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Archive for the ‘Activities’ Category

Sun, Sand and Margaritas…Beach Bars in the Riviera Maya

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 20, 2014

Everybody loves beach bars.  A little grass shack selling rum, tequila, and beer on a white sand beach only steps from some blue water…what’s not to love?

Playa del Carmen, along with the whole of the Riviera Maya, has one of the largest collections of great beach bars in the world.  Playa’s central and northern beaches are jam packed with clubs, restaurants, and bars of all types. And outside of town along the Caribbean coast you can find even more terrific places to eat and drink next to the sea.

Of course everyone has their own ideas of what makes for a great beach bar. Some like it simple with a little bar, an umbrella and a shrimp taco or two. Others prefer something more upscale with a brick pizza oven and maybe a pool. Some beach bars have live music, while others offer only the sound of the waves.

Most travel sites and blogs have at one time or another made a list of what they think are the best or top or favorite beach bars along our coast. Recently USA Today listed what they thought were the Five “Coolest” Beach Bars in the Riviera Maya.

The article listed some of our favorite places but missed some really great ones. So we decided to add our favorite beach bars/clubs along Mexico’s Caribbean coast to the USA Today list. Our additions are, in no particular order…

Bad Boys Beach Bar in Playa del Carmen

Bad Boys Beach BarAlong the length of Playa del Carmen’s central beach are literally dozens of beach clubs. They range from funky to fashionable and almost all of them are worth stopping in to spend a day in the sun. However, Bad Boys Beach Bar has a special place in our hearts. It was one of the first beach bars in Playa, started long ago by the late, much beloved Playa legend Captain Dave. It hasn’t changed much since those early days. There are decent hamburgers, and sausages grilled by Cowboy John; they serve good, cold drinks; and play fun music. But the real draw is the atmosphere. In this day of big screen, glass and chrome monstrosities crowding the Caribbean, Bad Boys continues the legacy of the of the laid back, toes in the sand, palm-covered beach life of which we all so often dream. It is a classic part of the old Playa del Carmen. And remember…guests at the Luna Blue Hotel receive a 10% discount on food and beverages at Bad Boys.

La Playa on Xpu-ha bay

La Playa Xpu HaAt first you might wonder if you took a wrong turn. Once you start down that awful twisting pothole-filled dirt road hemmed in on both sides by the jungle you might think that the trip was a bad idea and you should turn around. Don’t. That crappy road leads right to one of the most beautiful bays on Mexico’s Caribbean coast and one of our favorite beach bars. La Playa is an old school club with palm thatched umbrellas and faded loungers looking out over blue water. Their shrimp tacos are some of the best around and the beer is cold. Best of all, La Playa offers a chance to escape the madness of Playa del Carmen’s tourist zone for a beautiful, open uncrowded stretch of beach.

El Paraiso Beach Club in Tulum

El Paraiso Beach ClubThe name says it all…paradise. Down in Tulum on the still relatively undeveloped north end of the beach, El Paraiso has everything you could ask from a beach club/bar. The menu is good and the drinks are of a decent size. There are plenty of staff members to take your order and keep your glass filled. You can choose from tables and chairs, loungers or big cushy beds laid out on the beach. But El Paraiso’s claim to fame is its location. It sits on a pure white sand beach with a spectacular view of the Caribbean Sea. In the distance to the north are the ruins of the Mayan Temple. To the south are miles of uninterrupted shoreline for your strolling and swimming pleasure. If you want to get back to the beauty of nature, get to El Paraiso.

The Beach Club at Grand Coral

Beach Club at Grand CoralThe name is misleading. While owned by a giant mega resort, the Beach Club at Grand Coral is actually out on a pretty deserted stretch of beach by itself (about a 50 minute walk north from Constituyentes downtown or a 10 minute taxi ride). But once you get there you will have all the comforts you need. The restaurant serves up some of the best food on the beach in Playa. The bar is cool and hip and has a waterfall as a backdrop. There are two shallow but good sized swimming pools surrounded by loungers and sun beds. All of this sits on a platform raised above the beach so you have fantastic views of the ocean. Or if want, you can walk down the steps to take a spot on the deserted beach. This is one of the classiest beach clubs and one of the least known. This is a real hidden treasure. Another reason we love this beach club…guests from the Luna Blue Hotel receive a 10% discount.

There are so many great things to see and do and experience when visiting the Riviera Maya, but the number one attraction is and always will be the beaches. Beach clubs allow visitors and locals alike the chance to enjoy the beauty of the Caribbean shoreline with a little comfort, something to eat and a margarita in hand. These four beach bars are our favorites, but there are many, many more. Part of the fun of visiting Playa is making your own list of favorite places. We suggest trying a new beach club every day of your vacation on the Riviera Maya…and you still won’t see them all.

Coming to paradise and need a cool place to stay? Check out the Luna Blue Hotel…three-time winner of TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Best Bargain Award, and Playa’s favorite small boutique hotel. And always book directly with the hotel for the best prices and availability.

