Almost a week ago we headed out from our lovely home in San Miguel de Allende to hot weather, palm trees, blue water and the white sand of the Yucatan, Mexico. First stop in our two month vacay is Playa Del Carmen, where we still have another two days before continuing on to stop number two, Tulum.
We had decided months ago to fly from Queretero to Cancun nonstop on Volaris. Only an hour away from San Miguel, Queretero is easy to get to using the door-to-airport BajioGo shuttle ($24 pp). We would not suggest taking the bus to Queretero and then taxi from there as the airport is a ways out. This was our first time at the Queretero airport and although small, it seemed slightly chaotic. The flight was full so there was a long line started before we got there and since there were several big family/groups and only two attendants at the counter things went slow. Still, the price was right and we are going to be heading off on our first huge trip as a couple, 6 months in Asia at the end of next year, so we needed the practice in patience.
For some reason I always get stopped at security and this time it was no different!! I have no idea why my daypack got totally tossed since it really didn’t contain much besides my medications, none in bottles, and cords for charging our computers, phones etc. However, there was one item that they seemed to have trouble with and it is sold every 10 feet on 5th Avenue in Playa. That is our little plastic sleeves hung from a cord for our iPhones when in water. The woman had a kind of hard time with those and went back to them twice. I was starting to get antsy, as I do when faced with authority, and it took a glance from Glenn to remind me to calm down. Airports are a tough one for me, and it is lovely having a husband who knows me so well.
The Volaris flight was actually a piece-of-cake. We had paid ahead for priority boarding and seat assignments. In Queretero we had to walk the tarmac to board and the same in Cancun disembarking. The seats were fine and since it is less than a two and a half hour flight and we had snagged two aisles we were good to go. Everything on the flight is extra!! So be prepared. For us though, since it is a short flight and mojitos beckoned us in Playa, we skipped any food and drink.
We booked eight nights at Club Yebo Hotel on First Avenue in Playa where we have a room with patio and a small kitchenette. It is comfortable but at this time of year a bit pricey for the quality as it seems an older hotel. Playa del Carmen is also very noisy along Fifth Avenue which is only a block away. Our hotel is between Calle 12 and 14 and on the corner of 12th are three disco bars with music ALL day and into about 3am. One plays the same thing over and over. After close to a week we are getting to the point where it is almost white noise but it can still bother us. The hotel has a clean but cold pool as it is also used some hours for scuba classes. We are thinking of checking out Airbnb’s a bit farther from 5th Avenue if we come back.
We easily arranged a transfer from the Cancun Airport through our hotel and we had a bit of a wait at the airport for them to straighten things out. The trip is actually short, mainly passing the huge entrances to lanes leading to resorts lining the beach. We found out though that the ADO buses, which leave from the airport, have their terminal just 6 blocks away from the hotel. This is good to remember for next time as they are cheap and run often. We have decided to use ADO to get between Playa and Tulum in a few days.
It is easy to get around as the Calles run in twos east to west and the Avenues are in fives south to north. Once you have that figured out you can find pretty much anything in the downtown without much trouble.
As mentioned, Playa is hopping and noisy!! And the touts are ever present. But they are not super aggressive, usually an attempt when rebuffed is left at that. There is one scam though that I fell for; a tout will come up to you saying he was the waiter from last night and don’t you remember him and won’t you come into his shop. Don’t think you are rude by refusing.
Fifth Avenue is the mainstay of the town. You can find everything along its very long stretch. There are three glitzy malls with stores like Forever 21, Zara, American Eagle Outfitters, Levis and more. Then there are restaurants, some boutique stores, a bunch of swimsuit shops and souvenir stores galore. I am trying to replace a few items that I can no longer find on Amazon but haven’t had any luck. The one item I did buy was a new swimsuit since the one I brought doesn’t fit after I have gained a bit since going off a medication. Most of the one pieces have a skinny bottom area to them which is not pleasant on me right now. So it was difficult to find one that fit, and when I did we paid a bunch for it. Later we took a short walk to the local Walmart and there was a big selection at a much lower price.
There are some very good restaurants along 10th to 30th Avenues. These are a bit cheaper than the ones that line Fifth. The first few days we were here we spent a bundle since we were in that “we are on vacation” mindset and we were going out to listen to music and of course drinking. Right now we have eased up a tad on that thank god or we would have gone through our budget in two weeks.
For good, reasonably priced food try El Sabrosito del Fogon (El Fogon for short) but watch out for the size as items are large and not particularly light. Also Las Hijas de la Tostada has some very good ceviche and tacos right off of Fifth. Amate 38 is excellent for breakfasts and has a nice setting by a creek. La Brocherie only serves chicken and does it very well. We experienced our favorite waiter Ivan here. For nice Italian try La Famiglia on 10th. And one of the best places we went to is Zitla with a very cool atmosphere and fabulous food served by a great waitstaff.
For music we found La Bodeguita del Medio, a cuban bar/restaurant to be wonderful for people watching and dancing. And we visited Casa Mayahuel several times where a duo singing classic oldies but goodies had even the waiters dancing and everyone singing along.
We had a lovely surprise near the start of our stay as we were sitting outside at a restaurant and someone came over to Glenn and said “is your name Glenn?” We originally thought it might be someone who recognized us from our blog as that has happened before, but this time it was a couple who had worked at Airtreks, the same company Glenn just retired from in December 2017. Glenn had only seen Anya and Gil in virtual meetings and had never met them in person. So, small world!!! We had a really nice chat with them sitting in the sun in Mexico. Go figure.
We have only wandered down to the beach a few times and so far haven’t taken a lot of time on it as it is crowded and we aren’t huge sand and beach people. We do enjoy beach cafes/bars though and stopped at Inti for a couple of drinks on their sofas the first day we were here. At this time of year the sun is setting away from the beach so we haven’t really experienced a stunning sunset. We may need to find a rooftop bar for that.
I have really gotten into Mojitos and I also found a fabulous cucumber Gin and Tonic at Casa Mayahuel which is my other go-to cocktail. Glenn has been sucking down the Caipirinha’s, another nice hot weather choice. The only downside is that none of the cocktails are very strong, even when full price and not happy hour. So, our calorie count is getting high while we aren’t.
Before we came we heard a lot about the Sargassum (seaweed) nuisance along the Yucatan beaches due to climate change and a huge influx of population and the challenges that come with it. But at this time of year it seems to have calmed down a bit and is showing itself just some along the beach but not necessarily in the water. So the look and smell isn’t as bad as we thought it would be.
I am loving the murals that are popping up all over the world and Playa del Carmen has many of them. You can also find some interesting artwork as you wander downtown.
All in all we are much more impressed with the Yucatan so far than we were with Puerto Vallarta and it’s surroundings and we are making plans to return to some parts of it at the end of the year when San Miguel de Allende is experiencing it’s cold spell.
We are off to Tulum in two days then Valladolid, Merida and Campeche. if you have any suggestions of must sees in those areas let us in on them as we love to hear about other peoples adventures.
We have also just launched our new “Our Prime Of Life” Facebook page so check that out for more photos of our good times.