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Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Hay River, Northwest Territories, Canada
Our Amazing Yucatan Adventure...finally!
Alrighty, so I'm FINALLY getting around to our trip report from May. It is going to be in parts, so bare with me as it will take a few days to get it all posted (I'm actually still trying to get through the thousands of pictures we took!)
We spent two amazing weeks in Mexico from May 16th to 30th. This trip we spent a week in Playa del Carmen, two days in Valladolid, four days in Merida and one day in Cancun. This was all followed by another week of vacation in the Toronto (Canada) area for a friends wedding. We have been back just over three weeks and it has been very busy getting settled back in, catching up at work, etc.
So, here goes...
Day 1 - Wednesday, May 16th, 2012
This was technically day three of our actual vacation, but I'll spare you the details of our epic journey of touching down in just about every town between Stony Rapids, Saskatchewan (where? lol) and Edmonton (that's a story in itself, lol).
We flew out of YEG just after midnight/early morning of May 16th on WestJet on the red-eye connecting in Toronto (YYZ). Why did we choose to go so far out of our way and add hours to our flying time? It was the only way to assure us getting in to Cancun in the early afternoon...and it saved us a few $$$ too.
The flight was fairly uneventful, and we landed a few minutes late (due to a head wind). After about 20 minutes in the line at imagracion, we had to get our bags. Almost another 20 to 30 minutes wait before they finally came in sight…then it was off to customs.
Now, Mexico has this ‘game’ you have to play when it comes to customs that is like ‘red light, green light’. To ‘randomly’ decide who gets searched you press a button and if you get green you’re fine to go on, red means submit to a search. On the last trip BOTH Scott and I got the red light but were submitted to little more than a pat down of our bags, easy peasy. This time, however, I got green and Scott got the red. Scott was asked to go over to this one area and open his bags and wait for an agent to come along, and I was not allowed to wait for him in the customs area so I had to go through the doors and wait out in the jungle that is Cancun airport. I figured it would only take a minute, but after 10 minutes went by I was starting to panic thinking he was being arrested or something, lol. Finally he emerged and explained that the one agent was having a hard time understanding why he had so much camera equipment and the like. Geesh!
As I said, Cancun airport can be a jungle, and you might recall I had a little breakdown last time through where I ended up in tears because I was so overcome by all the people coming at me trying to take my bags or make me take their taxi or whatever. This time, while the usual craziness was still evident, it was much less so…likely due to it being into the low season, perhaps. Scott was pretty confident he knew how to get to the ADO ticket booth, but after walking forever through the terminal past where the booth used to be, and almost being suckered in to ‘alternatives’, we finally made our way outside and low and behold there was the ADO booth. We purchased two one-way tickets to Playa del Carmen for 120 pesos each, about $8.88 CAD per person, for the one hour trip. As luck would have it the bus was leaving in about 10 minutes, score! And we managed to get two seats next to each other this time right up front so we could be one of the first off the bus.
The ride into PDC was uneventful and very comfortable…these buses are really luxury coaches with great seats, tv (playing Nanny McPhee of all things) and really good suspension. We pulled into the downtown ADO station on Juarez and had our bags within a minute, and we were out on the curb grabbing the first taxi we could. Even though our hotel was only 6 blocks away we had two bags each so we decided to opt for the 50 peso ride (I think the fare should have been only 30 pesos, but the driver was adamant even when Scott questioned, so I told him to forget it, it wasn’t worth arguing over a few pesos and I just wanted to get to the hotel!).
Check in at the Club Yebo office was a breeze, and Carmen was very sweet. Our room, number 47, also called LaDoña, was located on the second floor above the office and just so happens to be next door to Angela & Bernard’s room. We had the only two rooms in this area and it was connected to the rest of the hotel by a long bridge…like in a rustic treehouse…with views of the courtyard below.
We had a small patio with table and chairs, and a comfy hammock. Inside, the room, painted in pink and green, was quite spacious, with a queen bed in the main area and a twin bed in the nook. We also had a small kitchenette with sink, hot plate, microwave and fridge, along with some basic utensils and dinnerware. The bathroom was dark, but was clean and fairly spacious as well, with a large walk-in shower, toilet, sink, and bench area where you can store bags, clothes, etc. as well as a small safe for valuables like passports and extra money. The room also comes with complimentary folding beach chairs and a cooler should you not want to pay at the beach clubs. Nice touch.
Anyways, so we quickly got changed and headed out for our first meal in Playa on this trip. Ang & Bernard weren’t arriving for a few hours, so we headed down the beach towards Calle 2nd to La Taraya. This restaurant has been around since 1968 and is the oldest continuous restaurant in Playa (I think), still owned by the same family. It sits right on the beach near the ferry pier, and has a rustic thatched-roof palapa with more tables on the sand under the palm trees. That’s where we decided to enjoy our meal…toes in sand. Now, it’s certainly nothing fancy by any means, just plastic patio chairs and table, but the food is fresh, tasty and cheap!
