The Yucatan Peninsula’s world famous Riviera Maya with its pristine waters, white beaches and tropical climate is a must visit destination. Taking a stroll down the beach in Playa del Carmen is a great way to experience a leisurely day of fun in the sun. And we did exactly that. Playa del Carmen in the late 1970’s was a small traditional fishing village and saw very few tourist. In the 80’s Playa – as it is known to the locals, started to see more vacationers wanting to relax on its sugar fine white sandy beaches and swim in its crystal clear Caribbean waters. Its close proximity to Cozumel didn’t hurt its new found reputation as well. Today, Playa del Carmen is ranked #1 best beach and #3 overall destination in Mexico.
We started our adventure around 10:30 in the morning from Playa del Carmen’s Fundadores Park. The park is just north of the ferry terminal and at the edge of the beach. It is also home to the 52 foot bronze Portal Mayan Gateway statue (shown right). It is said to represent the “Celebration of the New Mayan Calendar” – A New Era of Light and Prosperity. Here is where we started our journey.
We step onto the soft white sand and headed north towards the newer pier and beyond. Along the way we will see many things like hotels, resorts, bars, grills and tour shops to mention just a few of the sites. Our adventure starts with beach bars lined elbow to elbow. I can’t began to tell you all their names. But here are a few that we have personally visited and they are Wah Wahs, La Tarraya (pictured lower – right), Coco Maya and Indigo Beach Club to name a few.
You really can’t blame all the bars and restaurants for wanting to be on the beach next to some of the most beautiful water I have seen throughout our travels! We proceeded further down the beach and as we got heated by the morning’s sun, we would stop and take a dip in the cool and crystal clear water. After being refreshed, we continued on.
One spot we stopped at to cool off in the water was in front of El Faro. The resort styled condominium complex (shown right) sits next to one of Playa del Carmen’s landmarks, and that is the 110 foot lighthouse. I couldn’t find out much about it. But if I understand it right, it still operates and flashes a white light out into the evening ocean every 12 seconds. I was also told by a local that it once had a small restaurant & bar inside it. That would have been rather nice to enjoy a snack and drink while looking out towards the Island of Cozumel.
As we traveled further down the beach, we saw several sandwich boards planted in the sand. They not only advertise food and beverage specials, but other such services as massages. Where else can you eat, drink and get a soothing massage on a beautiful all at the same time. We came upon one of the many mega resorts that resides on Playa del Carmen’s beaches. The Grand Porto Real is the epitome of a waterside mega resort & spa that has everything to make your vacation a fun one. You can lounge around the pool or play volleyball on the beach with other vacationers. After watching a few volleys between teams, we crossed over the newer pier that extends from Avenida Constituyentes and made our way towards our destination.
The mid morning’s sun started to warm things up a bit, so we again decided to take another dip in the sea. This time in front of the newest mega resort Playa has to offer. The Grand Hyatt is all of its namesake and then some. From the elevated glassed-in tower to tower cross over, to the chic looking lounge chairs where cocktails served beach side oozes self-indulgence. The water is feeling more refreshing as the day gets hotter. After cooling ourselves off and collecting our beach bag, we again ventured towards our selected location.
Between the resorts and hotels there are a few lifeguard stations and water sport shops. The water that hugs Playa’s pearly white shores are usually very calm. This is one of those wave lacking days. However, there are days when a storm is passing through the Caribbean Seaway and waves can crest up to three or more feet and break very close to shore. I personally think the lifeguard stations are more of an icon for visiting tourist and vacationers than having a functioning purpose.
There are plenty of places up and down the beach to book an excursion. You can elect to snorkel around the Mesoamerican Reef, jet ski and/or go fishing. You could also try your hand at sailing on a small Hobie 16. They can carry up to 4 people (800 lbs.) and with a brief lesson, you can be the captain of your own vessel. If you are a thrill seeker, you can try your adventurous talents with a pair of Jet Boots. Whichever one you choose, remember that you signed a release form and all liability is your own responsibility.
We took a minute or two, as so did others to watch this individual (shown above) perform his aerial acrobatics above the water with his special boots. Our trip was again on with us moving towards the north end of Playa. The ultra modern looking resorts and hotels turn to more traditional beach styled accommodations. White sheer tents turn to lounge chairs under palapas with the swaying palms behind them hiding the rustic – low key, but very comfortable looking resorts.
After walking along the beach for about an hour, we arrived at our destination. Its a little before noon, so we have a lots of choices where to sit before the lunch crowd starts to storm in. The Canibal Royal Beach Club is a nice open air beach bar & grill that sits on the point just south of The Reef Coco Beach resort. We have been coming to this location for more than 14 years. We have seen lots of changes with Playa del Carmen’s northern build out.
The first time we visited this secluded little point, there was only a small palapa bar. This once quaint little cantina where its sand floors led out to a wooden deck that offered views of the small Panga boats mooring in the clear waters, was destroyed by Hurricane Wilma 2005. There were no tour boats and little to no foot traffic. Just an out of the way place were few people came to relax. We would wade in the crystal clear waters and watch the fish swim around our feet.
That was then and this is now. There are more people starting to swarm all around us wanting to have lunch and enjoy the water. The Eclipsol Sunscreen girls are strolling by and offering samples of their product. That in itself was attracting a crowd of eager gentlemen wanting to have sunscreen rubbed on them by some very nice looking ladies in banana yellow bikinis. Can you really blame them?
We found a couple of wooden slat lounge chairs under a palm tree within a few steps of the water. The waiter brought us a couple of beverages and an appetizer for us to enjoy. Refreshing ourselves periodically in the cool water, day dreaming, and watching the parasails through the fronds above us isn’t a terrible way to spend a day.
We hung around until the mid afternoon crowd started to bare down on us. That was our cue for us to start making our journey back to the other end of town. The day couldn’t have been any better for our adventurous stroll. There is so much more to see than we can put in the article. If you could only read between the lines and see on both sides of the pictures, you would understand what I am trying to say. I guess this would be a great reason for you to visit Playa del Carmen and take your own stroll down the beach.
Author: Anthony Scopel
Photography: Anthony Scopel
Associate Editor: Maureen Scopel
Technical Mastering & Support: Matt Kemper