Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Hotels & Beaches, week 4

Last Thursday we had to change our plan of going into Cancun for the day, as the weather was not looking good, so we took advantage of a break in the clouds and went for a big beach walk.  We planned on walking as far as the beach would take us (or the weather would allow) and taking a cab back.

We headed north as that was the direction that looked the least cloudy.  I have already told you about the first part of this walk, in my week 2 blog.  This time I am trying to record all the hotels and beaches we saw on the way, as Google earth is not up to date, and a map search only seems to give you some of the hotels.  I am sure the names are always changing as well.  Often we cannot tell the name of the hotel from the beach either, so I will do my best to find it.

Hotel Las Palapas   http://www.laspalapas.com/ 
Mahekal  http://www.mahekalbeachresort.com/        Now these 2 hotels are right at the foot of 38th St, where we start our beach walk every day.  And everyday for 4 weeks there has been a horrible smell around these 2 hotels, apparently it is from contaminated ground water, but it smells like rotten eggs or sewage, and I just would not recommend staying here unless you have no sense of smell, or it was really cheap?  Otherwise they look like great places, nice beach, nice looking buildings, good location.

The Elements  http://www.hotelelementsplayadelcarmen.com/index.html  This is a nice looking building, new condos can be rented off vrbo.com.  It is set back off the beach, but has it's own beach club which is basically reserved beach chairs.  Nice swimming area in front of the beach club.

Hotel Grand Coco Bay http://grandcocobay.com/  This Hotel looks much older now than in the photos, has a swimmable beach, but also a lot of fishing boats parked in front of it.  Good location, walking distance to 5th Ave, but nothing fancy.

Next is some unfinished condo's  the sign says "I'M", nice beach but obviously a funding problem has stopped construction here for some time.

Paradisus La Perla http://www.paradisuslaperla.com/photo-gallery.php  We cannot see the actual hotel from the beach here, just the beach chairs.  Hopefully the pool and grounds are nicer than the beach, as it is too rocky for swimming and very little sand to sit on.  Quiet beach area, nothing else around here.

Public Park/beach area, nice shallow bay, some rocks but not a bad swimming area

Mareazul, Condos, http://www.mareazul.com/ This is one of our favorite swimming beaches.  The condos look quite empty, New development with a great beach area.  Too far to walk to town for dinner though, we are about an hour into our walk now.

The Royal Hacienda http://www.royalreservations.com/the-royal-haciendas.asp  This place was very  large, huge pools and nice beach here, some rocky areas for snorkeling as well as a sandy swimming area.

Now I am trying to remember what came next so I checked Google earth and they have The Reef Coco Beach & Viva Wyndam Maya next, but both of those hotels have addresses in Playacar, which is no where near here, so beware if you are using google earth!

Sandos Caracol http://www.sandos.com/hotels/riviera-maya/sandos-caracol-eco-resort-spa/  This was a very busy beach, lots of children, not that much sand to walk by all the people.  Beach does not look as nice as in the photos.  Website is saying this is 10 mins to town, that would be by car.

Azul Fives http://karismahotels.com/HotelsResorts/ForEveryone/AzulFivesHotel  We could only see the pool area here, and noticed they had sand that was grey, they must have trucked in dirty sand from somewhere else, which looked strange.

La Reve http://hotellereve.com/  We loved the look of this small boutique hotel, not much of a swimming beach in front, kind of rocky, but not far to find a sandy spot to swim.  Of course this place has rates starting @ $339 US a night and it's not all inclusive.

The Viceroy Hotel http://www.petitlafitte.com/classicGallery.php  Not a great swimming beach, but they have built a private pier to walk out to where the swimming would be better.

http://www.petitlafitte.com/classicGallery.php this does not look anything like the website, but I do recognize the red roofs that were hidden amongst some trees, looked uncared for.

Grand Sunset Princesshttp://www.princess-hotels.com/hotels-riviera-maya-hotel-grand-sunset-princess-5-stars-photos.htm

Coming up to this next hotel, we were both in total agreement that we could definitely stay here

Grand Velas http://rivieramaya.grandvelas.com/  .....until I looked up the price...$707US per night!  Not in the retirement budget

Banyan tree Mayakoba, looked like expensive condos right on the beach, http://www.banyantree.com/en/mayakoba/ It was really start to get windy here, and we realized this part of the coast is no longer protected by the Island of Cozumel, rougher water, but it was not a great day for weather.

Next was a small wooden walk way over a part of the beach that was eroding, looking inland we could see the Mayakoba golf course, great view from the fairway and green on this hole!

