Making Mole With Mayakoba’s Executive Chef
Since its opening, El Pueblito’s cooking classes at Mayakoba have garnered the reputation for being three hours of delicious fun. Being a Mole fanatic, (one of Mexico’s most complicated and flavorful dishes) I’ve always wanted to learn the recipe. So when Mole appeared on Chef Karla’s schedule, I didn’t hesitate to sign up!
The origin of this complex Mexican dish remains a mystery. But one legend dating back to Colonial times gives nuns from a Puebla convent the credit. An unexpected visit by the Archbishop sent them into panic mode. Agonizing that they did not have anything to serve him, they prayed for inspiration. An angel appeared, directing them to cut, chop, and combine the random inventory of items they had on hand. Nuts, chiles, bread, and even chocolate were sauteed, blended, and simmered. The Archbishop ate every last spoonful of the saucy sensation. The recipe became a national treasure in Mexico and is one of the country’s most distinguished dishes.
Pronounced MO-lay, the rich and slightly spicy sauce is typically served over chicken and has a lengthy list of savory ingredients. Perhaps its most surprising component is chocolate. Did someone say chocolate? Count me in!
Class Is In Session
Upon entering the gorgeous, Mexican tiled industrial kitchen, we were greeted by two friendly assistants/bartenders. After directing us to our seats, we were offered a choice of welcome cocktail. The drink menu featured fresh maracuya (passion fruit), guanabana (soursop) or tamarindo (a brown tamarind pea pod) muddled with a splash of tequila. Each of the exotic elixirs was enticing but I opted for the guanabana— fabulous.
Our group consisted of enthusiastic students from Monterrey, Poland, and the United States. Beyond her native Spanish, Mayakoba’s executive chef Karla Enciso also leads classes in Italian, English, and French.
This gourmet kitchen provided the perfect space for our class of nine. Each station was well organized with pre-portioned ingredients laid out for us. But the best part? There was no cleanup and no pots to scrub at the end!
The Secrets To Mexico’s Most Sophisticated Sauce
We began by preparing the various dried chiles such as ancho and pasilla. First, we fried them in lard and then boiled them in chicken broth before being added to the blender. Pecans, pumpkin, and sesame seeds were sauteed with fragrant anise, cloves, and thyme, The golden nuts joined the chiles in the blender with a touch of broth.
Gorgeous Mexican clay pots hosted sizzling green tomatillos, onions, tomatoes, garlic, and sliced green apples (a substitute for plantains). After browning this batch of ingredients, we blended them with a spoonful of chicken broth and a blackened tortilla. Chef Karla explained that the blackened tortilla produces a similar effect as that of activated charcoal in aiding digestion.
Slow Cooking, Sipping And Savoring The Experience
After sautéing and blending, browning, and more blending, we had produced three thick liquids. The smooth pastes were poured into one olla (pot) and stirred over a low gas flame for half an hour. Karla revealed that the secret to a rich and savory mole is to slow cook it for as long as possible, stirring often. Some chefs have been known to stir their mole for 2 hours a day for almost a week prior to serving it. In doing so, the sauce is reduced and the delightful flavors develop to perfection.
Sipping our cocktails, we continuously stirred the deep-red colored mole sauce. Next, the cacao, which we had ground midway through the class was sprinkled into the mix. During periodic tastings, a pinch of salt, a dash of sugar, and a second fistful of chocolate were added. Chef Karla shared that a great mole should acknowledge a perfect fusion of flavors. If the saltiness, the sweetness, and the spiciness can all be detected, you know you’ve created an immaculate blend.
At Last, We Eat!
Once the aromatic sauce was ready, we added pre-cooked chicken breasts. In yet another exquisite, hand-painted olla, we fried a cup of white rice. Along with the water, a few sprigs of cilantro, peas, chopped carrots, and salt enhanced the steamed rice, making it a perfect accompaniment to the mole.
Finally, the time came to plate our savory creations, garnished with cilantro and toasted sesame seeds. I couldn’t wait to taste the explosion of rich mole flavors! Chef Karla had selected a bottle of Mexican red to pair with our meal. Our taste buds rose to a standing ovation with every bite. Not one person left even a single grain of rice on their plate.
Overall, the El Pueblito cooking class experience was a 10. And no, this is not the tequila talking. Our expert host was very engaging. With her encouragement and practical instruction, she gave us the confidence to believe we might actually be able to pull off this sophisticated dish.
A Culinary Adventure Of Your Own
Weekly classes are offered within the picturesque El Pueblito village at Mayakoba. Chef Karla is undeniably passionate about promoting Mexican cuisine. However, the notable culinary artist is open to leading themed classes upon request. Ever wondered about the secret behind a delectable Thai curry? Would you like to try you hand at rolling your own pasta dough for a hearty Italian dish? She is all for celebrating culinary curiosity and sharing her expertise, which was honed in the south of France.
For a schedule of upcoming classes or to reserve your spot you can contact El Pueblito through their Facebook page. Chef Karla is also available at (998) 214-3402 to arrange for private classes for groups of up to 20 people.
As a guest of Bric Vacation Rentals, your designated ambassador is happy to assist in booking one of these highly entertaining and rewarding experiences. Salud!
There’s nothing quite like hitting the links with a couple of pals on a warm summer day. In the golf world, blue skies, wide fairways, and an occasional birdie is a recipe for happiness. But what’s a golfer to do when winters drag on? When months of snow and rain prevent you from doing what you love most? We’ve got the perfect antidote for the cold weather golf blues. Mexico’s Riviera Maya averages over 300 days of pure sunshine and is a golfer’s paradise.
Azure skies and verdant fairways as far as the eye can see. Greens verging on the sublime Caribbean. The sun rising over the palms at Hole #1. Paints an enticing picture, no? Besides tee boxes next to centuries-old Mayan ruins, you’ll encounter an awesome variety of local wildlife. In addition to stripe-tailed coates, there’s a good chance you’ll play alongside a toucan, a howler monkey, or even a crocodile.
If you’ve ever considered a golf vacation, the Riviera Maya is as close to golf heaven as it gets. Within a 25-minute radius of Playa del Carmen are eight impeccably designed golf courses. For those of you who are serious about the game, here is our Top 3 List of Riviera Maya courses. Not only will a round at these remarkable golf clubs challenge you, but also the services and amenities are in a class of their own.
El Camaleon at Mayakoba
Each year in November, a slew of golf professionals arrive in the Riviera Maya to participate in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. With a chance to win over a million dollars in prize money, the competitive spirit is thick at El Camaleon golf course.
The PGA Tour tournament attracts thousands of spectators and continues to gain popularity on the pro circuit. Indeed the weeklong event draws some of today’s finest tour cardholders in the game. Not only is catching the live action an extraordinary experience, but tournament attendees have access to a sensational schedule of activities. Beyond golf pro meet and greets, additional festivities include Food Truck Friday, Craft Beer Festivals, and Tacos Para Todos.
To go for par where golf greats like Charley Hoffman and Ricky Fowler have battled for first place, is a fantasy come true. Expect state-of-the-art golf carts, exceptional amenities and unparalleled course conditions. This impressive concept by Jack Nicklaus is part of the luxurious Mayakoba resort development. Complete with picturesque canals and greens overlooking the Caribbean Sea, El Camaleon rightfully sits on the list of the planet’s top golf courses. If you want to take your game to the next level, book private instruction at the prestigious Jim McLean Golf School or a PXG club fitting on-site.
Gran Coyote Golf Riviera Maya
(Formerly Grand Coral Golf Club)
This impeccable course has been awarded the TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence for 2 consecutive years. To earn this recognition, select winners must consistently provide a high standard of hospitality and quality services based on traveler reviews.
Gran Coyote Golf Riviera Maya, a superior project devised by golf Hall-of-Famer, Nick Price, is located on Playa del Carmen’s north end. This par 71, championship golf course was planned for all skill levels. Recently, the entire grounds, including the practice areas, underwent a massive revamp. Consequently, the scale of amenities and overall esthetic was further enhanced, providing a benchmark in standards for elite courses in North America.