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Getting Naked in Playa del Carmen, Again

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 13, 2014

It has been our observation over the last decade of running a small hotel in paradise that people on vacation like to let loose a little and do things they might not do at home…like parasailing, drinking too much tequila or even getting naked on the beach. That last one seems particularly popular.

According to some travel experts, clothing optional vacations–once considered only for swingers and nudists–are now the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry.

That trend is even reflected here on our own blog. For the last three years “The Naked Truth About Playa del Carmen,” about topless and nude sunbathing on the Riviera Maya, has consistently been the most popular post on our blog. It has been viewed by thousands so far and is still viewed by close to 2000 people a month. It obviously struck a chord.

Enjoying the sun

 

The Huffington Post recently ran an article entitled The Top 5 Clothing-Optional Resorts in the World, confirming that showing a little skin while on vacation is now part of the mainstream of middle class tourists.

Not surprisingly, of the five resorts listed, two of them are in the Riviera Maya. It seems our little stretch of tropical heaven is the Mecca for folks wanting to bare all on the beach.

Of course not everyone wants to spend their vacation locked away in a giant mega resort, surrounded 24/7 by naked strangers. We have found most people just would like a chance for a afternoon or two enjoying the sun, sand and sea without the restriction of swimsuits.

So here are some alternatives to spending all of your vacation and all of your hard earned money at some All Inclusive fortress simply because it has a nude beach:

Topless sunbathing and swimming is still regularly accepted throughout most of the Riviera Maya beaches, even in the newer upscale clubs in central and northern Playa. Along the coast, La Playa Beach Club in Xpu-Ha and El Paraiso in Tulum still draw topless (and in Tulum, sometimes nude) sun worshippers. Luna Blue pool.  Photograph by Ken Bartle In addition, at least one clothing optional resort, Hidden Beach Resort in Tulum, offers day passes to non-hotel guests. This way you can experience the intimacy and charm of a small hotel in the center of town and still have the opportunity for that day in the sun getting an all over tan.

Hidden Beach allows for complete nudity in pools, on the beach and in its restaurants and bars. A day pass for 8 hours costs $100 USD per person, and only couples are permitted. However, guests staying at the Luna Blue Hotel receive a 10% discount on the day pass. The pass provides for all you can eat and drink in a nude atmosphere for the day.

Some smaller adult-only hotels also may have policies concerning clothing optional swimming or sunbathing. Here at the Luna Blue, guests may be topless if they wish in and around the swimming pool.

And finally, despite the growth and development of Mexico’s Caribbean coast, there are still some undeveloped beaches where you can swim in the all together. No, we won’t tell you where they are here (we would like to keep them a secret as long as possible) but if you are a guest at the Luna Blue, we will draw you a map to these beaches. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone else though. Naked on the beach in the Riviera Maya If you are going to head for the beach for some au natural fun, the general rules we set forth in our previous blog are unchanged…

  1. Topless sunbathing and swimming is still regularly accepted throughout most of the Riviera Maya beaches, even in the newer upscale clubs in central Playa. However, it is still the minority of people who do it.
  2. Complete nudity is NOT tolerated on most of the Riviera Maya. The exceptions are deserted beaches where there are no beach clubs, some areas just inside the Sian Ka’an preserve, sections of the beach in Tulum (particularly the north end near El Parasiso beach club and the Hidden Beach Resort.
  3. Going bare is NOT a practice of most local Mexicans (although young tourists from Mexico City seem to have a different view). Limit your exposure to designated clothing optional hotels, tourist area beaches or completely deserted ones away from where local families may gather.
  4. USE SUNSCREEN!

As always, enjoy your time in paradise no matter what you wear or don’t wear.

Even legendary troubador Barefoot Skinny likes to go topless when playing at the Luna Blue Bar
Legendary troubadour Barefoot Skinny
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Christmas in Playa del Carmen 2014

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 10, 2014

“Christmas in the Caribbean…we’ve got everything but snow.” ~ Jimmy Buffett

I'm dreaming of a Playa del Carmen Christmas
More and more people these days are discovering a new holiday tradition…running away to the tropics. Instead of fighting crowds in the malls or on the highway, some folks are spreading a blanket on a white sand beach. They have replaced sleigh bells with steel drums and eggnog with margaritas. And they have traded snow boots and heavy winter coats for flip flops and bikinis. As a result, the holiday season has become one of the most popular times of year to visit the paradise of Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

It’s easy to see why. It is hard to beat a Christmas Day that begins on a Caribbean beach and ends with a gourmet dinner at a world class restaurant. And New Years Eve in Playa is celebrated with an all-night, non-stop party that fills the streets with revelers and continues on to the beach at dawn.

Now some of you reading this are saying, “That’s just fine, but it’s too early to think about Christmas.” Actually it’s not if you are thinking about joining us down here for the holidays. Things are already filling up. However with a little advance planning you can still get some of the best deals on transportation and hotels.

And while most hotels double or even triple their prices during this time of year, the Luna Blue Hotel stands by its reputation as being the best bargain in town. Our holiday prices are often as much as half of other small hotels in town!.

