Posts Tagged ‘Playa del Carmen’

The first scheduled stop on my day’s tour, Punta Laguna, did not excite me. I’ll admit it. My initial thought – skip it. I looked ahead. I thought, let’s head straight to the ancient ruins of Coba and spend more time understanding the mystique and magic of the Mayans. Or perhaps add a second cenote to the itinerary. Ever since my discovery of these sacred, swimmable sinkholes I can’t seem to see enough. But Punta Laguna was on the way, so we stopped. And actually, I am glad we did.

A monkey spotted in the sun, I took a picture.

When we arrived, I grabbed my camera and we hired a guide to help us search for the local Spider Monkeys. Not five minutes and one hundred meters into the jungle our guide already heard them in the distance. We changed course and started tracking the troop.  We listened and watched in silence as they moved swiftly from tree to tree searching for food. The monkeys never seemed to mind our presence.

I certainly tried to capture a few photos, but just like when on African safari searching for the Big 5, I didn’t have a telephoto lens and actually, the monkeys blended with the shade. But also, just like on safari, sometimes I didn’t raise my camera and click. Nope. I just appreciated being so close. I enjoyed a glimpse of life in their world, a chance to just feel the jungle from under its canopy.

Then as the monkeys wandered further into the jungle, our guide turned us around and we headed down the main trail to the lagoon. Originally, I thought we might paddle out on the water, but when I arrived to see the lagoon it was not the heat that kept me ashore. The crystal clear water and its stunning reflection almost seemed ask to not be disturbed. So calming. I just decided to savor a moment. This moment.

sometimes its just about the view....

Yes, the rest of the day lived up to its expectations. The Mayan Ruins at Coba and the breathtaking beauty of Cenote Multun-ha were definitely highlights of my entire two weeks in the Riviera Maya. But the silence and stillness of the lagoon made the highlights too. The beauty of the moment taught me a valuable lesson. A lesson to not overlook any stop on a journey as beauty exists in all destinations. And my few minutes on the water’s edge of Punta Laguna reminded me of that very fact. Thank you.

Stay adventurous, Craig

Also, a special thanks to Riviera Maya for being an excellent guide and host.


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Often times, when in Mexico (I am currently in Puerto Vallarta) conversation commences about other Mexican destinations. Comparisons – yes, but also (and mostly) about how we all appreciate the country, the culture and the cuisine.

I found myself talking about the Riviera Maya yesterday, and as much as I enjoy the adventure of exploring the cenotes, discovering my senses, eating the tacos in Playa del Carmen, or watching a sunset in Tulum, sometimes, everyone needs a day off. A day to relax; a day to recharge. A day designed to do nothing. And when staying at the eco-friendly and sustainable Hacienda Tres Rios Resort, I spent one day doing just that.

take a moment to yourself today...

So this weekend, before the big holiday events (it’s Thanksgiving in the US next week) how about taking a moment to yourself. Hopefully you can find a place like this to go. And if you can’t get here physically, well then at least take a moment and go here mentally. You deserve it. Happy Friday.

stay adventurous, Craig

Again, a thank you to Hacienda Tres Rios and Riviera Maya for showing me this wonderful part of Mexico.

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We found it...

I started my morning en route to San Felipe Ranch, a Mayan community, where Alltournative operates its adventure tours. My host Riviera Maya van sped down the main highway until a small sign and our guide both signaled us to turn off. Then the real journey began.

We drove slowly across the uneven dirt road and continued deep into the jungle. Staying in Playa you can easily forget how thick and vast the Mexican jungle is on Yucatan Peninsula. That morning I was reminded, I was on the Jungle Maya Expedition.

My all day adventure included a packed list of activities. The dance card consisted of: a 4×4 all terrain off-road ride, zip lines across the jungle from above,  mountain biking on trails, a Mayan ceremonial cleansing (possibly needed), and the prize – swimming three different cenotes (including one via a rappel entry).

the entry to the cenote...

But then, as my coffee just seemed the right temperature to drink, we started through this bumpy dirt road.  As I struggled not to spill it, I attempted to take a sip. I knew I’d need the caffeine fuel for this day.

We arrived and it seemed I was on the clock. My guide, an Austrian who now calls Mexico home kept us punctual as we switched from activity to activity. And although my group was just three of us, my Riviera Maya guide, my Alltournative guide and myself, the ranch buzzed with activity. I noticed many other tourists who came to enjoy the same experience, the Jungle Maya.

After an early morning hike, we eventually found ourselves at the first cenote, part of the Nohoch Nah Chich Cenote system.  These connected cenotes, part of the Planet Earth BBC documentary, is one of the longest explored underground river systems in the world. And as I understand it, more is still being discovered today.

enjoying the magic of a cenote...

