Ma and Pa Lee are wistfully dreaming of their retirement, and whilst this may still be a good few years off yet, they are planning a fabulous holiday to celebrate. A “finish work on Friday and jet off on Saturday” kind of affair. And Mexico is currently top of their wishlist.
I never did a travel blog on our July 2014 trip, figuring no-one really wanted to hear about two weeks of sunbathing, watching kids bash a pinata (for 2 long hours…) and sampling every cocktail on the menu at our all-inclusive hotel (Clubhotel Riu Tequila, Playa del Carmen). But here of some of the reasons that Mexico – and Playa del Carmen in particular – is a good option for a first time long-haul holiday.
Playa Del Carmen is at the heart of the Mayan Empire, with the Mayan cities of Chichen Itza, Tulum, Coba and Ek Balam all close by. Hence the entire area also being called Riviera Maya. Whilst Chichen Itza is probably the most famous, we visited Coba, where you can actually climb 138ft to the top of the great pyramid Nohoch Mul . Coba is spread over a huge area, around 80 square km altogether, and much still lies uncovered in the surrounding jungle. Its about 2km from the visitors centre to the pyramid itself through shady jungle paths; you can also choose a bicycle or rickshaw ride to get you around the site if walking is a bit much. Clambering to the top affords stunning views over the Mayan Jungle; it’s not a tough climb but in the summer its a bit muggy and can be tough on the lungs. Coming down is best taken very slowly, one step at a time, on your backside, using the handy rope…
It’s about 90 minutes from Playa del Carmen; we did an organised tour through First Choice, with half a day at Coba, a village tour, tequila tasting and a cenote swim.
Speaking of cenotes… the chance to swim in one of these should definitely be taken if you have the chance. A cenote is a sinkhole, filled with water, and many are partially or fully enclosed in a cave, although some do remain open-air. We had the opportunity to try all three types, and for an out-of-this-world experience, the best was certainly the fully enclosed cenote and underground snorkel river we experienced as part of our day trip with Edventure Tours. Being able to snorkel is a bonus, but you certainly don’t need to be an expert. Oh, and if you’re offered a wetsuit – take it. We declined, then slowly turned a shade of smurf blue in the freezing cold water underground that’s never warmed by the sun…
Tequila. It makes me happy. Terrorvision were right. And you haven’t drunk tequila unless you’ve sat in a bar in Playa del Carmen, sipping a tequila based cocktail, chased down by a tequila shot or two. The national drink is as available as tap water, and you’re not limited to Jose Cuervo. We even had tequila served in an optic in our free hotel mini-bar. Literally, tequila on tap. Of course, things may tend to get a bit hazy after the third or fourth tequila, but hey, you’re on holiday… Drink responsibly folks 🙂
If you’re spending your holiday on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, chances are you’re going to spend a little time at the beach. And there’s no doubt that you’re spoilt for choice, with miles of palm-fringed white sand. Of course, the big hotels lining the Rivieria Maya strip have clearly marked private areas, but all of the beaches along this stretch of shoreline are public, making a romantic stroll along the beach from your hotel all the way to town a possibility. The public beaches in Playa del Carmen town have a different vibe from those lining the private developments, with music, impromptu games of football and volleyball, and an array of beach bars and restaurants. Mr Fletche and I had the best nachos and guacamole in one of these beach bars, a simple table and chairs set-up on the sand.
If you’re going to try extreme sports, Mexico is the place to do it. And with miles and miles of jungle canopy, ziplining is a popular choice. And it is absolutely the most fun and exhilarating experience. We took our tour with the wonderful Edventure Tours, and spent the morning whizzing between the trees on a thin cable. I have never simultaneously screamed and laughed so much. Beware the rope bridges though. Mr Fletche left me dangling by my fingertips over the treetops (after unsuccessfully trying to haul me up I must add) whilst my fellow zip liners and staff cheered me on. Of course, there are the big activity parks such as Xplor, but opting for a small tour group like this one was amazing, and I felt well looked after, even when I was scared to death!
This should have been the experience of a lifetime, and there is no doubt at all that swimming above these magnificent creatures was thrilling, but a combination of choppy waters, exhaustion from treading water and a leaky snorkel mask meant that I couldn’t enjoy this as much as I would have liked. I believe there are now restrictions on this activity in order to preserve their habitat, which is probably a good thing; we were happy that our tour group were ecologically responsible and ensured that we used biodegradable sunscreen, stayed a fair distance away from the turtles and did not touch them or the sea grass which is their main source of nutrition.
So technically this list is 5 things you should definitely experience, and one that you might not be able to.
We enjoyed our time in Playa del Carmen a lot, and it is a fantastic place for couples and for families; for relaxing and for activity; for tequila and for guacamole. Although it may seem like it, I am in no way working for or being sponsored by Edventure Tours; but I would definitely recommend them for any excursions. If Ma and Pa Lee want to pop me in their suitcase when they visit then I’ll happily accompany them!