We started with guacamole and totopos (tortilla chips), fresh shrimp ceviche (camarones), and we got a large strawberry daiquiri for me, and a cold cerveza (Victoria) for Scott. There was a nice cool breeze off the water to cut the heat and humidity while we waited for our main courses of filete de pescado de la ayo (fish filet in garlic) and filete de pescado a la Veracruzano (fish filet in a Veracruz sauce); both came with rice, vegetables and fresh handmade tortillas. Delicious! There was no room for dessert, and the entire bill (including a few more drinks and tip) came to under $30. A similar meal with drinks in Canada would easily run $75 or more, and likely not be as fresh.
Stuffed and happy, we still had a couple hours until our friends arrived, so we headed over to Mega to pick up snacks and beer. This store is amazing. The prices are great, it’s clean and organized, great staff, and they carry everything you could really want. Scott had a hard time choosing a brand of beer, so he picked up three dozen cans in 4 or 5 different brands from Sol, to Dos XX, Leon, Pacifico, and Tecate, and we also picked up a few cans of this pre-mixed tequila with grapefruit juice, and another with tequila and various juices and hot sauce…interesting to say the least. On the food side of things we got tortilla chips, salsa, fresh cheese, pastries, yogurt and bananas. I could’ve spent all day in there.
While waiting for Ang & Bernard to arrive we sat out on the patio drinking beers and hanging in the hammock. A few beers turned into a few more as they were taking forever to arrive, and finally just as it was getting dark our amigos appeared and got checked in.
Starved, we headed over to Carboncitos for our first dinner. Scott and I tried this place last trip and we liked it a lot. We started with daiquiris for the girls and a bucket of beer for the boys, and of course guacamole, with a platter of five different salsas (including the famous pumpkin seed salsa) with fresh tortilla chips and queso fundido (yummy melted mandango cheese) served with fresh tortillas. As if that wasn’t enough, our main course was a mixed parrillada for four, consisting of arrachera, al Pasteur pork, grilled chicken, spicy shrimp, cactus, beans, mushrooms, onions, and rice, with more fresh tortillas. It was mouthwatering. We ate til we were literally stuffed…and I mean stuffed. I could barely walk back to the hotel, and I was almost to the point of being sick. Top that with the fact we were so tired and we had an early morning the next day, we were all in bed by 9:45. A great start to a great trip, me thinks!
Stay tuned for more!
Acanto Boutique Hotel, Casas del Sol Vista & Alta Vista, Playa Esperanza - Playa del Carmen & Tulum 2014
Club Yebo & El Meson del Marques & Luz en Yucatan - Playa, Valladolid & Merida, Mexico 2012
Barcelo Punta Cana - Dom Rep 2011
Luna Blue Hotel & Garden - Playa, Mexico 2009
Coral Marian Hilton - Dom Rep, 2006
SuperClubs Breezes Puerto Plata - Dom Rep, 2005
SuperClubs Puntarena - Varadero, Cuba 2002
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way into it
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Hay River, Northwest Territories, Canada
Day 2 - Thursday, May 17th, 2012
We awoke at 5:30 a.m…on purpose, lol. The boys had booked a fishing charter with Captain Ivan and they had to meet him on the beach by 7:30. We showered and headed a few blocks south to Avenida Benito Juarez (near the bus station and ferry pier) to grab breakfast at one of the food carts that set up early to cater to the local workers. We had tried these on the last trip and knew how tasty and cheap the food is. We each had a couple pork tacos (not the type you’d have at home, these are fresh tortillas filled with hand shredded seasoned pork) wich came to a grand total of only 14 pesos (about a buck!). We were hoping the lady with the fresh squeezed orange juice was going to be there, but we were too early I guess, as she was not.
Anyways, we walked back to the beach at 14th where the boys set off for their fishing trip, and like good girls we saw our men off, waving and taking photos, lol. Angela and I still had an hour and a half until we were due for our massages so we took a leisurely stroll over towards 26th and headed to the beach at Mamitas. It was so early they weren’t even open yet and the only people on the beach were a few runners. Ang dipped her feet in for the first time and after a little walk we headed toward Veronica’s Gold Massage.
We were a few minutes early and they weren’t open yet, either, so we sat out front on the sidewalk and chatted. When they finally opened we were taken inside for our side by side massages and facials. It was heavenly, and we scored the Thursday deal of 2 x 1 massages for like 460 pesos. Two hours later we were sufficiently relaxed so we headed back toward 14th and beach.
