Where to stay in Playa Del Carmen: My personal recommendations

As you all know, I’m a budget traveler. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean I am cheap — it means I also seek value. So let me tell you right now: when thinking about where to stay in Playa Del Carmen, keep in mind that there are so many wonderful, locally-owned guesthouses and budget boutique hotels.

Do not go for the international chain hotels!

They are typically located outside of the center. Yes, the website might say it is located just a few miles away from Quinta Avenida — but what they don’t tell you is that is in a completely different complex. You can’t just walk down the middle of the highway to join the action now can you?

Where to stay in Playa Del Carmen: from boutique hotels to hostels

That being said, I spent 2 nights at the wonderful Aqualuna Boutique Hotel, just off Quinta Avenida (5th Ave.), on 10th and 14th St. It is literally steps away from all the action of 5th, yet a world away. From my room (number 1), I could hear nothing but the gentle sound of the courtyard fountain.

**Unfortunately, this Playa hotel is closed as of July 2016 🙁

where to stay in Playa Del Carmen, Aqualuna

Aqualuna Hotel from 10th St.

where to stay in Playa Del Carmen, Aqualuna bed

Bed inside my room. Firm, but comfy

where to stay in Playa Del Carmen, Aqualuna room

Rooms from the hotel’s courtyard or “patio interior”

Additionally, there were several local restaurants within walking distance of the hotel, away from touristy 5th. This meant I saved quite a bit of money eating out. I would go back to this budget boutique hotel in a heartbeat.

You can read my full review of Aqualuna here

I also stayed at a sister property, Hacienda Paradise, for one night. A more upscale hotel, this is where I would have my breakfast or take a dip in the pool during my stay at Aqualuna as well. While I enjoyed my stay at Hacienda, I feel the location and total lack of noise at Aqualuna make it my favorite of the two.

My full hotel review of Hacienda Paradise

where to stay in Playa Del Carmen, Hacienda Paradise

Hacienda Paradise courtyard and pool area from the lobby

Hacienda Paradise room, where to stay in Playa Del Carmen

My Hacienda room. Very nice!

On my last night, I decided to try one of the local hostels. I stayed at Hostel 3B. Absolutely loved the gigantic lockers (they even fit my carry-on with wheels!), silent dorms, comfortable beds and crispy clean linens. Excellent location, just a few steps away from the beach and 5th Avenue. Staff at reception was very helpful and friendly as well.

where to stay in Playa Del Carmen, Hostel 3B

Hostel 3B: Cheap and Chic!

My only complaint is that the bathroom smelled terribly once I got there. I saw someone cleaning them, but the problem is that they have no ventilation whatsoever (I stayed in the old female dorm number 5, by the way). This made humidity stall. It had great water pressure, though. Why do I recommend it, then? Because I had the best sleep (and hot shower) I’ve had at any hostel, ever. And I seriously fell in love with the lockers…

where to stay in Playa Del Carmen, hostels

Hostel 3B’s massive locker. I could even fit the new wheeled carry-on I bought later that day!

where to stay in Playa Del Carmen, Hostel 3B dorms

Hostel 3B female-only dorm

Other wonderful hostels that come highly recommended are Hostel Rio Playa, Green Monkey, Hostel Playa, and Hostal Vive La Vida.

Another Playa Del Carmen accommodation option: Condo hotels

Just walking down 5th Avenue, I noticed several condo hotels in Playa Del Carmen. Rooms are similar to short-term rentals (more like apartments), while the grounds and amenities resemble a hotel. As a matter of fact, most of them are more luxurious than a B & B! A perfect example is Maya Villa Condo Hotel & Beach Club, the top-rated hotel of its kind in town.

where to stay in Playa Del Carmen, Maya Villa pool

Maya Villa’s gecko pool (Photo: Tripadvisor)

where to stay in Playa Del Carmen, Maya Villa

KITCHEN of one of the “flats” at Maya Villa Condo Hotel. Photo: Roberto B, Tripadvisor

Where to stay in Playa Del Carmen? Share your recommendations!

Special thanks to Xperience Hotels for offering a complimentary stay at Aqualuna Boutique Hotel and Hacienda Paradise. I was not paid for a positive review and all comments are my honest opinion, though.

Playa Del Carmen nightclubs: La gente esta muy LOCA…WTF?

Remember those sweet plans I had in mind, to swim with turtles in Akumal? Well, that travel bucket list item will have to wait. We can blame Playa Del Carmen nightclubs for that.

Seriously, they got me singing: “la gente esta muy LOCA…WTF?”

