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Adventures in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

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Posts Tagged ‘mayan riviera’

Playa del Carmen is On Sale at the Luna Blue

Posted by Tony & Cheri on August 29, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sale prices apply to new reservations only for any stay from September 1 to October 31. All other normal restrictions apply.

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

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

Posted in The Hotel & Bar, What's New | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

SCUBA Diving…More Goodies for Luna Blue Guests

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 20, 2010

Mexico Blue Dream dive center in Playa del Carmen MexicoOne of the most popular activities here in the Mayan Riviera is SCUBA diving. That’s not a surprise since just offshore is the world’s second largest continuous coral reef. With a few hours of training, visitors can be swimming among some of the most beautiful and diverse sea life in the world.

Guests of the Luna Blue Hotel who have always wanted to try SCUBA diving are now in luck. Starting today, all Luna Blue guests receive a free SCUBA pool demo with our friends at Mexico Blue Dream dive center, just a couple of blocks from the hotel and a half block from the best beach in Playa.

Mexico Blue Dream dive center in Playa del Carmen MexicoIf you’d like to give SCUBA a try, just let us know before or after your arrival and we’ll set it up for you. You’ll be able to try SCUBA in the safety of a pool with trained dive masters at no cost at all. If you find you love it, the folks at Mexico Blue Dream will be happy to talk with you about a Discover SCUBA class or even about how you can become certified. Or, if you find that snorkeling is more your preference, they can take you to some of the best snorkeling spots in the area.

If you’re already a SCUBA diver, we highly recommend Mexico Blue Dream for some of the best prices and service you’ll find in Playa del Carmen.

In the near future, we’ll be offering some attractive dive packages for our diving friends where you can save both on your hotel and diving costs. So keep in touch. 🙂

Posted in Activities, Recommendations, The Hotel & Bar, What's New | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Mexico: Safety, Health and Money

Posted by Tony & Cheri on December 28, 2009

Ahhh....the gorgeous blue water of the CaribbeanHere at the Luna Blue Hotel in Playa del Carmen, Mexico we like many in the tourist business are wondering if 2010 will see a return of visitors to the Yucatan, or whether the fears that scared many people away from this part of the Caribbean earlier this year will continue. We know for sure that some people still have questions about crime and illness in Mexico…we see it in the statistics from visits to our blog where entries written months ago about safety issues are still the most read and sought out. And we hear it from people in the US when we travel there…”You live in Mexico? Aren’t you afraid?”

No, we are not afraid to live here. We continue to love our life here and enjoy running one of the area’s most popular small hotels. And we are not afraid to recommend this part of paradise as a travel destination whether with us or at one of the other fine resorts or hotels in Playa. And so we are going to end this year by once again talking about safety in Playa Del Carmen and the Mayan Riviera.


Mexico’s government is in a battle with drug dealers. That battle is sometimes very violent, and some innocent people have been hurt and killed. But the battle being fought (and won) by the Mexican government is NOT taking place anywhere near the tourist areas of Mexico’s Mayan Riviera, the Caribbean coast which stretches from Cancun to Tulum. The violence which erupts between drug dealers and the police is primarily centered on the border of Mexico and the southwest United States. It is over this border that guns are smuggled to Mexico and drugs are smuggled to the US. The competition over these smuggling routes between drug dealers and the disruption of those routes by law enforcement has caused much of the violence which is so sensationally reported by the media.

Imagine yourself on this beach...However, the Yucatan resort coast of Mexico has not experienced this type of drug-related warfare. We always remind people that Mexico is similar in many ways to the US. It is a huge country with borders on two oceans. It is divided into many separate states with sovereign governments under a single federal structure. Its people are diverse with different racial backgrounds, economic classes and cultural histories. Like the US it is difficult to pick one part of Mexico and claim it is representative of the whole country and people. Yet often the media of the US and Canada do exactly that, portraying Mexico as a solitary existence where drug dealers and banditos rule the country. While this may sell newspapers and cause people to stay tuned to the channel, it is simply not true.

According to the US State Department, the violence brought about by the drug cartels is centered in Ciudad Juarez, which sits on the northern border of Mexico across from El Paso, Texas. The distance from Ciudad Juarez to Playa del Carmen is approximately 2300 miles. This is about three times the distance from Chicago to New York, around twice the distance from New York to Miami and about the same distance as Los Angeles to Pittsburgh. And while there are travel warnings from the State Department regarding travel in the Mexican border areas with parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Texas, there are NO TRAVEL WARNINGS for the Caribbean coast of Mexico.

We ask again as we have before on this blog: would you cancel your trip to Disneyworld in Orlando because of a crime wave in New York? Would you avoid vacationing in Los Angles because of drug problems in Pittsburgh? We think most people would say “no, of course not.” Yet those who use the drug crimes of central Mexico to say the Mayan Riviera is unsafe are doing that exact type of thing. They are painting all of Mexico with a single brush, and that is unfair and untrue.

