As many of you my followers and subscribers may know, I am undertaking a series of trips to and around Mexico to determine the best location for my #Blaxit. There will be part one part two and part three broken down by city/town. I will chronicle them all here in my blog.
I am evaluating each place I visit to determine whether it is somewhere I can settle for at least 12-18 months after my Blaxit. I will be evaluating places on the following factors.
1. Access and distance to nearest International Airport – How far is it to fly to/from the US?
2. Stability of Temperature and Climate – Is it hot all year round. Are there Hurricanes or Earthquakes Regularly?
3. Access to fresh food
4. Cost of Living – what does the average rent cost with my must-haves
5. Stability of Wi-Fi and cell phone reception
6. Access to creature comforts like Walmart, Costco
7. Is there a reliable means of transportation besides Taxis and the Bus i.e. – does it have Uber or something similar?
8. Walkability – are the neighborhoods walkable
9. Community – Is there a black ex-pat community accessible to me?
10. How does it feel to me – a hard thing to measure but I know it when I feel it.
Some of these things may be of zero importance to many but they are of critical importance to me so as I travel this is the lens I will apply to each town or city.
Part 1 was my visit to Tulum. In this blog post, Part 1.5, I will share my impressions of Playa del Carmen (PDC).
Part 2 will highlight my visit to Merida, Progresso, and Campeche.
Part 3 will be broken into multiple sections as I will be visiting 10 towns/cities. My itinerary will include visits to Isla Mujeres, Cancún, Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara, Lake Chapala, Monterrey, Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, and Oaxaca. If I have time I may also try to get to Puebla. I will likely report out the visits by region.
I will be remote working throughout, I mean somebody’s got to pay for this stuff, right? I am visiting these towns and cities to get a sense of the feel and rhythm of each place. Along the way, I will collect information about each city, what makes each place interesting and unique. But most importantly I will be allowing myself to absorb how each place makes me feel.
Here are my initial reflections and opinions after my visit to Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo. Please note they are based on a four (4) day stay. I will update this post when I return for a longer visit in a couple of months.
Playa del Carmen (PDC)
I visited PDC from October 17, 2020, to October 22, 2020.
Here I will share my initial thoughts, impressions, and opinions. Please understand that these are my opinion and views. Other bloggers will likely differ from me on many things so keep in mind that these are just my views. My trip is being financed by me. I am not being sponsored by any person or entity and therefore there is no one or entity influencing the views shared here. Here is a link to some background historical information about Playa del Carmen (PDC).
To get from Tulum to PDC I hired a taxi service, We Go Taxi Playa del Carmen. They were recommended by Claire B. Soares of Up in the Air Travel. Up in the Air Travel is a black woman-owned luxury travel company. As Claire is a luxury travel expert, I had confidence in her recommendation and it was spot on! We Taxi Go Taxi Playa del Carmen was professional in their communications, and the driver picked me up on time and was friendly but professional in his interactions with me. The shuttle van was spacious and very clean. The trip from Tulum to PDC took about 90 minutes. You can find We Go Taxi Playa del Carmen on Facebook and they can be reached via WhatsApp, tell them S. Anne Marie sent ya! Uber does not operate in PDC so to get around the city you should flag down a taxi, they are everywhere, or you can also use a service like We Go Taxi Playa del Carmen. There is no airport in PDC, to get there from the USA you will fly into Cancun international airport and take a taxi, shuttle, or private car service like the one I just mentioned into the city. It is about a 30-45 minute drive from Cancun international airport.
The first thing that struck me about PDC is that it feels like a modern city. A sunny and beautiful but modern city. As we entered the city, I saw a Burger King and then an avenue with multiple shops – tattoo parlors, barbershops, and multiple pharmacies. I even saw a vision store. We also passed a large sports center or arena. This might turn some off but it was comforting to me.
BaldGirlWillTravel Pro-tip: Pretty much everyone uses WhatsApp in Mexico. It will be super important for you to download the app prior to arrival in Mexico. Pretty much every vendor (drivers, realtors, food delivery) use the App and will seek to reach you using it.