Just take a look. For this upcoming holiday season, rates at the Luna Blue Hotel range from $130 – 165 per night. Compare that to the rates of other properties which are increasing their holiday rates to as much as $200-400 per night! No wonder the Luna Blue Hotel has won Tripadvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Award for Best Bargain for two years in a row.

However, we are booking up fast. If you are thinking about spending the holidays in Playa, now is the time to plan. You can make a reservation directly with us by going to our reservations page. We guarantee you won’t find our prices listed for less anywhere else on the web. Or, if you have questions please feel free to Email Us.

This year give yourself the gift of some time in paradise. It will be the best present you ever receive.

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St. Patrick’s Day 2014…when the Luna Blue turns Green!

Posted by Tony & Cheri on March 6, 2014

It happens each year, and St. Patrick’s Day 2014 is no different…the Luna Blue turns into the Luna Green for Playa del Carmen’s biggest St. Patrick’s Day Party.

This year, as always, we will be combining some great Irish traditions with the some south of the border style. St Paddy’s Day in paradise means there will be tequila shots and corned beef sandwiches on homemade rye bread (made by Playa’s very own Grumpy Bakers), Margaritas, Guinness, our very own special St. Paddy’s Day cocktails, and green bikinis in the pool.

It’s a unique Irish-Caribe-Mexican combination you can only find at the Luna Blue.

We are proud of our Irish heritage, grateful to our adopted country and happy to be the biggest and greenest St Patrick’s Day celebration in town.  The bar and pool open at 12 noon to the tunes of our own special Irish playlist. Live music starts at 3, and the party ends at 11 pm (so our hotel guests can still get some sleep!). There will be giveaways, lots of fun, and some interesting surprises. As always, women in green bikinis will get a free drink, and the first green bikini we see in the pool on St Paddy’s Day will receive a $200 peso bar tab!

Please be our guests on March 17th, 2014 at the Luna Blue….home of Playa del Carmen’s original St. Paddy’s Day party. And if you’ve never been to a St. Pat’s Day party at the Luna Blue, here is a slideshow of past years to show you what you have been missing. Don’t miss the fun!

St. Paddy's Day 2014 at the Luna Blue in Playa del Carmen

Once again….St. Paddy’s Day at the Luna Blue 2014!

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2013 About.com Readers Choice Awards – Go Playa del Carmen!

Posted by Tony & Cheri on February 21, 2013

About.com Finalist - Luna Blue HotelWe just found out that our little hotel is a finalist in the About.com Readers Choice Awards for Favorite Bargain Hotel in Mexico!!  Woo Hoo!   We didn’t even know we were nominated…so many thanks to whoever entered us!

And how cool is this..this year Playa del Carmen is well represented in other Mexico categories as well.

Michele Kinnon’s “Life’s a Beach” blog is a finalist in the Favorite Mexico Blog contest (her 2nd year in a row).  Michele’s longstanding blog is certainly our favorite Mexico blog…she always seems to know the coolest places to go and see, and her family is always doing interesting things.  We have no idea how someone who works so hard still finds time to enjoy Mexico and then blog about it, but it’s something we aspire to.

Mitch and Shawn with Yucatreks are battling for the title of Favorite Mexico Tour Company.  Yucatreks is a small tour company with lots of personality–small, interesting tours that people rave about.  Not those giant cookie-cutter busloads-of-tourists tours but intimate, personal and fun.

Show us all some love and let people know that our little corner of the world is the an amazing place to visit.

Click here to vote for Luna Blue Hotel for Favorite Bargain Hotel

Click here to vote for “Life’s a Beach” for Favorite Mexico Blog

Click here to vote for Yucatreks for Favorite Mexico Tour Company

Votes are limited to one vote per award category per user/email address/Facebook account. But you can vote once every day between now and March 19 when the winners will be announced.

So please, take a minute to cast your votes and pass along these links to your friends. Share them on Facebook, Twitter or your favorite social media platform. It takes only a few seconds to vote.

Whether we win or lose, we are thrilled that Playa del Carmen is gaining the recognition as a world-class tourist destination that it deserves.

Thanks, all!  Hope to see you soon in paradise.

Tony & Cheri

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Tony & Cheri

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Dia de los Muertos

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 15, 2012

Autumn in Mexico brings a cross-cultural pollination of holiday celebrations. Ancient traditions of mystery and magic from the Mayan and Aztec people combine with modern party vibes of the Caribbean and North America to make this one of the most fun times of the year here in Playa del Carmen.

The traditional Mexican Autumn holiday is called Dia de los Muertos, or “The Day of the Dead,” and takes place on November 1st and 2nd.
While sounding a bit scary, the holiday is actually a family-oriented celebration of life and a remembrance of loved ones who have passed on. The evening of November 1st is called La Noche de Duelo or Night for Mourning. On this evening it is said that the spirits of departed loved ones return to earth. Families gather for holiday meals which include the traditional pan de muerto or Dead Bread, which is a sweet cinnamon bread baked in a circular pattern. The spirits are welcomed and their lives remembered with feasting, drinking and music. Then on November 2nd, people will often visit the graves of family members and have picnics or other celebrations at the cemetery.

