2nd- 5th November 2015
Playa is probably the first of these that’s not written as a bunch of overwhelming positivity. For one thing, we only really were there a couple of days, and for another, it hasn’t been my favourite place. It would probably be fine if you were here on holiday with great weather and a tourist budget, but it’s such a tourist trap that prices are a bit out of range of our low low backpacker budget. I’ll make sure I mention the bad and the good, as there were still a good few positives of our stay.
The journey there
Not really Playa’s fault, but it was an absolute disaster. We arrived at Mexico City airport super early, at about 4.30pm for a 7pm flight. You are advised to check in 2 hours before, so we did that and headed through to departures and kept an eye on the screen for our gate to be announced. Half an hour before take off was due, we still had no gate, no announcement, no anything. The board still said ‘on time’ though so we got worried and asked at an information desk.
Delayed until 9pm, we were told, come back at 8 and a half. So we waited, all this time the board still saying ‘on time’. Then our flight disappeared from the board completely, and later reappeared saying ‘on time’, but now at 9.30. We asked at the desk again and the man still said 9. It later disappeared again and reappeared at 9.15, but this time with a gate! We then spent another age at the gate, with the board now saying ‘take off’ but with no sign of us actually getting on. We did eventually get on and left around 10ish, which isn’t the most devastating delay ever but there was no information for most of the waiting, and we were now stressed as we had missed all the buses to Playa until the next morning, and didn’t know if we could get in our hostel that late (the flight is 2 hours and the state of Quintana Roo where Playa is is an hour ahead of Mexico City.
Turns out the worry about the buses was quickly sorted, getting a colectivo from Cancun airport to Playa was only 45 mins and not to expensive. Unfortunately we were right to be worried about not getting into the hostel, and as we rolled up at 2am there was no one with the right key to let us in to the dorms. We could luckily stay in a little courtyard with seats and vh1 classic playing some tunes, but we were absolutely exhausted and we didn’t know if we’d be able to get into the room until 7am when reception officially reopened. Thank goodness that at 5am a bunch of hotel staff reappeared from partying, and were sober enough to give us a key for the room and said we could do the official checking in the next day. So good to have somewhere to finally sleep, even if it was painfully hot and humid.
Things to do in Playa del Carmen
After having been in such a busy city, we suddenly weren’t sure what to do here. There is a main strip of expensive tourist shops, bars, and restaurants which we couldn’t really afford. The beach was quite nice, not too busy and although it wasn’t that clean in some places, it was really close and convenient for us. The main other things to do are the tours and excursions to eco theme parks and islands, which were pretty expensive, especially when at other places you can arrange similar things yourself much cheaper.
It was probably good for us to have a bit of a relax though, as things had been a bit nonstop previously. Unfortunately, we could only do a small amount of the relaxing on the beach we’d wanted to do, as the rain seriously started to hit. We’re still near the end of rainy season, and wow did it rain. We ended up soaked through after a morning on the beach, and found ourselves hostel-bound on multiple occasions.
Despite all this, we had a few highlights from around Playa. The beaches were a relaxing place to sit, and the sun did poke out for a few hours each day. Even though the restaurants were mainly expensive, we did treat ourselves to a fresh seafood dinner as well, at a bargain beachside restaurant called Tarraya (I think it was on Calle 2 and Avenida 5a if anyone is visiting). For just over 100 pesos each (£4, a very fancy dinner on our budget) we got a drink each, plus our meals. I had ceviche, which is seafood cooked with acidic citrus juice rather than with heat and had squid, octopus, and prawns in it, as well as a couple of fish tacos. Rav’s food was even more impressive, one of the hugest fish fillets I have ever seen with a tasty vegetable sauce. I ended up eating a good deal of that as well as it was so huge… Probably the best meal so far, in my opinion.
This marked quite a change in hostels for us. So far we’d been in pretty quiet places, mainly not very busy and with very basic common space. Hostel Tequilita, where we stayed in Playa, was big, loud, brightly coloured, and fun. We made friends with two girls, one from France and the other from Martinique, who informed us that on the first proper night we were there, the hostel bar was holding a ‘ladies’ night’. We thought this was going to be some drinks discounts, but turned out that it actually meant unlimited free drinks for women between 10pm and 12pm, a deal which we would have been crazy to turn down even though we were still pretty exhausted post travel disaster.
We definitely made the most of the offer, and hostel staff kept coming to our table to see if we wanted more free drinks (of course we did), and eventually the big group from the hostel all headed out to a nearby club. We didn’t stay out long as the music wasn’t really our thing, but were very pleased with our free night. It really was the kind of place where it was worth being in a decent hostel, as when there isn’t so much to do around it’s nice to be able to meet some people and hang around in the hostel itself.
After 3 nights it was time to move on. That was plenty of time for us in Playa really, although it was fun in places we’d heard better about places to come. The next stop, Tulum, was an easy 50 minute colectivo ride away, and I’ll be blogging that one soon (our last Mexican stop pre-Belize!). Hope all is well back at home, and you’re not getting quite as much rain as here…