Playa Del Carmen – Day 4 & 5

Playa Del Carmen – Day 4 & 5

Today we finally got to sleep in! Getting out of bed was incredibly difficult with the super fluffy pillows, ridiculous amount of room to stretch, and cloud like covers, however, the siren call of our 10 AM massage somehow got us out! We had a quick and delicious breakfast at the buffet and headed over to the spa.


The Yhi Spa smelt amazing and instantly relaxed us. We changed into robes and went outside to the private jacuzzi area. I was all about the cold-water Jacuzzi, as it soothed my burnt back, and Ryan hung out in the hot tub. After 5-10 minutes, I tried out the sauna and the mint steam room – ahhhhhh so nice! Eventually, we were taken upstairs to the couple’s massage room. The spa was one of the nicest I have ever been too and it was one of the best massages of my life! The pressure was perfect, the only downside was it went way to quickly.

After the massage, we walked to the pool and hopped into the day bed we reserved with towels. We ordered some drinks and Ryan got a burger for lunch. After lounging for a while, we hopped in the pool and watched the very enthusiastic water aerobics teacher do his thing with about 30 people in the pool. It was funny and I couldn’t help but join in for 10 minutes. We made our way over to the pool bar to meet up with the group from Vermont that we talked to the day prior, grab a volleyball, and play water volleyball. After about an hour or so before we decided to get out of the sun and back into our cabana for a nap. It was heaven!

We had a 7:30 reservation at Bana – the hibachi / Asian fusion restaurant. I love all things sushi but Ryan never gets “full enough” from sushi dinners so we don’t go often. In this case, it was all you can eat, so we ended up ordering over half the menu; spicy edamame, rock shrimp, a pineapple crab roll, a tuna roll, tuna nigiri, sea weed salad, pork egg rolls, sea bass with sweet noodles, shrimp pad Thai, and two desserts.

We did not go hungry this trip!

We ended up going to the Blue Agave cocktail lounge after dinner for some strawberry margaritas and tequila tasting. That was delicious, and needless to say, I was in the mood to dance after those exotic drinks. There was a funky band playing at the outside bar on the adult’s side so we enjoyed and danced to their music the rest of the night.

Day 5 – The last day in Playa:

Last day in paradise! We woke up early so we could enjoy a quick breakfast and head to the beach. Being pretty burnt, we decided to snag some lounge chairs under an umbrella and relax for the last 2 hours of our stay. The water was a bit choppy and the wind was blowing, but it was so relaxing and warm. The beach in Playa is much narrower than that in Cancun and there are quite a few more reefs so you should be careful where you enter the ocean.

Ryan started to itch and we noticed he had red bumps on his hands and legs! They were pretty concerning so, after we finished on the beach, we quickly showered, changed, packed, and went to the front desk to check out and to ask for a medic. The medic came and said that his bumps were either a sun rash or reaction to the microorganisms in the seaweed. We had been using SPF 30 and apparently, if your sun screen is not potent enough, you can get sun poisoning, so we will be upping the SPF in future. The medic gave Ryan some Benadryl cream and that seemed to lessen the irritation and redness almost immediately! Thank goodness.

With a less itchy fiancé, we went to the Market restaurant for some Italian fare before grabbing a taxi and heading to the airport for our quick flight back to the Lone Star State.

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Playa Del Carmen – Day 3

Playa Del Carmen – Day 3

The view of the pool at the Paradisus La Perla, Playa Del Carmen

Upon check-in at the hotel, our concierge guy Marcos convinced us to sit through a 90-minute presentation about the Melia membership club. We were hesitant but, after a lot of back and forth, he promised he would pay for our $200 meal at the Passion by Martin Berasategui restaurant and gave us two 50 minute massages for the price of one at the spa ($150 savings). For a 90-minute presentation at 8 AM over breakfast, the $350 worth of stuff was with the time sacrifice. We researched the presentation before going into it and read a lot about how some people’s tours were 2 hours, how you needed to be very firm with the sales people, and how some people spent way too much money on a membership and couldn’t get out of it. We put together a game plan going into the pitch to make sure we stood firm that we were not going to buy.

Our sales guy was quite nice and apparently, Marcos gave more free perks that he was supposed to. We had breakfast at the buffet and talked before the sales guy showed us a few luxury suites, and then took us to their business office to show us the club membership. The pitch boiled down to a $42K price tag on a partially covered 1 week vacation every year for 50 years, however, there were tons of crazy additional fees and your money bought points instead of hotel nights so the value of what you buy might change arbitrarily based on the chain’s whims. They also wanted the money within 24 months which equalled out to payments more than our rent! We were flabbergasted at the “deal” and were joking about the ridiculous cost with so many caveats.

