Hello, hello! We are just a couple of weeks fresh off a lovely vacation to one of our favorite countries – Mexico! Yes, we watch the news, keep up with travel advisories and adhere to warnings. But on our trip to Playa del Carmen, we had absolutely no worries!
We had been itching to get away for a beach vacation (seriously, we were having water withdrawals) and we love visiting Mexico. Check out our trip to Puerto Vallarta here and our trip to Mexico City here. So when we realized we had travel credit on Southwest Airlines and saw an affordable flight to Playa del Carmen, there was no hesitation.
A little bit of research and we were able to get an awesome deal on a luxury condo located downtown next to 5th Avenue (shopping, food and supermarket) and a 10-minute walk to the beach. For $100 USD/night, we got a 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom condo with full kitchen, living room and cute balcony. Yall, we can’t stress enough the importance of researching. Shop around and keep in mind what is most important to you.
Do your accommodations have to be on the water or is walking distance ok?
Do you want to be closer to downtown with shopping, dining options and local attractions or will you be taking public transportation?
Do you prefer to stay at a resort so that you never have to leave the area?
Whatever best suits your needs, go with that! And always, always, always read the reviews! People will not only tell you the good, bad and ugly, but sometimes they’ll offer helpful tips on getting the most out of your stay.
We flew into Cancun International Airport and had prearranged transfers to our condo. It was about a 45-minute drive and our driver had a cooler full of water and beer. Clearly, he was after our hearts.
The condo was beautiful and check-in was smooth. We had to put up a $200 USD deposit, but it’s refunded after your stay.
After settling in, we decided to take ALL the recommendations we had received thus far and visit this restaurant: El Fogon. And word on the street is their tacos al pastor are the business. So we obliged.
Overall this place was good, but super busy. There’s usually a line of people waiting outside to be seated, but the line seemed to move fairly quickly. The food was good and the al pastor tacos come with a piece of pineapple in each. But in full disclosure, we got al pastor tacos from a street cart a block away that were just as good! And the same price. We paid about $2.50 USD for three tacos.
The next day, we woke up early to do some sight-seeing around Playa del Carmen. We bought some souvenirs, snacks and checked out some of the murals and wall art along the way. Note: because we were in the heart of Playa del Carmen, everything was a bit more expensive. You can certainly find some of the same items cheaper outside of the main hub, but we were cool where we were because of the close walking distance. We even made a stop at Aki, the local supermarket, for some house staples and of course wine 🙂
After that, we were ready for some adventure. We had already booked a jungle buggy tour through Viator which included a swim in a cenote (beautiful water holes or sinkholes that are plentiful in the Yucatan Peninsula). In the tour description, it said you should expect to get dirty. So we were prepared. However, with the rain the night before, all the potholes in the road were filled with water. We had a two-seater shared buggy and Val was driving. With her need for speed, we ran over literally every pothole as dirty water splashed over our heads and soaked us. They tell you beforehand to put your bag in a compartment in the back that is not likely to get wet and guard your cell phones for dear life. It’s amazing Kim was able to keep our phones dry.
Now the buggies are bigger and bulkier than four-wheelers or ATVs, so you can’t drive quite as fast, but it was still fun. The cenote swim was nothing short of amazing – a beautiful water hole tucked away in a secluded cave. And it gave us time to clean off all the dirt from the drive. Our tour guide Matias was awesome and we definitely recommend you take the tour if you’re in Playa del Carmen. In total, it’s about a three-hour tour.
Dinner that night was at another recommended spot for great seafood: Los Aguachiles (also in walking distance of our condo). The shrimp appetizer and the shrimp tacos were delicious. And did not break the bank! Seriously, when in Mexico, your food staples should consist of tacos – any kind. They’re always good and always cheap!
After dinner, we enjoyed the streets of Playa del Carmen.
The next day in Playa del Carmen was a designated “beach day” so we had a mission to spend the entire day at the beach, bumming it up and sipping on cocktails. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.
We stumbled upon INTI Beach Club and this was the perfect beach oasis for us. They had lounge chairs in covered areas to protect you from the sun, delicious food and drinks and impeccable service. We hear guests also rave about their massages … something you may want to try!
We walked the scenic route back to our condo and couldn’t resist taking a few photos in front of the I Love Playa sign.
Our final night’s dinner (naturally we saved the best for last) was another recommendation from our driver who transported us to the condo from the airport. And this restaurant comes highly rated from 2 Girls Who Travel – yes, it was THAT good.
Blue Lobster Steak & Lobster House … we opted to sit upstairs where we had a view of the action on the street (it’s closed in, not open which protects you from unfavorable weather). The staff was awesome, especially our waitress Marina who helped us narrow down our food choices! All things lobster were on our minds that night. Our only regret is that we didn’t save room for dessert!
It was so hard to leave Mexico because it meant our vacation had come to an end. But every U.S. traveler knows it ain’t over until you browse around the duty-free alcohol at the airport. We have never come back from Mexico without some bottle of alcohol you can only get over there. This time was no exception.
Editor’s Note: Now you may be planning your own trip to Mexico or Playa del Carmen specifically and wondering if it’s safe or not. Well, we can only speak for ourselves, but we felt very safe. We opted not to stay in a a resort because we didn’t want to be confined to the resort area. Though there was plenty of police and security presence downtown, you still need to exercise caution walking around late. We kept to the main streets and avoided alleys or small side streets. We also downsized our belongings. A small clutch or cross-body bag works well at night. Val also knows a little Spanish, so it was helpful to be able to have casual conversations, when necessary.
All-in-all, we don’t think we’ll stop visiting Mexico any time soon! Until the next adventure …