First time to Playa del Carmen...any advice?

Aug 17th, 2003, 09:09 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 9
First time to Playa del Carmen...any advice?

My husband and I are going to Playa del Carmen in two weeks. I'd love to hear advice on your favorite restaurants and beach or ruin trips. Thank you!
nichole is offline  
Aug 18th, 2003, 08:40 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 204
We just got back from 2 weeks - 1 in Isla Mujeres and 1 near Akumal. We went to Tulum and loved it. Get there early (8a.m.) as it will not be crowded with tourists and cooler too. We also visited Aktun-Chen, a nature park near Akumal and had a great time watching the monkeys, touring the underground caves and cenote. We skipped the bigger parks (like Xcelha and Xcaret) due to cost and commercialism, although people say they are very nice. Our favorite outing, though was to Casa Cenote & Manatee Cenote (right across the street from Casa Cenote). We snorkeled in Manatee Cenote and in the ocean straight out from Casa Cenote restuarant and it was fantastic!
Jill2 is offline  
Aug 18th, 2003, 08:59 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,194
Advice: Get the "Playa Deal" card! It saves you lots of money at a great many restaurants, shopping and tours! Anywhere from 10% to 25% at each place!
It can be ordered at:

I really enjoyed Pancho's on 5th and Media Luna...and one authentic Mayan restaurant I can't remember the name of. I think it starts with an 'X'.
Ally is offline  
Aug 18th, 2003, 08:33 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 9
Thanks for your help Jill and Ally! We can't wait to go!
nichole is offline  
Aug 21st, 2003, 11:46 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 2,501

My wife and I went to Playa del Carmen a couple of years back and we had a great time We visited Cancun, went snorkelling at Cozumel, went to the ruin city of Chichen Itza etc. I have posted a long trip report with pictures on my homepage Maybe you can find some useful information there

Have a great trip

Stavanger, Norway
gard is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2003, 07:34 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 341
Nichole - Here's my trip report - tried to email you directly but I couldn't get the email address off Fodor's.....
I usually write a "trip report" when I return to post on the message forums where I have researched and gained information about our destination. Hopefully this helps someone else in planning their trip.
Playa Del Carmen (2/28 ? 3/7, 2003)

We arrived in Cancun about noon. Airport was much more organized and fast moving than we expected. We were not prepared though for the hundreds of people trying to call us and grab us as we exited the airport. They are very convincing ? even lying and telling you they are from your transfer company!! We finally found the guy from Turquoise Reef and were SO glad we had paid for that transfer instead of attempting the bus or a shuttle.

We checked into Shangri-La Caribe and found the place very beautiful and very well kept overall -separate hotel report posted for those interested ( dated around 3/8). The beach at Shangri-La is the best from what we could see. Long stretches of white sand and beautiful wavy water. We had heavy winds for 3 days while we were there so the wave action on the beach was substantial. We did get in for swimming, but you had to be super careful ? there was a slight undertow. Some locals also use this beach and we especially enjoyed watching the little kids enjoying the water. Vendors who came by were very laid-back and did not approach unless you indicated you were interested and called them.

The walk to town from here was about 20 minutes along the beach ? a fun walk. We walked all the way past the Porto Real to El Faro and came up a side street to 5th Ave. We had almost booked at El Faro or Colibri but after seeing the beaches there ?.were glad we were at the Shangri-La. The best beach stretch there seemed to be El Faro for a boat-free area to swim. The bend of the beach by Porto Real was 6 feet deep in dark brown seaweed. People were lounging there but to me it seemed a pretty gross sight for gazing out to sea! All of the downtown hotels have great location to 5th Avenue but to me they seemed too close together for privacy and relaxation.

We really enjoyed strolling 5th Ave. I was not prepared for the large numbers of silver jewelry shops! I immediately wished I had planned on spending more money on jewelry! After shopping for a few hours, it seems that all the stores just about have the same items?.but we still had fun looking. We bought baby dresses and ceramics mostly. When we were all shopped out, I found yet ANOTHER store with beautiful baby dresses right on Juarez near the corner of 10th and the bus station. She had some really beautiful things for $20 - $40, particularly in sizes 2 ? 6. (Can you tell I?m a new grandmother?!).

