I think I had culture shock when I arrived at Playa del Carmen. As one of Mexico’s biggest tourist resorts, it was way cleaner and more American looking than anywhere I’d been in the past few weeks. I had total mixed emotions – it was kind of exciting to be somewhere touristy, but also sad to leave Belize and Guatemala behind!
We travelled there by way of Tulum, where we spent one night. I didn’t do anything here, as I’d be coming back in a few days. We arrived at night and left around lunchtime the next day, so those that wanted to had a quick trip to the Mayan ruins. I stayed in the pool.
In total I had eight nights in Playa del Carmen. That is a lot. But let me explain. I had two nights with the tour group, followed by one night on my own. And then my friends from Australia would arrive for a further 5 nights!
With Intrepid I stayed at Hotel Casa Tucan, a budget hotel about a block from 5th Avenue where all the restaurants and shops are. This was a pretty nice but basic place with a bit of a rainforest theme going on. There were also a lot of confusing stairs to go up and down to find your room. Also a choice of airconditioned and fan cooled – I somehow ended up with AC. There’s also a decent sized swimming pool.
After three nights there I moved to a three bedroom apartment at Acanto and I just about died and went to heaven when I walked in. I hadn’t stayed anywhere this nice the whole time, and I was suddenly incredibly aware of it. The apartment was so clean and modern with huge beds, three bathrooms, a TV in every room and strong air conditioning. There was a small pool downstairs but it was also less than a block from the beach. I had an amazing reunion with my three girlfriends inside the apartment.
Playa del Carmen is a bit of a blur, not because I was partying (one night I stayed home and watched the Kardashians) but because I was there for so long. These are a few of the things we did.
The beach is huge, and pretty much completely lined by sun lounges which are connected to the bars and hotels that back onto the beach. The most relaxed way to enjoy your time at the beach is to just pick one of these and stay there all day. You can get drinks and food and then just pay at the end of the day. The nicest one we went to was Kool Beach Club which had a pool. A lot of our time was spent at the beach.
Food and Nightlife
There are heaps of restaurants and bars all along Fifth Avenue. Obviously plenty of Mexican food, as well as a lot of Italian food. It’s not cheap by Mexican standards, but it is by western standards. If you’re after slightly healthier food then 100% Natural is good. There are heaps of bars with cheap drinks, some have a cover charge but not all of them.
The shopping in Playa is actually pretty good – but of course it depends what you’re after. There are lots of souvenir shops selling the usual trinkets and junk. But there’s also a lot of “real” shops, like sports brands, clothing stores, even MAC cosmetics.
There are a lot of big adventure parks nearby but we didn’t go to any of them. Instead we drove to Cenote Chaak Tun which is way less touristy. It was so much fun swimming and diving through the caves, and our guide taught us a lot about local history. Highly recommended.
After eight days I was going a bit crazy and was ready to move on… although I did appreciate all the ice cream available on Fifth Avenue.
Coming up next, Tulum part two.