 Fairmont Mayakoba hotel  http://www.fairmont.com/mayakoba-riviera-maya/  You can just see beach villas here, but judging by the website there is a lot more we could not see.

Ok, we have now been walking for at least 2 hours, it is getting really windy, and it feels like time to turn back.  We never did look for a taxi, just kept walking.  We were really tired, sand walking makes your feet, ankles and calves quite sore.  Four hours may have been a bit too long, the map says we covered 20kms, no wonder we were tired!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

More from Playa Del Carmen

I really am feeling sorry for any vacationers who came to the Riviera Maya for just one week, if you arrived last Saturday and left 7 days later, you really did not see much sun!  That is pretty rare for this side of the world.  Yesterday was beautiful again, so hopefully that trend will continue this week!

We had planned on going for a bus trip to Cancun and over to Isla Mujeres last week but didn't want to do that in the rain, so we will do that this week for sure.(I am using the power of positive thinking to ensure good weather!)

In week 3,  we did a bus trip to Tulum.  The bus ride there and back was very comfortable & reliable, big new tour busses and only cost 66 pesos ($5) each way.   Now I am not a big fan of touring ruins, (I am not really a history buff) nor do I enjoy touristy tours, but I wanted to see what the town of Tulum looked like, so might as well take in all Tulum has to offer. 

There was quite a long line to get into the Archeological site, and of course only one ticket window open!  To us it seemed very much like the Ruins we have seen in Turkey and Greece, but with palm trees and shade.   We did not do an official tour, just listened in on the other tour guides talking and had a nice walk around. 

Now you notice in that last photo, the nice blue water in the background, yes, there is a beach, so another reason I didn't mind seeing the ruins.  Apparently there are 2 beaches that can only be accessed by paying your entrance fee, but the biggest one was closed due to turtle hatching season. ( we could not see that)  We gladly went down to the little beach that was open because it was so beautiful, had to a swim because the sun was out making us sweat again!

After exiting the ruins we walked to a near by beach, had lunch at a beach bar, delicious seafood Tostadas and then laid on the beach for a while, then took a 50 peso cab ride into the little town.  We walked around a few streets but not much to see, not on the Ocean at all, so nothing to draw people there.  There are many young backpackers, so it must be a reasonable place to stay. No big hotels, or American restaurants which is nice to see for a change.  We stopped and had a cold cervesa at Charlie's Restaurant next to the Bus station, that looks like a great little place!   We quite enjoyed our little day trip to Tulum.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Rain in Playa Del Carmen

Even I did not believe this until yesterday, it does rain in Playa Del Carmen!

Yes, a whole day of clouds and rain!  We had to take an umbrella so we could go for a walk, it was almost like being at home, (except it was 22C).

We have laughed at the weather forecasts for this area, as they always say chance of thunderstorms, or 40% of rain, a sometime during the day a big black cloud blows through and you get wet for 5 minutes,  but most often it does not rain at all.  We have been here 27 days now and been rained on maybe 3 times before yesterday, so don't be scared away by the forecasts on weatherundergound or accuweather.   They are never quite right, none of them predicted a whole day of rain for yesterday.

So far today is looking better, I even checked the forecast .....(LOL not sure why)

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Playa Del Carmen, week 3, in Search of Good Seafood Restaurants

We have been having quite a restaurant dilemma since we have been here, probably because we expected Mexico to be the same on the Atlantic side as on the Pacific side.  Obviously that was unrealistic, why would the food and restaurants be the same in Newfoundland and Vancouver?  We forgot how big and diverse Mexico (or any Country) can be.

Our plan to try a 7 week vacation as retired folks was based the search for sunshine in the winter, and to live on the same budget as we do at home.  Mexico seemed like a much better choice than Hawaii (for example) as the cost of food in Hawaii is much higher.

There is no shortage of restaurants in Playa Del Carmen, but at least half of them are pizza places.  We do not eat pizza at home so why would we eat it in Mexico?  (of course I might have the occasional gluten free pizza if I found a good one at home or anywhere, everything in moderation)

We love fresh seafood, so that is what we search for, should be easy in a seaside town! However we are finding that most restaurants serve Basa as their catch of the day, some call it sea bass.  If you ask for the catch of the day some places have Grouper, some say it is Grouper and bring you Basa! This is when I get really disappointed. (if you haven't had Basa it is in the frozen food section of your local grocer, it is cheap and has very little flavor or texture)   The other disappointment is when you actually get grouper and they have overcooked it.  Mexicans are usually the best fish cooks?

