Tepoznieves: The Sweet Taste of Mexico

Just around the corner from the properties of Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen, is a little ice creamery with a lot of character. Tepoznieves is not your normal ice creamery, however. It is a very special place where you can discover the unique flavors of Mexico, and where one scoop of the delicious refreshing treat is never enough.

tepoznieves

Tepoznieves is situated on the corner of Constituyentes and Avenida 10, just around the corner from Porto Playa condos. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but at just 25 Pesos (around $2) for a small cup with two scoops, I’ve decided it’s a very, very good thing.

The best thing, however, is that you will be offered samples of various flavors before you decide on your favorite.

And I’m talking about very unique flavors here! Tequila ice-cream (yes!), queso (cheese), avocado, mantequilla (butter) and more. Of course the usual suspects are still available such as chocolate, but it’s not just any chocolate, this is Mayan chocolate made from pure cacao with dark chocolate chunks and it is absolutely delicious.

counter at tepoznieves

There are fruit sorbet styles such as passionfruit, limon and mango as well as creamy varieties such as coconut and vanilla.

Both cups and cones are available and you can mix your favorite flavors to create a unique taste sensation. They have some of the most original ice cream flavors I have ever had, such as deliciously fruity guabana or the blow-your-head-off ‘coffee with yoghurt’.

Initially some of the flavors seem a little strange, but I love the way they take off-beat ingredients such as basil, rice and corn and turn it into a delicious sweet treat.

The really adventurous can even sprinkle on a little chili powder for a truly local taste!

The small store is beautifully designed in bright colors and ornate decorations, creating a vibrant atmosphere for the eyes as well as the taste buds. Small tables decorated in brightly colored fruit and vegetables adorn the sidewalk where you can sit and watch the world go by as you savor your refreshingly treat.

What’s more, Tepoznieves uses all natural ingredients which means no nasty chemicals or additives. Children are safe to enjoy a special treat on a hot day without parents worrying about preservatives or artificial flavors.

family at tepoznieves

The all natural ice cream also makes a lovely desert after a dinner on Fifth avenue, as it is such a lovely spot to sit in the evening and catch a cool sea breeze.

night lights at tepoznieves

I think everyone who visits Playa del Carmen should visit Tepoznieves, to experience the unique flavors of this wonderful country. Never before has ‘going for ice cream’ been such a culinary and cultural experience, and its convenience to Condo Hotels’ properties means there is simply no excuse not to stop by for a scoop… or three.

ice cream

Believe me, once you try it, you’ll be back for more!

A Day on Cozumel Island

Situated just off the coast of Playa del Carmen is Mexico’s third largest Island, Cozumel. We decided to experience Island life for a day and headed over on one of the fast ferries which depart regularly from the port at the southern end of town.

Tickets are around $12 per person, one way, and can be purchased at the ticket counter at the port. Ferries run all day from early morning to late evening to ensure you maximum time on the island. As it was our first time to Cozumel, we didn’t know what to expect so decided not to make plans and to simply take the day as it came.

Ferry to Cozumel

We took our snorkels as we’d heard about the fantastic coral reef fringing the island. We hoped to catch a glimpse of the world’s largest barrier reef.

Upon alighting the ferry at the port, we were surprised by the designer store fronts and high end brands in residence on Cozumel. A glimpse of the large international cruise ships docking at the port put the pieces of the puzzle together; it is a popular stop-off destination for Caribbean cruises.

We bypassed the shiny stores and headed through the town into a quaint, brightly painted square. Old men sat peacefully watching the world go by while women gathered to gossip and wrangle small children. This was the sort of laid back island life I had hoped to see, and it was lovely to stroll through the square under the shade of old leafy trees.

It was nice to see that despite the importance of cruise ship tourism to the local economy, there was still a local flavor alive and well on the island.

Cozumel street

Door in Cozumel

We wandered through the back streets of the town and admired the brightly painted buildings and quaint local restaurants. It was mid morning and the sun began to beat down strongly, encouraging us to seek out relief in the Caribbean Sea. Somewhat stubbornly ignoring calls from enthusiastic taxi drivers looking to make a fare, we resolved to explore on foot and headed south along the coast.

