Beaches, Playa del Carmen
The beach was horrible! I thought Playa del Carmen beach was one of the prettiest beach in Mexico, FALSE! When we got there, it was extremely dirty and smelly (I mean so smelly that it smells like a restroom). My friends and I had to end up catching a ferry to Cozumel. At night, we did return to shop around Avienda Cinco and Avienda Juarez. So my recommendations would be: it is not a place to swim, but a good place to shop around the evening-night time. They had some good $1 taco vendors there.
P.S. Please be careful with your belongings. While inspecting how awful the beach was, we saw some locals eyeing us and our backpacks. Go in a group, stick together, and be observant.
So, I know what you may be thinking, I hit the century mark on countries and I go a little soft, perhaps a bit too trusting. However, rest assured, no unnecessary risks were taken. My sweet date and I walked down to a well-lit, crowded part of the beach in the heart of the city where several locals and tourists were gathered to simply get a glimpse of the ocean. No more than thirty seconds of sitting in the sweet sand when a local ran up and snatched her purse. I, as anyone would do, jumped up to give chase and feel confident I would have caught the snatcher if his companion hadn’t taken my knees out with a police baton. Once down, the five men came upon me, kicking me and making liberal use of the baton on my flailing legs, hands, arms and top of my head.
My sweet date, screaming in terror, attempted to stop them and was given a body blow by one of the b#$%@ds. This was no quick ‘snatch and grab’, lasting long enough for me to argue with the baton wielder of who would be the final possessor of my watch and allowing time enough for no less than three bystanders to walk by, doing nothing to not only stop my beating but to comfort the hysterical and now beaten girl.
The beating let up to allow the girl and I to run to a parked police car just a few feet from the mealy. However the pounding on his window and subsequent festooning his squad car with blood did nothing to arouse him or distract him from kissing the civilian passenger in his car while the five men with the baton stood behind us.
We ran up the crowded street, passed throngs of reveling locals in the attempt to track down our friends we left at a bar just moments earlier. With blood running down my face, I pleaded for anyone to help as the crowds bowed their head and shuffled along. The five men, (anyone who has ever had the unfortunate experience of being beaten in any sort of similar capacity knows that the faces of the perpetrators are seared into your memory), strolled right by us. I yelled, “These are the men that did this!! These are the men that robbed us, beat me and this girl!!”
The only reply we received from the one local that actually paid any attention to us was to be quiet so I didn’t make things any worse.
Ambulances arrived but being a bit apprehensive to receive care from the folks employed by the same governmental entities as the beach cop, I refused assistance. I had a hunch that the authorities may try to blame me for this, likely arresting me in order to save face.
This suspicion was justified as another local ran up the paramedics attempting to treat me and started shouting in Spanish that I should be arrested or let me die in the streets because I was a dirty gringo, shouting in the EMT’s faces that “dirty gringos have ruined Mexico” and we should all die like pigs.
This was our queue to excuse ourselves from any further attempt to get any sort of justice.
Once at my friend’s house I called the US consulate, as I was in need of medical attention however expressed my concern that the locals would try to blame this on me where the very annoyed person on the other end informed me the US would offer no help.
We made it to the airport and attempted to purchase a first class seat on the next flight out with my one remaining credit card but American airlines refused to sell me the tickets, asking me to report to the medical clinic. I complied and the doctor on call released me to fly home. American airlines still refused me help, continuing to emphasize the overall attitude of the locals in the region to ignore and attempt to stay as far away as possible from anyone hurt or in stress. Thank God the folks at United saw the situation for what it was and not only allowed us on the next non-stop to Denver but called a wheel chair for me.
I understand these types of things happen from KC to Katmandu, Mexico does not hold the unique market on beat downs and robbery; however it is what happened afterward that disgusts me. I hate to generalize, but like I have said, out of 102 countries including ‘war zones’, I have never witnessed something so grotesque as the Mexican police refusal to help and the extreme apathy of the hundreds of witness that actually went out of their way to avoid helping. This is not just a failed state, this is a failed society.
Most days at Playa del Carmen we walk along the beach. The beaches are very popular with the tourist. Along the long stretch of beach you’ll see tourist playing beach volley, sunbaking etc. Also there are shops where you can hire boats, ski jets.
Now that I've been to Playa del Carmen nine times I don't feel the need to schedule quite as many daytrips, often we find ourselves just lounging on the beach with a good book or a pile of magazines. If you stay in Playacar, your resort will have lounge chairs, small sailboats, kayaks, jetskis (extra charge) and volleyball nets along the beach with plenty of palm trees to shade you. If you are not staying at a resort in Playacar, the beach is public as long as you don't use the amentities at the resorts. Every year it seems like the beach is wider and you can walk further, past the last resort on the south end you can still walk 30-40 minutes, almost to Xcaret, with no resorts or beach chairs or volleyball nets if you want to get up and stretch your legs or work off a bit of the buffet meals you've been eating. Along the way you might spot iguanas sunning themselves on the rocks along the beach if you approach quietly, pelicans perched on the rocks searching for their next victim or little crabs in the sand.
Going north from Playacar you can walk into Playa del Carmen, go over or under the ferry docks, along the resort beaches, over the 2nd ferry dock and there's still plenty of beach past there. We did a 2 hour walk south the 2nd morning and a 2 hour walk north the 3rd morning and could have kept going both directions.
