It’s going to look like all we do is travel to Mexico, but really, we just happened to visit Mexico twice in the span of 6 months after having never gone there before! Our first trip was in November 2014 to the all-inclusive Iberostar Paraiso Lindo in the Mayan Riviera with our best friends, which included an amazing day of Adventures in Tulum. This time around, we went in April with my whole family to celebrate the fact that both of my parents are having their 50th birthdays this year. My family has never gone on a tropical vacation all together, and it seemed like the perfect time to go and make some memories!
OUR VACATION RENTAL
My brother found a vacation rental property near Playa Del Carmen called Casa Paradisus and oh my, did it ever live up to its name. When our taxi dropped us off, we ran through the house like giddy children, exploring every nook and cranny and exclaiming at the sheer size of the place. Each couple in my family got to enjoy their own bedroom with a king size bed (along with extra beds for my niece and nephew), and the Casa also had a private pool, a hidden cenote complete with resident turtles, an outdoor bar, a
ping pong beer pong table and a rooftop deck with a view of the ocean!
The ocean was about a block away from the Casa along a jungle path, which led to what felt like our own little private stretch of beach tucked between two much busier resorts. Playa Del Carmen was about a 15 minute walk or 5-10 minute bike ride away, and the Casa provided 4 bicycles for us to enjoy as well. Really, it was perfection.
A general word of warning: don’t indulge in too many home-made margaritas on the beach on day 3 of your vacation. This will result in an entire day spent in the sun, about five too few reapplications of sunscreen, and probably the worst sunburn of your life. BUT, it will also result in countless hours of drunken heart-to-hearts with your brothers and sister-in-laws that make you feel like you love everyone and everything. In Nathan’s case, don’t let your drunk sister-in-law apply sunscreen to your back. She’ll miss an entire swooshy section in the middle of it.
PLAYA DEL CARMEN
Playa Del Carmen was a lot of fun, but Fifth Avenue was a bit too commercialized for my taste. There were a lot of big name stores nestled between smaller tourist trap huts selling identical trinkets and souvenirs. Nathan and I snuck out on our own Playa Del Carmen adventure for a day where we ventured further away from Fifth Avenue and loved it, which I’m planning to share in another post.
For the most part, the family enjoyed our time in Playa though! We celebrated my birthday at a restaurant called Carboncitos where the waiters brought all of our drinks stacked on top of their heads. They also made some of the most delicious shrimp tacos that I had during our trip. We also watched the “Danza de los Voladores” in the main Playa Del Carmen square, which is a flying pole dance that is quite interesting and entertaining, with men in traditional garb flying around a pole in circles, suspended by their feet. I also ended up doing a bit of bargaining at a little shop full of handmade leather purses, and came home with a beautiful army green fringed cross body bag. I was hoping to stumble across a more authentic market, but in all honesty, we didn’t really go exploring for one. Playa Del Carmen definitely has a little bit of something for everybody though!
Akumal Beach is a half hour cab ride south of Playa Del Carmen, and completely worth the trip, in my opinion. We spent an afternoon there and rented snorkel equipment to float around in the warm and calm bay and swim with sea turtles, sting rays, and other tropical fish. There are plenty of tour boats available to take you out to the reef for a wad of cash, but we rented equipment from the rentals place by the beach and found plenty of sea life on our own just floating in the bay.
Nathan tried taking his phone along in a waterproof case to get some pictures, but the case leaked and his phone ended up getting fried as a result, so alas, no selfies with turtles! For someone that’s never swam with turtles before, it was pretty magical, and probably one of the highlights for me. If you’ve never done it, I can’t recommend it enough.
DEEP SEA FISHING
Mom and I hung out with my niece and nephew at the Casa for a day while the rest of the adults went on a deep-sea fishing excursion. Nathan caught a dorado, or mahi mahi, within the first half hour and then spent the remaining 4 hours of the trip with intense sea sickness. Apparently the waters were quite rough on their trip, but Nathan didn’t want to end the trip early for everyone else so he toughed it out like a champ. My younger brother caught a blue marlin about the same length as he is, and my sister-in-law caught another dorado! My other brother was reeling in another blue marlin when a wave came and his line went slack. Despite the blue marlin that escaped, we ended up eating fresh ceviche for a few meals, as well as fried mahi mahi tacos. You can’t beat the freshest of fish tacos, filled with fish caught with your own two hands!
Not going to lie, Cozumel was a bit of a bust for us. I had heard so many good things about it from multiple people, but somehow a tour guide convinced us to go on a Sunday to escape the cruise ship crowds, not informing us that a lot of the island shuts down on Sundays. The promenade was quite beautiful though, and I wish we had been there when more shops were open to see it in all of its glory. I was also itching to rent a scooter and explore the island, but it didn’t pan out for us this time around.
The ferry ride over gave me motion sickness because of the rough ocean waves, so by the time we got to the island and ready to board our glass bottomed boat, destined for fantastic snorkelling along the coast at three different locations, I was already a bit green around the gills. I made it through two rounds of rather unspectacular snorkelling (not sure if this was due to the weather, or if the reefs really aren’t all that impressive?) before losing my breakfast over the side of the boat, and spent the remainder of the trip pitifully clinging to the edge of the boat while my mom rubbed my back as I got sprayed repeatedly in the face with ocean water, resulting in a violent bout of shivers. I was a hot mess. Apparently Nathan and I are definitely NOT boat people.
Once we got back to the island after snorkelling, we had lunch at one of the only open restaurants on a little side street, where there were swings for seats and drinks came in coconuts. After lunch, we caught the ferry back over to the mainland and spent the remainder of the day in our pool at the Casa. Our visit to Cozumel was short, and not sweet enough!
UP WITH THE SUN
On one of our last mornings in Playa Del Carmen, Nathan and I got up before the sun and headed down to the beach. Talk about picturesque. There’s nothing like standing at the edge of the ocean to watch the rising sun dance across the waves lapping at your toes. Zen to the core.
Surprisingly, none of us murdered each other! I had so much fun with my family, and I’m so thankful that we were able to spend the time together to celebrate my parents, and to hang out with one another. Playa Del Carmen was a success, and I’m looking forward to the next family vacation!