When I signed up for the Playa Crawl, I figured I would be out and about until 3 AM. Given the fact that I had gone on a tour the day before on 4 hours of sleep, plus the lengthy nap I had taken earlier that day, I thought I could party and make it to Akumal by 8 AM.

That didn’t happen.

I should have known beforehand. Not only am I a quarter of a century old, but I’m not a college student anymore. And after reading what the Playa Crawl entails… What was I thinking?!

Playa Del Carmen nightclubs review, bar crawl

Best choice to get familiar with Playa Del Carmen nightclubs? Going on a bar crawl with Playa Crawl

You read right: Includes any cover charges, 5 hours of open bar, 3 different clubs, and unlimited bottle service on 2 of the venues. Furthermore, there’s no wait in line + you get a VIP booth at every club. And at the third club you don’t get bottle service? We got 3 rounds of SHOTS (in addition to the 2-3 rounds of drinks we got in-between).


For only US $69.99 per person, saying it is a bargain is an understatement. As a solo traveler, it was also a great way to meet other travelers. Our group consisted of 13 people (including our guide and Jorge). Our guide, Pepe, was a blast as well. He has been traveling the world, by getting instructor/guide seasonal gigs, for the past 10 years — he knows what he’s doing!

Playa Del Carmen nightclubs review: Playa Crawl group

Our PlayaCrawl group! I’m in the dead center, strapless black dress

So…I got home at 7:30 AM.

And by the time we left, the party was still going! Yes, we saw the freakin’ sunrise from the last club. That’s the best part of the tour by the way: You get to stay at your VIP seating area at the last stop of the crawl until that club closes. Granted, drinks will be on your tab by then, but I’m pretty sure you’ll be all good at that point.

Playa Del Carmen nightclubs and lounges: Which did you go to?

What I really liked about Playa Crawl is that it truly encompasses Playa Del Carmen nightlife. Every night there’s a bar crawl, the venue selection changes. This is tailored to the group and night of the week. For instance, if it’s an older crowd, the guide will skip the loud dance clubs and head to the chill beach clubs instead. From the get-go, Pepe saw that our group was full of partiers, and so we visited the following clubs:

Kartabar (hookah lounge): Calle 12 and 1st Ave. corner

Kartabar was the perfect warm-up: A hip hookah lounge playing oldies Americana music and even some good 90’s pop and hip-hop. We were there by 1045-11 PM and stayed for 1 hour and 20 min. (this is the duration of every stop of the bar crawl, by the way).

Playa Del Carmen nightclubs review, belly dancer

Belly dancer at Kartabar

During our stay, we were graced by the performance of a beautiful, talented belly dancer in 2 occasions. As far as drinks go, we got 3 rounds of shots: One of tequila and 2 of what seemed to be a Blue Curaçao concoction. Other travelers had about 2-3 rounds of drinks themselves, in addition to the shots. Yours truly simply had an additional margarita (in true lightweight fashion).

Playa Del Carmen nightclubs review, Kartabar view

View of 12th Street from our table at Kartabar

Mandala (dance club): Calle 12 and 1st Ave. corner

Before entering this night club, our guide Pepe said: “party begins now.”

I absolutely loved Mandala: From the red lights, to the colorful dance floor, to the semi-outdoor set-up. The impressive Buddhas were a nice touch as well. Our group was escorted to the second-floor balcony, half of which is roofless. The DJ played American Top 40s, with some reggaetón tracks to spice up the mix. On the few trips to the bathroom, I listened to some of the music on the bottom floor — more of a local, Latin mix.

Playa Del Carmen nightclubs review, Mandala interiors

Mandala’s bottom dance floor early in the evening

At Mandala, we had our first unlimited bottle service. While our waiter was mostly attentive, he kept forgetting about our pineapple juice. Once Pepe was firm about the request though, it was delivered right away. Also, even though we were in the VIP section, it felt somewhat crowded. Still, we had a blast!

Playa Del Carmen nightclubs review, Mandala's Buddha

one of Mandala’s Buddha at the 1st floor bar

Playa Del Carmen nightclubs review, Mandala dancefloor

Facing where the stairs to the 2nd floor are located

Palazzo (dance club): Calle 12, between 5th and 10th Ave.

Another hotspot of Playa Del Carmen nightlife, Palazzo was extremely crowded by the time we got there (around 1 AM). It rivals any (small) club in Miami or Cancun: Huge chandelier, comfortable VIP balconies, great electronic music.

Playa Del Carmen nightclubs review, Palazzo

Palazzo entrance

At first, we were placed in one of the lower VIP tables. But…they were too small for our group. After simply making a comment, Pepe went ahead and talked to the manager of the club, who swiftly moved us to the upper VIP balcony. Score!

