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Posts Tagged ‘Riviera Maya’

Getting Naked in Playa del Carmen, Again

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 13, 2014

It has been our observation over the last decade of running a small hotel in paradise that people on vacation like to let loose a little and do things they might not do at home…like parasailing, drinking too much tequila or even getting naked on the beach. That last one seems particularly popular.

According to some travel experts, clothing optional vacations–once considered only for swingers and nudists–are now the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry.

That trend is even reflected here on our own blog. For the last three years “The Naked Truth About Playa del Carmen,” about topless and nude sunbathing on the Riviera Maya, has consistently been the most popular post on our blog. It has been viewed by thousands so far and is still viewed by close to 2000 people a month. It obviously struck a chord.

Enjoying the sun

 

The Huffington Post recently ran an article entitled The Top 5 Clothing-Optional Resorts in the World, confirming that showing a little skin while on vacation is now part of the mainstream of middle class tourists.

Not surprisingly, of the five resorts listed, two of them are in the Riviera Maya. It seems our little stretch of tropical heaven is the Mecca for folks wanting to bare all on the beach.

Of course not everyone wants to spend their vacation locked away in a giant mega resort, surrounded 24/7 by naked strangers. We have found most people just would like a chance for a afternoon or two enjoying the sun, sand and sea without the restriction of swimsuits.

So here are some alternatives to spending all of your vacation and all of your hard earned money at some All Inclusive fortress simply because it has a nude beach:

Topless sunbathing and swimming is still regularly accepted throughout most of the Riviera Maya beaches, even in the newer upscale clubs in central and northern Playa. Along the coast, La Playa Beach Club in Xpu-Ha and El Paraiso in Tulum still draw topless (and in Tulum, sometimes nude) sun worshippers. Luna Blue pool.  Photograph by Ken Bartle In addition, at least one clothing optional resort, Hidden Beach Resort in Tulum, offers day passes to non-hotel guests. This way you can experience the intimacy and charm of a small hotel in the center of town and still have the opportunity for that day in the sun getting an all over tan.

Hidden Beach allows for complete nudity in pools, on the beach and in its restaurants and bars. A day pass for 8 hours costs $100 USD per person, and only couples are permitted. However, guests staying at the Luna Blue Hotel receive a 10% discount on the day pass. The pass provides for all you can eat and drink in a nude atmosphere for the day.

Some smaller adult-only hotels also may have policies concerning clothing optional swimming or sunbathing. Here at the Luna Blue, guests may be topless if they wish in and around the swimming pool.

And finally, despite the growth and development of Mexico’s Caribbean coast, there are still some undeveloped beaches where you can swim in the all together. No, we won’t tell you where they are here (we would like to keep them a secret as long as possible) but if you are a guest at the Luna Blue, we will draw you a map to these beaches. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone else though. Naked on the beach in the Riviera Maya If you are going to head for the beach for some au natural fun, the general rules we set forth in our previous blog are unchanged…

  1. Topless sunbathing and swimming is still regularly accepted throughout most of the Riviera Maya beaches, even in the newer upscale clubs in central Playa. However, it is still the minority of people who do it.
  2. Complete nudity is NOT tolerated on most of the Riviera Maya. The exceptions are deserted beaches where there are no beach clubs, some areas just inside the Sian Ka’an preserve, sections of the beach in Tulum (particularly the north end near El Parasiso beach club and the Hidden Beach Resort.
  3. Going bare is NOT a practice of most local Mexicans (although young tourists from Mexico City seem to have a different view). Limit your exposure to designated clothing optional hotels, tourist area beaches or completely deserted ones away from where local families may gather.
  4. USE SUNSCREEN!

As always, enjoy your time in paradise no matter what you wear or don’t wear.

Even legendary troubador Barefoot Skinny likes to go topless when playing at the Luna Blue Bar
Legendary troubadour Barefoot Skinny
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Posted in Activities, Recommendations, The Hotel & Bar, The Love of Travel, What's New | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.

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

The Naked Truth About Playa del Carmen

Posted by Tony & Cheri on August 20, 2011

Playa del CarmenAs owners of the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar, we read a lot of internet chatter about Playa del Carmen. After all, we live and work here and want to keep up with what people are thinking about Playa. We also take note of people’s questions about traveling here. Over the years, we have seen many repeat questions on a few certain topics that never seem to go away or get fully answered.

