An unfortunate misconception about Mexico and many other tropical vacation destinations is that great restaurants are few and far between. In Playa del Carmen, Mexico, this is far from the case.
Many of the best restaurants in Playa del Carmen are located off the beaten path somewhat. The city is famed for its 5th Avenue which is closed to vehicular traffic and lined with restaurants and shopping for tourists. There are plenty of great places to eat on 5th Avenue, but due to the high rent prices in the buildings, the restaurants tend to be rather pricey.
Here are some great restaurant suggestions in Playa del Carmen that are not only delicious but also will go light on the wallet:
Kaxapa Factory Location: 18th Street (Constitution) and 10th Avenue
A Venezuelan family recently came to Playa del Carmen and opened a fantastic little restaurant where they share recipes from their homeland. It’s difficult to decide which is better: the food or the low prices at Kaxapa Factory. It’s a win-win combination that has helped them quickly rise through the ranks on TripAdvisor to become one of the most touted restaurants in Playa del Carmen.
Try one of their patacon dishes that feature a bed of greens beneath two fried plantains surrounding a delicious meat or vegetarian selection. And although they are not featured on their menu, ask for the quesadillas and be blown away. Topping things off with a little brownies and ice cream isn’t a bad idea either. After all, you’re on vacation!
La Tarraya Location: 2nd Street at the beach
A Playa del Carmen landmark is the beach seafood restaurant La Tarraya (Spanish for “fishing net”). This restaurant has been in Playa del Carmen for over 15 years back when there was little else in the city. Today, it remains a picturesque spot for a great meal on the cheap. Try their fish filet with “Tarraya special sauce”, only 50 pesos (that’s about $4 to a gringo). So good you’ll start to have second thoughts about going back home.
Agua Chiles Location: 34th street and 25th avenue
You may want to cab it to this trendy seafood spot for a late lunch or early dinner (they close each night by 7). Whatever time you decide to go, you can bet the place will be packed. Agua Chilies attracts pretty locals from all around Playa who are privy to the restaurant’s secret: amazing chic seafood dishes. Try the fresh tuna tostadas and the smoked tuna figurines (like a taco with a bed of lettuce in place of a tortilla). Don’t be afraid to go back and order another tiny plate. This is where you become a true pro and differentiate yourself from the tourist crowd.
Cheester’s Location: 6th street and 40th avenue
Bring your appetite in the taxi ride to Cheester’s and plan to make the 15 minute walk back to the beach when dinner is over. This place challenges any appetite with massive portions of salad and pasta at a jaw-dropping affordable price. Four people can share one salad (get the Thai chicken!) and a pasta entre for a whole 240 pesos (that’s about $20). Try one of their delicious fruit smoothies with your savings.
Arandas Location: 14th street and 10th avenue
You’re in Mexico so understandably you’ll be wanting some Mexican food. It’s hard to go wrong with Taqueria Arandas where you can go crazy trying any one of their several different authentic Mexican tacos. They each cost about $1 so don’t hold back from trying several. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, the beef stomach taco will give you a little story to share with your less traveled friends when you return home. A little slimy, but quite tasty!
El Fagon Location: 6th street and 30th avenue or 18th street and 30th avenue
El Fogon is a Mexican food enthusiasts’ fantasy. You won’t find many tourists in either of these two locations and the ones who are there get points for their advanced traveling game. To find your way to this place, you have to be seeking out a gluttonous Mexican food experience. Ignore your diet and health for a moment. Order a margarita and a taco loco and just embrace the fact that you won’t be able to move for a few hours. This is as pleasurable as food gets!
Planning a vacation to Mexico to celebrate Cinco de Mayo may seem like a reasonable move. After all, where better to be for St. Patrick’s day than Ireland? If the cervazas flow as freely as they do in the U.S. on May 5th, it must be sheer madness south of the border. Right?
Taking a vacation to Mexico can be a good idea for plenty of reasons, but embarking on a quest to find a crazy Cinco de Mayo partying experience is not one of them. The best Cinco de Mayo parties can be found on American turf because, to the confusion of many, it is an American holiday.
Cinco de Mayo has its origins in the Civil War when a Mexican army succeeded in fighting off French invaders seeking to impose a monarchy in 1862. Latinos in the U.S. viewed that victory as a rallying cry that the Union could win the Civil War. Napoleon III’s invasion plan was to use the instilled monarchy to cooperate with the Confederates north of the border. Hispanics living in the U.S. at the time supported the Union and viewed Mexico’s triumph over the French invasion as a victory for the fight against slavery. And thus, Cinco de Mayo celebrations were born in the American west among the Latinos living in California, Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona.
