Last June I took my fifth trip to Playa del Carmen, this time with my nine year-old daughter. I was excited to show her the Mexico I loved and I fully expected my trip to be the same as the past four had been when I visited alone, maybe minus the nightlife. Yeah, not so much. These are just a few of the things I learned on this last trip.
It's okay to change plans.
I had fantasized about what our days would be like, and was excited to show her the spots I liked to frequent and spend my time. It didn’t turn out that way though. On our first day we walked the many blocks to Kool Beach Club. I love everything about this club - the food (their fish tacos are to die for), the ambiance, the tunes - it’s a fine way to spend a beach day. Taking my daughter there, however, was a different story. On the morning we arrived, ready to spend a fun day at the beach, the ocean was quite rough with huge waves so my girl wasn’t too comfortable swimming in there, even with me. Kool has a pool, but it’s for adults only, which was unfortunate. Also, I realized that sitting on a lounge chair while she played in the sand just wasn’t going to work out too well.. it's just the way things are set up there. I could see that my fantasy of replicating my trips to Playa with her was not going to be possible, so I needed to be flexible and come up with a new plan. We ended up walking back to the beach in front of Fusion restaurant, which was located pretty close to our hotel (Hotel Azul) - a hotel with a lovely pool set among the trees, in case we needed it. It turned out we did need it and spent most of our days between the pool and the beach. No lounge chairs on this trip - just our towels on the sand. It was perfect.
There's more to buying a hammock than meets the eye.
My girl had brought money she had been saving. I showed her how to exchange it at the airport into pesos, and the whole currency exchange sort of amazed her. The first night in Playa, walking down 5th Avenue, among the many shops, my girl spotted the hammocks in among the merchandise. For whatever reason, she has always loved hammocks. We once decided on one hotel over another because one had a couple of hammocks on the property. Every chance she got, she could be found relaxing in one of them. So there we were, walking along the main strip with hammocks on either side of us, in different styles and different colours. We bargained with a few vendors (she loved this as well) and in the process learned more about hammocks than I ever cared to know. Cotton, nylon, silk, double stitched, single stitched, chair style, laying style - who knew there was so much to know about hammocks! Armed with the knowledge of a few days of asking questions and bargaining with various vendors, my girl decided on an orange and yellow, laying style hammock made of silk, double stitched. She spent about $30 for it. And she wants to hang it in her room. I haven’t quite figured out that one yet.
Eating ice cream EVERY night after dinner is a fine tradition.
That’s right, every night. I don’t think I had ever eaten ice cream in Playa before that trip, but this quickly became a new tradition while we walked up and down 5th Avenue after dinner. This is how it would go - first stop was Haagen Daz for two scoops in a cup for me, and then across the street to the gelato place for my girl. They got to know us there. Pretty funny that my girl’s first gelato experience was in Mexico. She teaches me every day to take pleasure in the little things.. guilt free.
I experienced so much with her on that trip - we often talk about it even now, four months later. She loved Mexico as I do, and in fact, didn’t want to leave. She loved the people, the culture and the food (chicken tacos at either Fusion at the beach or El Tulipana at 5th and 16th were a favourite - if it were up to her, she would have eaten them every day). The photo above was taken at Fusion - dinner right on the beach. Her favourite excursion was snorkeling at the reef off the coast of Puerto Morelos with the Snorkel Shop - they took such great care with her and gave her the experience of her life. She loved the butterfly conservatory, giant turtles and (of course) the hammocks at Xcaret Eco Theme Park. We walked 5th Avenue every night and enjoyed the artists who sell their wares each week off of 5th Ave. one night each week. The trip I had envisioned for us was quite different from the one it turned out to be, and I’m so grateful - we had more fun than I could have ever imagined or hoped for.