Yellow house in Cozumel

We passed a few waterfront restaurants with access to the water, wondering where we would find a suitable access point into the cool Caribbean. The water shone like bright blue crystals, reflecting the sun’s rays, begging us to submerge in it’s cool embrace.

We came to a lighthouse which sat on a lovely bay and decided we could wait no longer – we were going in! Only two other people were on the tiny beach as we laid our bags down and prepared to cool off. The water was deliciously refreshing and small colorful fish darted around the rocks beneath the surface.

private beach in Cozumel

Rejuvenated by our swim in our ‘private bay,’ we then guzzled down ice-cold sodas and snacked on chips and salsa at the waterfront restaurant, admiring the view. It was a weekday, and we had to pinch ourselves that we were sitting beach-side on a Caribbean island, while most people we knew were slaving away at their jobs back home.

We decided to explore more of the island on foot, and cut through the center of it. We emerged at a bustling town full of locals going about their busy days. Squares, government buildings, hospitals and stores buzzed with the midday rush. It was hard to believe that just across the water from Playa del Carmen, there was a busy, functioning city with a thriving population.

We stopped in at a local restaurant for lunch, far form the tourist trail. While we dined, we chatted to the owner of the restaurant who was more than happy to fill us in on the state of the island. He told us that the economy was suffering a little since the hurricane of ’05 which damaged some of the reef system and washed away some of the beaches on the east coast.

Restaurant in Cozumel

But he enjoyed the slow pace of life on the island – it was the only life he ever knew. He dreamed of moving to the colonial town of Valledolid some day, but wasn’t sure when that would be.

It was great to get a local’s perspective of the island from someone who has seen all the changes occur over the years. It struck me how vulnerable islands are to the natural environment, compared to the mainland where growth simply continues along the coast or inland.

I was glad our experience of Cozumel consisted of a nice swim, a good walk, and some interesting conversation with the locals.

Foodstall in CozumelSlow paced island life on Cozumel…

As we made our way back to the dock to depart on the ferry, I wished the island well in it’s attempt to balance large scale cruise ship tourism with the local culture, and hoped the local people, especially the friendly restauranteur, would continue to thrive in their beautiful island home.

Capturing the Color of Playa del Carmen

What is it about Playa del Carmen that makes it so special? Is it the turquoise Caribbean Sea? World-class restaurants? Night-life? Cosmopolitan atmosphere? I’ve been pondering this question lately, wondering what it is exactly that has me head-over-heels in love with this sea-side town.

And I think I found the answer.

It’s the color!

Everywhere you look in Playa del Carmen, from the sparkling blue sea to the fuchia bouganvillia tumbling off balconies, color is all around.

bouganvillia

I think it’s the color of Playa that makes it so special, creating a vibrant atmosphere to lift the spirits of everyone who visits its shores.

beautiful flowers in playa del carmen

After the rainy season, tropical flowers are everywhere, blooming in every shade of pink…

playa del carmen sunset

A pink which is reflected in the sky every evening at dusk, bathing the town in a warm, soothing glow…

Food at Imprevist

The food of course, is some of the most colorful in the world, not to mention the most flavorsome…

church in playa del carmen

And the sky shines a brilliant, bright blue…

Imprevist al fresco

When dining al fresco, the streets are bathed in a golden glow, and the leaves of the trees are lit up in an iridescent ‘verde’.

skeleton

Shopping on Fifth Avenue is a feast for the eyes with so much life and color all around, from the vibrant textiles to the ‘colorful characters’ you’ll meet!

hats

Perhaps you’d like to take a little piece of the colorful culture home with you…

ice cream

Or simply savor all the colorful flavors while you can! Traditional Mexican ice-cream, anyone?

mural

Murals and street art adorn the walls of the town for everyone to enjoy. I love this enormous, vibrant mural in the courtyard of the Palacio Municipal building in the town square.

tropical fruit

Tropical fruit lines the shelves of the local mercado, looking very inviting in every bright color imaginable!

caribbean

And then of course, there is the Sea. The sparking blue Caribbean, which is perhaps the most beautiful color of all, enticing swimmers into its refreshing waters and rejuvenating them from the heat of the day.