Of course our little section of paradise has problems with crime just as every city in the world does. But as the US State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council 2009 report found, “The Yucatan Peninsula has not suffered the same level of escalating violence seen in other parts of Mexico.” And if you find safety in numbers, remember that the State Department says that over 3 million Americans (and countless more Canadians, Europeans and South Americans) visit Cancun every year. The vast, vast majority of these tourists will never suffer anything more dangerous than sunburn.

Traveling to a foreign country always involves some risk. Using common sense about how you behave, where you go and how much you drink usually lessens those risks considerably. Travel to Playa del Carmen is no different and no more dangerous than travel to any large city in the US.


The beach in Playa del Carmen, MexicoThe single most devastating blow to Mexico’s tourism in the Yucatan this year was undoubtedly the swine flu/H1N1 scare. We say “scare” because the flu itself was never a problem in this part of the world. The real problem was the hysterical reaction of the media and the internet community.

When the swine flu epidemic hit Mexico City, the Mexican government and health workers responded in the best way possible. They announced it was happening, took immediate steps to isolate it and invited in international health organizations to monitor and investigate. Mexico’s reward for such exemplary behavior was to be publicly chastised as a “Typhoid Mary” among nations.

Bureaucrats and politicians trying to look important joined forces with a sensationalizing media and an internet full of self-appointed guardians of the public health to basically call for a boycott of Mexico. By the time it became apparent that the flu was present everywhere in the world and was milder than the seasonal winter influenza with a much lower fatality rate, the damage to Mexico’s tourist industry had already been done.

However, in the end, we did learn some important things. We learned that Mexico has a modern health care system which was ready and able to meet a medical crisis. We learned that Mexico has a policy of transparency when sharing information and seeking assistance. And while the swine flu never reached epidemic proportions here in the Yucatan, we saw doctors, hospitals and government offices were on alert and ready to deal with any problem that arose.

However even with this crisis now passed, there are those who are still concerned about medical care in Mexico. To those folks, we can say that Playa has a number of excellent medical facilities including the Red Cross hospital, the ultra-modern Hospiten hospital, and numerous emergency care facilities. We can also say that we personally have found the health care here to be of the highest order. For example, Dr. Eduardo Rovirosa, who is our family doctor and is on call for guests at our hotel, has seen us through any number of illnesses over the years, and we know him to be the equivalent of any physician in the US n terms of skill, training, and dedication. We think he is typical of the medical community in Playa.

Being ill on vacation can be a scary experience, particularly when you are in a foreign country. Rest assured that competent modern care is available in Playa del Carmen should you ever need it.

Why Mexico?

Along with fears of crime and rumors about exotic illnesses, another reason people think they should avoid Mexico is the economy. The “staycation’ media blitz by the US hospitality industry has pushed the idea that it is cheaper to stay home in the US for vacations this year. We have already spoken about the safety issue…now let’s talk about money. What does your dollar buy you on vacation in Mexico?

Isn't this better than a snowbank?The peso/dollar conversion rate reached an all-time high this year when it skyrocketed to 15 to 1 against the dollar. The current conversion is still around 13 to 1. With the current conversion rate, a dollar spent at home in the US is worth only a dollar, while in Mexico it is worth a third more! And not only is the dollar worth more, but there are also deals to be had. With the drop in visitors this year many hotels, restaurants, and tours are offering discounts and deals that will carry over into 2010.

As a result of the tourist-friendly economy here, Mexico and the Mayan Riviera are ending up on more and more top ten lists for travelers concerned about cost. Budget Travel magazine and US News and World Report’s Money section are just two of the national publications recommending Mexico as a money-saving travel destination in the coming year.

Of course, it’s not just the savings that are attracting visitors. Mexico’s Caribbean coast remains one of the most beautiful places on earth. Recognizing this fact, the 2009 Travel Leaders Company’s annual survey of travel agents in the US yielded the surprising results of having four Mexico destinations in the top ten places for Americans to vacation. Cancun, Playa del Carmen, the Mayan Riviera and cruises to Mexico were all on the list.

To top off the year the prestigious Times of London named our own Playa del Carmen the number one destination for a tropical beach vacation in the entire world! It’s hard to see how a “staycation” at home buried in a snow bank is just as good as laying on the white sand of the world’s best beach. We say forget the “staycation” and go for the “playcation”…or better yet a “Playacation!”

The facts seem pretty clear…Mexico is not only safe, it is a world-class travel destination with great value for your dollar. We hope we have cleared up some misconceptions about Mexico, and have made you think for just a moment about visiting a true tropical paradise…our home, Playa del Carmen.

