Playa del Carmen, Mexico's virtual guidebook written by locals
 

Go Back   www.Playa.info > Trip Reports > Trip Reports: Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya
FAQ Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Reply
 
LinkBack Thread Tools
Old 04-26-2016   #1 (permalink)
beachaholic
 
newfiegirl22's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Hay River, Northwest Territories, Canada
Posts: 422
Topes, tacos and too many margo-ritas...10 days in Xcalak, Mahahual & Playa 2016

We arrived in Cancun on April 18th about 30 minutes early (that never happens, but yay, WestJet!). Since we had packed carry-on only this time (that's a whole other story in itself, lol), we were able to clear customs & immigration in about 15 minutes flat, green light, go. Oddly enough (and much to my delight), the Cancun airport "sharks" seem to have calmed down some as they were not near so overwhelming to me.

Anyhoo, since we had arrived so early, our rental car guy (Freddie) from Avant wasn't there waiting just yet, but we figured he'd be along any time now, so we hung around just outside Terminal 2 past the security gates on the right where we were told he'd be. He arrived about 15 minutes later and whisked us off to the parking lot, about 150 meters away where our car was waiting.

We had originally booked a VW Gol because it was the cheapest one, however we were happy enough to be "upgraded" to a 2014 Toyota Yaris (yeah, that's an upgrade, lol). The car was in pretty good shape for a rental, with just a few signs of minor wear & tear as you'd expect. Freddie was very upfront, showing us the issues he knew about, and we took lots of photos and video and noted a few other things we found (honestly, just minor scratches and rubs, really). He was also great about making sure we knew where the spare tire and jack were and that it was all above board. And we also had requested a foam cooler for our drinks and that was in the trunk, ready to go. Honestly, my dealings with Avant from start to finish was really great and I wouldn't hesitate to use them again.

[IMG][/IMG]

We went over the paperwork and he took some imprints of our Visa card and gave us the copies and we were off within 20 minutes I'd say (and that includes waiting for him to go and pay for the airport parking so we didn't have to deal with that).

To say I was nervous about driving for the first time in Mexico was an understatement, but it turns out it really isn't that bad . Scott drove from Cancun to Felipe Carrillo Puerto, and then I took the second shift from there to Xcalak. The drive is basically straight down highway 307, just follow the signs south. About all those signs: keep your eyes peeled as they can change every few hundred meters it seems, going from 100 to 70 to 110 to 50 to 30 in a matter of a few kilometers. It was actually pretty hilarious at times, with no rhyme or reason for the change (there's some hilarious commentary in another thread about this). Then there's all the other signs about seat belts, etc. But in terms of the route, just keep going south. There is also quite literally a million topes between here and there, so be prepared to slow down because there's a reason some are called veloci-raptors

We made a quick pitstop at the Chedraui in Tulum to buy some basic groceries and booze for our rental, and to get some more pesos out of the ATM (there's basically no ATMs south of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, so stock up). We grabbed a quick lunch at Pollo Bronco (I really love their chicken, but it's their creamy papas con queso that keeps me coming back), before getting back on the road south again.

[IMG][/IMG]

Honestly, the drive was the most boring part, especially once you get south of Tulum as it becomes more rural and goes down to two lanes. You pass through a few small villages, but nothing of note until you reach Felipe Carrillo Puerto (FCP). We drove right through the centre of town, turning right at the first main round about (with the statue in the middle). We drove just a few blocks down before finding a PEMEX station on the right where we filled up with gas. Aware of possible scams, Scott got out to ensure the machine was zeroed out, but honestly they never tried to scam us. The woman pumping the gas made sure the tank was topped off to the cap (seriously not another drop could be squeezed in) and Scott gave her the exact amount of cash, no problems.

Across the street, we were told by friends to look out for a small chicken take-away that has some great chicken to bring with us to Xcalak. It's called Asadero El Pollo, and it looks like it actually may be part of a chain as we've just seen a similar location in Playa. Anyways, we parked (there is also a drive-thru), went in, and from the menu on the wall we ordered a pollo entero package to go (whole chicken) which came with tortillas, rice, two salsas, and coleslaw for 142 pesos. You order and pay at a booth where the lady takes your money and writes a receipt. She gives a ticket to another guy who goes to a window and puts in the order. We didn't even have time to sit down to wait because out comes the to-go bag filled with our order in literally about 60 seconds. So fast (and it turns out, oh so good).

[IMG][/IMG]

Our last stop was at the Chedraui (just a few doors down) for more ice, and then back at the round-about we turned right onto the main street through town and continued until we were out of town on the highway again. We switched over driving duties and now I was behind the wheel, eek.

It was a super boring drive, through more small villages, until you reach the village of Limones. The only things worth mentioning is there is some great roadside fruit stands we're told (though we didn't stop) and there is a small ruin right alongside the highway. Just a few kilometers past Limones you come to an intersection at Cafetal where there is a turnoff to the Costa Maya/Mahahual. This is the first of really only two main turns you have to do on the entire drive.

The road towards Mahahual is two-lanes and in mostly good shape, though in a few places it gets rough and there's even a few potholes. You drive for what seems like forever before finally seeing a small intersection lined with homemade wooden signs of hotels towards Xcalak just before you get to the PEMEX station in Mahahual (if you see the station you've gone too far, go back).

The road to Xcalak is a narrow two lanes that has the jungle ever encroaching from both sides making it seem like a one-lane road in some areas. There's lots of potholes and iguanas and people cutting corners so drive with caution. It seemed to take forever, but finally you will pop out in the very small village of Xcalak, complete with dirt streets and rustic shacks. We followed our directions to the soccer field, turned left, found the beach road and headed north...and boy was that fun!

Our hotel, Sin Duda Villas, is located 8 kilometers from the bridge in town. That doesn't seem very far, but on that beach road, which is full of potholes and where the jungle narrows it to one lane at best, and where animals (and sometimes people and/or vehicles) pop out of nowhere it seems, it took us about 20-35 minutes depending on the time of day. You really need to take your time or risk bottoming out the car. You pass a mishmash of buildings from rustic huts to million-dollar mansions and everything in between. A few locals we talked to said they don't want to road to be improved too much because it sort of acts like an a$$hole filter keeping lots of people out unless they're determined to be there...I kinda get it, because when you arrive it is something else!

Anyways, finally we arrived at Sin Duda about an hour before dark (after about 5+/- hours of driving), just long enough to throw ur stuff in our room, get a tour, and settle in on the beach for the complimentary evening Margo-ritas (named after the original owner) and fresh-made guacamole with the new owners (and friends), Lesley & Dave. It was awesome. What a way to enjoy sunset on our first night in paradise!

[IMG][/IMG]
This is actually looking South when we turned the car around

[IMG][/IMG]
The hotel, from the beach

[IMG][/IMG]
The famous "Margo-ritas" which are literally the strongest we've ever had and will knock you on your a$$ after only two

[IMG][/IMG]
Our bedroom. We had the Querencia suite which is a fully-equipped apartment with bathroom, kitchen, living/dining room, and balcony overlooking the ocean.

[IMG][/IMG]
Living Room

[IMG][/IMG]
Kitchen/Dining Area (see the louvered shutters into the bedroom behind the kitchen -- when open, these allow the breeze from the front patio to come into the bedroom and keeps it nice and cool...we didn't even miss A/C and rarely had to use a fan at all.

[IMG][/IMG]
There was even an extra Murphy bed in the living room if we wanted to sleep near the balcony with the doors open for the breeze

[IMG][/IMG]
The view from our patio...ahhh

(Stay tuned for more when I can get more photos uploaded to Photobucket)...
__________________

Beach House, Progreso '17
Sin Duda,Nacional Beach & Nancy's - Xcalak, Mahahual & PDC '16
Apartment, Bermuda '15
Acanto, Casas del Sol Vista, Playa Esperanza - PDC & Tulum '14
Club Yebo, El Meson del Marques & Luz en Yucatan - PDC, Valladolid & Merida, Mexico '12
Barcelo Punta Cana - Dom Rep '11
Luna Blue - PDC '09
Coral Marian Hilton - Dom Rep, '06
SuperClubs Breezes Puerto Plata - Dom Rep, '05
SuperClubs Puntarena - Cuba '02[/size]
newfiegirl22 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2016   #2 (permalink)
añejo
 
Babaloo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Playa del Carmen
Posts: 29,588
Awesome start!
Babaloo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2016   #3 (permalink)
way into it
 
horn34's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 121
Great stuff! Still don't know how you drove 5 hours with no music, that would drive me nuts.
horn34 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2016   #4 (permalink)
beachaholic
 
newfiegirl22's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Hay River, Northwest Territories, Canada
Posts: 422
Quote:
Originally Posted by Babaloo View Post
Awesome start!
Thanks! I just can't figure out how to get rid of those [IMG] things that are around the pics...any suggestions?

Quote:
Originally Posted by horn34 View Post
Great stuff! Still don't know how you drove 5 hours with no music, that would drive me nuts.
haha, but we DID drive with music, but it was Mexican radio. It was actually pretty funny trying to interpret what the hell was being said (they speak a million miles a minute), and interspersed between various Mexican styles of music was good 'ol pop & dance music "en ingles" no less...yes, the Venga Bus was pumping on occasion And in preparation for our trip Scott had downloaded some songs in Spanish and we actually heard some of them (i.e. "Mi Gustas Tu"), so I could pretend to sing along lol.



Anyways, the next instalment of my report will have to wait: we're getting ready to find breakfast, and then perhaps off to Xpu Ha for the afternoon with some peeps on the colectivos...IF we can get our butts into gear (which is increasingly difficult while on vacation, lol).
newfiegirl22 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2016   #5 (permalink)
life=playa
 
annrawa's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Michigan
Posts: 744
tr

Awesome, looking forward to reading about your trip. Thanks for taking the time to share.
annrawa is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2016   #6 (permalink)
beachaholic
 
Goodtobehere's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia
Posts: 376
Great start......can't wait for the next installment! Beautiful pictures......have been thinking of doing that drive. Thanks for sharing!
Goodtobehere is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2016   #7 (permalink)
¡No mames güey!
 
roni's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Mérida, Yucatán
Posts: 75,214
Wonderful start!! I love that so-called boring drive

So, is Sin Duda a kilometer or so north of Playa Sonrisa?

Keep it coming!!
roni is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2016   #8 (permalink)
añejo
 
SharonD's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 1,769
Can't wait for the rest of this TR!!!
SharonD is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2016   #9 (permalink)
añejo
 
Babaloo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Playa del Carmen
Posts: 29,588
Quote:
Originally Posted by newfiegirl22 View Post
Thanks! I just can't figure out how to get rid of those [IMG] things that are around the pics...any suggestions?

Yes.
Just paste the Photobucket link as is.
No need to hit the insert photo icon.
Babaloo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2016   #10 (permalink)
I Wander
 
GaryD's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: B.C. Canada
Posts: 1,076
Oh yes yes... Thanks for getting this started and keep it coming. I like all the pics and to hear the adventures.
On the speed limit thing I was thinking that a lot of those signs are at exits and may reflect the exit speed even though this is not actually stated on the sign. The 307 seemed to be the most confusing but all the other roads I travelled there were pretty straight forward.
Looking forward to more from you and even though I don't really post much in the open forums I do read just about all the posts so know that I am with you all the way
GaryD is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2016   #11 (permalink)
toe in water
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 42
Wow - great report! I really want to go there. Thanks!
dori is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-27-2016   #12 (permalink)
beachaholic
 
newfiegirl22's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Hay River, Northwest Territories, Canada
Posts: 422
Quote:
Originally Posted by roni View Post
Wonderful start!! I love that so-called boring drive

So, is Sin Duda a kilometer or so north of Playa Sonrisa?

Keep it coming!!
Yes, just a few properties north. It's immediately next to Acocote, I believe.


And thanks for following everyone. I'll try to get more in before I leave Playa, though the photo upload speeds leave something to desire here, so now I understand how GaryD felt with trying to do a day-to-day posting while travelling around the region, especially outside the city
newfiegirl22 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-27-2016   #13 (permalink)
añejo
 
caramba's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 7,006
Great start! Really looking forward to more.
Quote:
Originally Posted by roni View Post
Wonderful start!! I love that so-called boring drive
So, is Sin Duda a kilometer or so north of Playa Sonrisa?
Keep it coming!!
Me too!
caramba is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-27-2016   #14 (permalink)
beachaholic
 
newfiegirl22's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Hay River, Northwest Territories, Canada
Posts: 422
Ok, so let's get back at this...

We spent four glorious days in Xcalak, lounging on what was pretty much our own private beach. There were only three other guests for those first three days: fisherman who were gone all day long fishing the flats, and then on our last evening three more guests checked in, all return guests. Other than that, besides the owners & their two long-time staff, and a couple of beach walkers, we never saw another soul on that stretch of beach! Guests come from quite literally all over the world, and the vast majority are return guests, many booking their next visit before they leave. Authors, artists, musicians, diplomats, food & travel writers, hippies, families, fisherman...you name it, they've seen it. This past high season they operated at full-capacity the entire season and are looking forward to some down time.


View of the beach from one of the rooftop patios. You can see how close the reef is to shore. The water barely gets deeper than 5 or 6 feet!

Days were spent either laying on beach loungers under the palapas (often with the resident kitties), hanging in various hammocks found on the property, strolling along the beach looking for conch shells, chilling on our private patio, nude sun-bathing on the rooftop deck (privacy sign provided), or walking the trail to the lagoon (wise to apply mosquito repellant because I got bit a few times). There was no TV or telephone in sight, no traffic noise (other than a couple of vehicles per day up/down the beach road), nothing but peace & quiet.


Me lounging with Bandita, an 18-year old resident kitty, while Scott & Lesley snorkelled on Margo's reef


View of the lagoon from the rooftop


Lagoon located directly behind Sin Duda, about 2 minute walk down a trail to a small dock where you can take some of the kayaks

All guests are provided with fresh yogurt, homemade granola (including coconut from those very trees), and fresh-ground Chiapas coffee, so we had breakfast on our patio daily. We added to it fruit we bought from the food truck and pastries from Chedraui -- it was absolute heaven.


Breakfast on the patio

Speaking of the food truck. Twice a week food trucks rumble down the beach road carrying everything from fresh fruit & vegetables, to meat, bread and cheese. A couple of times a month a fish & shrimp truck comes through, and occasionally there are locals who motor up carrying empanadas, tamales, cochinita pibil and more. You just have to listen for the horn, though Dave has gotten used to the sounds of the trucks and knows when they are coming Apparently if you want the freshest stuff with the best selection you can drive into town as soon as the truck arrives from Mahahual or Chetumal or wherever (or even just go further south down the beach road) because by the time it hit the more northerly beach properties the selection often leaves much to be desired, lol.


Dave & Lesley stocking up from the "grocery store". Living in Xcalak, you buy what you can, and then they make a monthly trip to Chetumal to stock up on other items you can't get here (their stories of what they've encountered over the past few years are pretty hilarious! This is Mexico, after all!)


Fresh chicken, head & all...ah, yum?!



During our stay, we bought fruit & a whole fresh chicken from the vendors, and they laughed when we asked them to chop the head off for us, lol...though they did leave the feet on, which was kinda funny. We later marinated it in achiote, lime juice, and beer, and then grilled it over a driftwood fire in the fire-pit...it was smoky but overall pretty good.



After a couple of days of cooking our own meals, we decided it was time to drive into the village and try some local stuff. Silvia's Restaurant was highly recommended for seafood, so that's where we headed. We actually drove by it once as it's set back from the road, but eventually we spied it and headed in. Now, this isn't 5-star dining...this is a local loncheria where you eat from plastic tables and where you may or may not need to overlook some sanitary practices, lol, but boy was it good.



We ordered the salbutes to start, which were soooo good (and cheap). She even included a second order on the house (I guess we looked super hungry, lol). We also ordered a mixto ceviche (shrimp & fish) to share, and thank gawd we were sharing because it was HUGE and we couldn't even finish it all. As always, fresh totopos were provided with a selection of salsas (some of which were super spicy and came with a warning, lol).


Salbutes


Salsas


Ceviche


There are no prices listed in the menu, but being a small local joint we knew they wouldn't be much. For everything we ordered I think the price including drinks and tip was under 200 pesos.


I love how almost every place we ate there was a TV and they were watching their shows (either a telenovela or sports)

After lunch, we drove around the village. It's an interesting place, though the poverty level was sobering, as we're seeing through our recent travels. The juxtaposition of tiny homes cobbled together from seemingly whatever materials were available next to the manicured lots probably owned by ex-pats was sad, more so down the beach road where there is clearly evidence of great wealth. There is also a lot of garbage strewn about everywhere -- all along the roads, between houses, and lining the beaches, which is heartbreaking. I don't know what we're doing to our planet, but man, a recycling program wouldn't go astray in this region.











There is a large pier where many of the fishing boats leave from, with a small lighthouse nearby. In the distance you can see a boat that is stuck on the reef and starting to break apart. Bits and pieces have been washing ashore for a while.

All along the beach here in town there is so much garbage. So much so you can't really walk along it. If I had a garbage bag I would've picked up some. We're told it's very hard to keep ahead of as it's continually washing ashore, from all over the place. Really fricken sad. Really fricken infuriating. Most especially since this whole area is a park/reserve where they're trying to preserve the reef, which is part of the same reef system that runs from Cozumel all the way to Belize.

Sin Duda clears their beach daily and still more washes up, a never-ending cycle that is as bad as the sargassum of last year which smothered the turtle grass and eroded the beach.















Anyways, before heading back to Sin Duda, we needed to find a place that sells razors as Scott had forgot his and was already starting to look like Grizzly Adams, lol. Melchor's is probably the larger of the aborrotes in town. Everything is behind the counter and you ask for what you need and they probably have it. Scott managed to by a single razor, 4 limes (which she actually took from her own stash back in her house), a small bag of rice, and a bottle of OJ for 70 pesos. It's the kind of place where you can buy a single garbage bag or cigarette, lol. I believe there may be a bar next door.





Ok, enough for today. I'll try to post more later. Still to come: snorkelling on the reef, spearing Lion Fish & the ensuing ceviche made by Marla of Leaky Palapa fame, dinner at Costa de Cocos...and that's just to finish up Xcalak. After that we have Mahahual and Playa del Carmen! We leave tomorrow afternoon to go home, arriving in Canada very late, and then we have a 12+ hour drive home, so it might be a few more days before I can post more, so bear with me...
newfiegirl22 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-27-2016   #15 (permalink)
into ruins
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Colorado
Posts: 63
Sonrisa is @ 6.9 KM
various properties are in between
Sandwood/Acocate is @ 7.9 KM (Sandwood was purchased by Acocate in 2015)
4 lots are in between (we own 3 of them)
Sin Duda is @ 8.0
My understanding is that this measurement is from the bridge @ North End of town.
Great report & perfect description of Xcalak.
Loyd & Barb Saenger
(note - we have owned this property in a Mexican Corp since 2002 & prior as a "Trust" for approx. 7 years. Prior to that we had a house built closer to Mahahual and owned it for I think 6 or 7 years.
breckenridge is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 03:22 AM.


Powered by: vBulletin
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.