A couple posts ago, I wrote about 12 Can’t-Miss Restaurants in Playa del Carmen, and it made a lot of hungry people happy. Now those hungry people are thirsty. Not to fear! For your convenience I’ve constructed another completely biased article for your post-meal (or pre-meal) indulgences. And this time, I’ve picked an even bigger and more obscure number of places to talk about.
I feel obligated to mention that this is not an exhaustive list. I haven’t had the.. let’s call it “audacity” to make it to every bar in Playa. Although I’ve been to quite a few, I’m sure I’m missing a few good or hidden ones. So don’t throw your hands up in the air if I’m missing one- just post it below and why it should be on this list! Ok, enough banter, let the countdown begin!
UNRANKED: Manne’s Biergarten
I’m ashamed to say I haven’t tried this place yet despite hearing about it and walking past it (I was preoccupied), and that’s why I cannot rank it. I love German beer though, having lived in Munich for six months, and I know this place has pretzels- a necessary marriage with your favorite Deutscher Gebräu. I’m sorry, Manne’s Biergarten. I’ll come by soon. Please tell me you have Franziskaner, though…
UPDATE: I went, and it's delicious. The chicken is amazing. Great beer, of course, but no Franziskaner! :'(
17. La Reina Roja
This place makes the list only because of how strange it is. It would be more appropriately categorized with a list of Can’t Miss Art Galleries. La Reina Roja (The Red Queen) features several floors of PVC piping, mannequin bondage enthusiasts (???), and a sea of red lights. Apparently, this was the place to be about 5 years ago. They had some pretty rad pool parties I’m told, but now it looks more like a wax museum of some extra-kinky section of Amsterdam’s Red Light District that has been long forgotten. Who were you, Reina Roja? And what happened to you?
16. Mamita’s Beach Club
Half the locals just X’d out of this blog post. Buuuuut, it had to be on the list. Everybody has been there, everybody knows what it is, it’s on the beach, and it’s basically more of a point of reference to everyone here. It’s where we send the bro’s, the one-weekers, the BPMers. Although, you don’t really need directions to find it- you simply need to adorn really bright (pink if you have them) short shorts, a full-sublimination tank top, backwards hat or trendy long-on-top haircut, and a pair of hyper-reflective-lense wayfarers and you will activate the Hipster Beacon, leading you directly to Mamitas. It’s pricey, and may or may not be worth it. Confession: I like EDM music.
15. San Mezcalito
If you’re genuinely interested in trying mezcal and you’re not interested in the 12th Avenue chaos, this is more your hole-in-the-wall bar where you can actually hear each other talk. You’ll find more mezcal options than you know what to do with, and before you know it realize you’ll probably find that you have just consumed more mezcal than you intended to. A few of my Mexican friends swear by its magical powers and claim they never wake up with a hangover. I’m still trying to figure out whether they’re just fucking with me or if I’m just old.
14. Don Mezcal
Coincidentally, another mezcal spot falls next in line. Don’t bother trying to compare it to San Mezcalito though. Although they offer the same “magical” beverage, and the bar is equally small, the vibe is on the opposite end of the spectrum (and also the opposite side of 5th Ave). Raging EDM music and good beer+shot specials make this place the ideal pre-game stop. Nice to have in your back pocket.
Where do I begin? Ok- all those people you met at Mamita’s earlier in the day? They’ll be at Mandala, fueled by God-knows-what, and in full swing. You’ll probably wait in line- even when there is no need for one, you might pay a cover, you will probably get solicited to enter, and you had better be wearing shoes and a trendy nightlife outfit with a desire to rage. Otherwise, you’ll just gander at its magnificence for a little while before you realize you’d rather be somewhere else- like across the street at Diablito (see below)! That being said, it's pretty impressive and you should see it at least once.
12. La Fe/Rufino
It just makes sense to couple these two together, as they are almost the same place in my head. These bars hold down the fort on the less crazy side of 5th, usually have a good DJ with a solid sound system, and provide seating street-side, perfect for people-watching. Drink selection is pretty standard, nothing fancy, but again- it's more about the atmosphere here.
11. Dolores Yucabar
If you hadn’t been to Dolores before, you’d think someone was leading you down a dark alleyway to take your kidneys, but once you enter, you’ll probably see why it’s one of the only reasons you’d subject yourself to the 12th Avenue madness. You’ll feel a bit cat-like in this pseudo-treehouse bar, and provides a pretty sweet vantage point to overlook the debauchery below. This place isn’t particularly “chill” either, as it is sometimes crowded and loud, but the DJs are usually good, and it’s comparably less insane than the rest of 12th.
Kitxen (pronounced like kitchen) is a cool place for a couple of reasons. Located in a convenient people-watching spot on 5th, it’s been a Playa staple long before the town’s rapid growth. You can find good live music here pretty much any night of the week, and if you’re really lucky, you might even catch a live performance by the owner, Saúl Hernández, who happens to be the former lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist of Caifanes, a famous Mexican rock band from the 80s.
9. Caiman Tugurio (El Caiman)
Another great spot for live music, this bar ranks higher because it’s tucked away a little bit and has that awesome local, almost underground feel while still being conveniently located and affordable. It’s a favorite amongst my friends here and is always a great option.
8. Be Playa Rooftop Bar
You probably wouldn’t know this was here if you weren’t looking for it, but it’s one of those hidden gems of Playa, in my (incredibly trustworthy) opinion. It’s located on the top (4th) floor of the Be Playa Sushi place on 10th and 26th, and you need to pass the lobby to take the stairs or elevator up. When you arrive you’ll find a big open-area lounge with comfortable seating everywhere, a pool that you can swim in where they’ll even deliver you drinks, and most-likely a DJ if it’s at night. One of the best things about this bar is that in addition to a spectacular, hard-to-find overview of the city (and soccer stadium), it’s the only spot I can think of to catch a sunset in Playa.
