Written by JDTrvlAgnt on 19 Oct, 2008
I have traveled to Playa del Carmen three times in my relatively short life span. It was interesting to witness the amazing growth in this city, about an hour south of Cancun along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. From massive construction projects, to…Read More
I have traveled to Playa del Carmen three times in my relatively short life span. It was interesting to witness the amazing growth in this city, about an hour south of Cancun along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. From massive construction projects, to absolutely stunning beach-side villas, Playa del Carmen continues to showcase this extensive growth that makes it such an attractive travel destination.Playa del Carmen retains much of the small fishing village atmosphere that gives it its charm and appeal to tourists. I remember walking down the main street before Playa was essentially discovered as a favorite alternative to its party-loving neighbor, Cancun. Shops were bright and open, the people extremely friendly, and the food was varied and distinct.Aside from mega all-inclusive resorts, there are numerous Playa del Carmen rentals to be found at http://rentalo.com/vacation-rentals/playadelcarmen/ offering beach views, seclusion and the ultimate villa experience. It is not difficult to find lodging, particularly at http://rentalo.com if you are traveling with a partner or with a family. During one of my stays in Playa, my family and another family shared a gorgeous villa with lofted bedrooms and a horizon pool, perfect for viewing the European style, Mexican beachfront.During one of my visits to Playa del Carmen, we rented a private boat, which drove us around the ocean to different snorkeling spots. It was a fun and adventurous trip, one that can be easily arranged through any local trip planner. Our family also traveled to Xcaret. Xcaret is a naturally enclosed water theme park that offers a unique experience to snorkel, hike, and explore the natural beauty of Mexico’s forests and lagoons. This was a memorable experience.For a great guide to other attractions around Playa del Carmen, you can visit Frommers to find out more exciting opportunities.Playa del Carmen’s close proximity to Cancun and Cozumel provide outlets to larger and more extravagant trips, but the subtle charm and simplistic life-style of Playa del Carmen truly makes it a diamond in the ancient Mayan peninsula.http://blogs.bu.edu/timmyc29/2008/10/15/i-think-i-should-go-to-playa-del-carmen/ Close
Written by Cantin2 on 24 Mar, 2007
At most resorts that you visit there are things that you love and other things that you'd like to see changed. We've been to Mayan Palace and the Grand Mayan a few times. Here's my personal opinion of the good, the bad and the ugly...WHAT…Read More
At most resorts that you visit there are things that you love and other things that you'd like to see changed. We've been to Mayan Palace and the Grand Mayan a few times. Here's my personal opinion of the good, the bad and the ugly...WHAT I LIKED:The friendly Mexican people.The cleanliness of the resort.The lush foliage.Lots of palapas, lounges, and more pool-beds each year. The gift shop is better than any in Playa - it carries lovely gifts and clothing.Pools are magnificent and clean - open late with great waiter service.In-resort transportation is excellent and dependable. They even take you to the highway for cheap buses to Playa and Cancun.Plenty of planned daytime activities for adults and children if you wish to take part.Tramonto Restaurant and Bar are beautiful with nightly entertainment.Playa del Carmen and 5th Avenue get better every year - pedestrian area has grown again this year.For groceries - Mega, Chendraui, Sam's Club, and Wallmart allow you to enjoy most of what you are accustomed to in the states.WHAT I MISSED:No dimmers on lights.No serving dishes or stem glasses - even the bell boys or front desk could not get us wine glasses.The resort is too big already and just keeps on growing.Most rooms have little or no ocean views.Beach and ocean are still as rocky and full of coral as ever - will it ever get better. You must walk down the beach to enter the water.Timeshare - still a big part of this resort but much less obtrusive than in the past - they no longer parade the would-be buyers around the pool and they have their own area for the complimentary breakfast.Bug Spray - every night at 5pm - but it's better than the alternative - find a place to hide.We continue to return as often as an exchange allows us to. It is a beautiful and well run resort with lots going for it. Close
Written by Cantin2 on 01 Mar, 2007
Mayan Palace and Grand Mayan share a large resort between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. There are dining options here if you prefer to "stay put". More expensive than going into Playa, but if you don't have a car and take into consideration a $16…Read More
