Luna Blue's PlayaZone

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

  • Subscribe

  • Top Posts & Pages

  • Playa del Carmen Weather

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 698,399 hits
  • Pages

  • Networked Blogs

Posts Tagged ‘safety in mexico’

Safety & Crime in Playa del Carmen Mexico ~ 2012

Posted by Tony & Cheri on January 5, 2012

Tulum MexicoAs the last year came to a close and the new one has begun, many people considering a trip to Playa del Carmen still have the same question…is it safe?

We know this because the top phrases by which people are finding our blog include safety and crime in Mexico. We also know it from comments on internet forums, by the questions people ask in e-mails and by talking with our guests who invariably say they were warned by friends and family not to go to “dangerous” Mexico.

So even though we have blogged about this issue several times before, we thought it would be good to start the new year with a clear statement: Playa del Carmen and Mexico’s Caribbean coast are safe to visit.

Mexico is America’s Favorite Vacation Destination

One way to judge the safety of Mexico is to look at how many people come here without incident. In 2011 Mexico continued to be the first choice for travel among Americans visiting foreign countries for vacation.

“Put the numbers in statistical perspective. Mexico is the United States’ #1 foreign tourist destination, and more people will visit Mexico before noon today than visit London in a year. With more than 50,000 people a day visiting Mexico your chance of being involved in a violent act in Mexico are less than half that of being struck by lightning and more unlikely than winning Powerball!”
BajaInsider.com, Looking at the Facts, Dec. 31, 2011 Update.

There is every reason to believe this will continue, as several travel publications and websites have listed Mexico as one of the most desirable vacation destinations for the coming year. For example, tourist industry giant Frommer’s has listed Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula (which includes Playa del Carmen) as one of the Top 10 Travel Destinations for 2012:

“It [the Yucatan Peninsula] remains the safest region in Mexico, with far less crime than travelers are likely to encounter at home. Even so, the Yucatán offers all that is best about Mexico — sublime beaches, a unique cuisine, joyous fiestas and exotic wildlife.”
Frommer’s, Top Destinations 2012

A Geography Lesson

Yes, there is crime in Mexico. And yes, there are areas of Mexico where drug wars have created a real danger to the people who live there. But as we have previously pointed out on this blog, the geographical area where that problem exists is far from the beaches of Playa del Carmen.

“Without a solid understanding of the geography (761,606 square miles) and the nature of the drug wars many foreigners assume that all of Mexico is a war zone. But it isn’t.”
Washington Post, Mexico: A Guide to Which Parts are Safe

The distance in driving miles between Ciudad Juarez (heart of the cartel violence) and Playa del Carmen (heart of Mexico’s Caribbean coast) is approximately equal to the driving distance between Chicago and San Francisco. Would you skip visiting America’s Pacific coast because of crime thousands of miles away in the country’s midwest? The same comparison can be made about Mexico.

Crime Exists in Everyone’s Hometown

Yes we have crime in Playa del Carmen. And there is crime in the city you live in. No matter where you live, there is crime in your own hometown. But in truth, Playa del Carmen probably has a crime rate lower than most North American cities.

NBC’s cable affiliate msnbc.com recently indicated that visiting the Riviera Maya may be safer than going to Disney World:

“Most tourist-popular areas, such as Mexico City and the resorts of the Riviera Maya, are considered safe for travelers. (In fact, statistics show that these regions saw even less crime in 2010, per capita, than Orlando and Washington, D.C.)”
msnbc.com, To Go or Not to Go

Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya (Cancun to Tulum) are actually safer than a lot of American cities. In 2010 (the latest available statistics) the entire State of Quintana Roo (where Playa del Carmen and the all of the Riviera Maya is located) had fewer murders per 100,000 people than many US cities including Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Memphis, Miami, Newark, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Tulsa and Washington DC.(based on FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics for the US and the statistics of the National System for Public Security of Mexico.)

Last Year in Playa del Carmen

BUT…some folks will say…there is violent crime in Playa del Carmen. Just last year wasn’t a tourist killed? Didn’t drug cartels murder the chief of the city’s police to stop his anti-drug campaign? Wasn’t the mayor assassinated? The answer to all three questions is “no.”

Last year there were two shootings in Playa which caused many people concern. We have discussed these previously. In short, a man from central Mexico who was involved in money laundering for the cartels stole money from them and then fled here to the coast, not as a tourist but to hide from his employers. His employers found him and killed him.

In a second unrelated incident the chief officer for the Tourist Police unit (not the chief of the city police) was killed. His killers escaped, and no motive for his murder has been discovered. The police officer was not part of any drug investigating unit, nor has any drug cartel claimed responsibility. These crimes targeted specific individuals for specific reasons. They were not random acts that threatened the general population–local or tourist.

A third incident which occurred last year was almost laughable in how the media and the internet reacted. It concerned an alleged shooting involving the mayor’s security team. It seems that after a trip by Playa’s mayor to Cancun, bullet holes were discovered in the SUV driven by the security team which accompanied the mayor. A local newspaper speculated about an armed attack on the mayor and the internet quickly was full of stories of an assassination attempt. Some even reported a successful assassination of the mayor. However, subsequent inspection revealed the shots came from inside the vehicle! It appears that a security team member’s gun accidentally discharged. No attack. No assassination. No crime.

But despite the fact that no tourists have been involved or injured in any of the incidents we mentioned, and despite the fact the predicted introduction of the drug war to Playa never happened, many people reading exaggerated comments on the internet have been left with the impression that Playa is now a war zone. That is simply untrue.

Playa del Carmen is Not a Small Village

No one likes violent crime in their city. People in Playa were shocked and saddened by the crimes that took place. But keep in mind that Playa is not a small town. The most recent population number listed by the Municipio of Solidaridad lists the population of the Municipio at 173,266, with an annual growth rate of 6.8%. This doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit here each year.

Playa del Carmen and the surrounding municipality is larger than both Green Bay, Wisconsin and Topeka, Kansas. Playa is also larger than either Tempe, Arizona or Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It is about the same size as Providence, Rhode Island and as Knoxville, Tennessee. Playa is not a small village; it is a good sized city. And in any city of this size, regardless of the country, one would expect to find some incidents of violent crime. Yet overall Playa del Carmen continues to be free of the crime seen in central Mexico or even in some places north of the border.