The holiday has changed over time. By the end of the 18th century, veterans of the Union army and the Latinos living in the U.S. struggled to cement the significance of the day among the younger generation. By World War II, the holiday was viewed as a celebration of the unity between the U.S. and Mexico during that conflict.
Today, Cinco de Mayo is little more than an American holiday sustained by beer manufacturers who cash in annually on the demand for Mexican beer at celebrations. In Mexico, it is not a celebration of their independence day. That much more festive occasion takes place on September 16th. Cinco de Mayo is marked in Mexico by much more subdued celebrating than most Americans would probably expect. Puebla, the city where the battle against the French took place 150 years ago, celebrated the significant anniversary this year with a parade followed by a performance from Marc Anthony.
Mexicans view the attention Cinco de Mayo receives in the U.S. with mixed feelings. While many of them are aware of the misconception Americans have about the holiday, they still appreciate the appreciation and support shown for Mexico. They view it as an opportunity to share their pride for being Mexican.
So for the Americans looking to come to Mexico for a wild night of guzzling cervazas on Cinco de Mayo, a better strategy would be to visit the nearest pub in the U.S. There are better reasons to come to Mexico and take part in experiencing their culture.
If you are planning or are interested in taking a trip to the Caribbean paradise of the Riviera Maya in Mexico, know that you’ll be close to a world of fun activities worth exploring. So don’t just stay confined behind the walls of your all-inclusive resort. Get out there and check out some of these great staples of the Mexican Caribbean paradise:
1. Swim in a cenote. An interesting fact about the Yucatan peninsula is that there are no lakes or rivers. All of the water in the area is confined underground. In fact, the longest underground river in the world was discovered in the region just a few years ago. As such, there exist a number of underground caves, called “cenotes”, full of freshwater throughout the region. A visit to one of these tranquil havens will add a little magic to your trip.
2. Go deep sea fishing. A number of charter fishing companies exist all along the coast of Mexico. You and your group can charter a boat to be taken out to the deep waters of the sea for an afternoon of fishing. The rates are generally very affordable. Shop around a little for the best price. Don’t be afraid to negotiate in Mexico. Just don’t get seasick!
3. Hop in a collectivo van down the highway. If you want to stand out from the typical tourist-in-Mexico crowd, track down where you can get on a collectivo van to head down the highway which runs along the coast. These vans are public transportation available to anyone. Many Mexicans use them for transportation to and from work. The ride is very affordable, 25-80 pesos depending on how long you’re on board, and you can get off at any point you wish. Go get lost and explore a small town in Mexico like Akumal. No worries, in the Riviera Maya region, there is little to fear in the way of crime and violence that gets reported on from the drug war.
4. Take a kite surfing lesson. There are many expert kite surfers all along the Mexican coast who are happy to take a little of your hard-earned money in exchange for showing you how to kite surf. The lesson begins by simply learning to fly the kite on land. Then you gradually build your way up to taking it for a ride out on the sea. It’s an easier thing to learn than you might think!
5. Jump out of a plane for a nice beach landing. Ready for some real adventure? Go jump out of a plane in Playa del Carmen. Skydive Playa offers tandem skydives with a view simply too amazing to believe. Your master instructor will guide the parachute to a soft landing on the beach to conclude the thrill of a lifetime. There’s no better place in the world to jump out of a plane. Check out the video below to get an idea of the experience.
6. Take a yoga class on the beach. There exist a number of early-morning beach yoga classes in Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, and specifically Tulum. There are typically no previous training requirements for these courses and there’s no better place on earth to try out yoga for the first time than on a tropical beach.
7. Snorkel with the tropical fish. There is no simpler thrill in the Riveria Maya than renting a snorkeling mask and a pair of fins and jumping in the water. Be at peace with the world as you observe and interact with the tropical sea life that exists in and around the second largest coral reef in the world. You can swim with the sea turtles in Akumal; dozens of them regularly linger in the waters just a few meters off the beach.
8. Shop If you’re into fashion and shopping, the best place for that in the Riviera Maya is Playa del Carmen. The city’s fifth avenue is closed to traffic. It’s all pedestrians, shopping, and restaurants. High-end retailers have made their way into the area over the years to cater to the demand of tourists looking for a bargain. Remember, in the souvenir shops the price is always negotiable!