Many people ask about the weather: “My family will be there the second week of August of next year. Will it rain during our vacation?” Others ask about safety: “My brother-in-law’s friend’s boss’ cousin says he heard that people were being machine gunned down in the Walmart. Should I cancel my trip?” But probably our favorite repeat question is…“Are there any nude or topless beaches in Playa del Carmen?”

Some folks ask about nude or topless beaches because they want to search them out to do a little au natural sunbathing. Others want to avoid them, worrying their husbands or sons will be scarred for life by exposure to all that flesh. And some are just…curious. So here is the truth about what you can and can’t wear on the beaches of Playa del Carmen (and some other select spots).

The Law

Many people say that Mexico prohibits all public nudity. And they are right. Mexico federal law prohibits lewd or immoral behavior, including nudity, on public federal lands. All beaches in Mexico including those in the Riviera Maya (Cancun to Tulum) are federal land. However, as in most cases of the law, there are few absolutes and a lot of gray areas about this.

Mexico’s federal law on public nudity is enforced by local authorities who have the discretion to decide what constitutes lewd behavior. In Playa del Carmen the local authorities have never enforced the law with regard to topless sunbathing. They do not consider it “lewd conduct.” On Playa’s main resort beach (between Juarez and Constituyentes) and in Playa’s north beach (Playa Norte), topless sunbathing is commonplace and will not draw the attention of any cops, except for perhaps an admiring glance. Topless sunbathing and swimming is also accepted on the beaches in Xpu-ha and in Tulum.

The Tradition

Xpu-Ha BeachSo why does Playa allow women to go topless on the beach when other places in Mexico don’t? Primarily it is a tradition that predates Playa’s city government and status as a resort town.

A couple of decades ago Playa del Carmen was a sleepy little beach town know mostly as a place to catch the ferry to Cozumel. The world and the travel industry paid little attention to it. However, Playa was exactly the unspoiled tropical paradise many people were looking for.

European travelers, mostly from Italy, began to visit here. Some never left, and a large Italian expat community began to develop. The Italians brought many traditions to Mexico with them including great pasta and “European style” sunbathing. In other words…topless.

Along with the Italian expats, Playa became a destination for American vagabond travelers, i.e. “hippies,” whose lifestyle was based on being free–which included getting naked on the beach.

In the beginning, there was no one who cared. The town was too small and remote for anyone to worry about boobs on the beach. By the time the town grew and was discovered as a destination by the travel industry, the existence of topless beaches had become accepted by the local authorities.

This is not to say everyone does it. Only a relatively small percentage of visitors to our beaches go topless, but it is still a significant number of women who feel at ease in just a swimsuit bottom on the beach, in the water and occasionally at the beach bars.

The All Over Tan

While being topless is acceptable on Playa’s beaches, complete nudity is not.
In all the years we have been coming to and living in Playa, we have never seen nudity on the town’s main beaches. We suspect that if someone was nude on one of those beaches, with the first complaint from onlookers the police would step in.

There was a nude beach in Playa some 10 or 12 years ago. Coco Beach, north of town, was commonly used by those seeking to avoid tan lines. Back then the town ended at Constituyentes, and access to this beach was limited, so no one raised a fuss. However, the famous nude beach disappeared when it was washed away during a particularly bad storm season and then rebuilt as condos and resorts as Playa’s city limits expanded north. As of now, there is no place in Playa’s city limits where public nude sunbathing is allowed.

TulumHowever Tulum has for many years had a reputation for allowing total nudity. A few beach hotel/resorts in Tulum are clothing optional. In addition, while there is no nude beach per se, we have observed over the years that the smaller beach clubs seem to have no objection to nude guests. We have seen a fair number of nude sunbathers on the beaches of Tulum and once observed an entire soccer team from England get off their bus and completely disrobe in the parking lot before running buck naked down to the water! However Tulum has recently grown large enough to create its own local government which by some accounts is very strict about beach club rules. It might be best to ask the beach club employees if it is okay before losing those swimsuits.

Beach Etiquette: What do You Say to a Naked Lady?

