“ City: Playa del Carmen / Country: Mexico / World Region: Central America „
Playa del Carmen, about 45 minutes from Cancun, is a beach resort on the Mexican Riviera Maya. It is supposed to be what Cancun was like 20 years ago - quaint, friendly, less-touristy. I never made it into the hotel zone at Cancun but if what they say is true, I dread to think what Cancun is like because Playa is essentially Blackpool-meets-Benidorm. It's fab.
I came to Playa to do a month long teacher training course with the intention of staying for a year afterwards. But things don't always work out like you've planned and I left a month later to take up my current job in Mexico City. That said, even with only a month in Playa under my belt, I still stayed twice as long as most British visitors in a single trip.
*** Getting Here ***
Playa is one of the main destinations for tourists arriving by plane in Cancun so there are various options for getting from plane to hotel. Package holidays usually have organised transfers, but you can also take a taxi or a shuttle service. Grayline do shared minibuses that you book when you arrive at the airport, and which set off as soon as they are full. I tried and failed to find the bus stop for the local ADO bus which would have cost $80 pesos so went with Grayline instead which cost $240 pesos. You can also arrive in Playa by ferry from Cozumel or by road from other places in the region if you are touring. There are two bus stations, one on 5th and Juarez and the other on 12th and 20th, from which busses leave to other local towns and to the airport (getting back to Cancun is a lot easier than arriving from there).
Just a note - immigration at Cancun has to be seen to be believed. We landed early but then queued for the longest time to get through, get visas, pick up luggage, have it x-rayed again (um, why? What would Manchester let onboard that Cancun wouldn't allow to enter the country?) All visitors need a tourist card but these are granted automatically. They will ask you how long you want and you can get up to 180 days with little in the way or hassle (or I could). Most people will get 30 days which is sufficient, though if you leave the country (say, to pop to Belize) you have to surrender it and get a new one on the way back. Thus, the borders are crowded with people "renewing" their about-to-expire tourist cards by popping over to a neighbouring country for a few hours.
*** Getting Around ***
Playa is the easiest place to navigate because it runs on an American-style grid layout. The only thing slightly off is the numbering. Avenues run parallel to the sea and go up in 5s, except the first one is Avenue 1, right next to the sea (then 5, 10, 15 etc). Streets run perpendicular to the sea and go in 2s (2,4,6). Avenues are called Avenidas, and streets are called Calles. Most tourists navigate locally based on the Quinta Avenida also known as 5th Avenue. This is the busiest street in Playa, is mainly pedestrianised and is where you find shops, bars, restaurants and tour offices. It can be extremely busy especially in the evening, and people call out to you constantly, often using the annoying "Excuse me" which makes you think you've dropped something or similar, and therefore turn round, at which point they try to lure you in.
*** What to do ***
Playa is not the place you go for a power shop, but there are nonetheless lots of places to buy beachy things - sunglasses and sandals and bikinis and hand-made arty-things to take home and stick on the wall. Most of the shops are on 5th Avenue, which ends in a mini outdoor mall towards the south end. There are 2 excellent supermarkets in Playa for those who are self-catering any meals - WalMart and Mega are within walking distance of each other between 30th and 35th streets, between Avenues 8 and Constituyentes. They open daily at 7am (even Sunday) and stay open until 12 midnight or 1am. They sell clothes (Mega has a Tesco range, WalMart stocks Asda stuff), homewares and food including fresh bread and deli counters. Everything is ludicrously cheap when compared to the $ or £.
5th Avenue is the busiest restaurant street and therefore prices are higher than down the side roads. Repetition is the order of the day here - they have 3 Starbucks, 3 Haagen Dazs cafes, 2 Ciao Gelatos, etc. They also have Subway, McDonalds, Burger King, my favourite Dairy Queen, as well as "proper" restaurants. La Tortuga on 10th Avenue between 12th and 14th is great for breakfasts that come with free coffee, wifi and attentive staff. Ronaldi's down near the mall does wonderful Italian food, and 100% Natural, a local chain, feeds the more health conscious diners and more with their salads, enchiladas and 4 types of chocolate cake (though sadly no fizzy drinks - chocolate cake is ok, but Coke is evil). Bodeguita del Medio is the only Cuban bar/restaurant in Playa and offers free Salsa classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays at about 7.30pm - we went on the invitation of one of our students who also worked there, and though our Salsa-ing leaves a little to be desired, we had a great night.