Our sales guy quickly realized that we were not buying and we were done with the presentation in under an hour. For all the stuff we received, it was very worth it, but some of the other couples we met here had a bit higher pressure sales person and it wasn’t quite as easy to make a get-away. If you do decide to go in for the pitch, make sure you have a game plan ahead of time so you don’t sign up for something you regret.

After the pitch, we found some lounge chairs by the pool and lathered up with sun screen. The weather was perfect and the sun came out right as we laid down. Being the antsy person I am, I left Ryan to nap and headed to the pool bar. I started chatting with this super nice couple who were on their honeymoon. They also had recently visited Thailand, and were thinking about going to Peru, so we had lots to chat about! Eventually, Ryan wandered over and we had a great conversation over some bloody Mary’s, mud slides, strawberry daiquiris, and then rum and Cokes. Unfortunately, all those drinks forgot to remind me to reapply sunblock, and my back got nice and uncomfortably red! Oops!

Around noon, the water-jazzercise started in the pool. We watched the two instructors do some pretty intense water moves outside of the pool for 20 minutes – they were so enthusiastic about their moves we hand to laugh! Eventually, we hopped out of the pool and headed to a sub par, pizza lunch at one of the restaurants. It seems that the cooks “forgot” to add marinara sauce to their pizzas, making for Hawaiian cheesy bread instead.

After lunch, we found a cabana by the pool and napped under the shade for a few hours. Talk about relaxing! Around 5, I attempted to go to spin class but the instructor hurt his back and canceled the class. Feeling a bit woozy on the treadmill, I decided to head back to the room, got ready, and went to a Rodizio dinner at the hotel before hailing a cab to head to Playa’s famous 5th Street.

We heard about 5th Street from quite a few people. It is about 2 miles of cute local and chain shops, beauty parlors, restaurants, and bars. We were dropped off at the end closes to our hotel and we walked for about two hours down the street. There were tons of people! I left my sun hat on the Edventure shuttle from our sea-turtle tour the day prior, so we haggled a few shop keepers until I found a fabulous new sun hat at a great price. I was also very impressed by all the restaurants and bars. They were so cute and each had a very unique theme with amazing décor. It didn’t seem like there were any chain places at all (outside of Senior Frogs) and I wanted to stop and try all of them!

There were also loads of typical American shops like Nike, Sephora, Forever 21, but we only shopped the local ones since those are unique to the area. There were lots of nice leather goods and amazing art at very reasonable prices. I wish our apartment had more room for all the things I wanted to buy – especially the art! There was a full side street of amazing paintings by local artists.

We stayed on 5th the entire time and felt very safe. After so much walking, our feet started to complain and we hopped in a cab to head back to the hotel and then to bed.

 

Playa Del Carmen – Passion by Martín Berasategui

With such a hilarious Michael Jackson show in the day prior, we couldn’t pass up seeing the Aladdin show playing in the Paradisus La Perla theater. We had an 8:00 reservation for dinner and Aladdin started at 7:30 so we were only able to catch the first 30 minutes of the nostalgia generating performance! Between the costumes, the semi-coordinated dancing and lip syncing, all the music from my favorite Disney movie, and two glasses of wine, we were very entertained.

After we got our Aladdin fix, it was time for dinner at the world-renowned restaurant, Passion by Martín Berasategui. Berasategui has several Michelin Stars from other restaurants and launched a fancy resultant at our hotel. Even though this dinner was not included in our all-inclusive, we decided to give it a go – and boy were we glad!

We got dressed up and entered the fanciest restaurant on the grounds. Our white-gloved waiter greeted us and presented us with a selection of waters from across the world. I have never been offered a water selection… it was so lux. We decided on bottled water from Playa Del Carmen and it was poured over a rose petal in our water glasses.

We were then presented with two amuse-bouches dishes first that were totally to-die-for! The first featured balsamic watermelon, beef and caper tartar over a wonton crisp, parmesan cheese puffs, a grapefruit puree, and another puff of some kind. It was an off-the-menu surprise of a first course into an excellent meal.

The second amuse-bouche was a light calamari salad with a lemon drizzle.

After we finished with the first two courses, our tasting menu began. Our waiter set down a marble block with 5 different butters that were to be paired with a different bread over the next 5 courses. I have to say, the butter was one of my favorite dishes of the meal! From truffle, to citrus zest, to Italian herb, the butters were so creamy and paired so well with each bread variety that I had no butter left by the end of the meal. I was in calorie heaven! Our first butter was accompanied by thin slices of tri tip steak over foie gras royal.

