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.
Favorite thing: When you stay at an All-Inclusive hotel you seldom use money but you´d better tip the maids and waiters to get a better service from them even though tips are suppossed to be also included. It´s vital to have a fairly good amount of $1 bills for a week stay. $2 per day for the maid, $4 for the waiters and so on. Then, bring at least $50 in one dollar bills.
The hotel rates and FunJet's rates for excursions seemed to be a bit on the high side so we went on a search for a tour operator we could book from. Our first encounter was with (surprise!) a time share pusher but we chatted with a British traveler who sent us to an agency where all they were selling was tours. The agency we used was Mayaluum, the booked us a tour out to Chichen Itza for almost half of what the hotel wanted.
Located at 10Esq. Calle 2 Nte.
Favorite thing: Puerto Aventuras describes itself as: "the only gated community resort on the Mexican Caribbean coast." Now, I don’t know exactly why you need to be "gated" in one of the most tourist-friendly areas of the world--it seems a little excessive. Some web sites and travel agencies say it is "in" Playa Del Carmen, which is wrong--it is about 35 minutes outside of town, halfway between Playa and Akumal. Puerto Aventuras is basically a very large oceanside retirement community for Americans and Germans (yep, the old WWII vets living side-by-side), which also hosts several lavish all-inclusive resorts, a marina, golf course, and some nice restaurants and shops. Don’t get me wrong, the setting is absolutely stunning, the grounds and roads are superbly well kept, and everybody is really happy. But this type of place (with gates) never make me feel safe but instead make me feel trapped inside. Locals have nicknamed Puerto Aventuras "Gringo Town" (gringo meaning white person) and say it is "very American." I agree. I had a great time staying on a resort here but I’d rather hang out with the locals, they’re generally nicer than the foreigners. You could literally live in Puerto Adventuras for years and not learn anything at all about Mexico.
Also known as Brazilian Aardvarks, the COATI is a member of the racoon family. They are diurnal mammals native to South America, Central America and South-western North America. There were quite a few of them at the RiuTequila - my guess is about 30 Coati. I was quite surprised to see so many. They are odd-looking creatures with a long ringed tail, which can be as long as their bodies. They can weigh between 2 and 8 kg ( 4.4 and 18 lbs.) - about the size of a large house cat. Coatis have a slender head with a long upward-turned nose, small ears, dark feet and the long tail, used for balance and signalling. Coatis have racoon-like paws with nonretractable claws. Coatis are active day and night. You could see them scooting around the walkways of the resort.
Coatis are omnivors and their diet consists of insects and fruit. They also eat small vertebrate such as lizards, rodents, small birds and bird's eggs. The snout, with an incredible sense of smell, is used to unearth their meal. I often saw them clawing through the dirt looking for something to eat. By the way, there are signs everywhere, telling people not to feed them.
Coatis are very sociable and quite harmless (if left alone). I found them quite fun to watch especially the babies..
We were not able to get on the Fat Cat catamaran tour as it was fully booked for our entire stay and after I got home I checked alltournative's website and you can get a 10% discount for booking online.
The only downside to this is the weather, the closer you are to the vacation, the more accurate weather forecast you can get so you know if it will be a good day for your trip.
At night the stadium is filled with th days visitors who enjoy a spectacular show depicting the history of the Maya. Including an incredible display on the giant ball court. There is a normal ball court game where players only use their HIPS to hit the ball. Then fire is added to the mix for a round of...well, I can only call it fire hockey.
The candles given to the crowd only adds to the ambiance of the whole night.
After intermission there is a history of dance and music in Mexico. It's a long show. It's an amazing show with a cast of HUNDREDS and live music too!
Hans and I are not really into relaxing near the Swimming Pool. The place for us to be is on THE BEACH. We usually had the same routine every day. After breakfast, we headed for the front of the hotel, where the Beach Shuttle "Golf Cart" picked us up and took us to the Beach.(Beach Transport - 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m./3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.).
We picked our spot, usually under a bunch of palm trees. There were tons of lounge chairs, but really, if you didn't get there by 10:00 a.m., empty chairs got a little harder to find. Some came early and saved chairs with their beach towels, but this is not really allowed.
Once settled in, Hans had his knitting and I usually had a book to read. We located near the volleyball net, so I could watch the hunks play volleyball - very entertaining! hehe! Also, there was always windsurfers and the odd parasail to watch and enjoy. I also loved watching the Pelicans flying low over the sea.
We would take turns going for a walk on the beach. The "Playa" is blessed with a long stretch of white sand beaches and turquoise seas.
Life guard is on duty.
Also, don't forget your sun protection. The sun is very strong, so even on a cloudy day, you can get a sun burn.