9. Visit the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve. An UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve is the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean. Hundreds of bird and mammal species thrive in this lush paradise. It offers a view of the Caribbean so magnificent you can actually see the curvature of the earth!
10. Get your scuba certification. There are dozens of dive shops all along the Mexican Caribbean coast. Take 3-4 days to receive your scuba certification. You’ll be in the water on your first day diving to a depth of 30 feet with your instructor. There’s no experience quite like the zero gravity sensation of breathing underwater that scuba can offer.
Spring break is nearly upon us. Here are a few ideas for a tropical island vacation to take this spring break:
South Padre Island, Texas
South Padre Island is located in the southern tip of Texas. The island is something of a well-kept secret when it comes to U.S. spring break destinations. This is partially because it is difficult to access. Spring breakers can fly into Houston where they will be left with about a 6.5 hour drive to the island. The area has a relatively sparse population; South Padre has just around 3,000 full time residents. The island has a beach waterpark (Schlitterbahn) and offers many more water-related activities including watercraft rental, dolphin watching, and beach horseback riding.
Escape from the chaotic spring break scene in Cancun to the nearby island of Cozumel for a more sophisticated spring break vacation. Cozumel offers all of the niceties of a spring break week without the rowdiness of a more mainstream destination like Cancun. Cozumel is known for offering some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the Caribbean. And if you’re up for a big night of partying, Playa del Carmen is just a short (20 minute) ferry ride away.
Negril, Jamaica has everything you need for a great spring break, mon! Located on the west end of the island, Negril offers everything ranging from outdoor activities like hiking and cliff jumping to the traditional spring break activities of partying until the wee hours of the night. Negril hotels are priced to cater to spring breakers on a budget which helps to make a trip to Jamaica more viable for the week-long party. Enjoy waterfall tours, river rafting, and serene snorkeling when you’re not soaking up Caribbean sun rays at this great tropical destination.
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
On the far east of the island that is home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic is the resort town of Punta Cana. The town is sizable with a population of 100,000. All of the hotels in Punta Cana are all-inclusive which allows spring breakers to eat and drink till their heart’s content without having to worry about carrying cash or watching a budget. Flights directly into the Punta Cana International Airport will have you partying within no time after arriving in the Dominican. If you can get away from the beach parties for an afternoon, you’ll find 12 world-class golf courses in the area.
If a tropical island vacation is a bit beyond your budget, there are some alternative vacation ideas that are more affordable while still providing some of the great aspects of a beach getaway.
Cruises are a great alternative to a tropical island vacation. They can generally be very affordable. A 3-night cruise can cost as little as $300 per person. By cruising during off-peak times of the year and keeping an eye open for bargains, you can find a very affordable vacation. Check out our Caribbean cruises section for more complete info on ports and liners.
Of course, the nice part of going on a cruise is that you still get to experience some of the niceties of a tropical island vacation. You’ll spend multiple afternoons relaxing on the beach before re-boarding your ship for the next destination. The cost of a cruise includes everything except alcohol and off-shore excursions.
Planned correctly, a Las Vegas vacation can be very affordable. While you won’t find any tropical beaches in the middle of the Nevada desert, you will find a lively city with dozens of fantastic pools through which the beach experience can be recreated. Airfare to Vegas can be incredibly cheap if you fly during a low-demand time. The summer is the most affordable time to visit Las Vegas as the 100 degree heat tends to cut down on tourist demand. There are more hotel rooms in Las Vegas than any other city in the world, so during off-peak times, rooms can be extraordinarily cheap. A word of caution though, if you go for the absolute cheapest room in the city you may be disappointed at the room quality. Read up on some visitor reviews of the hotel and consider aiming for something one notch above the lowest of the low. There are plenty of great hotels in Las Vegas that are trying to compete and stay relevant. If you’re planning on doing a little gambling while you’re in town, consider giving the casino you are staying at all of your action. By keeping track of your play on a player’s card, they may be willing to “comp” some of your food or even your room expense. But if a cheap vacation is your objective, steering clear of the gambling is probably a wise move!