Don’t Listen to Rumors

While we were writing this blog, we saw an individual on an internet forum state that she worried Playa was too dangerous to visit because there had been an assassination attempt on the mayor! And in that post we realize the real reason for Mexico’s reputation as being too dangerous to visit: Public comments by those ignorant of the facts, always founded in speculation and often based in prejudice, have created a popular but false perception that all of Mexico is dangerous.

We will say it now as we have repeatedly said it in the past. Do NOT listen to the opinions of your neighbors who have never been to Playa telling you to stay home, or the speculation of people who post on the internet with no expertise or experience who advise you to stay hidden behind resort walls. If you have questions, turn to the experts…those news agencies and governmental offices whose job it is to keep us informed with facts; and blogs written by people who live and work in the area. A list of articles, blogs and sources that we believe are reliable can be found in our previous blog on this topic: Safety & Crime in Playa del Carmen Mexico 2011: The Truth. And you can always find up to date information about Playa del Carmen and the surrounding area on the Facebook page of the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar.

Mexico is More than Sensational Headlines

Finally people also need to remember that Mexico, like the US and like any other country in the world, is a complex place, and no one part of it should be seen as representing the whole. We would not condemn the entire US as dangerous because of a crime wave in one section of the country. Yet that is what happens repeatedly with regard to Mexico. Last year when 14 people were killed in 14 days in Dallas, Texas not one person suggested America was too dangerous to visit. Can you imagine the outcry in the media if a similar crime wave happened in Playa?

Most of us view other places with a different perspective than we do our own country or home. And while that may be understandable it isn’t always fair or factual. Mexico is not black and white, good or bad. It is a tapestry of different lives, cultures and experiences. It would be a shame if people continue to paint all of Mexico with one brush and deny themselves the opportunity to experience the greatness that this country has to offer.

We have lived and worked in Mexico for almost seven years, and we can say with absolute conviction that this little bit of paradise known as the Mayan Riviera is beautiful, relaxing, welcoming and above all…safe.

And on that note we will leave you with this video made by the Tourist Board of Mexico about the Riviera Maya. We think that without saying a single word it explains perfectly why we and so many others think of Mexico as someplace very special.

This is where we live…come visit us at the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar.

Read our other blog entries about safety by choosing the “Safety in Mexico” category in the right column of this page, or simply click:
Safety in Mexico Blog Entries ~ Luna Blue’s Playazone

‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar

Posted in Safety in Mexico | Tagged: , , , , | 17 Comments »

So Many Choices…Food & Drink in Playa del Carmen’s North Beach

Posted by Tony & Cheri on September 28, 2011

As many Playa del Carmen aficionados know, Playa is divided into two different worlds when it comes to accommodations. There’s the world of the small, local or boutique hotels (which are located in town) and the world of the large all-inclusive mega resorts (which are primary located out of town). Most people generally prefer one over the other.

We of course have a rather biased opinion in favor of small boutique hotels, being the owners of the Luna Blue Hotel. But even before we owned a small hotel, our tastes always ran to that sort of experience. We just find it more interesting and fulfilling than an all-inclusive resort type experience. In fact in our travels in Mexico in particular, we have always loved trying the smaller hotels and have never had an experience with one that didn’t leave us with interesting stories to tell…to us the essence of good travel.

But one of the main reasons we recommend the small “in town” hotel experience in Playa del Carmen is the food. Unless you’ve been to Playa, it’s hard to imagine the sheer number of different restaurants and bars one can experience, on foot, within a short distance. We can’t imagine someone wanting the all-inclusive experience here–eating at the same buffets day in and day out, or the same couple of restaurants all supervised by the same chef–when one can try something completely different at every single meal.

Someone sent us an email the other day asking how close we were to the nearest restaurant. The reply we gave, “about 10 steps,” made us think about just how many eating and drinking establishments there are within a short distance of the Luna Blue.

So, for fun, we decided to count them, just in case the question ever comes up again. Using Luna Blue Hotel–26th Street between 5th & 10th Avenue–as the central point, we’ve made a list of how many bars and restaurants can be found within a five block walk. We surprised even ourselves. Here’s what we found:

Restaurants and Bars
…within one block of the Luna Blue:

  • Las Cazuelas – Just across the street from the Luna Blue. Authentic Spanish tapas made by our friend Miguel and his wife. Miguel, who also makes amazing paella, will deliver tapas to your bar swing on request. 26th Street between 5th & 10th Avenue
  • Sushi Club – In our opinion, the freshest sushi in Playa del Carmen, and just next door to the Luna Blue. 26th Street between 5th & 10th Avenue
  • Isola Dolce Pasteleria – Associated with our favorite gelato place, Corsi, this pasteleria (bakery) has two other locations: one in Cancun and one in Florence, Italy. 26th Street between 5th & 10th Avenue
  • El Mero Negrillo – New Mexican/Seafood restaurant, Veracruz style, in the old La Quinta Pasion location. 26th Street between 5th & 10th Avenue
  • Il Baretto – Popular spot for Italian expats and tourits. Some say their pizza is the best in town. 26th Street between 5th & 10th Avenue
  • Hacienda La Herradura – The best arrachera in Playa del Carmen, in our opinion. Consistently good Mexican food at reasonable prices. Luna Blue guests are almost always offered a free shot of tequila after dinner. Corner of 26th Street & 10th Avenue
  • Trattoria del Centro – Small hole in the wall Italian joint on our “must try” list. Word has it that women from the “old country” cook up authentic Italian food that’s to die for. 26th Street between 10th & 15th Avenue
  • Don Tomato – Small pizza joint, by the slice & by the pie. 10th Avenue between 24th & 26th Streets
  • Il Pescatore – Italian restaurant which has been around forever. 10th Avenue between 24th & 26th Streets
  • Capriccio Latino – Another of North Playa’s many Italian restaurants. 5th Avenue between 26th & 28th Streets
  • La Fe – Popular and loud bar with bar food. Almost always crowded. 5th Avenue between 26th & 28th Streets
  • El Carnicero – Authentic Parilla Mexicana. If meat is your thing, you’ll like this place. 5th Avenue between 26th & 28th Streets
  • Kum Kum Mezcal Bar – High end fancy mezcal bar and store. 5th Avenue between 26th & 28th Streets
  • Deli Smart – Small deli and convenience store. 5th Avenue between 24th & 26th Streets
  • Cantegrill Parilla Uruguaya – The latest restaurant in a location that seems to change restaurants every six months. We haven’t tried this one yet. 5th Avenue between 24th & 26th Streets
  • Pizza Renzo – Our “go to” pizza spot in the north end. Pizza by the slice that’s great when it’s fresh and so-so when it’s not. Open late. 5th Avenue between 24th & 26th Streets
  • La Vagabunda – Popular breakfast spot which also has lunch & dinner. 5th Avenue between 24th & 26th Streets
  • Tutti Fruiti Yogurt – New frozen yogurt shop. 5th Avenue between 24th & 26th Streets
  • Pummarola – Popular pizza/Italian food spot. 24th Street between 5th & 10th Avenues.