After a rinse and changing, we obtained the provided gear; the wetsuit (not needed if you can handle 75-78 degree water), and snorkel equipment. We then walked down the steps to the cavernous entry and plunged into the clear, pools. Exploration began. We navigated through the waters admiring the stunning stalactite and stalagmite formations both from above and below. Intense and incredible.

my RivMaya Guide Liz and I explore the tight caverns

The second entrance known as “Heavens Gate”, provided more views of the caverns. Both beautiful and so refreshing, not just for the cool water on a hot day, but rather refreshing to the inner-self. A chance to explore and see an unknown and uncommon world. With bats above and even fossilized shells aged at 65 million years old, you truly enter a unique and different world.

down the Cenote I went...

The third cenote, I needed to rappel down the side of the cave to enter. My first time. Again so different.

Stimulation was unavoidable on the Jungle Maya tour, but looking back the chance to take an adventurous sample of the jungle and also swim in the cenotes remain memories that shall stay with me.

And for the cenote swims, I could have spent all day in the Nohoch Nah Chich Cenote underworld, but perhaps the taste I had will just make me hunger for more. Hunger for a return.

stay adventurous, Craig

Day 19 of the 20 day Mexico Bicentennial Tribute. Day 4 of Cenote Week.

Also a special thanks for Alltournative for proving me access to both Mayan communities and giving me a taste of all the activities available. Also, all photos where you see me – are by the imaginenative team (I purchased them to support the Mayan community)

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South of Cancun, on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, travelers find the town of Playa del Carmen.

cloud cover creates color

Whether you spend one night, or one month, this gem on the Riviera Maya will leave an impression. And after three visits within the last year, I can confirm – after the sun sets the town really starts to heat up.

But just like anywhere, during sunset the town seems to pause. And just like in Tulum the sun might not be viewable dipping beneath the horizon on the Gulf of Mexico, but visitors (and many locals too) still take a moment to pause. Time to watch both the sky and clouds change colors. To take a moment and enjoy time as day turns to night. I did.

The best place to capture the moment remains the sands of the ‘playa’ (beach) itself. Whether taking a leisurely stroll or watching from the cozy, comfortable chairs at a place like Fusion, the cool, constant ocean breeze and mesmerizing waves seem to slow down time. And sometimes that is exactly what we need from our travels.

Happy Sunset Sunday.

Fusion, a great place to catch a sunset moment

stay adventurous, Craig

Day 15 of 20 day Mexico Bicentennial Tribute

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At times walking the streets of Playa del Carmen one can start to think they are vacationing in Italy. Yes, Italy. Surprised? Well, have you been to Playa lately? Italians top the list of foreign ownership and that translates into many Italian restaurants.

the taqueria was packed...

Pizza appears on nearly every block with pasta specials on nearly every menu across the countless cafes. Italian food is omnipresent. Travelers can not miss (or not taste) the large Italian influence.

But on my final night, I craved tacos. I asked the locals for recommendations and most everyone recommended one spot. So, I walked a few minutes from the tourist streets to find the top taqueria. I  arrived at El Fogon.

opening the menu made me smile..

When I think of tacos, El Califa in Mexico City, remains my first thought. The tacos hold a special place in my heart. I never traveled to DF and not made a stop. I never will. But I’ll admit, when I next return to Playa, a return to El Fogon is now a must.

A packed house with an open grill provides the smells, smoke, and sounds to start any man salavating a little. Simple plastic chairs and tables either draped with advertisements or simply plain white do not provide comfort long leisurely stays, but serious eating. Even the waiters and waitresses play a part. They expect you know your order before they hand you a menu and start delivering toppings (the salsas, picos de gallo, limes, etc..) before you receive your drink. The scene set. Tacos.

And I don’t care where you eat tacos in Mexico, it is a sin if you do not start with at least one ‘Taco del Pastor.’ A must. The gyro style pork on a small taco garnished with a slice of pineapple is a requirement. And at El Fogon – delicious.

Then I selected the ‘bistec y chorizo con queso’ for my order of tacos. I don’t always get cheese, but this time, it was needed.  I desired the extra comfort.

my order of tacos...

At first, I thought the order, roughly 4-5 tacos, might be too much. But instincts took over. And after a few nights of Italian, and on the eve of returning home to New York, I needed my taco fix. No problem. I ate every last morsel. Two frosty Pacifico cervezas aided my effort. All delicious.

But what of dessert?

Well, I still had a little room for one more item. And I did what any taco loving American might do. I ordered one more Taco del Pastor. A perfect beginning also made a perfect ending. The setting, the food, the experience. Tacos indeed. A must visit when you find yourself in Playa – and that, my friends (mis amigos) is a Fogon conclusion.

makes a perfect dessert too.

stay adventurous, Craig

Day 5 of 20 day Mexico Bicentennial Tribute

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