Explore. Experience. Engage.

Powered by our sister site, Family Vacation Critic

Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Author: qqchuck
Date of Trip: May 2006

One thing I haven't done yet but sounds fun is a Cenote swim/snorkel. A cenote is a fresh water lake that is partially underground. There are lots ot choose from and any tour operator can sell you a trip, or you can find out where it is and drive there.

Here's another place I've never been but it looks interesting: Discovery Jungle Park.

Of course, like every other beach destination in Mexico, you always have water sports...Jet Skiing, Parasailing, Sea Kayaking, Submarine, Glass bottom boat and Speed boating. I've never parasailed PDC, but I've always wanted to, and the place is so beautiful that I think it would be a great experience.

The Food

I've always found the food in PDC to be wonderful. For American style upscale dinners (including fish), John Gray's Place and Chicago Don Jose's are a MUST VISIT! John Gray is a former Ritz Carlton chef who has 2 restaurants in that region, and the menu changes every 2 weeks or so, as well as daily fish specials. Chicago Don Jose's had an EXCELLENT cilantro/caramelized onion/garlic grouper that was to die for. If you ever go down there, refer to it as the "fish that's not on the menu" and mention cilantro -- they'll know!

For Mexican and seafood, my friend and I like the Blue lobster. You can pick out a huge lobster tail (price based on size), and they'll cook it up however you like. The authentic Mexican is decent, but I'm just not a big fan of authentic Mexican...I prefer Tex- Mex. We had the chix fajita nachos tex mex style at Senor Frogs by the Ferry terminal-- and it was great! Another good place for Mexican is La Palapa Hemingway's, which serves a great "made at your table" guacamole (many places do that), and a great lime soup (a regional dish). I've also had great ceviche and good lunches at the Blue Parrot. I should mention that the Blue Parrot is a little more expensive than the other beach clubs, but I've found the quality to be better there (though, as with most beach clubs, the service seemed to be lacking). Service at the regular restaurants was generally excellent.

We went to an Italian joint call Bruno D Italia, but we didn't really like the restaurant or the service. I thought I smelled Pizza in there (good smell), but apparently it was on a whole different menu that they neglected to give us! Oh well. Maybe the pizza is good. There was another more upscale Italian joint on the opposite corner...you might give that a try. I will next time I'm there.

Another place I went to last time I was there was Yaxche. While the food is good and the atmosphere upscale, I felt it was a bit overpriced and trendy -- but some folks like that...so there ya go.

For breakfast food, I recommend the Hot! Baking Company, which serves cinnamon rolls and American-styled omelettes. The seating is outdoor and thus can be quite warm, but they have umbrellas and the food and service are great. I highly recommend the Mexican omelette, which has tomatoes, cheese, green peppers, and onions in it. They also have muffins, bagels, even eggs benedict on the weekends.

Another breakfast favorite of mine is the La Tortuga Hotel restaurant. They serve a small menu of Mexican-styled breakfast dishes like huevos rancheros in a nice open air environment. The hotel itself is very nice (the pool is very cool!), with it's only downfalls being that is a little more expensive and it's right next to a VERY busy one way street -- which is not a problem as long as your room is not right next to that street. I stayed there 2 years ago when I went, and I was much happier after moving from a street side room to one on the interior of the property. Also, check out the junior suites that have private jacuzzis.


Hotels vary from cheap to moderate to expensive (on the beach). I've never stayed at any of the really nice joints, as most of those appear to be All Inclusive (AI) resorts (some in town, and some just out of town) and/or expensive. Some joints charge extra (like $10/day) for A/C -- and I HIGHLY recommend you pay for it if you have to! I did some research the day I left and there were several hotels right on or just off of 5th avenue for $50-90 night with 2 dbl beds or one king and A/C. Low season pricing, which varies by hotel, is ~mid April-mid July, and early Sept to mid November. I did tour some nicer places that were $90-$130/night, but those tended to be further north, and further from the "heart" of downtown. Still walkable, just like 5-7 blocks north of the central downtown area (which I define to be at about 10th Street and 5th Avenue).

Two things are worth mentioning with respect to hotels. Virtually all of the hotels have uncomfortable Mexican beds, which sometimes have no box spring, so they tend to be very firm and sometimes springy/lumpy. I never really notice that much as I'm always so darned tired after a day in paradise that I just don't notice it that much, but it takes some adjusting to. I've always thought about bringing an air mattress, pad (like folks use for camping), or even one of those egg crate cushions with me, but I never have tried it.

The other issue is toilets. Many of the cheaper places actually discourage you from flushing toilet paper (as do some restaurants) down the toilet, and instead ask you to place it in trash bags next to the toilet. I talked to a guy who stayed at such a place (Maya Bric, in the heart of downtown for $50/night with A/C) and he said he kind of ignores that advice and just makes sure they use toilet paper sparingly and flush a lot. The places that I've stayed at don't really have this problem, but many of the cheaper places do. I also read a review about the Maya Bric that the way the bathroom is designed, the floor of the shower is the same as the floor of the toilet (with no separator...), so some of this can be queasy for prissy types. All the places I've stayed have had very clean bathrooms, and like I said, didn't give any toilet paper advice.

Getting There

You fly into Cancun and then transfers are right around $15-30 per person one way for 2 or more people to get to PDC. A taxi back to the airport is ~$15-20 per person for 2 or more people. Make sure your taxi has A/C! You could also fly into Cozumel, take the ferry to Playa, then take a taxi to your hotel if you wanted to.

Note that Saturdays and Sundays are the absolute WORST days to come in and leave on, since many of the weekly rentals and all inclusive 7 day trips run Sun-Sat. or Sat-Sat. They're pretty efficient with customs and immigration at Cancun airport, but the time difference can be big. Maybe 10 minutes total on Mon-Fri, vs. like 1 hour on the weekends! (Each way!)

Good Websites

Related Trip Reviews
Mexico Trip Reviews
Send Us Your Trip Review!

Thank You For Signing Up!

Please Note: To ensure delivery of your free e-letters, please add news@independenttraveler.com to your address book.

We're committed to protecting your privacy and will not rent or sell your e-mail address. By proceeding, you agree to our privacy policy and Terms of Use.