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Adventures in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

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You haven’t been to Playa del Carmen until…

Posted by Tony & Cheri on February 1, 2010

It seems to us that few visitors to Playa del Carmen come for only one trip. Playa is a special place and its uniqueness and beauty can be very addictive. People return year after year and never seem to run out of things to do or see. Part of the reason people return is that Playa is always changing with new events, restaurants, shops and clubs.

At the same time there are some places and activities that have stood the test of time and have become “Playa classics.” In our mind they are part of what makes Playa del Carmen so special…and if you haven’t seen or done a good part of them…you haven’t yet seen the real Playa. So here is our “must see and must do” list for your next trip back to paradise.

In our opinion, you haven’t really been to Playa until you…

1. Skip the mega-resort out on the highway and stay in town. At night, turn off the air conditioner, and listen to the call of geckos as you fall sleep beneath a whirling ceiling fan.

2. Walk along the empty shore of the Caribbean early in the morning and watch flocks of pelicans diving into the water for breakfast.

3. Get coffee and a pastry at Java Joe’s. Sit and listen to the chatter of old time locals talk about how Playa used to be.

4. Snorkel in Akumal Bay where you might come upon a sea turtle or two casually munching the sea grass on the sandy bottom.

5. Sit in the evening at a beach side bar, pulling your chair down to the water’s edge and watch the lights on Cozumel island sparkle against the night sky. Look for cruise ship lights in the distant ocean.

6. See fire dancers whirl flaming torches as they perform amazing acrobatic movements in the sand.

7. Guys: Go fishing for marlin while smoking a real Cuban cigar. Out on the ocean any man can be Hemingway for the afternoon.

8. Gals: go topless on the beach. It doesn’t matter your age or shape. This is the Caribbean where every woman can experience the freedom of the sensuous tropics…and no one back home will ever know.

9. Explore the locals’ Playa del Carmen. Walk along Juarez Street or 30th Avenue. Pick a café or restaurant where you see no tourists and sit yourself down. Better yet, stand in line at a taco cart and try something new.

10. Volunteer to help at the Saturday Dog Wash at the Peanut Pet Shelter. Hang with the local ex-pats and fall in love with the puppies. If an adorable stray falls in love with you, take him home with you for a permanent reminder of this special place.

11. Bar crawl the beach, starting on the north end with Mamita’s and then head south hitting beach bars along the way. End at Bad Boys late in the afternoon on a Thursday or Saturday when you can dance in the sand or on the bar to the music of the Nasty Bastards.

12. Swim in a cenote with local kids jumping in from the overhanging rocks.

13. Find the best tacos al pastor (marinated barbequed pork tacos). Start at Carboncitos and then head over to El Fogon or to any number of other local eateries. Try to pick your favorite…it may take several tastings. And if you get tired of tacos, go to H.C. de Monterrey for some arrachera.

14. Meet Lenny the Wonder Dog. Toss the ball so he can bring it back to you. Repeat…all night long.

15. Get a tattoo at Scream Ink. Only for the truly hardcore Playaense.

16. Rent a car and drive to Cobá instead of flying by small villages along the way in a giant tour bus. When you get to Cobá climb the pyramid and gaze on the same jungle that Mayan priests looked out over thousands of years ago.

17. Stroll along Fifth Avenue at night listening for the best come on line from store owners (“Hey Buddy, now it’s my turn to rip you off.”).

18. Speak a little Spanish to someone…even if it is just “Buenos Dias” or “Gracias” or “Uno Mas.”

19. Drink some really, really good tequila…and sip it, don’t slam it.

20. And last but not least…sit on a swing at the Luna Blue Bar, drinking a Sarita B Careful margarita and listening to Mike Grabow sing his original song about discovering Playa, “Where I Want to Be.” Then say to yourself, “This is paradise.”

Of course this is just our own subjective checklist. Feel free to make your own…and we would love to hear any suggestions you may have.

By the way, it was five years ago today, Feb 1, 2005, when we sat in the lawyer’s office in Cancun and signed the final papers making us owners of a little hotel in Playa Del Carmen. We had been coming here to this lovely part of the Caribbean for a number of years and had finally decided to make it our home. So here we are five years later still trying our best. For all who have helped and encouraged us along the way you have our sincere thanks.