Playa Del Carmen nightclubs review: Palazzo VIP balcony

Palazzo VIP balcony from the bottom floor

Service was superb. Here: We never ran out of bottles and even got a premium tequila bottle for shots. From here on…extremely LOCO!

Playa Del Carmen nightclubs review, Palazzo VIP balcony view

Palazzo VIP balcony view

Bonus – La Santanera: Calle 12 Mza 30 Loc 2, bet. 5th & 10th Ave.

If you are lucky enough to be hanging out with the owner or one of his family members that night? A 4th stop bonus! After Palazzo, our group was escorted to La Santanera. Owned and operated by the cousin of Playa Crawl’s Jorge, it is a breezy club where you will find more locals than foreigners. The music is outstanding (deep house + lounge upstairs). It is basically the place you go to party until the sun comes up.

Playa Del Carmen nightclubs, La Santanera bar

La Santanera bar. Loved the decor!

And I have nothing else to say about this hip club because… all I remember is dancing to great music, drinking from our vodka bottles at our VIP section until I saw the SUN come up. I didn’t get back to my hotel until 7-7:30 AM!

Playa Del Carmen nightclubs, La Santanera VIP

With my favorite Aussie in the group! Sitting at La Santanera VIP section. Pretty sure this was close to sunrise!

Alternatives to Playa Del Carmen nightclubs

Personally, I had a blast at all the clubs visited during the Playa Crawl. However, Playa Del Carmen nightlife offers a plethora of other options. Throughout my vacation, I also found the following venues to be quite attractive and fun:

Coco Bongo Playa Del Carmen
Calle 10, M31 L5 221, Playa del Carmen 77710

Yes, Coco Bongo is also a dance club, but they put on an amazing show. I had the pleasure of going to the one in Cancun. Too much fun to describe in words. Pricey, but totally worth it!

Playa Del Carmen nightclubs review, Coco Bongo

Coco Bongo Playa Del Carmen (Dan, Flickr)

Mamitas Beach Club
Calle 28 Norte Mza. 10 Lote 8 between Zona Federal Maritima and 5th Av.

Trendy, casual, and an amazing semi-outdoor experience. I personally love sipping cocktails and dancing while staring at crashing waves 😉 By the way, David Guetta will be here for New Years! The one night Mamitas will resemble one of the other nightclubs I mentioned (instead of its usual laid-back self).

Playa Del Carmen nightclubs alternative, Mamitas

Miss Spain contestants at Mamitas Beach Club (Noticaribe, Flickr)

Blue Parrot
12th St N & 1st Ave N | Blue Parrot Hotel

Laid-back beach bar that even has fire dancers. Watch the video below to sample of the some fun. The crazy fast dancing starts at 0:30!

Coco Maya Beach Club & Lounge
Calle 12 and Beach Front, Playa Del Carmen

Another casual club by the ocean, in the likes of Mamitas. It is BIG inside — loved the decor (swings by the BAR!), sand floor, and dancing space. There’s also a balcony to look at the waves 🙂 typical music played is hip-hop/R&B by the entrance; house by the beach.

Playa Del Carmen nightclubs review, Coco Maya dance floor

One of Coco Maya’s dance floors early in the evening

The drinking specials for ladies are even better: Every night, no cover and open bar until 1 AM! This includes tequila, vodka, and rum with respective non-premium (i.e. no Red Bull). I would say they still live up their “every night is a ladies night” motto 😉 Guys only pay US $35 for a bracelet that includes cover and similar open bar. Yes, Coco Maya can become more like a crowded dance club after midnight. Still, it is relatively laid-back in comparison to the other Playa Del Carmen nightclubs I went to.

Playa Del Carmen nightlife, Coco Maya Beach Club thatched ceiling

Coco Maya Beach Club’s thatched ceiling by 2nd dance floor

Playa Del Carmen nightlife review. Coco Maya

Coco Maya lounge area

Have you experienced Playa Del Carmen nightclubs? Tell us!

Special thanks to Jorge and Playa Crawl for the complimentary bar crawl. I was not paid for positive Playa Del Carmen nightclubs reviews, though. Comments are my honest opinion.

Travel through Maya food and its history: Photo essay

Welcome to another edition of Cultural Tidbits Monday. Following my trip to Mexico, this week we travel through Maya food and its history. I will give you a brief overview of Yucatec Maya food (also known as Yucatán food), influences, popular ingredients, and dishes. All sprinkled with delicious photos. ¡Buen Provecho!