If only there was a way of capturing the color of Playa del Carmen and taking it home with you! But it’s just another reason to keep coming back for your annual dose of color therapy; to be revived and rejuvenated by the uniquely vibrant beauty of this town.

Snorkeling with Whale Sharks

One of the biggest draw cards of the Riviera Maya is the opportunity to snorkel with whale sharks in the Caribbean Sea from June to September. The waters off the coast off Cancun, less than an hour’s drive from Playa del Carmen, offer one of the best sites in the world for whale shark spotting. Condo Hotels can arrange a professional tour, including all equipment, breakfast and lunch with guaranteed sightings of these majestic creatures.

Whale Shark in Playa del Carmen

We departed Playa del Carmen at 6:30 AM, arriving at the marina near Cancun about an hour later. After a quick breakfast, we boarded the speedboat and were given a briefing on the feeding patterns of the sharks, as well as a safety briefing.

The boat ride out to the feeding site was about 45 minutes, and I would recommend taking precautions for sea sickness, as some people on our boat did suffer. Of course, once we spotted the first fins, tails and enormous heads gliding through the water with huge gaping mouths, all was forgotten.

Whale shark mouth

We were in awe already, and we hadn’t even taken to the water yet.

Though there were about ten on our boat, only three people were permitted at a time with each guide, ensuring the safety of both the sharks and swimmers. It is a privilege to be able to observe these majestic creatures carry out their natural feeding patterns in the wild, so touching them is not permitted.

There were times, however, when the sharks came quite close, especially the huge tail fins which power the enormous creatures through the water.

Our guides encouraged us to swim towards the head of the shark, in the direction they were swimming, then swim alongside them for as long as we could keep up.

Staring into the eye of these magnificent fish and watching them filter water through their huge, gaping gills was an experience I will never forget.

whale shark eye

Truly a once in a lifetime experience!

After the group had two turns in the water each, we headed to the gorgeous Isla Mujeres for lunch. The boat anchored in the crystal clear waters of the shallow lagoon at the north end of the island, and we had a refreshing dip as the crew prepared a delicious lunch of sandwiches and fresh ceviche.

It was a wonderfully relaxing end to an exciting day swimming with the giants of the sea. Check out the video for a glimpse of what to expect, although keep in mind that nothing compares to seeing them in person!

Living the High Life at Porto Playa

I recently had the pleasure of staying in one of the two bedroom penthouses at Porto Playa condos, and experienced what living the high life was all about! My sister was visiting Playa del Carmen from the states and I wanted her to experience the best of this town I have come to love so much.

Upon entering the glass doors of the apartment, we were immediately struck by the stylish yet earthy design, influenced by Mayan culture. There is definitely something unique about Condo Hotels, an attention to detail which simply isn’t found at large all-inclusive resorts catering to droves of tourists.

Porto Playa certainly felt like a ‘home away from home’ for us as we made the most of the luxury and comfort of our suite. Soft, pillow top beds, natural bath products and marble flooring throughout created a welcoming oasis after days spent shopping and beach hopping in Playa del Carmen.

And then there was the view! Overlooking the pool, we kept an eye on the sun and planned our day around sunbathing and relaxing by the deep blue cascading infinity pool. My sister loved the in-built lounge chairs for relaxing in the cool, clear water. Having seen all of the condo hotel pools now, I think that the pool at Porto Playa is now my favorite.

Porto Playa pool

Relaxing…

Surrounded by lush green gardens, it feels like a jungle paradise with a decidedly tropical feel, and the elevated position provides excellent views of the surrounding area.

Pool at Porto Playa

Love this pool!