Dia de los Muertos is also celebrated by the building of ofrendas, or altars, in the memory of those who have died. These altars are decorated with photos, favorite food and drinks of the deceased along with brightly colored flowers, candles and ribbons. In addition decorations for homes, stores and schools feature images of skeletons in clothing going about their daily lives, often in humorous poses. In the same vein, candied skulls with frosting decorations are very popular among children. The idea behind such decorations is to remember that death is part of the cycle of life, and that rather than fear it we should learn to accept and even laugh at it.

We love this tradition and we build our own ofrendas each year for our friends and family who are no longer with us. For some photos and more stories about our ofrendas please take a look at our past blog entries: Day of the Dead and Mexico’s Day of the Dead Alive and Well in Playa del Carmen.

While the celebration of Day of the Dead tends to be a family affair, the famous eco-park of Xcaret here in Playa holds a huge annual public presentation with art, music and dance to celebrate and explain this holiday which predates the Spanish conquest of Mexico. For a great description and some wonderful photos of the park’s displays and activities please visit our friend Michele’s blog entry from a few years back: A Celebration of Life and Death at Xcaret.

Sugar Skulls for Dia de los MuertosOf course Playa has always been a magnet for many cultures, and so it is no surprise that the American version of Halloween has made its way down here. Many local Mexican children have fully embraced the fun of wearing costumes and running through the streets begging for candy. Stores like Walmart now feature the same costumes and decorations one sees back in the United States–something that was not true even a few years back when we moved here to Mexico. Bags of candy marked for Halloween and even pumpkins to carve as Jack o’ Lanterns are also commonly seen. On Halloween night (and for a few nights before and after), costumed children dressed as devils and witches and favorite superheroes will flood the resort zone pedestrian mall of 5th Avenue, running between the stores, cafes and restaurants asking for treats.

And it’s not just the kids who celebrate Halloween here in Mexico. Tourists and visitors arriving in Playa for the last days of the month of October will find there are plenty of fun and unique activities. For example our friends at the Mexico Blue Dream Dive Shop are holding a Pumpkin Carving Contest. However this contest has a Caribbean twist–it is held underwater in scuba gear! For details go to their Facebook event announcement.

There will also be plenty of adult costume parties at many of the bars here in town. Costumes that range from creatively funny to shockingly sexy will be seen up and down the resort zone’s 5th Avenue on Halloween night. The biggest and best of those parties is always the one at the Luna Blue Bar. There will be live music with the legendary troubadour of the Caribbean Coast, Barefoot Skinny. We will have costume contests with prizes for the best and the sexiest costumes. The pool will be open so bar patrons can have their margaritas floating in the pool. Playa’s best bartender, Jorge Sierra, will be pouring the drinks and there will be surprises and fun all night long from 7 pm until the witching hour of midnight. For some photos of our parties of previous years, please click here.

The fun doesn’t stop after Halloween. The beautiful fall weather here (average temperature around 83 degrees) is perfect for some of our other fall events like The Annual Riviera Maya Jazz Festival which features free concerts by internationally acclaimed musicians right on the beach. And America’s Thanksgiving Day/weekend is also a big celebration down here. Many restaurants will serve special dinners with turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and all the trimmings. Imagine having your turkey feast only steps from the blue water of the Caribbean Sea. Now that’s something to be thankful about.

Before plunging into the craziness of the holiday rush, why not treat yourself to a few days of pleasure here in Mexico at the award-winning Luna Blue Hotel & Bar. It’s a gorgeous time of year to be in paradise.

Halloween at the Luna Blue Hotel 2012

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The Carnival Comes to Town

Posted by Tony & Cheri on July 9, 2012

Hello to all our readers. We haven’t posted a new entry for a while as we have had a very busy high season at our hotel and have been occupied with some family matters back in the US. But now we are back, and in the weeks ahead we will be posting more information about life in our adopted home of Playa del Carmen.

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A carnival rolled into town this week to the delight of all the local kids…and quite a few adults.

Beautiful gelatinas in many flavors

This is not “Carnaval,” which is a large multi-day series of parades and parties held just before the beginning of Lent. And it’s not the big, glitzy circus that most Americans and Europeans know. Instead the summer carnivals or “ferias” of Mexico are small truck caravans traveling from town to town with rides, games, food stands and cheap merchandise for sale. This is the Feria Playa del Carmen 2012, and it has its own unique Mexican personality.

To us the carnivals offer a step back in time, reminding us of similar shows that traveled the US midwest back in the 1940’s, 50’s and early 60’s. To people here in Mexico today they offer an affordable diversion from daily life. And for the kids they always mean FUN!