What I loved
The Hotel – Reef 28 All-Inclusive
I love Reef28! I was told that the hotel is a little over a year old. It shows in its modernity and facilities. First-class staff and spa facilities. Don’t stay without checking out the hydrotherapy pools! It was free with my 90-minute massage and BAYBEE!!! I could’ve stayed in that pool all day long. The staff welcomed with a cold drink and friendly smiles. I booked the deluxe master suite and it was beautifully appointed. One of the nicest hotel rooms I’ve seen in a while. Super comfy but firm mattress and a long balcony with a beautiful view of the Mamita beach skyline. A Starbucks was across the street and the famed 5th Avenue was 2 blocks away.
Reef28 has a beautiful and spacious rooftop with a gorgeous pool with views of the PDC skyline and the ocean. It’s amazing. Frankly, the hotel is worth checking out for the rooftop alone. The rooftop’s drinks and food are on the higher end for Mexico and are just ok so you’re really going for the awesome views and the pool. A DJ spins from about 3pm-ish when I was there. Nice vibe and younger crowd (25-40s mostly).
The Roof Top Pool Vibe
PDC has some of the beautiful rooftops I’ve seen anywhere they know how to set a cool happy hour vibe in the middle of the day on a Tuesday! I Dig it. Due to COVID-19, I stayed away from the bars so I can’t share much on that scene but it’s clear that PDC has a popping nightlife. It also has a growing Black American ex-pat community. I suggest following the Black in PDC Facebook group for social events in the area planned and attended by the Black ex-pats in the area. I got to meet some of them at a rooftop meetup and it was very nice. They were warm and welcoming and fun. When COVID is over I could see myself being very social if I lived in PDC.
Rockas Jamaican Kitchen
I did NOT Love the food in PDC except for this restaurant gem right next door to Reef28. Who could’ve guessed I’d find first-class Jamaican food in Mexico?? First, on Sunday evening, and all weekend, a DJ spins old school reggae. The music brought back so many great memories. But the true hit was the food. I ate there two nights in a row. I had a curry chicken dinner one night and brown stewed chicken the next. Both were delicious and tasteful as the food I’d cook at home. My family is from Tobago and I’m a great cook so I know from good Caribbean food and that food was legit. The brown chicken especially was the business. My only advice would be for them to add some house-made habanero or scotch bonnet-based pepper sauce to the menu and add a little bit more rum to the rum punch. I will definitely be back there! You can find more information about Rockas on Facebook. Check them out if you are visiting PDC!
Wi-Fi and cell phone reception
I experienced no Wi-Fi issues in PDC. I was able to connect wherever I was to my phone network and the Wi-Fi in the hotel worked perfectly.
What I didn’t love
5th Avenue is A LOT. It is not for the weak of heart. It is several blocks of shops, boutiques, restaurants, bars, and open-air vendors. It’s a shopping sensory overload. Some of the small outdoor vendors are very pushy and aggressive but polite. I did not enjoy being there in the midst of a pandemic as there were too many unmasked folks and little to no social distancing. I would probably enjoy it more post-pandemic. There are lots of restaurant and shopping choices and opportunities to be had there.
Do be careful of pickpockets and the errant purse snatcher as you would in Las Vegas, Miami Beach, Paris, or Rome. Exercise the situational awareness I mentioned in my blog post about my Top 5 Travel Security Tips for Female Solo Travelers.
The Mamita Beach and Kool Beach Klub were walking distance from Reef28. I took a stroll one morning to the beach on a weekday morning. Honestly, in my opinion, Mamita Beach is not as scenic as any of the beaches in Tulum. It kind of reminded me of a beach in Florida but a bit prettier. Definitely no white sand. Relatively clean with hotels lining it as far as the eye can see. I went early ahead of my workday but I got the sense that in high season it is a very busy beach. It’s my understanding that there are nicer beaches in the area so I will seek to visit others when I return and I will spend more time there on my next visit right around the holiday season during “high season” in PDC.
