Cenotes, rain and shopping in Playa del Carmen.

A tropical storm hit the Texas coast early this week and I am pretty sure it was organized over Playa del Carmen while we were there. Bummer. We left Holbox on a sunny day, made the ferry ride back to Chilquila and then had a very easy drive to Playa del Carmen. As we drove into Playa, the rains came. And while there were periods of sun during our visit, the ocean remained angry and the beach stayed blustery.  We never put our toe in the ocean.

My overall impression of Playa was mixed. It is a charming town. Lots of streets to explore and great people watching. But it is quite a tourism mecca, and as such, I found it hard to really dig to find the authenticity. Our favorite discovery were the cenotes.

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Our friend, Rosie, who grew up going to Playa from her hometown of Cancun, told me that her favorite cenote was Cenote Azul. It is open air—basically a swimming hole with cliffs bordering one side. Cool, refreshing water. Many Mexican families were there but we seemed to be the only English speakers. Perfect.  

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The following day, we visited Cenote Chuuk Tan, which was a highlight. It is perfect to do in the rain because it is underground—basically cave swimming. Abel was our guide and I was glad we had him. I think we paid about $25 each to enter, and for that we got Abel, wetsuits, water shoes, masks, a waterproof flashlight and about 2 hours of swimming in caves, some of which were miles deep. The water was colder than Barton Springs—63-64 degrees. I was grateful for our wetsuits.

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I was so sad to have left my camera behind for this adventure but in hindsight, I am glad I did. There were some places where you had to dive under water and come up at the next pocket of air. It was intense enough that I was happy for one less thing to manage in the water. But the experience was incredible. I dug up a few internet pictures to give you an idea.

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Photo sources are here and here.

We also wondered 5th Avenue, the main shopping strip in town which was a block away from our condo. I had to look pretty hard to find neat things in the midst of a lot of junk. T shirt shops and trinkets galore. I found one store with these great bags and shirts, and did a bit of shopping myself. I am a sucker for a good Mexican shirt.

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Playa is charming. We enjoyed exploring. We just kept saying, “it isn’t Holbox.” Breakfast was included in our hotel price, and so we ventured down to breakfast at the beach club each day. We are committed to recreating our favorite breakfast of sauted onions, mushrooms, bacon and potatoes, smothered in verde sauce, with a fried egg on top. Yum. We laid by the water when the rain stopped but never got in. Someone would clean our glasses before we left, which was a lovely perk. We ate lunch both days at Los Aguachiles, and had two different ceviches that were awesome. Both smothered in a sauce, which was a nice twist.

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The trip was great. If we had it to do again, I think we would just do Holbox. I am glad to have experienced Playa but can check it off my list. Holbox is a jewel of a place to which Scott and I will likely return.

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