As in past years, the carnival set up around Playa del Carmen’s Palacio Municipal (City Hall), taking over the parking lot and part of the plaza that sits in front of the city offices. This year the operation was so big it also spilled over into the adjacent Walmart parking lot and a couple of side streets.

On the evening of the grand opening. hundreds of parents with kids in tow flooded the streets and filled the plaza as city officials, beauty queens, school bands and the carnival’s master of ceremonies crowded onto the hastily built stage under a gigantic tent cover for the opening ceremony. To everyone’s delight, once the ribbon cutting was over the sky above the Palacio exploded with fireworks. After that show, it was time to explore.

We walked along the rows of rides, most of which were for small children. Among the more popular rides were the merry-go-round, “flying” helicopters (which were about four feet off the ground), a tiny swinging pirate ship, a small Ferris wheel, and a train painted with various Disney characters. For the bigger kids there was a tilt-a-whirl and a “twister” that lifted a platform filled with seated riders to whirl them up into the air. And for kids of all ages there were bumper cars!

One ride we had never seen before was a row of five or six plastic bulls with very round bodies. As loud Mexican music played, the bulls would shift left and right and rotate rotate back and forth–a bit like a typical mechanical bull. The trick was to stay on the bull throughout the ride. Not very many were successful at it, so it was really fun to watch.

A very happy little girlIt is impossible to describe the wonder on the faces of the little children as they waited impatiently for their turn on a ride, or their delighted screams when their turn actually came. Sometimes we think Mexico has the most beautiful children in the world. Watching the kids have fun was the best part of the evening for us.

Eventually we wandered through the food area. Large tents offer traditional Mexican dishes like taco al pastor with large spits of marinated pork slowly turning on an open flame. Smaller stands offer churros (a sweet pastry stick), dried spicy shrimp on a stick, or grilled corn on the cob which is slathered in mayonnaise and chili powder. Other specialty items included artistically sculpted gelatin flowers in dozens of flavors and marquesitas, giant Mayan crepes. And of course there was cotton candy…what’s a carnival without cotton candy?

In the center of the carnival is a row of tents offering merchandise for sale. Furniture, clothing, plastic containers, records, shoes, toys, and plaster statues of saints and animals all vied for the attention of people walking by. And if the items don’t catch your attention, a barker with a microphone and amplifier probably will.

Of course there are games of chance. Booths abound where you can shoot an air gun, throw a dart or toss a ring in an attempt to win a great prize like a giant stuffed pink teddy bear. Strange, but we didn’t see anybody win that night. :)

And what’s a carnival without some freaky stuff? The oddity trailer had numerous items of weirdness from the natural world like a two headed snake, a four winged goose and even an alligator woman! We passed on that one.

When we had seen it all we started walking home. We passed a large lot, usually empty, now filled with truck trailers. campers and makeshift tents of plastic tarps. It was where the carnival folks had parked and set up housekeeping. We observed a young man step out of a tent from which very loud Norteño/Ranchera music blasted on a portable CD player. He carried a screw driver and a blender full of what appeared to be the basic fixings for salsa. He nonchalantly strolled over to a nearby building and set about hot-wiring the building’s electrical box so that he could plug in his blender! We laughed all the way home about his resourcefulness. We wondered about how different life must be for a carnival gypsy in Mexico.

The Feria Playa del Carmen is in town through July 16. If you are going to be in town (or you already live here) make sure to stop by.

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Sale at the Luna Blue Hotel

Can you believe July is already here? The summer seems just to fly by. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could make summer last just a little longer? You can at the Luna Blue Hotel. Our Make the Summer Last sale and Advance Prepayment Rates offer rooms as low as $44.00 USD from Sept 1 to Oct. 14. When everyone else is pulling the fall jackets out of the closet and heading back to work or school, you can be lying on a white sand Caribbean beach. Just CLICK HERE for details.

Enjoy these photos from the feria:

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St Patrick’s Day in Mexico

Posted by Tony & Cheri on March 5, 2012

We love St Patrick’s Day. We always have. It’s right up there with Christmas and Halloween as one of our favorite holidays.

Yes, we are Irish by heritage. Well, at least Tony is. His great-grandfather James Head emigrated from County Kerry in the 1800’s. And even if James was a bit of a scoundrel (drinking was his vice and gambling was his profession) he still managed to leave his descendants a legacy of love for all things Irish. Cheri is mostly Irish by choice rather than heredity, having fallen in love with the country and the people on a backpacking trip through the Emerald Isle after college.

St Paddy’s Day in the Irish Bars of San Francisco

We established our holiday traditions many years ago in San Francisco where a large Irish population joins with other hard drinking citizens each year on March 17 to wear the green and hoist a glass…or two…or twenty. There has never been a shortage of Irish bars in San Francisco, and we had several favorites when we lived there.

Harry Harrington’s Pub is a dive bar where lawyers and longshoreman rubbed shoulders (and sometimes exchanged punches) in riotous old school St Paddy’s Day gatherings; Pat O’Shea’s (sadly no longer in business, whose famous motto was “We Cheat Tourists and Drunks”) lined the bar with cups of beer and whiskey to be handed back through the packed, standing room only crowd; Ireland’s 32 featured pipers, step dancers and live performances of the classic rebel songs while the hat was passed for various Irish causes.

