Playa Del Carmen 2012

October 27th to November 4th 2012

 

; It was the time of year again for my wife’s annual Christmas shopping week, meaning that I get to go diving in Mexico while she has 30 friends and relatives up for a week of shopping.

 

My November vacations to Mexico have been disrupted by Hurricane Ida, rain or wind the last three years so I was considering other options.

 

I thought about Turks and Caicos, Grand Cayman and Curacao. I discarded Turks and Caicos and Grand Cayman because they’re in the hurricane belt and unlike Mexico they are an island so you’re out of luck if a hurricane does strike.

 

Curacao seemed promising but I like to keep my November dive trips inexpensive (okay I’m cheap) so my wife and I can afford to take several other trips during the year. Because flights into the C of the ABC islands weren’t cheap, I would need to have a rental car and hotels in Curacao are more expensive that Mexico. I decided that Curacao would not work this year.

 

I figured I would take my chances in Mexico in November one more time. Maybe the fourth time would be the charm.

 

I booked my flight into Cancun well in advance but waited to book my hotel until the week before I left. Cancun is the gateway to many other places in Mexico. I was counting on the fact that the weather in Tulum or Playa would be good if Cancun had bad weather and vice versa.

 

The three places I considered were Isla Mujeres; I love Isla but it is really quiet in November. Playa Del Carmen; we have never stayed there and it is a little touristy for my taste. And Tulum; Tulum is a little far south, two hours by shuttle, and the people weren’t quite as friendly when we had driven through previously.

 

My wife doesn’t like that Playa grown into a large city. It was a sleepy little village when we were there sixteen years ago. The main drag, 5th Avenue, was only about three blocks long and the village square was dirt.

 

Back then, the highway from Cancun to Playa was a two lane road, and there were only two stop lights for Playa.

 

In 2009 we went to Puerto Adventuras which is just south of Playa. Playa had so many stop lights that it took over half an hour to dive through on Highway 307.

 

Two years ago the Mexican government finished the overpass through Playa so the highway goes over Playa, eliminating all of the stop lights.

 

Unlike my wife, I thought Playa might be an alright place for a vacation. I did some searching on Kayak and came up with several possible hotels to book. Some of the finalists were Illusion Beach hotel, Mosquito Blue, Bambu and Hacienda Real.

 

I wanted to stay close to central Playa so I didn’t have a long hike to the dive shop. That eliminated Bambu. Banbu is located north of Constiuyentes avenue. Mosquito Blue was a little more expensive than Hacienda Real and the rooms did not look as nice, so I opted for the Hacienda Real.

 

I had found a great deal on Groupon for the Illusion Hotelin Playa but the Groupon ended three weeks before my flight and that was too early to choose a hotel. It was $70 a night and Illusion is right on the beach so the location is great.

 

Day 1

 

My flight departed Minneapolis at 5:30 am, connected in Atlanta, then arrived in Cancun at 10:30 am. The Customs and Immigration line was short and I got the green light so I went past without the customs agent digging through my bags. I was glad because I was carrying a boat radio for some friends that own a dive shop. They needed a radio for their new boat and they saved about $300 by having me buy it in the states and bring it down.

 

I was going to take the ADO (it’s like a Greyhound) from the airport to Playa but at the last minute I decided to book a van through Best Day travel. It was only $22 and it dropped me directly at my hotel. Unfortunately the people I bought the radio for offered to pick me up and drive me to Playa after I had booked the shuttle.

 

When I first saw the hotel I didn’t recognize it. It looked nothing like the picture on the web site and that wasn’t a good thing.

 

Hacienda Real
Hacienda Real
   
Hacienda Real Room
Hacienda Real Room
 

 

I was early for check-in so I left my bags behind the front desk and went to have lunch. I grabbed a quick burger at The Tequila Barrel. It’s a bar on 5th Avenue and it also had sports betting. Something I know nothing about so I didn’t place any bets.

 

I checked back at the hotel several times and my room was finally ready at 3:30 pm, half an hour after scheduled check-in but this is Mexico and things happen on Mexico time.

