Three of my closest girlfriends — Beata, Thanh, and Liuba — became close nearly 10 years ago in San Francisco, moved our separate ways, and now live in 3 cities (SF, LA, NYC). Since we rarely see each other for longer than a dinner these days, we decided that we must arrange for a girls weekend somewhere fun and far from our daily distractions, but close enough for a short 4-day jaunt from both coasts. After let’s just say a few rounds of deliberation, we decided on Playa del Carmen, virtually equidistant from both coasts and possessing both culture and beach (v. important for this crew). And most importantly, good food!
Since I was the only one coming from the east coast, I landed much earlier than the others, arriving via a 6am flight (read: 3:30am wake up call) by way of Chicago, and landing in Cancun at 11:30am. In lieu of waiting the extra 6 hours til the others arrived, I opted to take the bus from the airport which went directly to downtown Playa del Carmen. It was much easier than anticipated, having no idea what to expect once landing in Mexico, and felt totally safe. Upon arriving at Playa, I was greeted with torrential downpour – ahh, welcome to paradise! Thankfully, there were cabs readily available, although I did get stuck out in the downpour for a bit trying to locate the management office down the street.
We rented a 2 bedroom 2 bathroom condo at the Maya Villa Condo & Hotel, which ended up being perfect for our group. It was a huge and beautiful space, with a fully furnished kitchen, spacious rooms, a balcony overlooking the street, and a community pool and hot tub seldom used by other guests. Best of all, we were one block parallel to Avenida 5, Playa’s main drag filled with shops, restaurants, and bars.
First order of business was finding lunch, since it was already 3pm by the time I checked in and got settled. Though the authentic spots would surely be found in the less touristy areas, I made the classic mistake of choosing location over quality by eating at the restaurant located at our hotel’s beach club a block away. Faced with very few actual Mexican options on the menu, I opted for the shrimp tacos and of course, a margarita. The tacos were disappointing at best, but at least I got to sit on the beach like I’d hoped. After a bit of extra laying out after lunch, I then wandered a bit on Avenida 5 to look at future dining options to prep myself for the girls. Ahhh, this was where all the food was! As a consolation, I treated myself to some strawberry cheesecake ice cream from Blue Bunny. Playa del Carmen was much nicer than I thought, and VERY tourist friendly (maybe too much at times?) but also had a cool vibe going through downtown that made you feel a bit farther away from home.
By this point, it was almost time for the girls to arrive, so I came back to get ready and relax, before the girls arrived at 7. Starving and ready to explore the town, the girls wanted to head out right away, so we went out for an early dinner at La Puebla right on the main strip. I was dying for chicken in mole sauce, so that’s exactly what I ordered, with a molcajete (shrimp in a sizzling clay pot with peppers and onions), fajitas, and margaritas rounding out the rest of the table’s orders. It was a pretty delicious meal especially compared to lunch – little did we know at the time that the food was just going to get better each day!
Everyone was spent from travels, so we headed back to the hotel to relax, settle in, test out the pool/hot tub situation (thumbs up), catch up with each other over some vino, and have an early night to bed.