MAGICAL MOMENTS IN MEXICO: PLAYA DEL CARMEN TRAVEL GUIDE
Hola Amigos! It is has been just over a week since myself and Mr T returned home from the most amazing two week holiday in Playa Del Carmen. This was our second visit and boy oh boy had things changed, in just two years Playa has become pretty big, however it is still for me, one of the most beautiful places on the planet and every time I visit, I leave with even more love in my heart for the magical country that is Mexico.
When I mentioned to friends that we were going back to Mexico for a second time, some were a little surprised that we would go back to somewhere we had already been before and asked what was so special? In my opinion Playa Del Carmen’s location makes it one of the best tourist destinations in Mexico. Trust me when I say that there is so much to see and do there, that you couldn’t possibly cover it all in one vacation, so it definitely warranted a second visit.
If you plan on visiting Playa Del Carmen, Cancun or any of the surrounding areas anytime soon, you might want to bookmark this guide because it’s pretty packed with places to see and things to do! Lets get started with where to stay.
We stayed at the Occidental Grand Xcaret Resort overlooking the Riviera Maya, just a 10 minute drive from Playa Del Carmen. I was beyond excited at staying at this resort as it was right next to Xcaret Park – Mexico’s popular eco-archaeological Park. This was one of the very first places we visited on our first trip and was a highlight for the both of us, so I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to go again especially when it was just a stone’s throw away and could be accessed from a cute river boat from our hotel. Our room was situated right next to one of the pools overlooking the back of Xcaret park which meant we were treated to luscious green views, whilst being just a minute walk from the nearest water source, which was much needed in the 42 degree heat.
There were a total of 11 Restaurants, 9 bars, 5 swimming pools and 10 Jacuzzis on the resort (although some were exclusive to Royal members) and the best bit was that you could organise so many activities straight from the hotel, which is great for people who can’t sit still for 5 minutes – just like Mr T! The gardens of the hotel were so beautiful and for environmentalists like me, it was refreshing to see a hotel that actually welcomed wildlife onto its grounds. We even had our own little wild rainforest to explore, where we often saw Howler Monkeys, Long Tailed Coatis, Deer, Iguanas and lots of different species of butterfly. The hotel is set up to regard wildlife, lighting pathways and building bridges to ensure that their natural surroundings weren’t interfered with too much, so I was impressed to say the least.
Places to Visit
As I mentioned before we love, love, love Xcaret eco-archaeological Park!!! Firstly if you are an animal lover like myself then this is a haven. Jaguar Island, Butterfly Pavilion, Dolphin Swims & Marine turtles are all attractions you will find at Xcaret, with my favourite being the Manatee Lagoon.We explored the underwater caves, snorkelled, visited a folk art Museum and a Mexican cemetery (which is way more beautiful than it sounds!). We also watched the Voladores De Papantla (or flying-men) and in the evening were treated to the Mexico Espectacular – a show all about the history and traditions of Mexico, it really is a must see! We have visited this place twice now and I still think I would be just excited going a third, fourth and fifth time!
We visited Chichen Itza the first time we holidayed in Mexico and it was amazing! One of the new seven wonders of the world and the most of popular of Mexico’s Mayan sites, it is definitely something to put on your bucket list if you haven’t done it already.
If you love snorkelling, you will love Xel Ha. It is water paradise, with hundreds of tropical fish! Mr T is especially fond of water so this was his idea of heaven, I on the other hand am much more comfortable on land so I was relieved to see that there were lots of other activities I could do that day without as much as even dipping a toe, such as cycling through the jungle, and riding a zip bike over the forest canopy! There were also many more caves to explore, cliff jumping and plant nurseries, as well as a sanctuary, dedicated to preserving the Queen Conch.
There is so much history and culture to explore in Mexico and I find learning about Mayan history to be the most alluring. This time we visited the ruins at Tulum. I swear we must have chosen the hottest day in history to visit the least shaded place in the whole of Mexico, so it really was a brief visit as I couldn’t cope with the heat. However it was so beautiful and I really wish we could have stayed there longer! There are also a cute collection of traditional market stalls in Tulum, with brightly coloured rugs and ornaments, which I totally adored! I could have easily spent a small fortune on mementoes there.
Jess also recommended that we visit Isla Mujeres which was one of the stops on our Whale Shark experience. Unfortunately what I hadn’t realised is that we were only stopping on the beach for a BBQ so I wasn’t able to explore the island as much as I had wanted to, but I had heard that it was fun to experience on a golf cart, drinking watermelon juice and spotting brightly coloured buildings – every colour lovers dream!
Things To Do
Explore Cenotes. One of the most amazing experiences of my life has to be swimming in an underground cenote. My favourite had to be Samula, a tranquil cavern pool, with álamo roots stretching down many meters from the middle of the ceiling to drink from the crisp cool waters below. There is nothing quite like the peace and quiet your experience whilst down there., I can certainly see why the Mayans chose these sites to communicate with the gods.
Of course one of the main reasons we went back to Mexico this year, was that after swimming with Whale Sharks in the Maldives last year, I just had to share this experience with Mr T too. I just so happened to know that Whale Sharks can be spotted in Mexico between June and September so it was the perfect excuse to relive the experience all over again and boy did I have the time of my life. This time instead of feeling pure fear, I felt nothing but adrenaline and excitement at the thought of jumping back in the open ocean with these friendly giants. This one was slightly larger than the one we saw in the Maldives and extra friendly, sticking around for us to dive not once but three times with him. We managed to get some amazing footage which we will be sharing with you on our YouTube channel on Sunday.
Places To Eat
As our hotel was all inclusive we never really had much chance to eat out apart from snacking on fruit from roadside traders however the two we did visit were top notch… Yaxche is listed in most top 10 guides as one of the best places to eat in Playa Del Carmen for tradition Mayan cuisine. The food was absolutely delicious and I would definitely go back again!
We also ate at an Italian ( I’m actually not big on Mexican food – the irony!) which I thought was especially good called Ambasciata D’Italia. The food was so yummy! I had pasta whilst Mr T munched on a giant pizza, we also treated ourselves to a very tasty bottle of champers which got us a little bit tipsy!
Fusion Bar & Grill, Alux, El Diablito, Los Aguachiles and Mateos Mexican Grill in Tulum were names of other restaurants that had been recommended to us, although we we didn’t sample them, I thought I would list them here anyway just in case any of you are making the trip sometime soon.
So that concludes our Mexican adventure. I think I speak for both myself and Mr T when I say we had the time of lives, reliving old memories and making very special news ones. Mexico will forever be in our hearts and I hope it will have the same magical effect on you too! Happy Holidays!