Mayan Palace and Grand Mayan share a large resort between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. There are dining options here if you prefer to "stay put". More expensive than going into Playa, but if you don't have a car and take into consideration a $16 cab ride each way, it becomes more appealing. The beachside restaurant that was destroyed in 2005 by the hurricane is being rebuilt.POOL BARS - there are two of these with excellent waiter service - they will run a tab for the day. Watch for happy hour-usually at 11am and sometimes again late afternoon. The swim-up bar closest the poolside restaurant stay open late - 10pm or so depending on the crowd.BALCHI - the poolside restaurant serves breakfast with entrées in the $7 - $9 range. Snacks, pizzas, burgers, and simple dishes are featured for lunch. Nothing fancy and of mediocre quality. The bartenders are quite efficient at serving drinks and food to your lounge chair, palapa or poolside "bed" until 5 or 6pm. It's strictly table service later in the evening. The setting is nice by the pool - under the stars - and there is music on some evening. There are themed buffets on some nights and vendors set up poolside. Buffets are priced in the $30 - $40 range depending on the food served - We didn't eat there - the food just didn't look appealing. DEL LAGO is a large palapa topped restaurant and showroom that serves daily buffets at $17.95 at breakfast and in the $35 - $50 range at night. On Mexican night at $50 per person, native drinks were included. The food looked good and plentiful, On one particular night beef tenderloin and fish were being freshly grilled to order - but we thought overpriced. The nightly shows are featured at 8pm and some are real "productions"... There is no charge for these and you can order drinks without food service.TRAMONTO BAR has a nightly "happy hour" from 7pm to 8pm - No food is available here - not even snacks, which I think is a shame. It's a beautifully decorated bar with lots of stools, tables, chairs, and comfortable sofas overlooking the pool and ocean beyond. Some nights feature Karaoke, Poker, or Casino night and other nights it becomes a sports bar or music with a DJ. Simple bar food or even sandwiches would increase the number of people that it would appeal to.TRAMONTO RESTAURANT has in interesting menu - reasonably priced with lots of selections - from $10 pastas and pizzas to ridiculously priced $45 for a 10 ounce - 3 course prime rib dinner . Nightly entertainment with a guitarist make this a popular spot. Make sure to have reservations or you will be turned away.ROOM SERVICE is another option. It takes about 1/2 hour and the food is served hot. In fact the pizza delivered is better than that served poolside. Close
Written by jilldg1 on 27 Jun, 2006
For most tourists, myself included, Playa del Carmen first and foremost means Quinta Avenida (fifth avenue), a long, pedestrian-only promenade that runs parallel to the beach and is lined with restaurants and shops.Here you’ve got your pick of silver, amber (expensive but very beautiful), T-shirts,…Read More
For most tourists, myself included, Playa del Carmen first and foremost means Quinta Avenida (fifth avenue), a long, pedestrian-only promenade that runs parallel to the beach and is lined with restaurants and shops.Here you’ve got your pick of silver, amber (expensive but very beautiful), T-shirts, pottery, swimsuits, and more. Prices vary from relatively cheap to expensive, and bargaining is a prerequisite.It can’t get any better than this for people-watching. Bohemian locals stroll along with kids and dogs in tow; sunburned tourists of all shapes and sizes swig margaritas at open-air watering holes or sip bubbly at the Italian wine bars; policia stand on corners chatting to taxi drivers; and wet-haired, bikini-clad sun-lovers strut back to their hotels after a day on the beach. Within Playa, it’s definitely the place to be after-hours, and there’s a huge selection of food if you’re after dinner—from expensive Yucatenean to no-frills guacamole and cerveza. Close
First off, let me say that I rarely frequent hotel spas because I find them ludicrously overpriced, often mediocre, and sometimes even intimidating. But this place was different. Set in the jungle, in a circular building constructed with a yin/yang design, it’s the centerpiece of…Read More
