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By Tony & Cheri, Live from the Luna Blue in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

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Archive for the ‘What’s New’ Category

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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The Awards Keep Coming In

Posted by Tony & Cheri on May 28, 2014

Luna Blue Hotel Wins Certificate of Excellence 3 Years in a Row

Lately our little hotel in Mexico, the Luna Blue, has been receiving a lot of recognition from the people who matter the most to us…the traveling public.

We have just been awarded a 2014 Certificate of Excellence by Tripadvisor, the world’s largest travel website. This comes shortly after we won the prestigious TripAdvisor 2014 Travelers’ Choice Award for Best Bargain Hotel earlier this year.

We’re very proud to say that the Luna Blue was the only hotel in the popular Mexican resort town of Playa del Carmen to receive a Travelers’ Choice Award for Best Bargain Hotel in 2014!

Luna Blue Hotel wins 2014 Travelers' Choice AwardFor a small 18-room hotel owned by an American couple living in the paradise of Mexico’s Caribbean coast to receive such honors is very gratifying. These days, the travel industry seems to focus more and more on large all-inclusive properties and giant chain hotels. So when a small place like ours wins these awards, it shows that people’s opinions matter at least as much as corporate marketing campaigns.

What makes these awards especially meaningful to us is that just over a year ago, we were engaged in a David and Goliath dispute with the giant online booking site Expedia. Expedia’s unfair attempts to stop people from booking with our hotel caused us a lot of damage and worry. Yet, after the story of our battle for survival caught the attention of social media site The Verge and news sites such as SFGate and others, the story of a small independent property going against a mega corporate giant went viral. Expedia was forced to back down and leave us alone. Winning these awards is made all the sweeter for having survived this difficult time.

The Travelers’ Choice Award is awarded to less than 2% of all hotels worldwide. The Certificate of Excellence is given only to the top 10% of hotels worldwide. Both are based on consistently high reviews and ratings from hotel guests. This is the third consecutive year the Luna Blue Hotel has won a Certificate of Excellence and the second consecutive year it has won a Travelers’ Choice Award.

The Luna Blue Hotel is located in the heart of Playa del Carmen, Mexico. We are a place for travelers–not simply tourists–and we cater to those who want to explore the beauty, food and culture of Mexico and not be limited to the cookie-cutter experience of giant Vegas-style mega resorts. We will work hard to always be Playa del Carmen’s best bargain hotel and will continue to be grateful to our guests and friends for all of their support.

After we won the Traveler’s Choice award, we celebrated at the Luna Blue Bar and asked guests to pose with the award. The photos here are from that night.











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Owning a Saloon in Mexico: The Luna Blue Bar Story

Posted by Tony & Cheri on November 29, 2011

Luna Blue BarWhen we first thought about opening a bar in Mexico, we simply wanted a quiet little place for our guests to have a cocktail in the evening before and after visiting 5th Avenue.

We did have some strong opinions about how our bar should look. We wanted it to match the old-school tropical ambiance of our Luna Blue Hotel. So we decided it would be open air, with ceiling fans, a roof made of palm leaves, and–in the Caribbean tradition–swings instead of stools around the bar.

We also decided there would be no TV and no DJs playing music we didn’t enjoy. Instead we installed satellite radio and turned it to Radio Margaritaville. We wanted our bar to be funky, laid back and tropical. In short, we built the kind of place where we ourselves would want to drink margaritas.

After building the bar, we designed a few special drinks with the help of our good friend Eric Rogers, one of San Francisco’s best bartenders. We have great top shelf margaritas like the “Papa T Margarita” and twists on old favorites like the “Playa Colada.” We also have unique drinks nobody had seen before (but have since been widely copied) like the “Beso Cubano” (Cuban Kiss) and our all-time most popular drink, the “Sarita B Careful” margarita made with pomegranate infused tequila.

Leon J Morton at the Luna Blue BarOf course one of the most important parts of a bar is the bartender. And we found the perfect one in Jorge Sierra. Jorge is honest, hardworking, speaks perfect English, loves people, always has a smile and pours a strong drink. And he is creative. He is always coming up with new ideas for drinks like our very popular “Sex on the Bar” cocktail. Yes, Jorge is the inventor of Sex on the Bar!

Once we had the bar built, the drinks figured out and a great bartender hired we looked around the place and decided we needed one more thing…live music. After all what is a margarita in paradise without some good tunes to listen to? Since we couldn’t get Jimmy or Kenny, we hired local musicians whose music we liked…guys who played funky or bluesy or plain old good rock n’ roll.

Over the years the best musicians in Playa have performed at the Luna Blue. Chris Bolister, “Bad” Brad Ryan, most of the Nasty Bastards at one time or another, Barefoot Skinny, Pako Mondragon and Mike Grabow (who wrote “Where I Want to Be” about the Luna Blue). You can currently see Mike Grabow every week at the Luna Blue Bar. Even the infamous local legend Sharkey has growled “House of the Rising Sun” at the Luna Blue Bar.

This coming holiday season we are going to keep up that tradition of great music while trying to expand the type of music that is available here in Playa del Carmen. And one type of music that Playa needs more of (and we can’t get enough of) is the BLUES!