After shooting the round of your life, relax with a cold brew and a flame-broiled burger at the Coyote Grill. Included in your green fee are a GPS-equipped cart, tees, bottled water, and access to the beach club, just 5 minutes away. Additionally, TaylorMade club rentals, golf shoes, and private lessons by certified professionals can be purchased during your visit. Convenient on-course food and beverage service or casual eats at Hole 19 are available at an extra cost. Not to mention, round-trip transportation is included for 2 players paying the public rate.
Hard Rock Riviera Maya Golf Club
Situated in the heart of the gated community of Playacar on the city’s south end is the par 72 Hard Rock Golf Club. This superb course tests the skills and mental stamina of even the most seasoned golfer. Plan to arrive early to have time to fuel up with a buffet breakfast or lunch provided in your all-inclusive fee. Afterward, warm up on the first-rate practice area featuring a sizable putting and chipping green, bunkers, and driving range.
Designed by legendary course architect Robert Von Hagge, the 18-hole masterpiece’s fairways meander through the Yucatan Peninsula jungle. Dry limestone cenote sinkholes guard perfectly manicured greens. In contrast to the ancient Mayan remnants along the winding cart path, impressive million-dollar properties overlook the course. It’s one of the few all-inclusive golf courses in the area. In addition to cart rentals and lockers, receive unlimited food and beverages on the course and in the Hole 19 lounge.
What’s more, is the Hard Rock Golf Club is close enough to walk to Playa del Carmen’s famous 5th Avenue. Along this pedestrian-only thoroughfare, you’ll discover a myriad of excellent restaurants for a post-round dinner. Try Sonoma Grill or Harry’s Steakhouse for an upscale dining experience. Similarly, Casa Sofia and the Admiral Sports Bar are nearby, while offering a more relaxed atmosphere. Begin your day with world-class golf and conclude with an exquisite meal. What better way to spend a day in the Riviera Maya?
Golf Getaways With Bric
Without a doubt, the quality of golf courses near Playa del Carmen, Mexico rival the best in the world. But it’s the year-round summer climate that sets the Riviera Maya above the rest. Now that you have all the information needed for your golf getaway, you can start planning your next vacation! or accommodations at every budget, our friendly reservations experts can help. As a matter of fact, when you book with Bric Vacation Rentals, your designated ambassador is available to help to coordinate every step of your trip. Whether you require dinner recommendations, transportation, or tee times, your hospitality genie can make it happen.
There’s no better time to stay and play in paradise than now!
Recently, despite the forecast of grey skies and thunderstorms, my two daughters and I took our seats in front of our canvases at Cocao Beach Club. This scenic meeting place at Punta Esmeralda beach in Playa del Carmen provided a superb backdrop for Canvas and Cocktails’ painting class. Fortunately the rain stayed away and we took full advantage of the perfect weather conditions. For three-hours, our group of ten Picasso wannabes delighted in the task at hand: to paint a beach portrait.
Jesse Montenegro, the organizer of these painting classes in paradise, has a very practical teaching method for those at the novice level (it helps that he speaks both English and Spanish fluently.) His passion for creating art ignited in 2004 and he has since dedicated many years to refining his technique. In time, his love for painting and his skill level grew to the point where he felt a strong desire to teach others. Speaking from first hand experience, Jesse believes that through the positive energy present in the creation process, comes ‘the ability to change the mood and inner creativity of all mankind.’
Originally from Chicago, he arrived in the Riviera Maya in 2016 to visit his brother. Jesse noticed straightaway an opportunity to share his expertise with beginner and aspiring artists within the community.
It wasn’t long before he was taking reservations for his popular painting classes in the nearby beach town of Puerto Aventuras. Jesse was thrilled to be able to share his passion with eager students. His fans loved the idea of an afternoon class accompanied by a glass of wine in a luscious tropical setting. In fact, Jesse’s Facebook page soon became flooded with requests for classes in Playa del Carmen.
With toes in the alabaster sand and armed with a set of brushes, we proceeded to discover our inner artists.
This outdoor studio on the beach, with its enchanting vista of the Caribbean Sea indeed incited the necessary inspiration. Yet, I was still skeptical that our finished products would resemble the painting Jesse had provided as an example. I simply went with a goal to learn a few basic techniques, while spending some quality time with daughters.
I was impressed with how well coordinated the event was. We arrived and were offered a fresh juice from a hollowed-out pineapple, with or without rum. The cocktail choice went well with the tropical beach theme.
Jesse was very attentive and helped us along the way, as we blended colors to achieve the deep blue sky, aqua seascape and sandy shoreline. I was so immersed in the details of my palm trees, I didn’t notice that the others had finished and were packing up their things to leave. The three (and a half) hours flew by and shockingly I heard not one complaint or ‘Is it over yet?’ from my nine and twelve year-old girls.
What I did not expect was that we would produce pieces of wall-worthy artwork! Thanks to Jesse’s simplistic instruction and encouragement, at the end of the class we were actually proud to pose for a photo and display our works. He promised throughout the class that we would each go home with a beautiful painting and he stayed true to his word.
Canvas and Cocktails takes place in fantastic venues along the picturesque Riviera Maya. There are seven events per month at such locales as Wah Wah Beach Bar and Carmen Beer Company in Playa del Carmen as well as two in Puerto Aventuras and one in Bahia Principe. During the week, the classes are typically offered in the afternoon and the weekend groups get together mid-morning.
Jesse includes all the supplies and one cocktail in the price of the class. He was thoughtful enough to choose mid-sized canvases, which visitors can easily fit into a carry-on bag. The classes are an excellent way to meet people, learn new or polish old skills, deepen bonds between family members or socialize with your favourite group of friends.
One morning, as I walked along the beach near my home, I was struck with awe at the sight of a paddle boarder as he glided over the calm sea, the sunrise his backdrop. That peaceful and picturesque moment lingered in my mind for the rest of the day. I knew I had to try it for myself! Three separate attempts to play swan on the water produced nothing but fails. Either the water was too rough, the water sport shop was closed for lunch or one of the boards was in disrepair. I began to wonder if my time would ever come try this popular Caribbean activity.
In the meantime, as I scrolled through images of friends on Facebook out boarding across the turquoise waters, my heart longed to have a paddling adventure of my own. As luck would have it, I ran into an old friend who had developed a passion for the sport herself. She had two boards and encouraged me to join her. It took hardly a half second of convincing before I was booking a private lesson with her. It was a classic beach scene from a movie as we pulled up to the bay in Puerto Aventuras, a community fifteen minutes south of Playa del Carmen. Her jeep coasted up to the path, boards strapped to the roof rack. The smooth-as-glass ocean drew me near as I scrambled to the shoreline lugging paddles and beach bags. The long-anticipated moment had finally arrived! It required every ounce of patience to wait to hear the necessary beginner’s instructions. My concentration seemed to be more focused on the question of whether I would be able to stand up and hold my balance on the teetering board.
At last, we placed our paddle boards in the pristine water and took a test drive around the scenic cove. She guided me through the quiet canal areas past a magnificent stretch of homes lining the waters’ edge. Turning back towards our starting point, we paddled facing the direction of the vast, greenish-blue seascape. Being out on the still water, under azure skies, gently rowing and taking it all in, I let out a deep sigh of satisfaction. The experience had definitely lived up to and surpassed all of my expectations. We spent an hour gliding, laughing, and practicing yoga poses atop our boards. The Mayan Riviera sun, as usual, was a constant companion on this glorious morning. I reluctantly left, but with a wide grin slapped across my face and resolved to join my friend again soon. These simple connections with nature are what fill my life with the purest sense of joy. These bonding moments with Mother Earth in all her glory are precisely what my husband and I had envisioned in our wildest dreams and what we were willing to risk our too comfortable and convenient lives for.