Maya food platter

Maya food platter from Valladolid (1yen, Flickr)

Maya food: Brief history

If any restaurant in Mexico claims to serve “pure” Maya cuisine, they are lying. Maya food from the Yucatán is a mix of Yucatec Maya, North African, Spaniard, and other European influences. The Peninsula was active in the Caribbean trade throughout colonial times, which transformed its cuisine.

Maize, or corn, is the centerpiece of Maya food. Every dish is made with, or comes with a side of, handmade corn tortillas. Mashed black, red, and pinto beans are also present in most Maya dishes. The way I see it, Yucatec Maya food is the type of Mexican food Americans recognize. Go visit any other region in Mexico and you’ll be surprised to see how different “Mexican food” can be!

Conversely, the further south you go, the less spicy/hot Mexican food is. Accordingly, Yucatán cuisine is rather mild. They do import hot sauces from all over the country though, so ask your server! 😉

Maya food banana leaves

Maya food wrapped in banana leaves (foodfreak, Flickr)

Chicken and seafood have always been eaten by the Maya, in addition to rabbits, deer, doves, pheasants, and pork after colonial times. These are cooked with chili peppersHabaneros, tomatoes, achiote (annatto seeds paste), wild onions, chayotes, and cucumbers.

Like in the Caribbean, fruits play a big role in Yucatán cuisine. Papaya, bananas, mamey, oranges, guava, avocados, guanabana, mangoes, and pineapple are some common ingredients. Moreoever, Middle Eastern spices such as cumin, coriander, and saffron are now part of Maya food! The end result? Subtle, yet full flavors. Think sweet and peppery.

Traditionally, the Maya would wrap their food with banana leaves and bake it in underground ovens. Nowadays, most Mayas cook over coal fire stoves. By the way, the Maya are still alive in the Yucatán: They have their own villages and manage their own businesses! In fact, several companies in tourist towns such as Cancun and Playa Del Carmen have partnerships with Maya villages, helping them thrive. I loved this 🙂

Now, let’s sample some popular Maya dishes shall we?!

Cochinita Pibil or Pollo Pibil

The Maya used to marinate chicken with axiote and other pre-Columbian spices, baking it in underground ovens. In fact, the dish has its name because pibil means “buried” in Maya language 😉

After the Spaniards came, pork and other Eastern spices were introduced. This mix of cultures gave birth to the most popular Maya dish: Cochinita Pibil. Virtually every single Mayan restaurant you ever visit will list this dish under their specialties. I had it while visiting Playa Del Carmen last month and let me tell you, it is delishh!

Maya Recipe: Cochinita Pibil

Maya food Cochinita Pibil

Cochinita Pibil by Gonzalo Valenzuela, Flickr

Sopa de Lima

Lime soup with crushed (or strips) of tortilla on top. Traditionally, it is made with turkey, but can also be made with chicken. Very light, perfect with a margarita or Coronita 😉

Recipe: Mexican lime soup

Maya food lime soup and cochinita pibil

Lime soup (bottom) + cochinita pibil sandwiches! (Rigoberto Reyes, Flickr)


While there are several ways to cook poc-chuc, I love the the Maya barbecue version 😀 Fine slices of pork, marinated in a sour orange juice sauce, with onions and spices.

Maya Recipe: Poc-Chuc

poc chuc Maya food

Mmm Maya poc chuc (kanuck, Flickr)

Pavo en Relleno Negro

Literally means turkey with black stuffing. The jet-black sauce is made of a spice mix called recado. A variation of the reca’o used in the Caribbean, it consists of “achiote seeds, charred chilies, cloves, allspice, peppercorns and cumin” (GoMexico.About.com). Then, mashed hard-boiled eggs and tortillas are added to complete the stuffing. Yum!

Recipe: Pavo en Relleno Negro (with a French twist)

relleno negro, Maya food

Turkey with relleno negro on the left (mswine, Flickr)

Queso Relleno

It is unknown how Edam cheese was introduced to the Yucatán Peninsula. There are several stories, but my favorite is the one told by the chef of the Mayan restaurant I visited: “a ship, containing a large shipment of the Dutch Edam cheese, ran aground at the height of the Caribbean trade in colonial times. Yucatec Mayas discovered  the boxes and started to incorporate Edam cheese in their cuisine. And so Queso Relleno became a Maya food!”

Maya Recipe: Queso Relleno

Maya food platter, Yaxche rest.

Queso relleno (bottom) stuffed with ground pork, which you can see coming out of the top left corner. The black portion is Pavo con Relleno Negro and on the right is the Cochinita Pibil once more


Small fried tortillas, topped with seasoned turkey, mashed fried beans, avocado, pickled onions, lettuce, and sometimes tomatoes.