If flying to Fiji is out of your budget, consider heading to a great beach destination within driving distance. Chances are, you live within a two day drive of a great beach. Florida; Galveston, TX; and California are all options depending on which region you reside in. While a road trip vacation may not be as glamorous as flying to a foreign tropical destination, there are plenty of upsides. Aside from the obvious money-saving benefits, a road trip also provides more flexibility with your vacation. You can plan detours to great parks and maybe even incorporate a camping vacation into your plans. Having a car also enables you to pack food to eat on the road and save money. This is an especially great idea for a family interested in a vacation; it costs basically the same amount for one person to drive somewhere as it does four. This is hardly the case with flying.
Traveling abroad can be an exciting experience, but it also necessitates heightened safety practices. Unfortunately, not all parts of the world are as safe as you might be accustomed to at home. It’s important to travel with a good head on your shoulders in order to avoid putting yourself in compromising situations abroad. Here are some general things to keep in mind when traveling to a foreign destination:
Research Your Destination
There are plenty of places in the world where the safest thing you can do is to not visit them at all. For instance, certain non-tourist areas of Mexico and Brazil are considered dangerous for travelers due to risks of kidnapping and violence. While it’s not pleasant to think about, there are many places in the world that have been overran by negative elements. It’s best to avoid visiting these areas altogether. Before planning your trip, do some extensive research online to see what other travelers are saying about the area.
When traveling abroad, especially to poorer nations, it is always a wise idea to travel as inconspicuously as possible. Avoid wearing any type of flashy clothing or jewelry. A foreign nation is not the place to be announcing how much money you might have to strangers on the streets. Wear a modest wardrobe, leave valuables at home, and carry only the cash you need for that particular excursion out of the hotel. Leave the rest behind in a safe.
Register Your Travel
If you are a U.S. citizen, you can register your travel with the Department of State. It’s a simple process that basically just acts to “check in” with your government in case troubles arise while you are traveling or if you need to be contacted while away.
Keep Guard Up on Streets
Beware of pick-pocketers and scam artists while out and about in a foreign destination. Pick pocketers will try to distract you by creating some sort of disturbance. Groups of children might work together to distract you while others rob you. Carry only what you need and try to keep your hand on your wallet or purse at all times. Never leave anything of value unattended in a foreign country, even for a moment. Be suspicious of scammers who try to sell you merchandise or a tour at a bargain rate. Never give anyone money for something without seeing the product first. Basically, just be paranoid and assume that most people are trying to scam you and you’ll be in approximately the right frame of mind. In the U.S., we’ve grown accustomed to not having to worry as much about being scammed on a daily basis. You cannot travel abroad with this type of reassured attitude.
Never accept a ride from someone not driving an officially marked taxi. It is also a wise idea to negotiate the price of your ride before getting in the vehicle. Some taxi drivers will take you to your destination and then confront you with an exorbinant bill for the ride. It makes for a very uncomfortable and compromising situation.
Planning a wedding? Have you considered having a destination wedding on a tropical island? Destination weddings are becoming more and more popular as couples break away from the traditional wedding format and try something different and more exciting.
There are some pros and cons to a tropical island destination wedding.
Gorgeous, unforgettable wedding setting
Less intensive planning as many destination weddings are something of a point-and-click package deal
You get to start the honeymoon instantly after the ceremony
More affordable than you might imagine
More costly for your guests therefore…
Fewer friends and family in attendance (though that may be a good thing!)
You don’t get to get away from your parents on your honeymoon
Where to have your tropical island vacation destination wedding?
There are several great parts of the world to have your tropical island destination wedding. For a generally more affordable, stateside wedding, consider a Floridian island: Sanibel Island, Palm Island, and Amelia Island are all popular wedding destinations.
If you want to branch out a bit more, try a Caribbean island. It will be more expensive for your guests, but also more novel and exotic. Grand Cayman, Turks and Caicos, and the Bahamas are all fine (and popular) choices.
Another great possibility is Puerto Rico. When you choose Puerto Rico, you get all of the positives of an international destination without the hassles of international travel. The El San Juan resort is a popular choice for couples doing a Puerto Rico destination wedding.
Another great spot for an island wedding without the hassles of international travel is Hawaii. You only get married once (hopefully), why not do it on one of America’s very own tropical paradise? Hawaiian destination weddings are very popular. For a single price, you can fly to your island of choice and have everything waiting on you for your perfect destination wedding.
Finally, if you’re feeling really gutsy, why not try the South Pacific? It may cause quite the commotion among your guest list, but it’s your wedding! They’ll get over it. Tahiti and Fiji are both fabulous destinations for an extravagant, exotic destination wedding!