As a friend recently declared after her first exhilarating paddle boarding session, I can “Knock that off my bucket list!” Now on to the next! If you enjoy the outdoors and are planing a trip to “The Heart of the Mayan Riviera” in the future, I highly recommend that you add paddle boarding to your list of things to do. There are several companies offering lessons and board rentals speckled along the sublime Mayan Riviera coastline. In town, paddle boards are available to rent for approximately $25 USD per hour. If the open sea is a tad intimidating for you, there are tours which include rentals and transportation to calmer lagoon or cenote waters near Playa del Carmen. For more information, visit http://www.pdckiteboarding.com/SUP.html or http://www.supyogatulum.com.
Summer is here! For most, it’s one of the high points of the year, right up there with the Christmas holidays and your birthday (if you’re still under 22). Longer days mean you have more time to spend outdoors barbecuing, having drinks on the patio, and relishing the warmth of the summer air.
As the days heat up, we are inclined to head towards water. Kids crowd around sprinklers at spray parks and boats are launched into lakes in assembly line fashion.
Lucky for you, if you have booked your summer vacation in Playa del Carmen, there is plenty of outdoor fun to be had. Being on the water is an integral part of the lifestyle in this seaside community. If you want to stay cool, just go…well in any direction in the Riviera Maya, and you’ll discover some alluring body of water you’ll be compelled to dive into. The following is a list of top ten things to do near Playa del Carmen for summertime fun.
1. Swim with Whale Sharks
I know what you’re thinking. Sharks? Really? But hear me out. This is not an extreme sport just for loco daredevils with nine lives. People of all ages have surreal encounters with these mellow sea giants every year. In fact, my three kiddos (aged 10, 8 and 7 at the time) still vote it as one of their most memorable trips since we’ve lived in Mexico.
During the summer months, the whale sharks make a pit stop on their migration route just off the islands of Isla Mujeres and Holbox in the Yucatan Peninsula. Fortunately for us, the intimidatingly massive fish prefer the taste of plankton over humans. They come to the area where their food source is plentiful and don’t seem to mind that people tag along for a magical experience.
Note: This excursion can easily be done in one full day from Playa del Carmen. Tours are offered from the end of May to the beginning of September.
2. Rio Secreto
This Trip Advisor Hall of Famer receives rave reviews for being a one-of-a-kind experience in the Riviera Maya. Only 10 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, the nature reserve and eco-park boasts a series of caves and natural limestone pools fed by the largest underground river system on the planet.
As a bona fide explorer (with helmet head lamp and all), you will navigate through waist-deep water and dimly lit pathways leading to cenotes.These crystalline pools were once considered sacred grounds by the ancient Maya. Sacrificial artifacts dating back to over 10000 years ago are still being discovered to this day.
One of the many things we love about Rio Secreto is the company’s dedication to the environment. All of the guides are passionate and educated in the science behind this natural phenomenon. As your hosts for the day, they are committed to keeping you safe, fascinated and entertained.
The tour groups are small so most of the time, it feels as though you have the whole park to yourself. All you need to bring is your swimsuit; life jackets, wetsuits, towels, and lunch are provided. This unforgettable trip beneath the surface of the earth really does seem out of this world.
Note: Recommended for ages 4 and up.
3. Yoga Paddle Board With Aloha
Can you imagine a better opportunity to connect to nature than paddling towards the sun at dawn? Picture it – you’re on the paddle board, gliding into the turquoise horizon. This early morning stillness is so far from your usually hectic routine of prepping for work, scarfing down a bowl of oatmeal and rushing out the door only to sit in traffic for an hour.
A few pelicans nearby target a school of fish and nose dive toward the water’s surface with hopes of snagging some breakfast. From behind a low-lying layer of puffy white cloud, the blazing orange and pink sun emerges.
There is nothing quite like drifting over the calm sea at sunrise. Playa del Carmen based companies such as Aloha Paddle Club offer Stand Up Paddle Board and SUP Yoga classes on the Caribbean Sea and at local cenotes. Their business headquarters is located on the powdery soft sand (talk about a hard day at the office!) at INTI Beach Club between Calle 4 and 6.
Sander, the founder of Aloha and his team, lead daily one-hour tours just off the shores of Playa del Carmen. On superior weather days, a two-hour paddle session to a nearby reef is available. On the weekends, with a group of 4 or more, Aloha offers a Tulum SUP Yoga tour which lasts about 6 hours with a stopover for authentic Mexican tacos in Puerto Aventuras.
Note: There is no minimum age requirement as younger children can sit on the board with an adult.
4. Xplor Park
This nature park, located under 10 minutes from Playa del Carmen, offers a full-day itinerary of various activities. You’ll soar like an eagle above the dense jungle on death-defying (ok, not really, but still intense) zip lines. At the steering wheel of your amphibious vehicle, you’ll cruise over forest trails and through stunning caverns. You’re mind will be blown as you paddle past stalactites and stalagmites on a raft along the vivid, blue-green subterranean river.
There are dozens of picture-worthy points throughout the vast park where you can practice your photography skills. You’ll come across waterfalls, extraordinary rock formations and even hammocks if you need a short break from the non-stop adventure.
A minimum age of 5 years is required and children must be at least 3 and a half feet tall to be permitted on the zip lines. It’s an all-inclusive park with a buffet and non-alcoholic beverages available.
Tip: Purchase your tickets online 21 days in advance to receive a 15% discount.
5. Rent A Boat And Spend The Day In ‘Heaven’
Just off the coast of Cozumel is a little piece of Mexican Caribbean heaven appropriately named ‘El Cielo’. This paradise is only accessible by boat and the clarity of the aqua blue water is shocking. It is so clear that you can see stingrays 50 meters away gliding along the sea floor.
You will most likely have an up close and personal encounter with these graceful creatures as there are quite a few at any given time in this magical bay. Along with the non-threatening stingrays, there are starfish, grouper, angelfish and sea turtles in the area. The pristine water is not only as translucent as a backyard pool, but it has the shallow depth of one as well. Only 3 to 4 feet deep, it’s perfect for all ages and is ideal for spending hours snorkeling in.
The tours typically last 4 hours and usually include snorkeling equipment, lunch, alcoholic beverages, pop and water, with two stops – one to explore the vibrant Mesoamerican Reef and the other at El Cielo. We recommend Sergio’s team from Aquatic Sports and Expeditions or cozumel-tours.net. This place is what Caribbean dreams are made of and well worth the $45USD per person. (Children’s discounts may be available)
6. Cenote and Frozen Margaritas in Akumal
With the heat at its maximum strength from June to September, you may need to double up when it comes to cool down methods in Playa del Carmen. There is an easily accessible mini cenote route 20 minutes south of the city along the 307 highway. Choose from 3 unique cenotes – Jardin del Eden, Cristalino or Azul.
Unlike some resort pools which can feel like a warm bath come mid-August, the cenote waters remain cool throughout the summer months. The water in many of these naturally formed sinkholes reaches a depth that allows divers to strap on tanks and explore deep within the mystical underwater caves.
For those of us who do not share the same passion for diving as Jacques Cousteau, you can spend a couple of hours snorkeling on the surface or jumping from modest limestone ledges into the pristine ponds. There are bathrooms, life jackets, snorkel rentals and picnic areas. Between the cost of a Colectivo (shared van taxi) and the entrance fee, you can expect to pay $100-$150Mxn pesos per person or $6 – $9.00Usd.
Just five minutes south of the cenote strip is the quaint fishing village of Akumal. ‘The Place of the Turtles’ in Maya, Akumal is a superb spot for swimming with sea turtles. The barrier reef system, which sits a few hundred yards from the shore, protects the bay, calming the picture-perfect Caribbean waters.
There is a main dive shop where you can rent snorkel equipment or book a fishing or diving tour. Along the white-sand coastline, a few restaurants present front-row seating to the captivating view.
After a day of cliff jumping, snorkeling and swimming with the turtles, stingrays, and tropical fish, you’ll be ready for a bite to eat and a cold beverage. Take a moment to watch the fishing boats bob on the bay. Witness the beauty of the setting sun’s rays piercing through the palms as you sip on your cocktail of choice.
If you haven’t fallen in love with the Riviera Maya yet, Akumal will definitely capture a piece of your heart.
