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Isla Mujeres and Playa del Carmen for a family trip in August?

Isla Mujeres and Playa del Carmen for a family trip in August?

Old Mar 14th, 2005, 07:27 AM
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Iza
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Isla Mujeres and Playa del Carmen for a family trip in August?

After debating for a few weeks and doing lots of research on Panama, Mexico or a return trip to Costa Rica, my family finally settled on Mexico as our destination for the summer of 2005.

We are a family of 3 (Mom, Dad and 11-year old daughter). We like small boutique type hotels with charm and character, and nice pools (daughter is a "pool person&quot. We do NOT want an all-inclusive. We will have 2 weeks in the early to mid part of August and are considering splitting that time between Isla Mujeres and Playa del Carmen.

I would ask all IM/PDC experts for feedback on my questions:
- On Isla Mujeres I am strongly leaning towards Na Balam as the hotel choice but the only rooms available for my dates are standard rooms ($135, incl. breakfast and tax). I am a bit concerned that both the room and the pool will be very small, but am attracted to the overall atmosphere of the place and the location. Any advice? Should we consider another location instead (Akumal or Tulum)?

- In Playa del Carmen, my top choices would be Shangri La or El Faro. Any comparisons between the two? At Shangri La we can get a beachfront room ($255, incl. breakfast, dinner and taxes) or an ocean view room ($215, incl. breakfast, dinner and taxes). It looks like none of those rooms have A/C. Is there sufficient breeze off the ocean to keep us comfortable (just as a point of reference: we travelled to Costa Rica a few times in August and were comfortable without A/C)? El Faro is much more expensive at $275 plus tax for a beachfront room with breakfast. Does anyone have any thoughts on these two hotels: location, the beach, quality of the rooms, pool and food?

- should we rent a car for the week in PDC? We are interested in doing some day trips to ruins, snorkeling, cenotes. Does it help to have the car in PDC itself or are the hotels I am considering within walking distance from restaurants?

- Are IM and PDC popular with families? We are not looking for places specifically geared towards family entertainment but would like for our daughter to be able to find some company at the hotels where we are staying.

- Is there any natural shade on the beaches in those two areas? I sunburn very easily so I would like a place that will have some shade trees near the beach.

Any comments are welcome. Thanks in advance.
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Old Mar 14th, 2005, 07:52 AM
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I like the location of Shangri-la a lot more than El Faro. But I like a secluded area. There is more beach and run-around room at Shangri-la too. Plus they have palapa shade on the beach.

To stay there, I would rent a car. It's a hike into town. Renting a car is also much more economical than taking tours, etc.

You should be fine with a fan and breeze if you can get a beachfront room. We also go in August - and sleep well with a breeze and fan only.

Sorry, haven't been to IM. All that I do know is that the surf can be very rough in some areas. That would be my main concern.
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Old Mar 15th, 2005, 01:34 PM
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On Isla Mujeres, I wouldn't worry too much about the size of the pool at Na Balam, you see, one of the attractions of that property is that it sits right next to Playa Norte --- an absolutely stunning beach with wide white powdery sand and outstanding swimming (not to mention the best darn beachside bar on the island).

Just my opinion...

Mark
Isla Mujeres fotos: www.tiogringo.com/isla.html
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Old Mar 15th, 2005, 03:12 PM
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Thanks for those helpful responses. I think in PDC, we will definitely stay at Shangri La, but I am still undecided as to Isla Mujeres (not only about the hotel choice but also about the destination itself - maybe we should just ditch it altogether and stay in Tulum or Akumal for a week and a week in PDC?)
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Old Mar 16th, 2005, 09:07 AM
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Hi Iza, I love Isla Mujeres, I'd stay there rather than Playa del Carmen any time. I say that with a caveat, though. If you plan on doing a lot of sight seeing, Mayan ruins, cenotes, the parks of Xcaret and Xel-Ha, then it makes a lot more sense to stay in Playa or down by Tulum.

Isla feels like a real Mexican town, complete with the town square. All the hotels that you've mentioned are only a couple of blocks away.

Playa del Carmen is bigger, busier and more upscale. It's a simple matter to find a more Mexican feel, but you have to get off of 5th Avenue.

I haven't spent much time around Tulum. The town was pretty torn up due to construction last I was there. We did find a great place for lunch. The beaches along the Tulum 'hotel zone' are simply stunning. I was disappointed that from where we stayed, Cabanas La Conchita, that it wasn't possible to walk very far in either direction because of large rock formations.