This December we are bringing back Blues Hall of Fame artist Leon J Morton. Jay (as he is known to his friends) is famous for his traditional roots Blues renditions and his bring-down-the-house performance of Blues-inspired rock n’ roll classics. Jay’s extraordinary performances have been honored by the Telluride Blues Festival and by the National Blues Hall of Fame which has designated him an “Ambassador of the Blues.” When he is in Playa Jay plays exclusively at the Luna Blue Bar.

Jay will be performing his repertoire of classic Blues songs on Friday Dec. 2nd. On Saturday, Dec. 3rd, he will be back offering his take on the best in Rock, Rhythm and Blues, as well as some original tunes. On Sunday, Dec. 4th Jay will be playing mellow and easy at our Barbeque and Pool Party.

Luna Blue BarThen later this month Brent “Guitar” Parkin will be returning to the Blue. Brent is one of the greats on the Canadian Blues scene and winner of the Canadian Recording Arts and Sciences’ prestigious Juno Award. In his forty years of performing he has toured with the likes of BB King, Johnny Winter, Otis Rush and Bo Diddley among others. The Edmonton Sun calls Brent, “one of this country’s best blues guitarists.” The Winnipeg Free Press says Brent is “One of the Prairie’s great blues guitarists.” The bottom line is that Brent puts on a heck of a show every time he plays.

Not only will Brent be a regular at the Luna Blue Bar this winter, but we are especially proud to announce he will perform at our New Years Eve celebration. That will be quite a party.

And we are pleased to announce that Brent has just agreed to play at for us on Sunday, Dec. 4th at our Barbeque and Pool Party. Both Jay Morton and Brent Parkin the same afternoon. We’re very excited!

Of course this year the Luna Blue Bar has something new: a swimming pool. Our beautiful sunken tropical garden pool is open most nights for bar guests to take a dip and float beneath the stars while sipping a margarita or listening to music. We are the only swing bar in town with its own pool. We think that is kind of special.

In the end the Luna Blue Bar turned out to be bigger and more popular than we ever dreamed. But in a lot of ways it is still exactly what we wanted when we decided to build it…it’s still a great place to get a margarita, enjoy a laid back tropical vibe and hear good tunes from great musicians. It’s also a good place to hang out and chat with your friends…or make some new ones. What more can you ask from a saloon in tropical Mexico?

And who knows…maybe someday Jimmy or Kenny will drop by…maybe.

If you’ve been to our bar or one of our events, please share your best memories in a comment below. Gracias!

Jay Morton

Mike Grabow

Barefoot SKinny

Chris Bolister

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Beware of Unscrupulous Charities

Posted by Tony & Cheri on November 18, 2011

We received an email at the hotel yesterday from a woman named Karen Johnson asking us if we would donate a stay at our hotel to an organization called the Cancer Relief Association, www.craglobal.org.

We were told they were “planning an online auction to raise funds to provide financial assistance to cancer patients around the world.” It went on to say that they provide cancer patients with grants that assist them in paying the expenses of dealing with their disease. We were asked to send information about our donation to either the email address listed or to their post office box in Florida.

Over the years we’ve contributed time at our hotel to different charitable organizations and functions both here in Mexico and in the United States. So when we received this solicitation, we were open to the idea. Besides, who doesn’t want to help people with cancer? Both of Tony’s parents died from cancer, we have a good friend battling the disease right now, and several of our close friends–as well as Cheri’s mom–are cancer survivors.

However as the email we received was so lacking in information we decided to investigate further. In this time of easy internet scams, we figured we should be a little cautious and confirm we were dealing with a legitimate charity. We also figured that no legitimate charity would have an issue with that.

We looked at Cancer Relief Association’s web site–a single web page–and found very little real information about this organization, other than a note directed to property owners about how a stay at their hotel would help provide money to cancer patients, which we found rather strange. It was very vague. The Paypal link for donations on the website was broken. When we googled them, we found virtually no references to this charity.

So we sent a reply email asking if the Cancer Relief Association was associated with any other cancer research organizations and asked Karen if she would provide us with a link to the website where the internet auction was being held.

The reply stated they are affiliated with the organization Center for Cancer Research Funding, Inc. at www.careforcures.org. Instead of a link to their upcoming online auction, we were told we could view the other items they have listed for auction at http://myworld.ebay.com/bidtofightcancer.

Hmmm. When we looked at the link we found nothing but vacation properties listed for sale on ebay by the user name “bidtofightcancer.” When we were originally told they were soliciting donations for an “upcoming online auction,” we were expecting some sort of event, not simply someone taking bids on ebay.

Meanwhile, we emailed the Center for Cancer Research Funding to ask if they were indeed associated with the Cancer Relief Organization and were told by one of their three Directors, Dick Bornman, that yes, the Cancer Relief Association is a program managed by their organization.

So we looked at the Center for Cancer Research Funding website. Unfortunately we encountered similarly vague information as to where and whom the donations actually go and under what circumstances. Internet searches again provided little or no information about this charity.

