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Welcome to Playa del Carmen and Tulum

Playa del Carmen and Tulum are located on Mexico's Yucatan Penninsula, facing out to the Carribean Sea, so not a bad spot to be, particularly if it's some warm weather you are after..and who isn't? To get there by air, you have to fly to Cancun airport, which seems to be one of the most popular airports for international flights from Europe and the US due to the magnetic pull of Cancun beaches and all-inclusive hotels. Luckily, Playa is much smaller and quieter with far less hotels. If coming here, arrange a decent private shuttle service from Cancun airport to Playa as they are apparantly unreliable and catching the public bus, although modern and efficient, seemed a bit of a nightmare with long queues and many stops. 

playa del carmen
The view from our balcony in Playa del Carmen....straight out onto the Carribean

Like many of the tourists flocking to Mexico, we headed straight for the beach for 4 days to start our trip. A quick overnight stay at the Hilton airport hotel in Mexico City after the long flight from Europe (this is a great for overnight stay as it's out of baggage collection and straight upstairs, so making it so easy to arrive and then depart again the next morning) and we were on our way to some sea (crystal blue), sun (hot, hot, hot) and sand (mostly washed away) in Playa del Carmen. Our hotel, Alhambra (www.alhambra-hotel.net) was white and airy, clean and right on the beach. So much so, that at breakfast you actually sat at tables in the sand! Although breakfast was quite small and late-starting (from 8am), it was a nice place in which to start your day. For many people, they don't move much farther but onto the sun lounges and a beer. A bit of construction from the hotel next door made for some annoyance, but we really enjoyed sitting out on the balcony each evening with a wine and watching the sun go down. Getting take-out alcohol and snacks is no problem as there's loads of 7-11s or supermarkets (had our first visit to a Wal-Mart in Playa) and bags of ice are sold everywhere, something unheard of Europe.

Of course, going out for drinks is just as good, whether it be on the beach or in one of the bars along the bustling Fifth Avenue, there's plenty to choose. Many places have Happy Hour advertising beers as 1 = 20 MXP, 2 = 40 MXP. Yep, that's a good deal and I could've have worked that out myself? Or perhaps a 2 for 1 cocktail where 1 = 60 but 2 = 80...so it's 2 for 1.3 then?  However, for most Americans visiting Playa (and there are LOADS) why wait until evening happy hour to start on the beers? It seems like Mexico is an excuse to exchange the bottle of water you would normally drink during the day with a bottle or Corona or Sol. But everyone is very well behaved and on holiday, so no issues. We can recommend a cocktail at Ula Gula at Calle 10 and 5th Ave for people watching, or upstairs at the hotel (can't remember the name) on the cnr of Calle 8 and 5th Avenue where you are high above the hustle of the street below. For a great iced or hot coffee, go to Ah Cacao (www.ahcacao.com) on Calle 30 just up from 5th Avenue, or we enjoyed some pretty good juices and food at 100% Natural on 5th Avenue.

street scene playa del carmen
One of the many bustling bars along 5th Avenue of Playa del Carmen


carribean
View from our other balcony....magical!

Of course, no man or woman can lie on a beach for a week. Yes, wrong about that one as a week is far too short in some people's minds! But that's not us, so when in Playa there's a great opportunity to get out and see some history...and go to the beach at the same time. A visit to Tulum is a must as it has the most amazing ruins sitting directly on the coastline of pristine white beaches where you are still allowed to swim. Getting there is easy to so no need to go on a organised tour. Simply catch one of the mini-buses that run from Calle 2, between 15 & 20 Avenues, for 35 MXP one-way. It takes an hour and you'll find a number of the same mini-buses avaible for the return trip. Entry into the Tulum ruins is something like 51 MXP.

ancient ruins of Tulum
The ancient Mayan site at Tulum with a backdrop to the most amazing beach


beach at Tulum ruins
The beautiful beach at Tulum ruins


nicki at tulum
Nicki jumping for joy on the beach at Tulum - why not, look where she is



tulum ruins
Tulum ruins

 

 
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