Women who sunbathe or swim topless or nude are doing so for their own enjoyment, not yours.
It is not an invitation to stare at them, talk to them, photograph them without permission or comment about them. They may not meet someone’s particular standard of beauty or age…and neither should they have to. The same goes for men who may choose a swimsuit to their liking but not yours. We have seen all ages, shapes and sizes in all stages of undress on the beaches and we have never felt offended.

If someone’s attire or lack of attire is bothering you, simply move to another part of the beach. There is no beach so small in the Riviera Maya that you need sit near someone or something that makes you uncomfortable. We regularly relocate when someone near us is smoking heavily.

If you do want to get topless or naked on a beach, remember that Mexico is still a conservative Catholic country where many women swim in t-shirts and shorts rather than a skimpy bathing suit. Please limit your expressions of personal freedom to the resort zone beaches which allow such behavior. Avoid the smaller out of the way beaches where local families gather. Tourists are guests in this country and should conduct themselves in away that does not upset the locals.

The Final Word

A word of warning: If you do find yourself on one of the Riviera Maya’s tropical seashores, and in the heat of the moment you are tempted to expose a little more skin than you normally do back home, we would strongly suggest one little word to make the experience more enjoyable… SUNBLOCK! And lots of it.

Have fun on our beautiful beaches no matter what you do or do not wear.

For our most recent blog entry on this top, check out Getting Naked in Playa del Carmen, Again.

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Posted in Living the Dream, The Love of Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 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 »

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 »

Recommended Reading: A Great Guidebook

Posted by Tony & Cheri on January 24, 2009

Click here to see 'Playa del Carmen, Tulum and the Riviera Maya by Joshua Eden Hinsdale' on Amazon.comWhen we first bought the hotel, we didn’t know a thing about marketing. We naively thought it was just a case of writing or calling up companies that published guidebooks and telling them we were open for business. Haha! We quickly found out that’s not the way it works.

Getting mentioned in a guidebook can be difficult. If you’re not already a known entity (which we weren’t) you might not be mentioned because there’s only so much space in a book and the writers already have their favorites. And, even if the book is updated, you may have to get on a waiting list for a couple of years to be mentioned.

We also discovered that reviews of hotels in the travel writing industry sometimes are the result of the hotel’s “generosity” to the reviewer. Many large hotels finance press junkets and pay for rooms, airfare, food and other perks for travel writers. We had two problems with that. First it seemed kinda phony that you could buy a good review in a travel book and secondly…we couldn’t afford it. So we resigned ourselves to the fact that we wouldn’t get much mention in the world of guidebook publishing.

However, in the early days of the Luna Blue Hotel we had a young travel writer stop by to look at our hotel. Joshua Eden Hinsdale was working on a guidebook for the Riviera Maya with an emphasis on Playa del Carmen. Josh had lived in the area for many years, was active in the travel industry, and knew his way around the Mayan Riviera. He was enthusiastic about spreading the word that Playa was the hottest place to travel and wanted his guidebook to be as up to date and detailed as it could be. He wanted visitors to have the same insider information that locals have. Best of all, he wasn’t looking for a handout or compensation; he just wanted to write the best guidebook possible.

We spent a lovely afternoon talking with Josh. Several months later a guest in the hotel showed us a copy of his newly printed book, “Playa del Carmen, Tulum and the Riviera Maya: A Complete Guide” published as part of the Great Destinations guidebook series. In our opinion, it was everything Josh had said it would be. We were especially happy that he had done a very complimentary review of the Luna Blue Hotel. It was our first guidebook mention! We even stole one of his quotes from the review to use on our website: “The Luna Blue Hotel…has a lost in time quality that’s not easy to find in a modern resort destination.”

Over the next couple of years we couldn’t count the number of people who have shown up at our front desk with his book in hand. It obviously has been a real help for visitors to Playa del Carmen.

Then, last year, Josh stopped by again. He explained he was updating his guidebook and wanted to see what was new with the hotel and get our feedback on changes, improvements and additions to Playa del Carmen in general. He also asked if he could interview us for a sidebar inclusion in the book. Oh yeah, twist our arms! We spent a pleasant couple of hours with Josh sitting in the garden next to the waterfall and talking about one of our favorite subjects, Playa del Carmen.