I know nothing about Akumal, other than it sounds like there isn't a 'real' town there, which makes it less appealing for me.

Jean
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Old Mar 16th, 2005, 10:12 AM
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Hi Iza! I'm a 'pool person' too, usually, but the beach Playa Norte converts me to an ocean person everytime I go to Isla. It's just so clear and beautiful with very little, if any wave action. You can walk out for yards and still be only waist deep! Sorry, I can't comment on Na Balam as I've not stayed there, but it is a great location and I believe they have shaded palapas for their guest. If not, you can rent one fairly cheap for the day. I really think this would be a much better spot than Tulum or Akumal as far as your daughter being able to find friends her age.
As for PDC, personally I like the location of El Faro much better than Shangri La. There are so many restaurants you can walk to if staying at El Faro, whereas if staying at Shangri La, you'd need a car and parking can be a pain in town. As for location, compare it to the Flor Blanca in Mal Pais as to distance from anything. Note that the beach directly in front of El Faro usually has boats tied up there, but just a few yards down these is a nice swimming spot with no boats. If the beach is more important, Shangri La might be better. Have I throughly confused you? Sorry!
It sounds like you want to be on the beach, but if that is not totally important to you, you might want to check out Mosquito Blue Hotel in PDC.
Have a wonderful trip and keep in touch as we are thinking of having a couple weeks in Aug/Sept where we will allow kids at our hotel in Nosara!
www.plumeriasdelmar.com
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Old Mar 16th, 2005, 12:09 PM
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Ally, great to hear from you! Thanks for your feedback on IM and PDC. Hope the construction is going well on your place. And I think it is a great idea to allow kids during summer vacations but have the hotel be a couple place at other times - this seems the best of both worlds.
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Old Mar 16th, 2005, 12:35 PM
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My husband and I went to Isla in December...absolutely LOVED it. Such a wonderful, friendly place. Playa Norte is unbelievable and the beach at Na Balam is such a treat - double sized beach chairs with wait staff. As long as you stay on the north end of the island, everything you need is in walking distance: restaurants, shops, moped/golf cart rental places. Try eating at Picu's (Right near the ferry dock), we were told by a local that it had the best ceviche in town. He was right! Try hotel Media Luna, it's on Half Moon Beach. Very quiet and secluded, but just a pleasant 2 minute stroll to playa norte. I hope this helps.
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Old Mar 16th, 2005, 08:50 PM
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If you go to Isla Mujeres, rent a golf cart and take a ride around the island. There's a place called the pirate house that's pretty much unknown to tourists, but you need to see it. Also take a few minutes to visit the cemetery on the island. It's unique. There's also the shell house to see. I had been to Cancun and Isla Mujeres many times as a tourist, but just returned tonight after 6 months of living in Cancun. A friend of mine who lives there took me to Isla for the day and introduced me to these wonderful places I never knew existed. And the north beach area is beautiful.
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Old Mar 19th, 2005, 03:33 PM
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Iza
I just returned from Isla Mujeres and stayed at Na Balam. It was my first time there. I found Na Balam to be a treat. The staff was very friendly and helpful. I had a room with the palapas roof . It was roomy, clean and on the one rainy day, everything stayed dry in the room. No leaks! Showers are nice: roomy, hot with good water pressure. The food was consistently good to excellent. I also had 2 massages: one (Alicia) was very good. The second (Maria Louisa) was fabulous.

There were lots of families with children but I was not traveling with kids so I can't speak to specific kid activities.

Ask how to get to Hortensia's at the front desk. You can find nice gifts and great pareos. Best of all, pick out fabric you like, tell her what you want made and in one day she will have it ready for you. No, it's not couture but she made a sleeveless top and short outfit for me, a skirt for a friend and a dress for another. We were all pleased.

Hope this is helpful!
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Old May 27th, 2005, 09:02 PM
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Hi! We did this same trip in August 2003. We spent 1 week in Isla Mujeres on North Beach (at Nautibeach condos) and 1 week south of PDC at a wonderful all-inclusive (the name escapes me).

Although the AI place was wonderful, luxurious, great beach, we all missed Isla Mujeres so much, we debated packing up and going back there. Don't miss this delightful island. We have 3 kids (at the time 13, 13 and 15) and felt very safe with the 3 of them having the daytime run of the town. The great town, friendly people combined with the beautiful sea and ocean, just couldn't be beat.
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Old May 27th, 2005, 10:12 PM
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I strongly recommend the Na Balaam. The pool is small, but the beach is amazing - and yes, you can walk out in the ocean for a truly unbelievable distance (like way more than a football field) before you're doing anything like swimming.