Maya Recipe: Panuchos

panucho, Maya food

Yucatán panucho (John Chew, Flickr)


It is actually a type of chili in Maya food, but it needed its own category 😉 I found a fascinating recipe mixing these chiles with another authentic Maya dish. You have to try it!

Maya Recipe: Pib X’catik (blonde chilies stuffed with cochinita pibil!)

Pib Xcatik, Mayan cuisine

Pib Xcatik by los-dos.com

Mayan coffee

Last, but definitely not least, is Mayan coffee. Flambéed coffee with shots of Kahlúa, brandy, and Xtabentun (anise, fermented honey) liqueurs, cinnamon, and vanilla ice cream. To make it, a fire show (quite literally) takes place at your table. Think of Irish coffee —  but even better. O.M.G. Why do I do this to myself when I have to be at the office?! *sigh*

Recipe: Maya coffee (without the brandy, though!)

Which was your favorite Maya food? Have you tried it before?

Ek Balam Mayan ruins: Temple history and FriFotos from the PEAK

Having just returned from Playa Del Carmen, I have many wonderful photos from the PEAKS of Mayan temples and ruins. Thus, finding out that is the theme for this week’s FriFotos was a delight! While I visited Coba as well, today I will focus on Ek Balam Mayan ruins — one of the lesser-known Yucatán Mayan sites.

Ek Balam Mayan ruins panorama

Loved this viewpoint at Ek Balam!

Ek Balam Mayan ruins: Brief overview

Not only in Ek Balam, but throughout most (if not all) Mayan sites in the Yucatán, you will find that doorways have “peaks” — they are not perfect arches. They are called corbel arches.

The Canadian Museum of Civilization states that the Mayans created these type of arches, with 9 layered vaults, in order to represent what they believed to be the nine layers of the Underworld. The addition of a keystone, or 10th layer, would be a representation of a body outside the Mayan cosmos (Examiner.com).

Ek Balam Mayan ruins, doorway

Ek Balam Mayan ruins: Corbel arch

Ek Balam Mayan ruins is one of several sites built by the Yucatec Mayans. Located 32 miles (51 m) from its famous cousin Chichen Itzá and 30 km north of Valladolid. It is an easy day trip from several resort towns on the Riviera Maya.

As you know, I visited the Ek Balam Mayan ruins on a combo day trip (including Río Lagartos) from Playa Del Carmen. I felt I had plenty of time at the site and was not rushed at all. Thus, it is quite possible to combine a visit to other site on the same day you visit Ek Balam.

Ek Balam Mayan ruins, main temple

Ek Balam’s main temple

Ek Balam Mayan ruins: Climbing to the top of the main temple

Unlike Chichen Itzá, tourists are still allowed to climb to the very top of the main temple at Ek Balam Mayan ruins. The views from the jungle and other ruins throughout the site are amazing! A *little* scary to climb down, but I believe the steps are big enough for you to have plenty of room to step firmly and safely. I had doubts about climbing for a second or two, but went for it anyway! So glad I did 🙂

Ek Balam Mayan Temple climb

At the top of the Ek Balam Temple!

Ek Balam Mayan ruins top view

Me on top of the Ek Balam Temple! So glad I made it

Ek Balam view top


Ek Balam Mayan ruins jungle view

View of the jungle from Ek Balam temple top

Ek Balam jungle

Don’t forget to visit the Mayan burial temple on your way up —  or down!

The temple (tomb!) of Ukit Kan Le’k Tok’ was quite fascinating. Its entrance is shaped like the mouth of a jaguar, teeth and all. In fact, the name Ek Balam means “Black Jaguar” in Yucatec Maya language — thus the name of this Mayan ruins site.

I never thought I would see such beautiful carvings inside Mayan ruins before. Clearly, my knowledge about the civilization was very limited! I was like nothing I had ever seen before (i.e. Chichen Itzá). Thus, if you’re thinking about skipping the Ek Balam Mayan ruins because you are visiting Chichen Itza or Cobá, think twice before doing so! I’m sure these images will change your mind:

Ek Balam Mayan ruins, jaguar teeth

The “jaguar teeth” at Ek Balam temple’s

For a very cool interactive panorama of this Mayan temple, click here.

Ukit Kan Le'k Tok' temple, Ek Balam Mayan ruins

Ukit Kan Le’k Tok’ temple, also known as El Trono in Spanish (“The Throne”)

It is believed that Ukit Kan Le’k Tok’ was one of the rulers of Ek Balam. What I found the most fascinating about this character, and Mayans in general, though? The reason Ukit Kan Le’k Tok’ rose to power is because he was cross-sighted and possibly albino.