First off, let me say that I rarely frequent hotel spas because I find them ludicrously overpriced, often mediocre, and sometimes even intimidating. But this place was different. Set in the jungle, in a circular building constructed with a yin/yang design, it’s the centerpiece of Ikal del Mar and the reason that many people choose to come here. It’s also a place where you don’t need to spend a lot of cash to take advantage of the facilities. The steamrooms, Jacuzzi, and showers—rainfall and Swedish—are available to all guests at any time, free of charge. With the spa’s mesmerizing aroma of incense permeating the entire property, I found myself opting for far more treatments than I would have elsewhere.Of the treatments on offer, some are traditional (Swedish massage, facials, pedicure, waxing) while others use ancient Mayan traditions, like the Temazcal bath, which takes place in a little stone igloo by the beach. Other exotic selections included the hammock massage (too risky for me!), “rebirth over water,” and the “Mayan Good Wish Ceremony,” a wedding-like ritual designed to reaffirm love. One especially nice touch is that Ikal del Mar offers hotel guests “seeds of abundance,” a packet that can be used to secure a free 30-minute treatment in the case of rain. It’s a lovely, simple idea, based on ancient Mayan traditions. And anything you get for free always feels so good… Speaking of free, if you book a massage, you can take your pick of three locations at no extra cost: spa, beach, or jungle. I had two massages and a facial over the course of the week, each of them excellent. The staff was courteous and very experienced, though very few of them speak English if that’s a concern. Close
Written by deescheer on 28 Apr, 2005
While visiting Mexico for the first time, we had so many opportunities to take different excursions that we were not sure which one to pick. But when we finally drove up to Xel-Ha, we were glad we did. We paid $60 per person for an…Read More
While visiting Mexico for the first time, we had so many opportunities to take different excursions that we were not sure which one to pick. But when we finally drove up to Xel-Ha, we were glad we did. We paid $60 per person for an all-inclusive, which included the snorkeling gear, towels, a locker, and dining at any of the restaurants on location.
I had never been snorkeling before and was a bit nervous, but once in the water and looking at all the fish, the nervousness was all but forgotten. This was a natural habitat for the fish, and we saw many tropical-looking species. There was also a cave to go exploring in, and for the more adventurous, you could go cliff diving.
After a couple hours of swimming and snorkeling, you worked up an appetite. They had two restaurants on site, which were both really busy, so be prepared to wait in line. We opted for the Mexican-themed restaurant, which was really nice, with good food and great margaritas. There is also an opportunity to swim with the dolphins. This is not included in the price, so you do have to pay extra.
If you have had enough of swimming, there is a ton of hammocks that you can just lie in and forget all your cares. I would highly recommend this tour and will be going back on the next trip to Mexico.
Written by britgirl7 on 16 Apr, 2006
If you read my journals you will know that no matter how "party" a trip is my husband, Karl, must include ruins, castles, cathedrals, or hiking. So despite a hangover from a 4am night out we set off to find Coba.The guidebook said that Coba…Read More
If you read my journals you will know that no matter how "party" a trip is my husband, Karl, must include ruins, castles, cathedrals, or hiking. So despite a hangover from a 4am night out we set off to find Coba.The guidebook said that Coba was not on the regular tour bus route, so of course that peaked our interest. The resulting day trip became quite an adventure…Deciding against a rental car we took one of the numerous Collectivos that tool along the highway between Cancun and Tulum all day long. The Collectivo stand in behind the bus station in Play del Carmen at Avenue Juarez and Avenue20, but you can just as easily flag them down form any point on the highway.Our day started good, we got to Tulum for roughly $2.50 each. It was nearly lunch and our little Coba crew was feeling good despite initial misgivings (Karl) on heading to Tulum with no real plan. Tulum was supposedly just 30 minutes from Coba down highway 307… so really, how hard could it be?We found the bus station in Tulum easily and after much bad Spanish and humorous miming found that we had missed the local bus which ran to Coba…."Last autobus… Onzeeee?""Si.""Crap."Plan B, we went to the rental car shop."Sorry… all car gone."We traipsed to 2 other rental car places to be given the same answer.Hmmmm… plan C was a cab, but the prices we got quoted were way out of our range.During a sad lunch plan D (to hitchhike) got fully squashed by my oh-so sensible hubby, and the five of us sat glumly eating our enchiladas…. and then like an angel, the girl running the restaurant came to our aid offering to call other rental companies, but to no avail, and then called on her cab driving bubbies.Thank you lady from the Aktun Dive Company hotel/restaurant. As our bill was paid and we thanked her for her help the cab pulled around the back…. "so that no police see… too many passengers," and the five of us squeezed into the little cab and our adventure to Coba began.