Next up was organic egg yolk with liquid salad, red tubers and smoked cheese. I typically do not like any type of egg unless it is scrambled, but when this infused, red egg yolk was popped and mixed with the other flavors, the egg was taken to an entirely different flavor level.

Next up was a dashi and mushroom broth over liquid cheese spheres with dewlap and crispy quinoa. The broth was poured over the dish and added an interesting mushroom flavor. Additionally, there have only been two different instances in my life where I have eaten and tolerated raw tomatoes. Note, I love sun-dried tomatoes, ketchup, pasta sauce, and salsa, but I just cannot stand raw tomatoes! Outside of the tomato dish at Gaggan in Bangkok, Thailand, this is the only other time I have eaten tomatoes and not died inside – it was that good!

The 4th course was totoba with false shiitake mushroom risotto and creamy rice. It was good but was probably the least remarkable dish of the night. I did like the crispy skin on the fish though.

Our waiter delivered our 5th course of picanha with truffled tubers and olives and then rolled over a cart of salts. We picked some salt flavors and then added a dash to each bite of the steak as we enjoyed the dish. I tried a volcanic  and grasshopper salts and, wouldn’t you know, they were both delicious.

After a quick palette cleanser, my favorite dish of the night of lemon ice cream with basil essence, green bean and almond was served. The lemon was actually a cold, white chocolate shell that contained an incredible lemony cream inside. I cracked it open with my spoon and the cream picked up pieces of the dark chocolate crunch underneath, making for one of the most scrumptious bites of food I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. On the other side of the plate was mint infused ice. The cool sensation of the ice ,when enhanced by the lemon and chocolate still lingering from prior bites, was simple and exquisite. I would eat this every day of my life if I could.

The last dessert on the official menu was a chocolate Bailey’s ice cream with vanilla and coffee toffee and it was then followed up by a “chef’s treat” of other various mini-desserts and jellies. Needless to say, we were totally stuffed after a total of 11 dishes (plus all of those yummy butters and breads!).

Playa Del Carmen – Day 2

Playa Del Carmen – Day 2

Two years ago, we went to Cancun and booked all our excursions thorough the ME Cancun. While we had an amazing time with those tours, they were with lots of other people and we paid a lot more than if we had booked online. This time around, we researched tours on TripAdvisor before we left and booked a Snorkel & Sea Turtle Adventure with Edventure Tours which had a 5-star rating and over a 1.4K reviews! With that amount of reviews, it had to be good and the price was just right.

Our shuttle for the tour picked us up at 7 AM so it was another early morning. The bus was very clean and comfortable and our driver was very friendly. We picked up another couple along the 50-minute drive to Tulum and arrived around 8 AM. The took us to Edventure Tour’s HQ, a little shop on the outskirts of the Tulum Ruins park, and we met Eddy the owner. He was so nice and gave us free passes to the Tulum Ruins since the four-other people who were joining us on our snorkel and sea turtle adventure were rock climbing first. He also gave us a free bottle of organic sun screen to use instead of the stuff we brought that had chemicals harmful to the sea life. Super nice!

It was quite sunny out and Ryan didn’t have a hat so we stopped at one of the shops on the way to the Tulum Ruins.  He tried on all sorts of fedoras, cowboy hats, bonnets, and finally settled on a giant straw one. It was super goofy but, after rocking his Peruvian “adventure hat” for so long, we had to make sure he had a worthy replacement!

Adventure hats are the best hats! Tulum, Mexico

A guide walked us to the entrance of the Tulum Ruins, gave us our free tickets, and said we had about an hour to gallivant around. Since it was so early, there were not a ton of people there, so we had free reign of the Ruins. While they were not quite as impressive as Chichen Itza, the view from the cliffs, combined with the 1,300-year-old ruins, were very impressive.

There were even iguanas running around everywhere. The only downside was that my flip-flops meant for our day at the beach gave me a huge blister. Word to the wise, wear walking sandals on all excursions just in case!

The ruins in Tulum, Mexico

The ruins took about 30 minutes to go through and, while it was only about 75 degrees, it was humid so we were ready for refreshment. We wandered through the market shops outside of the ruins and found a little restaurant to grab a michelada, or what they call Rojo Ojo. It was so good! We walked back to the Edventures area and our guide, George, packed our snorkel gear and gave us some snacks for the bus ride to Eddy’s private property.

