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The pitter-patter of holiday raindrops can thwart best-laid plans – especially in Mexico’s tropical Playa del Carmen, where all you want to do is hit the beach. Luckily, this popular playa on the Riviera Maya has a few tricks up her sleeve to keep you entertained in the wet season (June to October) and beyond that, on the odd day her guidebook-cover good looks don’t shine their brightest.
Hungry? Rise, shine and head for brunch in one of the many restaurants along La Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue). You can feast on foods from around the world on La Quinta, including waffles at Madrez Café and French-style patisserie at Chez Céline, plus must-try Mexican breakfast dishes such as huevos a la mexicana (scrambled eggs with onion, tomato and chili) or molletes (bread with fried frijoles and cheese).
Next, time for some retail therapy. You can explore thriving Mexican crafts by visiting Vidrio Soplado Mexicano, a glass-blowing warehouse and shop, where masters of the art will show you how to mold molten recycled glass from an unappealing blob into a beautiful blue-rimmed glass, speckled flower vase or elaborate chandelier.
Alternatively, take cover from the downpours by visiting Río Secreto, an all-weather adventure where you can busy yourself with an underground river tour, caving excursion or bike ride, sheltered beneath the tropical jungles that surround this riverine wilderness. Adventure enthusiasts might also head to one of the area’s large eco parks (Mexican-style theme parks, based around natural jungles, caves and rivers), such as Xcaret and Xenotes, where there’s kayaking, abseiling, zip-lining and more to try.
After an active morning, you’ll be hungry, so have a late lunch. Try the best in traditional Mexican gastronomy at the Frida Kahlo Restaurant, a fine-dining affair where the plates are a paean to the portrait artist and painter. Enjoy the guacamole primavera and the authentic mole verde while you listen to the beats of son jarocho (regional folk music).
Hmm, siesta time… Sure, normally you’d be doing this on the beach. But let’s take it inside this afternoon, with a spa treatment at one of the area’s hotels. Top billing goes to the Sense Spa at the Rosewood Mayakoba, a 15-minute cab ride north of town, where non-guests can treat themselves to ancient Maya rituals and all manner of rubdowns, including the 150-minute Cenote Temazcal Purification treatment or a consultation with a resident shaman. There’s also a Banyan Tree in Mayakoba, with Asian-accented treatments.
Rested and restored, it’s time to party. The first permanent Cirque du Soleil show in Mexico, Joyà, is a great bet for dinner, drinks and entertainment all under one roof at the Vidanta Riviera Maya Theater.
The story follows a teenage girl, suddenly catapulted into the heart of the mysterious jungle of her ancestors, as she meets a cast of bendy, balance-y half-animal, half-imaginary characters. End your day with a couple of drinks at some of the nice bars along La Quinta – especially Kitxen and La Perla Pixan – for live music and mezcal-laced cocktails.
So, there you have it. Bad weather doesn’t have to dampen the fun in Playa del Carmen. It’s a lively setting, come rain or shine.
Additional reporting by Joe Varley.