I prefer the off-beach rooms with the palapa roofs. They're also nearer the pool.

If you do Playa del Carmen, Isla Mujeres should be a nice contrast - maybe good for your daughter to see, and certainly a treat for you. It's a lot of fun, relaxing, and more like the "real" Mexico than Cancun or Playa del Carmen.

In addition to the other restaurant
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Old May 27th, 2005, 10:15 PM
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Oops -- slip of the keyboard. I'll try again:

In addition to drjmcb's recommendations, I'll toss in the Red Eye Cafe for breakfast - it's an easy stroll from the Na Balaam, good food, good prices, and a great chat with Gus and Inga, the owners. They're a riot, and the street scene outside is great.

Also, the little market near the Na Balaam has GREAT food for lunch. We ate there every day.

You'll like Isla. Trust us.
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Old May 28th, 2005, 11:20 AM
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Worktowander, I'm not sure if the Red Eye still exists. I did hear that the owner (Gus) had died, but it might have closed before then.
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Old May 28th, 2005, 12:37 PM
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Oh, Susan, that's a huge bummer. I loved that place. Watching Gus schmooze the visitors while Inga ran the show, busting on him humorously all the while, was a major treat.

And my bacon, eggs and toast addicted husband will be crushed.

Dang.
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Old May 29th, 2005, 06:48 AM
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Hi Iza,

It looks like it has been a while since you have posted on this post but since it was you I thought that I had better reply.

I really like Tulum. I lived in Playa seventeen years ago and it is too big and busy for me (and my family) now. I have been back to the area many times since living there. My last trip was with my daughter (she was five). We traveled together staying in Playa, Tulum, Akumal, Merida and Cancun. When I travel I am looking for an amazing beach that has safe, swimmable water and that is clean and uncrowded. We like to stay in small, comfortable and aestheticly pleasing places on the beach; palapa roof always a plus. Our next trip is back to Tulum, staying in the two story cabana at Cabanas la Conchita. Our daughter will nine at the time of this trip. We will rent a car- I would suggest one for your family, too. It will be very hot in August. It will be very busy in Playa during August. It is a hopping town during August with the Europeans who have the month off. I really liked Isla but have not been there since spending several weeks there seventeen years ago. I have good friends who visited Isla several years ago but found it to be too busy and dirty for them although there are a lot of people on this board who love it.

Please let me know if I may answer any questions. You have been such a tremendous help to me in planning our Costa Rica trip.

Very Best,
Gem
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Old May 29th, 2005, 07:50 AM
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Gem -

You may have told me before, but I forgot...

When are you going to La Conchita? We're going in Aug; I would love to hear a report - especially since we'll have an 11 yr old and a 2 yr old in the 2-room cabana.
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Old May 29th, 2005, 10:09 AM
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Hi Pepper131,

We are going to la Conchita in April of NEXT year (I cannot believe that we have to book so far in advance but they were booked for our break in February).

I arranged for my best friend's wedding to be there and have been in all the rooms since we rented out the whole resort. It is really nice. Have you looked at the Different World website? It is actually even prettier then the website shows. The breakfasts are outstanding. Do you have any specific questions? I would be happy to try to answer them.

Very Best,
Gem

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Old May 29th, 2005, 01:35 PM
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Wow...that is planning.

My biggest concern is the second floor balcony and whether or not my 2 year old can fall from it. I was thinking about some balcony netting to secure the area.

My 11 yr old cannot stand rocks and weeds in the water, but from an aeial view, it looks okay to me...in certain sections.

I booked through differentworld and we're all set to go. They have been so lovely.
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Old May 29th, 2005, 08:34 PM
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Hi Pepper131,

I would deffinately be concerned about the second floor balcony. It is not child safe (!!!). If I was traveling with a small child I would bring a baby gate and put it at the bottom of the stairs and keep the upper room for the adults. There is a hammock, several chairs in a nice sitting outside area at the ground level. The bedroom on the main level is spacious. It would function nicely as a bedroom/ living area. The bedroom upstairs is much smaller and has the balcony. The hotel does not let children stay in the upper rooms because the balconies have open railings.

The water was clear when we were there. I think that it is usually clear but possibly a storm could bring in some seaweed. We enjoyed swimming/ floating/ wading in it every day. A storm came and we were able to boggie baord. We brought floating pool toys and it was very fun to float around.

I hope that you enjoy your trip. We are very excited to retun to las Conchitas. What are your favorite past destinations?
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