Our evenings were spent grilling on our own private roof terrace, then simmering in the private jacuzzi under the moon-lit sky. Screens of green plants provided total seclusion, making us feel like the only ones in the place!

terrace at Porto Playa

Private terrace with BBQ and Jacuzzi…

The enormous space we had to utilize during our stay made us not want to leave the condo, and instead just enjoy all the facilities on offer. We did, however, tear ourselves away on occasion to relax on soft lounges at the nearby Indigo beach club and listen to the gentle waves lap the sandy shore.

Indigo beach club

Chilling at Indigo beach club

After exploring the great restaurants around town for dinner, we would return home to watch a movie on the flat screen television in the living room before retiring to our comfy beds where we slept soundly each night.

Life at Porto Playa was very easy to get used to, so when it came time to leave the luxury and comfort of our penthouse, we couldn’t help but be a little sad. We had experienced what it was like to live the high life, so returning to normal life wouldn’t be easy, but we had created special memories to last a lifetime and knew that someday we would return.

Porto Playa collage

Memories of Porto Playa condos…

Renting a Car in Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is a great city for walking, with many options for transport and sight-seeing. It is also the perfect base for a variety of day trips to cenotes, ruins and deserted beaches, so renting a car in Playa del Carmen is a great way to explore the surrounding Riviera Maya.

Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza

There are a multitude of car rental companies around town, and the process for renting is very straightforward. Prices generally range from about $50 for a compact car to $100 for an SUV, including full insurance. This is important to have, as it’s always better to be safe than sorry when embarking on a self-drive tour.

Are the roads safe in Mexico?

The road in Playa del Carmen

Some people who have never traveled to this region of Mexico may be concerned about the roads, but after driving around Playa del Carmen and beyond to the surrounding Riviera Maya countless times, I can assure you that they are in very good condition.

Some of the local streets around town may suffer minor disrepair after it rains, but the highways are very well sealed and well signed.

Watch out for the topes!

One of the main differences I have noticed about the roads in Mexico is the prevalence of speed bumps, or ‘topes’. As a safety precaution and speed deterrent they perform a very important role, but keep an eye out for signs marked ‘Tope’ or you will be in for quite a shock when you suddenly find yourself at one!

Why rent a car when you can take a tour?

This really comes down to personal preference, and what your individual vacation style is. Some people prefer to have the concierge organize all their transport and tours, and this is a very convenient option. Some of us, however, prefer a little more adventure and freedom on our travels, and renting a car offers the freedom to create your own schedule and be your own tour guide.

Many people prefer having the freedom to go wherever, whenever they want without relying on someone else’s pre-determined schedule. Also, renting a car for a family or a small group can be very economical, both time and money wise.

Where should I go?

There are so many options for day trips from Playa del Carmen. Drive to a local cenote, explore ancient ruins, deserted beaches or visit a colonial town.

Suggested itineraries:

Turtles and Cenote - Head south to Akumal bay (about 40 mins) and snorkel with giant sea turtles. Relax on white sand beaches and have lunch at a waterfront restaurant. Visit a cenote in the afternoon, such as Azul, Cristallino or ‘Jardin del Eden’ and take a refreshing dip in the cool, clear water of these natural sink holes.

Coba Ruins - About one and a half hours’ drive south-west from Playa del Carmen is the ancient city of Coba. Explore by bicycle or cycle taxi, climb an ancient pyramid, and then drive to one of three nearby cenotes to cool off from the heat of the day.

Yal ku lagoon - A unique and fascinating place to spend the day, snorkeling, swimming and relaxing, north of Akumal bay.

Day trip to Valledolid - About two hours’ drive from Playa del Carmen, Valledolid is a great town to visit for history buffs and cultural enthusiasts. Eat ice cream in the zocalo, visit the small museum and wander through cavernous cathedrals built hundreds of years ago. Stop off to marvel at the natural wonder of cenote Zaci, in a natural cave filled with fresh water and dripping with green vegetation.

Valledolid

Valledolid

Wherever you decide to visit with your rental car, you will be sure to discover the many fascinating sites of the Riviera Maya and beyond, with the freedom to explore them at your leisure. As long as you have a valid driver’s license and purchase the necessary insurance, you can be assured a unique and adventure filled vacation. Happy driving!

