Playa Del Carmen
If you want an absolutely stunning beach at your front door, then you can't go past Playa Del Carmen. It is the playa to whip all other playas. The water is warm and clear and a shiny bright blue. The sand is fine and soft. The chicas are everywhere. And the beachside town is not (yet) built-up enough to be a monstrocity — unlike Cancun to the north — but it's certainly built-up enough for you to party all night long.
The main plaza street of Playa.
I spent two nights in Playa (as it's called round here), choosing to stay at the hostel, rather than by the beach in a hammock. Ah well, plenty of time for that stuff at Tulum and Palenque.
Of all the ridiculous things that street vendors say in order to get your attention, this one peeves me off the most. "Hey amigo, you like this necklace? 100 pesos, 10 dollars — almost free!" It's tacky; it's insulting (to people's intelligence); and it's completely untrue. But I guess it does the job of luring in those American prey, and their almost smellable dollars.
Tonight I saw my first-ever Mexican rain. After 2 weeks straight of endless, relentless sunshine, I was starting to think that "the sun always shines in Mexico". But now, I'm afraid to say that it ain't so. Even in beautiful Playa, on the dance floor of The Blue Parrot, things can get washed out.
Tonight, we made it to The Parrot early enough to catch the fire juggling show (app. 10:30pm-11pm). Really awesome stuff. Check out the video.
Spent the entire morning in the water at Playa. It was so absolutely stunning and relaxing, I couldn't pull myself out. I lazed around in the shallows for a while; then I swam to the other end of the beach and back again, exploring everything in between. I hope I don't die anytime soon, because when (and if!) I go to heaven, I doubt it could be better than this.
If you're in Playa on a Saturday night, The Blue Parrot is the place to go. From about 11pm onwards, this joint is pumping. Dance floor that's literally on the beach (about 10m from the waterline). House music, hip-hop music, and dance music ripping into the air. And if you're fortunate enough to come during the American college spring break, you'll see chicas aplenty.
Steve and Cody took me to a bar in Playa tonight, called "Señor Frog's". For 300 pesos (USD$30), they'll give you anything they've got, totally unlimited, for 3 hours. Considering that a single Margarita (a massive one — app. 700ml) is 190 pesos, this is an awesome deal. But it turns out that getting through more than a few of these jumbo frozen cocktails is quite a challenge.
I saw Thomas a few days earlier in Mérida, and now it seems that he's followed me (or vice versa?) to Playa. Thomas is a Polish guy, who lives in Germany, and who's on holiday from his physics degree. He's travelled to some interesting places in his time, including Eastern Europe, which he says is so corrupt it's not funny.
This place, the no. 1 youth hostel in Playa Del Carmen, has its advantages and its disadvantages. Its plusses are: its location (middle of town, across from the beach); and the people you can meet there. Its minuses are: the lack of space (really cramped dorms, and a twisting spiral staircase); and the cost (cheap for Playa, but overpriced for what you get). If you can handle the minuses, it's a great place to stay.