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Playa is the Caribbean coast’s retail heart, with huge box stores and shopping malls on the highway serving as supply houses for much of the coast.  In the tourist zone, you'll find shops and boutiques along Quinta Avenida, where everyone seems to gather for leisurely strolls in early evening. Once you get past the ferry terminal area, low-key, locally owned shops vie for your vacation dollar with high-end clothing, Cuban cigars, specialty tequila, handicrafts, jewelry, and beach wear. Sadly, chain jewelry, sportswear, and junky souvenir shops catering to cruise passengers, along with large department stores and fancy mini-malls, are claiming prime strolling areas—there’s even a Victoria’s Secret where a charming folk art shop once stood, forcing out the smaller businesses and sending rent rates sky-high. North of Calle Constituyentes, artists and artisans display their creations on the sidewalks on Saturday evenings. Credit cards are widely accepted in shops, most with fixed prices.

Some favorite shops along La Quinta, south to north: De Beatriz Boutique, Calle 2, west of Quinta Avenida (tel. 984/879-3272), an unsung little side-street shop selling locally designed manta (Mexican cotton) clothing; Rosalia, between calles 12 and 14 (tel. 984/803-4904), for fabulous textiles from Chiapas, including embroidered huipiles and inexpensive shawls, scarves, and bags; and Corazon de Mexico between calles 14 and 14 ([tel] 984/803-3355) for high-quality folk art. Casa Tequila, at Calle 16 (tel. 984/873-0195), is the most popular place to sample tequilas from their stock of more than 100 brands.  Ah Cacao, at Constituyentes (www.ahcacao.com; tel. 984/803-5748), is one of the area’s most successful local businesses, expanding from its original Playa shop to several outlets in Cancún. Its specialty is intense and rare criollo chocolate, the Maya’s “food of the gods,” in bars, cocoa, or roasted beans—the cafe’s fudgy mochas, frappes, and chocolate shots will ruin you for Starbucks, and the brownies cure any blues.

North of Constituyentes, artists display their works along Quinta Avenida, wine bars abound and shops offer high-quality clothing, folk art, shoes, and trendy objets de art. This section is often used for art shows and festivals. La Sirena, at Calle 26 (tel. 984/803-3422), offers trendy folk art with calaca (skull), lucha libre, and Frida Kahlo themes. Gorgeous woven hammocks swing outside Hamacamarte on Calle 38 between Av. 5 and the beach (tel. 984/873-1338), where shelves are stocked with high-quality hammocks from Yucatán, El Salvador, and other countries. The silk matrimonial-sized hammock woven with thousands of colored strings cost $100 or more but last forever—mine’s been hanging in my backyard for years.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.