According to our tour guide, Mayans venerated anyone who was different — thus his rise to power. It is believed that certain objects were placed on the nose or the middle of the foreheads of children in order to try and make them cross-sighted. What for? In the hopes that they would become someone important one day. Oh, how have times changed!

Ek Balam Mayan ruins, carvings

LOVED the well-preserved Mayan carvings

Ek Balam Mayan ruins carvings


Take your time to explore other ruins throughout Ek Balam

You’ll have to walk through other ruins before you reach the main temple at Ek Balam, so take the time to look at the intricacies and differences between all structures. I found it fun to draw comparisons between the structures I had seen at Chichen Itzá and Ek Balam. Additionally, trying to capture the nuances and different angles in photos is a game in itself 😉

Ek Balam Mayan arch

Mayan carvings at Ek Balam

The temple at Ek Balam is too wide to fully capture!

Definitely add the Ek Balam Mayan ruins to your travel bucket list!

I’m going back to Mexico! Playa Del Carmen, here I come

As the calendar ticked November, I couldn’t help but remember that I have an exciting trip coming up. Finally, I can break the news to you all 😀 The PR agency of a new chain, called Xperience Hotels Resorts, invited me to experience (“¡valga la redundancia!”) two of their properties in Playa Del Carmen. Yeah, I’m going back to Mexico! 😀

Yucatan Mexico beach

Photo by Jesús Pérez Pacheco, Flickr

I have been to Cancun Mexico before, but that was a disappointment. Beautiful beaches, yes, but incredibly Americanized and overpriced. I will write a post about my bad experience there soon, okay? 😉

Back to the hotel invitation: It was open, but I decided to jump on it right away, as I had not heard back from Tourism Manitoba (been trying to see the polar bears!). So my Thanksgiving plans changed from chilly and snowy to sunny and sultry. And who’s complaining again?

Playa Del Carmen Aqualuna hotel patio

Boutique Hotel Aqualuna (Tripadvisor)

As a great bonus, the PR agency will also hook me up with a local tour agency and throw one complimentary day trip. I still don’t have all the details, but I built my itinerary anyway!

This will be a partial media trip, so I’m still expected to cover some of the expenses. Meals, airfare, and some tours will be on my tab. Still, this was the perfect excuse to escape my current student debt misery and do something fun with my discretionary income for once.

My Playa Del Carmen itinerary:

Thursday Nov 22nd arrival: Chill at the Aqualuna Hotel in Playa. Dinner at the hotel in order to review it. Maybe do Xcaret at night?

Friday Nov 23rd: Tour Ek Balam-Río Lagartos (13 hrs approx.). Nightlife in Playa later in the evening Definitely check out the Yaxche Restaurant on Quinta Avenida. Heard they have amazing Mayan cuisine and coffee!

Overnight Aqualuna Hotel.

Start video at 0:15 sec. mark:

Saturday Nov 24th: Day trip to Valladolid and Coba! Travel bucket list item: Swim in a CENOTE. Do ruins early morning 2-3 hrs, then spend rest of afternoon at the village. Back to Playa for party party. Or maybe try to see the Akumal turtles around 9 PM? Or both? PERFECT!

Overnight Hacienda Paradise Hotel.

Sunday, Nov 25th: Checkout from hotel and check-in cool-ass hostel or meet up with Couchsurfing host. Underwater museum tour at 11:30 AM. Afternoon spent swimming with turtles back in Akumal.

Overnight in either Playa or Akumal.

Monday, Nov 26th: Early flight back to USA 🙁

Playa Del Carmen beach, Quintana Roo

Photo by Carlos Guevara, Flickr

Umm, yah, my flight is already booked. Unfortunately, my love couldn’t join me, and the other friend I invited hasn’t confirmed yet. But I wouldn’t mind going to Playa Del Carmen solo. I’m sure I’ll have a heck of a lot of fun!

One of my nights isn’t covered (I extended my stay, duh), so I’m still debating which hostel (or Couchsurfer!) to choose.

Any suggestions are welcome!

Playa Del Carmen port on Quinta Avenida

Playa Del Carmen port on Quinta Avenida (Photo: Tripadvisor)

Now Mr. Movember, please hurry the heck up so I can get to Playa. Mkay?

*thinks of Mexican parties and what they will be like*

Have you been to Playa Del Carmen? Which sights I shouldn’t miss?

Christmas traditions around the world PT 2!