 I know I read many times to avoid the restaurants on 5th Ave, and mostly we have, thinking that the beach front is more where we wanted to be. So far we have found a list of disappointments  Kool Fish, La Exquisita de la 38, La Vagabunda & El Pescaore Da Ilena, none of which we will go back to.  Also 2 favorites:  La Ceuva Del Changa at 1st Ave and 38th St. (we have been there 3 times and love it!)  Carboncito's on 4th St was also great!

But we should have been looking more toward 30th Ave, as this article and many others have stated: http://www.travelyucatan.com/playa_del_carmen_restaurants.php

We are so happy to find that we really can go out for a fabulous & inexpensive seafood dinner!  The restaurants are small, but clean and friendly, no ocean view but you can't have everything. (darn)

We ate here a couple nights ago, shared whole redsnapper and shrimp tacos for 200 pesos and it was fabulous!

Next is La Bamba Jarocha, it has great reviews and is always full of Mexicans, so we are looking forward to trying this one, along with many others down the street.

Monday, 21 January 2013

10 Things I love about Playa Del Carmen

1.  The beach:  multi colored blue green water, so warm you do not even need to pause going into, (unless there is a wave), white sand, soft and cool on your feet.

2.  The Weather: there can be a few stray clouds which are nice to cool you down, sometimes the wind is quite strong but it is never cold, 25-30C during the day, 18C is the coldest night we have had and......

 .... this is what a rainy day looks like
3.   No Beach Vendors
4.   Avocados: Huge ripe avocados, puts the little things we have at home to shame (I eat them everyday cause it's a good fat right?)

5.   5th Ave:  Pedestrian walk, love that the street is closed to cars from 34th Calle (St.) to 1st Calle.  It is a great walk in the morning when the stores are not all open and people are not out yet, at night it is crowded with people, looking for a dinner destination, a bar or shopping.  This is where all those beach vendors disappeared to, now trying to entice you into their shops or restaurants.

6.   Restaurants:  La Cueva de Chango http://www.lacuevadelchango.com/ : favorite restaurant, not only is it just down the street but the prices are really good, and the food is always delicious!  Try the Amaranth crusted Chicken stuffed with cottage cheese or the Tuna  Yummm!  2nd favorite is the small local restaurants on 30th Ave, away from Tourist area, welcome to everyone, great food, cheap prices, very clean and worth the walk.  The servers don't speak as much English in this area, but there is always one or two of them who know enough to help us order something good.  (Yes we should learn more Spanish)

7.   Safe to walk everywhere:  to the grocery store (many to choose from, Sorianna's & Aki Gran Mayoreo are closest to us and have a great selection and good prices, 2nd choice and a bit farther walk is Mega and then Walmart).  No car rental necessary (google why you should not rent a car in Mexico)

8.    Our Condo, Arena Blanca, 10th Ave and 38 Calle (St.) walking distance to everything, The best part is the roof top deck.............

Large enough to do my morning workout (love the sworkit App), usually a nice breeze to lay out and read a book in the afternoon, if not, there is always the pool, or a short walk to the beach....choices, choices, choices.

9.    Live Band at Bad Boys Beach Club, thursdays and Saturday,  Good for some live Rock and Rock, and dancing if you like, people watching also entertaining here.

10. Getting up each morning and trying to decide which bathing suit to wear today! 

Friday, 11 January 2013

Beach walks, week 2

This week we have been on some nice long beach walks, this side of the world seems to have sandy beaches that go on forever!

This is where our walks start from, the foot of 38th Street, a couple blocks from where we are staying.

Walking for just over an hour to the North we did not need shoes at all.  There were several areas of rocky beaches that would be dangerous to swim in without shoes, but plenty of nice white powder stuff to walk on until you find a nice swimming beach.  (Cause it is hot and you need to cool down on a 2 hour walk)
We walked past a Paradisus resort, which did not have much of a swimmable beach at all, but it was
definitely away from all crowds.  http://www.paradisuslaperla.com/

 A little further along we found a wonderful sandy beach, walking into the water for a swim was perfect, no rocks, just warm water and gentle waves. Also a very large sandy area to lay out on in front of a very new condo resort called Marealazul.  It looks very nice, check it out here http://www.gcoral.com/mareazul.php?gclid=CNCX7MC74LQCFUWnPAod9TMAyQ

The next day we found an even better beach when we walked in the other direction from our condo, past the Mamitas, and Kool beach bars, we often just lay out in front of the Royal Resort, the beaches are all fine here, but very crowded.  There is an old pier next, and all the resorts to the south of that have a weird beach, man made, with sandbags under the sand, like concrete to walk on in places.  The swimming area is a sandbar out past the fish boats, doesn't look appealing at all to me.