23 Responses to “You haven’t been to Playa del Carmen until…”

  1. rick said

    I love that list.

    I especially like #10 and #14!

  2. Congratulations Tony and Cheri! You have been such a welcome addition to the Playa community, always looking for ways to contribute and give back. This is a beautiful blog entry and I am proud to say that, save the cigars, I have checked each of these off my list over the past 5+ years. Our town is better for having you both in it and Rob and I are proud to call you friends. XXXOOO

  3. Bren Orzen said

    What a wonderful blog….you guys are one of the reasons we keep returning to Playa each and every year. We still have a few things on our bucket list to do each year just gets better and better. Congratulation…5 years already where has the time gone. It is an honor for us to call you friend.

  4. Banzoomba said

    I’m doing pretty good only a few items left.

  5. Queencityfan said

    Great list, I’m at 14 items and counting, wonder what kind of tattoo would look good on my other shoulder? Congrats on your 5 years, I wish you both many more happy and successful ones.

  6. claudiadeplaya said

    I love this, the part about Lenny, the PPS, the gekos, you truly know and appreciate playa thank you for this great reminder of why I love my home so much!!!!

  7. Adam said

    Wow, can’t believe it has already been 5 years!!!
    Time flies when you are having fun, keep it up!

  8. Trish said

    Congratulations on 5 years!! I love #10! 🙂

  9. nancy said

    Wonderful list. Done most of it. We’ve been coming to Playa since 2000 and have only missed one year. We discovered the Luna Blue Bar last year and will make it a regular stop during our vacation later this month. What a great place! Great website too. Keeps me Playa-ized when I’m not there.

  10. Sarah said

    I love your list! It makes me miss you guys and living there! I woul add that everyone needs to attend a carnival and try a marquesita! I love those! Xoxo, Sarah

  11. Donna said

    I love the list and can’t wait to do all of them all over again!


  12. Donny said

    What a great list! I’ll be swingin’ at the Blue real soon!

  13. Kim P said

    Happpy 5th Anniversary Luna Blue! See you soon!

  14. Lei said

    Love the list. Miss the Playa so much and can’t wait to go back again!

  15. Rebecca Hecker said

    Happy to say I’ve done most of these things – many of them based on your recommendations!! Love the Luna Blue and will miss it on our next trip down in March. We WILL be back to the LB, though!

  16. Erik said

    Great list and congratulations on 5 years Tony and Cheri and the Luna Blue!!!

  17. Michelle said

    I’ve done a few, but have quite a few more to do…..give me time…all I need is reservations on a yearly basis at the best hotel in Playa.
    Happy Anniversary and a job well done for having such a great hotel and for being such attentive and wonderful owners.

  18. Mary & Joel said

    We are going to southern Florida this year to re-connect with cousins, but part of us wishes we were returning to the Riviera Maya & hanging out in Playa. Perhaps in the fall we’ll finally stay at the Luna Blue…………. we really enjoy getting your newsletter …… it always makes us wistful for a margarita on the playa …….. gracias!

  19. Rodney said

    Well, after a stay at the IB Tucan….5+ years ago….Playa is in my blood…and I try to get a transfusion, every year, if only for a day….and I got a great re-fill yesterday, finally meeting Cheri….at the Luna Blue… Sunday morning….gotta plan a week long stay there soon….thanks for the tour…gotta know some espanol……amigo…!

  20. sharon and bruce said

    What a great list! Whenever someone we know is going to Playa I will send them this, you have it all covered!

  21. Scott said

    Proud to say we accomplished most of the things on that list with only one trip (well, tecnically two for me).

    Most of it thanks to the info found on this blog and the Playa forums.

  22. beverly said

    oh, i love your list. ive been to playa MANY times, but weve always stayed at the megas resorts, my bad. next time we want to try it your way, but we need a recommend for a hotel that accepts kiddos, as we always travel with our young son, who is now 8 yrs old. thanks!

  23. 21) Pick up your folded and wrapped laundry from a local lavandería and marvel at how good it smells. Your whole suitcase for $6.00.
    22) Get an old school style hair cut while your barber smokes and is fully enthralled in his Telenovela
    23) Watch a soccer game in a local bar
    24) Go to Wal Mart or Mega…purchase your own food and cook it in your room. Try pulling this off at an AI 😉

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