The food in the hotel and in the area didn’t impress me especially after being in Tulum for 2 weeks. The tacos at Reef28 were just ok. I’ve had better in Washington DC. I avoided the restaurants on 5th avenue due to the crowds. I will make a point of checking out food options via delivery and in nearby neighborhoods like Colossio next time. The only bright spot was Rockas which I mentioned above.
The area where I stayed was noisy at night. It was a couple of blocks from 5th avenue and the beach and Rockas was right next door with loud and sometimes live music playing until very late, at least 2:00 am on the weekends and even on a Monday evening. There are condos and apartments in the area and on the block so I want to make you aware of this. If you are a light sleeper or need complete silence to go to sleep you may not want to be in that area or on that street on a long-term basis. I used earplugs and they worked like charm. But again, know yourself and plan accordingly. Here is a link to earplugs I use and like. I love that they can just clip to my purse. I keep them with my favorite flashlight so that I never lose them. They work like a charm.
As was the case with Tulum, I saw too many people not wearing masked and not social distancing in PDC. Perhaps this is just an issue in tourist-centric areas in Mexico. I was specifically concerned about the number of Black ex-pats and tourists I saw unmasked.
I urge all of us, if you are traveling outside the US during this time – Follow the science. Social Distance (6-10 feet), wash your hands regularly and wear a mask. I carry hand sanitizing wipes and liquid sanitizer in my purse at all times. I wear a mask if I am not eating or drinking and I avoid crowds and social gatherings. If I did attend anything social, it was outdoors but that does not remove the necessity of masking and any of the other steps. Our visits help support the economy of Mexico. Let’s also do everything we can to safeguard the health of the locals and each other so that we can continue to visit Mexico during this pandemic.
Hurricanes and Tropical Storms
Quintana Roo (QR) sits on the Eastern part of the Yucatán peninsula and is bordered by the states of Campeche to the west and Yucatán to the north. It has a coastline to the east with the Caribbean Sea into the north with the Gulf of Mexico. Both Tulum and Playa del Carmen are in QR.
I have the same concerns about PDC and the stability of the weather and climate that I do about Tulum. Because of its location, they experience many storm systems during hurricane season. Not full-on hurricanes per se, but definitely storm systems such as tropical storms, heavy and sustained rain, and winds. Just two weeks before this post, Hurricane Zeta passed thru Quintana Roo and caused damage in Cozumel and PDC. Power was out for several days in PDC. The idea of experiencing multiple tropical storms in a 4-5 month does not thrill me. It is definitely something to keep in mind if considering relocating to Quintana Roo.
Mosquitoes and other biting insects
The mosquitoes and other biting insects are alive and well in the PDC. Do not go out in the evening without lathering up repellent. They will tear you up. Like they’re cousins in Tulum they will Eat you alive. You’ve been warned. I recommend using very strong mosquito repellent in PDC. Here are links to the ones I like here, here, and here.
I have researched the cost of living in PDC and it is on the higher end of costs of living in Mexico commensurate with Puerta Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. You can review the cost of living by checking out Numbeo and Expatistan.
The higher cost of living notwithstanding, PDC remains on my radar as a possible relocation city. I like the short distance to an international airport. I like the easy access to transportation despite the absence of Uber. I like that there is a beach in the city within walking distance from several neighborhoods. I love how walkable the area I was in seemed to be as well as the adjacent Colossio neighborhood. I loved the good cell phone and Wi-Fi reception. I liked the availability of creature comforts like Subway, Burger King, Starbucks, and Walmart. I don’t love that the nearest Costco is in Cancun. I noted the things I specifically didn’t like above, I also noted that the temperature was in the mid 80’s pretty much every day so a bit on the hot side. However, the humidity level did not seem to be as high as Tulum. I would also like to stay somewhere outside of the 5th avenue zone to see whether my cell phone reception and Wi-Fi work as well. Because I was only there for four days I do need to spend more time there and visit some other cities to be sure. I will be sure to update this posted after my next and longer visit in PDC.