But our favorite St Paddy’s day destination was O’Reilly’s…owned by our old friend Myles O’Reilly who came to America to find fame and fortune. It was, and is, a classic Irish pub with good food and strong drinks and the finest St Paddy’s Day Party in town. In fact the celebration there became so popular that the local government finally just started closing the street in front of the bar to traffic so that revelers could sing, dance, drink and mingle on the boulevard.

Long ago we agreed we would never work on St Patrick’s Day. We took vacation days so that we could spend the holiday celebrating with friends and family. And each year would find us heading home at the end of the day full of beer and corned beef, covered in green beads and glitter, and with the sounds of “A Nation Once Again” ringing in our ears.

Finding Shamrocks South of the Border

When we left San Francisco for the sunny shores of Mexico’s Caribbean coast we were determined to hold onto our St. Patrick’s Day traditions. The only question was how. When we arrived here in Playa del Carmen, March 17 was just another day on the calendar. This or that bar might sell some Guinness or have 2×1 beers but nobody really celebrated “the wearing o’ the green” in the ways we were used to. We decided to change that. We wanted to show Playa how St Paddy’s should be celebrated.

And so it was that when we opened the Luna Blue Bar we held what we believe was the first real St Patrick’s Day celebration in town, and we have been holding them every year since.

What’s a “real” St Patrick’s Day Party?” you might ask. It’s loud, messy, fun and green. There’s corned beef sandwiches and plenty of beer. There’s Jameson’s Irish whiskey, Baileys and Guinness being served. There’s music…from live performers to recordings of Van Morrison, Christy Moore, the Chieftains, Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys. There’s dancing on the floor…and on the bar. There are hugs and kisses and pretty girls stamping your cheek with shamrock stickers or draping beads around your neck. And there are toasts to the Irish…and on St Paddy’s Day the whole world is Irish.

Of course this being the tropics we added some new traditions to the mix…like giving free shots of tequila (or Irish whiskey) to any lady who shows up wearing a green bikini or thong…and like letting people float in the swimming pool among green balloons as they listen to the music and sip their beer (a St Patrick’s Day pool party…only in the Caribbean!). And there is another tradition surrounding St Patrick’s Day here in Mexico: Remembering the San Patricio Battalion.

The Story of the San Patricios

We first heard this story from San Francisco’s legendary bartender, Mike McCourt, who you may know as baby Michael in his brother Frank’s memoir, “Angela’s Ashes.” On a quiet San Francisco day just before we moved to Playa del Carmen we went to say goodbye to Mike. He smiled broadly when he heard the news. “Mexico you say? It’s a fine place where they treat an Irishman like the hero he is.” As he filled our glasses for a farewell drink he told us the story of the Irishmen who had fought and died defending Mexico.

It was in 1846 that young men fleeing the famine back home in Ireland arrived in America only to be shipped off to fight as conscripts in the war against Mexico. Many of the young soldiers saw the war as an unjust action against a poor, oppressed, Catholic population…not unlike the people they had left behind in Ireland. John Riley, a professional soldier and veteran of many battles, led about 200 Irish soldiers in crossing over to fight with the Mexicans in defending their homeland against the Yanks. The Mexicans called them “los San Patricios”… “the Saint Patricks.”  Most of the Irish soldiers were killed in the war. Those who were captured by the US Army were executed as traitors, but here in Mexico they are still remembered as heroes. A plaque listing the two hundred names of members of the Battalion can be found in Mexico City where several times a year bagpipers play in memory of the young Irishmen who gave their lives for Mexico.

A few years ago the famous Irish band, the Chieftains, along with American singer/songwriter Ry Cooder invited some of Mexico’s finest musicians to join in creating a musical history of the San Patricios on CD. We will be playing some of that music here in the bar on St Paddy’s Day as we raise toasts to Ireland, to Mexico and to the heroes they share.

St Patrick’s Day at the Luna Blue Bar

This year the Luna Blue Bar’s Annual St Patrick’s Day Party will be on Saturday, March 17th. We will have some Guinness (in limited amounts), Irish whiskey and plenty of beer and tequila. We will also have corned beef sandwiches…with real corned beef. Trust us…it ain’t easy finding corned beef down here…but we did. There will be plenty of music: local favorite Mike Grabow (who does a great Playa styled version of the Dropkick Murphys’ song “Drink and Fight”) will be playing from 3-7; and the legendary unshod troubadour of the Caribbean coast, Barefoot O’Skinny, will play from 8-11. In between live sets our own favorite Irish music playlist will provide the tunes. As always, ladies in green bikinis and thongs will get free drinks. The pool will be open so wear/bring a swimsuit. We promise a day of fun and surprises.

Please join us if you can…and if you can’t make it, wherever you are be sure to raise your glass high on St Patrick’s Day and say “Slainte!”

