Playa and Tulum Mexico 2016

Tulum March 9 to 16 2016


Unfortunately, my Gold Medallion status on Delta expired the first of the year. Fortunately, I was still Silver Medallion. Not that it gets me much. The biggest perk is exit row seating for no up charge. There is small chance of being upgraded to first class but it rarely happens. 

I was surprised when my wife and I were upgraded to first class on the flight to Cancun. A direct flight in first class, that’s the right way to start vacation.

Our good luck halted there. When we arrived in Cancun my wife’s luggage didn’t make it. The flight was direct so I’m not sure why her bag didn’t make it and mine did. Luckily her bag was delivered to our hotel in Tulum by 10:30 pm that evening.

Once we arrived in Cancun a representative from our rental car company greeted us outside the airport. He brought us back to the office where we signed our paperwork and picked up our rental car.

It was an hour and a half drive to our hotel in Tulum. I was careful not to speed because I had gotten a speeding ticked several years ago in Cancun.  My efforts paid off, we made the dive without getting pulled over.

You may think I am paranoid about speeding tickets but if you read the Trip Advisor forum there are many threads about people getting a speeding ticket in Mexico and what to do when you get pulled over. The forum has conflicting information about whether a Mexican cop can give you a ticket, should you pay the cop off, or let them take your license, etc.

Since the information on the Trip Advisor forums is so confusing I made sure that I didn’t speed. That is harder than you would think, the speed limit continuously changes on Highway 307.


Viento de Mar and the Tulum Beach Road

Pina coladas at Viento del Mar
Pina coladas

Check in was easy at Viento de Mar. They put our bags in our room while the concierge brought us into the restaurant and gave us our complimentary pina colada.

It is a beautiful hotel. Our room was large. The furniture and walls were painted off white. The bathroom was large. The bed was comfortable. Our room faced the pool but had a limited view of the ocean.

We walked to Juanita Diavola for dinner. The beach road (highway 15) wasn’t well lit so the concierge gave is a flashlight.  We had a great wood oven pizza and a salad.

Tulum is known for Yoga… it is internationally known for yoga. On my flight home from Playa several years ago I sat next to a yoga instructor from Berlin that had brought her students to Tulum for a week of yoga.


Our Room at Viento de Mar
Our Room at Viento de Mar

I read an article about Tulum on the New York Times website just before we left.  It described it as a hip city and yoga mecca. My favorite line of the article said that if you see a couple walking down the street in Tulum at least one of them will be wearing yoga pants.

Just before my Tulum trip the previous November I found a video on the New York Times website called 36 Hours in Tulum. It is a great video that makes Tulum look a little bit cooler that is actually is but overall it is accurate. I thought it did a good job capturing the essence of Tulum which I think is the rustic beach properties, the good food, great drinks, and of course yoga.

That said, my wife and I got up and did yoga on our second day in Tulum. This was only my second yoga class. We were trying to find the class at Yoga Shala but I think we ended up at a class across the road. Only in Tulum can you wander into a yoga class across the street from the one you meant to go to.

When we were parking, a German man parked alongside us and exited his van. His body language indicated he was angry at us for something. I asked Karen if she picked up his irritation with us and she did. She was as clueless as I was as to what we did wrong.



Viento de Mar Restaurant
Viento de Mar Restaurant

To make matters worse he was some kind of a yoga guru. The instructor kept complimenting him on his form and he was able to bend himself into yoga positions that I would never be able to accomplish.

 The class was good even though sand was blowing in from the beach and we could hear people having breakfast in the restaurant below us. After yoga we went back to Viento de Mar for breakfast. It was included with the room. We had eggs, fruit, black beans and yogurt. Breakfast is in their restaurant overlooking the beach. Unfortunately it was extremely windy the entire time we were in Tulum so the restaurant kept the shutters closed to keep the wind and sand out.


We drove into the Sian Kaan biosphere in the afternoon. According to Trip Advisor the road can be rutted but it wasn’t bad. The area is a Unesco world heritage site. We were hoping to find a kayak outfitter but it was very windy so most of them were closed.

