itza is the capital of ancient Maya empire. It’s majestic building dates back to 435 and 455, and it is geographically located in the middle of a spectacular natural enviroment in the Yucatan Peninsula. The site is declared as one of the 7 World Wonders. Visit magnificent temples such as the Kukulcan Pyramid.