ARRIVAL IN MEXICO
Upon arrival in Cancun, Mexico you will clear Immigration, claim your luggage and then clear Customs.You are then pointed in the direction of a person who will ask you to push a button. If you push "Green" you are free to Exit. But if you push "red" as what happened to both of us, you will have to go to secondary inspection. The secondary person asks you to undo your suitcases and then he/she proceeds to go through your suitcases and carry-ons. No big deal, just a little annoying.
If you are with a travel company ( we were with Apple Vacations) a representative will meet you outside the airport and direct you to your hotel transfer. If traveling to Playa del Carmen, you can expect a 445 to 90 minute transfer.
MEXICAN TOURIST CARD
A Mexican Tourist Card and Customs Declaration Form will be provided to you by the airline. Both copies of the card must be filled out, signed and presented upon arrival in Mexico. A copy will be returned to you. You must safeguard this copy as you will need it for your return flight. If you lose your tourist card, there may be a fee to replace it.
It is not recommended renting vehicles in Mexico. Buses and taxicabs are plentiful and offer a convenient and inexpensive means of transportation in Cancun.
CREDIT CARDS/CURRENCY EXCHANGE
Major credit cards are accepted throughout Mexico. Most hotels and banks provide currency exchanges where you can convert your U.S., CDN or Euros to Pesos. ATM Machines are available for cash withdrawals.
Due to a new Mexican law, the use of U.S. dollars in Mexico is restricted. Some businesses may not accept U.S. dollars at all.
While the water in most hotels and resorts is treated through modern water purification and sanitation plants, drinking bottled water is still recommended. Our resort supplied bottled water.
Some years ago this was a sleepy fishingvillage, but it's fast growing to be a popular touristresort. Still it is much smaller and calmer than Cancun which lies just one hour north. If you want a smaller place with less tourists you can head to Tulum one hour south. But Playa del Carmen has a lot to offer so you should stay a few days.
This is a good place to use as a base for exploring the rest of the Yucatán peninsula. Hop on a ferry and after half an hour you are at the island of Cozumel. Here you can find some of the best snorkelling and diving in Mexico, and some say of the whole world. In Tulum you can find some great ruins overlooking the sea and the beach. Three hours drive takes you to one of the most magnificent maya ruins; Chichén Itzá. It might be a long and bumpy ride, but believe me; it's worth it!
There are also plenty of cenotes, underwater wells, around. You can find both small and large, crowded and lonely. Tour organizers can take you on all kinds of trips around the area. There are two big "theme parks" nearby, one is Xcaret and the other is Xel-Ha. Other places nearby are Aktun Chen, the Sian-Kaan reserves and the ruins at Cobá. You could go on an organized tours to all of these places, but you could also just take the bus and go by yourself.
while i stayed at a lovely place a few blocks from the bus station and a few more from the ferry, most of the nicer places are at least 10 blocks north of the ferry on avenida 5 (5th ave).
Fondest memory: playa is by no means the rugged yucatan, but it has lovely beaches and no highrise resorts. if you move east, away from ave 5, you can find great cheap food. i felt safe the entire time.
Favorite thing: If you get bored of bathing in the beautiful warm water, or taking sun on the paradisebeaches, this might be something for you. You don't have to be a child to play in the sand, you just need to bring out the child inside... ;) If you are more people you could make a competition and see who makes the best sculpture (it can be quite fun unless you are a horrible looser like me... )
You are going to be on the beach, you can't resist that, however, please force yourself to get off the sand and off to some of the spectacular ruins. Tulum is a mere 30 minutes drive from Playa Del Carmen. It's the closest and possibly the most beautiful.
Fondest memory: At Tulum, which is a set of Mayan ruins on a cliff overlooking the ocean, dating back to the 13th century, it's very alive with Iguanas!
Click on the photo, you can't miss him! Life goes on everywhere, even amid the ruins.
Playa del Carmen is a port frequented by Cruise ships. Lucky you though, because if you didn't come by ship, you get to STAY here!
You can walk to just about everything, but there's plenty to do if you rent a vehicle and venture out!
This ship looks VERY close to shore, doesn't it? Well, it was stranded on a sand bar and stayed there for three extra days, much to the joy of the local merchants! Cha Ching!
Fondest memory: I loved waking up, opening the doors and being warm!
Besides swimming and bar hopping, PDC offers lots of shopping opportunities. You can find Cuban cigars, T-shirts, beachwear, silver jewelry, and even Mexican styled sinks. Here's the proof!
Fondest memory: Playa del Carmen is friendly and a good place to relax and escape from the cold winters up north.