As you head down 5th Avenue, things get quieter after about 16th Street and you can walk in peace without being accosted every 2 seconds. There are two main strips of beach, one that centres around the lighthouse on 10th Street and another north of the pier starting around 20th street. Both have lifeguard type people on them, though whether they're really there to guard life or just try to sell them trips and jet skis is difficult to determine. We found the beaches her incredibly safe. Most afternoons when we were supposed to be having lunch / a siesta before some lesson planning, we hit the beach instead, and would leave our things unattended on the sand for an hour while we swam in the sea. The beach here is nice but not wonderful - for the really gorgeous sand and crystal water you need to either hop across to Cozumel or Xpu-Ha, or crash one of the private beaches in the beachy bit of Playa, Playacar (not that I would ever even consider doing this of course, but if you would, see the appendix at the end for tips).
5th Avenue is busy by day and truly jammed by night as most of the nightspots are located on or just off it. Night starts quite late here - we went out for drinks one night and as we came home about 10pm most people were only just starting to come out. The restaurants stay open all day to accommodate lunchers and families, but adult parties tend to favour a Spanish timetable when it comes to dining.
Playa does not have much in the way of architecture or museums or other non-beachy things, but the two churches (one on 12th and 15th, the other near Juarez and the sea) are adorable, and the Plaza Ayuntamiento (on 15th between 8th and 10th) has some nice fountains and is a place to relax away from the sea.
*** Trips ***
Playa is a great base for trips to other parts of Riviera Maya. We went to Cozumel twice, catching a ferry over to the island from the port at the south end of 5th Avenue. The ferry costs $120 pesos each way and takes 30 mins. Once there we went to the Uvas beach club which is a heavenly spot on the west coast of the island. Another day we went to Xpuh-Ha which is a 30min bus trip south of Playa and another paradise beach set up. The bus drops you literally at the side of the road and you have to flag down a taxi to take you down to the beach itself. Along the main highway which leads south you can also find various Centoes (fresh-water swimming holes), some dubious themed places offering "adventure" activities and the eco-parks of Xel-Ha and Xcaret which are all inclusive set-ups offering snorkelling, river rides, diving and swimming.
The Mayan city of Chichen Itza is a must-see for most visitors. I took a day trip for 450 pesos which was great - as well as a tour of the remains we got roundtrip transportation (it's 3 hours away), a trip to a Cenote, a stop in Valladorid and lunch. Another day I went on the bus to Tulum which is just past Xpuh-Ha and is another set of ruins, unique for being situated right on the beach. Smaller than Chichen Itza but equally crowded, it is a good place to go if you don't fancy a 6 hour round-trip in-land in the heat.
I enjoyed my time in Playa and at the time was sad to leave. However, having been in the Big Smoke (sorry, Smog) for a month now, I'm so glad I got a job here instead. However nice Playa is, it's not "proper" Mexico, just as Benidorm is not "proper" Spain. I struggled to speak Spanish while I was there (a bonus for people who don't speak the language, as everyone does indeed speak English, but kinda a pain at the same time) and now that I've moved on I know I made the right choice. It's a nice place to visit...but you wouldn't want to live there.
*** Boring / Useful Stuff ***
At the moment (summer 08) £1 = $2 = 20 pesos, mas o menos.
My bible for my first few days and my obsession in the months leading up to my trip was this interactive:
www. travelyucatan.com / playa_del_carmen_mexico / playa_del_carmen_map.gif
The electricity supply in Playa is tempremental, as is the case in much of Mexico. Power cuts are common, as are power-surges. If you take anything electrical (e.g. a laptop) invest in a 80 peso surge protector when you get there - they're stocked with the light bulbs in Mega and WalMart, randomly enough. Even if you don't have a sudden surge, this will save you the alarm of seeing sparks fly every time you plug in a British appliance using an adaptor.
After 4 years of working in the NHS and never, ever being sick, I need a doctor within my first week of Mexico when a mosquito bite goes funny and my leg looks, well, like an obese person's leg. To see a doctor here costs 500 pesos including any prescriptions you need writing, and any follow up. This is the discounted student rate, but I don't think even the proper rate is bad. Mexican Doctor Man recommended antibiotics which I could buy over the counter and Ibuprofen which I needed a prescription for. There's something wrong with that in my mind.
I stayed in a residence belonging to the school (see that Playmobil church in the pic above? That was the view from my window) so didn't check out hotels, but 5th Avenue has a ton of small ones, La Tortuga, again, looks like a nice place to stay, and if you're coming on a package as most people are, Airtours, Thomas Cook, First Choice etc all over selected lodgings in Playacar.
A SMART GIRL'S GUIDE TO CRASHING PRIVATE BEACHES
1. PICK CAREFULLY
It many resorts, the posh hotels will be clustered together all claiming to have private beaches which they rope off from each other. As a crasher you should avoid the complexes at either end of the strip, which border the commoners' public beaches, because these will be the most on guard for trespassers, either intentional crashers or those who have lost their way. No, you need to keep going for the ones 3 or 4 along which they don't expect non-residents to casually stumble across (because you can't casually stumble across something when you have to trek through various hotels' grounds to get to).
2. ARRIVE IN STYLE
You can't walk in through reception, head straight to the beach and expect not to be challenged. Staff on front desks are surprisingly alert when it comes to interlopers. Instead, come at the problem from the side. I like to sidle up, strolling onto the beach from a neighbouring hotel's stretch. If you can, lose some clothes along the way - maybe take off your top (NB this works better if you have already got your swimsuit on underneath). Dangle your flip-flops in one hand. Gaze out to sea. Do not stop to read the signs on the beach - they are never going to say "Private Beach: Crashers Welcome" and you'll look like you've just arrived (which you have, literally). Instead, stride purposefully towards an empty sun bed (see 5, below) and set up shop. Don't rush, but do strip, oil up and get reading as soon as possible so you look like you've been there a while.
3. PAY ATTENTION TO THE BOARD BASIS
Most post hotels are All Inclusive. They can enforce this with an ID card but these days they are more commonly opting for wrist bands which look tacky and have to be worn for the duration of your stay, no matter how much they clash with your outfit. Anyway, the point is that you will stand out a mile if you set up camp on the beach and pull out a sandwich in a bakery bag. You can probably just about get away with a bottle of water, but cans of soft drinks are out since the proper guests will all be sipping watered down fountain stuff in plastic cups (as you would be too, if you'd paid that much in advance for all inclusive meals and drinks).
4. BLEND IN
It's all about the details when it comes to blending in to a private party to which you've not been invited. Look at the towels - does everyone have the same colour? If so, they'll be hotel-provided beach towels, and whipping out your own one will make people look twice. Remember: you don't want people to look twice. If you can, find a beach where everyone's towels happen to match the colour you have with you (fine if you have plain blue, less so if you have a Winnie The Pooh or a Union Jack monstrosity). Check out if people are wearing AI bracelets (see 2, above). If they are, you need to keep one wrist out of sight whenever possible. Try lying on your back with one arm lopped behind your head, or wrapping a t-shirt around your hand in a hip-gangster way.
5. MAKE FRIENDS
A single person in a couples / family resort stands out more than, say, a threesome. It's a weird, slightly disturbing fact, but a fact none the less. You don't literally have to make friends with people on the beach (though if you can, you're even safer) but try taking a sun-lounger next to ones already occupied by a couple or family and you'll blend in with the crowd more than if you're off on your own to the left and everyone else is down by the sea.
6. STEAL, BUT ONLY WITHIN REASON
The sort of hotels that claim to have private beaches tend to cost megabucks. The ones in Playacar start at £100 per person / £200 per room per night, so as a non-guest you really shouldn't steal the pool, or the umbrellas or the other facilities. The beach is something different though - I mean, who can really own a stretch of an otherwise public beach? So it's ok to swim in the sea and lounge on the sand but you have to draw the line somewhere.
Our more than 8000 km trip started on the 13th of March 2000. We bought the trip through a company called Apollo here in Norway. It was sort of a package deal where we got the flight and the hotels arranged. First we had to go to Oslo and then we had to go to Stockholm in Sweden to get the flight that went straight for Cancun in Mexico. The distance is as I already mentioned more than 8000 km and it took us about 12 hours and 30 minutes to get to Cancun. It has been a long time since I have been on a plane for such a long period and it got really really boring towards the end of the flight. The airline company that took us there was Novair. It was a pretty new Airbus plane. The only thing that annoyed me was that there were little TV screens in all the seats and we still all had to see the same movies even if there was potential for playing games and to change channels on the TV. And when going on chartered airlines it means that you have to buy all the drinks and even buy the earphones and I'm not used to that since I have travelled more with KLM and British Airways.
We finally arrived in Cancun airport at about 11 pm and Apollo rented buses that took us to our destination Playa del Carmen picked us up. Playa del Carmen is a small town located about 45 minutes (by bus) outside Cancun. We stayed at a hotel called Paradise. The hotel itself was OK. We had a room with some kitchen equipment in it so that we could at least make some breakfast there. There was a nice pool in the garden of the hotel that we used quite a lot. We did have trouble getting used to the noisy air condition (so we only used the fan) and the hard beds. The location wasn't too bad either. It was maybe 300-400 meters down to the beach and about the same to get to the main street in Playa del Carmen (called 5th avenue).
The first thing when we did when we got to the hotel at 1 am was to go straight to bed of course. There is nothing like sleeping in a bed after you have spent lots of time on a plane (in a chair where it is almost impossible to get some sleep) The next day was spent to take a walk around in Playa del Carmen to get to know the place and also to get used to the heat and the new time zone. Yes, it was pretty hot and it was so nice to go from the cold Norwegian spring to 30 degrees Celsius during the day and 20 degrees during the night. And even if it was quite windy the first few days it was still very nice and warm and clouds only covered the sun occasionally.
As I mentioned there is one sort of Main Street in Playa del Carmen. This is filled with restaurants, bars and little shops. The shop owners was of course very interested in getting us into their stores and that can be annoying. At first it is charming but as the days go by it becomes more and more annoying. To start out with I was polite and said no thanks and looked at them but as the days progressed I ignored them more and more. I'm not used to this tactics from here in Norway so I get a bit stressed up about it. We got suckered one day when we saw a big iguana on some rugs and we went over to touch it. The guy asked if we wanted to take a picture and I said "sure". He put us down in chairs and before we knew it he had put rugs and a sombrero on us and he put the iguana on our lap and then he said "I charge 100 pesos to take the picture".and he was using my camera :-). So he got me there. The main products of the stores are silver, sombreros, tequila (of course), cigars and handcraft.
The street (5th avenue) was filled with places were they had Internet cafes. They charged like 0,5 pesos a minute and that is not bad. But the connection wasn't great either but it was good enough for me to be able to check if I had enough money in my account to have fun J Talking about money. I'm still surprised how great it is to travel without money. On the first day I just had to find an ATM and I took out some cash and then I was ready.
The beach in Playa Del Carmen was looong and it was very nice. The water has this green colour that just makes it look very attractive. There is a reef right outside the beach and people did snorkel on that. We stuck to just having fun in the waves.
After a couple of days in Playa we decided that it was time to get around.The first place we went to was the park Xcaret. This park is a combination between a zoo, aquarium, a place where you can snorkel, it has information about the Maya culture and it has some archaeological sites. It was quite expensive to get into the park (about 750 pesos for two) and that is about 75 US dollars. But we had a great day there and we stayed all day. We did of course try the natural underground river that they have in this place. We put on life jackets and went into the stream and then we went with the current. It was pretty long actually (so long that it was great to get back in the sun to warm up J. At night we saw a show with a Mexican theme. It included singing and dancing. We also got to see an "old" sport being performed. The Mayan used to play a ballgame (it is still played some places in Mexico) where they only use their hips. There are ball courts in many of the ruins around in Central America.
I'm normally a bit hyper but this time we were able to mix relaxation with activities. Every second day we went out and every second day we stayed in a relaxed by the pool.
Apollo had many trips that they arranged but we decided to go by ourselves. The bus station in the middle of Playa was great and it was easy to get around by taking the bus. The only problem when taking the bus is that they always have the air-condition running at max speed J. So you get on the bus in shorts and t-shirt and then you freeze and wait to get to your destination.
After a few days we went into Cancun. According to what I have read this was just a little place with 100 people living there in 1970. Now it is a city with 400.000 people and they have a string of hotels in the hotel zone. We came to Cancun in the middle of spring break and that means that Cancun was filled with drunk, loud and sunburnt Americans. I'm being a bit mean now but we sat on the bus and these college guys are bragging about how many times they threw up last night and how much beer they drank. I found Cancun very "artificial". When you get into stores all the prices are in US dollars and not in pesos. We went into some of the shopping malls and played some minigolf. The beaches in the hotel zone are great by the way. Miles and miles of white sand. Cancun is just 45 minutes north of Playa and buses leave from the bus station in Playa every 15th minute and it only cost about 25 pesos per person.
