I don’t know how some people do it. How do people pack up a towel, some sunscreen, a beach toy or two, and then plan of spending hours upon hours upon hours at the beach. Don’t get me wrong, I love the ocean. I will swim in it every day. I love to be outside. But, there is no way that I have the patience, desire, or sheer amount of liquids in my body to sweat through to make it 8 hours on a beach. I, sadly, hate the beach. Turns out though that I love Playa del Carmen.
So what’s a girl to do, when she’s on vacation in a beach town??
Here’s my run down on Must Dos in Playa del Carmen.
- Get yourself in the ocean. Everyone will talk of it, and you must experience it. My favorite time to visit the beach is around 8am in the morning. No one is out there except for maybe a jogger or two so you get the water to yourself. The best part, is you don’t have to fight for a place in the sand. The beaches in Playa are nice. I was reminded of Florida with all the hotel build up, but I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of trash on the beach. ( I hate having to look out for bottle caps under my feet! ) Leave your snorkel gear at home as the waves near the beach make the water too silty to see anything of value. What is nice to remember though is that all beaches in Mexico are available to everyone. Just because you aren’t staying at that hotel, doesn’t mean you can’t park yourself on its beach. A word of caution on this though, the hotel property is private, so you will have to fake it to make it to the beach by acting like you belong there if you don’t want to get there via the beach.
- Get yourself to some ruins. Okay, sure, this is always on my to do list no matter where I am, but, who wouldn’t want to check out an ancient port city built thousands of years ago??? Get to Tulum. 40 min drive south of Playa. Plan for at least a half day. Entrance fee is 65 pesos per adult, and you can hire a guide at the entrance if you like. Bring your bathing suit if you want to break up your visit with a dip in the ocean. If it is hot, you will want a dip in the ocean. This will allow you a water view of the old port city, too Every Tom, Dick, and Pedro will have a tour for you to visit Tulum on 5th Avenue in Playa. Now, I am not one for organized tours. AT ALL. (At the end of the post I’ll tell you how to get around all that and still have a blast at the ruins.)
- Get yourself to a cenote. What’s a cenote? Google it. Short version = Awesome, sink hole that has filled with fresh water that is waiting for you to snorkel or scuba in. I paired the Gran Cenote with my visit to Tulum and it worked out perfectly. Entrance into cenotes vary as many have become privatized. The fee for Gran Cenote was $10 US per adult at the time of my visit. They have changing rooms, restrooms, and lockers to store your stuff while you swim. Despite the heat outside, you will be shocked at how cold the water is. The water is so clear that you can see the stalagmites and stalactites reaching for each other with only small fish in between them. Bats fly overhead. At Gran Cenote you can scuba or snorkel. If you have your own gear, I suggest you bring it.
- Get yourself some tacos. You will not find a Taco Bell here Tacos are different. They don’t have cheese, lettuce, and tomato. If you get a pork taco it will come with pineapple. You will also be given a selection of at least three hot sauces to try. The best tacos are on a double tortilla meaning the base is two corn tortillas holding the delicious filling. If you want a snack, one taco is plenty. If you are starving, I dare you to try to eat more than three. They are filling and they are everywhere. While a chain, I found that Don Sirloin produced some great tacos, as does El Fongon.
- Get yourself some great Mexican food. I don’t usually think of seafood when I think of Mexican Food, but it makes sense in a beach town that you will find a ton of it. From fish tacos to ceviche to octopus, you will find it in every price range imaginable. My suggestion is that you start way off the strip on Avenue 30. Start at the Walmart and work your way North along the road. You will come by many restaurants. Pick one that is at least half full of people during normal business hours. Avenue 30 is also the best place to find cheap eats like street tacos and groceries.
Tips for making your trip a success and not too expensive.
- Rent a car. Depending on how long you are staying. A rental should be around $50 US including insurance per day. This includes returning it back to the Cancun airport. (Saves a taxi fee that you know you paid way to much for to get to Playa) I suggest that you pay the $5.00 more to use a well known car rental company, as these companies have their car returns at the Cancun Airport, not a few miles away from the airport. Take my word for it, the extra $5.00 isn’t worth the stress and hassle of almost missing a fight because you can’t figure out where to return the dang car.
- At Tulum, don’t follow the sign and the millions of men flagging you into the aforesaid parking lot to get to the ruins. Use google maps instead. If you follow those guys – you will pay for parking, plus whatever else they sell you. If you follow the map, (just google Tulum Ruins) and you’ll drive by these guys to the next light. Make a left. Drive straight to the beach. Make a left and stop and park on the side of the road once it ends. Here you will find the entance to the National Park of Tulum. 1000 meters of walking and you are at the ticket stand only paying for your ticket and just your ticket.
- Cenote – Again, you have a car. Use it. There are many cenotes out there, why not visit them all? Pack the car up with a cooler of waters and some snacks and whoop it up. Do that and you just created your own tour. You are foregoing paying the guy on 5th Ave $150.00 US to take you to the ruins and a cenote with, by the way, eighty of your closest friends, and instead you have the freedom to explore on your own time and in your own way.
Beach vacations don’t just have to be for sun-worshipers! Have you been to Playa? What would you add to this llist?