CLICK HERE for pt 1 of Christmas traditions around the world! learn about the FESTIVE customs and traditions of even more countries.

Christmas in Italy

Christmas traditions around the world, nativity scene

Presepe: Nativity scene in Italy (Photo: Davide Papalini)

Thought Christmas were longer only in Latin America? Think again! In Italy, Christmas officially starts on December 8th with the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception and then, families typically start to decorate their homes with lights. Gift giving, however, does not happen until January 6th or Epiphany, a tradition shared with many Latin American countries. That 12th day of Christmas is when it is believed that the Three Wise Men (aka Three Kings) visited Baby Jesus and showered him with gifts. As such, just like in Latin America, the main Christmas decoration is the Nativity scene, or as it is called in Italian: The presepe.

Christmas in Jordan

Christmas traditions around the world, beef and bulgur

Minced beef and bulgur, a traditional Christmas dish in Jordan (Photo:Wearenotmartha.com)

Christmas in Jordan is celebrated with great fervor by the Christian minority there. What surprised me the most, however, is the tradition of soaking dry fruits in rum, brandy, and cognac by women in early December! I can’t wait to go back to the Middle East an try those! 😉 Then on Christmas Eve, a cake is baked, while Christmas Day dinner consists of grilled eggplant, vine leaves in tomato sauce, stuffed turkey, and minced beef with bulgur

Christmas in Martinique

Christmas traditions around the world, shrubb

Clément Créole Shrubb, a popular one in Martinique (Photo:Scotlandstephenson.com)

Christmas in this creole tropical island is a mix of Caribbean and French flavors. Their most distinct Christmas tradition, however, is the making and drinking of shrubb, a fine liquor made of white rum, sugarcane syrup and dried peels of tangerines and oranges, which are abundant at this time of the year.

Christmas in Mexico

Christmas traditions around the world, posada

Posada procession in Oaxaca, Mexico (Photo: GoMexico.about.com)

Mexican Christmas (or “Navidades”) officially start on December 16th with a tradition called “Las Posadas,” which last all the way until Noche Buena or Christmas Eve. This tradition involves the recreation of Mary and Joseph’s hard journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, trying to find shelter to give birth. A different part of the journey is recreated every night, culminating with a party at a neighborhood. Children dress as angels, shepherds, and also as Mary and Joseph in such processions, with their parents following with lit candles.

Christmas in Morocco

Jemaa el Fnaa

Jemaa el Fnaa Square. Marrakech, Morocco

As a Muslim country, Christmas is rarely celebrated in Morocco. Yet, due to the strong French/European influence in the country, along with a growing expat community, you will find Christmas lights and decorations sprinkled throughout the big cities. Days vary, however, depending on the faith and background of that minority. For instance, members of the Orthodox Christian Church celebrate Christmas on January 6th; while the Coptic and Armenian Churches celebrate the holy day on January 7th. Last, but not least, the Catholics typically attend a special evening mass on December 24th to start Christmas.

Christmas in Panama

Christmas traditions around the world, Panama

Left: A traditional pollera dress; Right: Light show during Panama City’s Christmas Boat Show (Photos: Family-christmas-traditions.com)

Christmas in Panama is quite lively and several great events are held, specially in the capital Panama City. Festivities kick off the 2nd weekend of December with a big Christmas Parade. Gorgeous floats pass by and women dress in very bright, traditional dresses called polleras. Also, at night, an amazing boat parade showcase a light show that is truly spectacular!

Christmas in Puerto Rico

It is tough to decide what’s your favorite tradition of a Puerto Rican Christmas. Is it the fact that they begin on Thanksgiving Day in November and don’t end until the end of January? Is it the party after party throughout the whole season and how virtually everyone decorates their homes with hundreds of lights? Or is it the food and plena music?

Coming from the Island of Enchantment, I can tell you that the most unique and fun Christmas tradition in Puerto Rico is the parrandas! In essence, they are drunken Christmas carols! Learn more about Puerto Rican parrandas here.

Christmas in Spain

Christmas traditions around the world, Pavo trufado

Pavo trufado: A traditional Christmas dish in Spain (Photo: Cocina.org)

Naturally, Christmas traditions in Spain are very similar to those in Latn America. Thus, I have decided to switch it up a bit on this entry and leave ya with a recipe of a traditional Christmas dish in Spain: Pavo Trufado de Navidad (Christmas Turkey with Truffles)!

1 turkey of 4 kg.
½ kg. minced lean pork
1 kg. minced veal
Salt and ground black pepper
1 glass of brandy
1 large glass of dry oloroso sherry
3 tins (of 90g) truffles (mushrooms)
150 g “jamon serrano”
200 g belly of pork in rashers
6 eggs [click here for the rest!]

