Those initial few days on Isla Mujeres were enough to help me to recover enough from the food poisoning to start functioning again, but I certainly wasn’t in the mood for the party town that is Playa Del Carmen, which perhaps clouded my judgement of the place a little….
I’d visited Playa Del Carmen briefly at the end of 2013, but it was such a whirlwind stop that I hadn’t really remembered it for what it was. When we arrived at the bus station on bustling 5th Avenue I took an instant dislike to the place and my opinion only changed marginally by the time we left 5 days later. You couldn’t walk past a shop or bar without someone pestering you to go in, tacky souvenirs spilled out of every doorway and drinks promotions were plastered on every available window and billboard.
Thankfully, once we got off the main street and headed to our hostel (Hostel Che), the vibe changed almost instantly. I still missed the chilled-out feeling of Isla Mujeres but the hostel offered more of a social atmosphere which was exactly what we needed after 4 days of peace and quiet.
The hostel itself seemed to have a buzz about it that took me right back to my days of travelling around Australia and Thailand. Lottie and I instantly slipped into backpacker mode, strewing our clothes all over our (albeit, private) hostel room and dancing around people in the kitchen as we rustled up dinner.
The first night, we headed out into Playa to see what the infamous nightlife had to offer and found a diamond in the rough in ‘The Roof Bar’. We positioned ourselves comfortably on two bean bags, drinking our bottles of Sol, and were soon joined by three fellow travellers from Canada. One of them seemed to take quite a shine to Lottie so I chatted to the others whilst they made eyes at each other, too enamoured with the ‘on again/off again’ boy at home to even entertain the idea of flirting.
On Christmas Eve, we joined a tour to Chichen Itza (booking our tickets through the backpacker ‘deals’ company Sayvin and saving ourselves a hefty discount on the standard rate). It took a good few hours on the coach from Playa, but we learned some background information about the Mayan culture along the way. Once we arrived, we grabbed a quick ice cream before setting off with the tour guide to learn more about this fascinating tribe.
Having already visited Tikal in Guatemala I was less impressed with the more famous Chichen Itza and it was actually the next stop of the day that I enjoyed most…
We had just over an hour to dive into the cool waters of the cenote, made even more fun by the 15ft cliff jump in from the side. (You can also go in through a stepladder if you don’t like heights). We jumped once and loved the rush so much that we instantly clambered back up the side to do it again and again.
We stopped briefly in the colonial town of Chetumal on the way back, which very much reminded me of Antigua in Guatemala and I would have actually liked to have more time here to explore. But, it was another long bus journey back to Playa and by that point we were cold and hungry and craving a hot shower.
That night we dined at ‘Wichoo’s’ a local restaurant located just a couple of streets from our hostel.
As it was Christmas Eve, we were in the party spirit but a stroll down 5th Ave held little appeal and so instead we headed back to our hostel bar. Juan, one of the guys from ‘Sayvin’ was dj-ing that night, playing the most amazing set of Latin house that had us dancing until the small hours, drinking mojitos to stay hydrated of course!
Christmas on the beach
Christmas morning was a bit of a blur. We lolled around the hostel, skyping our families back at home and then got chatting to two English guys who were heading to the beach, wearing their home-made Santa Sombreros naturally. We decided to join them along with an Argentinian and Chinese friend we’d met along the way.
We headed to a beach called Akumal which was just a short collectivo (local bus) ride away. We spent the morning drinking, listening to Christmas songs and snorkelling in the beautiful water.
Akumal is known for it’s snorkelling and on a good day it’s possible to see turtles and stingrays just a few metres out from the shore. We’d actually visited a few days earlier but it was a particularly blustery day and so sadly we hadn’t been in luck. Thankfully Christmas day was much calmer and we were able to see several turtles and stingrays, which made Lottie’s day.
Snorkelling over, we dried off and caught the collectivo back to Playa Del Carmen where the promise of a traditional English Christmas dinner awaited at ‘Wah Wah Bar’. The food itself was actually rather terrible but it was the company that mattered and we had a great time chatting and drinking wine on the beach.
After dinner we all had a sombre moment where we thought of our families back at home and so I decided to Skype ‘the boy’ to cheer me up. Although the connection was terrible, just talking to him for a few minutes had me excited to head back home but firstly, I had 4 more days of beach time in Tulum…