Fast forward to today. This morning some guests in the hotel came to the front desk with a copy of the new 2nd Edition of Joshua’s guidebook which they had brought for us. (We have the nicest guests!!) We just finished leafing through it and have to say it’s even better than the first one. The information is detailed in a way that most guidebooks aren’t. It offers specifics about where to go, what to do, how to get there and how much to pay.

But what makes this book really special and different is the insider commentary about things in Playa del Carmen that visitors often don’t see or hear about. Joshua talks about our famous fire department, the Bomberos, and tells people how they can help support it. He offers a long list of items that are needed by the local Playa del Carmen Children and Family Services Department with information about where to bring such items. He also peppers the book with entertaining commentaries such as the “Top 10 Songs to Load on your iPod” before coming to Playa (Margaritaville tops the list of course); suggestions for walking tours and stories about Mayan history and myth. He even does a review of local “adult” clubs with pricing information! There are plenty of maps and lots of photos. He also tells the reader about other sources of local information, including the website www.intheroo.com which he notes is “favored by many locals.” (We might have put in a good word. 😉 )

Of course our favorite pages are 142, 143 and 192. It’s here you can find favorable reviews of the Luna Blue Hotel & Garden, the Luna Blue Bar (which he recommends) and almost a full page story about us which he called “Living the Dream.” It was pretty cool to see that. Now we’re just waiting for someone to purchase the movie rights. 🙂 🙂

So if you’re going to be coming to Playa del Carmen soon or just want a book to take you there on a cold South Dakota winter’s night (that’s for you, Tim & Ruth), pick up a copy or order it from Amazon.com and make the mailman trudge thru the snow with your copy. We think you’ll like it.

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Here’s an excerpt from the book that shows Joshua’s spot on attitude about traveling south of the border:

It May be Paradise, but it’s Still the Jungle

Don’t forget, even though Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya are exotic and wonderful beach vacation destinations, they are still relatively undeveloped and are in close proximity to the jungle, and you should set your expectations accordingly. You should also remember that there are hassles and frustrations inherent to any travel situation. You’re on vacation to have fun and celebrate life, so try not to let little challenges you encounter bother you.

If a chicken walks into your beachfront restaurant and pecks at your crumbs, don’t get mad–take a picture. If a gecko streaks across the wall of your hotel room, don’t call the front desk–give him a name and consider him a pet. If your shower runs out of hot water, don’t complain to the concierge–it’s good for your sunburn. And most importantly, if you find yourself at odds with your travel partner, it’s time to hit the nearest bar, order a margarita, feel the warm breeze, and remember why you came here in the first place.

Posted in Living the Dream, Recommendations, The Hotel & Bar, The Love of Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Bomberos Catamaya Sunset Cruise 2008

Posted by Tony & Cheri on August 9, 2008

This event has been cancelled. Thank you to all the people who donated money. You credit cards will not be charged. And thank you very much to Catamaya Cruises for their very generous offer. We still highly recommend Catamaya as one of the finest tours in the area. Thanks also to Sarah Bursey of Graphicos Design for designing the t-shirt.

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On August 22, Mexico will celebrate Dia de los Bomberos, or Firemen’s Day. Here in Playa there is extra reason to celebrate as our local Bomberos will soon be opening three new fire stations here in town. There will be a large gathering at the main firehouse with an all day open house and festivities, including the presention of the firefighter team and individual awards given by the State of Quintana Roo, and won (of course) by our own Bomberos de la Riviera Maya. If you have a chance, stop by the fire station that day to meet and say thanks to some of the people who keep all of us is Playa Del Carmen–locals and visitors alike–safe.

One of the things that make our Bomberos very special is that they exist on contributions from a grateful public. Locals and visitors both benefit from the hard and often dangerous work of the Bomberos and have generously contributed donations allowing the Bomberos to buy the expensive equipment needed to protect the community. Those needs are ongoing, and on behalf of the Bomberos, we are asking for your help in protecting the little slice of paradise we all love, Playa Del Carmen.

So…..Catamaya Cruises and the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar are proud to announce:

The Bomberos Catamaya Sunset Cruise 2008

On Sunday August 24th Catamaya Cruises will offer a special Sunset Cruise with 100% of all ticket sales going to the Bomberos. All costs of the trip are being paid for by the generous folks at Catamaya!! Luna Blue will be coordinating the event & donating commemorative t-shirts.
The Catamaya Cataman

The cruise starts at 3:30 pm and continues until 7:30 pm. We will sail the beautiful Caribbean Sea, snorkel, swim and grill hamburgers on the open deck (with appropriate side dishes and munchies) as we watch the sunset. There will also be an open bar. And you will get a chance to talk with some of the firefighters themselves who will also be along to share their stories, including Bomberos President Brian Borjesson.

