way into it
Join Date: Sep 2002
Trip report (Sort of)
First of all I want to thank everyone in this forum that made us decided to go to Playa for the first time and was the best decision ever. Especially to Anna and James, and to all the great virtual quintanarooenses that we were able to meet down there. You expect that the people you meet by internet are weirdos in the real life. In our case we met warm, funny, wonderful people. Thanks again to MikelHolmes, Denisea, Becky, TheCuz, Mike and your spouses. You guys made our vacations !!!
I’ll try not to bore everyone and just stick to some useful points.
ACTUM-CHEN: It’s a park that contains the most beautiful cavern I’ve ever seen. It was a cenote that dried out. There’s also kind a little zoo with animals from the area. If you have kids it’s great. The tour that took us stopped in our way back to swim in a cenote. Our guide, Marco, was a true nature lover and made the experience very enjoyable.
ATM: For us the way to go was to take pesos from the ATMs everywhere in Playa and pay cash. There is a new one in the airport on the only way out after customs so is impossible to miss it, and you get handy pesos for your cab, bus, etc.
BARS: Plenty to choose. Our favorite, La Ranita. Local hangout and it’s one the Playadealcard.
COZUMEL: we took the ferry (like 70 pesos each way) stroll the town and took a cab (90 pesos) to Chankanab Eco Park. Nice place with great and easy snorkel, although everything was on the expensive side.
CHICHEN-ITZA: 3 hours 15 minutes one way, the same the other, on a road with more potholes than a gruyere cheese. We were glad we’ve taken a tour and not driving (by the way to obtain the license in Mexico you only need to pay 250 pesos, no exam required, so be careful with the traffic).
It’s that thing you have to do once but we’d never repeat.
DIVING: we got our PADI open water certification with Tank-Ha. We had done our homework and find out that is the biggest and oldest dive shop in Playa. The owner, Alberto, and all the staff were really friendly and helpful. Especially our instructor Isabella. We had to change dates many times and always was done with a smile. We end missing diving on a cave but we sure will return to do it.
HOTEL: We stayed at Hotel Riviera Caribe Maya http://www.hotelrivieramaya.com/ located on 10av and 30 street. Quite new, clean, nice, all the amenities you want (cable TV, fan, AC, minibar, safe). All rooms face a small nice pool, but the best for us was location. Two blocks from the best playa in PDC and 10 minutes stroll to the center of the “action” so is quiet.
The owners were Italians (Alberto and ?), very nice and trying to help their customers and the front desk staff (Miguel and Alfredo) also were really helpful.
The Hotel arranged a customized package (hotel, diving and other extras) and we got a really good price.
We definitely would come back to this hotel.
- “Ahorita mismo” (just now) means around 15 minutes
- “Tardara un ratito” (it will take a while) means forget it
That said, relax (you are on vacation) take your time to do things and if you really need something to be on time (like your transfer to the airport) always confirm it again one hour before (we didn’t and almost lost our plane).
RESTAURANTS: that’s our personal ranking
- Ailux (the one in the cave): food and drinks were pretty good. The place is unique and for us a Don’t Miss it. Anyway the best was the company of all playadelcarmeninfo-users that met there. We really enjoyed that dinner.
- Ronny’s Restaurant: great setting on the beach and the owner is just there cooking in front of you
- Los Suizos: on 5av and 26. Excellent Swiss food
- Il Pescatore: On 10av and 26. Italian chef lady cooks fresh products by order.
- Fly: Modern lounge with great food. Also on 5av
Fair: perhaps we didn’t choose correctly
- Palapa Hemingway’s
- Mamita’s, but you are on the beach and who cares. The beer was cold.
- Yaxche Restaurant
- 100% natural: unbeatable juices but so-so food
Bad: Our great error was to have dinner on New Years Eve at Captain Tutix. Rude service (if your waiter’s name is Tyson, walk away) and lousy-expensive-food. Go there for drinks but don’t spend on dinner.
SAFETY: Or only “estrange” incident was when we saw on 40av a mexican beating his wife?. The police was in front of us watching and laughing, and when we told them the asked us to stay away. Besides this incident we found the locals really friendly and the town quite safe although I’d won’t go alone over 30av or 40 street after sunset.
SNORKELING: Rent your gear and head to Coco Beach. There is a shallow spectacular reef full of tropical fishes, corals, sea urchins, etc. It was one of our best experiences in Playa, is free and you’ll never find anywhere another spot so beautiful with so easy access.
TACOS: El Sarape and El Fogon are very good for true Mexican food including tacos pastor. But our favorite was a little hole in the wall between 100% Natural and a small pizza parlor (on 5av between 10 and 12). They had tacos de marlin (fish) that were unbelievable.
TULUM: we were supposed to take a tour, but finished going in our own. !Much better! Take the bus on Juarez bus station and it’s 24 pesos a 45 minutes ride each way. The bus leaves you on the route and then is a 5 minutes walk or there is also a little tramway. The ruins are spectacular because of the setting above the sea. But if you are a beach lover go the easy access one and then cross to the other one south. You have to cross by the shore (2/3 feet deep) and there we were alone another couple and us.
Just one thing you have to love also wildlife. We tried to feed a small lizard with crumbs and in five seconds we were surrounded by seven over-one-foot-iguanas that crawled down the walls.
VENDORS the guys on the street trying to get you in their shops. We both are native spanish speakers and found some of them even funny. “No gracias”, “No thanks”, is enough they won’t insist. Nevertheless a couple of times we heard harassing comments that non-spanish-speaking women didn’t notice, and Mexican women answered abruptly.
In brief, PDC is a little town, comfortable to walk around, not crowded, upscale by european standards but with local flavor, much modern than Cozumel, no so impersonal as Cancun, ideally located to do day trips, dive or enjoy the beach, and benefits from the wonders of the Caribbean: good weather, beautiful beaches and turquoise warm water.
We already miss it.