10 years ago we visited Cancun and Playa del Carmen on Mexico's Mayan riviera for Shelly's birthday. Some months earlier Hurricane Wilma had come through and destroyed many of the hotels. More than half the resorts had been boarded up and were derelict.
The intervening decade has seen so much development we found it difficult to identify places we'd seen last time. We stayed at the Krystal Cancun resort at the top of the peninsula. It was an older resort but the room was huge, the pool big and the cocktails plentiful.
The restaurant and bar scene is dominated by US brand names but we found a little taco shop called Camerino a Tacos where we had the very best tacos we've ever eaten. Warning - avoid the habanero chilli sauce - it was so hot our mouths were burning for hours.
Last time we'd booked a 3 day Cuban trip from a travel agent booth on the strip and hoped to do the same again, but they were only selling the same xaret resort day trips (the Mexican Disneyland). We decided to to an excursion to the cenotes (caves) near playa de Carmen. We had no sooner paid our money, when we got a call that we couldn't be fitted on the tour the next day. As we were moving on the following day we asked for a refund and then the acrobatics started.
Next morning we received an early morning call advising we could be squeezed in - be ready in an hour. We were awake now so we decided to go. Two hours later we were still waiting. Calls to the agent weren't returned and visits to the booth always required me to "return when so and so gets back." This dragged on all day but after much harassment we did get our money back later that evening.
Playa De Carmen
Playa de Carmen doesn't quite have the white sand and turquoise water of Cancun, but it is a fairly pleasant beachside town. It's laid back charm of 10 years ago however has been replaced by somewhat aggressive and hassly tourist predation, where every single tout pounces on you to "buy this; exchange money; where you from?; taxi!; looking is for free" all the way down the street. It was relentless. There's more shopping to do here than in Cancun, which is good, but requires a thick skin.
We managed to find a travel agent to book the cenotes tour in playa de Carmen. The tour involved zip-lining, kayaking, snorkelling sand rappelling into 4 cenotes, which are collapsed caves. The entire area of the Yucatan is filled with caves due to the unique geological properties of the region. This was the epicentre of the meteorite strike that hit the earth 65 million years ago that killed the dinosaurs. The entire landscape was obliterated. The land is consequently very flat and the ground very porous. Rainwater penetrating the ground carves caves, which sometimes collapse to form the cenotes, or as the maya think of them - gateways to the underworld.
The tour was absolutely brilliant, although rappelling and zip-lining were nerve wracking.
After two days in Playa we flew to Havana from Cancun airport.