 

After seeing the exterior of the hotel I was a little afraid to see my room but it turned out to bet okay. The best part of the hotel was the courtyard and pool area. They were beautiful.

 

The maids did a good job of keeping my room clean. My only complaint was they left the room door open while they cleaned and this allowed mosquitoes to enter. I got bitten several times while I was sleeping.

 

The room was large and the furnishings in good condition but there was something I did not like about the room. I was always a little creeped out. If I were to come back to Playa I’d stay somewhere else. Maybe pay a little extra money and stay at Mosquito Blue, it looked nice when I walked by.

 

I unpacked and then took care of a couple of chores. I had to find a dive shop to book diving for next day and then buy minutes for my cell phone. I have an unlocked Droid with a Telcel sim.

 

Adding minutes was simple, I went to the OXXO (it’s like a seven eleven), gave the cashier my cell number and 200 pesos and I had cell service or I would have had cell service if I had remembered that I had taken the sim out so my wife could use the phone in Italy. Luckily I had the sim with me so all I had to do was install it and I had service.

 

I texted the people who own the dive shop in Puerto Morelos so they could arrange to pick up the radio and one of their dive computers that I had repaired in the states. I also texted my wife to let her know I had arrived.

 

I texted or called my wife about every other day while I was in Playa. I was having a fun relaxing time diving and lounging on the beach. I felt a little guilty because there were twenty to thirty people staying at our house so Karen was run ragged helping her guests, answering questions and responding texts concerning where to shop and eat.

 

I still needed to find a dive shop and book my dive for the next day. On the way back to the room I went past Dive Mike, it was one of the top rated dive shops on Trip Advisor, so I stopped in and booked diving for Monday.

 

Crescent and William stopped by later that evening to get their radio and computer and to take me out for dinner. They took me to one or their favorite restaurants in Playa, HC Monterey. The restaurant was several blocks off of 5th Avenue so it was all locals and no tourists. The food was good.

 

I had been up since 2:30 am so after dinner I went back to the room and crashed. I’d read comments about problems with street noise in Playa and it’s true, there is a lot of street noise. Luckily I pack ear plugs when I travel so I was able to sleep until the alarm went off.

 

 

Day 2

 

I am not a morning person. I wasn’t hungry when I woke up so I skipped breakfast. I packed my dive equipment in the mesh carrying duffle and walked the four short blocks to Dive Mike.

 

My dive master was from Mexico City and learned to dive in the caves and lakes in the mountains. She usually does cenote dives but was doing ocean diving that day. She reminds me of Selma Hayak, she is not identical but she has similar features.  

Philip
Philip

 

There was just myself and once other person going out. My dive partner for the day was Philip, he was a doctor from Germany. He and his wife were visiting her brother who was living and working in Mexico.

 

 

Turtle
Turtle

 

 

Philip and friendly turtle
Philip and friendly turtle

 

The first dive was Tortuga (turtle). It was a very nice dive and it lived up to its name. We saw three turtles during the dive. One of the turtles was a very large green sea turtle and he was fascinated by my camera’s flash. He actually swam over to check it out. Philip had a similar experience later in the dive. He had a turtle swim towards him and it actually bumped into him.

 

Once we surface we needed about forty minutes to allow the nitrogen to dissipate from our bodies before the second dive. Usually you just hang out, enjoy the sun and the company on the boat. Unfortunately the air temperature was in the low seventies with a brisk wind so the three of us sat shivering in the boat waiting to jump back in the warm water.

 

The second dive was Barracuda and of course we saw a lot of barracudas. The visibility on this dive was really nice and it was a precursor for our dives the following day. The reef had a lot of beautiful coral formations and much sea life.

 

I was starving by the time we made it back to the dive shop, It was my own fault for not eating breakfast. I rinsed out my dive equipment and dropped it back at my room. Once I finished laying my dive equipment out to dry on my little balcony I went directly to the beach to find a restaurant and get some food.

