Travel offers a wide range of life-enhancing benefits from teaching tolerance and problem-solving skills to decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Taking a vacation allows for an escape from the ordinary and the mundane trap of a repetitive daily schedule.
A holiday in Playa del Carmen is no exception! Here are 12 ways that your body, mind and soul will be positively affected by spending time in this award-winning destination in the heart of the Riviera Maya.
Develop A Feeling of Pride and Confidence
Along with the good memories, you will carry back with you a sense of pride for successfully navigating a foreign airport and city. Small wins such as boarding the local colectivos (shared van taxis) to explore a nearby cenote can give your confidence a huge boost. Renting a car to explore ancient architecture, ‘Magic Towns’ and quaint islands on your own can also develop an uplifting sense of accomplishment.
You may wander outside the popular tourist areas one evening and happen upon a fantastic eatery that serves the most authentic and enjoyable meal of your trip. If you are staying in a vacation rental, an outing to the grocery presents a prime opportunity to increase your Spanish vocabulary. Developing the ability to converse in a foreign language, even just the basics, can cultivate a feeling of pride.
Become More Open-Minded
When you are inundated with negative press about Mexico on a weekly basis, it is hard to imagine that life can be anything other than the wild Wild West here in Playa del Carmen. But for those who take the sensationalized news for what it is and travel despite the advice of sceptical family members, the rewards are as bountiful as the beauty of this grand country. Each year, millions of international visitors are so delighted with their vacation experiences that they return again and again.
Travelers gain insights through encountering a welcoming nation of people who are more than happy to share the enchanting side of their beloved Mexico. If you come at the end of October, there is a good chance you will come across passers-by parading through streets, adorned in exquisite skeleton make-up. Although these processions coincide with the same date, the people are not celebrating Halloween, but honouring the lives of ancestors who have passed. The deep-rooted festival has been around for thousands of years and is called Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
Another interesting point to note that you may not be aware of is that Mexicans are very particular about tequila. No matter how persuading Jose Cuervo is, opt for fine tequila next time you’re in town and enjoy it in sips, rather than shots.
Relax, Rejuvenate and Be Inspired By The Great Outdoors
Spending your days immersed in breathtaking nature, your soul cannot help but be soothed. Moreover, long walks on the beach, window shopping for souvenirs on 5th Avenue and scaling temples in the jungle are all activities that will keep you moving (and help burn off the extra taco and piña colada calories).
Plus, soaking up the sun on Playa del Carmen’s silky, white-sand beaches will give you a natural dose of Vitamin D.
Be Exposed To Authentic Tastes Beyond The Burrito
Mexican cuisine is a delightful mix of complex flavors (think mole, which boasts a list of over thirty, perfectly blended ingredients). Just as chicken balls are not an authentic staple in Chinese cuisine, burritos are not a typical dish you’ll find on menus in Mexico.
Chefs like Rick Bayliss, who have travelled throughout Mexico and documented their culinary adventures in TV programs, did well to highlight the many extraordinary traditional dishes each region of the country is known for.
Since the Playa del Carmen community consists of a wonderful mix of residents from around Mexico, you can bet that you will find a diverse range of enticing plates. For breakfast try chilaquiles, juevos rancheros or saucy enchiladas. For lunch, a light ceviche or seafood tostada with an ojo rojo is a popular combo here in Playa. As for dinner, tender arrachera flank steaks or tacos al pastor are both delicious options.
Step Outside Your Regular Threshold of Comfort For Unforgettable Experiences
There is no better way to grow and challenge your comfort zone than taking an international trip. From losing your luggage to encountering language barriers, you will discover new character traits you never knew you had.
Here in Playa del Carmen, there are several ways to push the boundaries of your comfort zone. If you have a fear of heights similar to mine, the kind where your head starts spinning, your knees start shaking and temporary paralysis sets in, the modest platforms at cenotes are a fantastic way to face that fear. It may take several repetitions of ‘I think I can, I think I can’ to cliff jump or to climb the 137-foot temple at Coba, but there is a feeling of elation that accompanies these activities. Besides, the view from the top is pretty spectacular. Each time you do something that extends beyond your comfort zone, the world seems to open up just a little more, revealing new facets of its extraordinary beauty.