Looking for a tropical vacation destination for the summer months? Many popular tropical destinations are off-peak in the summer because of the heat. Here are some better options for a summer tropical vacation where you’re unlikely to be cooked to death.
Average temperatures in Bermuda in the summer months are around a high of 85 degrees with a low of 75 degrees. In other words, Bermuda is basically the perfect tropical island vacation destination for the summer months. Summer is the perfect time to visit Bermuda; during the winter season, the average high is “only” around 70 degrees. Bermuda is basically all alone in the North Atlantic Ocean. It is directly east of South Carolina by about 1,000 miles. The population of the entire island is only around 65,000, so you will find plenty of quiet seclusion on this famed British territory.
South of France
The South of France is pristine in the summer months with an average high temperature of around 82 and an average low of 61. These numbers fluctuate somewhat depending on the exact city and month, but they are a pretty good representation of what you can expect to find in the French Riviera. There are several beach communities along the Mediterranean coast in France. In Saint-Tropez, you can find beautiful beaches (including nude beaches), yachts, five-star restaurants and hotels, and quite likely a few celebrities. The city has become something of a mecca for the rich, so it’s probably not the ideal choice for vacationers on a budget. The city of Menton offers more affordable accommodations and is also a stone’s throw from Italy.
Not far from Menton is the city of Cannes which plays host to the large film festival named after the town. The film festival is usually held in May. If you decide to avoid that hub-ub, visiting Cannes later in the summer will yield even more remarkable weather. Cannes is known for its shopping offerings in addition to luscious beaches.
Despite it technically being winter in the South Pacific during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer months, the weather is ideal for summer vacationing. Fiji maintains an average high in the 80s and an average low in the low 70s during summer months. Fiji’s soft coral reefs offer scuba divers an opportunity of a lifetime. The island has recently placed a focus on creating more budget options for travelers to help entice those initially turned away by higher airfare costs. There are dozens of islands in the South Pacific that cater to tourists. One option not to overlook is Hawaii. Hawaii offers all of the amenities of a summer tropical island vacation without the hassles of international travel. The average high in the summer months in Hawaii reaches into the upper 80s.
If you’re thinking about taking a Caribbean cruise to a tropical island destination, here are some tips to keep in mind. These will be especially helpful to those who have never cruised before.
Save with Modest Stateroom
When you go to book your cruise, you’ll notice rooms with a window or balcony cost quite a lot more than interior rooms. While having a window or balcony is certainly nice, it’s also pretty unimportant in the grand scheme. You won’t be spending much time in your room and when you do, you’ll be sleeping most of the time. If you think you can do without the added expense of a window or balcony, you probably can.
Know What You’re Getting
Before booking your cruise, have a good idea what is included in your price. Most cruises include boarding and food but not alcohol. If you’re planning on enjoying some drinks on the ship, bear in mind that you’ll have to pay for them individually. This can add up to quite a lot of money for party-minded cruisers. Another added cost you’ll likely incur on the boat is Internet usage and phone calls. Additionally, spa services, photographs, and shore excursions are also not included in your cruise rate.
Prepare for Boredom
Cruises can be an absolute blast. You’re on a huge ship with other vacationers stopping at ports you’ve likely never visited. Not to take anything away from how fun cruises can be, but it’s worth preparing for some lulls of boredom. After a few days on the boat when you’ve acquainted yourself with everything there is to do, drink, and eat, you might start to feel like you’re just sitting on a boat in the middle of the ocean (which is exactly what you’re doing). Don’t assume the trip will be 24/7 of action and fun. Prepare for things to do if a boring hour or two present themselves: books, DVDs, some writing paper and pen, a camera, playing cards, and board games might all be good things to have on hand. But don’t worry, every cruise has an entertainment director whose job is to keep your trip packed with fun, so chances are you’ll think we’re crazy for suggesting to prepare for boredom.
Are Cruises Kid-Friendly
In a word, yes. Cruises are very kid-friendly. Disney cruises and Carnival cruises are probably the most kid-friendly cruise lines. On-board facilities will help your children connect with other kids of similar age. These activities also buy Mom and Dad some peace and quiet! For your next family vacation, take a cruise. Your family will have a blast!
Tropical island aficionados have written many songs in celebration of the natural wonders of such luscious environments. One of the tropical island destinations popularized by the music of the surf band known as the Beach Boys is the Caribbean isle of Aruba. Let’s take a look at some of what makes Aruba a place worth writing a hit song about.