7. See Dolphins and Flamingos on Holbox Island
Step aside Tulum, Isla Holbox (pronounced hole-bosh) is the latest Quintana Roo gem to be hailed by savvy travelers as Mexico’s best-kept secret. Visitors love the laid-back charm and tranquility of this rustic wonderland. Cars are a rare sighting. Instead, golf carts outfitted with heavy duty all-terrain tires taxi people to and from. However, the majority of boutique-style hotels, restaurants and main boat dock are walking distance to the ferry terminal.
Just an hour from Playa del Carmen plus a 20-minute ferry ride to the island, Holbox offers a welcomed escape from the stresses of life. The island is surrounded by the Yum Balam Reserve. Boat tours are available throughout the year, but summer is our favorite time of year to visit.
In the offseason, the tour companies take you on a 3-hour journey, which includes a stopover at Isla Pasion (a gathering spot for dozens of migratory and local birds) as well as a visit to a cenote. It seems as though you’ve stepped into your own version of the Blue Lagoon movie, but instead of foraging for your own food, there’s a friendly local family serving fresh coconuts and snacks at their little shop.
From the end of May to the beginning of September, when the island’s most revered guests, the whale sharks, are in town, a second tour option is offered. You spend the day sailing along the waters of the reserve in search of the whale sharks. On the way, you’ll spot turtles, dolphins and sailfins, also known as flying fish. The captain makes a pit stop at a deserted island paradise, where you can wade through waist-deep crystal clear water while his team prepares the most divine ceviche (cured fish) dish you’ve ever tasted. At the end of the day, the final point of interest is a sandbar, covered with hundreds of bright pink flamingos.
Surprisingly, for a small community, there is a substantial amount of eateries at which you can find savory cuisine straight from the sea as well as international fare. Since it’s such a short distance from Playa del Carmen, we recommend a day or an overnight trip to this enchanting, little nature refuge. Holbox provides an excellent opportunity to disconnect and appreciate the simple pleasures of life.
8. Find Bliss at a Beach Club
Arguably the best summertime activity, a beach day is fun for all ages. Even the little ones love the sand (although eating it is not recommended.) If lounging on a silky soft beach is your happy place, then you will find utopia in the Riviera Maya.
From Maroma Beach to the north, Lido Beach Club in Playa del Carmen and La Zebra Tulum to the south, there is a bounty of stunning beaches worthy of a beer commercial setting. Speaking of Corona commercials, Xpu Ha Beach, just 20 minutes south of Playa del Carmen was used in the filming of one of their famous television ads a few years back.
For an entrance fee of $100 Mxn per person (which can be used towards your food and beverage consumption at La Playa Restaurant Xpu Ha) you can sink into your heavenly spot on the soft sand. Create your own Caribbean-inspired commercial with that turquoise and alabaster beach backdrop that most of the world only dreams about.
Bring out the snorkel gear and explore the reefs just off the shore in Puerto Morelos. Strike up a game of volleyball on Maroma’s abundant coastline. Strutt your beach style at Mamitas in Playa del Carmen where Djs spin all day and fashionistas gather. Find a daybed and chill along with a bottle of your favorite bubbly on the renowned beaches of Tulum. Anywhere you go in search of your bliss, you can’t go wrong when you choose a beach on Mexico’s Riviera Maya.
9. Horseback riding, wave runner and cenote Punta Venado
Only 10 minutes south of Playa del Carmen is a sweet little paradise few know exists. Punta Venado eco and adventure park has a long list of fun-filled activities to choose from. Begin the day with a casual horseback ride along the magnificent shore, then cool off in a cenote, tucked away deep in the heart of the jungle.
After witnessing some spectacular nature, make your way over to the Blue Venado Beach Club for some ice-cold beverages and dig into a plate of fresh tuna tostadas or Mediterranean grilled fish. Finish off the incredible day on a waverunner, cruising over the blue-green sea and soaking up the sun.
10. Hydrate and Stay Cool at La Flor de Michoacan
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, try to hydrate with more than cervezas and tequila. In the heart of Playa del Carmen on Calle 18 and 30th Avenue (across from Mega superstore) is the authentic Mexican fresh juice and ice cream shop, La Flor de Michoacan. These ice creameries are as popular with Mexicans as Starbucks is with Americans. In most cities you can find one on nearly every corner.
What makes these delicious Mexican popsicles so special is that they are made with fresh exotic fruits like Mamey, Soursop and Dragonfruit. We suggest the frozen Paleta (on the stick) de Coco (coconut), Nuez (creamy walnut) or Cajeta (rich goat-milk caramel).
Not only does La Flor de Michoacan sell fantastic ice creams but their fresh aguas (fruits and vegetables blended with water) are a perfect way to stay hydrated. Try the limon con pepino (cucumber and lime), the Sandia (watermelon) or the horchata (sweetened milky rice water with cinnamon) which is a dessert in itself!
Here are just a few of the many ways to cool off when the sun strikes in Playa del Carmen. If you see an activity that interests you and you require further information, please do not hesitate to call the Bric Vacation Rental office at +52(984) 803-3191 or 1(800) 519-2486. One of our friendly representatives will be happy to help you with the details.
This flourishing city by the sea in the Riviera Maya is not your typical Mexican town. It is difficult to believe that only three short decades ago, this now renowned, metropolitan center consisted of just a few dirt roads carved through dense jungle brush.
Although it was a late bloomer compared to Cancun, Playa del Carmen’s rise to fame was fast and furious. Over the last few years, it has cultivated a worldwide appeal attracting millions of tourists each year. Travel bloggers flock here by the dozens. Even some social media influencers who have roamed nearly the entire planet choose this tropical paradise as their home base.
It’s no wonder since this top choice vacation destination has much to offer. Visitors can choose from a superb inventory of luxury accommodations along a picture-perfect Caribbean coastline. Foodies can eat their way through a thriving gastronomy scene. Families, nature-lovers and adventurists can partake in endless activities. Once explorers venture out to encounter the land’s rare beauty, history and regional culture, unforgettable memories are etched into hearts and repeat customers are created.
With this ever-increasing popularity, expensive tourist traps are bound to rear their ugly heads. But we’re happy to tell you that there are still many options for fun and adventure in Playa del Carmen that cost less than a Starbucks!
Here are 13 activities for under $100 pesos or $6 Usd:
1 )Take a yoga class and shop the artisan market at Kava Kasa
Kava Kasa is a yoga studio located in Hotel Aventura Mexicana on Calle 24 in between 5th and 10th Avenue. The instructors are top notch and classes are by donation. On Tuesdays at 11:00am, local artisans gather here to sell baked goods, organic products such as honey, jam and soaps as well as handcrafted items like jewelry and clothing.
2) See a live performance at the Teatro de la Ciudad
This state-of-the-art venue hosts riveting events throughout the year such as acrobatic shows, theatrical plays, cultural dance performances and tribute concerts. The best part is that there are no entrance fees to many of these professional shows. You are however, required to pick up your tickets after 12pm on the day of the event. The box office is outside the theater beside Wal-Mart on 115th Avenue, just north of the Plaza Las Americas mall.
3) Grab a churro and watch a live cultural show at Parque Fundadores
A churro is a doughy pastry rolled into a long, thin rod and deep-fried. It is dusted with sugar and can be filled with your choice of a sweet chocolate, vanilla or caramel cream. You can find booths that prepare these Mexican treats on the south end of 5th Avenue near Parque Fundadores. You’ll know this park by its famous Portal Maya structure near the beach. During the day, you can see free traditional Mayan performances such as ceremonial dances and the Dance of the Flying Men.
On the sand near the giant mermaid structure is a play park with a fort, monkey bars and swings. Take a load off and park yourself on one of the benches as you watch the kids burn off some of their boundless energy.
4) Buy some exotic fruit and walk the beach
In this same park near the charming chapel on 5th Avenue and Benito Juarez, Mayan women set up fruit carts heaping with colorful, fresh fruit. Quench your thirst with a cup of juicy sliced pineapple, watermelon and papaya or sip on cold coco water right from a ripe, green coconut.
From this area of the beach, you can walk south on the expansive shoreline about an hour until you come to an incredible secluded beach that not many know about. This scenic journey offers a chance to connect with nature and enjoy the blue-green vistas that seemingly go on forever.
5) Visit a cenote
If you have a car, head south on the 307 highway about 25 minutes until you see the signs on the right-hand side to Cenote Cristilino, Cenote Azul and Cenote Eden. These remarkable limestone sinkholes feature crystal clear waters ideal for snorkeling, diving or just cooling off on a warm day.
There are bathrooms, picnic areas and modest cliffs for jumping into the alluring waters. Thousands of these natural phenomena dot the Yucatan Peninsula. Some are covered caverns, while others are pristine, open pools. Bring a towel and a snorkel set along with some pesos for the entrance fee, which typically range from $70-$100 Mxn or $5 Usd.
Note: If you do not have access to a car, use a colectivo or van taxi that travels up and down the Riviera Maya main highway. A one-way ticket to the cenotes will cost about $35 pesos.
6) Indulge in a creamy gelato and check out the artwork on Thursday nights
Every Thursday night is Caminarte on 5th Avenue. Beginning from Calle 18 before the Quinta Alegria shopping mall in the downtown center and heading north to Calle 34, local artists display incredible paintings and photographs along the pedestrian-only, cobblestone street.
Stop by Bendito Pecado on the corner of Calle 28 and 1st Avenue (one block from 5th) for a scoop of cheesecake or Ferrero Rocher gelato to delight in while perusing the stimulating outdoor gallery.
7) Enjoy the ocean views and cervezas at Wah Wah Beach Bar
Located on Calle 2 and the beach, Wah Wah offers free beach chairs and ice-cold beer for $50 pesos. This spot presents a great opportunity to people watch as there is always a lot happening on this ample stretch of white sand beach. Live musicians play from 1pm into the night, while horseshoe, soccer and volleyball players gather for some friendly competition.
8) Shop for pottery on 30th Avenue and Calle 38
This fantastic, outdoor pottery store is the place to find beautiful hand painted pieces of pottery at reasonable prices. Pick up some mementos from your Playa del Carmen vacation such as beautiful coffee mugs and salsa dishes. Guests at your next theme party will be charmed when they see the authentic Mexican bowl your guacamole is served in.
9) When in Mexico, eat tacos!
For a genuine Mexican experience and delicious eats, step away from the resort, at least for one night. You may have noticed a stand slow cooking meat on an upright spit at various taco joints around the city.
This marinated pork bursts with flavor and is so tender that once you’ve sampled one, you’ll definitely want to order more. El Fogon is one of the top choices for tacos al pastor in Playa del Carmen. There are three locations – one on Constituyentes near 30th Avenue, a second on Calle 6 and 30th near Wal-Mart and a third on 30th Avenue near Calle 32.
There is also a park on 15th Avenue and Benito Juarez just down from the ADO bus station where tacos vendors set up shop on a daily basis. As you’re walking along 5th, just follow the savory aroma coming from the quaint park. We recommend washing the tacos al pastor down with a glass of Jamaica (a cold, red, sweetened hibiscus tea pronounced Ha-my-ca) or Horchata (a cold, sweetened rice drink with a hint of cinnamon.)
10) Explore the amazing street murals
One of the many pleasant surprises in Playa del Carmen is coming upon the plentiful murals that add to the town’s artsy vibe. Talented Graffiti artists have left their marks on buildings, bridges and streets, resulting in works of art as colorful as Playa’s vibrant community. These intriguing exhibits often showcase striking details of the Mayan culture and can be found throughout the city.
Stop by Nativo on 30th Avenue and Calle 22 for a fresh, exotic blend of juices, and then set off by foot or bicycle on a treasure hunt for these artful masterpieces. You can start your search on Calle 34 then work your way down to Calle 8 between 5th and 10th Avenue and onto Benito Juarez near the bus terminal.
11) Go to a movie
Going to the movies is not exactly a cultural experience, but can be a good option for a rainy afternoon. There are two movie theaters in Playa del Carmen – Cinemex in the Centro Maya shopping mall along the federal highway on the south end of town, or Cinepolis in Plaza Las Americas Mall on CTM Avenue (which turns into Calle 75 Bis Norte) heading west from the highway. The cost of a general admission pass is $50 pesos or $2.85 Usd.
The malls do not offer a huge selection of stores, but there are a few clothing, shoe and accessory stores to browse through. At Centro Maya, stop for a creamy, 100% natural coconut ice cream paleta (popsicle) at Michoacana just outside the mall entrance.
12) Start your day off with a famous coffee from Obregon Obregon
Located in Plaza Las Perlas on Constituyentes and 20th Avenue, this restaurant prepares delicious coffee – lechero style. A robust shot of espresso is poured into a 12 ounce glass, then from a second long-spouted pot, a server pours warmed milk from 2 feet above the glass. Add a touch of brown sugar and this famous coffee and milk blend is heaven for those who like to begin their day with a cup of joe. To accompany your brew, there is an array of traditional Mexican sweet breads to choose from. If you have children, they’ll love the indoor play area at the back of the restaurant.
13) Get up early, get out to the beach and watch the sunrise
Even if you’re still half asleep from a late night of tequila and dancing, you won’t regret dragging yourself out of bed to watch the sunrise. The sky above Playa del Carmen is set ablaze with deep oranges and pink hues. The sight of the sun surging upwards over the Caribbean Sea will take your breath away. One of Mother Nature’s greatest spectacles and it just happens to be free of charge.
That completes our list of things to do in Playa del Carmen that cost less than a Starbucks. Checking off some of these items may require you to step out of your comfort zone, but your memory bank (and your wallet) will be so glad you did!
With thousands of images of exotic, tropical destinations streaming through our social media everyday, we can’t help but feel inspired to plan our next vacation. I mean who doesn’t imagine in their daydreams sleeping in an overwater bungalow in the Maldives or walking along a picturesque beach on a French Polynesian island?
The problem is that that the flights to these faraway places can cost thousands of dollars! What if I told you there are otherworldly spots just as alluring right here in North America – that wont’ break the bank?
Once place in particular, has water so profoundly striking, it leaves you without words. You’re met with the kind of love that forces you to surrender to its spell at first sight. There is only one word that comes close to describing the beauty of this breathtaking scene, and that is ‘Heaven’.
El Cielo (meaning ‘Heaven’ in Spanish) is one of those surreal destinations deserving of a feature photo spread in such prestigious travel magazines as Condé Nast or Travel and Leisure. But up until a short while ago, the locals of Cozumel have been able to keep this Mexican Caribbean jewel a secret. In fact, I live 45-minutes away and I only recently heard about it through a friend.
The good news is there is no code word needed to gain access to this hidden paradise. It’s no longer classified local information. I believe Cozumel residents realized it would be a grave injustice to the world if they kept this magical destination to themselves.
The great news is you don’t have to spend thousands on a plane ticket to experience this rare natural beauty. So read on to discover how to visit one of the Yucatan Peninsula’s most extraordinary sights (and that says a lot because there are literally thousands of them!)
A crew of twenty of us booked a boat tour to visit El Cielo one weekend for my son’s birthday. Three days prior to our Sunday funday, I received a phone call from the original company we had booked with. They regretted to inform me that our reservation had been canceled. We had planned this excursion a while back and we had invited out-of-town guests to celebrate with us. I tried my best not to melt down when I received the disappointing news.
I sent some messages to everyone I thought who might be able to help with a boat rental recommendation. One of my neighbors passed me a contact number for Aquatic Sports Cozumel. To my surprise, a boat was available and he could accommodate our group.
Although I was relieved, I had doubts about the quality of the service and the boat the company would provide, since they had availability at such short notice. I crossed my fingers and hoped it would all work out.
On the day of the trip to El Cielo, the group met at the Playa del Carmen ferry terminal on Benito Juarez and the beach near the south end of 5th Avenue.
The costs are approximately $165 pesos ($9.50USD) each way. Children 12 and under are 50% off the adult ticket price. The ferry to Cozumel takes about 45 minutes.
Once we disembarked, we walked outside to the left to catch a van taxi. With 20 people, we needed two at $200 pesos ($11USD) each. It was a quick 8 minutes ride to Aquatic Sports Cozumel.
I cannot speak highly enough about Sergio and his team. Together, Sergio, his friendly Capitan and assistant met us on the dock to greet us. While the tour operators prepped the boat with food, ice for the coolers, and beverages, I did a quick survey.
After taking note of the ample space and excellent condition, my worries were put to rest. The lower level was open and had plenty of shaded seating. The bow offered more seating and the perfect spot to stretch out and bask in the sun. A spiraling staircase led to the upper level where the Capitan sat. A flat deck behind him presented a prime vantage point from which to appreciate the turquoise seascape.
Coolers filled with ice, water and pop were provided. We asked ahead of time and Sergio allowed us to bring our own beer.
The 5-hour tour begins with a stop at a reef about half an hour away. Since one of our group members had to get back to Playa del Carmen early, we opted to bypass this snorkel portion of the trip and head straight to El Cielo.
There was no need for the Captain to announce our arrival. As we sailed along Cozumel’s coast, the waters turned from a beautiful turquoise to a crystal clear powder blue. We had arrived at The Promised Land, (or promised bay rather!)
From the top platform of the boat, we were able to see stingrays gliding along the sea floor from a hundred yards away. The water was as translucent as a swimming pool and we had it almost all to ourselves, with the exception of a catamaran and two other boats in the distance.
It was a hot and sunny day, which made us eager to cool ourselves in the inviting water. Although there was an area of sea grass, we did not see any turtles. However, we did encounter speedy, little groupers camouflaged by the soft, white sand. Angelfish swam by in pairs and the kids were thrilled to see starfish. Several inquisitive stingrays also came over to investigate, which was both frightening and spectacular at the same time.
Snorkel gear and life jackets are included in the cost of the tour.
As we swam, the Captain and his assistant prepared a light lunch for us. On other boat tours, we’ve received a typical sandwich accompanied by a handful of potato chips. But I have to say this company once again, impressed us with their service. With a tuna salad, guacamole and tortilla chips, a mixed fruit platter and traditional Mexican tortas, we could eat only half and were more than satisfied.
We spent over two hours exploring the area and swimming alongside a variety of fascinating marine life. While the adults waded in the glistening waters with their ice-cold beverages, the daring kiddos spent the afternoon jumping from the upper level and climbing back up to do it all over again.
It was hard to leave this magical spot, but our time was up. The children still had energy to spare so we asked the Captain to drop us off at Paradise Beach at the south end of the hotel zone in Cozumel. There are several beach clubs along this shoreline that offer access to inflatables on the water. After inquiring at a couple of the beach clubs, we found one with free access to the inflatables as long as we consumed something from the menu.
Half the group elected to sit in chairs beneath some towering palms. The rest of us chose to lounge near the water to keep an eye on the kids as they bounced around on the inflatable structures. They came ashore to grab a nibble of ceviche and then went right back out. There was just enough time before the sunset, to sip on one last mojito. It was a perfect end to an unforgettable day.
What to know when booking a boat tour at El Cielo
- If you choose Aquatic Sports Cozumel, the tour lasts 5-6 hours. Don’t pass up the snorkel portion as we did. The reef system off the coast of Cozumel is healthy and vibrant, offering some of the best snorkeling on the planet!
- We cannot stress this enough – please wear biodegradable sunblock so that the marine life will survive for many years to come.
- Bring towels and waterproof cameras to capture some amazing photos.
- The cost is $40USD per person. There are two options available regarding capacity. The first one is a maximum of 20 passengers, the second can accommodate up to 30 people. In order for the tour to be offered, there must be a minimum of 10 bookings.
- As stated above, the tour lasts from 5-6 hours, this does not include the ferry, so you can expect to be gone from Playa del Carmen for approximately 8-9 hours with the travel time.
- Cozumel is a fantastic day trip or overnight getaway from Playa. There are quality tequila tasting tours, Mayan ruins, a Cacao museum, water parks and much more to explore. If you’re planning to spend a day in Cozumel, speak to our knowledgeable BRIC ambassador team about details for fun and adventure!
Summer is the perfect time of year to host festivals! Outdoor parks come alive with concerts, fireworks and activities surrounding such themes as Independence Day or Peach Fest in Canada’s Okanagan.
The Mayan Riviera, known for its world-class beaches and picturesque Caribbean coastline, is also host to a vibrant array of festivals. The surreal beauty of the region makes for the optimal setting for magical events including those held under a night sky glowing under a blanket of twinkling stars. The intriguing mix of cultural communities has resulted in an exuberant, cosmopolitan city with a progressive mindset and an ever-growing fascination for the arts.
Cities like Playa del Carmen, with its year-round, warm climate and palm-lined beaches are appealing to both event coordinators and attendees. This seaside location has become renowned for fantastic one-day only and weeklong parties celebrating the love of music, film, food and even tequila!
If you are a fan of Dance or Jazz music, international film, or gastronomy, we recommend that you check out this list of annual festivals that take place in Playa del Carmen. The popularity of these festivals is growing every year. Promoters are producing unforgettable events in one of the most stunning, natural venues in the world!
The BPM Festival (January)
Each year, tens of thousands of dance music aficionados come to Playa del Carmen to enjoy performances by hundreds of renowned DJs. During this world-class, electronic music event, fans flock to this breathtaking region to hear the best underground music talent from around the globe.
Throughout the 10-day festival, international crowds gather around open-air stages constructed on the silky, white sand, palapa beach bars, and even within stunning cenote caverns! In 2015, this sensational festival drew over 60,000 sun and EDM worshippers.
The Arena Festival (February)
This stellar house music event unites the gay community like no other dance festival in Mexico! Attendees and DJs from around the world come for the ultimate dance party at venues speckled along the powdery shores of Playa del Carmen.
Everyone from students to companies to state government officials, join together for the grand, Brazilian inspired Carnival! Each year, organizers create an awesome schedule of events including live music performances, parades and contests.
It is a fun time to be in the city! During the celebrations, bongo drummers are out in full force, participants are clad in feathers and bejeweled bikinis, astonishingly tall 5th Avenue pedestrians walk by on stilts, and decorative floats coast along the downtown streets of Playa del Carmen.
Spring and Autumn Equinox Festival (March and September)
Each year, spectators can witness a truly remarkable occurrence at Chichen Itza in the Yucatan Peninsula. Near the time of the first days of spring and fall, the descending sun casts a shadow of a giant serpent along the corner of the famous Kulkulkan Temple. The shadow gives the illusion of a snake slithering down the staircase until it unites with a large stone serpent head at the base of the pyramid.
The festival celebrates the advanced astrological genius of the Maya culture with concerts, sound and light shows on the sacred archeological site.
Wine and Food Festival Cancun-Riviera Maya (April)
This four-day event draws top chefs and sommeliers of the world to the Riviera Maya. Those who appreciate fine food and wine will have a chance to meet renowned chefs and taste their exquisite creations at events such as the celebrity catamaran cruise and lunch or the star chefs dinner. Daily conferences, wine tasting city tours and seminars are also part of this sumptuous food and wine festival.
Corona SunSets Festival (May)
This sun-soaked, dance music festival happens each year in ten different countries around the world and on four sublime beaches in Mexico.
In Playa del Carmen, an impressive line-up of DJs spin from the explosive main stage at Mamitas Beach Club all day, and into the night. This annual fiesta takes place along the shores that border some of the most stunning blue-green waters found in the Americas. There is no shortage of cold Coronas and the atmosphere is electric!
The Riviera Maya Film Festival (June)
The international film industry aims to join a love for the people of Quintana Roo and its culture with universal art through contemporary film. Mexican and foreign movies are featured during this 6-day event, which takes place at magnificent locations throughout the Riviera Maya.
In Playa del Carmen, award-winning films are showcased in spectacular outdoor settings as well as within restored cinemas. Over the past 5 years, the festival has featured almost 1000 free showings and has attracted approximately 81,000 spectators.
Festival of Life and Death at Xcaret (October)
This vibrant cultural festival takes place over 4 days around the 31st of October at the eco-park, Xcaret, just 5 minutes South of Playa del Carmen. Inside the stunning nature park, festivalgoers can enjoy typical regional foods, such as cochinita pibil, tamales, and a esquites (a creamy corn dish with mayo, lime and chili.)
A designated area features elaborately decorated altars adorned with candles, flowers, photos and food. Stages showcase theatrical and musical performances. Parades and an abundance of family activities create a fun-filled, educational environment for people of every age.
Riviera Maya Jazz Festival (November)
Pack a beach chair or blanket and a picnic basket and you are set to enjoy this free festival on the alabaster beaches of Playa del Carmen. Fans gather on the sand to hear some of the biggest names in the Jazz music industry perform.
Open-air venues and world-class entertainment make this one of the longest running festivals in the Mayan Riviera. If you are just discovering the soulful sounds of Jazz, this popular event will leave you spellbound.
Heineken Winter Beach (December)
This annual event combines a love of music and fashion at exclusive venues throughout the effervescent city of Playa del Carmen. Top-rated electronic dance music DJs perform while crowds gather at fashion shows presenting the latest in spring-summer trends.
Of course, at the Heineken-sponsored event, you can sip on cold ones as you enjoy the turquoise views from the palm-speckled beaches of the sunny Mexican Caribbean!
The original Xochimilco outside of Mexico City has a fascinating history. The first people to settle in this region, found regular farming practices impossible due to the area’s extensive wetlands. They developed an alternative method to grow produce, which involved building artificial islands and fertilizing them with the mud from the lake floor. For centuries, these flourishing floating gardens fed thousands of inhabitants. This scenic setting soon attracted wealthy visitors who came from afar to glide through the tranquil canal system on trajineras (flat bed boats) and to enjoy the striking gardens. Today, Xochimilico, near Mexico City is a busy marketplace and popular tourist attraction for nationals and foreigners alike.
Although I knew very little of Xoximilco, the canal park bearing the same name near Cancun, was on the top of my list of things to see while on Christmas break. The lively, nightly attraction is located about 40 minutes from Playa del Carmen, near the International Airport. Created by Xcaret Experiences, a seasoned group of visionaries that are responsible for establishing other local eco-parks such as Xcaret, Xel-ha and Xenotes, visitors can expect an organized spectacle with top-notch entertainment value.
Upon arrival, our group of nine entered into the site’s main waiting area where instrumentalists played guitars, darts and foosball were waiting for the kids, and a typical regional snack, esquites (a creamy corn, mayonnaise, lime and chile) was available for guests to sample.
We purchased cold beer at the little convenience store ‘El Jacalito’ in the embarkment area, while we waited in line to register, receive our entrance bracelets and designation of our party’s boat. There were over a dozen vibrantly decorated vessels with names of various Mexican states lined up along the dock, which presented a beautiful photo op.
Having arrived at 7:30p.m, we had plenty of time to check in, go to the bathroom and have a pre-boarding beverage. At about 8:15, a bell rang which signaled the first call to board. Several staff called out the name of the state and guided visitors to the dock where they could take a group photo in front of the colorfully lit boats before hopping aboard.
Our gondola-like trajinera was captained by Mario, who steered us through the canals from one station (island) of musicians to another. Our host, Didier, made it his mission to ensure our crew had enough to eat and drink, all-the-while keeping the twenty guests on the boat highly engaged and happy.
We cruised by a band playing marimba music from the state of Chiapas as we were served an assortment of appetizers. We dipped totopos in a salsa made from Mayan pumpkin seeds and nibbled on ‘chapulines’ or fried grasshoppers (which do not taste nearly as bad as the idea of eating an insect sounds!) The kids were completely satisfied with the quesadillas and the chips and guacamole. Next up, we savored Nopal (cactus) salad, tamales and a cheese ball from the state of Oaxaca. The main dish was partitioned and featured several samplings of traditional favorites such as chicken in a mole sauce, pork in a green salsa, and shrimp in a tamarind sauce. As we dined, beer and tequila for the adults flowed freely, as did the fresh agua de Jamaica and Tamarindo for the kids. With help from the liquid courage, we were all inclined to get up and have a Riki Tiki dance off with other neighboring trajineras as the mariachi band belted out many popular renditions of famous Mexican songs.
Continuing on down the serene canals, we came upon a Bolero trio at one point and were enchanted by Jarocho folk music at another. Didier explained that Son Jarocho music originated in Veracruz, a southern state on the Gulf of Mexico. “La Bamba” is perhaps one of the most recognized songs in this genre of music, which resulted from a blend of the musical elements from the Spanish, indigenous and African population of Veracruz in Spanish colonial times.
Along the way, Mario made pit stops next to anchored supply boats with enthusiastic crews who restocked our bottles and passed Didier our next courses. Nearing the last stretch of our journey, we were each served a platter of assorted desserts, which included creamy caramels, pine nut fudge, sweet Amaranth squares, and chocolates, reserved for royalty back in the day. I am not particularly a fan of flan, but the one served that evening was one of the best I have tasted. To accompany our dessert, we drank ‘Café de Olla’, a traditional Mexican cinnamon and clove flavored coffee, sweetened with raw sugar cane (piloncillo). I was reluctant to drink the coffee at 10:30p.m but had a few sips of the warm goodness and still slept like a baby.
We were able to stop for an intermission halfway through and those that needed to use the restroom could do so. For the rest of us, yet another band was on stage to keep the party going. A few from our group did not hesitate to hit the dance floor.
The fiesta came to an end around 11:45p.m. At the last stop, an eight-man Mariachi band played their violins, strummed their guitars and blew their trumpets with gusto! A few trajineras were surrounding the stars of the grand finale and the crowd sang along as the animated musicians performed a series of well-known classics.
I would say that the majority of the visitors on that particular evening were nationals. However, between our group of mostly Canadians, which included our three children (ages 7-10) and my mother, who is in her late fifties and completely unfamiliar with Mexican music, a fun time was had by all!
My advice is, when the time comes to play a charged game of ‘Toques Toques’ or when your turn comes to holler like a Mariachi, don’t be afraid to participate! The atmosphere on the boat becomes even more electric and the smiles are contagious. Like many experiences in life, you will get back what you put into it!
Tips when visiting Xoximilco
- If possible, try to book online in advance. There is a 15% discount if you book 21 days prior or a 10% discount at least 7 days beforehand. Children 5 – 11 receive 50% off.
- It is recommended that you wear long pants (although we encountered no issue with mosquitos) and comfortable shoes.
- Apply all natural insect repellent. The night we went, bug spray was provided at the sinks near the washrooms.
- Book transportation or decide to have a designated driver.
- Tequila Traditional and beer are provided onboard, however if you prefer other spirits such as vodka or wine, they can be purchased at ‘El Jacalito’ the onsite convenience store, prior to boarding. Also bottled water and soda are provided.
- The park is open from 7:30p.m. – 12:00a.m, Monday to Saturday.
- Bring some extra cash for souvenirs, photos, and tips for your hosts.
- The tour is recommended for children 5 and older and lasts approximately 3.5 – 4 hours. We were back in our vehicle by 12:15 and home by 1a.m, which for us was a late night, but so worth it!
- Keep an open mind, try all the food, even the delicious grasshoppers, and ask the staff questions. The hosts have many stories to tell and are a wealth of interesting information!
- The park is wheelchair accessible.
- Each trajinera accommodates a maximum of twenty people. If you have a special occasion to celebrate and can get a group together, it is a very memorable experience to share with family or friends. On the other hand, if you are traveling as a couple, Xoximilco presents a fantastic alternative to the nightclubs for dancing, entertainment and mingling with other cultures.