I didn?t do well at bargaining though. Most times when I offered a lower price, I got a very negative reaction like I was insulting the shopkeeper. I did manage to get better at it by the week?s end, but I was more intimidated than I thought I would be. I know I paid too much for several items??but I still had fun buying them. We ventured off the main street to some of the other streets like 10th and 15th. We found these areas very interesting, as they seemed more like the "real" downtown rather than the "tourist" downtown.

We researched the pros and cons about renting a car there and driving around. We left without a reservation ? figuring we would decide when we got there. When we saw some of the cab prices to Tulum and Akumal and we looked at the driving situation, we decided to rent for 2 days. We paid $60 per day for a VW sedan (like a Golf) WITH AC with unlimited mileage and all insurance included. We wimped out on dropping the extra insurance and relying on our credit card company. We wanted to be sure. I let my husband do all of the driving ? something I would NEVER do at home ? but I felt I had to navigate signs and maps while he drove. We had absolutely no problem and were really glad we rented. You do have to pay complete attention at all times when driving and be vigilant about other people passing on the opposite side of the highway?..but it was fine. Next time, we hope to venture out further and drive to Coba and Chichen-Itza.

We drove to Tulum one day and saw the ruins. Take the $1.50 tramway ride to the opening of the site ? it is well worth it. You?ll have enough long, hot walking when you arrived there. We joined up with another American couple in line and split the cost of a guide ($12.50 per couple) ? well worth it. His name was David ? a slight guy with beautiful green eyes. Ask for him near the entrance gate ? he was sooo informative. I had very limited knowledge of the Mayan culture and his stories were fascinating. It is very hot in Tulum and I was glad we had packed bathing suits. The swim after the tour was fantastic with a luscious slice of beach right below the ruins. I also packed an umbrella, which I ended up using during the tour to shield the hot sun. I saw lots of people looking envious, wishing they had brought one. At the very least?.bring water and a hat! We shopped at bit at the merchants there at the ruins and didn?t realize until later in the week that their prices were very reasonable. They mostly have all the same things ? but if you see something you like- don?t hold out for a better price in PDC. We stopped into the Acuario Hotel on the corner of the 307 and the road to Tulum. They had a really quaint lobby bar with cooling fans and really cheap Internet access. It was a good stop for a cold drink and a rest.

We continued on to Tulum City and walked around there for awhile ? visiting some of the local markets and taking pictures. We found a wonderful outdoor bakery where all of the sweets were wrapped in red saran wrap! We loved watching the local people going about their daily lives. It gave us such a respect for them ? realizing how hard working they are and how privileged our lives are compared to theirs.

The next day, we drove to Yalkul Lagoon where we paid $6 each to snorkel. We had heard alot about this place but we were very disappointed. We only saw a few small schools of fish and the clarity was very poor. We had hoped to see turtles and mantas but if they were there, we couldn?t find them. We really enjoyed the road from Akumal to Yal-kul - gawking at all of the mansions right along Half Moon Bay. We tried to imagine being rich enough to own a place there! We spent the afternoon at Akumal Bay and had lunch at the Lo-Ha restaurant right on the beach. We had hoped to snorkel there too, but the water was quite rough, as there were high winds. We decided not to venture out but just to sit on the beach, take a swim and watch the fishing boats coming in and out. Time seemed to stand still here ? it was the middle of our week and we had nowhere we had to be. LOVE that! On the way out of Akumal, by the arches, we stopped at a roadside stand where two Mayan girls were selling embroidered items. I bought some beautifully embroidered blouses for $15 each!

We ventured into town on two separate evenings and enjoyed the nightlife along 5th Avenue. It reminded me of the "passegiata" in Sicily when the whole town strolls the main street in the evening. The shops stay open late so there is always time for yet another deal. We had one dinner at Limones, which was good but pricey. It?s built on a level lower than the street but open at both ends so you can see the street action while you eat ? fun! They made our Caesar salad and cooked filet minion tableside. They had the best (and largest!) margarita in PDC! You could take a bath in it! YUMMY!

After sampling almost every shop on the stretch ? we would recommend staying away from shops near the Ferry terminal - -their prices were much higher there.

We wanted to take the ferry to Cozumel but when we saw how rough the water was mid-week, we decided against it. I am very prone to seasickness and it just didn?t seem necessary to leave PDC to enjoy the beach or shop. We did want to go to Chankanaub park though and will try to get there on our next trip back to PDC.

Oh yes ? did I tell you we LOVED PDC and would go back??! Definitely will go back. The place had a lot to offer. The Mexican people were friendly and their country is very beautiful
Dorgal is offline  

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