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

Posted in Living the Dream, News & Politics, Safety in Mexico, The Hotel & Bar, The Love of Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

Kalaka…A New ‘Must Try’ Restaurant in Playa

Posted by Tony & Cheri on June 21, 2009

Cheri at KalakaWe were looking for a new restaurant to try the other night and ended up at Kalaka. It was an instant hit with us, and it’s already become one of our “must recommend” places. We enjoyed everything about this restaurant and have already eaten there twice in the last three days.

Kalaka bills itself as serving Italian/Mexican fusion food. We were a little dubious about that description and were unimpressed when we first read the menu. The entrees offered are pretty basic, i.e., steak, fish, fajitas, pasta. Basic Playa style restaurant fare. However, it was cute and intimate with only eight tables in an open storefront setting on Calle 4 between 15th and 20th Avenues, and it got points from us for being outside the resort zone. We decided to give it a try.

As soon as we sat down, we had a cute little free appetizer delivered to the table consisting of cheese and olives in a pool of olive oil. There is an extensive wine list but unfortunately only by the bottle. Wine by the glass is limited to your basic red and white “Chateau de Sam’s Club.” There is a full bar.

The first night Cheri ordered chicken in a mushroom cream sauce. It was a large chicken breast completely covered in a thick cream sauce full of very large sliced mushrooms (no canned stuff). In our opinion, cream sauces tend to be too thick and a little bland in taste. This one was flavorful and delicious. The chicken came with rice and some steamed vegetables which had been perfectly cooked and flavored with a whole lot of butter. Tony ordered shrimp fajitas. Rather than getting the standard bowl of shrimp with some overcooked onions and pepper strips, he got a plate full of well-spiced shrimp surrounded by huge amounts of steamed vegetables. The vegetables were fresh, well-cooked and perfectly set off the shrimps. This was accompanied by homemade tortillas and some of the best guacamole in Playa. We were both extremely impressed with our meals.

The after-dinner tequilasThe next time we returned, Cheri had the shrimp brochette, which consisted of giant shrimps wrapped in bacon and grilled on skewers with various vegetables. This was covered by a light and very flavorful sauce. It was served with a baked potato and more of those delicious vegetables. Tony ordered one of the two filet mignons on the menu. It was a good sized steak grilled perfectly and covered with hollandaise and a tangy soy-based sauce. It was easily as good as any steak we’ve ever had in Playa. It was, frankly, better than the steaks we had at Chicago Don Jose’s and equal to the more expensive steaks we had at John Gray’s Place. It was served with fresh asparagus and a baked potato swimming in butter and sour cream. At the end of both meals, a small tray with two shots of tequila, lime, salt and watermelon chunks was placed on the table. It was a nice touch.

We met the owners, Sylvia and Max, who are from Milan. They were friendly and gracious and are obviously very enthusiastic about their restaurant. We really liked this place, as you can tell. The intimacy and soft lighting makes it a very romantic spot. The quality of the food makes it one of the better restaurants we have eaten at in Playa del Carmen. And because it is a couple blocks off of Fifth Avenue, the prices are not outrageous. The most expensive thing on the menu was the filet mignon Tony ordered at $225 pesos (about $17 US).

This place has style and is worth keeping around. We’re definitely going back (next time we’re ordering from the extensive pasta menu) and highly recommend that our readers give it a try when they visit Playa.

Shrimp Fajitas

Pollo con Champinones (Chicken with Mushrooms)

Inside Kalaka

And on a totally different topic…for those of you who have been worrying about the weather, the beaches, the sunshine, etc. (especially our friends, “the other Tony & Cheri”), here are some pictures we took this morning on Xpu-Ha beach. This is why we live here.

Posted in Activities, Dining in Playa, Living the Dream, Recommendations, Weather | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Playa del Carmen: Is it Safe??

Posted by Tony & Cheri on March 1, 2009

Read our most current blog entry about safety:
Safety & Crime in Playa del Carmen Mexico 2011: The Truth

The headlines are full of stories about Mexico guaranteed to make the blood run cold: murders, beheadings, drug lords and crooked cops. It’s scary stuff, and some people planning a trip down here to Mexico’s Mayan Riviera (Cancun-Playa Del Carmen-Tulum) are frightened. We have received several e-mails in the past couple of weeks and seen questions on various internet travel forums asking, “How dangerous is it”? In our opinion, the truthful answer is: not very dangerous at all.

Now some folks will read this and say, “They own a hotel down there, of course they will tell people it’s safe.” And that’s true, we do own a business, and we do want people to come here. But the people who come here aren’t just guests. They are our family and our friends…people we would never place in danger. And of course we wouldn’t stay in business long if our guests were the victims of crimes every time they came on vacation. Most importantly, we wouldn’t live here ourselves if we thought it was dangerous.