The driver charged us $50 ($10 each) to drive the 30 to 60 minutes down a crazy potholed road... waited at the Coba gates for us until we finished our tour, and then drove us back to Tulum. Not bad at all!!!
On arriving at Coba, after stretching limbs that were hurting from the squashed ride, we found that as it was Sunday there was no entrance fee to the site. YAY!You can rent bikes for a couple of dollars, as the ruins are spread out or even little tuk tuk style things if you are feeling really lazy. We walked.Many of the ruins are still undergoing excavation, so it is an exciting place to walk around and see half hidden pyramids. The best of the bunch was the big pyramid (Nohuch Mul-biggest in Yucatan), which you are able to clamber up the crumbling stairs to the very top and look out over the tree tops. It’s tough going with NO handrail, so take it slow and easy.The site reminded me a lot of Tikal, only the jungle was much more scrubby and sparse so it really didn’t feel like a true jungle.Take plenty of water, as it's very humid walking between the sights.
From Playa del Carmen the local ferries to Cozumel leave on the hour, and so it’s a good day out and a chance to see another placeTo get to the ferry dock just head to Calle 1 down from Fifth avenue and it’s hard to…Read More
From Playa del Carmen the local ferries to Cozumel leave on the hour, and so it’s a good day out and a chance to see another placeTo get to the ferry dock just head to Calle 1 down from Fifth avenue and it’s hard to miss. You have the choice of the slow ferry for $9 or the fast ferry for $15. Either way, the slow ferry is 45 minutes and the fast one 30. The fast ferry is just nicer looking, with an on-board bar and Mariachi band. To experience both we took the slow ferry there and the fast (yellow) ferry back.On reaching Cozumel you will be instantly swamped with guides, people offering you scooters, jeeps, snorkel trips, glass bottom boats etc. We opted just to walk around the port town of San Miguel, which was pleasant though definately geared for tourists stepping off the ferry. The town got more pleasant the further away from the docks we ventured so we spent a little time wandering the streets, until we stumbled on a great lunch spot called Abuelo Gerardo (Grandfather Gerard). This was located at 10th avenue 21 Juarez and 2 Norte.We enjoyed a wonderful family atmosphere and great food in the gardens of this restaurant whilst listening to bad '80s music!!
Next we got a taxi van ($25 for six of us) to the nearby beach of Playa Paradise and Playa San Francisco. Compared to Playa Del Carmen these beaches are a little disappointing and had obvious damage from hurricane Wilma, giving them a run down feeling in parts. Playa San Francisco was fun though with a couple of bars, beach chairs, Kayaks (to rent), and big water trampolines to play or just sunbath on. We spent a pleasant afternoon here before heading back on the late afternoon ferry
Written by samer_k on 25 Mar, 2005
Well, some people are hesitant to be adventurous in places like Mexico. People have typical and understandable fears, such as the water not being safe. After you get over some of your fears, you will realize that Mexico is still one of the best bargains…Read More
Well, some people are hesitant to be adventurous in places like Mexico. People have typical and understandable fears, such as the water not being safe. After you get over some of your fears, you will realize that Mexico is still one of the best bargains out there if you do it right!
My very first time I got an all-inclusive package, which wasn’t bad for my first taste of the Yucatan. That does limit you, though, as you are eating the food of the hotel and stuck.
The resorts make a lot of money by charging you anywhere from $50 to $75 per person to feed and drink you to until you can’t anymore! Well, for us, it was important to not be tied down to a certain hotel and it's food, no matter how good it was, so that is what we do now.
Recently, on our anniversary, we had a 4-day stay in Mexico, which I booked through a travel agent. The charter flight cost us about $190 each and was a direct flight – a similar flight on American would be about $650!!! I investigated and looked for a reasonable no-frills hotel and called Don Emilione directly, where I got a rate of about $60 per night. The total was $650 for our 4-day stay.
As for the food, well, there is so much to choose, from breakfast at $3 a person or all-you-can-eat restaurants for about $5 a person, and lunch could be a local Mexican dish or, in our case, shrimp cocktail at a beachfront hotel with quesadillas and a fresh lime drink. For a nice dinner you could easily pay $30, and you would have eaten plenty of appetizers and seafood for that.
Therefore, the food tab would be $60 total as opposed to $50 or more for an all-you-can-eat deal at your hotel. Now, if you drink a lot, I guess that might appeal to you, so I guess it just depends on your interests.