That evening we had our best meal on the trip.  We went to Posada Margherita. It was a short walk from Viento de Mar. Both Karen and I

Tunich Jungle Cabanas
Tunich Jungle Cabanas

really liked our meals.

The next morning we enjoyed breakfast and a walk on the beach, then we packed and left for Playa del Carmen. We stopped at several shops on our drive north on the beach road. Parking can be harrowing. Most of the parking is on the shoulder of the road and there is barely enough room for the car so you have to be careful when you open your door to exit the car. Drivers on the beach road are very careful but you never know if someone might be a little too close to the edge of the road.

Our last stop in Tulum was at Hotel Tunich. We stopped at their restaurant for coffee. It is a great little hotel that has excellent reviews on

Trip Advisor. It is also a hotel and we noticed that the rooms didn’t have conventional walls, the bedrooms were screened in with floor to ceiling curtains for at least some privacy. If you are into rustic this is your hotel. It is at a great location on the beach road.


Playa del Carmen

Maya Villa Condos
Maya Villa Condos

We had a hard time checking into Maya Villa condo. I thought we were at the correct property but there wasn’t a registration office in the building and the guard didn’t speak English. I remembered that Porto Playa, where we had stayed the previous year, was its sister hotel. It was only a block away so we drove to that building. I was right, you have to check in at Porto Playa when staying at Maya Villa. That would have been nice to know ahead of time.

Once we got checked in and dropped our luggage off in our room we returned our rental car. I looked up the location of the rental car office and it was in Aldea Thai which is a large hotel near Mamitas beach bar. I had walked past the hotel many times on my previous trips so I thought the office would be easy to find.

We drove down the road where I thought the Easy way office should have been but did not see the Easy Way Rental car office. I finally drove behind the hotel and saw the rental car office.

I breathed a sigh of relief after the rental car was dropped off. We were done driving for the rest of the trip. We walked to Dive Mike to make reservations but we were told it was too windy and they weren’t going out the next day.






We were long overdue for a beer by the time we left Dive Mike. We walked to our favorite beer bar, Café de La Cerveza. They have an amazing beer list, considering they are in Mexico. Karen had a Green Flash from San Diego and I had a Gouden Carolus  Tripple from Belgium. The hor 'd oeuvres were good too.

Cafe de la Cerveza
Cafe de la Cerveza


We went to Los Hijos de la Tostada for dinner. This is a new restaurant since we were last in Playa. It looked a little too trendy to be good but we thought we would try it anyway. It was really good.  The waiter was excellent. He had given me the wrong entrée, I told him it wasn’t a problem I would take it. When I was just about finished, he brought the entrée that I originally ordered.


Hijos de la Tostada
Hijos de la Tostada


When you stay at Porto Playa or Maya Villa you get breakfast at the Imprevist which is a restaurant in the basement of Maya Villa. Breakfast was good and the wait staff was very friendly.

Karen had a massage scheduled in the afternoon at the spa next to the Imprevist. I worked out at The Gym during her massage. It is located on the street level of Porto Playa. It is a great gym. I was glad that it was included with the hotel.

Dinner at Plank
Dinner at Plank

We at a Plank that evening. It was a very fancy restaurant that specializes in food cooked on rock salt slabs.

If you stay at Maya Villa or Porto Playa you get a discount at Rock Salt. When we stayed at Porto Play the previous year, we passed on our discounted meal. When we were checking in this year the couple ahead of us raved about Plank so we decided to give it a try.

It was our most expensive and worst dinner in Playa. I had shrimp and Karen had scallops. The food looked amazing when the waiter delivered the rock salt slabs with our seafood sizzling on top.

We were so disappointed when we bit into it the seafood. It was completely bland. I don’t know if we ordered the wrong entrée or we are just that picky because the couple at check in seemed so adamant that it was good.


It was still windy so I assumed that Dive Mike would not be going out the next day so we went to the clubs that evening. They are located near 1st avenue and calle 12.

We saw something very interesting that evening at the clubs. We were having a cocktail and watching the people pass by on the street. A white Escalade pulled up and parked in the intersection. No one is supposed to park there. A short time later a pickup with several police officers riding in back armed with assault rifles pulled up.