Next, in the photo above is a big row of condos and beach bars, very little beach to lay on and a slanted area to walk, swimming is also out there on that sandbar, I wouldn't want to stay at El Taj or El Faro cause the beach is lousy.( did I mention the smell around here......rotten eggs?)  So we keep walking past the ferry dock that takes you to Cozumel and what a pleasant surprise............

Now this nice flat beach is in front of condos, Xaman Ha and PlayaCar Place.  Playacar is the upscale area of Playa Del Carmen, it is gated, and has a golf course and many gorgeous looking houses.  The beach here is not crowded, there are no beach bars or anywhere to rent a chair. (which is too bad, but I guess that is why it is not crowded)  It took us about 40 mins to walk here on the sand, probably less if we went by road. This Beach reminds me of the beautiful beaches we saw in the Bahamas and Antigua, we will definitely make the walk back as often as possible.

I did look up the condos on this beach to see what the prices were like, and of course they are over $250 a night, and the Xaman Ha is really old and run down looking, old A/C that would be very noisy, I wouldn't recommend that one.  There are many of these beach front homes too, wouldn't that be nice?  Yes, way too pricey!  The last 3 days here have been very windy as well, so going to the beach means you are always covered in the fine sand, ( it is always blowing on you).  So maybe being beach front would not be all that great, there is no sand blasting us on our nice rooftop deck! (only a short walk from the beach and less than half the cost of beach front)  Maybe we will just be happy with what we have!
The search for a great fish restaurant continues.....................................

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Playa Del Carmen Week 1

Yes, 2013 starts the year of real retirement living, so of course it must start on a beach.  We arrived in Playa Del Carmen 9 days ago, we are still surprised at the crowds of young people, the heat, and the difficulty finding a good seafood restaurant.

Last February I went online and found a great condo to rent here in Playa and we love it, great location, clean, small complex, quiet neighbors, nice pool, short walk to the beach or busy 5th Ave with it's many restaurants.  Very happy with the choice we made to rent this place at Arena Blanca.  It is at the quiet end of town, but we still find the road noise and some boom boom music from an unknown surrounding restaurant can keep us awake at night, windows just are not that soundproof in this building(that's my only complaint so far).

When I was doing my research last year I checked the weather history on weatherunderground.com, it showed January to be about 23C on average, so we brought a couple of sweaters thinking it might not be that warm at night......well I guess the weather is just different this year, it is currently 26C, with a few nice clouds, and a breeze(thankfully)...yesterday was 28C but felt like 37C and really there has not been a day that has cooled down to prevent me from breaking out in a sweat eating dinner at an outdoor restaurant after dark!  (Yeah, yeah... we know I am menopausal women but really no one is gonna need a sweater, never mind sleeves!)

No where in my research did I find a mention of "BPM", apparently it stands for Beats Per Minute and is a huge thing with the 20 something crowd, DJ's from all over the world are in Playa Del Carmen for the next week or so (well it started before we got here, but officially Jan 4th to 13th) to play their BOOM BOOM beat at many locations throughout town.  I understand that this technobeat stuff can be quite good but I can't tell where one song ends and the next begins and all we can hear on the beach is BOOM BOOM BOOM....it is too annoying!  

Here is the link to learn more ifhttp://www.thebpmfestival.com/ you so desire http://www.thebpmfestival.com/

The beach in Playa is really quite lovely, (and it goes on for miles so you can avoid the BOOM BOOM crowd), the white sand is made of ground seashells so it never gets hot, it is like walking on powder all the way out into the water too!  The water is just as warm as the air,  turquoise blue and heavenly to float in.  The wind can create some big waves, but mostly this part of the coast is sheltered by the island of Cozumel, so it can be quite calm.  You can't help wanting to take a dip everyday!

What I find quite amusing is this photo below that many condo owners have posted on their ads to rent their places close to Mamitas beach......................
Quite beautiful isn't it?

But this is what it really looks like.....................I took this photo yesterday, the crowd gets bigger, much bigger when you get to Mamita's as it is a beach bar hosting the "BPM"   
Everyday this beach is crowded (even before the BPM) there are many beach bars, resorts and very little actual sand to sit on, storms have eroded a lot of the beach away, so that nice deserted beach pictured above, must be very very old!

Still I prefer the beaches here on the atlantic side to the ones on the Pacific coast of Mexico, the water is warmer, clearer and there are no dead puffer fish or sea snakes like in Puerto Vallarta.
On the other hand, we liked the restaurants and seafood better on the Pacific side.
It's early in the trip yet, and about 360 restaurants here, so much more research to be done.......to be continued.......