Rental Car Playa del Carmen

A Little Book With A Big Mission

We are very pleased to announce we have a published author in the Condo Hotels community! Bonnie Ballantyne, author of the illustrated book, ‘Crocodile Goes Out’, is a condo owner at Porto Playa, and her book is set to create positive change throughout Playa del Carmen and beyond.

Crocodile Goes Out

I first met Bonnie at a writer’s circle in Playa del Carmen, and was immediately drawn to her story. As detailed in the book, Bonnie developed a keen interest in the Maya culture since buying her condo in Porto Playa, and became drawn to the writings of Carl Calleman on ‘The Mayan Calendar and the Transformation of Consciousness.’

She became fascinated with Calleman’s theories regarding a stele found at the ruins of Coba, which suggested that the nine cycles of human consciousness would come to an end on October 28, 2011. She decided to chronicle the last 20 days on Facebook, and in order to remember the order of the Day Lords of the Mayan calendar, she created a story beginning with the words, “Crocodile goes out…”

Maya Calendar

Bonnie planned to commemorate the day at Coba, but after a hurricane warning, she decided the beach at Playa del Carmen would be a better place. On October 28, 2011, she received the terrible news that her son, Adam, had passed away suddenly. The day marked the end of life as she knew it and the start of a new chapter in which she would never be the same.

At Adam’s memorial, she met a friend of her son to whom she told the story of Crocodile Goes Out. The friend was an artist and together, they decided to make a book to honor Adam’s memory; spreading a message of healing and hope.

Crocodile Goes Out is the only book on Amazon written in English, Spanish and Mayan glyphs. The story itself is simple yet poetic and is accompanied by beautiful original water colors by Elizabeth McClellan. It is entertaining, poignant and educational, and contains a glossary of common Mayan glyphs in the back of the book.

Bonnie believes the book will be a useful resource for local children in Playa del Carmen and beyond to other parts of Mexico. It will also benefit English speaking students learning Spanish, or anyone with an interest in the ancient culture of the Maya. I have to agree. The book is something really special, from the back story, to the turn of events in which it came to be written, to the beautiful artwork.Maya Artwork

Mostly though, it is the incorporation of the Mayan calendar into the story, along with the inclusion of authentic Mayan glyphs that makes the book so very unique. Bonnie hopes to get the book into local schools and libraries throughout Playa del Carmen, so students can learn about Maya culture through story telling and art.

Condo Hotels is very pleased to be selling copies of the book for $10, the proceeds of which will go towards providing more books to the local charity organization, KKIS (Keeping Kids In School), who provide school supplies to needy children and work closely with schools in the area. We have copies available in the reception of Porto Playa.

We are very proud to support one of our condo owners and hope you will help us give back to the local community by buying a copy of Crocodile Goes Out to take home with you!

For more information you can visit Bonnie’s website, or check out the book on Amazon.

Confessions of a Reformed Gym-a-phobe

Can I let you in on a little secret? I’ve never been much of a gym person. My boyfriend has tried to drag me along to various gyms over the years, and in that time I have come to the conclusion that gyms are not my favorite places to hang out. I’m more of a yoga, dance-class or swim-in-the-sea sort of person when it comes to doing exercise, not a ‘run on a treadmill’ sort of gal.

Gym machines in Playa del Carmen

I don’t want to feel like I’m exercising when I’m exercising, you know what I mean?

I’ve held on to my opinion that gyms are sterilized, soulless places, and therefore thought it highly unlikely I was ever going to step foot inside one again.

That was until we stayed at the El Taj in Playa del Carmen and were given free passes to The Gym for the entire length of our stay.

But to tell you the truth, even then, I was just being polite when I accompanied my boyfriend to check it out.

“Just come and see what they have on offer,” he suggested to me, “who knows, you might enjoy this one.”

I just about choked on my breakfast at the thought that I would actually enjoy a gym, but decided to go along and prove my point that gyms are boring, lifeless places I have no intention of spending time in, in the hope of silencing him forever.

