Playa Del Carmen

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September 19th 2018
Published: September 24th 2018
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That's what I'm calling it
We have one day in Playa Del Carmen. Tomorrow early in the morning we fly back to California and our Mexico adventure comes to an end.

We got up not too early. We’d had a long day yesterday and things in Mexico just start waking up at around 9 anyway. It looks like it’s going to be a sunny day, so we left our room to Playa’s 5th Avenue (yes, that’s what they call it) in a good mood. We saw a gorgeous white flower on the way, related to lilies I believe. Anyway, I took a picture.

We found a place to eat on 5th Ave. A bit fancy and pricey, but that’s Playa for you. So we had some simple breakfast and coffee, pretending we didn’t understand the Israeli couple sitting next to us.

We spent the morning browsing, shopping for souvenirs and gifts, and avoiding the shop keepers, restauranteurs and tour operators hawking their wares. We took a small side alley and had a quick peek at the beach. Just a half block away. We didn’t find a good swimming spot, just a narrow beach with some fishing boats but the view was good.

As we made our way South down the street it became more crowded, there were more hawkers and tourists alike, but we attributed that to the town gradually waking up.

We continued to shop, bargain and haggle over prices until eventually we got to the end of the street and decided to turn around and head back. We’d go back to our room, dump all our shopping and head out to a snorkeling spot because you can’t come to the Caribbean and not snorkel, right?

At the end of the street, right where we need to turn towards our room, there’s a large souvenir shop that also has a tequila distillery attached, so we went in to try some and buy some. I am under strict orders to get tequila with a worm in it…

Well, we (actually just me) tried some tequila and mescal, and we learned that the worm in tequila is a myth! Not true! They put the worm in mescal… With no other options I got both.

Then we went back to our room.

We were getting organized when it started raining. And I mean it poured! We got delayed by that, but that turned out well actually because I met an employee of the boarding house (I think she was the owner’s mother actually), and asked about catching a taxi to the airport in the morning. Our flight is just before 9AM. She was extremely friendly and super helpful! She called a taxi service and ordered a taxi for us for 6AM, and even bargained 25% off the price for us!

So, we finally got organized, ready to go snorkeling but the rain hadn’t eased up so we decided to go anyway. We got a collectivo from the main street near our room to the center of Playa, and from there another towards Tulum. After close to an hour’s drive we got off at Akumal, which is supposed to be a good place for snorkeling.

By now the rain had all but stopped but it was still overcast (no need for sunscreen). We walked in towards the beach but soon came across some stalls selling tours and guide services, and renting life jackets and snorkels for exorbitant prices. We were told that the jackets are mandatory, so we managed to haggle a bit off the rent.

Walking down to the beach we somehow missed the main entrance. We tried a little side path but still had to pay some guy there (half price). We walked another 10 minutes or so along a rocky coast to the beach. There were a few people around, not many, and there were hotel personnel in uniform keeping the peace so we felt safe leaving our stuff on the beach.

Anyway, we donned our life jackets and goggles and went out on the water. The sea here is very shallow, with lots of seaweed and sea grass growing in the sand, and the occasional rock would attract colorful fish. We swam around with the gopro, looking for interesting creatures and trying to dive closer to them. We even took off the life jackets in turn. That’s when we discovered what they are really for. Not to protect you from drowning but to protect the ‘reef’ from you. It keeps your feet off the sea floor.

After some time swimming around, both Tamar and I saw a stingray at the same time! It was meandering below us, totally ignoring us and the fish that seemed to be hassling it. We got some good footage of it though!

We tired ourselves out by then and swam back to the beach, collected our stuff (nothing was touched) and headed out. We found the (proper) exit from the beach. There are no showers or changing rooms there, unless you want to pay tourist prices! How ridiculous! I was ok, I just put on a shirt, but Tamar was in a bikini and didn’t want to put her clothes on over it and get them wet. We finally found a shop and Tamar managed to convince the shop owner to let her change in her private bathroom.

I waited outside, and a few drops started falling…

All in all I feel that Akumal is a giant tourist trap. The snorkeling there is ok at best, and you feel as if they are trying to cheat you out of a few bucks at every turn! 100 pesos just to rent a life jacket for a couple hours? Not including the snorkel & mask? Another 100 to enter the beach? More for a guide that’s mandatory in parts of the coast? And that doesn’t include changing rooms, transportation, etc.

It wasn’t until we were back in our room that I received a message from the boarding house owner that the beach at Xpuha is much better in every aspect. It’s closer to Playa too.

We headed back to the main road, gave the life jackets back and caught a collectivo back to Playa. On the way we sat next to the driver and he taught us the tens in Spanish (ten, twenty…) After diez dias it’s about time we learned!

We walked from the collectivo station, through 5th Ave. (again) and to our room, and after showering went out to dinner. Tamar wanted seafood and found a restaurant nearby. The food was quite good. She had calamari and coke and I got shrimp in a pita (yes, that’s what I said) and horchata. I was disappointed with the horchata because it tasted more like diluted and sweetened milk, and not rice milk with lots of cinnamon. We were also served a complimentary tasting of shrimp and tomato soup, which was very nice.

Back in our room we finished packing and went to bed. The taxi’s picking us up at 6AM tomorrow morning.

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