Sensing a scam, we decided not to donate and sent the following email to Karen:

Karen,

We have decided not to contribute to your organization. Frankly, we have some questions about its legitimacy. It appears not to be associated with any well-known cancer research entity, appears to deal only on marketing vacation properties on ebay, and the organizations’ websites appear somewhat questionable and provide no real information as to who you are or who receives your donations. We prefer to make our charitable contributions to more established organizations.

We assumed this would be the end of it, or possibly that we might receive another email giving us more information to prove the legitimacy of either organization. Instead, a few hours later we received the following scathing email from Dick Bornman of the Center for Cancer Research Funding. You have to read it carefully to appreciate it. The capitalization and emphasis are all his:


Hello Tony & Cheri Head, Owners,

I can appreciate your response, but quite frankly am disgusted with how you worded it. Your hotel would be one of the lower price class hotels that we solicited so to receive your response is quite interesting. Your hotel is no Ritz and Mexico is not exactly highly sought after right now. In other words your number 22 in Playa del Carmen, there are 21 more established resorts in your town alone. Thank god people do not have your attitude or your resort would not be in business. We are a fully registered fully tax exempt organization, in AMERICA, which is more sought after than Mexico to begin with. So in other words from outer appearances both organizations are not the best not the most highly funded and far from number 1. Next time you reject someone do it appropriately and do not do it rudely and outrageously to someone who travels internationally, because I will make sure to inform others of your generosity and your kind words starting with the patients we assist, ending with the resorts that are in the top ten, Karen does not check on the numbers, or believe me we would not have solicited to you in the first place, furthermore most trips we receive have personal connections to someone in our organization, meaning they own a week, or they have spent money there before, nobody internally desires to go to Playa del Carmen right now, and after your insulting response nobody will ever want to spend money at your hotel. Just my five cents, take it for what its worth, and STOP INSULTING CHARITIES, it comes off EXTREMELY ARROGANT AND DISGUSTING.

Yours Truly

Dick Bornman

We were shocked at the nasty personal tone of this email and the spew of negativity against us, our business, Playa del Carmen and Mexico in general! It amazed us that someone representing a so-called charity would act so unprofessionally. It puzzled us that someone would solicit resorts in Mexico and then make comments about how nobody goes to Mexico and how America is so much better.

Finally, we noted with interest that Mr. Bornman had an opportunity to fill in the gaps for us by saying how the donations to his company were processed, distributed, what percentage of money was received by cancer patients and their families, etc. But he didn’t.

And then it got even stranger.

An hour later, someone named Michael L. Galbraith posted a link to a very old negative TripAdvisor review of our hotel ON OUR HOTEL’S FACEBOOK PAGE. Turns out that Michael L. Galbraith is the President of the Center for Cancer Research Funding, Inc.! We of course promptly removed it, reported him to Facebook and then blocked him.

We were stunned by the idea that the President of a so-called charity supposedly responsible for the distribution of aid to cancer patients “around the world” would take the time to play vindictive games on our Facebook page simply because we refused to donate. In the end, the actions of these two individuals convinced us more than ever that we did not want to be associated with their charity, regardless of what name it used.

After receipt of the threatening email and attempt to damage our business, we did a little more research with a public office in the US and learned that the Center for Cancer Research Funding took in over $90,000 US in 2010. We certainly hope at least some of that money actually went to cancer patients and not to line the pockets of such awful people. The fact that the money is tax exempt makes us cringe even more.

We find it hard to believe that representatives of any legitimate charity would act in such a way. After receiving such nasty treatment, we fear they may be scam artists, and we know they are unprofessional. Either way, we certainly hope that anyone who is approached by either the Cancer Relief Organization or the Center for Cancer Research Funding take a long, hard look at their credentials before donating to or buying anything from them.

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Ch..Ch..Changes at the Luna Blue Hotel

Posted by Tony & Cheri on September 24, 2011

The New Luna Blue Hotel Swimming PoolLuna Blue, one of Playa’s oldest boutique hotels, is now one of it’s newest. We’ve recently made some changes that you’re going to like, and we’re excited about them.

Some might say, “why mess with a good thing?” After all, we’ve won our share of awards and accolades over the years, we have a 93% positive rating from TripAdvisor, and most of our guests return again and again.

The truth is: we don’t want to rest on our laurels. We think there is always room for improvement in any endeavor. So we’ve spent the last several months making the Luna Blue even better. We’re hoping our guests enjoy the changes as much as we’ve enjoyed making them.

Our Newest Addition ~ a Tropical Lagoon Swimming Pool

The New Luna Blue Hotel Swimming PoolFor years we talked about whether or not to put in a swimming pool. This year we finally did it. And is it ever a beauty!

We placed our new pool in the sunken garden portion of our property just beneath the deck where our bar sits. The pool nestles against the garden’s tropical waterfall and is overhung with palm trees which help shade the water from the heat of the afternoon sun.

There are patios at either end of the pool for lounging, sitting and sunbathing. And of course when the bar is open, Jorge will be glad to bring you one of our famous margaritas to sip poolside. Just ring the bell.

