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Posts Tagged ‘xpu-ha’

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.

‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar

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


Visit our new Facebook page and become a fan of Luna Blue Hotel & Bar!

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

Xpu-Ha Beach…a Gem Close to Playa

Posted by Tony & Cheri on August 6, 2008

Xpu-Ha beachThere are many great stretches of beach in the Riviera Maya. North Beach in Playa Del Carmen with Mamita’s and Kool Beach Clubs is our favorite “every day” beach. It’s beautiful and close to our house, and even closer to the hotel, so a quick walk down for a swim is pretty easy. We also love Tulum’s beaches. They are about an hour from the house, so when we get a day off, it’s one of our regular destinations.

However, lately we have been spending more and more time at a not-so-well-known beach about 20 minutes down the road called Xpu-Ha. Xpu-Ha was a popular beach for awhile. It was wild, undeveloped, and had a cute little restaurant, the Café del Mar. Unfortunately awhile back the Café del Mar closed, and beach access became a little more restricted. However, there still are public roads to Xpu-Ha, still some wild undeveloped stretches of beach, and three beach clubs of varying style and cost.

Our favorite of these is La Playa Beach Club. The entrance is on the ocean side of 307, just south of the Catalonia resort. There’s a big sign saying “La Playa” at the entrance of a dubious looking dirt road. On weekends, there’s a rope across the road. Nearby is a house from which someone will come to lower the rope and let you in for the cost of $25 pesos per person. As the old joke goes: they don’t own the beach; they don’t own the road, but they own the rope. This money is refunded to you when you leave if you spend $100 pesos or more (approximately $8) while at the beach club. To collect your refund, just bring your receipt and wristbands back to the “gatekeeper” when you leave.

Xpu-Ha beachOnce inside the entrance, you’ll find about a half mile of curvy, pothole-filled dirt road. Drive slowly as you go over the bumps. The road will end at the beach. Pull your car into the sand parking lot and take in the sweeping view. Walk through the restaurant out onto the deck of the beach club and down onto one of the most gorgeous tropical beaches you will find.

La Playa is a typical beach club. They have lounge chairs and palapa umbrellas, the use of which is free with your $25 peso admission price. The several hammocks hanging on the beach are also available for free use. If you like fancier beach lounging, there are sun beds and very cool rocking loungers available for an additional fee. The restaurant food is…okay and typical of beach fare. The burgers ain’t bad. Cheri says the pina coladas are big and yummy. You can eat and drink on the restaurant deck overlooking the ocean or on your chair on the sand. We’ve always found the service to be friendly and reasonably fast (by Mexico standards). Here you can also do a bit of shopping, with a large shady shack selling local handicrafts.

There are lots of activities—sailing, snorkeling, jet skiing, windsurfing, kayaking, etc. if that is your interest. For your scuba & snorkeling needs, check out Bahia Divers, just 20 yards from La Playa Beach Club. We tend to lie in the sand and float in the water.

If you stroll along the beach south of La Playa, you’ll hit a very funky little beach area called Bonanza RV Park. There is space for camping, some undeveloped beach, a few lean-tos with some locals selling handicrafts, and a funky but very friendly feel. If you want to lay on the sand undisturbed, this is the place, but bring your own towel and shade. There are no chairs or umbrellas.

Walking even further south, what you’ll find is a long stretch of undeveloped Caribbean beach. And that’s not bad.

Here’s a video of utter bliss: no music, no noise, no people. Just the sounds of the waves and the wind.

If you head north on the beach from La Playa, again you’ll find an area pretty much undeveloped. As you stroll, keep an eye open for a small wooden shack with brightly colored hammocks and string chairs hanging about. This is the store of Juan and Juan, father and son, who make and sell beautiful hammocks. We have a number of them in the hotel.

Continuing your stroll, you’ll eventually hit the Hacienda Vista Real (HVR) Beach Club. It’s normally for the exclusive use of that all-inclusive resort, but in low season, they tend to welcome walk-up guests and rent chairs for a nominal fee. It’s a small beach club with an even smaller restaurant. When we were there, the quiet is what attracted us. No pounding music, no DJs. Just the sound of the surf. Ah….heaven.

This summer, life has not been exactly low key for us. Opening a bar, dealing with some employee matters, and enlarging the house—with all the construction noise, dirt and hassles that go along with it—have made paradise a little less tranquil than usual. Getting down to Xpu-Ha on occasion has allowed us to remember some of the reasons we moved to Mexico in the first place. It forces us to slow down and get in touch with nature, each other and ourselves. Every time we float in that beautiful water, we always make a vow that we are going to do this more often.

