Growing up in California, when you think of Mexico you think of Cabo San Lucas. My family and I have been going for as long as I can remember. Cabo is beautiful but it is a desert. Its brown with lots of cactus and the ocean is an algae green color. Whereas, Playa Del Carmen is a lush, green jungle, with lots of water ways and emerald blue oceans. There is so much to do in Rivera Maya and the whole time we spent there my husband and I were talking about our returning vacation the following Spring Break.
Fly into Cancun International Airport. Playa Del Carmen is about 30-40 minutes south of the airport. Very straight forward drive, only one highway along the water. We rented a car through National Car Rental. The car rental companies were maybe a minute from the airport and were super convenient, plus they didn’t give us any run around. I would highly recommend this option because the taxi we were quoted to and from was $160 USD for two and the car rental was only a dollar a day plus $20 per day for basic mandatory insurance (but its all you need.) Plus we felt completely comfortable driving there. But if thats not your gig, then they have Super Shuttle and good ole taxis.
Where to Stay:
All-inclusives are a more affordable way to travel, especially when you like to drink. I love the idea of all-inclusives (eating and drinking as much as I want) but I’m so picky about what I will eat that in the past I have overlooked them. But when I came across Blue Diamond Luxury Boutique Hotel I knew I had to give it a shot. Here are the highlights:
- It’s an al-a-carte made to order all-inclusive. The food was AMAZING. There are three restaurants to chose from on the property. All menus were creative and offered healthy options. In the morning they had a list of seven different fresh juices they would make you including: digestive, detox, soothing, aromatic, tulum, exotic green, and vitamins (my least favorite, tasted like a bloody mary without the booze aka V8). They served lunch at two different restaurants and around the pool. You never had to get up to get a drink or something to eat. The lunch menu even offered fresh sushi and sashimi. The dinner was bomb and we ate ourselves to a food coma every night. The portions are small so we would end up order a starter, soup, salad and two entrees EACH. This was way tooooo much but there was too many good options we wanted to try each night.
2. It is a small luxury hotel so you know the bartenders by name and they get your order without you even having to ask each day. Because it is so small you are hanging out by the pool with the same people for days. Everyone is so social and friendly you end up making friends and find yourself saving seats by the pool for your new “friends”
3. The property is 36 acres and the rooms are spread out in small villas. When you check in you have to request bikes to be able to transverse the property.
4. There are lagoons throughout the property and most of the villas back up to them and one of the restaurants overlook one too.
5. We stayed in a standard room, but this room was HUGE! You have a large backyard with a small pool and lounge chairs. You can even get room service to deliver a hookah to your room and set it up (an additional $20 US)
6. The property has its own cenote. (A sinkhole)
7. They offer wine tastings, cooking classes, yoga, and even have a temazcal (sweat lodge).
8. Every lodge chair has an ocean view and you don’t have to wake up early to get good seats.
9. Every morning they have cocos ready for the guests that have already been pre chilled
Things to do:
- Take a walk on the beach. If your from the west coast, the sand is like nothing your used to. Its fine, white and your toes will want to be in it all day. There is a lot of seaweed on the beach. But they literally have workers raking it up ALL day. They rake it, put it in a wheel barrel, and dump it into a hole they dung earlier in the day. Then the next day they start all over again. It was the most tedious job I’ve ever witnessed. But the smell wasn’t bad!
2. Go to Xcaret: Its kinda like Disney World but in nature? I really don’t know how to explain it but there are multiple different parks and each one will take you the full day. Xcaret is the most popular one so we decided to try it out first. The others are Xel-ha, Xplor, Xenotes, Xenses, Xichen, and Xoximilco. We had a blast. Again there was so much to do we had to prioritze what we wanted to do. First thing we did was swim in one of the underground rivers. This alone could occupy the whole day. There are three different routes and each one transverses the park and will take about an hour. You have to wear a life vest but I wore it like diaper to avoid it in all my pictures. At the beginning they put all your personal belongings in a bag and when you get to the other end the bag is there waiting for you, all nice and dry. The water activities are limitless. There are natural pools with slides into them. You can swim with dolphins, sharks, stingrays, scuba, snorkel, zip-line and the list goes on and on. There are many cultural aspects to the park. There are live mayan performances, a mayan village, archeological sites, and ritual ceremonies. As if that wasn’t enough there is a “zoo.” They have an aquarium, jaguars, flamingos, bird exhibit (you can see birds hatch every minute), and a butterfly pavilion. I am not into cheesy theme parks and this is NOT one of them. Honestly it was super cool and will be trying out another one next time.
3. Visit a Cenote. A cenote is a sinkhole resulting in a natural underground river with caves. Twenty minutes south of Playa Del Carmen the most popular cenotes are Garden of Eden and Cenote Azul.
4. Shop along Fifth Avenue. The road is blocked off to cars and is strictly a walking street in the heart of the city. Here you will find shops, restaurants, and bars.
5. Visit Ruins. One of the seven wonders of the World is 2 hours inland from Playa del Carmen. If your too lazy like me we compromised for the Tulum Ruins. These were ok. But if your willing to go a little further Coba ruins are worth the drive.
6. Swim with Sea Turtles in Akumal. About 40 minutes south of Playa. If you snorkel here, its guaranteed to see turtles. Parking is 50 pesos.
7. Take the Ferry to Cozumel. Don’t buy tickets off anyone from the street, the cheapest price is at the ferry terminal. Tip: Buy a one way ticket so you can choose when to come back.
8. Visit the Beach Clubs of Tulum. See my post on 24 hours in Tulum.