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Old 01-26-2012   #1 (permalink)
Join Date: Oct 2011
Posts: 1
1st Trip to Riviera Maya, 1st Trip to Mexico! Long with questions!

Hello Everyone,

My name is Heidi, and my family and I are leaving for our very first ever trip to Mexico in 9 days! We took a chance and booked a deal on Living Social (also a first for us) for a week at the Grand Mayan Riviera Maya. We took a stab in the dark and hoped it would be a nice change from our usual tropical vacation spot on Maui.

Funny enough, just the day after we bought our Living Social deal we went out to dinner to a favorite Tepanyaki place and somehow the topic of Mexico came up (I think the chef doing the cooking was Mexican, not Japanese) and the couple who was sitting at the table with us mentioned that they went to Mexico regularly. Of course, we immediately wanted to know what they thought and where they went, etc, and found out that they travel to Playa del Carmen two times a year and love it! Well, we knew that the Grand Mayan was near Playa del Carmen, so we mentioned that we had just booked our first trip to the same area and that we had never been. They were so kind and just raved about the area and then told us about this website and forum! So here I am. Kind of last minute, but I guess better late than never??

Anyway, I have done a lot of reading here and on the Trip Advisor site and forum about the area. I think I have a better idea of the geography and locations and am a little disappointed that the Grand Mayan is so far from Playa del Carmen itself and a bit isolated. That being said, we will do our best to see more than just the resort and the pools (especially since the beach isn't the most beautiful either).

I know I could probably find answers to most of my questions here on the forum, but I'm feeling a bit pressured for time, so I'm just going to blurt them out here and hope that maybe someone might be able to answer some of them.

Some of the things we definitely want to do is visit Tulum, visit Playa del Carmen, check out some of the more beautiful beaches in the area, go to Xel-Ha for a day and simply soak up some of the culture as well as the sun. I know there are probably so many things we could do every day, but we also just want to relax and we do have two younger children (DD 9 and DS 7), so we need to take them into account too. Also, my husband does NOT handle heat well and easily gets heat exhaustion to the point of throwing up. So we definitely don't want to overdo.


We heard that the beach at Tulum was not to be missed. Is this the beach right at the temple site? And if so, do we need to bring suits, towels, etc with us?

Similarly, I have read on the forums about the beach clubs you can go to and rent chairs/palapas/umbrellas and such, are children allowed or are these adult only places? Do they provide towels? Pools? Would this be a good option to explore the beautiful beaches in the Playa del Carmen area? In other words, would it be wise to catch a taxi or shuttle to Playa from our hotel and plan to find a beach club to stay at for a day on the beach?

Suggestions for beaches with children?

Also, I'm diabetic so I will need to carry medical supplies with me. Are things safe at a beach club? Are there lockers? Are there medical clinics in Playa in the event of an emergency?

Do we need to take something for tummy issues? What should we be careful of and what should we take note of for this? And what about bug spray? I heard it is very jungle-like and humid where we are staying, do we need to be concerned about mosquitos and insects?

This is a silly question perhaps, but again, never having been there we really do not know what to expect, are there shops in town where I could purchase a nice swim suit. I only have one nice one and I'm guessing it might be nice to have more than one to use. I was hoping to go shopping here for something before we left, but tomorrow (one of my last days to get things done while the kids are in school before leaving) it looks like my daughter will be home sick. (Came down with a temperature today. Here's hoping we all don't come down with whatever she has next week.)

I hope to read and make notes on places to eat in Playa and such but if anyone has any suggestions for places that are particularly fun or kid friendly, please share them too.

I hope this long post is ok being this is the introduction forum. Let me know if I should repost my questions somewhere else.

Thanks for any and all help you can provide me!!
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Old 01-26-2012   #2 (permalink)
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Gargi's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Racine, Wisconsin USA
Posts: 110
Playa and Tulum

Hi Heidi, I have no experience with the Grand Mayan Resort but from looking at it on the map you won't be terribly far from Playa. Taxis and other private transport is readily available almost everywhere. On previous trips we've been able to arrange a van/driver for day trips for as little as $75 (approx 6 hours plus a tip for the driver). We use a service called Zuley for our airport transfers and day trips. We book them through our hotel. I'm sure you can arrange anything you want to do through the front desk at the Grand Mayan as well. For your reference here's the link to Zuley:
Airport Transfer
We stay at La Tortuga (wonderful boutique hotel), but I believe Zuley services the whole area. Don't hesitate to contact and ask questions - they are very nice.

A day trip to Tulum! Great idea. The beach south of the Tulum ruins is astoundingly beautiful. I'd say since you've got kids in-tow and you don't want to wear them out or overheat your husband go to the ruins early. The archaelogical site is inexpensive and you can tour the grounds at your leisure in probably a little over an hour. The beach below looks great but remember there's no facilities. Then, I recommend you have the driver take you to el Paraiso Beach Club, located on the beach road just south of the ruins. It's gorgeous. You can eat, cool off in the shade, play in the sand and surf and just soak up the beauty. Restrooms and changing facility on premise. If you've got a driver for the day buy him a drink and a sandwich while you play. Here's a link:
Hotel El Paraiso Tulum, Rooms Tulum
Even though we stay just a bit farther down the road at Cabanas Tulum, we can't pass up the chance to stop there every time. If the kids don't love it I'd be surprised. You may even have time to check out the town of Tulum before heading back to Playa.

For Playa, it's all about Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue). I think you'll be fascinated. I'd recommend getting the kids fed, rested up and go late afternoon to early evening. When the sun goes down and the street lights up it's pretty magical. The beach there is nice, but doesn't compare to the more remote beaches like Tulum. You can certainly find plenty to hold the kids interest. Shopping galore, and more places to eat and drink than you can count. Quinta Avenida is pedestrian only so it's a nice place to stroll and relax.
Here's a couple more links that I like to refer to:
Riviera Maya Hotels, Resorts, Rentals: Mexican Caribbean Vacation
Playa del Carmen Vacations, Tourism and Playa del Carmen, Mexico Travel Reviews - TripAdvisor

I hope you have a great time. Remember to be careful of the sun. It'll wear you out before you realize it. Slow down and enjoy yourselves - Gary

p.s. if you're in the area of Hotel La Tortuga, stop in the reception area and ask them to show you the courtyard, bar and restaurant area. It's a wonderful place in a great location if you and your husband decide to go back without the kids sometime (age 16plus for guests.
Playa del Carmen - La Tortuga Hotel Spa - Playa del Carmen Riviera Maya Mexico
It's a block approx west of Quinta Avenida at Calle Corazon
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Old 01-26-2012   #3 (permalink)
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Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Racine, Wisconsin USA
Posts: 110
el Paraiso

Here's one of my favorite photos from el Paraiso. Hope this works..have yet to post any photos.
yes, it really is all those shades of blue.

Last edited by Gargi; 01-26-2012 at 06:25 AM.. Reason: broken link
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Old 01-26-2012   #4 (permalink)
Peach's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Augusta, Ga
Posts: 1,383
Buy your swimsuit before you leave. There are a couple swimsuit stores, but very expensive!

El Fogon & Carboncitas are must do restaurants!

Akumal is a nice, small beach area with a few restaurants. You AND the kids can swim out to the reef and snorkel with the turtles.....amazing!!! They rent snorkel gear & life vest right on the beach (or bring your own). No need to pay for a tour.

Kids are allowed at all the beach clubs in PDC. There are a couple that have a small pool (Kool & Mamita's )
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