Eddy has 10 hectares (24 acres) of forest that had cenotes, a zip line park, and rock climbing on it. Once we got there, George had us hop in a camouflage ATV and we drove fast over 4 miles of rocky path through the forest to get to the cenotes! Cenotes are flooded underground caves with stalagmites and stalactites. There are three different kinds, once that are completely under grounds, ones that have caved in and are partially exposed, and then ones that are totally open. Our first stop was the underground variety.

We walked down this 5-foot-wide hole in the group to an underground paradise. It was completely dark so we were given flashlights to see in the water as we swam. The water was so blue and the perfect temperature. We could see perfectly way down to the bottom and there were little fish swimming around us. It was so cool to swim through the cave and see the bats hanging from the ceiling crevasse. I loved every second of it!

After the cave cenote, we walked to the open air one. It have to say, it was quite nice only having 6 people and two guides to our group. It made for a very exclusive feel without overcrowding. Anyway, this cave had a jumping platform where we could jump into the deep water.

There were also tons of cool structures in the depths of the water and ominous dark caves to go scuba diving in.

Exploring the waters of a cenote in Tulum, Mexico

We swam around and explored the cenote for about 45 minutes before heading to a Palapa for a lunch of pork and chicken tacos. Lunch was pretty good and, after we filled up, Ryan was given the keys to our ATV and drove us back to the van area. He loved every second of it (and we made it back without crashing – always a plus!)

We met the other 4 in our group, hopped in a van, and drove 15 minutes to Akumal Bay where the sea turtles are! Apparently over the past year or so, sea turtle tours were banned by the government due to huge tour groups disrupting the turtles. Two weeks before our vacation, 30 tour groups were re-granted permits out of the 300 or so that had permits the year before. Edventure tours had been working with the turtles and very involved in the environmental protection of the area for 30+ years and were grated a tour, so we were able to go!

The beach was totally packed with people and we were given special wristbands to snorkel out to the turtles. As we got further from the beach, the water got much clearer and you could see green seaweed growing from the sand. Apparently, this was the sea turtle’s favorite food and, within 4-5 minutes of being out there, we saw our first turtle!

We all floated around it and, eventually it had to come up to air. It spun around while rising and came within one foot of my face (see below)! The turtle was so huge and cute and I was in awe that I was so close to such a magical creature! It is amazing how encounters with such majestic animals can make for some of the coolest moments of our lives.

Getting up close and personal with a sea turtle in Mexico

We saw a bit further and I spotted another turtle with two huge fish on it! They were sucker fish and were eating the stuff on the turtle’s shell. So cool! We watched that turtle for a while and then were off to explore the reef.

The reef had tons of beautiful fish, much better than our snorkeling in Thailand, and we even saw a king fish! King fish are one of the deadliest fish we can encounter in reefs, but they are so cool looking!

A school of purple fish in the reefs in Mexico

We snorkeled for another 30 minutes or so throughout the reef and ended up back on the beach. We hopped back in the van and drove about 10 minutes down the road to a lagoon to do some more snorkeling. The lagoon was in a nature park with cool sculptures everywhere and we had to walk through a forest path to get to the lagoon. It was beautiful and full of amazing fish that flourished in the nutrient rich stream water hitting that of the sea.

Lounging by the lagoon in Mexico

We snorkeled there for about an hour. The top two feet of the water was hard to see through as the salt and sea water mixed, but visibility got much better with a quick dive down.

Snorkeling in a lagoon in Mexico

Eventually, all the activities of the day and early morning got to us, and we hopped out of the lagoon to relax on the rocky edges until the group was gathered and we took the hour-long ride home to get ready for our extravagant dinner at the Passion restaurant.

 

 

Playa Del Carmen

Playa Del Carmen

The good thing about catching and early flight is that there is no traffic on the way to the airport. The bad thing about a 7:25 AM flight is that you have to wake up at 4:30 AM – yuck! Thankfully, the adrenaline brought on by our vacation to Playa Del Carmen got me out of bed, in the car, and to the airport with plenty of energy.

Getting through security was a breeze so early and the check-in people were about as awake as we were. We grabbed some breakfast from Starbucks and, after a short wait, hopped on a 50% full American Airlines flight to the Cancun airport. We had a whole row to ourselves and indulged in some movies during the 2.5-hour flight. Talk about an easy start!