Upon entering the shiny glass doors of the entrance, I have to say I was quite impressed by the stylish design and pleasant color scheme. To the right of the reception area was a juice bar and cafe, selling delicious looking healthy snacks and smoothies.

“Hmm, maybe there is hope I’ll enjoy it here,” I said to my boyfriend, picturing myself passing the time over a chaya smoothie and a tuna wrap whilst flicking through a glossy magazine.

“That’s for afterwards,” he said, knowing me too well. “Just have a look at the timetable to see if there are any classes you’d like to do.”

I sighed, and took the paper timetable from him begrudgingly, not expecting to find anything I liked.

My eyes widened as I looked over the class schedule packed with options; some pretty unique and interesting ones at that.

the gym playa timetable

“Woah, look how many yoga classes they have!” I said, surprised that a gym would have so many, at different times of the day. Gyms I had visited previously only ever had a few yoga classes at times which didn’t suit me. I like to do yoga in the morning, with a few different time options in case I feel like sleeping in. This gym, however, had numerous classes from 7am to 10am almost every single day, as well as evening classes just in case the mood struck.

Not only that, but along with the usual suspects of Spin, Fat Burner and Step, there were some classes that seemed like they might actually be fun!

“Where is the Aquatone class held?” I asked the fit looking girl behind the counter, looking around for the pool inside the building.

“Oh that is held in the pool at the El Taj hotel,” she informed me matter-of-factly, referring to the beautiful oceanfront Balinese style pool we’d just swum in that morning.

El Taj Pool small

I couldn’t believe my luck that three times per week, a water exercise class was going to be brought to me! I wouldn’t even have to leave the hotel!

It didn’t stop there. Afro-jazz dance classes, Ballet Fit classes and Cuban Salsa would cater to my love of dance, while Yoga and Tai Chi classes on the beach every weekend would allow me to exercise in the great outdoors just as I enjoyed.

A smile crept across my boyfriend’s face as he saw my look of shock and surprise.

“We might make a gym junkie out of you yet!” he teased as he threw me a clean white towel from the orderly pile. We entered the stylish premises lined with flat screens as the state of the art sound system pumped out upbeat tunes.

He headed for the cross trainer as I headed for the yoga studio, which was filled with the aroma of burning incense as the calming sound of yogic chanting emanated from the speakers.

‘Yes,’ I thought to myself as I positioned myself on the mat to begin the class, ‘maybe we will.’

yoga studio in Playa del Carmen

yoga at the beach

Access to The Gym including all of the classes is free for all Condo Hotel guests.

Discovering the Yal-Ku Lagoon

Visiting Akumal has always been my favorite day-trip from Playa del Carmen. Whenever I meet a new visitor to Playa it is THE place I recommend they visit. The beach is pristine and the crystal clear water is filled with sea turtles who feed in the bay. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who hasn’t enjoyed snorkeling with those majestic creatures.

Just last week I discovered yet another treasure of Akumal – Yal-ku lagoon. I’d heard of it before and had created a picture in my mind of a sandy inlet like some of the other lagoons I’d seen along the Riviera Maya. Upon entering the lagoon via a jungle-clad path dotted with bronze sculptures, however, I realized that Yal-ku was indeed a very unique place, unlike anything I’d seen in the area.

Yal-kul lagoon Akumal

Yal-ku is located to the north of the main beach. Upon arriving in Akumal from the highway, follow the road to the end and turn left. After about five minutes, take another left at the sign for the lagoon which leads to the parking lot and registration area. Here, tickets are available for 150 Pesos per person, or about US$12. Snorkels, fins and life jackets are also available for hire, or you can bring your own.

If I had to describe the lagoon, I would say it is half-cenote, half-ocean. This description is fairly accurate, as Yal-ku is fed by both natural ground water and sea water which flows in from the Caribbean.

The lagoon is most famous for its snorkeling, and whilst you wont find any sea turtles here, you will see a lot of fish of all shapes and sizes. It was some of the best snorkeling I’ve done in the area, swimming around in the clear, protected lagoon and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere.