We think the pool will be a perfect place to sit beside and enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning…to cool off after a hot day…or for a romantic twilight dip. The pool will also be the setting for occasional pool parties and afternoon barbeques.

We think everyone–local visitors and guests alike–will enjoy the new pool scene at the Luna Blue.

Starting the Day is Easier at the Luna Blue

Morning Breakfast SnackNot everyone has time for a leisurely breakfast. Some folks want to start the day quickly as they head on out to scuba lessons, a tour of Chichén Itzá or just to get the best spot on the beach. For them our new breakfast counter is perfect. Coffee or tea and some of our locally baked sweet breads offer a quick snack on the go as they head out the hotel gate to enjoy Playa del Carmen.

Or if you want to start the day a little more slowly (and after all you are on vacation), then take some of our Chiapas mountain grown coffee and a piece of coconut, orange, Mexican chocolate, carrot or banana bread down into the garden to sit where the orchids bloom and the birds serenade you.

Fast or slow, whatever your pace in the morning, you are going to enjoy starting the day at the Luna Blue.

The Essence of the Tropics

New organic bath products at the Luna Blue HotelWe have searched for a number of years for the best bath products. We have always wanted something that was as uniquely tropical as our hotel is. Recently we found what we have been looking for.

It is a special line of new handpicked environmentally-safe organic bath products. We have chosen the flavors and scents we think best represent the Caribbean/Mexican ambiance of Playa del Carmen: Honey, Mexican Chocolate and Coconut.

You will find our new body lotions, shampoos, conditioners and soaps waiting in your room. We are so pleased with the quality of these products we have proudly put our name on each one. Luna Blue Bath products…the essence of the tropics.

Changes Inside and Out

Outside, we have redone the reception area with new stone patterned tile and we have filled the garden with new plants. We have even started growing some beautiful orchids which are attached to the trees in our garden. We also have some new hard wood Adirondack chairs and tables handmade by our favorite local carpenter, Lucio.

Inside, you will find new paint and new art. And to help insure a peaceful night’s sleep in paradise we have placed Sealy Posturepedic brand hypoallergenic cushion top mattress covers on all our beds.

It’s All About the Beach

Beach Club at Grand CoralThe number one reason people come to Playa del Carmen is for the blue water and white sand of its beaches. Our beaches have been called the best, the prettiest and the sexiest beaches in the world.

One of the most popular ways to enjoy the beaches of Playa del Carmen is by spending the day at one of the beach clubs which dot the shore. At a beach club you can find food, drinks, restrooms, showers and all sorts of amenities to make your day on the sand a perfect one.

At the Luna Blue we now offer access to FOUR of Playa’s most popular beach clubs to help you get the most out of your vacation. Our guests have special privileges at Mamita’s Beach Club, Indigo Beach Club and Wicky’s Beach Club.

Our newest addition is the Beach Club at the Grand Coral (formerly Blucacao Beach Club). With an excellent restaurant and bar, two swimming pools and a beautiful section of unspoiled beach, this beach club should be on everyone’s “must do” list. And our guests have free use of the facilities.

Why limit yourself to some resort that offers only one beach club when you can have your pick of four of the best?

Still the Best Deal in Town

Don’t think that just because we have made some improvements our rooms will cost more. Our prices have actually gone down this fall!

Right now rooms are as low as $49 per night through October 31, 2011.

And with our advance prepayment rate, you can SAVE 10% on bookings for this coming winter and spring.

We still offer a full range of room types from our cozy budget-minded Courtyard Nook rooms to our full studio Garden View Deluxe rooms with kitchen. Every room has a private bath, daily maid service, unlimited bottled drinking water, outdoor terrace or balcony and air conditioning. Most rooms have refrigerators.

You can’t beat the Luna Blue Hotel’s combination of quality accommodations, great service and low prices.

Some Things Never Change

Great Destinations Guidebooks has said the Luna Blue Hotel “has a lost in time quality that’s not easy to find in a modern resort.” That hasn’t changed. We are still an oasis of tranquility in the midst of Playa del Carmen’s busy tourist zone.

We have made many improvements to the Luna Blue Hotel, but the things our guests have always loved the most have not changed. We still have the best location, only a few steps from the shops, restaurants and bars of 5th Avenue. We are still a quiet garden hideaway. We still have one of the most popular bars in town. We still provide the personal service of a small, friendly, English-speaking staff. Playa is still safe and secure. For those of you who have concerns about safety in Playa del Carmen, please refer to our recent blog entry, Safety & Crime in Playa del Carmen 2011: The Truth. At the Luna Blue, we are still your doorway into the beauty of tropical Mexico.

Friendly, comfortable, intimate and unique. That is the way Playa del Carmen used to be…and still is…at the Luna Blue Hotel and Bar.

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The Luna Blue Hotel Newsletter…Our Latest Endeavor

Posted by Tony & Cheri on September 8, 2011

We are starting a monthly e-mail newsletter for the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar. Each month we will send out information about events around Playa del Carmen, news from the area and specials and happenings at the Luna Blue.

The really good news is that each month we will pick a newsletter subscriber to receive a two night stay at the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar–absolutely FREE!