One of the officers climbed out of the cab of the pickup, walked up to the driver side door of the Escalade, politely tapped on the window and indicated to the passenger to roll the window down. All of the windows were blacked out so we couldn’t see who was in the car.

The window didn’t open so the cop knocked on the window a little harder and indicated to roll the windows down again. Still no reaction from inside the car. The third time the cop slammed his hand on the window. In a split second the driver of the Escalade was out of his door and in the officers face yelling something in Spanish.   The officer didn’t back down and yelled back.

We hadn’t noticed but there was a plain clothes cop that was across the intersection. I’m not sure how we didn’t notice him because he was six feet four inches tall and had to go two hundred and thirty pounds. He walked over and got between the driver and the uniformed cop.

I was a little worried that things might go sideways so I was ready to grab Karen’s arm and hit the ground but this was Playa, things like that don’t happen here.

The cops got back in their truck and left, the plain clothes cop went to the other side of the street to try and blend in and the Escalade stayed parked in the exact same spot for at least 15 more minutes. The only person we saw exit the Escalade was the driver.

The following day we had breakfast at Indigo in El Taj. El Taj, a sister property to Maya Villa. Indigo is located on the beach in front of El Taj.

We walked to Dive Mike once we finished breakfast. Unfortunately I had assumed that it was still too windy to go out but when we got there we were told that the conditions had improved and they did go out that morning. We let them know that we would definitely be diving the following morning.

Since we couldn’t dive we decided it was going to be a beach day.  After putting on our swimsuits we went to Indigo and got two beach chairs  in the front row.

The beach in front of Indigo had eroded and there was only a small path between the end of our chairs and the four foot drop off to the water. As people squeezed by they would inadvertently kick up sand and the wind blew it into our faces. It didn’t take long to figure out this was not going to work.

Kool Beach Bar
Kool Beach Bar

We walked down the beach to Kool. It is next to Mamitas which is THE beach club to go to in Playa. Mamitas is always packed. I like Kool better because it is more laid back and the food and service is great.

We had lunch there, swam in the ocean, read and enjoyed the sunshine.

That evening we had dinner at one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Playa, it’s called That’s Amore. It’s a decent Italian restaurant but I think I like it because it was the first Italian restaurant I ate at in Playa.

This was our first day of diving. We had breakfast at Imprevest and walked to Dive Mike. The walk takes about ten minutes. I like experiencing Playa in the morning before the craziness begins. We passed Phonecia Dive Shop along the way. They specialize in French divers and they are always busy. We can hear the dive masters giving instructions to the divers in French as we go by.

Fidel was our dive master. It was still windy so the ride to the dive site was choppy. In Mexico once you are at the dive site and suited up you sit on the edge of the boat and do a backwards roll into the water. 

We were just about ready to roll in when a diver from Scandinavia said that he didn’t feel well. The ride out had made him seasick. His equipment weighed too much for him to lean over the edge of the boat and lose his lunch. He had to take his tank and BC off to lean lean over the edge.

He didn’t throw up so he suited up and got ready to back roll into the water again. The boat had drifted so we sat on the edge and clung to the boat as the captain motored through the chop to our original position.

We got ready to back roll in again and our fellow diver felt the urge to throw up once more. He shed his BC and tank and tried to lose his lunch again but could not. He started to suit up again but the third time was the charm. He tried to be as discrete as possible but we all saw him feed the fish. He eventually decided that he did not feel well enough to dive.

We had two good dives. We dove Mama Vina wreck for the fourth time. It was a good dive other than there were divers at the wreck when we arrived so it would have been too crowded to go inside. 

There was a school of Atlantic Spade Fish at the beginning of the dive. The hull of the boat is teaming with coral, sponges and small fish.

As we approached the bow of the boat I saw a fire worm. I had seen fire worms on previous dives at Mama Vina. The first time I saw one I was tempted to touch it because it looks like a big furry caterpillar.

The golden rule of diving is do not touch. It is usually for the protection of the sea life but sometimes it is for the diver's protection.

I asked the divemaster what the caterpillar was. He warned me that I would have regretted it if I would have touched it.

