Playa del Carmen: Travel Notes

Wall graffiti on 5th Avenue, Playa del Carmen Mexico

We are back home in Raleigh and the sunny weather seems to have followed us from Mexico.  Our vacation was a lot of fun, but as Devang mentioned to me, since having kids we rarely come back less tired.  It’s all worth it though.  I want to share some of our pictures and travel notes with you before life and laundry got in the way, so here it goes…

We flew from Raleigh to Cancun with a layover in Miami where we again made efficient use of the Centurion lounge.  I didn’t realize until our trip that the Caribbean is hop skip and a jump away (especially compared to our travel times on trips to Hawaii).   We stayed at the Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Esmeralda which is an all-inclusive resort chain in Playa del Carmen.  This was our second such vacation (I still owe you my thoughts on the all-inclusive in Costa Rica) and for what it is, it was definitely a very nice hotel.  The resort is basically divided into two sections – one for adults only and one for families.  There are plenty of restaurants on premise with different cuisines ranging from fancy to casual.  Our favorite was NAOS which was a giant family style buffet but which amazingly good quality and variety of food. The lobby was beautiful with lots of fish and turtles, and this is where I hung out on most early mornings with Arjun and my cappuccinos.  And speaking of, I definitely had more cappuccinos than mojitos, wine, and all other alcoholic drinks combined – they were just so so good!

Overall, the hotel has a lot going for itself, EXCEPT, the pools are not heated.  The water was so freakishly cold.  I never did take a dunk and the closest I got in was waist deep.  No one wants to hang out in the small shallow kiddie pools usually but in this case, they were always crowded with babies and parents because it warmed up quickly with the sun.  I am not really a pool person so I didn’t care much and just enjoyed seeing Asha swimming along without any complains. I did LOVE the palapas which were perfect for Arjun to crawl around and entertain himself while I relaxed.  The beach water wasn’t any better sadly and so I must say that we missed splashing around a bit.  Also, the hotel rooms are smoke free but there were no restrictions to smoke in the common areas.  I thought it was extremely rude when adults smoked right where the kids were playing, eating, or hanging out.  I tried to give them a stink-eye but of course it didn’t really matter to them.

After a couple of relaxing days in the resort, we decided to take a trip to see the ruins at Tulum.  They are just under 30 minutes away but given that the tour guides make several stops to pick up other folks from different hotels, it took us close to two hours.  The ruins itself are small and contained, but it was a trip worth taking since the car ride gave us a chance to see the true city outside of our resort.  Being a self proclaimed hotel snob, I also liked taking a peek at other resort grounds.  Coincidently, the place that I loved the most and will definitely stay at in our next trip is Villa Pescadores.  It is the opposite of an all-inclusive resort with few small cabana style rooms.  Each has a small fenced yard with hammocks and lots of sand.  There is only one small restaurant and one grill on the beach.  The sand is like powder sugar and the water is blue and warm.  I can totally see Arjun and Asha playing around without needing much supervision while I laid in the hammock reading a book.  It was truly something out of my dreams!

The following day we walked the two miles to “5th Avenue” which is the main tourist drag with lots of restaurants and shopping.  The sidewalk was in great shape and the street was quiet making it an easy walk with the kids.  We saw lots of cool graffiti on the way.  After a good lunch at the most colorful place we could find, La Vagabunda, we took our time walking around and people watching.  I had a nice cold coconut which went perfectly with the hot day! We gave Arjun a taste and he definitely loves it as much as his mama.

On Sunday, we left late in the afternoon for our return journey home.  Overall, it was a great vacation for our family.  This was our second time in Mexico, first one being a 1st anniversary celebration in Puerto Vallarta – oh how time flies.  Adios Mexico, you were a lot of fun! Until next time.

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Chika Gujarathi is a freelance writer based in Raleigh, NC. She writes about everything from travel, food, books, and family. Her current project includes a series of children's books to teach Hindi. She is a native Tar Heel who has also lived in Washington DC and Chicago.

One thought on “Playa del Carmen: Travel Notes

  1. I’ve only been to Mexico twice, also once to Puerto Vallarta and another time to Playa del Carmen! Never with kids though, so I want to go again sometime with them. My favorite place when we visited Playa del Carmen was Akumal, a small beach where you can snorkel and see turtles all over. My hope is to go back sometime and spend more time in Akumal (much less populated), and see the caves–that’s the one thing I wished we had done, but ran out of time.

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