 

I ended up at Zenzi. It is a restaurant on the beach and it as a beautiful view of the ocean. While at Zenzi I had one of the “this is why I take beach vacation” moments. The sky was a deep blue with several white puffs of clouds. The ocean was about a dozen shades of blue and green and it was accented by the white sand beach. I had a beer in my hand and a warm breeze blowing across my face. A Journey song from the ’80 was playing. I’m not a big fan of classic rock but it was the sound track to my life at that moment and it was perfect.

 

 

Chicken Taco's Zenzi
Chicken Taco's Zenzi
 

 

I had chicken tacos. They were excellent. The tacos came with pico de gallo and black beans.

 

 

La Parrilla
La Parrilla
 

 

I went to La Padilla for dinner. It’s located on 5th Avenue in the heart of Playa. I had chicken enchiladas. They were good but they literally had an inch of cheese melted on top, too much for my taste. I asked for habanero sauce with the enchiladas, the waiter looked surprised. That was the reaction that I received every time that I requested habaneros during the trip. I guess it’s odd for a gringo to like spicy food.

 

I roamed around for a while after dinner looking for a bar to have a beer at. There are several discos on 10th street just off of 5th Avenue but it was only 10 pm so there was hardly anyone in them. Even if the discos were rocking I probably wouldn’t have gone in, there were very few people over the age of fifty in Playa so I was feeling a little old.

 

Day 3

 

I was starving by the time we finished diving the previous day so I had a bottle of liquid yogurt for breakfast and hiked to the dive shop.

 

The dive master today was named Maxina. It was hard to tell where she was from, she could have been Italian or French.

 

The first dive was a wreck called Mama Vina. Unlike the C55, C56 and C58 wrecks that I had dived in the Cancun area which are naval vessels, this was a yacht. It caught fire, it didn’t sink but it wasn’t salvageable so they stripped it down and sank it about twelve years ago.

 

We were the first ones at the wreck. It was just the three of us, no other divers. Conditions were perfect, not just good visibility, great visibility and almost no current.

 

 

I have to apologize, the video looks terrible on You Tube.

 

 

Turtle at Mama Vina
Turtle at Mama Vina

 

We approached the boat from the bow, swam along the starboard side and entered the wreck from the stern. We swam through twice. There were thousands of tiny fish taking cover inside the wreck. After we swam through the second time we approached the bow of the boat. There was a large sea turtle eating sponges on top of the cabin of the boat.

 

  The second dive was called Sabalos. There were large schools of fish, a large green eel and a turtle. One of the dive boats at the site when we arrived said that they saw a bull shark. Unfortunately it didn’t stick around so we didn’t get a chance to see it.

 

 

Mamita's
Mamita's
 

 

After finishing our dives I decided to walk down the beach to Mamita’s Beach Club for lunch. It's THE beach club in Playa, it's a very nice place to have lunch. You can rent one of their lounge chairs and an umbrella for $12 US.

 

I had chicken fajitas, they were good. I had planned to spend the afternoon reading and lounging on the beach but my Nook’s battery died prematurely so I hung around until I got bored and walked back to the hotel to shower and get ready for dinner.

 

From time to time I can get a little neurotic when I try to find a restaurant. I'll reject a restaurant because I don't like the look of it, because there are not enough people in it, because there are too many people in it. Eventually I get discussed with myself and I usually eat at the first restaurant that I considered that evening.

 

I was having one of those nights, nothing looked good so I walked up and down 5th Avenue and could not decide where to eat. I finally decided that pizza would be good. I like Rolandi’s but I was too far north on 5th Avenue to walk all of the way back. I passed a couple pizza restaurants but they didn’t have personal sized pizza and I didn't want to bring leftovers back to my room.

 

There is a pizza by the slice chain in Playa called Pizza Pazza, they are ubiquitous, kind of like Starbucks in the US. I was hungry, it was late and I was willing to try anything. The first piece of pizza was acceptable but about half way through the second slice I bit into a piece of pepperoni that didn’t taste quiet right so I tossed the rest of the pizza. It could be coincidence but the following day I had a mild case of Montezuma’s revenge. I’ll skip Pizza Pazza from now on.

 

Day 4

 

I’d been diving with Philip the past two days but he and his wife and brother in-law moved on to Tulum and Dive Mike didn't have any other divers going out so I took the day off.

 

 

The New Gym
The New Gym
 

 

I got up and hit the gym or I should say The New Gym because that was what it was called. I love that their sign says that they have locations in New York and Playa del Carmen. What a great idea. If you own The Gym you can split your time between New York and Playa and write off your time in Playa as a business expense.

 

It was $15 US for a day pass. It’s a good gym, they had Life Fitness weight machines, cross trainers and treadmills. They had a decent free weight room. They even had aerobics classes.

 

I got my workout in and walked back to my hotel in sweaty workout clothes trying to avoid 5th Avenue as much as possible.

 

Chez Celine
Chez Celine
 

 

I had noticed Chez Celine  when I was wandering aimlessly trying to find a place to eat the previous night. It looked like a great place to have breakfast and I was right. It was packed so I had to wait about ten minutes for a table. They set me at a picnic table that I shared with a couple from Australia. I had a plain omelet for 50 pesos. Next time I'm in Playa I'll be back for breakfast or lunch.

 

 

Playa Beach
Playa Beach
 

 

After breakfast I roamed the beach for a while trying to figure out where to eat lunch. I ended up at Zenzi again. I had excellent chicken tacos with a beautiful view of the ocean.

 

I have a Nook Simple Touch for travel. I bought it refurbished for $20. It’s great for the beach. It didn’t cost much so I’m not that concerned if it gets wet or stolen. Unfortunately the battery wasn’t holding a charge so I walked to Walmart looking for old fashioned paper books to read. They did have several paperbacks in English but nothing I was interested in. I bought a National Geographic and a Newsweek.

 

 

5th Avenue
5th Avenue

 

In my search for dinner I wandered further north on 5th Avenue than I had previously. Until this point I thought Playa was just okay. It was a little too touristy but the beach is beautiful and the diving was decent but I saw no reason to stay in Playa again.

 

As I walked north of 22nd calle Playa transformed from a tourist trap to more of a neighborhood feel. None of the souvenir shops had hawkers standing outside the shop with lines like “hey buddy, you want to buy some jewelry for your wife” when I reply “no” they come back with “how about your neighbor's wife” or the usual “cheaper than Walmart” comments.

 

Apparently a lot of Italians vacation in Playa and it appeared that most of them stay on the north end of Playa since there was such a high density of Italian restaurants.

 

I ate at a restaurant that was on the corner of 5 Avenue and 28th calle. I don’t remember the name. I had the penne arrabbiata and it was great.

 

It was Halloween and a lot of people brought their kids to 5 Avenue to trick or treat. Many of the kids were dressed as little vampires or in Day of the Dead costumes.

 

 

Coco Bongo at Halloween
Coco Bongo at Halloween
 

 

I was tempted to go to the bars that evening, I mean how often do you get a chance to celebrate Halloween in Playa? I had to dive the next day so I went back to my room.

 

 

Day 5

 

It sucks to be on a beach by yourself. If you want to swim or snorkel you have to leave your money, camera, Nook and other items unguarded. Chances are your stuff is going to be safe but it’s a lot to lose if you are wrong.

 

If I was staying at a resort with beach access I’d have no problems leaving my stuff under a palapa but just dropping it somewhere in the sand did not seem like a good idea. So I didn’t snorkel or swim at all.

 

Earlier in the week I was shopping for a beach backpack to haul my money books and suntan lotion around. I wandered into Scuba Libre and found a mesh fin and mask backpack that would be perfect.

 

While I was there I discovered that they were diving the Mama Vina wreck on Thursday, since I wasn’t sure if Dive Mike would be going out I signed up.

 

I read many positive reviews on Tripadvisor about Scuba Libre and most of the positive comments were about the fantastic dive masters and they were right. The dive masters were great.

 

One of the things that I love about diving is the amazing people you meet. In the past we’ve dived with a UN camera man. His job was to go to countries in turmoil so he could film what was happening. We also dove with and actor from England. He was in a Kohler commercial that played in the US. He was the guy dumping dog food down his toilet so he could get the hot plumber to fix it. We’ve met many other nice people while diving.

 

My dive partner for the day was Frank. He is an engineer from Hungry. He told me that he left in 1988 and he seemed pleased that I knew that was before the Iron Curtain came down. He was able to escape Hungry by pretending he, his wife and daughter were going on a vacation. They packed one suitcase, two tennis rackets and they drove across the border. They lived in Germany for several years and then moved to Canada. He is an engineer with a mining company. He just moved to Playa and is able to telecommute.

 

A group of Russians also dove with us. Mama Vina was our first dive. When we got to the dive site three boats of divers were there ahead of us. They made me appreciate the fact that we had the entire boat to ourselves when I dived it earlier in the week.

 

I splashed in expecting completely different conditions than the first dive. Fortunately I was wrong. There was very little current but the visibility was just average.

 

 

Fish in Mama Vina's Wreck

 

 

Three boats of divers made it to the wreck ahead of us so there was very little sea life. We still saw gray angels, barracuda, fire worms and the school of small fish in the cabin.

 

Frank told me he was hesitant about entering the wreck. Since this was my second time diving the wreck, I told him that I would wait outside with him if he decided not to go in. Once we were at the wreck he saw how wide open it was and swam through with no problems.

 

The Russians we dove with were not very good with their air. Even though it was a deep dive, ninety feet, I came up with 1200 psi. In diving the weakest link determines how long the dive is.

 

The second dive was Sabalos. There are tarpon there on occasion but not today. The dive master found a tiny crab that actually resembled a weed. The reef was alive with schools of fish.

 

We finished the dive at two underwater caves, they were more like long swim throughs than caves. The first was small and we were through it in no time. Frank and I were the last divers to approach the second cave.

 

Frank looked in the cave and signaled to me that he did not want to go in. I nodded and pointed to the air bubbles escaping through the top of the reef, indicating the direction the divers went, hoping that he would swim in their direction, so I could do the swim through.

 

It was a short distance over the reef to where the divers were exiting the cave but Frank shook his head no. In a way I am glad he did. All of my training states that you should never be more than an arm length away from your dive buddy and me letting Frank swim away would have broken that rule. It was a calculated risk, it was less than 30 feet from where Frank was to the surface, a distance easily covered in one breath if something were to go wrong. I decided to err on the side of safety and swim with Frank to meet the other divers.

 

When we got there the dive master signaled to me that he would wait if I wanted to swim through the cave. I almost did it but the thought of being alone and having an equipment failure half way through the cave popped into my mind so I shook my head no.

 

Two years ago I had an equipment failure inside a wreck, the C56. I had become ill at ease in tight spaces underwater since then. I was just getting over that and I didn’t want to jeopardize my recovery.

 

Also, I was reading Shadow Divers while on vacation. It was the true story of a group of divers that found a German U-boat off of the coast of New Jersey. Three divers died while trying to discover the origin of the ship and one other diver nearly died. Not the best book to read on a dive vacation.

 

The Russians were having a great time standing on their head and blowing air rings (like smoke rings but made of air) but their air consumption wasn’t very good so at the end of the dive I had 1500 psi which is half of a tank.

 

The entire staff of Scuba Libre was top notch. They were friendly and professional. I have my own equipment but if I had to rent it would be from Scuba Libre. All of the rental equipment is Scuba Pro which is some of the best available and it was in good condition.

 

I went back to Zenzi for lunch. It was a really an exasperating experience. I walked in from the street and sat at one of the tables on the beach. I waited at least five minutes without a waitperson coming to my table or even looking at me.

 

I was just about to leave when a waitress came and took my order. She came back in about ten minutes with my beer and apologized for taking so long. She came back twenty minutes later with my lunch, again apologizing for taking so long. I finished my lunch and asked for the bill, it took another twenty minutes to get the bill. The waitress was apologizing profusely for being late. She had the apologizing part down but she needed a little work on her waitressing skills.

 

Senior Frog's
Senior Frog's
     
Senior Frog's
Senior Frog's
 

 

After lunch I hiked the beach and ended up at Senior Frogs for my afternoon beer, chips and salsa. I had a beautiful view from the railing.

 

On my way back to my room I ran into Chino. He was our dive master when we dived the C56 in Puerto Morelos. He was working in Playa now. How odd to actually know someone in Playa.

 

Since I really liked the vibe I got from the north end of Playa the previous night I went back again for dinner.

 

 

That's Amore
That's Amore

 

I was going to eat at That’s Amore the previous night but a young man was talking to the only waitress available so I opted for the restaurant down the street. On my stroll down 5th Avenue I decided that I would go back.

 

When I arrived at the restaurant nearly all of the tables were taken and all of the waitresses were busy delivering meals to tables and taking orders. I waited at the hostess stand for about five minutes and no one showed up. Other people a head of me had given up waiting and moved on.

 

I finally walked up to the cashier. She was a young blonde woman, probably not Mexican, sitting at a counter near the kitchen. I asked her if I could seat myself and she started speaking in what I think is Italian. She didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Italian so I finally pointed at an empty table and she nodded.

 

I sat down, unfortunately an older couple had been seated at the table but had gone to the bathroom and I sat at their table while they were gone. Luckily one of the waitresses sat them at another table.

 

 

Pasta Putenesca
Pasta Puttanesca
 

 

I got the only Mexican waitress at the restaurant. I’m guessing because the Italian waitresses didn’t speak English. I had one of my favorite Italian dishes, pasta punttanesca. It wasn’t spicy but it was still good.

 

 

Day 6

 

This was my last day of diving on this vacation. I liked Scuba Libre but I decided to finish my diving with Dive Mike.

 

I had my favorite Mexican dive breakfast, Zucharitas, or at their known in the states, Frosted Flakes.

 

I hauled myself and my dive equipment to the dive shop. I had another new dive master. I think I see a trend in Dive Mike’s employment practice, he appears to hire only female dive masters.

 

Izabetha (not sure how to spell her name) was my dive master. She is originally from the Ukraine and she moved to Israel where she learned to dive. Since she became a dive master she has lived in or traveled to twenty five countries.

 

My dive partner for the day was from Argentina. She didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Spanish so we didn’t have a lot to say to each other. We also had a group of Italians from another dive shop on our boat. They didn’t speak English either so other than me, the dive master was the only English speaking person on the boat.

 

All the previous dives were south of Playa but today we went north to a dive site called Pared Verde. It was deep, ninety five feet. There wasn’t nearly as much sealife as the other dives. I did see a large sting ray at the beginning of the dive. Unfortunately the o-ring seal on my camera case broke when I was preparing for my dives so I wasn’t able to take any pictures.

 

I ended up with the 1200 psi at the end of the dive again. It’s nice to have good air consumption but it would also be nice to get a little more dive time.

 

I had some sinus pain when I surfaced. It’s called a reverse block and it usually happens in your ears. The most common cause of a reverse block is caused by taking a decongestant before diving and having it wear off during the dive. Your Eustachian tubes swell, trapping air inside. As you surface the air expands, applying pressure to the membranes in your ears. It can be very painful. I’m not sure what cause my issue because I wasn’t taking decongestants

 

The second dive and my last dive for the trip was Moc Cha. We saw many grunts and other reef fish. I saw a large green eel in a swim through, several brown spotted eels and a large hermit crab. I also saw garden eels. I haven’t seen garden eels since we dived Turks and Caicos in 2006.

 

At the start of the dive I had a little trouble clearing my ears and I felt some pain in my sinuses. When I came up I had a lot of pain in my left sinus, I had another reverse block but this one was worse than the first dive. The dive master told me I had blood in my mask. It’s a good thing that this was my last dive of this vacation.

 

 

Tropical
Tropical
   
Mahi at Tropical
Mahi at Tropical
 

 

After the dive I went back to the room, rinsed my gear out and went out for lunch. I had passed Tropical Restaurant on 5th Avenue several times. They have a large sign out front stating they are one of the top rated restaurants on Trip Advisor. I decided to give them a try and I was glad I did. I had the fish special which is a huge piece of Mahi Mahi. It was my best lunch in Playa and it was only 90 pesos.