We didn't enter the wreck because another group of divers was at the boat when we arrived.



On the second dive our dive master, Fidel from Dive Mike, found this tiny seahorse during a dive in Playa del Carmen. I have no idea how he spotted it. He said it was called a pipe fish.



The boat captain had dropped the sick diver on shore so after our second dive we picked him up and then motored back to the dive shop. He was wiped out and looked terrible. He survived the boat ride back without losing his lunch.

We had lunch at Fusion which is located on the beach just north of Dive Mike. The food is decent but the location and view is great. You overlook the beautiful turquoise water while you enjoy your tacos.

Tratoria del Centro
Tratoria del Centro

We decided that we would venture off 5th Avenue for dinner. I pulled up my Trip Advisor app and found a restaurant called Tratoria del Centro. The people working at the restaurant were Italian, the pasta was fresh and the food was good. Even though we were less than two blocks off 5th Avenue the meal cost almost half of what it would have been on 5th Avenue.

The service was similar to what we had experienced in Italy. They greeted us, took our order, brought our food and the check. There wasn’t much small talk or smiling. That is what we had experienced in Italy.

The following day we had breakfast at Imprevest and walked to Dive Mike for our final day of diving.

It was still choppy so it was a rough ride out. The Scandinavian didn’t come back for a second day of diving. One of our fellow divers was a Brit who had over 600 dives.

Like the previous day we sat on the edge of the boat ready to back roll in. Just before we launched into the water the Brit said he was going to be sick. He took of his tank and BC, leaned over the side of the boat, rid his body of breakfast, donned his tank and BC, looked at me and said “a little too much to drink last night” and then we launched into the water.

I got the feeling because most of his dives were in the cold, choppy, North Sea that it would have been more embarrassing to say that he was sea sick rather than hungover. He was perfectly fine the rest of the day. He must be tough as nails because if I was hungover I would not go diving.

Most divers love drum fish. They are tiny fish and they are fearless. Some of them will challenge you by swimming directly at you. This one is a little less aggressive than most. Drum Fish are a beautiful fish with their long ribbon like fins.



These are two flounders that I saw while diving. The second one is really tiny.



One of the people on the dive boat was a solo diver from Canada. He was staying with his buddy in Cancun and driving to Playa to go diving. His friend worked all day so he was basically by himself. Since I am a solo diver in November I asked him to join us for lunch.

El Fogon
El Fogon

We went to El Fogon. Fidel the dive master had recommended the restaurant and it had great reviews on Trip Advisor. It is six blocks off 5th Avenue. Our waiter spoke very little English. The tacos were good and the habanero sauce was spicy.

Our seventeen year old niece from Des Moines was staying at a resort just outside of Playa. Her friends parents brought her, their daughter and one of her other friends to the resort for the week.

We texted and arranged to meet them that afternoon. All of us walked down 5th Avenue taking in the craziness that is 5th Avenue. We let the girls explore Playa on their own while us adults had a drink at Fusion beach bar.

We arranged to meet the girls in an hour at Plaza Quinta Alegria which is a big shopping mall on 5th Avenue. We discovered that they had not ventured far beyond the shopping mall. I would imagine that being a teenage girl on your own in Mexico might be a little intimidating.



Karen and Maddie
Karen and Maddie

They decided to stay in Playa for lunch so we brought them to one of our favorite Playa restaurants, Piola. We had pizza and after they caught a cab back to their resort. I’m glad we could connect with Maddie and her friends.

The Following day it was time to go home. We had an afternoon flight out so we had breakfast at our usual spot, took a short walk on the beach and caught a cab to the airport.

I had hoped since we had first class on our flight down that the flight back would be first class too. No such luck. At least our luggage arrived when we did.






I knew Karen would love the Tulum beach area and she did. She wants to get a group of girlfriends to spend a week doing yoga in Tulum.

We were a little disappointed that we didn’t get a chance to snorkel or kayak in Sian Kaan biosphere. Maybe next time.

We always have a good time in Playa. The Maya Villa Condos were nice but I think I liked Porto Playa a little better.

We’ve decided not to come to Mexico in until at least April from now on. Every time we come before April it is extremely windy.

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