After four years of calling Playa del Carmen home, I have met two people that were actually raised in this magical city. There is a common thread woven within the story-line of most residents here. Often what began as a one week holiday turned into twelve years, or what was to be a one year cultural experience in Playa became a full decade’s worth of existence in tropical bliss. Blooming into a metropolitan city from what was once a sequestered, fishing village thirty some years ago, Playa del Carmen developed from of a diverse collection of sun-seekers in search of a simplistic way of life by the sea. Located on the Yucatan Peninsula in the entrancing Mexican Caribbean, Playa del Carmen is a cultural, gastronomic and nature-enthusiasts’ hub. European and North American expats have converged with citizens from all regions of Mexico to form a dynamic, multi-cultural community within a paradisaical setting. With new developments and attractions sprouting up along the alabaster shores each year, the Mayan Riviera offers a limitless variety of family friendly, adventure-themed activities as well as hundreds of virtually untouched natural wonders to explore.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding Yoga In Tulum
SUP Tulum is the Mayan Riviera’s first and only Boga Yoga floating studio. The class takes place on the stunning, turquoise waters of lagoons and cenotes near Tulum, which is only a 45 minute drive south of Playa del Carmen. The company offers a 3 hour class for groups of 3 or more which include transportation to and from the Tulum meeting point, a cold pressed juice, a raw vegan energy ball, a paddle board, instruction class, a Boga Yoga floating yoga class and a photo session. SUP Tulum also hosts Boga Yoga retreats at various times throughout the year. For more information, please visit http://www.supyogatulum.com
The endless summer climate in the Riviera Maya presents over three hundred glorious sun-filled days, perfect for those who enjoy polishing their skills on the links. There are dozens of scenic, championship quality courses in and around Playa del Carmen which offer all-inclusive options and special summer pricing. To view a list of impeccable courses in the area or to book a tee time, please go to http://www.playgolf.mx.
There are four adventure parks near Playa del Carmen in which families, honeymooners, or thrill-seekers alike can partake in a memorable day amidst the surreal beauty of this fascinating region. Xcaret is mystical park featuring shows and events depicting the culture and traditions of the Mayan people. Swim through caves, learn about local flora and fauna and witness an elaborate spectacle in which the performers sing and dance their way through various aspects of Mexico’s colorful history. Xel-há is a natural wonder where visitors have the opportunity to commune with nature during an unforgettable day of snorkeling, zip biking, cliff jumping, and floating down a lazy river on rafts. Xplor is an adventure-themed park consisting of six lengthy zip lines which stretch over the jungle’s canopy. This exhilarating journey includes riding an amphibious vehicle through the remarkable underground caves, swimming in seemingly glowing aqua waters and beneath waterfalls, floating along the subterranean river and exploring the impressive stalactites. Go Native’s Park is a protected natural reserve with jungle paths which lead to stunning cave formations, crystal clear cenotes and the property of one of the area’s original settling families.
The Yucatan Peninsula is made up a shelf of porous limestone. Thousands of years ago, the underground river system which runs beneath the surface of the region, caused the limestone to collapse in some places resulting in hundreds of fresh water sink holes throughout the area. Each cenote is unique in size and formation. Some are open, while others are hidden gems within caves which display impressive stalactites. The blue-green waters are crystal clear and are appealing for both swimmers and divers. There are several a short driving distance from Playa del Carmen with very reasonable entrance fees varying from $40 to $80 Mxn pesos per person. Cenotes are an excellent way to spend a memorable day in the Mayan Riviera.
Diving, Fishing and Sailing
Just off the pristine shores in the Mexican-Caribbean is the awe-inspiring Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. In the early 1960s, Jacques Cousteau and his team declared Cozumel one of the best diving sites in the world due to the superb visibility and healthy variety of marine life. There is an abundant selection of dive centers in Playa del Carmen including http://www.abyssdivecenter.com and http://www.mexicobluedream.com. For additional options for an extraordinary day of fishing or sailing on the open sea, visit http://fatcatsail.com or http://rivieramayafishing.com.
Spending the night on one of the paradisiacal islands near Playa del Carmen.
There are three popular islands which beckon visitors with their small town charm and shallow shorelines on which you can wade hundreds of feet out through warm, translucent waters. Cozumel has a world-renowned reputation for its deep sea diving. Just off the alabaster beaches of Cozumel is the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, where diving enthusiasts have the opportunity to explore the plentitude of vibrant marine life in exceptionally clear waters. On the center of the island is also a Mayan archeological site, where Mayan women would come to pay homage to Ixchel, the goddess of fertility and healing. A direct ferry service shuttles travelers to and from Playa del Carmen every hour and the ride lasts 45 minutes. The island of Holbox can be accessed only by boat or ferry and is approximately a 1.25 hour drive from Playa plus 20 minute ferry ride. Visitors can view pink flamingos in their natural mangrove habitat, swim with whale sharks from July to September and enjoy the island’s famous lobster pizzas. Golf carts are the preferred mode of transportation around the picturesque island of Isla Mujeres. Visitors can take a 1 hour ferry from Cancun or there are several excursions which offer various stops including snorkeling in the MUSA underwater museum, and a stopover at nearby Isla Contoy, as well as exhilarating sailing and catamaran tours.
Swim with sea turtles in Akumal
Akumal, meaning “Place of the Turtle” in Maya, is a pristine bay and turtle sanctuary. Located only 20 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, this pueblita, or “little town” is speckled with divine eateries such as Turtle Bay Cafe, ice cream parlors, artisan stores, and seaside restaurants overlooking the breathtaking harbor. There is a snorkel, dive and fishing shop in the bay area where you can rent gear for $15 USD per hour. However, if you have your own equipment, you can swim approximately a hundred feet from the shore to witness and glide underwater with giant sea turtles. It is truly a magical and memorable experience.
Walk on sacred sites where an ancient Mayan civilization once lived
There are several archeological sites along the Yucatán Peninsula but the three largest and most visited are Tulum, Chichén Itzá and Cobá. If you decide to rent a car or take the ADO bus and explore on your own, it is advised that you hire a guide who will explain the symbolism, architectural styles, and history of the Mayan people. The tours are much more enjoyable and interesting when you can gain insight into the highly sophisticated,mathematical and astrological skills this fascinating civilization possessed from a knowledgeable guide. A complete tour of one of the well-preserved, centuries old remnants lasts 2 to 3 hours and it is recommended that you go as early as possible to avoid the heat of the midday and crowds from the tour buses. As part of your itinerary, be sure to include a cenote on your day trip. There are thousands speckled throughout the peninsula and several of these awe-inspiring swimming holes are on-route to the ruin sites.
The Ixchel Jungle Spa
Established in 1994, the Jungle Spa originated from the concept of helping local Mayan woman in the community provide financially for their families. These expert healers were massaged out of the womb and were taught the art of therapeutic massage by their grandparents who came in after strenuous days out in the fields. This non-traditional spa is a non-profit organization and receives rave reviews for the natural healing techniques and successful outcomes in treating aches and pains in every region of the body. This jungle spa is a unique and unforgetable opportunity to witness sustained Mayan customs passed down from generations.
The Little Mexican Cooking School
Located 20 minutes north of Playa del Carmen in the town of Puerto Morelos, The Little Mexican Cooking School provides foodies and chefs in the making, with both an animated and educational encounter as part of your Mayan Riviera getaway.
The full day begins with a light breakfast then delves into a highly pleasurable gastronomic experience. Learn the history of the authentic flavors and preparation methods behind savory Mexican dishes. Sample popular beverages and traditional recipes sure to become favorites in your cooking repertoire. After a delicious mid-afternoon meal, take a stroll through the quaint neighborhood, peruse the artisan shops or sip cool Mexican-Caribbean cocktails seaside.
Although this concludes our top suggestions for fun, adventure and culture in Playa del Carmen, the beauty and magic of the region is truly limitless. If you are planning an upcoming trip the magical Mayan Riviera, Bric Vacation Rentals reservation specialists and professional ambassador team can assist you with your travel plans! We invite you to visit our website for in-depth information on accommodations, attractions and the best restaurants in the area.