Mexico has always had a special place in my heart. From when I was a child visiting massive, surreal beachside resorts, to later in life adventuring through the smaller towns and living like a local, I have always preferred vacationing with our North American neighbour over other Caribbean options. Even if it's just the tacos calling your name, to me that's a good enough reason to choose Mexico. Whether it be the crystal blue water of the Riviera or the choppier waters and more rugged terrain of the Pacific coast, or the culture and bustle of landlocked Mexico City, there truly is something for everyone. Too often Mexico has been stigmatized by Cancun or the cartel and having visited the country probably 10 times in my life, never once have I seen either.
For this trip, in particular, I was looking to relax so I landed at a small adult-only resort in Playa Del Carmen, a place I had been to in the past. Personally, I like going to Playa because it has great resorts, it has a fun town only 5 minutes away, and it's a short 30-or-so-minute drive to Tulum. It's also only about 45 minutes from the airport so all in all, it offers travelers a bit of everything with relatively ideal accessibility.
I stayed at a resort called Blue Diamond which I highly recommend to anyone that is really looking to relax. The resort has about 100 rooms, most of which are stand-alone (very large) cabanas. The hotel is all-inclusive but everything is À-la-carte. The food is actually fantastic.
In terms of the day-to-day, I have a hard time sitting still so while the mornings are spent enjoying a coffee by the beach, I'm moving and shaking by the afternoon. So I rented a car, which I highly recommend. Afternoons were mostly spent exploring which is tough to do without a car. When heading into the city of Playa Del Carmen, there are a few places I absolutely recommend.
For a quick bite, the renowned El Fogon is the place to go for an Al Pastor or Chicken Fajita. For a coffee, there's a great spot with multiple patios and a coffee hut made from a repurposed shipping container called Choux Choux Cafe. And for dinner, I cannot hype up La Coronela enough. The sweetest family-run Mexican restaurant that feels almost like a living room. They let me come into the kitchen and watch them make our meal. The food is phenomenal, particularly the Tortilla Soup. I would fly there right now just for this soup if I could.
The other amazing thing about Playa Del Carmen is the proximity to Tulum. Although it seems like the ‘it’ spot these days, it comes as no surprise. Tulum is a truly magical place — it's hard to describe without actually visiting. There are no enormous resorts, the entire beach front is covered in boutique hotels and restaurants and just across the street from these are retail shops and more restaurants.
Very few people are wearing shoes, the preferred (and basically only) mode of transportation is a bicycle. Everyone is incredibly friendly, you can walk in and out of resorts and most are happy to let you use their facilities and lounge on their beaches. An obvious place to relax is the famous Papaya Playa where can you chill out, listen to good music and eat and drink. I like Cenzontle for a mid-day snack and Charlys Vegan Tacos. If you’re looking for a place to stay I recommend BE Tulum or the Nomad. You can also find some good AirBnBs but they’re usually not on the water.
It's not hard to tell why I love the country so much. Everything including the language, the food, the culture, the beaches, and the nightlife make the Riviera a truly incredible place to vacation. I'd say the worst thing about Mexico is that after visiting, it's really hard to want to go anywhere else.