Yal-kul lagoon snorkeling

The lagoon is rather large, and there are many islands and rocky coves to explore. Snorkeling around the large mangrove island was a unique experience as I’d never seen mangroves from under the water before; with fish hiding and feeding in its slimy roots.

I went with a group of ladies and we hired a thatched palapa for the day for 200 Pesos (about $18). You don’t have to do this, and there are lockers and some seating areas available to leave your belongings, but it was really nice to have our own shaded area complete with a large round table, chairs and even a hammock.

Palapa at Yal - Kul

It was just a few steps from the palapa to the entry of the lagoon, which made for a lovely relaxing day of snorkeling and chilling out. We brought our own drinks and snacks (alcohol is not allowed) and enjoyed views out over the lagoon which stretched towards the Caribbean.

Snorkeling at Yal-kul lagoon

We enjoyed ourselves so much we were one of the last groups to leave when the staff came around at closing time to rouse everyone out of the water for closing time.

So now when I’m recommending places to visit to first-time visitors to Playa del Carmen, I’ll have to include the Yal-ku lagoon in Akumal on my list of the top places to visit. A beautiful, natural environment which has been well preserved for all to enjoy. Especially the fish!

Tip: Yal-ku lagoon is located in the area of Akumal, about a 40 minute drive south of Playa del Carmen. It is best reached by car.

Finding Paradise in Tulum

Playa del Carmen is located in the middle of the Riviera Maya, a stretch of pristine Caribbean coastline stretching from Cancun in the north to Tulum in the south. Most of the places I love to visit from Playa are located to the south of town, such as Akumal, Xcacel and Cenote Azul, but I recently discovered another piece of paradise in the form of Tulum’s Paraiso beach (which literally means paradise!).

My previous visits to Tulum had proved a little fruitless, and I had actually wondered what all the fuss was about. I’d ventured south to explore the ancient ruins which overlook the ocean, but that day the clouds decided to open up, preventing me from appreciating the true beauty of the beach.

Tulum ruins

The other time I visited Tulum, I was a little confused by its layout. The pueblo (town) is set just off the highway almost five kilometers away from the beaches, with the ruins situated at the northern end. If you don’t have your own transport, this means utilizing the collectivos (vans) and taxis to get around, as it is too far to cover on foot.

On my last visit, however, we had access to our own vehicle, which allowed us to explore at our own pace. We decided to hit the beach just south of the ruins, which had public access and parking.

The beach in front of the Paraiso beach club was busy with happy locals and tourists enjoying the sea and sun, but we still managed to secure a spot under the shade of a natural umbrella – a coconut palm.

Tulum palm tree

We took to the crystal clear water which reflected a bright turquoise blue. As soon as I entered the water, I was filled with such a deep feeling of appreciation for being able to spend time in the Mayan Riviera. It truly is such a beautiful part of the world, and it’s beaches are something to behold.

What’s more, they are completely free!

There are many resorts along the coastline of Tulum that provide access to the beach for the cost of a sun-lounger or a meal at their restaurant, but honestly, I prefer the public beaches where locals and tourists mingle and enjoy the beach together.

Tulum paraiso beach

Paradise is available to everyone, and is not something that has to be earned or bought. It is simply there, waiting to be enjoyed by everyone who takes the time to do so. The crystal clear, invigorating waters, the white sandy shores lined with palm trees and flanked by jungle; it is nature’s gift to us in this part of the world.

Looking around at the contented beach-goers – kids burying themselves in the fine sand; elderly couples perched on chairs under umbrellas; tourists taking multiple ‘selfies’ of themselves against the spectacular Caribbean backdrop – it seemed that everyone else felt the same way.

We were experiencing paradise on earth, and there was simply no other place any of us wanted to be that day.

Paradise in Tulum

Tip: ‘Paradise’ beach is easily accessed form Playa del Carmen, less than an hours’ drive south. Turn left at the traffic lights before the town, then left at the T-junction near the beach. After about 2-3 KM, turn right at the sign which says “Public Access to Beach”, then pull up a piece of sand under a palm tree and enjoy!