Christmas in Switzerland

Christmas traditions around the world, Swiss ringli

Ringli: Typical Christmas treat in Switzerland

A special Swiss Christmas tradition is to await the arrival of Christkindli: A white angel wearing a crown full of jewels, which holds a face veil over its face. This angel is the one that brings the presents. These, by the way, come in a basket, which is carried by Christkindli‘s child helpers. Also, another Swiss Christmas tradition is  to eat ringli (homemade doughnuts) with hot chocolate.

Christmas in St Thomas (US Virgin Islands)

Christmas traditions around the world, St Thomas sweet bread

Photo recipe: VirginIslandsThisWeek.com (click to enlarge)

One event to look forward to when spending Christmas in St. Thomas is the Challenge of the Carols outdoor concert. It is infamously glorious! While at it, grab some Johnny cakes (traditional holiday sweet bread). Click on the image above for a traditional recipe to bake at home!

Christmas in Vatican City

Christmas traditions around the world, Vatican

Vatican Christmas Tree (Photo: Sunshine city, Flikr)

Naturally, the Pope delivers his traditional Christmas speech and directs mass to thousands of fervent believers. This service, called “midnight papal mass,” actually begins at 10 PM on Christmas Eve in St. Peter’s Basilica. The papal speech, however, is delivered around noon on Christmas Day.

What are your favorite Christmas traditions around the world? Why?

Cancun, Mexico – Beach Thursday photos

This week’s Beach Thursday pick is Cancun, Mexico. Below, photos of me at different beaches around the main hotel strip, taken during my spring break 2008. Personally, I felt that trip was such a rip-off, for so many reasons. Cancun trip report, naturally, will come soon enough *wink* For now, enjoy the pics!

Cancun spring break

view from my hotel room. Saweeet!

New friend I made TJ (left) and me (right) after I won a booty-shaking contest + some VIP passes to Akon's Cancun concert. Oh yah, full story to come! 😉

Cancun spring break

we hijacked a kayak (and that rhymed)

Cancun spring break

Me at one of the many gorgeous beaches. And yes, I AM wearing a THONG! =P

Have you visited Cancun? What did you think of it? Comment below!

Mexican Superstitions: Part 6 of World Superstitions series

And so it is MONDAY, meaning we resume the already-popular The World’s Superstitions series! Today we travel back to Latin America and grab a list of Mexican superstitions, the 14th largest country in the world! If you have any suggestions for future Monday cultural tidbits posts please let me know with a comment below! Any feedback is appreciated!

* In order to avoid the evil eye, you must follow these rules of thumb: Never walk beneath a ladder, never cross a black cat’s path & remember Tuesday is an unlucky day to start anything. Sound familiar? *wink*

* Having a baby? Remember not to cut his/her little fingernails before age one! Or else the child will have impaired eyesight…yikes!

* Another “tip” to protect your baby: If someone gives your child a compliment, he/she must touch the baby while doing so or else he/she has just given your child the evil eye!

Mexican superstitions

Mexican superstitions mainly involve pregnant women and children

* One way to tell the above? If your child is suffering of nausea, crying fits, high fever or any type of swelling. These symptoms are thought to be a result of “mal de ojo” or evil eye in Spanish, so watch out! To break the “spell,” simply rub 3 mouthfuls of water on the affected areas

* To protect you and your children from the “mal de ojo,” you could also wear red bracelets

* If you are pregnant, do not walk outside during a lunar eclipse! According to Mexican superstitions, it is thought that you may give birth to a baby with a cleft palate

* Oh man…is it all about babies?! Well, I found one that isn’t! Here it is: Like Puerto Ricans, according to Mexican superstitions, the Chupacabra exists. You know, the carnivore animal that eats all you domestic animals left outside? Yep, that one.

* And here’s another “universal” Mexican superstition: Dropped a tortilla? That’s good luck! Means you will enjoy lots of company =)

* It is common in Mexican households to not cut their children’s hair until they grow up, as they believe the long hair will equal strength (Samson, anyone?)

* Another “tip” if you are expecting: Wearing a safety pin in your undies is another way of protecting your baby from the evil eye, full moon, and other “calamities”

And that shall be all for Mexican superstitions! Next Monday I shall have a new [surprise] country and its nice list of superstitions! If there is a particular country you would like me to research, tell me in your response so I take it into consideration! (Hint: I will probably write about every country I am provided *wink*)

Previous featured countries:
Puerto Rico

Know any other Mexican superstitions? Share in a comment below!