With our way you get to pick a different place to eat and get to try different things. Also, if you go on a tour, there goes your all-you-can-eat! Well, they do give you a sack lunch to take with you!
A big money saver is buying some essentials from a grocery store. Use the bus, and if you have to use a taxi, ask ahead of time what they will charge!
Written by quirine on 26 Feb, 2005
Playa has changed significantly since I began going there. What used to be a small fishing village is now a town fast approaching city status. Playa now includes a mall (Plaza Pelicano) featuring a movie theater, a Blockbuster, and a Papa John's Pizzeria.…Read More
Playa has changed significantly since I began going there. What used to be a small fishing village is now a town fast approaching city status. Playa now includes a mall (Plaza Pelicano) featuring a movie theater, a Blockbuster, and a Papa John's Pizzeria. Most of the movies are in English unless they are for children, in which case they are dubbed.
Also new to Playa is the Paseo de Playacar, a mall that connects the main street to the beautiful Playacar community. It is an outdoor mall with a path weaving around restaurants and shops. There are beautiful clothing stores, including Diesel; cigar shops; bathing suit shops; and even a lovely bead store. At night the mall gets performance artists that might include dancers, gymnasts, or even fire!
Once in Playacar, the shops fade off and you'll be in a gated community of beach houses, each with its own unique architecture. Walk along the main road leading into Playacar and you'll pass a few condo resorts, including Xaman Ha (where I stayed). On the right side of the road just past Xaman Ha is a little ruin that has been preserved. There is what looks to be a little temple with a thatched roof. Iguanas are everywhere! Also in the area is the aviary, with flamingos, parrots, toucans, etc. There are enclosed areas with tropical birds flying everywhere. Outside of these areas, we became friends with a parrot who seemed very interested in what we had to say. It was quite entertaining.
However, 5th Avenue is where all the action is, and you'll be able to spend your extra time there strolling along the main drag. It's teeming with good restaurants, and I have to say, the only one that I truly didn't enjoy was one of those local pizza places. Every other place I went was at the very least acceptable. Lunch is calmer, and they often have happy hour at this time. Many places offer 2 for 1 beers, which can cause you to become mighty tipsy if you're not careful. Otherwise, dinnertime is hopping, and the bars and clubs all prepare for the college kids to come out to party. After dinner, you might want to take in some shopping. The usual items to buy would be coconut hanging lamps with intricate carvings, silver jewelry, amber, sarongs (although not native to Mexico), tiles, mirrors and clothing. Playa also has a number of spas that have opened. Since a lot of Europeans have moved here and opened establishments, it's very easy to find cool clothing shops that have clothes from all over the world, some with a Mexican flavor. You'll be able to spend a lot of time in this area after you've had your fill of the beach.
The beach is a long, thin strip that slopes down into the water. Walk north and you’ll pass the Gran Porto Real, a pink resort with a bar and pool on the beach. Walk farther north and you’ll be north of town (the 5th Avenue area). If you walk inland here, you’ll be walking through resorts and then onto a dirt road. If you plan to walk inland, do it at or before the Gran Porto Real. There is not much to see north of that. The crowds will begin to thin out, and the beach tends to get wider here.
Walk south of the resorts towards the ferry dock and you’ll begin to notice more locals on the beach. There are also young natives in traditional clothing trying to sell you bracelets on the beach. I don’t know if you’re supposed to buy from them or not, but I assume they are gypsies. If you don’t want to buy from them, be firm and say no. At the ferry dock you will have to briefly leave the beach and walk over the dock and back down to enter the Playacar beach. If you aren’t staying here and you want to see the area, this is the best way to get in without having to deal with guards and such.
South of the resorts are some gorgeous little bungalows right on the beach. At high tide, the beach becomes so narrow, you can barely get by. Each house is different and a lot can be rented (http://www.playacarbeachproperties.com/).
Playa will never cease to grow, and I hope that they can find a way to maintain the fun but still unique atmosphere that makes it such a favorite in the Caribbean. Quainter than Cancun and livelier than the smaller towns that line the coast, Playa is truly a great place to vacation. In fact, many have decided to retire or uproot themselves to start a new life here. There are real estate businesses everywhere, and you may just find yourself browsing the listings, too.