Talking about being sunburnt. I did manage to avoid being sunburned but that is only thanks to plenty of sun cream J. I think I used of most of a factor 10 the first week. I also used a bit of 6, 20 and 30. The sun was very strong indeed but it was nice to feel its warmth again. So I did actually manage to get some tan before I got back to Norway.
We went snorkelling one day at the island of Cozumel. This is located just outside Playa and the ferry over takes about 30-40 minutes. The reef that goes from Mexico down to Belize is the second largest reef in the world and I was impressed when we started snorkelling. The depths varied from 1 to 15 meters but it was not a problem to see straight down to the bottom. We saw lots of fish, lobsters and we even spotted a couple of manta rays. We bought this "deal" on the pier in Playa and I think that we paid something like 500 pesos for two. We were taken out to three different locations in a glass bottom boat and the instructor that went into the water with us was great. He was constantly on the move and he pointed out were we could spot interesting stuff. And it was great to have a cold beer after snorkelling :-). The waves were pretty big when we went in the last time and he was pretty exhausting to keep up with the instructor. But this part is something that I will remember for a long time.
One day we got up early and we got on the bus to go to the Mayan city of Chichen Itza, which is located near Merida. The bus was once again a great way to travel even if the scenery was pretty boring. The toll road from Merida to Cancun is especially boring and there is noting to see on that route. Chichen Itza is one of the best places in the Yucatan to see ruins after the Mayans. The area is quite big and some of the stuff is spectacular. It costs about 75 pesos to get in but it is worth that. I do regret that we didn't go for a guide when we were in there because they seemed to be giving out lots of interesting details about the buildings and the Mayan history to their groups. The main building in Chichen Itza is great pyramid "El Castillo" (The castle). I was hoping that we could go inside it or maybe climb it but it was off limits when we were there. It was very hot the day when we went to this place (probably 35 degrees) so it was hard walking around there all day.
South of Playa there is another eco park called Xel-Ha. One day we decided to go there but to save some money we decided to rent snorkelling gear in Playa instead of in Xel-Ha. When we rented the stuff the guy in the store recommended that we should go to a place called Akumal instead of going to Xel-Ha. The places basically have the same but Xel-Ha is more commercial. So we got on the buss once again and we jumped of at Akumal. When we looked at the map it looked like it would be a short walk from the main beach to the lagoon but it turned out to be like 3 km J. But we reached the inlet/lagoon in the end and it was great. The water wasn't that clear because people were splashing around. But there were fish everywhere. Rocks surrounded the lagoon so there wasn't really a nice place to camp down but we spent most of the time in the water anywhere.
We went back to Cancun later on in the vacation to go to a place called Parque Nizuc. This place is a sort of Wet 'n' Wild waterpark. It cost about 250 pesos pr person to get it and there were not that many rides inside. We even had to pay extra to get a tiny locker inside and we had to put down like 200 pesos in a deposit to get this. This park is connected to other attractions (such as a place where you can swim with dolphins) but it costs extra to get into these places. But we did have fun in the park for several ours and we did try most of the slides 3-4 times. There is a wave pool in the middle of the park and the waves were great :-)
Apart from this we just relaxed at nights. We went out to eat in the different restaurants in Playa and we had some drinks here and there. The drinks are very cheap compared to what I'm used to here in Norway :-). It was a great vacation but it would have been even better if we had had the time to travel around more in Mexico cause I think that Mexico has a lot more to offer than the Mayan Riviera.