…within two blocks of the Luna Blue:

  • Corsi Gelato Italiano – Our favorite gelato place in Playa. Their nutella gelato is to die for. Reasonable prices, to boot. 28th Street between 5th & 10th Avenue
  • Starbucks – Just like every other Starbucks. 5th Avenue between 28th & 30th Streets
  • Cenacolo – New high-end restaurant on our “we’ve been meaning to try” list. 5th Avenue between 28th & 30th Streets
  • That’s Amore- Surprisingly good pasta and pizza at reasonable prices. 5th Avenue between 28th & 30th Streets
  • Rufino Mescaleria – Bar and restaurant with traditional Mexican seafood. 5th Avenue between 28th & 30th Streets
  • Buddie’s Diner & Cantina – New restaurant in the old Babe’s location owned by some young American guys. Decent American breakfasts, burgers. 5th Avenue between 28th & 30th Streets
  • La Micheladeria5th Avenue between 28th & 30th Streets
  • Maktub Cafe – Popular Lebanese & fondue spot. 5th Avenue between 28th & 30th Streets
  • 1847 – Traditional Mexican fare. 5th Avenue between 28th & 30th Streets
  • Sushi Tlan – Reasonably good sushi for Playa. Sushi Tlan has other locations in Playa as well. 5th Avenue between 28th & 30th Streets
  • El Bistro Bites – A casual international tapas restaurant with a Mediterranean taste. Associated with La Tortuga’s popular El Bistro. 5th Avenue between 28th & 30th Streets
  • Molusko – Cocina del mar. That’s “seafood” for you gringos. 5th Avenue between 28th & 30th Streets
  • El 10 – Argentinian steak house. Reasonable prices. Very popular corner spot. 5th Avenue between 28th & 30th Streets
  • Haagen Dazs – Expensive ice cream, but yummy. 5th Avenue between 28th & 30th Streets
  • Shanghai Restaurant – One of only a handful of Chinese restaurants in Playa del Carmen. 10th Avenue between 22nd & 24th Streets
  • Ambasciata D’Italia – Excellent Italian food. Tell Bruno the manager we said “hi.” 5th Avenue between 22nd & 24th Streets
  • Las Delicias – Traditional Mexican fare. 5th Avenue between 22nd & 24th Streets
  • La Fragata – Eclectic meals with an emphasis on Mexican foods. 26th Street between 1st & 5th Avenues
  • PG’s Sandbox – Popular sports bar and restaurant with big screen TVs and live music on some nights. Some say the best shrimp tacos in town. 26th Street at 1st Avenues
  • Off the Vine – Liquor boutique and bar. 1st Avenue between 26th & 28th Street
  • Vera Lucia’s Pasteleria – Pastries and light meals. 1st Avenue between 26th & 28th Street
  • Caiman Tugurio – Small open air restaurant with Mexican dishes. 24th Street between 5th & 1st Avenues
  • Mayan Bistro – Located in the Aventura Mexicana hotel. 22nd Street between 5th & 10th Avenues
  • El Fresco Sabor Small outdoor eatery attached to hotel Riviera Caribe Maya – 10th Avenue between 28th & 30th Streets
  • Winery & Plus10th Avenue at 28th Street

…within three blocks of the Luna Blue:

  • Ah Cacao – Best chocolate and chocolate related goodies in town, bar none. 5th Avenue between 30th & 32nd Streets
  • Playa Wings & Pizza – Not only does this place have pizza but it also has hundreds of types of wings. 5th Avenue between 30th & 32nd Streets
  • La Parilla de Manolo – Used to be Asadora de Manolo which was located around the corner from the Luna Blue. Argentinian steak house. 5th Avenue between 30th & 32nd Streets
  • Yaxche Mayan Cuisine – Traditional Mayan food, served with a flair. 5th Avenue between 20th & 22nd Streets
  • Freeze – One of those frozen drink kiosks with pretty colored liquids whirling in little machines. 5th Avenue between 20th & 22nd Streets
  • Ristorante Romagna Mia – Traditional Italian food. New location. 5th Avenue between 20th & 22nd Streets
  • Texas Burger Company – The name says it all. 5th Avenue between 20th & 22nd Streets
  • Burro PlayeroBeer and tacos. 28th Street between 1st Avenue & the beach
  • La Tavola dello Squalo -Small Italian restaurant featuring carry away pizza on the way to the beach. 28th Street between 1st Avenue & the beach
  • Las Helodias – Bar near the beach with take away drinks. Specializing in cheladas. 28th Street between 1st Avenue & the beach
  • Hangover Bar – New little bar with a catchy name. 28th Street between 1st Avenue & the beach
  • Bella Vita Pizza28th Street between 1st Avenue & the beach
  • TNT Bar & Beer Shop28th Street between 1st Avenue & the beach
  • Capitan Camaron – Seafood on the way to the beach. 28th Street between 1st Avenue & the beach
  • Mamita’s Beach Club – Playa’s classic beach bar/restaurant. 28th Street at the beach
  • Kool Beach Club – Eclectic menu and bar on the sand. 28th Street at the beach
  • Reina Roja – Bar known for its many red lights and mannequins in suggestive poses. 20th Street between 5th & 10th Avenues
  • Nikkori – Japanese food. 10th Avenue at 32nd Street

…within four blocks of the Luna Blue:

  • Bar Dello Sport Bar & pizzeria located in the Banana Hotel – 5th Avenue between 32nd & 34th Streets
  • Da Gigi – Italian food. New location. 5th Avenue between 32nd & 34th Streets
  • Chez Celine Boulangerie, Patisserie, Artisanale – Pastries and sandwiches. 5th Avenue between 32nd & 34th Streets
  • Kixten – Popular bar with live music most nights. 5th Avenue between 20th Street & Constituyentes
  • Karma Bagels – Great salads & bagel sandwiches. Now open for breakfast. One of our favorite lunch spots. Big pitcher of iced tea is always refreshing. 5th Avenue between 20th Street & Constituyentes
  • Bip Bip – One of Playa’s oldest Mexican restaurants, known for its good breakfasts. 5th Avenue at Constituyentes
  • Ah Cacao – Best chocolate and chocolate related goodies in town, bar none. And with two locations within blocks of the Luna Blue, you can’t go wrong. 5th Avenue at Constituyentes
  • Los Amigos – Traditional Mexican food, very low prices, located on one of our favorite streets, outside the tourist zone but not too far. 30th Avenue at 26th Street