Here are some more pictures of a day at Xpu-Ha beach:

Two Buddhas
Tony & his buddy Buddha

La Playa Beach Club as seen from the ocean
Xpu-Ha beach

A view from the La Playa restaurant
La Playa beach

Cheri the Mermaid

The Caribbean as seen from a beach chair
Xpu-Ha beach

Not-so-old Man and the Sea
Tony at Xpu-Ha beach

Fishing boat
A fishing boat at Xpu-Ha beach

Cheri strolling on the beach
Cheri strolling on Xpu-Ha beach

La Playa Beach Club on Xpu-Ha Beach
La Playa Beach Club

Cloud Mountain

A well deserved rest
Tony snoozing in the hammock

Posted in Activities, Living the Dream | Tagged: , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Another Day in Paradise…Xpu-Ha

Posted by Tony & Cheri on March 15, 2007

We started our blog by posting some old stuff about when we first moved to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. We will continue to do that as we have time to go through our notes and memories, posting those adventures, and mishaps, we think are worth sharing. But we will also be posting some more recent happenings, like a trip we took to Xpu-Ha not long ago.

Xpu-ha is a beautiful stretch of beach south of Playa del Carmen. There are a couple of large hotel developments but mostly it is still open with an uninterrupted vista of the Caribbean Sea. People visiting Cancun often go to the beaches in Playa del Carmen to escape the crowds. Folks in Playa del Carmen head down to Xpu-Ha for the same reason.

We had decided to take a day off from work. That is a pretty rare occurrence. Since moving to this tropical paradise we have spent more time doing the laundry, fixing plumbing or planting in the garden than time on the beach. However with things starting to settle into place, and the hotel running fairly smooth these days, we figured we needed some time near blue water. So, off we went. It’s about a 20 minute drive from our home to Xpu-Ha. We left early in the morning wondering if this was going to be a waste of time. The weather looked a little iffy as clouds rolled in and the wind picked up but we headed out anyway.

Down at Xpu-Ha there are a couple of nice stretches of beach north and south of the Copacabana Resort, with roads on either side of the resort leading to the beach, both of them narrow, unpaved and filled with pot-holes. But it’s worth the drive. We went down the road north of the hotel and ended up in the tiny parking lot of the Café Del Mar. The Café is a small wooden building right in the sand serving incredible breakfasts. We sat on the deck, ordered and took our time with our meal. Eating in Mexico is always an unhurried affair, and even more so when you are sitting a few feet from the water in shorts and a bikini. Time just slows down. We had eggs, French toast, juice and good coffee while dropping our tension level about 20 degrees.

When we finally finished we strolled south along the water’s edge. It was warm (around 80 degrees) but the wind was very strong. The surf was rolling in as high as we had seen it since Hurricane Wilma. As each new wave would reach its peak just before starting to roll down to the shore, the wind would catch the spray and scatter it in the air. The sea was covered in crashing white foam as far as we could see in either direction.

Not to be discouraged, we walked over to La Playa Beach Club about a quarter of a mile south. La Playa is a little group of buildings housing a restaurant with beachside deck, a bar, a dive shop, a little store full of touristy stuff to buy, and a pretty little stretch of beach with chairs, umbrellas and, best of all, hammocks!!! We fell into a couple of side by side hammocks and ordered Piña Coladas to help settle our breakfasts. We both dozed off with the warm breezes swinging our hammocks in unison. A couple hours later we realized the wind had died down and the clouds had flown on past. It was a perfect sunny day. We rolled out of the hammocks with as much dignity as we could (not an easy task) and ran down to the water.

The water of the Caribbean never disappoints. It is a little warmer than bath water and crystal clear. You can half stand, half float with the water about chest high and feel the gentle tug of the waves as they pull toward the shore and then pull back again to the open ocean. You resist the motion as you sway with the water until you grow tired and let the waves roll you onto the sand, giggling like children. At least, that’s what we did, over and over again.

Late in the afternoon it was time to head home. We started back down the beach towards Café Del Mar (and our van) but stopped first at a little shack just north of La Playa where Juan and Juan (father and son) make and sell hammocks and woven chairs. We hung out for a while chatting with the Juans and watching them weave a new hammock. We couldn’t resist and bought two hanging hammock chairs for the hotel. The younger Juan even carved “Luna Blue Hotel” in the wood supports. It seemed like a pretty good life…setting up shop on a beautiful Caribbean beach and weaving colorful hammocks while watching pretty girls in bikinis wander by. Not a bad way to make a living we thought.

The day was over so we climbed into our van, the “Big Bastard,” and headed back to Playa del Carmen and the Luna Blue Hotel. Another day in paradise came to a close.

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