US $ are widely accepted on the Yucatan Peninsula, especially in the tourist areas around Cancun and Playa del Carmen but I prefer to use the local currency, the peso, since it is the currency of Mexico and also because you tend to get a better exchange rate when using the peso.
I bring some small US bills to use to tip the taxi/van driver and bellboys before I get to an ATM machine and to use as a backup if my ATM card doesn't work. Then we go and find an ATM, this website has a list of some options, I usually stop by the Scotia Bank at the corner of 5th Avenue and Juarez and have never had a problem using it.
The only time I've used my credit card is to book tours through the hotel and I imagine some of the more expensive restaurants also accept them. Make sure before you sign the credit card slip that the type of currency is marked or you make end up being scammed, see my warning tip.
I just want to show some pics taken directly after the Hurricane, as you can see Playa is still standing, it is better prepared for a Hurricane than Cancun, its quite a new town and I looked at the building that they are buiding right now ,and they sure know how to build it hurricanesafe.
Wilma ripped of most of the leafes on the trees around Playa, and from Cancun down to Tulum we could see that the phonelines and trees was in a pretty bad condition, but when we went back from Belize, south of Mexico the Mexicans had almoust fixed everything - fantastic people!
Honest..the roads are good!
All the major rental car companies are located in the cancun airport. Really, do yourself a favor and rent a car! We're VW bug fans, but since it was so hot we rented some kind of toyota from thrifty...the VW's don't have AIR! Our cost? 22 bucks a day. Total cost for four days was still less expensive than two people taking the shuttle to and from Cancun.
The "collectivos" are a good way to get from playa to other beach areas...problem is, they drop you off on the main highway. So you can end up walking a good half mile or more to get down to the beach. Parking is free everywhere.
The main highways are in GREAT shape. The Pay roads are in GREAT shape.
The only time you'll hit bumps, holes, etc are on dirt roads getting to some beaches or visiting villages inland...and oh, DO look out for 'topes". The are clearly marked and tell you you are c oming up on a village so slow down! You really have no choice. If your journey gives you the choice of a free or toll road, only take the free road if you have BUNDLES (as in HOURS) of extra time. Lots of villages. Lot's of Topes. We missed a flight once trying to take in some local color!!
Good mexican Restaurant
A very nice mexican restaurant on the main shopping street of Playa. It is quite big and a lot of waiters are working there so I guess there are no long waiting times there. I was there pretty late so I didn´t have to wait long anyway.
I was sitting upstairs and it was nice to watch the people going by on the street during the night listening to the music. I ate Tacos with Chicken, Mushrooms and Cheese, which were very very good. And I guess I had a soup before - I just know that I was more then stuffed after all I ate... but very very good!
Snorkeling near Playa
There are several good places to snorkel near Playa. The best snorkeling we experienced in the region was at Puerto Morelos, midway between Playa del Carmen and Cancun. Just get to the main square in Puerto Morelos, by the pier, and you can hire someone with a launch to take you to the reef a few minutes away. We arrived there at 8:00 am and were amongst the most amazing schools of fish within 1/2 hour. It's a natural preserve, and the coral is great, at a distance of between 4 and 12 feet. The guy who took us out was friendly and helpful. It's much more low key than Cozumel or Playa. We were just about the only ones out on the reef. We also once took an excursion here from Cancun, which included pick up at the hotel and everything else. They didn't take us directly to Puerto Morelos, but to a launch site north of town. The snorkeling was just as good, out to the same reef.
We earlier had spent a day at Cozumel, and were quite disappointed. There are a lot of guys when you get off the ferry trying to get you to go, but the guide and captain we got happened to be grumpy. They took us to three sites south of the town, but the coral reef is nothing to see, and it is pretty deep, between 20 to 30 feet. But what bothered us the most was that the guides lure the fish in with food. The fish come swarming around when the food is out, but there are also a lot of other tourists swarming around these feeding frenzies. At Puerto Morelos, feeding is not allowed and the setting is much more natural. There were more fish too. In Cozumel I asked about going to better sites further south, but that has to be arranged by hooking up with a diving excursion, which takes more time and money.
Another day we went to the lagoon at Akumal, between Playa and Tulum. This is also a preserve, and you can swim out to the coral at the mouth to the lagoon. It was impressive and fun, if not as brilliant as Puerto Morelos. Akumal, however, is further from Cancun.