Diving in the open sea is another extraordinary way to test the borders of your comfort level. Since Playa del Carmen is a destination known for diving, thanks to its close proximity to the second largest barrier reef in the world, there are excellent dive shops with certified instructors to ease you through to create some surreal moments to deposit to your memory bank.
See Mexico In A Different Light
Every culture has its fare share of stereotypes, but to allow labels to deter you from visiting a country will cost you some priceless travel experiences. During the first year of calling Mexico home, my mother and sister came for a visit. The group voted to go on an adventure, so we booked a hotel in Valladolid, a charming colonial town about an hour and a half from Playa.
Reading about a new toll route that would reduce our travel time, my husband decided to take a short cut to get to this highway. A short while later, our vanload of precious cargo was bouncing over a rough, jungle path heading deeper into the thick brush as every minute passed.
Just as we were discussing how we would turn around on this narrow trail, a teenage Mexican boy appeared from nowhere – carrying a machete. At first glance, it wasn’t clear if he was an angel sent to help or a serial killer. The scruffy kid asked if we were lost and offered to lead us to the highway. He hopped on the running board and slung his arm around the mirror of the van to hold on as the rusted machete hung from this other hand. Just as our crew finished reciting a prayer under our breath, we came to a clearing, which led us to the highway we had been in search of. And just as quickly as he had appeared, he was off again, swallowed by jungle. It turns out he was heaven sent and there are far more people willing to help than those with bad intentions.
Although Mexico was once considered a ‘Third World’ country, it is now listed according to the UN, in the ‘Upper Middle’ category in relation to its economy per capita. Many travellers are still under the assumption that they will see farmers leading donkeys down dirt roads or the transportation involves a ride in the back of a pickup truck with a couple of roosters. The movies paint a very different picture than the actual reality of Mexico.
In Playa del Carmen, you can expect to find high-end dining establishments, Wi-Fi and modern accommodations comparable to any other cosmopolitan city in the world.
Encounter New Adventures
Exhilarating adventures abound in the Mexican Caribbean and have nothing to do with surviving a trip to the mall on Black Friday. Playa del Carmen is a natural paradise. For the yogis, why not try a class atop of paddleboard on a scenic, jade-colored lagoon? Learn a skill by taking a photography class. These photo shoots are anything but standard. You’ll get to know how to perfectly capture the sun setting over the jungle from out-of-the-ordinary vantage points like the peak of a 42-meter Mayan pyramid.
How about skydiving over the marvellous, turquoise seascape or swimming alongside turtles and stingrays in picturesque protected bay areas? The list of ideas for fun and adventure is as ceaseless as the warm weather temperatures in the Riviera Maya.
Make Lifelong Friendships
Playa del Carmen is one of those places that tend to spawn repeat visitors. One reason being that it’s an easy flight from most places in North America. The snowbird community continues to grow each year because it’s a perfect spot for retirees. The city is easy to navigate by foot and you can get by knowing very little Spanish. There are exceptional restaurants and the service is stellar. Service staff such as the bartender at your favorite beach club or our Bric ambassadors remember your name and welcome you back as their own family.
If you like to hit the links, Playa del Carmen offers several championship and PGA Tour courses. Golf offers a fantastic opportunity to form lasting friendships and meet other like-minded individuals who appreciate the game and the endless summer climate.
Develop Passion For Experiences Over Things
Once you’ve explored the beauty of the Riviera Maya and have been officially bitten by the travel bug, it’s hard to justify the purchase of a $300 wallet, when you know you could be diving off the picturesque shores of Playa del Carmen for less than that.
