Fresh coconut water by the Mermaid Sculpture
If you love shopping like I do, you’ll love Playa Del Carmen’s famous 5th avenue shopping district in Mexico. The entire street is closed off from cars so pedestrians can freely wander the road between shops, restaurants and bars tailored to Mexico’s tourists. This was our first time visiting Mexico so naive as I am, I was not expecting to see American brands at all. I had my luggage jam packed with my favourite cosmetics, toiletries and giant bottles of sunscreen from home. Apparently, you can buy American products anywhere on Playa Del Carmen’s 5th avenue. Even the airport in Cancun is totally metropolitan and fully stocked with American products, sunscreen and bug spray. So I was sweating over that giant aerosol can of bug spray in my suitcase at the airport security check for no reason. The Cancun airport is a far cry from some hole-in-wall shack-like airports I have previously visited in tropical places.
There’s a giant outdoor mall at one end of 5th Avenue in Playa Del Carmen, you’ll find a Nike store here, an American Eagle, a department store that sells everything from American DVDs to Western cosmetics and accessories. I regret not buying a slim Victorinox wallet for my boyfriend which he went back to the mall to look at twice but never bought for himself. Now we can’t find that cool slim wallet anywhere. There’s even a Starbucks at the mall. My boyfriend and I were armed with tonnes of Starbucks gift cards given to us from family and friends over the holidays so we stopped in at many of the Starbucks on 5th Avenue. Don’t fill up too much on regular American frappuccinos though because there’s also an amazing chocolate cafe in Mexico called Ah Cacao. More on that later.
We bought all our souvenirs and gifts for family and friends on 5th Avenue. I was on the search for noisy shakers for my little nephew.
It’s easy to find clothes and gifts from American brands but it’s impossible to find American branded medicine, namely Gravol. So if you suffer from motion sickness, bring your own Gravol from home. And if you think you don’t suffer from motion sickness, try hopping on the rocky ferry to Cozumel on a super stormy afternoon. We ended up buying something called Vontrol when we got to the windy island; the woman behind the counter at the dodgy-looking pharmacy told us it was their version of Gravol.
One thing we were craving like crazy on our trip was coconut water. Believe it or not, they didn’t serve coconut water at our hotel. Even though, coconut trees were all over the place. So one afternoon, we set out in search of fresh coconut. We walked all the way to the end of 5th Avenue, and right by the famous mermaid sculpture, we found a dinky little coconut stand. The little stand sold all sorts of snacks too but we were eying the last two coconuts on the cart.
The cart owner cracked opened the coconut right there on the street and we stuck in our straws. The coconut water hit the spot but definitely was not as sweet and delicious as the coconut water we had in Hawaii.
Our biggest problem with this coconut? We had no idea how to dispose of it after we finished drinking all the water from inside it. The best we could do was half-stuff the thing in one of the small trash cans outside of an American Eagle store. But as we walked back up 5th Avenue, we saw lots of other coconuts sticking out of trash cans and various other random places. They should really have bigger garbage cans on 5th Avenue!
One annoying thing that we were constantly warned about were the aggressive hawkers on 5th Avenue. But since we’ve visited Asia, these hawkers were totally tame in comparison.
If you visit 5th Avenue, make sure you’re hungry too, the shopping strip is full of cool restaurants and bars. And bring lots of pesos for souvenirs!