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Don’t worry, this list is our private property. You don’t have to buy anything, and we will not sell or give your information to anyone for any reason. We won’t inundate you with emails, and you can unsubscribe with a click at any time. The newsletter is simply our way of staying in touch with the many folks who know and love Playa del Carmen and the Luna Blue.

Even if you have received e-mails from us in the past, you must subscribe if you want to receive the new newsletter. So please sign up today and become part of the new Luna Blue internet family.

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Playa del Carmen is On Sale at the Luna Blue

Posted by Tony & Cheri on August 29, 2011

Luna Blue is on saleThe summer is over. The kids are back in school. The weather up north will soon be turning cold and (we hate to say it) the craziness of the holiday season will be on us before you know it.

If only you could grab one more trip down to Mexico before the end of year rush begins…one more chance to lie on a white sand beach or swim in crystal clear blue Caribbean water.

Good news! The Luna Blue is giving you that chance!

For the months of September and October we are slashing prices up to 20% on all of our rooms. You can stay in one of our adorable Courtyard Nook room for as low as $49 per night, or have a full suite with kitchen for as low as $79 a night. And our popular Treetop Terrace rooms are only $69 a night.

Of course you not only get to stay at the award-winning Luna Blue for these low prices, but you get all of our regular amenities: FREE use of four different beach clubs; FREE breakfast of coffee, tea & locally baked sweet breads; a FREE welcome margarita in the popular Luna Blue Bar; a FREE Discover SCUBA class at Mexico Blue Dream, 50% off day passes at the gym; various discounts on food and drink around town and much more. You’ll also enjoy our new organic bath products in tropical scents and flavors and of course you can be one of the first people to enjoy our brand new sunken tropical garden swimming pool!

The fall is a great time to visit the Mayan Riviera. The days are long and warm, and it’s the least crowded time of year. You’ll have no problem finding the best spot on the beach or the best seat in a restaurant. September is also very festive with the celebration of Mexico’s Independence Day. October, of course, brings Halloween and the legendary Luna Blue Fantasy Costume Party. October also brings the beginning of the celebration of Dia de los Muertos with the largest exhibit at Xcaret eco park.

Sale prices apply to new reservations only for any stay from September 1 to October 31. All other normal restrictions apply. Click here to make a reservation now.

You can spend the autumn watching the leaves fall and the weather turn cool or you can have a margarita on a stunning Caribbean beach. It’s your choice.

And if you just can’t get away until after the new year, you can still save money. If you book from now until November 15 for a high season stay in 2011 or 2012, you can save 10% off our already low rates. Click here for details.

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Best of Playa Raffle & Fundraiser May 27 for the Peanut Pet Shelter

Posted by Tony & Cheri on April 24, 2011

Our friends at the Peanut Pet Shelter here in Playa del Carmen have had a rough year. A local competing charity and various individuals with personal agendas tried in a malicious and underhanded way to discredit and close them down. It was an ugly campaign that caused rifts between various individuals and businesses. Fortunately this small group was unsuccessful in their endeavor. However, the result of their effort was a reduction in donations to the Peanut Pet Shelter, which has since then been struggling to make ends meet.

We are big supporters of the Peanut Pet Shelter. Because of them, we have our dog Roxie (the star of the poster) and, indirectly, our dog Gypsy, both of whom entertain us and make us happy on a daily basis. Many of our friends here in Mexico and also in the US and Canada have adopted dogs that were rescued by the PPS. We have seen first hand the amazing work they do in rescuing and caring for the many, many abandoned animals of Playa.

As a result, we’ve decided to join together with other local business owners and sponsor a kick ass raffle and fundraiser to not only raise a boatload of cash for the Peanut Pet Shelter but to show them that the people of Playa del Carmen and the nearby communities care about them and see them as a valuable part of life here south of the border.

We’re calling it the “Best of Playa,” because most of Playa del Carmen’s best businesses (as well as several businesses from the surrounding communities) are donating prizes to this worthy cause.

Raffle Details

From now until the Best of Playa Raffle Party on Friday May 27, 2011, for every $10 donation to the Peanut Pet Shelter, you will receive one raffle ticket for the Best of Playa Raffle, where Playa’s best businesses have donated dozens of cool prizes to support this worthy cause. Tickets may be purchased via the link below until 4 pm the day of the event.

Before the event, tickets will also be available at the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar and at the Peanut Pet Shelter dog & puppy washes on Saturdays & Sundays. Tickets will also be available at the event up until the drawing.

You need not be present to win…but you do need to go to paradise to redeem. :)

Every 10 kilos of dog food donated to the Peanut Pet Shelter will earn the donor another raffle ticket. Food may be delivered to the Peanut Pet Shelter or the Luna Blue Hotel or brought to the event.

The drawing for prizes will be at the Best of Playa Raffle party at the Luna Blue Bar on May 27. We will have live music, drink specials and some fun surprises. AND 50% of the bar proceeds will go to the Peanut Pet Shelter!