Cost is $80.00 USD per person including transportation to and from Playa Del Carmen (the Catamaya leaves from Puerto Aventuras). Tickets must be purchased in advance. Simply go to the Luna Blue website reservation page and authorize your credit card payment. In the “notes” space just type “Bomberos Cruise.”  You will receive confirmation of your ticket purchase via e-mail within a few days.  Or, if you live in Playa or are visiting, stop by the Luna Blue Hotel any day between 7:30 am and 10:00 pm and pay in person.

Last year, donations helped purchase two sets of the “Jaws of Life” which are used to extract victims from badly mangled vehicle wrecks. In the past 12 months, the Bomberos saved the lives of more than 20 people using the Jaws of Life by enabling them to free the victims from the wreckage of their cars. Our friends Mayte and Alex are among those who were saved with this vital equipment. Donations from the Bomberos Catamaya Sunset Cruise 2008 will help purchase a badly needed additional set of the Jaws of Life so even more lives can be saved.

Bomberos of the Riviera Maya fire truckThis is a not-to-be-missed event…a great time sailing on the sea and a chance to help some real heroes do their job. And if you can’t be here, you can still be a “Bomberos Buddy” by making a donation. Every person who donates $25.00 US or more (or buys a ticket for the cruise) will receive a one of a kind “Bomberos Sunset Cruise 2008/Bomberos Buddy” t-shirt . These donations will also be used to purchase tickets for deserving people who might not otherwise get a chance to join us…other local heroes who do tremendous work in helping make Playa del Carmen the special place that it is. And the t-shirts (which we’re hoping to have designed by the lovely SarahB) will promise to be collector’s items!

Don’t wait. Space is limited to 80 passengers… Send your ticket order or contribution today so you too can proudly say, “I’m a Bomberos Buddy!”

For more info on our Bomberos here is an article which appears in the August 2008 Playa Del Carmen Tourist Information Magazine written by Editor Scott Novak and re-printed here with permission:

Dia de bomberos, as it is known here, is recognized throughout the world with the exception of the U.S. and Canada. It is particularly big in Latin America, where the populace is very aware that the fire protection they count on is largely a volunteer effort.Playa del Carmen, in the heart of the Riviera Maya, is fortunate to have a well equipped, professional fire department. Its history is short because Playa was just a small village not that long ago. A volunteer “bucket brigade” was formed in 1995 after a visiting tourist lost his R.V. to an electrical fire. By 1998 there was a full-time force of eight men, without a lot of equipment, but with a firehouse.

The year 2000 saw the arrival of Playa’s first fire truck, a 1964 Seagraves donated by sister city Glendale, Colorado. That’s the white fire truck we now see on the roof of the fire station as a remembrance. That truck, and the men who operated it, saved many lives. That’s why it sits there.

Now, in 2008 Playa’s Fire Dept is recognized as the best, most well organized, and effective team in the state. Fire fighters from Cancun, Cozumel, Chetumal, and indeed all over the country come to Playa every year for training at the annual Academy in April. The force, comprising about 50, now has around 20 vehicles including 13 trucks, pumpers, tankers, 3 ambulances, and a 75 foot ladder truck. They’ve also just acquired an all-weather rescue boat.

The department currently responds to about 700 calls per year, and not just for fires. The entire force is trained in urban rescue techniques, first aid, and CPR. Their 3 victim ambulances are equipped with the “Jaws of Life” so they can extricate accident victims much faster than the private ambulances. Dangerous wild animals, poisonous snakes, hornets nests; the call goes to the fire dept. They maintain extensive coordination with Civil Protection and other emergency service workers, particularly during hurricane season.

The dedicated firemen who make up the force do it to help their community, not for money, of which they don’t receive much. Rather their own fundraising efforts bring in resrouces for much needed equipment. You can help out by buying a tee shirt at www.bomberosrivieramaya.com.

Posted in Activities, Events & Happenings, Friends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »