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Old 12-14-2016   #16 (permalink)
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Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Michigan
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Thanks for sharing a wonderful trip report. Sorry your pre-vacation was so difficult and sad. Enjoy!
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Old 12-14-2016   #17 (permalink)
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Location: Mérida, Yucatán
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We love Isla Mujeres. When we were flying down on vacation, we would often start our trips with 3 or 4 nights there - we called it decompression.

We had not been there since 2013 - until early December this year. We live in Merida now, and we had a sis-in-law visiting so we did our usual few days in Playa for Kathy's birthday and then we headed to Isla for two nights.

We enjoyed it. A lot. Playa Norte seemed a bit crowded, but we did not do much beach on this trip.

Playa Zama was nice and the golf cart ride around the island was nice.
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Old 12-15-2016   #18 (permalink)
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Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia
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Thanks so much for sharing your trip....we find Playa getting more and more busy and love the vibe of Isla so we usually go there for at least a few days. Last time we were there in February of 2015, we were really surprised at how crazy busy it was. The beach was very crowded as was the strip. Think more and more people are getting away from Playa. Still love Playa though and cannot wait for our 18 days in February.
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Old 12-15-2016   #19 (permalink)
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It was busier in Isla than we expected. It's not a tiny, sleepy town, that's for sure....but it's quite a bit calmer than Playa.
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Old 12-15-2016   #20 (permalink)
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12/2/16 - Leaving Isla and heading to Playa del Carmen

Well, our three days in Isla Mujeres went quickly and we enjoyed sampling this beautiful island. Our assessment is that we definitely love it and want to visit again for a longer stay!We like the laid-back, relaxed vibe of the island, although it is by no means "sleepy". It is obvious that Isla is on the track to developing a lot. I just hope it doesn't become the insane metropolis that Playa has become!
We think Playa Norte is a simply stunning beach and the most enjoyable to swim in of any in the region. We prefer calm, very swimmable beaches and Playa Norte fits that bill perfectly. I guess the only downside is that since it's SO beautiful, and the most swimmable beach, it's also the most crowded on the island, and we tend to not like crowds, so we always travel in low season or shoulder season. We almost never travel in high season for numerous reasons, but most importantly because we do not like noise, chaos and crowds.

The only downside about Isla, from our perspective, is that the main drag, Hidalgo Street, isn't very long. You can walk the whole thing in about 10 minutes. We prefer walking on pedestrian walkways as opposed to regular streets, so in Isla, after about 10 minutes of walking, you are off the main drag and into the regular streets. Kind of a downer.

But all things considered, we were very pleased. As for Ixchel - believe it or not, we have mixed feelings. The obvious upside is the wonderful location and for the penthouse we stayed in, the VIEW! OMG, unreal. We almost had to pinch ourselves to ask if we were really viewing what we were viewing. The stunning, deep turquoise of the expansive, calm sea is so breathtaking! The condo we rented was very nice, well maintained, and the owners were fabulous to deal with. The staff at Ixchel are also very nice.

On the downside, Ixchel - while upscale, clean and well maintained - has more of a hotel feel than a comfortable, homey feel. We are also not big fans of the sleek, modern architecture. I am not sure whether we will stay there again or try Nautibeach next door to see how we like that. We did pay a quick visit to Nautibeach to check it out, and it seemed more like our type of atmosphere, except that the pool was not heated and it was quite chilly. We are pretty picky about water temperature and do not tolerate cold oceans or pools, so this could be an issue. Maybe not a dealbreaker because the water wasn't FREEZING. It was just chilly to the point that it would be a bit uncomfortable getting in.

A couple other things we did like about Isla, as compared with PDC: it was a quieter town with very little blaring music and I don't think we heard ANY techno/house music anywhere that I can recall, although the beach bar located in front of Ixchel occasionally had their sound system up too loud - playing some annoying music (reggaeton, etc). Also, the vendors were nowhere nearly as aggressive or annoying as in PDC. It was just a lot more relaxed and "chill" and much less Americanized. We didn't see any corporate American stores like Victoria's Secret or H&M and that was a welcomed relief. It was much more Mexican and we loved it.

And now onto Playa del Carmen!

Before leaving Isla, we went to breakfast at Lola Valentina and it was wonderful. I had something called a Mediterranean Croissant, which was basically a croissant piled high with sauteed veggies, and hubby had eggs benedict. We also had fresh squeezed juice and hubby had coffee. They were very nice to offer us a 10% discount because they saw we were wearing bracelets from Ixchel (some of the restaurants have a discount arrangement with different hotels).

It was easy to walk to the ferry with our carry-on luggage, so again, we avoided taxis. The ferry ride across was just as pleasant as the trip over. Once we arrived in Cancun, it was very easy to catch a taxi to the Cancun bus station for our bus to Playa.

The ride to Playa was uneventful and we were excited to arrive in our old stomping grounds. I always think it's so much fun to arrive at the PDC bus station on 5th Avenue. Hubby and I have a tradition of walking to our condo, pulling our luggage down 5th Avenue. It's hot and it's a long walk to Natz ti Ha (which is near 38th and the beach), but I love saying "no, gracias" to the taxi drivers and being an able-bodied person, instead of a lazy American! Ha ha. Anyway, we needed the exercise with all the calories we are eating and drinking!!!

It was around 2pm by the time we got to 38th Street, and we were getting pretty hungry, so we decided to have lunch at one of our favorite places, Piola. It's right around the corner from Natz ti Ha and we have never had a bad meal there. The pizza is thin crust and some of the most delicious we have had. This time, we got the 4 cheese pizza and it was very good - a bit salty because one of the 4 cheeses was roquefort, but man was it yummy! And it tasted soooo good after a long walk. Hubby had a really large bottle of a Mexican beer called Mundo Maya and he said it was rustic and full-bodied. I had a nice cold Coke.

After that, it was check-in time at Natz ti Ha! We were very excited to be back as we LOVE LOVE LOVE this condo complex. We love the total vibe - all the tropical foliage, the running waterfalls, the beautiful, Mexican design of the complex, the tropical birds flying all around, the gorgeous stone wall that surrounds the huge, quiet, shaded pool, the nice staff. This was our 4th time staying at NTH and we've always stayed in the same first floor condo. This time, we decided to try a different condo and we LOVED it. It was a second floor condo close to the beach, and it was a 3 bedroom, but we rented it as a 2 bedroom (we really only need 1 bedroom, but most of the condos at NTH are at least 2 bedrooms). It was so beautifully decorated, clean and comfortable. We loved the patio and felt like we were staying in a tree house because our patio was surrounded by palm trees. There was a sliver of ocean viewable from our patio, but really not much, since the foliage hid most of it. By the way, we booked our stay through Mike at Playa Breeze and we were very happy with our experience.

Once we settled in, we decided to take a quick walk to the beach, just to check it out.

This was not a good experience, I am sad to say. On this particular day, the beach looked terrible. It was smelly and there was a lot of brown, fibrous seaweed floating in the water which made the water brown near the shore. The beach was very eroded and there was almost NO beach! The water was coming all the way up to Mahekal, almost to the ocean front rooms! I didn't take my camera on our walk, so I don't have any photos of this to share.

As if this was not bad enough, our worst fears had been realized. A new beach club in the lot directly north of Mahekla's beach (Martina Beach Club), which opened since our last visit to PDC, was BLASTING that horrible, thumping techno music that we despise and the sound was overwhelming the entire area. I am sorry, but this type of music (and especially at that volume!) has NO place on a beach!!! The beach is not a nightclub! I could see reggae, Mexican, downtempo, or some other relaxed kind of music (at a reasonable volume) but the ridiculous thumping $hit music is completely inappropriate and should be banned from the beach! It is unfathomable to me how ANYONE can enjoy that type of music, but especially on the BEACH where one is supposed to be able to relax and chill.

We ran into Mike, our property manager, and he told us that Martina is hurting business in the area and the community is in an ongoing battle trying to get Martina to turn their volume down.

I will tell you this. As bad as it was on the beach in front of Mahekal, it was far worse for the people in the condos at the Elements, which is the complex directly behind Martina. If I owned (or rented) a condo there, I would be having a complete COW! They are directly in the line of fire of those speakers!

The good news is, these bad conditions did not continue through the week. Yes, the beach remained eroded and there was little room to sit on the beach, but otherwise things shaped up after this first day. Martina wasn't as loud - some days we didn't hear any music coming from them at all (I wonder why?), and the brown water, smelliness and seaweed went away by the next day and stayed away. The beach became much prettier and stayed that way for the remainder of our trip. Thank God!
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Old 12-15-2016   #21 (permalink)
Join Date: Sep 2011
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Our goal for this PDC trip was to try some new restaurants, as well as a couple favorites. One of the restaurants we've been wanting to try for awhile is Papa Charley's, so that's where we went for dinner. We started with a couple glasses of wine. Hubby wasn't super hungry, so he got a Caprese Salad and that was it. I had Ravioli with Aurora sauce as well as a piece of apple pie. The food was delicious. I wouldn't say it was on the level of La Famiglia (our favorite PDC Italian restaurant), but we enjoyed it.

On the way back to the condo, we stopped at Ah Cacao for a brownie.

We walked around a little, but not too much. We were feeling a bit tired so we headed back early.

What we Spent Today (in USD, converted a rate of 18 pesos/dollar):

Tip for Maid: $2.22
Ixchel bar expenses for 3 day stay: $17.78

Breakfast at Lola Valentina:
Eggs Benedict: $6.67
Mediterranean Croissant: $7.17
Orange Juice $1.94
Watermelon Juice $1.94
Cafe Mexicana: $1.94
10% discount
Total: $17.50 + $4.72 Tip =$22.22

Ferry (2): $8.66
Tips for Luggage Handler: $4.44
Tip for ferry musician: $2.78
Taxi to bus station: $5.56 + $1.11 tip =$6.67
Bus to Playa (2): $14.44

Lunch at Piola:
Lg Quatro Formaggio pizza$15.39
Liter bottle of Mundo Maya beer: $12.22
1 Coke: $1.61
Total: $29.22 + $7.44 =$36.66

Dinner at Papa Charley:

2 glasses of wine: $7.78
Caprese Salad: $6.11
Ravioli with Aurora Sauce: $5.56
Double espresso: $1.67
Apple Pie: $2.50
Total: $25.00 + $4.44 =$29.44

Brownie at Ah Cacao: $1.44

Total Spent Today: $146.75
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Old 12-15-2016   #22 (permalink)
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Ah!! Love love love this!! Can't wait for more!
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Old 12-16-2016   #23 (permalink)
Join Date: Sep 2011
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The rest of this trip was really laid back for us. Our only objective was to relax. No excursions, site seeing or any special outings planned. So lots of hanging around and eating!

This morning we had breakfast at our FAVORITE breakfast destination in PDC, La Cueva del Chango. Words cannot describe how wonderful this place is with its tropical, outdoor, jungle setting and delicious, wholesome, rustic food. The kitchen is visible from the dining area, and you can watch the Mexican ladies hand pressing the tortillas and stirring the sauces. The food is just wonderful. In past stays in PDC, we've eaten most of our breakfasts here.

This morning we both had fresh squeezed juice (watermelon and "green"). We shared an order of empanadas with mushrooms and cheese. Hubby had chilaquiles and I had fruit salad with granola and yogurt (I asked for bananas only). I also had a hot chocolate and hubby had coffee. Everything was as wonderful as always and service was very friendly and attentive.

After breakfast, we walked to the Mega Supermarket to stock up on various snacks and drinks for the condo. We don't mind the walk, even though it's pretty far, although it does get a little hot coming back.

Here is my feeling about walking. First of all, I avoid taxis in PDC like the plague because many of those guys are rip-off artists (we have experienced this first-hand) and the last thing I feel like doing on my vacation is arguing with a taxi driver over the amount of change he gave me back. If we can walk somewhere instead of taking a taxi, we do.

Besides, you've seen what we were eating. Many, MANY calories to burn off!!!

There is nothing that feels better after a long, hot, humid walk in PDC, then walking into a nice air conditioned condo. We always set the thermostat at 80 when we left the condo and even at that setting, it felt so cool and refreshing when we returned.

After our Mega trip, we relaxed with the nice cool ceiling fans blowing on us and took a nice nap!

