Having never been “south of the border,” I was so excited to be visiting a place so many of my friends had been to. With a short, three and a half hour flight followed by an even shorter drive, we arrived at Royal Hacienda in Playa del Carmen with no itinerary and no set plans on what to do the entire week.
(Go check out my video to see more of our trip!)
After flying into Cancun, Mexico, and stopping for some (AMAZING) chips and guac, we took a private taxi van about 45 minutes to our resort, The Royal Haciendas, just outside Playa del Carmen. Once we arrived at our resort, we spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out in the pool overlooking the ocean, grabbing some “Leaping Lizards” and “Chocolate Monkeys” from the pool bar. We also stopped by the small grocery store on location and picked up some breakfast foods (only confusing sour cream with butter once…).
Waking up at the beach with the sun rising over the ocean and Cozumel in the distance was definitely good for the soul, and something I could get used to. Having nothing planned and nothing on my to-do list was very unusual, and I kept getting the feeling that there was something I was forgetting. However, we woke up and had a light breakfast and then made our way to the beach. We hung out there just about all day, while I continually reapplied sunscreen because I was so scared that I would burn as bad as I did in Costa Rica. We also walked down the beach a few times, once towards Playa del Carmen where we saw a handful of colorful fish and even a bright red starfish very close to shore.
We then found a place from the next resort where we could go parasailing. Although it took a while for the little red boat to come pick us up, they let us use their kayaks for free and also offered us free drinks while we waited. While we were up in the air we were able to see a sea turtle (one of my favorite animals!!).
Although we thought we arrived at Xel-Ha early enough, the lines were already pretty long and it took us a while to get our tickets and actually get in. (Also, if you’re planning to go zip-lining you can buy a package deal for Xel-Ha and XPLOR which will save you a chunk of money, just don’t lose your wristband.) Once we were able to get into the park we rented a locker and put all our clothes in there while we walked around. We began by walking towards the beginning of the river before it got too hot, wanting to save snorkeling for later in the day. On our way we stopped at the waterslides, saw many iguanas, and found a rope swing that went into a cenote, which we took a few tries at.
Once we arrived at the head of river everything got a little hectic. We went to the closest hut for snorkeling gear and we think just about everyone else had the same idea too. There weren’t really any lines, just masses of people, so it took us a while for us to find our sizes. We then hopped in line for the tubes and started our way down the river. Along the way we stopped at some cliff jumps, zip lines and rope activities before drying off and stopping for lunch, needing some more fuel before snorkeling the rest of the afternoon. We then went back into the water for snorkeling, seeing large sting rays and hundreds of colorful fish including groupers, small tuna, parrot fish, and the like.
After a long day in the sun we grabbed some snacks and relaxed in the hammocks by the dolphin enclosure before heading back to our resort.
Being outside and snorkeling all day yesterday tired us out, so today was spent resting on the beach. After hanging out all day, we took a taxi from our resort into Playa del Carmen for dinner. The resort taxi dropped us off downtown at a local swing bar. We then went to Blue Lobster, a very delicious seafood place (with specialty neon drinks) and desserts that were just as yummy. Afterwards we explored downtown Playa del Carmen, shopping for some souvenirs and presents for friends. We also went and got massages that night, stopping at a local place on the main street which was very professional and cheap.
Having been zip lining in Costa Rica and Las Vegas and loving every minute of it, I was very excited to be adding a new place to my list. Again taking a taxi from our resort to XPLOR (taking about twenty minutes) we wanted to arrive there as early as we could to avoid the lines. Once we got to the front everything went very quick, having gotten our combo tickets at Xel-Ha two days prior. We received our helmets, which must be worn the entire time, and began the walk to our lockers where we dropped off all our stuff. Getting on all our gear and listening to the directions as a group took a while, but eventually we made it towards the first set of stairs…and were told because our GoPro was on a stick that expanded we couldn’t bring it. So we took it off the stick and ran back down to the lockers, deciding to leave the stick there and carry the GoPro in our hand, making sure the wrist strap was on so we wouldn’t drop it. The zip lines were so much fun, and I would definitely recommend doing both sets even though it is quite a bit of stairs. On both sets you get to go on a waterfall, but on the second set you get to go down a waterslide as well.
We then went and did the Amphibious Vehicles, again completing both courses, one is dry and the other goes through puddles and waterfalls, before taking a break to go eat some lunch at the buffet which was included in the ticket price, as many times as you want. After stuffing ourselves full, we went and did the Hammock Splash, which was by far a favorite. We also did the short course of the Underground Rafts which were a little tricky with the hand paddles, and the Underground River swim, which was so much fun!
Today was the day Tyler was waiting for…Thanksgiving!! Just kidding, it was his 25th birthday and we were all pretty excited for a relaxing beach day after all the stairs yesterday. We hung out at the resort all day, taking a nap on the beach, playing some beach volleyball, and having one or two “Mudslides.” It was a nice relaxing day, and we even used our snorkel gear to go snorkeling right in front of our resort where we were able to see some small sting rays and a handful of small colorful fish before going upstairs to shower and get ready for Thanksgiving dinner. At the beginning of the week we made reservations for dinner at “La Palapa del Sol,” a restaurant on the resort, which had live music and a very large Thanksgiving dinner buffet complete with turkey, roast beef, ham, mashed potatoes, shrimp, ice cream, and of course tacos, along with many other dishes and sides.
Tyler and I were up at sunrise before taking a taxi ride to Tulum. It was about an hour drive from our resort and we were able to get there before all the big tours and large groups came through. Instead of taking part in a tour, Tyler and I decided to meander through the ruins ourselves. There were signs in English explaining what each building’s uses were, and because of the huge amount of tour guides we were able to listen in whenever we wanted. Halfway through the ruins we made our way down the long steps to Tulum Beach, the most beautiful beach I have ever been to. Because we arrived so early, we were able to take pictures and explore the shallow waters without too many people, as well as chase all the small crabs we saw. However, before we decided to go back up to the ruins the amount of people who had arrived at the beach was almost suffocating.
After finishing the ruins, we made our way back to our resort and spent our last night going into Playa del Carmen and exploring the cruise port there. We walked towards the beach and ended up finding a delicious restaurant nearby (the best fajitas I’ve ever had!!) named Mi Pueblo.
Up bright and early to leave paradise. Something I most definitely did not want to do. Leaving 80 degree weather to come home to Minnesota in November…not exciting, but it was an easy flight and an amazing adventure. Hasta luego paraiso!