Click Here to Make a Donation/Purchase Raffle Tickets

Click here to see a list of the dozens of raffle prizes available, including a private sunset cruise on the Catamaya for up to 80 people(!!), a seven night stay at the Royal Oasis condos, and a five night stay at our own Luna Blue Hotel! Prizes will be added daily up until the date of the event, so check back often.

And please patronize the many Friends of the Peanut Pet Shelter who have so generously donated prizes:










“Like” the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar on Facebook to keep up with the latest news of Playa del Carmen, life in paradise & our version of “living the dream.”

   

Posted in Activities, Dining in Playa, Events & Happenings, Friends, Living the Dream, The Hotel & Bar, What's New | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

More Than Just Happy Hour….

Posted by Tony & Cheri on April 15, 2011

It's 5 o'clock somewhereThings are starting to slow down a little bit here in Playa del Carmen. The fast pace and the large crowds of the high season are disappearing as many of the snowbirds head home (probably to late spring blizzards!!!).

The locals can now find a seat at their favorite bar and a place on the beach. And travelers in the know will find less crowds and lower prices. Spring is a great time to be in paradise.

To celebrate our favorite time of year we are starting our own version of happy hour at the Luna Blue Bar.

Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 4-8 pm we will have $20 peso beers, 2 x 1 house margaritas, and free chips and salsa.

As usual we will have Radio Margaritaville playing via satellite. And as an added bonus, Jimmy Buffett’s live performances will be broadcast on many of those nights!

And as always, any chicas contributing a thong to the bar’s collection will receive a free shot of our best tequila. It’s a tradition. :)

Cheap beer and ’ritas, snacks and a front row swing to hear Jimmy’s concerts. We don’t call it happy hour…we call it the “Buffett Buffet at the Blue.”

It all starts next Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at the Luna Blue Bar and continues throughout the spring and summer.

Stop on by and you’ll say–in the words of Playa’s popular singer/songwriter Mike Grabow–the Luna Blue is “Where I Want to Be”.

“Like” the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar on Facebook to keep up with the latest news of Playa del Carmen, life in paradise & our version of “living the dream.”

   

Posted in Activities, Dining in Playa, Events & Happenings, Friends, Living the Dream, The Hotel & Bar, What's New | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Playa del Carmen Right Outside your Door: Small Hotels vs. All Inclusives

Posted by Tony & Cheri on January 11, 2011

You are going to Mexico! You have been dreaming of margaritas and white sand beaches in the beautiful seaside village of Playa Del Carmen. You’ve waited all year for this vacation and now you just have to decide where you will stay.

We’re Going to Playa! Now Where Should We Stay?

Playa Del Carmen has a large number of small boutique-style hotels throughout the resort/hotel zone which stretches along the shoreline of the Caribbean Sea. The resort/hotel zone goes from Juarez Avenue in the south to Calle 40 in the north and from Avenida 10 east to the beach. There are also many mega-resorts up and down the coast outside of town which list “Playa del Carmen” as their location. These generally are all-inclusive properties—which means the price you pay includes food, drinks and your room, much like the cruise ship vacation your great aunt Myrtle takes every year.

All inclusive resorts (called “AI’s”) have become quite popular in the travel industry. That popularity has been helped along by a tourist industry which too often places its fees ahead of your interests. Such resorts are often part of an international chain which can afford not only extensive advertising, but also to host and finance press junkets for travel writers and pay travel agents large commissions to steer their clients to them.

This is not to say that such a giant resort might not be right for you. But we think the decision should be based on what kind of vacation you want and not because someone else will make the most money from recommending a property to you.

Of course, we are not objective on the matter. We own one of the most popular small hotels in Playa del Carmen, the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar, and have long encouraged people to think about a visit to Mexico outside of some resort’s gated compound.

Over the years we’ve heard many reasons why people prefer AI vacations—generally by people who’ve never traveled any other way. The following is a list of those reasons, along with our own opinions and views. We hope it helps with your vacation planning.

Safety

The number one reason given by most people for choosing to stay in a gated, all-inclusive resort on Mexico’s Mayan Riviera is safety.

Some visitors are frightened by the sensationalized media portrayal of all of Mexico being engulfed in a violent drug war. Others are just concerned about possible problems of being on their own in a country where they don’t know the language or the culture. Both fears are understandable, but neither is a realistic view of Mexico’s Caribbean coast.

Playa del Carmen is Safe
Mexico’s drug wars are taking place primarily around Ciudad Juarez, a city near the border with the southwest United States. The violence and crime associated with that problem have not spread to the eastern coast some 3000 miles away. The Caribbean border state of Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun, Playa Del Carmen and Tulum, has a crime rate much lower than many large US cities. Playa Del Carmen is perfectly safe for any visitor, and there is no need for visitors to hide away in a fortress-like compound, avoiding and missing the true spirit and flavor of Mexico.

Likewise, finding yourself on your own without resources or help or unable to speak the language even to ask for assistance is simply not going to happen. Playa is a modern city. Many of the locals working in the hotels, restaurants and bars speak very good English. Well trained English-speaking doctors and health care workers are readily available. There is even a special branch of the police department called the “Tourist Police” that patrols the resort zone to help visitors with problems.