Flying to Cancun Airport

We arrived in the Cancun airport right before 10AM and headed out to our shuttle. There is a horde of travel agents at the exit of the airport ready to sell you excursions to everywhere you can imagine. Word of advice, just keep walking straight to the exit and don’t let them take up your time for the pitch! If you can, try to pre-arrange your shuttle to your hotel before you go so all you have to do is hop in and be on your way. We used Happy Shuttle to get to our Playa Del Carmen all-inclusive. The shuttle was clean and private so we didn’t have to spend beach time dropping other people off. Additionally, it was only about $65. The cab ride back from our hotel was only $34 since it costs less upon departure, so I recommend only booking your shuttle to your resort in advance.

We arrived through the ornate gates of the Paradisus La Perla, a Melia brand resort, and were immediately greeted by “Bienvenidos”, a cold towel for our face and hands, and a beautiful spa-like entry way. We stayed at the ME Cancun two years ago, a sister property of the Paradisus, and loved our stay so much that we wanted to stay within the Melia properties again for this trip.

Check-in was a little tricky because our reservation was under “Jessica Jessica without my last name. No idea how that happened, but all of the staff referred to me as “Jessica Jessica” for the remainder of the trip! Check-in also came with a purple sparking champagne drink, and then we were introduced to Marcos, our concierge. He welcomed us, gave us a map tour of the hotel, and walked through the 14 different restaurant options so we could make reservations for the various options. It was all very exciting!

Paradisus La Perla

Marcos also pitched us a “special deal” that included a free massage and free dinner at the Paradisus premier restaurant, “Passion by Martín Berasategui”. We were hesitant at taking the 90-minute pitch to sell us a Melia Club membership, but the $330 worth of free goods and a 3 night’s stay at another Melia property made us inclined to do the pitch. We made a pact though that, no matter what they pitched, we were not going to sign-up.

After we finished up with Marcos, we went to The Grill; the lunch buffet restaurant on the adult’s side of the hotel. I love all-inclusive’s because you can order everything and anything you want with no repercussions outside of a very full belly! We got some margaritas (it was a bit hard to explain “skinny margs” to the waiter but we got it eventually!), calamari, focaccia flat bread with pears, pesto and chicken, stuffed fish, and salmon. All totally delicious!

Satisfied with our lunch, we decided to explore the hotel. We walked through the mangrove forest separating the hotel from the beach, saw bunches of iguanas sunning themselves along the way, and headed to the water front! While the beach was not as wide and long as that in Cancun, it was still beautiful and calling to us to go in! Unfortunately, our room was not ready and my sneakers / active wear was not conducive to salt water swimming. We walked down the beach, back into the resort, through the pool area, and back to check-in to see if our room was ready. We initially arrived at 11:30 AM so getting our room did not seem too unreasonable, but we had to wait another 45 minutes to 3 PM to finally get our keys. Sipping a margarita on a day bed looking at the ocean helped, but it was still a bit annoying!

Enjoying a margarita at The Grill at Paradisus La Perla, Playa Del Carmen

We were finally escorted to our room with our bags and, boy, were we impressed! Our room had a huge tub, a double rain shower, a nice sitting area, and a huge balcony that looked over the mangrove forest and into the ocean. Score! I did think that our room had a live fish tank too but to my chagrin, it was just a picture of one…

Anyways, we changed into our swimsuits and headed to the pool for some late afternoon rays. There were tons of people there drinking, laying out, and playing water volleyball. We laid in some beach chairs and drank cocktails while talking to some South Carolinians and Canadians next to us. One of the best things about these resorts is meeting other people.

Around 6 or so, we decided to get ready for our reservation at the Fuego restaurant; a modern Latin place with a flair for ceviche. The restaurant had fiery ambiance to it and the wait staff was very friendly. We started with some delicious tempura and ceviche, had a glorious quinoa and chicken salad, enjoyed flank steak and veal for the entrees, and finished with apple cream and creme brulee desserts. I must say; the meal was excellent but the dessert was a little subpar.

After dinner, we heard that there was a Michael Jackson show going on in the theater on the family side of the resort. With wine in hand, we sat and watched one of the most ridiculously entertaining and strange shows of our lives! The guy playing Michael Jackson was a great dancer and did a fantastic job lip syncing all the songs. In between his bits, there were 2 guys and a girl who slow-jammed thriller and totally butchered some of Jackson’s other songs but they were so into it one couldn’t help but laugh at the situation. There were even acrobats doing aerial and flexibility stunts similar to, but not quite the caliber of, Cirque Du Soleil. I must say, we went in not knowing what to expect, and were totally overjoyed with surprise of this ridiculous show!

After MJ, we grabbed another glass of wine at the open-air bar, and then headed back to the room for some shut-eye.