Mexicofilter: PLaya del Carmen and Tulum area (bonus book question)
March 7, 2006 5:58 AM   Subscribe

Headed to Tulum and Playa Del Carmen April 1-10. Semi winging it on accommodations so very open to anyone's suggestions for reasonable (maybe even romantic) places to stay (staying at CabanaCopal for a couple nights). Been there a few times and enjoy exploring. Anyone have any favorite spots, places to eat, cenote or snorkel spot they want to share? Good cheap massage? Fav local spot on 20th? AND how about a great vacation book - my last beach trip I read "The Great Influenza" and I'm looking for something a little more fun! Thanks (planning and thinking about trips are ALMOST as much fun as going on them...)
posted by beccaj to Travel & Transportation around Mexico (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
We honeymooned at the Barcelo Maya and were pretty impressed. It got great reviews on quite a few travel websites, and we were thrilled with it. Plenty of hammocks and beach chairs by the huge pools, swim-up bars, food everywhere, nice rooms... we loved it. Costco has deals for it if you are a Costco member, as well.
posted by orangemiles at 6:20 AM on March 7, 2006

Depends on what you consider reasonable. (I'm a cheapskate and therefore consider $50 luxury accomodations. Then again, I also just want a good clean room and nice folks -- I'm not a resort girl.)

I vastly prefer the north end of the beach in PDC -- much better beach. I like Posada Mariposa for accomodations. I had a not-great experience at Zanzibar several years ago, but I understand it's under new ownership and is now a nicely-maintained place and a good deal.

The forums are noisy, but there's a lot of good info on this site, and I can vouch for the tours that the owners run. I trust their hotel recs and their restaurant recs are spot-on.

Have fun. I envy you!
posted by desuetude at 6:30 AM on March 7, 2006

I honeymooned in Playa Del Carmen (stayed at the Iberostar Paraiso Lindo). One of our favorite things was a day at Xcaret. A mix of zoo, waterpark, and theme park it was quite touristy, but very fun nonetheless. The swim through the underground river was really relaxing, and the dinner show at night a great way to end the day.
posted by gregchttm at 6:40 AM on March 7, 2006

We went snorkeling at Hidden Worlds and really enjoyed it. Right outside of Playa del Carmen.

If you are going to have a rental car at your disposal, drive to Coba and rent a bicycle to ride through the jungle and look at the ruins. Truly an awesome way to spend an afternoon.
posted by daveleck at 6:45 AM on March 7, 2006

Response by poster: desuetude - you are right on target- I am so interested in the north side-- i find that is heavily biased towards those hotels and businesses that sponsor them so I dont feel like I find good info.

Last year I walked by a hotel that had lost it's beach and had sandbags protecting the cabins/pool and mentioned it on the website forum that day (from a interent cafe) and I was basically called crazy and several posters said there weren't sand bags there. - so i doubt that truth to that site.

I almost styaed at Mariposa last year but stayed instead at Posada Freud, Azulik and then Lab naah (or something like that). I am thinking chilling at Eclipse before I go to tulum and the splurging at the hotel la tortuga in a suite the second half of the trip. I do like the area that eclipse is in...
posted by beccaj at 6:48 AM on March 7, 2006

I second the recommendation for the forums. Really good advice and info, and a lot of the heavy posters are expats living in Playa.

I can't speak highly enough about Alltournative tours. Part of the company's raison d'etre is to help generate income for the Mayan community without exploiting them or their land. We did the Mayan Encounter tour last summer and it was really excellent. We also did the ATV tour (via Posada Freud), which pretty much negated our ecotourism but was a great deal of extremely muddy (it rained the day before) fun.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:09 AM on March 7, 2006 is different than playainfo. Are we talking about the same site? They are a bit biased toward those who sponsor them, but they also have personal relationships with those folks. Admittedly, there's a lot of clique-y crap in the forums now, sorry to say. Ignore.

I've been on the tours run by James and Anna, and they are down-to-earth cool people. And if you want the best polla asado, tacos al pastor, or other street food off-the-beaten-tourist-path James is your man.