 

 

Beach Bar
Beach Bar
 

 

I walked down the beach enjoying my last evening on the beach. I stopped one of the smaller beach bars, I didn’t get the name. It was low budget with the cheap white plastic chairs and tables. The waiter didn't speak much English but I was able to order a 2 for 1 Montejo and enjoyed the warm weather and the sunset.

 

I spent the next forty-five minutes sipping my beer, staring at the ocean and enjoying the warm breeze on my face. I often wonder if I would get as much enjoyment just sitting on the beach looking at the ocean if I lived there. I would hope I would.

 

I went north again for dinner. I ate at Il Dieci, which translates to The 10.  The waitress was young, beautiful and excelled at flirting just enough to get a good tip. I had the shrimp pasta, it was my favorite meal in Playa.

 

 

Going Home

 

My flight home wasn’t until 2:10 pm. The airlines recommend that you get to the airport three hours before your flight departs but this is low season so I planned for two hours ahead of takeoff.

 

Once I was out of bed I packed my dive gear and took my last walk on the beach enjoying the warm weather and beautiful scenery.

 

Earlier in the week I arranged for a cab to take me to the airport. He was waiting for me when I checked out. It was a short forty-five minute cab ride to the airport. Most of the trip we were doing 145 kpm and the only time the driver slowed down was for the topes (speed bumps). After having gotten a ticked my last time I was in Cancun I was a little irritated that cabs and shuttle vans could speed with impunity. On the other hand I got to the airport that much quicker so it was all good.

 

It cost $40 US for the cab ride and I gave him a $10 US tip. He was very appreciative for the tip. I was able to check in first class so I had very little wait at the ticket counter. Security was busier than I expected but I was through quickly. They had to inspect my carry on because I had a shaker cup for protein shakes in the end pocket and it looked like it might have fluid in it.

 

I was hungry so I grabbed a burger at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaretville. It was not very good but what I have learned from previous trips that the fast food restaurants in the airport aren’t much cheaper than Margaretville or Bubba Gump’s.

 

I stopped in one of the convenience stores in the airport before going to my gate. I bought a can of Coke and a small bag of peanut M & M’s. It cost $7 US. It’s more expensive than in the US airports. Our last trip to Cancun I saw a family of five drop $70 at the same store.

 

My flight connected in Detroit so I had to clear customs and immigration there. This was the first time since I had gotten my GOES card that I had gone through customs and immigration.

 

When I got to immigration I noticed that the GOES line was the same as the flight crew line. I was the first person at the kiosk. When I interviewed for my goes card they gave me a card with instructions on how to operate the kiosk and was told to keep it with my passport but I didn’t need it. The kiosk was easy to operate. The only annoying feature was it started counting down once I scanned my passport so I had a limited time to complete the process. I was given a printed receipt with a picture of myself.

 

Once I had my receipt I got back in line with the pilots. The immigration agent saw me and waved me past. I got my bags and discovered that there was a GOES line for customs also so I was through in no time.

 

I had time to grab a couple of tacos at Taco Bell before my flight to Minneapolis which is good because I was scheduled to land at MSP at 10:30 PM, too late for dinner at home. My flight landed a little early, I was grateful because I had to go to work the next day.

 

Recap

 

The Good

 

I liked the food in Playa. For the most part it was very good and reasonably priced. The Italian restaurants were especially good.

 

The diving was above average. I hadn’t expected it to be that good. I saw a lot of turtles and all of the dives except for one had a lot of sea life. I liked the Mama Via wreck.

 

The beach in Playa was excellent, miles of white sand with great restaurants and beach bars and literally hundreds of places to stop and have a relaxing beer.

 

The Gym was one of the best gyms I worked out at while on the road, including gyms in the US. The equipment was comparable to my gym in Minnesota.

 

 

The Mediocre

 

The pictures for the Hacienda Real make it look much better than it is. Every day I was there I wished that I had booked at Mosquito Blue or Illusion instead.

 

Pizza Pazza, stay away. Montezuma’s revenge.

 

 

   

4 thoughts on “Playa Del Carmen 2012

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