After our first all inclusive experience at the RIU Cancun over Labor Day, we decided to try Thanksgiving at the Riu's in Playa del Carmen. I had heard and read that the beaches were better and it was more laid back than Cancun. We loved the Riu Cancun, but found the beach to be a little small for us. We love to take long walks on the beach. We again traveled with Sun Trips with no complaints. They have this down and their charter service, Ryan Air is quite good. Again we got to Cancun and went through immigration and customs quite quickly. Playa del Carmen is about 45 minutes to an hour from the airport. Last time it took us almost the same amount of time to get to the Riu Cancun because it is one of the last stops and the bus stopped at a lot of hotels. Our bus was fill mostly with people staying at one of the four Riu's there. The road we came in on cuts the Riu Tequilla off from the other Rius (you will have to cross the street if you stay at the Tequilla to get to the beach). It was dark, but the hotels were well lit and in fact had some Christmas lights already up on their trees. We checked into the Riu Playacar and went over to get a time for dinner. They didn't have any seating available for the early setting so we were giving a table at the 8:30 PM setting. THE ROOM. We were checked into room 1102. It was almost the closest one to the lobby area. The room was a normal hotel room, although these Rius are a little short on storage space. We did smell the "smell" you read about in many of these reviews. This was to become a major problem. It is not a musty smell, but really a swampy smell. It wasn't too bad when we checked in, but the second night I woke up and it smelled like a skunk was in the bathroom. It was coming from the drains. They sent someone over who drained the drains and it was pretty good--for about two more days. Then the smell came back. We mov
ed at this time to room 3212. We again smelled was there, but not too bad. Tip #1. Your room will have an odor. If it is too bad, get to higher ground (second or third floor). You may also want to bring some air fresheners or even some lemon scented drain cleaner. The room was kept spotless by the chambermaid. She would leave little (and big) animals made out of the towels and even the extra blankets. The TV's at the Riu Playacar did not have timers on them (unlike the Riu Cancun), but the stations were the same, so there are adequate english speaking channels. There were no clocks in the room and the soap and shampoo left a lot to be desired (small soaps and small individual packets), which leads us to our next tip. Tip #2. Bring a couple of bars of soap, your own shampoo, and a clock if you want one in the room. The Riu Playacar only has showers in the room and the bathmat is about 12inches by 24 inches. I got out of the shower the second day there and the tiles had gotten wet. Zoom, I went down like a bowling pin. After I told the management about this, they sent up a rubber mat (like the ones you have in a bathtub or shower so you don't fall there). We placed it right outside the shower and it worked well. Tip#3. Watch your step in the bathroom. Wet Mexican tile is as slippery as ice. FOOD. We were really impressed by the food at the Riu Cancun. I would have given them a 4 out of 5. The food at the Playacar was similar, but I only would give it a 3.5 out of 5. You didn't quite have as much of a selection and lunch was someone boring. It didn't make any difference where you ate for breakfast or lunch, the menus were all the same. We did eat breakfast at the Riu Tequilla one morning. The facilities at the Tequilla were quite pretty and I thought their buffet room was nice. They had artificial flowers on all the tables and the paintings on the wall made for a v
ery nice room. The Playacar was a bit simpler. Dinner, however, was very good. We had Turkey on Thanksgiving and nice cuts of beef most other nights. Jackie really like the seafood station where the shrimp were. I had grown quite addicted to the butter pecan ice cream at the Riu Cancun, but found they only had it about half the time at the Playacar. As always the wine, left a lot to be desired (at least the first glass did). Tip#4. I found that they didn't have bacon at breakfast (only sausage). We were eating first thing (at 7 AM). Once morning I went back in to get some juice and found they did have bacon. Apparently they weren't putting it out at first. I also found the station by the breads that had Mexican foods had the best cooked bacon (less greasy). The steak house/seafood restaurant. You can make reservations for the steak house/ seafood restaurant. These are side by side and are both open air. We ate twice at the steak house. There is a varied menu at both with each have about 6 entrees. You are serve appetizers first, then salad. then the entree, and finally dessert. We only ate there twice for two reasons. We found we got too much food and the buffet was really excellent too. Tip #5. You have to make reservations in the morning at breakfast if you want to eat at either of these restaurants. I did not see anyone rejected. I think they simply want to know how many to expect. Don't worry if you eat late. There will be room at the sitdown restaurants. THE BEACH. Here is where the Rius in Carmen del Playa shine. This was probably the best beach I've ever seen (and we have traveled extensively including many trips to Hawaii). The beach is huge. The sand is cool even in the heat of the mid day. There are ample beach lounges and you can sit in the sun or the shade. We prefer the shade (we catch the sun on our walks on the beach). As you walk from the rooms t