…within five blocks of the Luna Blue:

  • Bodeguita del Medio – Cuban food, fun restaurant and bar. Free salsa lessons two nights and week. Live music every night. 5th Avenue between 34th & 36th Streets
  • Coffee Cafe – A popular place to sip that important first cup of the morning. Plus snacks. 5th Avenue between 34th & 36th Streets
  • Winery & Plus – Wines from around the world by the glass or the bottle. 5th Avenue between 34th & 36th Streets
  • Util Pasta Factory – One of our favorite Italian spots, run by very nice people. Wonderful sauces. Eat there or take away. 25th Avenue between 30th & 32nd Streets

There you have it…74 bars & restaurants within a five block radius of the Luna Blue…75 if you count us. You could have breakfast, lunch and dinner at a different spot every single day for almost a month and never have to travel more than five blocks from one central point. And just think of the possibilities if you were to venture out further!

Now isn’t that a million times more interesting than a giant buffet or lobby bar at an all inclusive mega resort?

We think so, too.

Playa del Carmen's North Beach area

‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar

Posted in Dining in Playa, Living the Dream, Recommendations, The Hotel & Bar | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

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.

‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar

Posted in Living the Dream, The Hotel & Bar, What's New | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Safety & Crime in Playa del Carmen Mexico 2011: The Truth

Posted by Tony & Cheri on September 14, 2011

Read our most current blog entry about safety:
Safety in Playa del Carmen Mexico ~ 2012

We think it is time to again talk truthfully about safety and crime in Playa del Carmen.

The two acts of violence which took place over the last month in Playa del Carmen raised questions in many people’s minds about safety in this area. Unfortunately many of the people answering those questions have no real information and simply offer their own negative opinions about Playa. So it is time to do several things: talk about the sad events of the last month, discuss the use of the internet by ignorant people to fan anti-Mexico fears, and offer sources where truthful and factual information can be found.

Recent Acts of Violence in Playa del Carmen

In the last few weeks we have experienced two very tragic events here in Playa. First was the killing of a man from central Mexico whose business was involved with drug gangs. According to police he fled here to Playa hoping to avoid retaliation for something he did which angered the drug gangs. He was shot to death in his car near a restaurant in the north part of the city. No one else was injured, and the assassins have not been found.

The second and even more tragic incident was the murder of the Chief of the Tourist Police. This branch of the city police is charged with patrolling the tourist/resort zone. The Chief was killed while getting out of his car on Avenida Juarez, a main thoroughfare from the federal highway leading to the ferry dock. This was the second attempt on this officer’s life in the last year. No one has been arrested, and no evidence has been found to explain why this particular officer was twice targeted.

Those of us who live here in Playa have been shocked and saddened by these events. No one likes to hear of such violent acts happening in their home town. It is particularly horrible to see a young officer killed in the line of duty. The government, the local community and the expats who are guests here have all strongly condemned these crimes.

However these events touch more than the local community. The thousands of tourists who visit here each year want to know what this means for them. In truth, it has very little effect on visitors.

These were not random acts of violence involving innocent tourists. No attempt was made to target tourists or the resort area. There is no evidence that these crimes are related to or represent some sort of burgeoning crime wave. These victims were specifically chosen for reasons which we do not fully know. What we do know is that these crimes did not target, involve or touch tourists, and we know that there has been no subsequent outbreak of violence around the city. In short, these are isolated incidents that do not represent a continued threat.

Put it in Perspective

Still, despite the fact that these two acts didn’t involve tourists, some folks wonder if they are safe when visiting here. Many people have publicly spoken of their fear of coming to this part of the world and question if they shouldn’t change their vacation plans. We say: keep some perspective.

Crime–even violent crime–is a fact of life in just about every city in the world. So why do we consider one safer than the next? If it is the number of crimes, then Playa is most certainly safer than most as its crime rates are lower than many US cities.

If safety is predicated on the type of crime, again Playa still ranks as among the safest. There are no riots here. There are no mass shootings and no crimes involving groups of innocent people.

Recent crimes in the USAThe fact is that people worry about safety in Mexico because they react differently, even unfairly, to hearing about a crime in Mexico than they do about crime elsewhere. For example, when this last summer began with the Memorial Day weekend, gang violence resulted in six deaths in Chicago and eight deaths in New York City. During the same weekend three police officers and four innocent bystanders were shot in Miami Beach.

Then summer ended with the horrifying act of a man with a high powered automatic weapon slaughtering five people in an IHOP restaurant in Carson City Nevada, while over the Labor Day weekend in New York City 13 were murdered, 2 police officers were wounded and 67 were injured by gunfire in 52 separate shootings.

Despite these horrendous acts leaving dozens of people dead and scores more injured, no one on TV or the internet told people to avoid going to New York or Chicago or Nevada. No newspaper article suggested people avoid the upcoming Broadway shows in Manhattan or skip going to the Bears games because of violence. And yet two isolated acts of crime in Playa are treated by many as the collapse of all law and order in that area. People worry that a trip to the Riviera Maya will turn them into victims, when in fact they may be safer here than in their own home town.

How did we end up with such a skewed perception of Mexico? Why do we have such an unbalanced view of crime in Mexico as opposed to crime in the US?

Not long ago it may have been because Mexico was the favorite whipping boy of a news media that feeds on sensationalism. But over the last year even they have come to acknowledge that the dangers of violence seen in Central Mexico do not extend to the peaceful shores of the Caribbean. However where the media left off, the World Wide Web has taken over. We think much of this anti-Mexico hysteria is generated by the ignorant and sometimes prejudiced people one encounters on the internet.

Opinions are Not Facts: Internet Forum Misinformation

In this time of instant gratification and access, most people turn to the internet for information. The travel industry is no different. Printed guidebooks have given way to web sites, chat rooms and forums where people can exchange ideas and opinions. And that isn’t a bad thing…except when opinion is taken for fact and speculation becomes a substitution for proof.

It has been our observation over the last few weeks that on certain internet forums dedicated to discussing Playa del Carmen, the intensity has been exceeded only by a lack of factual information.

