Playing in Playa del Carmen
and a review of the Wyndham Maya Hotel
Playa del Carmen, Mexico can be a tad confusing particularly when you drive to it as opposed to flying in. There is Playa del Carmen the city and then down the road is Playacar and the locals all call it Playa. Playa as it is called is just down the road from a multitude of activities including a must visit to Tulum. You can swim in cenotes or even Scuba Dive, or check out the Rio Secreto for an underground ride.
Now Playa del Carmen is a really nice city, lots to do some great hotels, check out Simply Travel’s blog post on a great little hotel just off Fifth Avenue. We, however, decided we wanted a few days luxury and all-inclusive thinking wouldn’t it be great not to have to cook for a few days in the Yucatan heat.
We stayed at the Wyndham Maya Hotel in Payacar. It was a beautifully kept hotel, the grounds were spectacular, the beach was fantastic. It was the season of sargasso though and the hotels were kept incredibly busy cleaning up the mess and burying it so the stench did not put off the guests. The staff were amazing, many spoke several languages and they all tried to be helpful regardless of whether or not they could understand our very bad Spanish.
Our room was neat very clean and had a fantastic needle-sharp shower that was a treat. The double doors opened to a lush fence of hibiscus and it was very quiet.
We found excellent cappuccinos and espressos served at the lobby bar. We managed to drink many of those sitting in the gorgeous outdoor lounge. However, we don’t understand the wonderful food reviews given on Trip Advisor. While the one al la carte restaurant we were allowed to eat at was quite good, the cafeteria-style main restaurant and snack bar were pretty much-serving slop in 100-degree temperatures. It was so hot in the Terrazzo Terrace restaurant (the cafeteria we called it) your eyelids were sweating.
The plastic seats may have made sense on a daily basis but it was rather gross when you saw the Europeans wearing thongs and sitting on those same seats. The mile-high ceiling fans did no good whatsoever and it was absolutely miserable to eat from there and the same goes for the snack bar.
The food itself was appalling, except for a few minor exceptions such as the individually made omelettes for breakfast and the lovely sorbets and ice-creams that were beautifully flavoured but liquid by the time lunch was only halfway through. All the butter for the bread was salt-free, which for us North Americans left a funny taste.
The Mexican food was terrible, the refried beans were literally a soup, and any of the other bean dishes were not properly cooked so the beans and the chickpeas were rock hard. It appears very difficult to find decent tomatoes in the Yucatan, the usual tomato is a Roma and they are lacking in flavour and rather thick of skin. The lettuce is limp and nasty and hard to find, the pasta was cooked quite well al dente but the sauces left a lot to be desired. They had handmade pizza which wasn’t bad but it did suffer from being far to thin with a not very tasty tomato sauce on it.
They actually had real sausages on the breakfast bar along with the usual Mexican sausages (hotdogs) but the were pasty and again verged on tasteless because they were not properly caramelized. The seafood was simply a waste of time, frozen and mushy it was just awful. The salad dressing was literally so watered down they wouldn’t stick to any vegetable and again quite tasteless. We were very disappointed.
Playing on the Playa
The beach, however, was beautiful, the sand, thanks to the guys cleaning the seaweed, was a lovely sparkling cream shade and the wonderful shimmering turquoise blue water was a real treat after the nasty bath water temperature pool. If you get the chance though go up to Cancun it’s just as beautiful and there is so much to do. If you fancy the secrets of cenotes you can go scuba diving or simply swimming. Check out Mario’s post on Scuba Diving in the Cenotes here.
From Playa, we decided to take a drive down to Tulum where we had the best brunch ever at the El Pez Restaurant and hotel. On the way we spotted the Rio Secreto which is an incredible journey down an underground river and a cenote swim – this is an absolute don’t miss when you are in the area.
All in all, we enjoyed the experience. We got to try out the new toll roads which cut hours of your journey from Chelem to the other side. Total cost for the tolls was just under 400 pesos each way which sounds expensive at around $34 Canadian but it saves you at least two hours and it is a pretty cool ride.
On the stretch of highway getting into Playa, the highway has virtually no cars on it and it was cut right through the jungle. The government had to be very careful with the natural habitat and they have provided monkey ladders crossing the highway and fenced in the jungle on both sides to ensure that animals don’t get killed by the traffic.