Continued (page 10 of 11)
Playa del Carmen is the retail heart of the Riviera Maya, and its main artery is lengthy 5th Avenue. It's where, unless we say otherwise, all the shops listed here are located. Bargaining is permitted and even expected in market stalls; start at half the price the vendor cites and then go up from there. In stores with doors, you're expected to pay the price on the tags, but don't panic: The $ signs represent pesos, not U.S. dollars.
Ancient Mayan motifs are creatively interpreted at the Sac Be Gallery (corner of 4th Street), named for the wide roads that led to the great Mayan cities. A variety of materials, from papier mâché to ceramics, come into play at Plataformaas (2nd Street between 5th Avenue and the sea), owned by a family from the arty town of San Miguel de Allende. Galeria Fierro (14th Street between 5th and 10th Avenues) represents the work of Chilean artist Maritza Fierro, whose earth-toned acrylics alluded to Mayan themes even before the artist moved to Playa in 2007.
Of Playa's many peachy beach shops, Zingara (between 8th and 10th Streets; zingaraswimwear.com) stands out for its bold patterns and frequent appearances in Latin American fashion spreads. Also fun are the teeny bikinis and beachwear at Masquerade (between 10th and 12th Streets). Forget your shades? The two outlets of Stanza (between Juárez Avenue and 2nd Street; between 6th and 8th Streets) carry designer sunglass brands at duty-free prices.
Literally homegrown in Mexico—they rely on local herbs and plants—the products of Botanicus (Calle Corazon; botanicus.com.mx) are inspired by ancient healing traditions. You'll find everything from soothing standards like aloe vera and natural mosquito repellents (both useful in this region) to nopal cactus exfoliants (no, the spines aren't used to remove the layers of skin). The products are all high-quality, and about a third of them are handcrafted.
Playa's largest concentration of crafts shops is at Plaza Toluca (Juárez Avenue and South 1st Street), a flea market with about 300 stalls. Many vendors sell their wares along the route to the Tulum ruins. At the Mayan Village in Xcaret (see Relive the Mayan Era, in the Play section) the crafts are hot off the loom (or kiln): You can watch artisans create most of the items sold here. Before you buy anywhere, think twice about schlepping—or shipping—beautiful but fragile ceramics home. Easier to transport are the Yucatán's hammocks, made of nylon or cotton, in brilliant colors and in natural creamy white. For the best selection, head for the tiny—and no-name—shop in Playa on Juárez Avenue between 10th and 15th Avenues.
The tropical cotton shirts called guayaberas are cool in both senses of the term: Matt Dillon, Ben Affleck and Johnny Depp are among the celebs who have been spotted wearing them. Kin Mayeb has two stores (at the Paseo del Carmen shopping arcade and on 5th Avenue between 10th and 12th Streets) that carry many styles and sizes. For women, the manta (Mexican cotton) dresses and blouses created in Playa and sold at De Beatriz Boutique (4th Street between 5th Avenue and the beach) let you play Frida Kahlo to his Diego Rivera. For traditional clothing from all over Mexico, much of it intricately embroidered, check out La Casita (between 10th and 12th Streets). Find contemporary boots, bags and belts, made from the finest Mexican leather, at Veari (between 16th and 18th Streets; veari.com).