If you are the kind of person who travels in all-inclusive hotel, sorry to disappoint you but this article will not talk about it … But if you want to try something else and go on an adventure in the streets of Playa del Carmen and surroundings, follow me …
For this trip, I went to join my friend Isa who travels from Paris to Cancún and I from Montreal to Cancún. This time it’s a girls trip only … filled with adventure, discovery, sun and beach!
Travel from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen
When I told you that I was not in all inclusive I was not kidding, there was not a group that I had to follow or a sign with my name at the airport with someone waiting for me. In fact, no one was waiting for me, I was alone, so I had to find a bus to go to Playa del Carmen. Do not panic ! I had already done my research before arriving. So I had to search for the ADO bus from Terminal 3, where I landed. Bingo! There was a counter at the airport to buy tickets, the bus leaves every 30 minutes and mine was leaving in 10 minutes which was perfect! At the exit of the airport there are plenty of buses and merchants or taxi drivers, do not pay attention and continue your way to the ADO bus. The terminus in Playa del Carmen stops at the street called calle quinta avenida.
The price of the trip from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen is 208 Mexican pesos, which is about 15 $ CAD.
My friend found this charming hotel, Caché hotel boutique, both in the center but also close to the beach, what a great find she made! The main street is in fact the calle quinta avenida, where there are all the bars, restaurants and shops, a certainly touristic area but very well located. For those who are Quebecers the hotel is located next to the bar called Los Tabernacos! Funny name but typically Quebecois with hockey games on TV. It is also very close to the Coco Bongo Playa del Carmen club. The most important point for me was the wi-fi as I worked from this hotel before the long weekend in May. The advantages of a “digital nomad” are that I can kind of work around the world with wi-fi! By the way the connection at this hotel was very good from the room and the pool!
Restaurants and bars
Salad Ensaladas is a salad restaurant, but also serves sandwich and soup. It is not necessarily a vegetarian place, because I am so not vegetarian. It is really delicious, the food is fresh and you choose what you want to put in your salad (a bit like Subway) or you can take a salad already prepared, there are a lot of choices. It is a 2 minute walk from the hotel, so for us it was perfect.
100% natural Playa del Carmen, as the name suggests, is a restaurant with 100% natural food. Isa had met a very friendly Brazilian girl who was vegetarian and she wanted to come to this restaurant that served organic products. There was also meat, so it was a good compromise. Besides, being in Mexico without taking tacos would be a shame! So I took the pollo tacos y col morada, it’s three chicken tacos with mauve cabbage (yes I know it sounds weird) but it was excellent! You can even ask for spicy, well that’s what I did and I loved it.
Then, we had a drink at the Cervecería Chapultepec located at 77720, Calle 14 Nte 148, it is a very friendly bar with a nice atmosphere and the best part is that the drinks are not expensive. Everything on the menu is 21 pesos!
Another bar that we went, with a very festive atmosphere where you can dance on the counter and drink tequila, is the Tequila Barrel Bar on the calle quinta avenida. It’s not just tequila, there are all kinds of cocktails and beers too, you can also eat there, but nothing fancy, hamburgers, sandwiches and of course tacos! In the evening the waitresses dance on the counter and invite people to join them. Por qué no? ☺
You have to be very careful about the water and what you eat, our body is not used to local food since we do not come from there. Personally, I never got sick because of the food everywhere I traveled (and I travel a lot), but I am also carreful about what I eat. I do not deprive myself, but if I see that it is a “street food” a little doubtful, I prefer not to take the risk. Above all, do not drink tap water! Always drink it from a bottle of water!
Cenotes are beautiful natural pools with clear waters to discover by diving or swimming, it is a geological formation typically from the peninsula of Yucatán, in the south-east of Mexico. It was also an ancient place of Mayan ritual, they are now relaxing places for families or tourists. They are especially popular when there are the so-called “sargasso” on the beaches. Brown seaweeds that are massively coming from the ocean and that give a certain odor that makes no one can swim in these beautiful beaches, which also causes a big problem for tourism. Thus, people can relax and swim in clear water like cenotes.
The cenote where we went with Isa was the Cristalino cenote. Isa did others before I arrived because she was in Mexico more than a week before and was able to discover many other beautiful places. It was the first and the only one for me and I really liked it. It’s natural, the water is soft and clear, you can even plunge from the top of the cenote. It was not very high unless you are afraid of heights. The entry costs 150 pesos.