By the time we got back the boys had just landed, but had been sadly unsuccessful in bringing us lunch. Apparently they only had one bite the entire trip and other boats were faring about the same. Maybe it was due to the weather, or the moon or something, but even though this is a great time for fishing the fish just weren’t biting. Later in the afternoon we did see a few successful boats come in, though. Captain Ivan was very disappointed as well, but what can you do?!
Anyways, we were all starving by this point so we grabbed a table right there at Amaranto Beach Club. We started with the obligatory guacamole and two different kinds of ceviche: shrimp and fish, and there was shrimp tacos, fish tacos, and a quesadilla. For drinks the boys of course had beer, and the girls went with some of the strongest strawberry daiquiris we’ve ever had…I was feeling buzzed after just two!
Sufficiently stuffed, we headed back to the hotel to chill by the pool for a bit. The pool is really nice and located in this pretty courtyard area. It was so hot out we all jumped in to cool off. After, we just lazed on the loungers having a few beers taking it all in.
After our swim it was back to the room for a quick siesta and shower before heading out to dinner at HC Monterrey. This place comes highly recommended and it’s located well away from Fifth so the prices are still great. We didn’t get to try it last time so it was top on our list this trip. The house dish is arrachera nacional. It’s a marinated flank steak grilled to perfection and served with baked potato, avocado , and a grilled poblano pepper. Ang, Bernard and I had that, but Scott opted for the New York steak. We also had guacamole, as usual.
Once our tummies were full again, we headed across the street to Mega to stock up on beer and snacks again…and now Ang & Bernard love Mega too, lol. We taxied back to the hotel with our lot and had a few drinks before heading over to Luna Blue.
We had stayed at Luna Blue on our last trip and we loved it. The only reason we didn’t stay there this time is budget. But we still wanted to make sure we visited their awesome bar for Jorge’s famous drinks and to meet up with old friends…and that we did.
When we first arrived we were practically the only ones there as Mike Grabow was doing his sound check, so we grabbed four swings at the bar and ordered some Sarita Be Careful margaritas…Jorge’s known for these! They are made with La Pinta pomegranite tequila and are delicious! After I had downed a couple, and was feeling a little tipsy, our old friends, Bren & Dave arrived and the place started filling up as Mike played. We had a great time chatting, drinking and singing until we closed down the place! We even met a few new people: Mike from the Cayman Islands, his friend Kevin with his little doggie, and Betty and her husband from Oklahoma.
Good times for sure. I was definitely feeling it, and I’m not even sure how we got home, lol. Stay tuned for day three…
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Beaumont, Texas
Yes, more, more more!! Great trip report - newbies will learn a lot from your descriptions. La Tarraya is always our first stop as well. Gotta get those toes in the sand. And you are not the only ones who must have guacamole with EVERY meal in Playa!
way into it
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Hay River, Northwest Territories, Canada
Day 3 - Friday, May 18th, 2012
Alrighty, so I was a tad hungover this morning. Luckily it wasn’t too bad, nothing that fluids and an Advil couldn’t take care of, lol. The night before, Ang & Bernard headed over to the ADO station to pick up tickets for us so we could head to Tulum for the day. They were 62 pesos each, one way, leaving at 9 a.m.
We didn’t really do breakfast per se, we had some yogurts and bananas, and while we waited at the bus station, Bernard & Angela got a few more tacos from the food carts across the street. The bus was right on time so we piled aboard and grabbed seats up front. Scott and I had a good view of the driver and just before he put the bus into gear he crossed himself and said a little prayer, lol. I just looked at Scott, and he at me, and we couldn’t help but laugh because we had both seen him do it. We were hoping it was no indication of how dangerous the drive was going to be. Luckily it’s a fairly easy drive with divided highway the whole way.
It takes about an hour to the drop off at the Tulum Zona Archalogica, and then another few minutes walk into one of the places where you can book a tour guide and get tickets for the little ‘train’ to take you to the entrance gate to the site. Along the way everyone is trying to sell you tours and tickets, but just keep walking. We chose a package for four people with guide and entrance fee for 840 pesos total. We thought this was a fair price, and our guide, Diego, was awesome. He spoke perfect English, was of Mayan decent and really knew his stuff.
It was very hot walking around the site, but luckily as we got closer to the ocean there was a slight breeze…sometimes. We were all just sweating our asses off, lol. Scott and I had already toured the ruins on the last trip, but we wanted to go again and show it to Ang & Bernard. I think we all had a great couple of hours there, but by the end we were ready to eat and cool down.