7. Hotel La Rana Cansada/Bar Ranita
This is one of the first bars I decided I should remember when I started going out in Playa. It’s a great spot to meet locals or catch up with a group of friends. It’s located in a happening spot in between 5th and 10th where you could easily start or end the night. It’s got that lounge-y feel to it, making it a great spot to kick back and enjoy a beer.
6. Deseo Lounge
Another one of those places you might never notice unless someone pointed it out, you’ll need to walk up a somewhat mysterious set of stone stairs on 5th to find Deseo. You’ll be happy you ventured upward though, as you’ll discover a secret Vegas-like paradise situated right in the thick of it. You’ll find a nice bar with excellent drinks, beds and couches to lounge in, and a nice pool you can bring your martinis into. They also play some great electronic music at night with a pretty sick Bose sound system if you’re into that sort of thing.
5. Diablito Cha Cha Cha
This bar and restaurant is the best reason to step foot on 12th Avenue. The food is excellent, as is the atmosphere, the music, and the drinks. Located directly across from Mandala, this place is pretty big, with several lounge areas, a 360-degree bar, and provides several vantage points toward the craziness of 12th. Diablito is one of the original great spots for a night out in Playa, and is still going strong as ever today.
4. Almirante Pech
You can tell a lot of love went into this place, and was clearly designed by someone with a vision. It’s a place you might read about in a magazine. And although much more expensive than pretty much everybody around them, their high-quality craft cocktails, excellent food, great soundtrack, and remarkable atmosphere easily justify the price point. I haven’t found a better place for a cocktail in all of Playa, so if that’s your thing, this is where you want to be.
3. La Santanera
This place is wild. When everything else is dying down, this place is just getting started. If music is what you’re after, La Santanera is tops, offering 3 floors of genre-shifting ambience, each one unique and extravagant. The best DJ in town will most-likely be playing here, with the best sound system, and their cocktails are also excellent. To find it, look for the giant Neon DJ Jesus (above) who mercifully cleanses you from all sins upon entering and exiting the establishment. What you get into afterward, however, is entirely on you.
2. Le Lotus Rouge
This place is fucking weird, which is what makes it so awesome. Upon entering, you’ll feel like you’ve been granted access into a secret caravan hangout of friendly, eccentric, music-loving gypsies. It’s something out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, something inspired by the pineal gland, the cosmos, and perhaps a carnival. You won’t be able to describe it to your friends. You just have to go, soak up the moments, and spend the rest of your life wondering if it was real or a dream.
By the way, it’s best to go here on a night with live music or during one of their various artistic performances; either way, you really feel like you’re part of the show here. In fact, I think it’s encouraged.
1. Club de la Cerveza
Compared to some of the other places on the list, this might seem almost shocking to some, but Club de la Cerveza, I can confidently say, has the most “replay value” out of any other bar in Playa by providing the perfect balance of atmosphere, price, quality, and vibe. I find myself here more than anywhere else in town when I want a drink, and there’s many good reasons why.
The staff is one the friendliest groups of people I’ve encountered at any establishment in Playa, which is a reflection of the owner and the kind of person he must be to employ only great people. He also has exquisite taste, with a beer menu featuring only the best craft beers collected from all parts of the world. When I saw him reach for a Paulaner hefe-weizen as his personal selection to sip on while sitting down for a conversation with one of his customers, and then proceed to knowledgeably roll the glass to collect the delicious yeast at the bottom, I said to myself, this guy knows his beer.
He’s also constantly working to improve the menu, and often encourages his staff to sample the new brews that are competing to make it on the shelf. Last night, I saw them sampling one of my favorites- Goose Island’s Matilda. If you’re reading this, my friend, order it. I’ll drink it ALL!
What’s more, is their food menu is designed specifically to pair with the various flavor profiles of each beer, and happens to be delicious. Not a beer person? No worries- the staff makes an excellent cocktail as well. I haven’t had a better Caipirinha anywhere else in Playa.
And finally, it is located in my favorite part of Playa- away from most of the tourists, down the unsuspecting, quieter part of 5th. And that’s just the way I like it. Don’t get me wrong- sometimes it’s nice to go out to dance and get lost in the music somewhere, or stay out till 4 a.m. as you hop from place to place. But that’s not for every night. This place is good for any night. And that’s what I mean about "replay value." Show them some love, and tip them well- they deserve it.
So, there you have it- my Top 17 Places to get a drink in Playa! If you liked this article, please share it on your favorite social media platform below, or better yet, subscribe to the RSS Feed located at the top of this article. Again, I’m sure there are some other places that could have made the list, or that I simply don’t know about. If you’d like to share your favorite spot, please post it below and fill us in! But before you do- a quick disclaimer…
- Fah Bar: good location, live music
- Tequila Barrel: super “gringo” but a good place to catch a game
- McCarthy’s Irish Pub: live music sometimes, good location, but awkward seating arrangement makes it feel a bit tight
- Wah Wah Bar: beach front, live music
- Blue Parrot: beach front, good music, but they charge a cover at night
- La Mezcalinna: a pretty cool spot actually, dancing, loud music, entrenched in 12th Ave
- Fusion: whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy? How sad. You used to be so good.
Purposely left off the list:
- Coco Bongo: nope
- Senior Frogs: not a chance