And if you should need assistance, you will find it easier to get help in a small hotel where you are a familiar face to the people working there than a large resort where you are just another room number in a crowd of hundreds or thousands.

Convenience

Many people also think that an all inclusive experience offers the most convenient way to travel. They think that having shops, a beach club, bars and restaurants all in the same compound will make their vacation easier.

Shopping
The truth is that the widest range of services and stores in the area are in downtown Playa within easy walking distance to the small hotels. Laundries, clothing stores, pharmacies, wine and liquor shops and souvenirs of all types are available in hundreds of stores lining Fifth Avenue. Even our Super Walmart is conveniently located just outside the central part of the downtown hotel zone. By staying in a boutique hotel in town you have not only convenience but also more choices. By staying in a mega resort outside of town (and very few of the AI resorts are within walking distance of town), you are limited to the choices available there on the resort grounds, and you must share those resources with the hundreds and possibly thousands of others staying there at the same time.

Dining
The same is true for restaurants, bars and cafes. With a few feet of any small hotel in town, you will discover limitless dining and drinking possibilities. For example, within one block of our own small Luna Blue Hotel, guests can find eight restaurants and three bars. A ten minute walk down 5th Avenue or in any direction will bring dozens more of all types and price ranges. The same can be said for any small hotel in Playa.

We think having access to several dozen restaurants of varying cuisines within a few minutes stroll is certainly more convenient than taking a long hike down to the food complex across the resort grounds to choose from a small group of restaurants, all of which share the same kitchen.

Beach Clubs
Visitors staying in town will find more beach clubs and find them more conveniently located than at a giant resort. For example, some rooms at a large resort like the Mayan Palace may require guests to take a shuttle bus or even two to get to the beach. Once there you may find the infamous “towel game” in full effect, i.e. when people rise early, go to the beach and “save” chairs with towels or personal items to use later in the day. As most large resorts do not have a beach chair for every guest, many beachgoers end up with no comfortable way to enjoy a day on the sand.

On the other hand, since the resort/hotel zone of downtown Playa parallels the beach it is only a short 5 minute walk from almost any small hotel in the area to the beach. And some hotels can even be found right on the beach. Once on the sand you will find Playa’s two main beaches (centro and norte) to be lined with beach clubs, bars and restaurants. Instead of having one beach club where you may not even get a chair, the person staying in town can pick a new beach club every day of their vacation. In short you are nearer to the beach and have more choices when staying in a small hotel in town.

Food

People can get a little fussy about food. They know what they like, and many folks are not too willing to try something foreign or different. That need for some familiarity combined with the myth that “Montezuma Revenge” awaits anyone who eats in Mexico makes some people conclude it is safer and easier to eat at the buffet or American-style restaurants usually provided by the big AI resorts. Once again, this commonly held view turns out to be untrue.

The truth is that most large all-inclusive resorts will have at most three to five dining rooms (featuring steak, seafood, Mexican, or Asian food). In addition there will be a buffet or two and a couple of burger/pizza grills. One or two of the fancier restaurants will require reservations and have a dress code. Now compare this to what you can find in town.

Playa is a Food Lover’s Paradise
The number of restaurants available within a block or two of any small hotel will be in the dozens. The resort zone has literally several hundred choices of where to eat. One will find Thai, Spanish tapas, sushi, steak (Argentinean, American and Mexican style), and Italian (often featuring excellent homemade pasta from expat Italians). There is traditional Mexican food, French, fondue, vegetarian, seafood featuring fish caught that day, or lobsters fresh from the tank. You will find local specialties like lobster macaroni and cheese, coconut shrimp and marinated barbequed pork tacos. Street-side cafes offer fresh coffee and Mexico’s famous chocolate. There are grills with hamburgers and hot dogs, street carts with tacos and empanadas. And don’t forget the Italian bakeries and gelato stores. And of course there are some familiar names like Burger King, MacDonald’s, Johnny Rockets, Haagen Dazs, Starbucks and even Dairy Queen. Or you can even have Domino’s deliver a pizza to your hotel room.

Whether you will only eat the same food you know from back home or want to experiment with something new, you will find many times more restaurants within steps of your hotel than you will in any major resort. And it is perfectly safe to eat at these places.

Yes, it’s Safe
Playa Del Carmen has an efficient system of health inspection. Restaurants in town are held to the same high standard by the same government inspectors as the kitchens and dining rooms of the large all inclusive resorts. There is no more need to worry about your health when eating in town than when eating at a resort. In fact it might even be safer to eat at a restaurant in the resort zone where the meal is prepared when you order it instead of having food which has been sitting out in an AI buffet for hours.

Beverages
And if drinking is a favorite pastime, you will certainly not go thirsty in Playa. You will find bars with swings, bars on the sand, bars with swimming pools, bars with dancing, bars with live entertainment and bars with big screen TVs showing the latest sports. A bar crawl with friends at an AI resort will most likely consist of a drink at the pool bar and one at the disco. In downtown Playa a bar crawl will become a fun filled fiesta stretching from one end of town or the beach to the other. And don’t worry about drinking the water. Purified water is provided in every restaurant in Playa’s resort zone, and ice in your drink is also purified. Most small hotels provide bottled drinking water for their guests.