On such forums, unless properly moderated, anyone can literally post anything, offering “facts” that have no basis in reality. The intentions of such posters are unknown. Perhaps they are attempts at making the poster feel important or perhaps they are intentional acts aimed to denigrate other peoples or countries. But even if we don’t know the reason for posting fantasy as fact we do know the effect…it creates false information that misleads people looking for the truth.

How Rumors Become “Facts”

We will give you some examples: Recently on a popular forum about Playa del Carmen hosted by a website called playa.info, a thread was started about a woman’s body found in the sea near the Playa shore with a rope tied around her. There followed several days of speculation by posters (the vast majority of who do not live in Playa) over whether or not she met with foul play. It was even suggested by someone with no facts or personal knowledge that her death might be evidence that the cartel had killed her and was moving into the area! Thousands of people read these baseless speculations until the woman’s son posted that she had drowned while swimming, and local fishermen finding her floating in the sea had tied her body to a buoy so that it did not float out to deeper waters before it could be brought ashore. No murder, no gang retaliation, no cartels moving into Playa. But for the thousands who read such irresponsible comments the damage was done. A simple drowning had quickly become the work of the drug gangs, and Playa was dangerous.

In other postings on playa.info about the recent shootings, it was suggested that the cartel would be coming after tourists next, that the drug war was escalating into Playa, and that everyone–but especially those with children–should avoid Playa to keep from getting hit by stray bullets. ‘The bad guys are moving in and they are not going anywhere’ was typical of the statements. Of course no statistics, articles or even governmental warnings were offered in support of these “facts.”

Sometimes People Just Make Stuff Up

A similar situation can be found all around the internet. On TripAdvisor.com (which bills itself as the largest travel industry website in the world), a forum dedicated to Playa del Carmen dealt with the shooting of the Tourist Police Chief by having many posters assert that most Playa businesses were paying protection money to the drug cartels. It went further. One individual posted that many businesses were closing “each day” because of drug cartel pressure.

We were surprised that while living here we had missed a daily wholesale loss of businesses. When we asked the individual for some facts or statistics or even personal knowledge about this massive loss of businesses in the area, his response was that he had been “told” of two businesses that closed. His story went from daily closings of many businesses to an anecdotal story of two unnamed businesses. Never mind that his original claim had been shown to be without basis, the damage was done. Other people had already picked up on his false claim and repeated it as “fact.”

In the same vein was the suggestion on the same forum that patronizing Playa businesses was just giving money to the drug cartels, since they all paid protection money. When we said we paid no such protection money and knew no one who did, the response was that we had to say that because the cartels would punish us if we admitted our support of them publicly!!! Seriously, that was the response.

The result is that people without knowledge created a new set of “facts,” i.e. the cartel is already in Playa; it controls Playa’s businesses; it puts those it can’t control out of business, and it silences the locals with fear of punishment if they talk about it. That is some scary stuff. Except there is not a single shred of evidence to show it is true. It is a fantasy which arises from a “common knowledge” (i.e. assumption and opinion) fed by too many viewings of the Sopranos rather than actual facts. Once again, irresponsible and ignorant people are painting a false picture of Playa that too many people see and believe.

Widespread Damage

In fairness to the forums we have just mentioned, they both have rules that prohibit inflammatory and false statements. Playa.info has barred further posting on a few of their most inflammatory threads, and TripAdvisor has done the same, actually removing some of the more outrageous posts. However neither forum moved to enforce their own guidelines for several days. The prohibition of these false statements was done hesitantly, at best. Why? Internet websites such as these two make money based upon the number of visitors to those sites. They sell more advertising, more tours and more vacation rentals and use the boosted statistics to seek new advertisers. So a controversial issue like crime, even if spinning out of control on their own website, is beneficial to them. Unfortunately, it’s not beneficial to others.

Not only do such irresponsible comments mislead the public seeking actual information, but they do serious and unwarranted damage to people and businesses here in Playa.
Just a few days ago we spoke with a local business owner who said he had had $5000 US worth of cancellations in a single day, and that the people canceling specifically cited their reason as being the frightening stories about crime in Playa del Carmen they had read on the playa.info forum. And the damage is not limited to just this individual or his business. It in turn will cause damage to his employees, to their families and to the local businesses where they shop. It will also cause damage to other businesses such as restaurants, bars and tours that these visitors would have patronized had they not cancelled their trip. The casual comments and opinions of someone with no knowledge can be magnified on the internet to do real damage. That damage is not to drug dealers and criminals. That damage is to local Mexican families. We would ask everyone who posts on the internet to remember that.

For questioning these irresponsible and false statements, we and other members of Playa’s expat community have been branded by many on the internet as “cheerleaders” for Playa. It is said that because we have businesses that rely on tourists we ignore and hide the facts about dangers here. That’s not true.

What we really do is demand that dangers of traveling here or anywhere be discussed responsibly with facts. Innuendo, rumor, speculation and guesswork are not the foundation of responsible discussion. And such opinions should never be the basis of deciding whether you visit Playa or Miami or New York. When deciding where you can go to safely spend your vacation time you need facts. So the question is…where do you go to get real information…real facts…about safety in Playa del Carmen?

Sources for Factual Information

Luckily there are plenty of places where you can get both facts and some responsible opinions about safety in Mexico, starting with the governments of the United States and Canada.

The US State Department assists travelers with information about countries they may be visiting, including issues of crime and safety. When the US government feels an area may be dangerous to visit, it issues a travel warning (as now exists for areas in central Mexico). No such warning has ever been issued for Playa or the state of Quintana Roo. In fact the US government has consistently said that the Riviera Maya is NOT experiencing the drug war violence seen elsewhere. Click here for the US State Department’s web page regarding Mexico.

The International Affairs and Foreign Trade division of the government of Canada has a similar function with a similar result. While a travel warning has been issued to its citizens traveling to the central Mexico/US border area, NO warning exists for traveling to the Riviera Maya or the state of Quintana Roo. Click here for their web page regarding Mexico.

Of course many travelers want more than just bare bones ‘is there a warning or not’ before making a decision. They want an overall picture from an objective source. We suggest checking out major respectable news sources. We googled the following news sources regarding stories on Mexico safety:

The New York Times, CNN, the San Francisco Chronicle, ABC News, the Seattle Times, the Wall Street Journal, Fox News and USA Today all say the same thing: While there are parts of Mexico that are dangerous and should be avoided, the Riviera Maya is far removed from the drug wars and is a safe vacation destination.

The prospective visitor can also check with major travel writers around the country to see how they feel about safety in Playa and Mexico. An example is the respected travel author and expert Peter Greenburg, formerly of NBC News. (A note of full disclosure…we do not know Mr. Greenburg but he once gave our hotel a rave review based on the experience of one of his reporters.)

Mr. Greenburg recently made a statement about the hysteria over Mexico that goes directly to the heart of so many negative postings on the internet: “I’ll call a spade a spade here. Mexico has been seen in an almost racist way by Americans for so many years. They imagine dusty border towns, guys wearing sombreros and doing shoot ‘em ups. They see it how it was portrayed in the movies. If you couple that perception with the drug cartels or with the swine flu or with select crime reports, suddenly everybody starts running for the border.” Peter Greenburg’s web site has many articles about all aspects of the Riviera Maya, including safety.

Finally if you want to know what is happening here in Playa you may want to ask the people who live here. There are many well-written blogs by expats living in this area. Yes we are sometimes “cheerleaders” about Mexico. We live and work here because we love it here. Yet if anyone thinks we are blind to dangers or problems, they are mistaken. We are here with our children and our families. We walk the streets and go to the beaches. Does anyone think we would do that in the middle of a war zone? More than any visitors, we stay aware of the issues of safety here. If it weren’t safe for us, our families and friends we wouldn’t be here. Here are some of our favorite blogs and websites written by people who live and work here:

And there are dozens more. Of course there is our own PlayaZone, the blog you are reading now. You will also find numerous Playa based pages on Facebook, including our own. On these blogs and pages you will find the voices of people who live here. And we might be worth listening to.

A Final Note

Mexico isn’t for everyone. And those who are interested in coming here often have legitimate reasonable concerns. We neither ignore nor condemn those concerns. We only ask that people seek out responsible factual information when looking for answers to their questions.

We will end on a personal note. We have been living here in Mexico for over six years. Before that we were regular visitors to this area for another seven years. In that time we have never been the victims of a violent crime. We have never witnessed a violent crime. The worst thing that happened to us was the theft of a backpack left unattended on the beach six years ago.

We realize there is crime here, just as there was in San Francisco when we lived there. Crime is sadly a part of life everywhere. But to us, Playa del Carmen is still a safe wonderful place where the pace of life is slower and the Caribbean beckons with warm blue water. It is our home and we feel safe here. If that ever changes, our readers will be among the first to know.

Happy travels to you all. And if you find yourself in Playa del Carmen, please stop by the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar and say hello.

Follow the Luna Blue Hotel on Facebook

Posted in News & Politics, Safety in Mexico | Tagged: , , , , , , | 25 Comments »

Safety in Mexico…Canadian Alleges Rape in Playa del Carmen

Posted by Tony & Cheri on January 19, 2011

We had hoped to be blogging about the new restaurants in town, but the recent story by the Canadian Broadcasting Company about a woman who alleged rape by Playa del Carmen police has once more brought a lot of people to our blog asking questions about safety. So we thought we’d give our views.

First, we want to say that no woman’s allegation of rape should ever be treated lightly. Rape is a serious crime, and any allegation of that crime should be thoroughly investigated. It should never be assumed that a woman alleging rape is lying. But neither should it ever be assumed that she is telling the truth. We have police systems and courts in the US and Canada and yes, here in Mexico, whose purpose it is to investigate allegations of crime.

Therefore, we find it disturbing that so many people are automatically assuming this couple’s story is true and concluding, once again, that Mexico is a dangerous place to visit.

As far as the facts of the case are concerned we, like many people, have serious questions about the allegations. It appears that the couple was drunk on New Years Eve, got into a street fight, struck someone’s car and when the police were called had a confrontation with the police and resisted arrest. That seems to be without dispute. They were taken to the jail and housed separately. The woman says that she was raped by two police officers. In the meantime, her fiancee in another part of the jail admits he tried to hang himself in his cell. He says that other prisoners told him of his girlfriend’s rape and he decided his own suicide would bring attention to her situation somehow. (How other prisoners would know of this activity in another part of the jail, or even if the man spoke Spanish has not been addressed by him.) Police intervened and saved him from his self-inflicted hanging.

The couple was released the next day after paying a fine. They filed complaints both with Canadian and Mexican authorities. A physical examination of the woman showed no evidence of rape. Instead of returning home after this alleged ordeal, they continued their vacation for another 18 days. On the day before they returned to Canada, almost three weeks later, they gave an on-camera interview to the CBC in Playa del Carmen and continued to appear on CBC News once they returned home.

For us, the couple’s bizarre behavior raises questions about their truthfulness. But that is not for us or anyone else to decide. An investigation is ongoing by the authorities in Mexico.

What does concern us is the sensationalized nature of the coverage and the public reaction to it. As a result of these types of sensationalized stories–and in particular this story–some people are immediately willing to condemn Mexico and make a determination that it is dangerous to visit there. We disagree.

Even if the allegations of the woman are true (and no objective observer is able to say that they are or are not at this point), it would not reflect upon the typical tourist’s safety in this country. The sad fact is that assaults, including rapes, occur everywhere, including Canada and the US. The idea that one such allegation concerning one incident among literally millions of tourists who visit this country is proof that everyone who visits here is in danger is a ridiculous proposition founded more in bigotry than in fact, more in prejudice than in reason.

We continue to assert that our adopted home is as safe as any city in North America. We’ve lived here for six years and never been the victim of a serious crime. Is it perfect? Of course not. But then no place is. There is crime everywhere, but there is less of it here than in most places. And here, as in most places, we strongly suggest you not get so drunk that you end up in violent street brawls or resist the police when they tell you you’re under arrest. Don’t act here differently than you would act at home, and you’ll be just fine.

Read our most current blog entry about safety:
Safety in Playa del Carmen Mexico ~ 2012

“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 News & Politics, Safety in Mexico | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 21 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 »

Nibble Your Way Through Mexico…at Taste of Playa

Posted by Tony & Cheri on November 16, 2010

Sex on the BarHow would you like to eat and drink at dozens of different restaurants and bars…all in one afternoon? No, you don’t have to race around town from place to place ordering meals and beverages until you burst. Instead you can spend the day enjoying the special tasting menus offered by 40 restaurants and bars at the 2010 Taste of Playa food and drink festival.

The Taste of Playa
This year’s annual Taste of Playa culinary festival has gathered together some of the most popular and critically acclaimed eateries and bars in all the Riviera Maya. From 3-9 pm this coming Sunday, November 21, 2010 they will be offering incredible samples of some of their signature dishes and drinks to the hungry public. This year among those offering a taste of their best will be our own Luna Blue Bar!