As a resident of Playa del Carmen, we understand well the value of experiences over things. Although this year-round sunny climate is alluring, the humid, tropical atmosphere is merciless on things. Items like bikes, televisions, a leather purse or any appliance that plugs into an electrical outlet do not last long here. The humidity rusts, corrodes and disintegrates metal and infiltrates electronics, shortening lifespans drastically. While the nice things are available in places like the Apple Store or Michael Kors on 5th, it’s just too hard to see them being destroyed by the humidity. So thankfully, it’s easy to be steered away from the material life and instead, enjoy the simple pleasures.
This is one of the many factors that cause so many people that came here temporarily to end up staying decades. The enchantment of the easy-breezy lifestyle along with the wide spectrum of impressive attractions in this renowned destination, definitely incite a passion for exploration beyond the shops on 5th Avenue.
Make Memories And Receive Real-life Education All In One
Simply talking to the taxi driver from the airport allows you to gain perspective on the culture, its people and its customs. Take Santa Clause, the jolly gift giver - one of the main Christmas characters in Canada and the United States. He has only in recent years, began making deliveries to Mexican children who made the nice list.
Still today, many youngsters in this country wake up to presents only on January 6th, after being visited by the 3 Kings. ‘Dia de Los Reyes’ as it is know in Mexico, is the pinnacle of the holiday season, which commemorates the 3 Kings who visited the infant Jesus, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
If you decide to rent a car for a day trip, you will not only discover local gems such as Cenote Eden or Yal Ku Lagoon, but also that stop signs are merely suggestions. Even when you have the right-of-way, it’s best to always proceed with caution. If you are traveling by foot, you will find out (hopefully not the hard way) that pedestrians should have, but are rarely given the right to cross on marked crosswalks. Again, proceed with caution; you’re not in Kansas anymore.
If you come to Playa del Carmen in the spring, you can witness a re-enactment of the sacred Mayan Journey. This lively three-day ceremonial occasion is held in remembrance of the pilgrimage Mayan women made hundreds of years ago from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel. It was an important event in the life of every Mayan female. Each would cross the Caribbean waters together with their families, on a gruelling 7-hour canoe ride, bringing with them offerings for Ixchel, the Goddess of fertility.
As a spectator, you have a chance to view the festivities surrounding the sacred journey and to see the rowers, who have trained for months prior, endure and complete this bucket list trip. It is not only an inspiring photo op, but also gives an enlightening perspective into the civilization that once thrived in the area long ago.
Provides A Change Of Scenery During A Long, Cold Winter
Having grown up on the cold Canadian prairies, I know how it feels to be impatient for spring. Winters can drag on with incessant freezing temperatures. Planning a trip to Playa del Carmen can give you something to look forward to, and provide a much-needed break from the overcast skies and the cold, wet stuff, which chills to the bone.
Don’t just daydream of waking up to sunshine and palm trees. Our professional Bric team can help you design your version of an ideal trip to paradise. Trade in the clunky winter boots for a pair of flip-flops. Even a long weekend getaway will serve the body, mind and soul well.
A Great Conversation Starter
It is said that travel makes you speechless then turns you into a storyteller. Recalling the most memorable moments of your last trip or asking someone about his or hers, is a perfectly safe and engaging topic of conversation for any occasion. There is much to discuss, whether you have travelled extensively or not. Even if you have never left your hometown, everyone holds a special place in their heart that they would like to see and experience.
A trip to Playa del Carmen will give you more than enough fuel to stoke a stimulating conversation at your next event. From the tope (infamous Mexican speed bump) that popped up out of nowhere and sent your rental car soaring, to a night of dancing under the stars, each trip provides for at least a handful of entertaining anecdotes.
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About the Author
Juanita grew up in a small town in the middle of Canada. Having experienced twenty years of ruggedly cold climate, she had seen enough snow to last her a lifetime. After moving to and working in Vancouver for thirteen years (where she was ecstatic to see the odd palm tree) she jumped at the opportunity to move with her husband and three children to Playa del Carmen. She calls it a ‘dreamy existence’ and cherishes year-round, backyard barbecues with friends, road trips and watching the sunrise over the Caribbean. She writes for Bric Vacation Rentals.