For breakfast or lunch -- La Cueva del Chango. I freakin' dream about it, it's so lovely. It's waaay up on the north end.
posted by desuetude at 7:10 AM on March 7, 2006

Oh, and second Alltournative. Great folks.
posted by desuetude at 7:10 AM on March 7, 2006

Response by poster: I have decided to go on an alltournative tour this time.. always avoided tours- just rented car and drove till we got lost..

thanks for suggesting them so I have no doubts...
posted by beccaj at 7:29 AM on March 7, 2006

Seconding daveleck's Coba recommendation: very Indiana Jones. And I had a good snorkel at Xel-Ha.
posted by steef at 7:45 AM on March 7, 2006

Let me know if you have questions about Alltournative tour. I also did a snorkeling/other stuff tour w/the playainfo folks. I didn't think I was a tour-taking type person, now I'm a bit of a convert.
posted by desuetude at 8:27 AM on March 7, 2006

One of my favorite spots is Casa Cenote (sometimes called Manatee Cenote). It's a cool lagoon type cenote that is surrounded by mangrove trees and set just off the beach. It’s deep, clear, and long, and it's an excellent snorkeling location. The lagoon enters a cave that passes under the the beach and exits into the ocean. The beach is agreat area to hang out in between swims and there is a restaurant and small hotel there. There is no fee for swimming in the cenote. There was also no secure place to leave your things, so if you don’t have a car, be aware not to bring anything valuable, or take turns swimming.

The Cenote is located a few kilometers north of Tulum. Ask a Collectivo to drop you off at Casa Cenote. Most likely, they will drop you off at a dirt road that runs towards a resort at the ocean. Walk down the road until you hit the resort and then follow the road north. It’s about a fifteen-minute walk from the highway.

I'd also recommend spending a night or two in Valladolid or Merida both cool towns. I've listed a few other of my favorite outings and day trips here (sorry, self link).
posted by Staggering Jack at 8:41 AM on March 7, 2006

Response by poster: thanks for the cenote suggestions-- we have decided to rent a car for a couple of days so we will definately be looking for cenotes we have missed....

I am thinknig of buying a couple of bikes down there...basic walmart type bikes- usingthem for the 10 days then giving them to a couple of locals that we may meet along the way.

Anyone think of a reason this is a bad idea?
And will the buses let me put the bikes in the storage area??
posted by beccaj at 9:24 AM on March 7, 2006

If you're looking for a place to stay near Tulum, I have to give a shoutout to Zamas. The Mrs and I got back from there a couple of weeks ago -- beautiful uncluttered beach, nice rooms, and the best restaurant in the Tulum area (it's called Que Fresco).

Photographers tend to use it quite a bit for modeling shoots (there was one while we were there) plus you may see the odd celebrity mooning about (Jessica Lange/Sam Shepard, in our case).
posted by alexfw at 10:18 AM on March 7, 2006

Myself, I'd skip PDC and go to Isla Mujeres for that portion of your trip. Casa Maya there is inexpensive, on an almost-private stretch of beach and walking distance from town.

As for Tulum, try Ana y Jose - some say overrated and a bit expensive, compared to many other places there, but the cabanas are very nice and they have the best restaurant anywhere near Tulum.

As someone recommended above, Hidden Worlds runs the best cenote tours; Buddy Quattlebaum, the owner, is the most experienced cenote diver in the area, and if you are an experienced scuba diver you can arrange a tour of the newly-discovered crystal cavern there. He's an excellent guide, and his staff - mostly locals - are all safe divers, nice guys, and know the area well.

And don't bother with tourist buses - colectivos (the government-administered white vans) run every 15 minutes up and down the coastal highway and it'll cost you about $4 from PDC to Tulum Pueblo. At that point you'll have to pay $6 for a taxi out to the beach zone unless you like walking, it's a long and not very pretty walk.

Email me if you have more questions ... I've stayed at a half dozen places on my various trips through Yucatan.
posted by luriete at 12:11 PM on March 7, 2006

(past preview - alex is right that zamas is nice, and not far from ana y jose ... good restaurant, but not near the quality of ana y jose - however, a very nice place to stay.)

and biking on the coastal highway might be ok in bright sunlight but BE CAREFUL. drivers are not used to sharing that road with bikers, and keep good patch kits with you. and stay off the inland roads, as in many places the jungle comes right to the edge of the road and there is no clearance for bikes - many times cars and buses scrape the edge of the jungle on the tight turns.
posted by luriete at 12:13 PM on March 7, 2006

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