Since the beach was crappy, we decided to hang at the pool for the rest of the day. It was nice and relaxing for the most part, until a couple with a baby came to the pool (i.e. the circus came to town), but thankfully they didn't stay too long and then we had the whole pool to ourselves.

We both love the pool at NTH. It is the most beautiful pool we have ever been in. What I love the most is that there is plenty of shade. I know most people love sunny pools, but not me. I burn easily, especially when I am in water, so I love having a pool that has lots of shade where I can swim for long stretches of time without worrying about how much sun I am getting.

Later, we hung out on the roof top as the sun was beginning to go down. We are squinting from the sunset.

We cleaned up and decided to go out for Thai. We went to Gluuay Mai Thai, which is a pretty little Thai restaurant right up the street from NTH, on 38th near 5th. It was a very nice experience and the food was very good. I wouldn't say it was the best Thai food we have ever eaten in our lives, but everything was very good and it was a nice change of pace from Mexican food. They started us off with complimentary steamed spring rolls with various dipping sauces. We both got pad thai (hubby got veggie and I got shrimp) and for our appetizers, hubby got spring rolls and I got a fried tofu appetizer. We also both got Thai iced tea (my favorite). We liked the soft lit atmosphere and the nice chill music they were playing. Service was friendly.

After that, it was off to find some gelato, which is my favorite dessert. There used to be a gelato place that we liked across from Lucky Luciano's but they closed, and we are not big fans of Aldo's. I was happy to see that some new gelato places have opened since our last visit and all week, I ended up patronizing Come Gelato, which is on the corner of 38th & 5th, right across from Los Hijos de la Tostada. I loved the gelato here so much, I never tried any other places. It was fantastic - very silky and creamy. Hubby also got a double espresso.

What we spent today (in USD, converted at a rate of 18 pesos/dollar):

Breakfast at La Cueva del Chango:
2 fresh squeezed juices: $5.11
Fruit salad with granola, honey and yogurt: $4.44
Chilaquiles: $5.33
Empanadas with mushrooms and cheese: $4.89
Coffee: $1.78
Hot chocolate: $2.33
Total: $23.89 + $4.44 tip =$28.33

Mega Supermarket (snacks and drinks for the condo): $27.78

Dinner at Gluay Mai Thai:
Spring rolls: $4.72
Fried tofu appetizer:$4.39
Vegetable pad thai: $7.00
Shrimp pad thai: $8.06
Thai iced tea (2): $4.89
Total: $29.06 + $4.39 =$33.45

Large gelato and double espresso at Come Gelato: $6.67 + $1.11 tip =$7.78

Total Spent Today: $97.34
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Old 12-20-2016   #24 (permalink)
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Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 43
Thanks for all the great info. It's so fun to read your report. My husband and I love to just chill out and enjoy all the great food on our Mexican vacations. Haven't been able to go for a few years, but it is at the top of our traveling list. Looking forward to hearing more about your trip.
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Old 12-22-2016   #25 (permalink)
Join Date: Sep 2011
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Thanks, Dori! I have been neglectful in finishing this report as the holidays have taken my life over. I hope to work on it more soon...
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Old 01-04-2017   #26 (permalink)
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Illinois
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thanks so much for posting a trip report. it helps on the long wait to get back......looking forward to more...
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Old 01-04-2017   #27 (permalink)
Join Date: Dec 2006
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Great report ! Thanks for posting all the prices and cost.. This will definitely help people figuring out what the daily costs are.
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Old 01-05-2017   #28 (permalink)
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Great trip report Sassy!

Also we are so sad to hear of the loss you and yours have had to endure last year. Hoping 2017 finds you blessed and refreshed!
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Old 01-14-2017   #29 (permalink)
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awesome report!!! i've been to Playa close to 50 times and went to Isla for the first time in Nov 2015. went back in 2016 in Feb, May, and November. already booked for May this year.

sorry to hear about the year you had....big hugs!!!
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Old 01-22-2017   #30 (permalink)
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Location: The Beautiful Inland Pacific NorthWest, USA
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Great report. Loving the cost breakdownsavings too! Very good pictures as well....
I hope you get back to it....

We got 8 PDC days and 2 Isla nights coming up next month!
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