To get there, it’s simple, we took the Collectivos, they are minibuses or minivans that the locals take as a public transportation. Just the wave of the hand is enough to stop them. The driver announces the destination and you can pay for it before or when you arrive, in cash only. Depending on the destination, the price varies, but it is a very economical means of transport. From Playa del Carmen, the price was 35 pesos. Driving is often rock n ‘roll but it’s Mexico ☺
Another beautiful day in Mexico! Nothing better than scuba diving … Ah scuba diving! One of my favorite activities on vacation. Life underwater is so intriguing and beautiful, calmer than the surface, we rediscover what Mother Nature has to offer. It seems that Cozumel is one of the most beautiful diving places in the world, so I wanted to give it a try. My friend Isa does not dive but we were able to find a package (the discovery package) where we could dive together with instructors. She already had the basics, since she did it in Australia (yes she also travels a lot too) but she is not certified for diving, so this package was perfect. We did the Paradise (Paraiso) reef, the visibility was excellent! Full of fish, even sea snakes and a coral reef barrier with beautiful colors. Unfortunately we did not see any turtles, but the instructors said there were some depending on the days or the season. The site is shallow, allowing to dive long enough. We paid US $ 75 including the round trip Cozumel – Playa del Carmen. My friend had negotiated the prices, it’s her expertise! Besides, do not hesitate to negotiate because it is common over there.
Relaxing at la playa, good food and drinks in Cozumel?
Yes we have that too! Our favorite beach was Playa Azul with clear water where you can even snorkel to see beautiful fishes. When we had swam enough and enjoyed the beach we went to refresh ourselves with a good cocktail and we brought our dish to the beach with sunbeds to get some tan. What else than a cerveza and fajitas by the beach ?
Xcaret Eco Park
I will not dwell on this place because it is not at all part of our favorites. The price is way too expensive for what it is. What is it? A leisure park with pools, animals and a big show at the end of the day. We found this place as a tourist trap, there are a lot of people, the activities are not great to do, the visibility under water is not good at all. The river is filled with people, we had swimming fins but got kicked by other people’s fins! Our opinion may not please others because it was a recommendation from Isa’s friends who they, on the contrary, loved it. But it was an experience and we did it, now we have our own opinion.
We found Cancún very different from Playa del Carmen. The hotel zone or zona hotelera, is superficial I think, there are only (almost) all-inclusive hotels with restaurants and bars on the same main street to party all night long. I loved the beach, but Playa del Carmen is more a local town where the streets have their charm and the atmosphere is more authentic. There are certainly tourists but it is not all about the beach area unlike the hotel zone of Cancún. When you walk in the streets of Playa del carmen, I find there is a warmer and charming life. With that being said, Cancún is a nice city to relax by the pool or the beach or to party with all the clubs and bars around.
Delicious seafood restaurant with Mexican specialties! The products were fresh and we were not sick both of us, which is a good sign. The food is plentiful, we should have just had an appetizer. The prices are affordable, the service is excellent and the cocktails are very good size! We highly recommend this restaurant and I hope you will tell me your experience.
Best for last, Isla Mujeres is an island about 15-20 minutes ferry from Cancun. The ferry is from the main harbour Puerto Juarez and the trip is 140 pesos return. Different from the hectic life of Cancun, Isla Mujeres is a pretty little paradise where time seems to stop for a moment to enjoy the beach and its fine sand. Extraordinary, wonderful, amazing place with still beautiful images that remain engraved in my memory. Here we take the time to enjoy this landscape with a pleasant atmosphere of holidays and idleness. You can visit around the island with a golf car. The shops, restaurants, music, Isla Mujeres is definitely my favorite!
Playa Norte is the heavenly beach with very fine sand. The water is transparent, you can even go further because the water is shallow. The surreal beauty of this beach will please to everyone, kids and adults.
There is a bar to refresh yourself which even accepts credit cards if you do not have cash. You can play on the swings around the counter while waiting for your drink.
We loved all the cities we visited, the Mexicans are kind and welcoming, I did not feel in danger. It’s a change of scenery. This trip allowed me to see my friend Isa and have a great trip with her. I am also lucky to have an understanding boyfriend who supports me in my passion for traveling. There are many quotes on travel, I let you finish with the one you love … because each experience is unique to everyone.