The large sandbags that we saw near the Riu in 2009 (photo 5) have been removed, they are sometimes placed there to stem the erosion of the beach but currently the beach is gorgeous and not in need of the sandbag "whales". When you wade out, there is a sandbar in the water, not sure if this was put there or if it's natural but it might perform the same function as the whales.
Two major leisure activities in Playa del Carmen are walking Avenida 5 and walking the beach (or just hanging out at the beach). This is a great beach, with expansive stretches of smooth, white sand. Different areas of the beach have somewhat different atmospheres. Close to the ferry pier it is a little less fun - noisier and seemingly a little dirtier. But going north from there you can keep walking and never end. You'll pass several beach bars and clubs, which you can ignore or stop by for a pricy drink. Then there is a designated swimming area, and further north, closer to the next pier, there are many fishing boats. These you can hire to try sport fishing. Continuing north you come to two relatively big hotels (still, nothing like the Cancun high rises) on either side of the pier. North of here the beach is great, with a few beach clubs where you can pay a little and hang out on a chair under an umbrella and relax and get served drinks. If you feel like walking further, you can just keep on going....
If you are only here for a day, I'd suggest you walk up Avenida 5 until you get tired of it, and then down the beach (or reverse). Then you will see both sides of tourist Playa - the beach and the tourist street.
If you want to relax and enjoy a restful stay on your trip to Playa...then rent a beach chair o the beach (we chose the Blue Parrot), get a shade umbrella and enjoy your whole day...lounging. You can order cervezas, nachos and whatever else you want. Read a book, sleep, and feel pampered. For about $20, we could spend a whole day, eating, drinking and napping on our chairs...and at the end of the day, feeling relaxed and happy. Of course, if you want, you don't have to spend any money, but for $20 bucks...on vacation, why not!
Playa Maroma is a long and large beach, with very soft white sand and an incredible emerald green and warm sea. There are very few resorts in the area (comparing for instance with Playa Bavaro in the DR). The beach is perfect for a long walk (early in the morning is the best time to do it), or just to lie in the sun and dive in the warm sea. Off the coast there is a large reef perfect for snorkeling. To get there you must go by Boat. You can catch one in different locations in the beach.
If nights are spent on 5th Avenue, then the beach is where to spend your days. The beach in Playa Del Carmen is the place to relax and soak in every precious minute of sunlight you possibly can. This beach is busy but never overcrowded and you can always find a place to lay down your towel, an empty deck chair, or a swing seat at a bar. Walk from one end of the beach to as far as you can go in the other direction, stopping to take several swims along the way. The sand is fine and white; the water is beautiful neon blue. This is a place to see and be seen, to hold hands with your girlfriend, to wink at others if you're single, to have philosophical conversations with foreigners over drinks, to look at fishing boats and hear the tinkling noises their masts make, to compare scuba notes with other divers, to watch grown women play and roll in the surf as though they're little girls again. If 5th Avenue is the "heart" of Playa, then this is its "soul". Or could it be the other way around? However, they play a perfect yin and yang to each other. Guys, pay careful attention to this next statement: This is some of the best bikini-watching in the entire world.
The primary activity in Playa is the beach. We spent hours laying about, swimming , and snorkeling. Closer to town people wer playing volleyball, windsurfing, and playing beach soccer.
The water was clear and refreshing, but not biting cold like in California! I was stung by some unknown little creature and navigating out past the coral reefs proved a bit tricky in flip flops but we could not get enough water time.
Playa means beach dummy. So go hit it. All of the spectacular white sand beaches in Playa del Carmen are public so feel free to explore. Playa is not over-developed like Cancun so there are still places to get away from it a little bit. There are plenty of places still to find an umbrella propped along the breathtaking Mayan Riviera beaches and sip on a margarita.
Playa has some of the best beaches in the world. The sand is soft, the water is clear, and the sun is hot. Look for some of the more secluded beaches a little south of town. Buy a cooler (10 pesos), some cervesa (6 pack-100pesos), and you are good to go. Beaches are very safe, take regular precautions.
It might be too hard to wake up early... Just party until six in the morning and go to the beach right after that.
Watch the people doing yoga or other sort of sports.
Quiet! Not too many people... You just get to listen to the waves and the sea.
Don't miss one of this! Just walk all the way along the beach.
Playa del Carmen has beautiful colored ocean water. Although it is not as clear as the Carribbean islands, it is still clean, warm, and colorful. If you want to snorkel you will have to go elsewhere to one of the parks, inlets, or lagoons, as this does not have much plant life or colorful fish. However, the beach sand is soft and they keep it very clean.
If you are traveling to Playa del Carmen you are probably going there for the beach. And this is a great picture of their beach. One end has the local's fishing boats, while the other is for swimming. It is fun to watch the locals coming in from the ocean with their daily catch. The water is warm, relatively clear, although not for snorkeling. There were not a lot of fish or underwater life, so you'll have to snorkel further down towards Tulum. But it is a great beach for laying out. It is a topless beach because of the numerous Europeans, so don't be surprised to see entire families where the ladies have on no tops.
If you follow the beach north of the city, you will find a long stretch where you can be almost alone. There are tourorganizers very close where you can go snorkelling, scubadiving or rent jetskis.
The coco reef is quite close to land at this beach. You can see the waves breaking out in the water. On a calm day you can swim out and explore the reef with your snorkel. But remember that you have to go swimming the whole way back again, and take care with the boats and jetskis out there.