Language

Another concern which leads people to stay at an AI is their own lack of Spanish language skills and the fear they won’t be able to speak to the people around them. It’s a needless worry.

In Playa Del Carmen and all of the Riviera Maya, the number one source of income is tourism, primarily from English speaking countries. Over the years this has caused a Mexican national workforce to develop which is fluent not only in English but other languages as well. It is not unusual to find a waiter or bartender with limited formal education who can speak not only Spanish but also English and Mayan. He or she will probably have some knowledge of Italian and maybe even a smattering of French or German, as tourists speaking those languages are frequent visitors here. You will also find most restaurants have English language menus available.

Of course Spanish is the primary language of Mexico, so it should not be a surprise to visitors that it is spoken in most places and circumstances. And while many Mexicans will be glad to switch to English for you if they can, it is still nice to remember you are a visitor in a land with a different language from your own. So even if you can’t speak much Spanish, just try a little…such as “hola” (hello) or “por favor” (please) or “gracias” (thank you). After all, part of the adventure of a new land is negotiating a new language. At the very least it will earn you a smile.

And it would seem to go without saying that your chances of meeting, speaking to and interacting with locals is much more likely in town than at a gated resort that most Mexicans will never see the inside of.

Cost

In the end, after the issues of safety, convenience, food, and language have been shown to favor the small boutique hotel, it always boils down to money. Some people believe that an all inclusive is cheaper because the guest doesn’t have to pay for food and drinks. That is simply not true.

There is No Free Lunch
One doesn’t eat or drink for “free” at an AI. The price of what you will consume during your stay is factored into the price of the room. Those prices fluctuate greatly depending on the resort and on the time of year you are visiting Mexico. The truth is a stay in a small hotel in town, even adding in the cost of dining out, can easily be less expensive than the cost of staying at a large resort. More importantly, the small hotel can make decisions about discounts and upgrades on the spot. Rarely do they need to forward your requests up the corporate chain for a decision by someone not even in the same country.

AIs may occasionally offer what appear to be very low rates. However it is important to remember that those rates are per person, not per room like you’d find in a small hotel. And of course there are often extra fees—for towels, for use of sports and leisure equipment, and for those mysterious “resort fees.” Be sure to factor in all costs and fees, or you won’t be comparing apples to apples.

Playa Won’t Break Your Budget
If you’re concerned about cost, do a little research to look for the best deal. Look on the internet. Contact the hotels directly. Ask your travel agent’s advice. Go to tripadvisor.com and other travel-based websites. And don’t worry about paying for your own meals and drinks. After finding the small hotel that is right for you, you can be assured that the costs of dining out in Playa will still be very low. Most of the restaurants in Playa are mid-range to outright cheap. Sure, you can find a four star, multi-course dinner for top price, but if budget is your issue, you can find plenty of places to stretch your dining dollars. Eating and drinking well for little money is a tradition in Mexico that has been passed on to its visitors.

A One of a Kind Experience
And a vacation is not just about cost. People work hard for their money and want a quality experience when they take some time off. Cheapest is not always the best. And if you’re looking for a unique experience customized to your interests, you won’t find it in an AI. Why? Because large resorts are generally owned by international corporations which standardize their services and costs. Food is mass produced—often ahead of time—in order to serve thousands of meals each day. Accommodations must be of the same mass-manufactured design so that furniture and fixtures are interchangeable. Tours, activities and events are chosen and marketed to the guests based exclusively on the commission paid to the hotel, and steps are often taken to limit the guests’ access to other activities.

And often any spirit of the people or culture is eliminated when creating cost-effective generic resorts. You might be in an AI in Orlando one day and in one in Mexico the next and not be able to tell the difference.

You can choose an AI and have a “cookie cutter” hotel experience similar to every other hotel or resort. Or, you can choose a small hotel vacation and have a unique, one-of-a-kind experience You can stay in cabanas right on the beach or in a classic Mexican posada, experience the trendy hip vibe of a modern Euro-style hotel, or settle into a quaint, peaceful Caribbean bed and breakfast set amidst a tropical garden. It will be a vacation unlike any other you have had. And you will remember it forever.

It’s Your Vacation; It Should be Your Choice
In the end, if you’re planning a trip south of the border, you should consider the type of experience you want to enjoy. If you choose to come to Mexico because of its physical beauty, because of its rich culture, or because of its unique traditions and heritage…and if you want the adventure of new experiences and to meet and get to know people who live life differently than you do…then don’t lock yourself away in a gated high-rise resort. As a friend once remarked to us, “There is more to Mexico than what you can see from the lobby bar of a big resort.”

Consider a stay at a small hotel in Playa Del Carmen where the flavor, the adventure, and the people of Mexico are right outside your door.

“Like” the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar on Facebook to keep up with the latest news of Playa del Carmen, life in paradise & our version of “living the dream.”

   

Posted in Recommendations, Safety in Mexico, The Hotel & Bar, The Love of Travel, What's New | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

 
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