Playa del Carmen – Our last days in Mexico

We drove from Palenque to Playa del Carmen, passing within a couple miles of Chetumal, Belize.  We discussed crossing the border if for no other reason to add to our passport stamp collection, but in the end we decided to continue northward up to Playa del Carmen.

The plan was to spend ten days in Playa.  We had a nice apartment booked through AirBNB that was only two blocks from the beach. There was plenty of parking for the truck, had a little kitchen so we could save some money by cooking most of our meals, and it air conditioning because summer in Playa del Carmen can get quite hot and humid.

When we arrived, we unpacked, relaxed for a bit, and went out to grab dinner.  We drove down to where we had stayed previously, ten years ago, to find that Playa del Carmen had grown up since then.  The main tourist avenue, 5th avenue, which used to end around 25th street, was now growing past 50th.  We passed bars and restaurants that were filled with tourists, tshirt places with tacky shirts, and a handful of other beach-oriented shops.  It was both good and bad, it’s nice to see businesses thriving, but it was also nice when it wasn’t entirely filled with tourist knickknacks.  We had a pleasant dinner and then went back to crash early after our long day of driving from Chiapas.

The next day we were ready for the beach, time to swim, relax, and enjoy the water.  It was over 90f, before taking into account the 90% humidity, and we were ready to cool off in the water.  We walked to the beach, to discover something that we didn’t expect, a massive seaweed bloom so large that the beach was covered in the stuff. We later saw it from the air while flying into Jamaica. More about that in a later post.

The recent warmer-than-normal sea generated a breeding ground for algae, the food source for sargassum seaweed in the Caribbean.  The seaweed grew in such abundance that it washed up on shore in large quantities. The seaweed invasion covered 10-20 feet of the beach, from the shallows to the high-tide mark, making it quite uncomfortable to wade out into the deeper and cleaner water.  We sat on the beach, trying to get the last of the tans we knew we would be able to get here in Mexico.

After a couple hours of sun and sweat, we decided to call it quits and head back to our room.  Disappointed as we were looking forward to spending a lot of time at the beach, but we knew there are other things to do in the area.  The following days we explored other local offerings.  We went to the local Cenote Chaak Tun, which was a brief 20 minute drive just outside of town. It was wonderfully cool to swim in and see the rock formations in the underground caves. Please check it out if you are in the area and want to get a brief taste of the cenotes in the area.

We also had a recommendation from our friend Simon, who we met in Oaxaca, to check out a local dive shop.  I am scuba certified, but Neeley isn’t yet, but I haven’t dived in over five years.  I signed up for a refresher course, and Neeley a ‘resort’ dive class.  This consisted of a refresher exam for me, and some basic skills taught to Neeley, followed by some time in a pool for both of us to practice the things we were just taught.  It was a worthwhile thing for me to retake, as I was able to remind myself that filling the mask with water, and recovering from it wasn’t as hard as I mentally remembered.  Neeley was able to conquer her fears of breathing underwater, and spent some time in the pool, just swimming around.

After the pool lessons, we took a boat just out past the shore, past the seaweed invasion, so that we could dive.  Neeley had had a cold the previous week, and felt like she was over it, but unfortunately discovered that her sinuses were still acting up.  Successful in the pool, but unfortunately she wasn’t able equalize without pain past about 15 feet, and had to surface and miss the dives.  This can happen if you’ve had a sinus cold, and can be quite painful. You should never force equalization.  She was a trooper and has vowed to try again when he hit warm water later in our travels!

In my dives I managed to catch a view of  a number of different fish and plant life.  I don’t dive often, but I do like it.  I hope to get some dives in with Neeley when we travel to South East Asia or other warm water locations.

We spent the rest of the time in Playa relaxing, playing board games, and catching up on a few TV shows we were watching.  We were disappointed about the seaweed, but overall it was a nice break, before our trip out of Mexico.

(writing about our time in Playa del Carmen 27 Jul to 3 Aug 2015)

No picture gallery with this post, sorry.

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