The truth is that there is a drug war going on in Mexico. Drug lords are battling the police and each other for the lucrative shipping routes by which drugs are taken into the US and guns are smuggled back. It is dangerous and sad and has become a cause for great concern in Mexico. However, this concern must be put in perspective. If you are questioning whether or not you should visit Mexico’s beautiful Caribbean, look at the facts about what is happening here.

The “drug war” of Mexico is primarily about smuggling routes which lead into the US. It is in northern central Mexico where the US and Mexico share a common border that this crime wave is currently going on. There is also an increase in crime in some large Mexican cities where organized crime is active, i.e. Mexico City. However, this criminal activity is NOT centered on the Caribbean side of Mexico.

The latest US State Department advisory warning tourists about crime specifically names those cities “near the US border,” such as the towns of Tijuana, Nogales, Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros and most especially Ciudad Juarez as being possibly dangerous. These cities are thousands of miles from the beaches of Cancun and Playa Del Carmen. The ONLY reference in the State Department’s travel advisory which mentions the Yucatan, Cancun, Playa Del Carmen or the Mayan Riviera is a reference to another State Department posting warning against drinking too much and driving mopeds.

Map of MexicoThe increase in drug-related crimes and organized criminal activity is very far from the shores of the Caribbean. For example, Ciudad Juarez, which is an area of major concern for crime, is approximately 2200 miles from Cancun. This is roughly the same distance as from San Francisco to New York City. Would you refuse to vacation in northern California because of a crime wave in New York City? Hopefully not.

There is no major crime wave or drug war in Mexico’s Mayan Riviera.

This is not to say that there is no crime in this part of Mexico. Cancun, being a major city, has had its problems with attacks on police officers and those involved in organized crime, much as many cities in the US have experienced in the past. But again it is important to realize that these incidents have NOT involved tourists or happened in the well-defined resort and hotel areas.

And of course any tourist zone anywhere in the world will have crime. Vacationers always will attract pickpockets, thieves and con men. And that is true of Mexico as well. However, here in Playa we have a special Tourist Police force designed to help with exactly those types of crimes and to assist visitors. The tourist who uses common sense, avoids drugs, sticks to well-known tourist areas and doesn’t behave foolishly (i.e. getting extremely drunk, flashing large amounts of cash, etc.) should be as safe in Playa Del Carmen as in their own home town.

We can’t guarantee that you will not be the victim of a crime on vacation whether you are here in Playa Del Carmen or on the streets of Orlando. What we can say with certainty is that the drug war crimes which have frightened so many people are not a concern or an issue for tourists in the Yucatan. And we can guarantee that thousands upon thousands of visitors are still coming here each day to enjoy our white sand beaches and swim in our blue sea without incident. Join us.
On the ferry between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, on a typical gorgeous day

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

Posted in News & Politics, Safety in Mexico, The Love of Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 56 Comments »

It’s a Great Time to Come to Mexico

Posted by Tony & Cheri on November 3, 2008

The Caribbean Sea in Tulum, MexicoDespite the economic issues around the world, right now is the best time to plan a trip to Mexico that we’ve seen in years. Why you might ask???

First off, all of the major airlines are having sales at the moment, although they don’t appear to be too well publicized. We’ve seen one-way fares from San Francisco to Cancun on American Airlines for $94 and $99 fares (each way) on USA3000 to Cancun from Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis. Other airlines are having similar sales. These are some of the best rates we’ve seen in years!!

Secondly, the rate of exchange between the US dollar and the peso is higher now than it has been in a very, very long time (as long as we can remember). Right now one US dollar equals anywhere between 11.5 and 14 pesos! That’s a HUGE increase over the “normal” rate of about 10.5 that has been in existence for several years. That means a savings of about 20% to 40% on everything in Mexico. And if you’re planning an upcoming trip and want to take advantage of these good rates (in case they fall back down again, which we’re guessing is going to happen), check with your local bank and ask if they can exchange some dollars for pesos and at what rate. Buy them now & sock them away for your next trip. You can’t lose.

Mamita's Beach Club in Playa del Carmen, MexicoThird, this is low season here in Playa. Hotel rates are very good across the board from now until right before Christmas, when the extra high holiday rates kick in for a few weeks before we settle into the high season months of January through April. November and early December are excellent times to come to this part of Mexico. The weather is not as scorching hot as the summer months, and temperatures are generally in the 80s during the day & the 70s at night (with occasional cool nights, like we’re having now, which are heavenly, in our opinion!).

And except for the busy time around the Thanksgiving holiday, it’s generally not hard to find hotel rooms at this time of year. Our own Luna Blue Hotel still has quite a bit of availability during the next week or so and then again in early to mid-December.

Even if you plan on making a trip to Playa del Carmen or the Mayan Riviera during the holiday or high season, now’s the time to make those plans. The gorgeous blue Caribbean awaits.

Posted in Recommendations, The Hotel & Bar, The Love of Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »