Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Do As Much.....Or As Little As You Want

 This is one place you'll not find on a cruise stop.  Instead, you'll have to want to go there and stay.  Playa Del Carman, Mexico sits just right across a stretch of water from Cozumel but seemed a world away from the busy Mexican tourist destinations we've been to before.  Don't get me wrong--I love Cozumel!  The blue-green water, the warm ticklish breeze, the homemade guacamole so good it'll make you want to smack those other guacs back in the states.  But, Playa Del Carman is a true slacker's paradise.  A place to laze away the days with sun, snoozing and eating.  Or, more, if you're so inclined.

But, honestly, I wasn't.  I didn't feel the need to run from tourist trap to tourist trap.  I didn't want to rush anywhere and do anything.  It's almost as if I were hypnotized in some way.  I just wanted to sit on the beach and experience heaven. 

Perhaps it had something to do with my timing?  After all, it was December 2012 and about one week away from the Mayan prediciton of world doom.  I could tell on the trip to Playa (about 45 minutes away from Cancun), that this would be a different vacation because of all the..well, hippies.  There were lots and lots of hippies.  Hippies everywhere.  These were the real thing, too, with knee-length dreadlocks, bulging backpacks, and tie-dyed garments from head to toe.  Why so many?  I had to know. 

So, I asked.  I asked the hippie guy sharing our ride (right after he asked the bus driver to stop at a convenience store for some beer because he just couldn't wait one more second.  The driver stopped--another thing I love about Mexico--the complete focus on customer service.)  Me:  "So, what's up with all the hippies?  Why are there so many of you here?"  Hippie:  "There's a bluegrass/folk festival at Tulum.  We want to be here when it all goes down.  This is where all the positive energy of the universe is."  Me:  "Huh!  Interesting!"  (Technically, he had a few "man's" throw in, such as "We want to be here when it all goes down, man" but you get the idea.) 

What better place to be at the end of the world?  Those hippies are on to something.  My blog this month will focus mostly on the eating (which I did lots of) and not a lot on the adventure (unless you count eating as much as you can an adventure). 

To Do:

  • Get a massage on the beach.  Massages are big in Playa and masseuses are lined up to take your business for very inexpensive rates.  Our massage was $25 for the hour and it was one of the best hours of my life.  There is something so decadent about lying on a rooftop feeling the warm sun and soft breeze of the Mayan Riviera while getting a massage.  While there are many massage parlors, there are also masseuses who will come to your place.  There is even a massage parlor/hut right on the beach, literally just steps away from the water.  Our masseuse came to our location and was wonderful!  According to her business card, she does a variety of services such as shiatzu, reflexology, deep tissue, even manicures and pedicures.  While there, email her at or call 984-134-6072.
  • Do a tequila tasting.  Tasting tequila in Mexico is like tasting bourbon in Kentucky:  you just have to go the source for the best stuff.  Tequila is something I had only formerly considered as a margarita ingredient but my lesson in tequila really opened my eyes.  Tequila is actually made from the 'heart' of a plant that is similar to a yucca.  The saying is "the heart can be cooked" (which I personally think would make a great title for a paranormal romance novel but...I digress).  The process of making tequila is so interesting so educate yourself and then try the stuff.  I thought tequila came in just a few flavors but there are dozens and dozens of them.  While I won't go into too much detail, I will say that my favorite is 1921 Crema de Tequila.  It puts Bailey's to shame and your coffee will never be the same again.  Splurge on a bottle you can't buy here in the states--some of them are made my local villages/natives and really helps out the local economy.
  • Listen to a band with your feet in the sand.  Fusion Beach Hotel Bar and Grill, located at the end of 6 Calle, is more than a restaurant; it's an experience.  I recommend going at night, for dinner.  There is just something so relaxing about squatting in lawn chairs around a table by candlelight listening to some jams.  The night we went there was a Reggae band and a bellydancer--so fun!  The real treasure, though, was listening to the sounds of the surf under a sparkling sky with friends and laughter.  The food is pretty good, too.  For more information, visit Fusion Beach Hotel Bar and Grill.
  • For those of you who insist on doing something, there is plenty to do.  There are hourly ferries to Cozumel and surrounding islands.  There are jet ski and parasailing rentals.  There are deep-sea fishing tours.  There are Mayan ruins nearby.  I heard all that--personally, I didn't step off the beach or the main strip. 
To Eat:

  • For the friendliest service, try La Parilla Mexican Grill,  located at 5th Avenue and 8 Calle.  Every time we went, the entire staff went out of their way to make us smile and laugh and feel right at home.  When I say 'every time' we went, you can tell we went there a lot.  Every day for lunch.  Every.  Single. Day.  And, it wasn't just because of the great service.  First, La Parilla is the best spot in town for people-watching.  There is a rooftop and an open bar area and shaded tables right on the busiest street.  You can sit for hours and never see the same people twice.  Secondly, the margaritas are so good, you just might want to sit there for hours.  Delicioso!  Pair that with the tastiest chorizo queso I've ever had and this trumps as my favorite restaurant.  On our lunch night there, the manager gave me a calendar for being such a 'good customer'.  For more information, en espanol, visit La Parilla Mexican Grill.
  • In our quest to find the perfect margarita, we stunbled onto the best pico de gallo on Earth at Tropical Playa Del Carman, located at 5th Avenue and 8 Calle.  While I am always a fan of good pico, this stuff was addictive---which probably explains why we went back so many times!  Combine that with half-price happy hour and fabulous seating right on the street, and you can't beat Tropical for a great place to start your adventure in fine dining.  For more information, en espanol, visit Restaurante-Bar-Hotel Tropical Playa Del Carmen.
  • El Pirata.  Yep, a pirate bar!  Right on the beach!  This little place was too much fun.  When the sun and surf just gets to be too much to bear, take short stroll to El Pirata, located at 10 Calle, just keep walking until you hit the water.  Each table is a little grass hut and the seats at the bar are swings.  The margaritas are cold and the nachos have real steak.  Really, what else does one need in life?