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.