Here are some photos of past years’ celebrations at the Luna Blue Bar Saint Patrick’s Day Party.

A green thong will get you a free shot of tequila at the Luna Blue Bar

Ireland meets Mexico in a south of the border St Paddy’s Day

Everybody in green

Our shot girl, Ginger O’Cutie, with a guest

Tony and a bagpiper

Irish Consulate Anthony Leeman came down from Cancun for the celebration. Here he poses with Tony and Ginger O’Cutie.

A typical Tony moment on St Paddy’s Day…surrounded by pretty girls

Nothing says St Paddy’s Day like funny hats

Our friend Rob Kinnon making the most of St Paddy’s Day

It’s always a party at the Luna Blue on St Paddy’s Day

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Halloween in Playa del Carmen: The Best Party in Town

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 22, 2011

Halloween in Playa del Carmen at the Luna Blue Hotel“From ghoulies and ghosties and long legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, May the Good Lord deliver us!” ~ Traditional English Prayer

It’s Halloween again. Here in Playa del Carmen it is time for your every wicked fantasy to take control at the annual Luna Blue Bar Halloween Party! The wildest spirits in Playa will come out to play in outrageous costumes, drink seductive beverages and dance to tantalizing music, all in our garden of spooky delights.

Keep an Eye Out for Mermaids and Sea Monsters

And this year there is something new. Our Halloween party is also a pool party! The Luna Blue’s new sunken garden swimming pool will be open for a dip by our party guests. Just buy a minimum of two drinks at the bar to get a pool access wristband.  So bring a swimsuit… or a costume that floats. But be careful…you never know what lurks just below the water’s surface!

The Return of Barefoot Zombie Skinny

Earlier this month a wild rumor hit the internet that the legendary Caribbean troubadour Barefoot Skinny had met his untimely end in the tropical forests of Belize. Stories abounded that Skinny had been eaten by piranhas, carried off by jaguars or become the love slave of beautiful Amazons.

No one knows the true story, but thankfully Skinny has stumbled out of the jungle still breathing in time to play and sing at our party.  Dead or alive, Skinny is one of Playa del Carmen’s best-loved musicians.  He lives the life Jimmy Buffett only sings about, and if you haven’t seen him perform before, you are in for a treat.

A Night to Let it All Hang Out

Halloween in Playa del Carmen at the Luna Blue Hotel Halloween is a time to dress up, dress down and show off your inner witch, ghost or vampire.  You can strut your stuff at our annual costume contest with prizes and awards for Best Men’s costume, Best Women’s costume…and our all-time favorite…the Sexiest costume.

The only limit is your imagination and (dare we say it) sense of propriety and good taste. Costume contest judging will begin around 9:30 (depending on the sobriety of our judges).

Eye of Newt, Toe of Frog

The cauldron will bubble at the Luna Blue Bar where Jorge, Playa del Carmen’s best bartender. will be concocting magic potions and preparing all your frightfully favorite drinks like the blood red “Sarita B Careful,” the irresistible “Sex on the Bar” and the deadly “Papa T’s Margarita.”

Tequila shots are 2 x 1 (dos por uno) from 6- 9 pm.  The bar will open at 3, the music will start at 8 and the party will go until the witching hour of midnight.

Here at the Luna Blue Bar we love to party…so put on a mask, paint your face, or wrap up in a cape and head on over for the best Halloween celebration in town.

The Luna Blue Bar
Halloween Fantasy Costume Party
What’s Your Fantasy?

Halloween in Playa del Carmen at the Luna Blue Hotel

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Discover Scuba: Underwater Thrills in Playa del Carmen

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 18, 2011

Diving in the Riviera Maya - a sea turtle up closeA week ago we were sitting on the bottom of the ocean, the air bubbles from our scuba tanks drifting slowly to the surface 40 feet above us. Beneath a swirling school of silvery fish, we spotted a large sea turtle casually munching on underwater plants. As we slowly approached he lifted his head and blinked his huge eyes once or twice as if trying to focus on us. He decided we were no threat to him and returned to his lunch as we swam past. This was only one of many amazing sights that greeted us on a very special day of scuba diving.

Not everyone realizes that Playa del Carmen is near some of the premier diving spots in the world. The 600 mile-long Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest continuous coral reef in the world, sits just offshore from Playa del Carmen. The reef, with its beautiful coral and abundant sea life, offers a myriad of diving and snorkeling experiences. The reef is home to thousands of amazing sea creatures, from tiny shrimp to large sea turtles and fish of every size and color imaginable. It is an underwater world which has to be seen up close and personal to be believed.

We have both tried diving before. Years ago Tony went diving in Playa a couple of times and both of us went on an introductory dive in Belize a few years back. At one time we even took a diving certification course but never completed the open water dives due to a motor scooter accident Tony had which kept him out of the water.

We both wanted to go scuba diving again, but we knew we needed some refresher time first. Cheri was hesitant as she has always had a fear of being underwater. She knew she would need a lot of patience and help to try it again.