o the beach, you will find the shadiest spots to be on the right hand side. We liked being perhaps 20 feet in front of the massage hut right next to the fence. There are a number of trees there and after 9 AM you had shade all day. To the left you have the boats and the building for the watersports. You will have to fill out a release form to use the boggie boards, Hobie Cats, peddle boats, kayaks, etc. and once you do they punch your bracelet. We used the Hobie Cats three times during the six days we were there. Once day we didn't feel like it. Another day there was no wind and on the third day there was too much wind. But sailing is fun and easy. The water temperature is amazing. When you are on the boat the water laps up and it is actually warm. The nights are relatively cool and early in the morning when we were walking on the beach, the water temperature was warmer than the air temperature. You can walk about a mile towards Playa del Carmen (left--south). At that point we could have continued further, but you had to wade out into some surf to go on. There are a couple of beautiful homes on the way (check out the one with the bedroom facing the ocean). Gong right (north) you can also walk over a mile. You finally get up to some rocks and there is an interesting path through the rocks which again requires you to wade through some surf to go farther. If you like walks on the beach, you'll love this beach. Tip #6. They open reservations for the Hobie Cats at 9 AM. If you are there then, you will have your pick of times. Tip #7. If you want a massage on the beach, ask them if they have any "specials." Most of the time they do. Tip #8. Bring an insullated mug with you for the beach. We got two twenty ounce mugs from Walmart for $3.60 and it was one of the best things we brought with us. Just had it to the bartender and they will fill it up. Tip #9. You may be approached on the bea
ch by time share sales people. They will try to get you to come view a property. We were offered two round trip tickets to Cuzomel, a Mexican blanket, a bottle of tequilla, etc. to visit one. Be nice, these guys are just trying to make a living. But if you aren't interested, just tell them thanks, but no thanks. SHOPPING. There is a nice little shopping area just across the street from the Riu Playacar. No real bargains there, but very handy. We used the internet cafe to keep in touch. Costs $1 USD per 10 minutes. Playa del Carmen is also a nice little shopping town. Again, you won't find the "best" mexican prices, but some nice shops and some interesting items. We did in fact find some "overpriced" stores, selling things for more than you would pay in the states. Tip #10. Be prepared to bargain. Do it with a smile on your face. If you don't intend to buy even if they meet your price, don't start bargaining. The walk to Playa del Carmen was a nice one. Just long enough to work a few caleries off. Finally, some people are concerned because with a majority of Europeans, there is topless bathing by many women in Playa del Carmen. Actually, after being there I would be more concerned about the men in Speedos! I don't think they have mirrors in Europe or most of the men would not venture forth in their skimpy bathing suits. The bottom line. We wouldn't go back to the Riu Playacar until they fix the smell problem. However, in spite of it, we had a great time and will be looking for other properties in the area.
We went to Playa del Carmen last November and spent the most spectacular 2 weeks there at the Riu Yucatan. You know when you long for the holiday of a lifetime, so memorable you relive it over and over again.. well thats how we felt about Playa del Carmen. The people and the setting were magical. Although quite a few hotels in the area unless you went right out to sea and looked back you didnt know there was any otheer hotels around. The food was spectacular and everything was in such abundance I must have put on a stone atleast. I could thoroughly recommend this place. After reading comments I thought I had better add a bit about hotel, resort etc. Well.. Hotel was wonderful when we arrived and saw this huge elaborate entrance with bronze statues flowers and more marble than you could shake a stick at we just knew it was going to be the holiday of a lifetime. The rooms were huge with bar refilled every other day plus optics with litre bottles of the best booze I have taseted. Fridge had all the mixers we ever needed. Staff were wonderful even the gardener always spoke. The food was spectacular everything you could think of well laid out with every kind of food you could think of ideal for every taste . Although a big hotel you would never know it built in well landscaped gardens truely beautiful. We managed a lot of excursions to the Inca sites but one of the best days was at Xel-Ha its like a waterpark but ecologically friendly. Its a full day trip all inclusive this includes ALL food ALL drink towels snorkel equipment saftey vest lockers everything has been thought of .
Playa del Carmen is a city on the coast of the Caribbean Sea in the north east of the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico, located at 20.62° North, 87.07° West. The city is the seat of the Solidaridad municipality. In the 2005 census the city had a population of about 100,383 people, and is rapidly growing in population. It is the third-largest city in Quintana Roo, after Cancún and Chetumal. Originally a small fishing town, tourism to Playa del Carmen began with the passenger ferry service to Cozumel, an island across the Cozumel Channel and world-famous scuba diving destination. While passing through, many people realized that it was a nice place to relax away from the crowds of Cancún but with the same quality beaches and turquoise waters. While perhaps not as impressive as Cozumel, Playa del Carmen's coast offers some good scuba diving opportunities, as well as cenote diving for the more adventurous.