8 – 17 February 2018 [okay, so just a bit behind on the wanderings but catching up!]
We decided to make Mexico our travel destination this year with an ulterior motive in mind, let’s meet up with our adult kids to celebrate our son Mike’s 35th birthday, a milestone, for us anyway (how did he get to this age so quickly?). Planning got underway and the next thing we knew our longtime best friends were also planning a vacation in Playa around the same time. Let the fun begin!
It had been over 10 years since our last visit to Playa del Carmen, located in the Riviera Maya, and needless to say it has expanded exponentially in all directions. This is definitely a resort town with every North American franchise you can think of and no shortage of tourists. Yes, there is a bit of Mexican culture providing you venture off of the main walking promenade, Quinta Avenida or 5th Avenue. What hasn’t changed though are the white sandy beaches, warm turquoise waters and endless hot, sunny days.
Getting to Playa a few days before our kids, we were able to reacquaint ourselves with the area, stock up on groceries, check-in to our Airbnb, and rent a car. Mike arrived first, followed by Lauren and her friend Jovana from Vancouver a few days later. They ran into the same standby problem we did and didn’t get their red-eye flight the night previous. 😞
Our dearest and long-time amigos, Brenda and Robert, arrived around the same time we did and although we don’t see them as often as we would like, since their move from Kingston, time stood still and as the saying goes, we picked up right where we left off, never missing a beat. Love you guys!! ❤️
Lovely dinner out with family and friends followed by cake for the birthday boy. 🎉🎂🎈
Hitting the beach was the norm most days and we found a couple of favourite spots. The top things on the Birthday boy’s list were a visit to some Mayan ruins and swimming in a cenote. Since time was limited we opted to visit the Mayan ruins of Coba as Chichén Itzá was about a 3-hour drive away.
It was a very long, hot walk into the jungle to see the ruins, most of which are still covered by the dense jungle surrounding the site. At one time this ancient Mayan city was estimated to have had about 50,000 inhabitants. Coba’s claim to fame is the largest network of elevated stone walkways called sacbes (white roads) that were used to connect the multiple residential buildings.
We headed off looking for Nohoch Mul, the main pyramid of Coba, standing 42m (138ft) tall, making it the second tallest Mayan Pyramid in the world with a total of 120 steps to the top. We scrambled through the various ruins scattered throughout the archeological site eventually finding it.
Over the years, the steps have become weathered and eroded from use. Most climbers ascended up the middle, making use of the large guide rope. The steps looked far too slippery and treacherous and with the hot mid-day sun glaring down on we decided climbing to the top was not for us. We, as well as several others, watched other braves souls inched their way to the top with many crawling slowly down backwards!
With over 6,000 cenotes or interconnected groundwater pools in the Yucatan Peninsula we took the advice of Tripadvisor and headed to Cenote Eden El Jardin, (Garden of Eden), just outside Playa and towards Tulum. It is an open cenote about 5m (15ft.) deep, with fresh, perfectly clear, cool water. There are platforms and rock ledges to jump off of; Mike was the only brave one and took the challenge to plunge into the water far below. Snorkelling provided some interesting underwater scenery and the day we visited a scuba diving rescue course was being held.
The name cenote means ‘sacred well’ and were revered by the Mayans. They settled villages around these spiritual wells, believed they were a portal to speak with the gods and used them for human sacrifices.
The long-awaited fam-jam/vacation was over in the blink of an eye. Everyone was heading off in a different direction, including us.
Our next stop was Oaxaca City in the beautiful state of Oaxaca.