Diving in the Riviera Maya - pool demo at the Luna Blue Hotel poolSo we were thrilled when our friends Patrice and Laure, owners of Mexico Blue Dream dive shop, invited us to join in one of their “Discover Scuba” introductory classes. They promised Cheri she could go at her own pace and that their instructors would give her all the help she needed. They convinced us to give it a try.

We started out with a short instructional video at the dive shop and met with Eric, the instructor. We also met Bruno, who would be taking videos and photos of the class’ adventure. We were each fitted with all the proper equipment: a wetsuit, a BCD (buoyancy control device, or what you might consider a very special life jacket), weight belt, mask and fins. The Mexico Blue Dream staff then brought all the equipment, including tanks, over to the Luna Blue Hotel pool where each person received personal instruction from Eric. We learned proper hand signals and practiced breathing underwater, clearing our masks of water that may have seeped in and swimming around the pool with our equipment on.

Of course, at first it seems a bit strange to be breathing underwater, and until you find your comfort zone it’s nice to know you can simply stand up in the pool if you need a moment out of the water. When everyone was ready and felt comfortable with the equipment we were all taken back to the dive shop and after a short rest break (in case anyone wanted a a bite to eat), we headed down to the beach and the Mexico Blue Dream dive boat where we were joined by Craig, another dive instructor.

Diving in the Riviera Maya - a seahorse up closeA short 10 minute ride later we were at the reef. One by one we got into the water. Once the class and instructors were in the water we began our controlled descent to the bottom. As Cheri was still very anxious, Eric took everyone else down while Craig continued to work with Cheri near the surface.

When Tony and the rest of the class reached the bottom–about 35 to 40 feet down–the tour of the reef began. The clear water made visibility perfect. We found ourselves surrounded by colorful forms of coral and schools of fish of all sizes and types. It would be impossible to list all the sea life we saw, but among the various sea creatures we encountered were sea turtles, moray eels, various crabs, brightly colored parrot fish, beautiful angel fish, sun fish, pipe fish, and even seahorses.

We did two separate dives in two different locations. Both were what are called drift dives, as the current carried us along the reef. Most reef diving in the Riviera Maya is drift diving–what many believe to be the most pleasant and relaxing diving experience there is. With a drift dive, one simply “goes with the flow” and simply drifts past the scenery with the natural current. We literally just floated past the sights of this colorful underwater world. By the end of the day we were tired but exhilarated from the things we had done and the sights we had seen. Cheri was happy that the instructors had been so patient and kind with her.

The day was unhurried and relaxing, something we really appreciated. Extra time is built in so that the day flows more at a Mexico pace. Since students in a Discover Scuba class are new to the sport, Mexico Blue Dream believes in having that extra time for mental preparation and relaxation along the way, so that the experience is positive and enjoyable for everyone.

We have always highly recommended Mexico Blue Dream and came away from this experience even more enthused about their operation. Every single person we encountered–from the owners to the dive instructors to the boat staff–was friendly, approachable, knowledgeable, enthusiastic and calming. Their focus is clearly on making each dive a special experience for everyone involved.

Scuba diving in the Riviera Maya with Mexico Blue DreamAnyone can have the same experience we had when visiting Playa. Mexico Blue Dream offers a SCUBA pool demo where instructors will assist you in trying on scuba equipment and then teach you how to swim and breathe while underwater. This can all be done in the safe confines of a shallow swimming pool.

For guests of our own Luna Blue Hotel, the Mexico Blue Dream pool demo takes place only steps from your room in our new sunken garden swimming pool. Best of all, it’s free when you stay at the Luna Blue.

If after learning to use the scuba gear in the pool you want to try it in open water, the nice folks at Mexico Blue Dream will be glad to take you on a “Discover Scuba” dive, much like we did. You will see a short instructional film and then take the Mexico Blue Dream’s boat out on the Caribbean Sea where you will have two 45-50 minute dives. You will always go with a dive instructor who will watch you closely, monitor your safety and guide you past the incredible sights of a living coral reef.

Many people find that once they try scuba diving they want to go again and again. The good news is that Mexico Blue Dream can help you become certified as a scuba diver. The dives you make in your initial Discover Scuba program count towards your PADI scuba certification requirements.

If you are going to be a guest at the Luna Blue Hotel, just let us know that you would like to try the FREE scuba pool demo.

You only live once. You owe it to yourself to experience the vast world which lives just beneath the surface of the sea.

Bruno’s video talents

Mexico Blue Dream Dive Shop in Playa del Carmen Mexico
On the road to Mamita’s Beach Club – Calle 28 between 1st Ave and the beach
Mexico Blue Dream Dive Shop in Playa del Carmen Mexico

Tony & Cheri practicing in the pool
Scuba Diving in the Riviera Maya

The Mexico Blue Dream dive boat taking us to the reef
Scuba Diving in the Riviera Maya

Tony trying out his gear
Scuba Diving in the Riviera Maya

Cheri getting instruction from Eric in the pool
Scuba Diving in the Riviera Maya

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