As most regular readers of our blog know, in addition to operating one of the Mayan Rivera’s favorite hotels, we also run our own little bit of “Margaritaville”-style paradise called the Luna Blue Bar. We designed “The Blue” (as we affectionately call it) to reflect our dream of what a tropical bar should be.

The Luna Blue Hotel Bar
We have swings instead of stools around the bar, a palm thatched roof overhead and a deck overlooking our cenote/waterfall garden. We have local musicians play in the bar a couple of nights a week, and play satellite radio (Caliente Latin, Reggae and Radio Margaritaville) the rest of the time. Occasionally we will have fresh bunches of bananas and coconuts from our garden piled up for people to enjoy. And hanging from the rafters are dozens of thongs and g-strings…traded by lady visitors for a shot of tequila and the chance to leave a little of themselves behind at “The Blue.” It makes quite the sight.

Like any great tropical bar we have our own versions of some of the most popular “umbrella drinks”…like Papa T’s Margarita and the Playa Colada. We also have our own special recipes that stand out as something unique and different. We will be offering tastes of two of the most popular of those signature drinks this Sunday at Taste of Playa: The “Sarita-B-Careful” margarita and the “Sex on the Bar” cocktail.

The Sarita B Careful Margarita
When we first moved to Mexico and met our dear friend (more like a daughter) Sarah, she would entertain us with her stories of partying late into the night and dancing on the bars around town. The only problem was that after a drink or two our girl would be too tipsy to keep her balance and would invariably tumble off the bar with resulting scrapes and bruises. We were always telling her…”Sarita, be careful!”

We remembered those stories when we came up with our very first signature drink and decided to name it in honor of our sweet but clumsy friend. The Sarita B Careful is a sugar rimmed margarita on the rocks featuring pomegranate infused tequila. It is tart, with just the perfect balance of sweetness. Sarah, by the way, has retired from bar dancing, is happily married to a wonderful guy and has a beautiful new daughter. If you come to the Taste of Playa this Sunday you can taste the drink named for her.

Sex on the Bar–the cocktail
When our bartender Jorge first came up with this new drink recipe, we had some taste testing at the bar to see what people thought. Everyone raved about it, and one guest laughingly proclaimed, “This is better than sex!” With that kind of inspiration it didn’t take us long to come up with a name. The drink is as good as the name promises… a combination of sweet tropical fruit juices, hibiscus flower-infused tequila and almond-flavored liqueur. It may not be better than sex…but it’s darn close.

When we thought about how to promote this “sexy” drink, our good friend Renata came to mind. Renata is often a featured guest at our holiday parties where she appears in brightly colored bikinis to help serve drinks, hand out gifts and pose for pictures. She is always a hit with the crowd. So we asked her to help us advertise our new cocktail. The result is a series of “Sex on the Bar” posters which will be available for purchase at our Taste of Playa booth. Stop by for a taste, and then take a little “Sex on the Bar” home with you.

The 2010 Taste of Playa is a not-to-be-missed event and will be held at Parque Fundadores (5th Avenue and Juarez) between 3 pm and 9 pm on Sunday November 21. VIP pass holders will be allowed entrance at 2 pm. “Playa Pesos” will be on sale at the event for 10 pesos each and will be used to purchase “tastes” from each restaurant and bar, with most costing either 1 or 2 Playa Pesos. You will be amazed at the array of foods and drinks which will be offered for tasting. And make sure to stop by the Luna Blue Bar booth to say hi and try one of our special cocktails. See you there!

A special note: Yesterday morning there was a terrible incident here in Playa when a gas explosion at a large resort outside of town killed several people and injured several more. At this time authorities are investigating possible causes, including the build up of natural gas under the building or perhaps a faulty gas tank. Many people who love Playa are already offering condolences and prayers to those, both visitors and locals, who were victims of this event.

Sadly, some people are using this tragedy as an excuse to once again denigrate Mexico and warn people not to visit here. Such comments now circulating around the internet are simply the result of ignorance and/or bigotry. We urge you to condemn such stupid remarks and to join us in offering our prayers and best wishes to the victims and there families. All of us in Playa are greatly saddened by this tragic accident. We hope the injured recover quickly and that the families of those who died will find some peace.

Posted in Activities, Events & Happenings, The Hotel & Bar | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Jazz on the Beach, Sex on the Bar and Plenty to be Thankful For

Posted by Tony & Cheri on September 20, 2010

Summer is over and fall is here.. For some that will mean shorter days and cold weather. In fact experts are predicting the coldest autumn in years for much of the US and Canada. And for Americans like us it won’t be long now until our Thanksgiving Day and the beginning of the holiday season.

But here in the tropics autumn means sunny days, trips to the beach and margaritas instead of hot cocoa. And this year Playa del Carmen is going all out with a week long celebration in late November with some incredible events.

On November 21 the second annual Taste of Playa will gather the finest restaurants and bars in the Riviera Maya for a tasting festival. If you are thinking traditional Mexican dishes you will be surprised. World class chefs will be offering samples of spectacular foods and special tasting menus. Last year’s festival drew over forty participating restaurants and bars and thousands of visitors. It was a smashing success (see our previous blog entry), and this year will be even better.

And participating this year with many local and international favorites will be our own Luna Blue Bar! Playa’s favorite bartender Jorge Sierra will be on hand with other members of our “family” to offer samples of some of the special cocktails that have made us so popular, like the “Sarita B Careful Margarita” and the new “Sex on the Bar.” We are very pleased to be part of this year’s festivities.

And that’s just the start of the week!

On November 25-28 the 2010 Riviera Maya Jazz Festival will take place at Mamita’s Beach Club, just a five minute stroll from the Luna Blue Hotel and Bar. Each evening will present international jazz stars who will perform free on the beach only a few feet away from the beautiful Caribbean Sea. Imagine spending the day on a tropical beach sipping boat drinks only to have world class entertainers serenade you as the sun goes down!

The line-up is amazing. Among the performers will be some of Mexico’s finest jazz musicians and vocalists, like the big band sounds of Armando Manzanero, the vocal stylings of Eugenia León and many more. Included in the international line-up is one of our personal favorites, The Manhattan Transfer. It will be four nights of great music and lots of fun.

