Travel To Mexico

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I’ve wanted to travel to Mexico for a long time. In 2008, I finally got my opportunity. And I don’t visit many places where I can honestly say - I’ll be back, but Mexico is one of those countries I’m itching to see more of.

Where We Stayed

La Tortuga

This is a small boutique hotel in the centre of Playa Del Carmen. The grounds are beautiful, with a lovely tropical pool, surrounded by lush greenery. We stayed here in a standard room, which was small and basic, but the beds were extremely comfortable. And the in room mini-bar had the best prices we’ve ever seen.

Breakfast and lunch at the hotel were excellent and the restaurant was reasonably priced. However dinner there was a complete disaster. The waiters not only forgot to bring my appetizer - they forgot about my dessert too. Maybe they were having an off night. The food was good but they seemed so unorganised.

We’d stay here again - but probably for no longer than 3 or 4 days. We didn’t like having to walk to the beach via busy shopping areas. And we were also woken up at 4am by folk partying in the street. I guess this may be avoided by booking a different and more expensive room.

Barcelo Maya Colonial Resort

We weren’t sure we’d enjoy an all inclusive resort, but we picked this one because of the fantastic beach. Also, it is 20 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Playa Del Carmen.

Rooms at the hotel are large and have air conditioning, fans, balcony or patio and basically stocked mini bars. The resort is huge and spread out with large swimming pools, children’s activities and free sporting activities included, such as snorkelling, windsurfing, kayaking, golf and tennis.

The resort is immaculate. I got the feeling that if you stayed in one place for too long, they’d probably sweep you up. Food - whilst not exceptional was good enough for me. During a 9 night stay, we were able to eat in the a la carte restaurants 4 times and the buffet the rest of the time. This suited us fine. We’re not big fans of getting dolled up on vacation and we were able to wear shorts and t-shirt for dinner in the buffet.

This place never seemed busy during the day. And there was always plenty of sunbeds available around the pool and at the beach.

We would definitely return to this resort for a relaxing beach vacation and we thought it was best suited to couples, or families with children. We visited the other hotels in the Barcelo Maya Beach resort and the Colonial was our favourite.

Who We Booked With

This trip we used Orbitz to book hotels and all our flights. I shopped around a lot and Orbitz gave us the best deals. We saved 45% on our hotel rooms and got the best deals on our flight. We may have saved more booking a package but we wanted to reserve the flights early to get convenient times. Orbitz has a price guarantee. If the fare on your ticket comes down after you book, they’ll refund the difference. Click here to check out current Mexico vacation deals with Orbitz.

What I Liked

I’d heard that many of the beaches in the Mayan Riviera had been damaged by hurricanes. And while it’s true that the beaches have eroded in some areas, we still found some amazing ones.

Some of the beach in the Playacar area has unsightly sandbags. But the sand and sea are still lovely. We thought these beaches were ideal for families and we saw plenty of children having fun jumping off those sandbags. We thought the beaches in front of Sandos Playacar and Iberostar Tucan and Quetzal looked the nicest.

The north of Playa Del Carmen had lovely beaches, although some areas did have a lot of sharp coral in the sand and an excessive amount of sea grass. This area seemed most suited to couples and singles.

The beaches at the Barcelo Maya Beach Resort, where we stayed for most of our trip were the best ones in the Playa del Carmen area, in our humble opinion. The soft sand sloped gently into the sea, making it ideal for children. And the sea didn’t get too choppy - making it perfect for those who love to swim.

For snorkelling, we loved Akumal, where we saw many fish, a stingray and two turtles. And for those who prefer a quiet vacation, the beaches at Tulum were outstanding.

People: The people in the Riviera Maya seemed generally friendly and cheerful. This surprised us, as there is still a lot of poverty in the area.

Food and Drink: Food and drink prices in Mexico varied from extremely cheap, in the smaller local restaurants, to pretty expensive in some of the flashier venues on Playa Del Carmen’s 5th Avenue. Wine was particularly expensive. We preferred the small, local restaurants as they served authentic Mexican food and a bottle of beer could be had for as little as 80p ($1.60).

Some people complain about upset tummies when travelling to Mexico. We didn’t find this to be much of a problem. Stuart did have problems one night, but he wasn’t sure if the food had caused it. So long as you avoid drinking the tap water, there’s not much to worry about.

Travel To Mexico - What I Didn’t Like

Bloody mosquitos:
I’m allergic to them and I didn’t wear any repellent on my first night. I highly recommend Autan as a repellent. It smells vile - but don’t wear perfume to hide it, as the little buggers are attracted to that. And don’t do what I did and spray the perfume in the air and walk through it - I wound up getting bitten on the head.

If you’re allergic to mosquitos too and don’t want to fork out to see a doctor, just to write you a prescription - there’s places in Playa Del Carmen where you can get antibiotics over the counter and taking these is your best bet. I tried antibiotic cream and Piriton (anti-histamine) but they had no effect.

Mental Drivers:
It’s not so much the speed - it’s the way they weave in and out of lanes. We saw lots of crashes. I’d normally rent a car on vacation - but I wouldn’t even consider it in Mexico. Luckily, there’s plenty of companies who’ll transfer you from airport to resort. And for getting round in the Mayan Riviera, one of the best forms of transport is the Collectivo.

They’re mini-vans that travel up and down from Cancun to Tulum picking folks up. They’re cheap, they run regularly (we never had to wait more than a minute for one) and they’re usually air conditioned. You simply stand on the side of the main road and a Collectivo will stop and pick you up. Playa Del Carmen to Tulum only costs about $2 (£1) each way, which is amazing value.

5th Avenue:
5th Avenue is the main street in Playa Del Carmen. Lots of people love it, but I hate to shop. I found it touristy, noisy and I was irritated by the fact that I couldn’t take a few steps without someone trying to persuade me into their shop. Also, many of the restaurants on 5th were expensive and over-rated.

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