We grabbed a taxi into Tulum pueblo to a place called Pollo Bronco. I had read about it online and from MapChick’s maps, and it came recommended for those on a budget wanting local fare. It’s a little hole in the wall, open air, with plastic table and chairs. We grabbed one right on the street. There are no menus, you just order directly from the list on the wall inside. We each ordered a 1/4 chicken ‘meal’ which comes with rice, salsa, coleslaw and fresh tortillas, all for around 50 pesos. We grabbed some bottles of Coca Cola and Sprite and took in the view of the main drag through town, lots of traffic.
Stuffed again, we hailed another taxi and headed over to Ziggy Beach. It cost 70 pesos and is quite a ways down the road…too far to walk in the heat for sure. It’s a really nice beach club on one of the prettiest stretches of beach anywhere. White sand, powder soft, swaying palms with lounge chair and beds. They also have a restaurant and lounge area if you don’t want to eat or relax on the beach.
We grabbed four loungers and got comfortable. Our waitress brought us beers and daiquiris while Ang, Bernard & Scott played in the waves…I dipped in quickly, but the waves were a little too much for me, so I headed back to assume the tanning position, lol. The sun was out in full force as it was midday now and barely a cloud in sight. We chatted and chilled, and the boys eventually headed over the the hammocks for a siesta. We were obviously oblivious to how much sun were getting and now all four of us are showing the results of too much sun…burned faces, shoulders, backs and chests. I think I should buy shares in Solacaine, lol.
After a couple of hours at Ziggy Beach we decided to head back to Playa as we were tired after a long hot day. One of the waiters got us a cab which ended up costing 600 pesos…I feel we were ripped off, but whatever...it was a long hot day and I just wanted to get back to the hotel and the a/c.
Back at the hotel we all took a siesta before showering and heading out for dinner at Util Pasta Factory. This is another highly recommended place, both online and for our friends, Bren and Dave. It’s located well off the tourist area and they make fresh handmade pasta and sauces…they even make fresh pasta for a lot of the other restaurants in town. Since it was a bit of a walk we decided to take a taxi and we sat out in the garden. There were about six tables in all, set in a beautiful courtyard garden area under a canopy. There were nice little touches like white fairy lights and candles, and the waitress brought over a can of bug spray…it is in a garden after all.
The menu is pretty basic: you choose your pasta, your sauce and then you wait. The menu even states that they practice ‘slow food’ and that if you want fast food they could recommend McDonalds or KFC, lol. They do bring you salad while you wait, so we chose to share a Caprese Salad with the table…yummy! Both Ang and I ordered fettuccine with carbonara sauce, and both the boys ordered lasagna, one with four cheeses, one with a tomato-based sauce.Scott ordered a bottle of red wine for the table, but I stuck to my Coca Cola, lol. All in all it was a great meal, and it didn’t take too long, either. Best of all, it was sure cheap, with all of our meals being under 100 pesos each. Awesome value for money, definitely recommend it.
From Util we headed back to the hotel to freshen up before heading out to Wah Wah Beach Bar over on 2nd and the beach to hear Mike Grabow and his other band, Genious Kong. While Mike normally plays mellow acoustic numbers when at the Luna Blue, this side project is much heavier, much more rock and alternative. It is still very good, but sadly we only caught the last set. On the way there, though, I have to add we ran into this little dog that was dyed pink! I had to take a picture. It was the funniest thing ever...but I'm not sure people should be dying their pets (I hope it was vegetable-based dye!).
Wah Wah itself is set in a large palapa and offered food as well. We ordered drinks only first, but after I managed to convince them to order a pizza which I had heard were great here. We were not disappointed. We went with the Wah Wah pizza which was tomato sauce, mozzarella, and shrimp…soooooo good. There wasn’t a large crowd at all for such a large space...off-season? Good service, though. There was this one staff member who takes your picture and then sticks it on a bottle of tequila for you to buy. Ang & Bernard bought one, but Scott & I didn’t…we’re cheap! Lol All in all it was a pretty good night, but we were hoping to have run into some people we knew. Oh well. We walked home by 11:45 and that was that...
Thanks everyone for your comments thus far. Stay tuned for days 4 through 14!
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: The Gem State
Love your food pics!!! Pollo Bronco...yummy!!!
Your bus driver crossed himself because most likely it was his first trip of the day. I always cross myself before takeoff or before I go on a road trip. I am not a practicing Catholic, it's just a habit.
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Twin Cities
Thanks for the report. Glad you found Ziggy's Beach. Gorgeous area.
600 pesos probably isn't that far off for a taxi to Playa. I think Babaloo posted a taxi sheet which quoted somewhere in the 500-550 range.
If you want it cheaper, you could just get out on the road and negotiate, and probably get them down to 400-450. But, like you, I have also overpaid a bit when the situation called for it.
Keep it coming!