In the middle of all these festivities is the US Thanksgiving day. Of course for most Americans, Thanksgiving means turkey, dressing and cranberries. So to make visitors feel at home, many of the finer restaurants around town will offer special Thanksgiving day menus with all the traditional favorites from turkey to pumpkin pie. And if you want to watch football after turkey you will find plenty of bars with big screen TVs to bring you not only the action but a bucket of ice cold Mexican beer as well.

Thanksgiving week is the second most popular week here on the Riviera Maya (second only to Christmas/New Year). Here at the award-winning Luna Blue Hotel and Bar most of our rooms are already reserved, many by folks who have made Playa their annual Thanksgiving trip. However we still have a few rooms left, so why not join us this holiday week? You get a 10% discount with our special advance pre-payment sale, along with all the usual special treatment the Luna Blue has to offer: free use of five different beach clubs, discounts on food and drinks, free homemade muffins with coffee and tea every morning, and free “Welcome to Mexico” margaritas.

So this year, why spend your time raking leaves, cleaning gutters or fighting the crush of department store holiday sales when you can be laying on a white sand beach, swimming in a crystal clear blue ocean and sipping a boat drink while watching the waves? Now that would be something to be thankful for.

“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, Events & Happenings, Living the Dream, The Hotel & Bar, The Love of Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Paradise…for $40?!

Posted by Tony & Cheri on September 14, 2010

Summer is over and the chilly winds of autumn will be starting soon. Before you know it the hectic race to the holidays will begin. But there is still time to lie in the sun on a beautiful Caribbean beach one last time this year. And it’s now more affordable than ever before. At the Luna Blue Hotel we are having an incredible Fall Fest Sale with all our rooms on sale for only $40 US!

Yes it’s true…All rooms at the Luna Blue are now $40 for the next six weeks! For the cost of a Mexican meal in the US, you can have a night in Mexico instead.

Make a new reservation now for a minimum three night stay between September 15 and October 23 and you can have the best available room for $40 plus tax. Every room in the hotel is $40…from our private Treetop Terrace rooms to our spacious Garden View Deluxe rooms with full kitchens to our Tropical Hideaway rooms to our cozy Courtyard Nook rooms. Rooms will be assigned on a first come, first served basis, so book early for the best room and the best deal.

With the FREE use of beach clubs, the discounts on beach club drinks and meals, FREE margaritas and FREE muffins and coffee in the morning, you can’t afford to stay home.

And right now you can find some amazing deals on air fare before the prices go up for the winter season. Don’t worry about missing the cold weather. It will still be there when you get back.

Wouldn’t it be nice to start winter with a tan?

Is your fall going to look like this…
Yucky weather

Or this…
Beautiful Playa del Carmen

“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 Events & Happenings, The Hotel & Bar, The Love of Travel, What's New | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Mexico is NOT a war zone

Posted by Tony & Cheri on September 7, 2010

By now you have probably heard the news: eight people killed this week in a fire bombing of a bar in Cancun Mexico. You probably first saw the headlines of a “Bar Bombed in the Popular Resort Town of Cancun.” Of course the immediate reaction was to imagine drug terrorists throwing bombs into a crowded hotel lobby bar as tourists in bathing suits were blown to bits. However the truth turned out to be something different.

Eventually, after the initial “Mexico is a war zone” reporting, the facts began to come out: The “bombs” were not explosives but rather gasoline filled bottles used to burn the building down. The bar was not a tourist bar. In fact it was miles from the resort zone on the outskirts of the large city of Cancun (the resort zone is on a peninsula, technically an island, separated from the larger city). The bar was owned by a figure with criminal ties, and it appears the arson was in retaliation against him. The “bar” was actually a ramshackle wooden building which housed a “full service” topless bar. The unfortunate victims were employees who succumbed to smoke inhalation.

It wasn’t an attack on tourists or anywhere near the tourist zone. Yet we have been overwhelmed with comments on the internet about how the drug war is “creeping closer” to the Riviera Maya tourist zones and, “it is just a matter of time before the drug cartels start killing tourists.” Pardon our French…but that is crap.

The facts are pretty simple:

1. The drug wars in northern central Mexico are mostly about control of the drug cartel’s smuggling routes across the joint US/Mexico border. Here in Mexico’s Caribbean coast known as the Rivera Maya (the area between Cancun and Tulum, including Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos, Akumal, etc.) there is no border with the US and so the drug war violence has never really extended to this part of Mexico.

2. Yes there is crime here, just as there is crime everywhere. The murders and arson of this Cancun bar are perfect examples. However murders related to drug gang activity take place in the US in almost every state of the union. In the past 30 days the Department of Justice news clearinghouse shows gang-related murders and criminal activity in California, Missouri, New York, Illinois, Florida, Tennessee, New Jersey, Utah, Oregon…the list goes on and on. Drug gang crime is on the rise in the US, too, not just in Mexico.

3. The reality is that Cancun has a crime rate less than the entire state of Montana…and Playa del Carmen has a crime rate less than that of Cancun. In a modern world any urban area has criminal activity…but our part of the world certainly has less than most and is undeserving of the label of “dangerous.”

However the facts don’t seem to matter anymore. Without a doubt any major crime in this part of Mexico will be broadcast through the US and Canada as a proof positive that Mexico is dangerous, that the drug war has spread across this country and that you are risking your life by coming here. It isn’t true of course but it serves a purpose. It sensationalizes the news, and that helps sell newspapers and makes people turn on the TV. More importantly it fosters the fear of “others.” It tells people to be safe, stay home and distrust anybody not like “us.” And that is working. Click on any major newspaper or TV news station website that reports on Mexico. Now read the comments left by the public…hateful, racist, angry, bitter comments about a country and a people of which few of these posters have any first hand knowledge. It disgusts us.

People have every right to be concerned and to ask questions. People should investigate to ensure they really are going to be safe if they venture across the border. But people shouldn’t fall back on easy answers, fearful conjecture or racism. Mexico is being used as a media scapegoat and as an appeal to the worst attitudes of many people in the US. And that’s simply unfair to the wonderful people of this beautiful country.

We don’t know what to do about this, other than to keep on doing what we have been doing…telling the truth. The Caribbean coastline of Mexico offers no more danger than your own hometown. It is beautiful and safe. Now wouldn’t it be nice if someone would make that into a breaking news headline!

BTW, to hear about the reality and safety of life in Mexico in words much better than we could ever put together, click here for an article by the wondrous Linda Ellerbee.

Read our most current blog entry about safety:
Safety in Playa del Carmen Mexico ~ 2012

“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 News & Politics, Safety in Mexico | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 683 other followers