When I returned to Playa del Carmen earlier this year, a place I fell in love with during my last visit, I noticed some things were a little different.

Walking along the beachfront early one morning, I braced myself against the cool sea breeze, unaccustomed to Spring’s milder temperatures. The coastline had been re-sculpted by the changing tides and the water was unusually choppy compared to the smooth-as-glass seas of last September.

playa del carmen beach

‘My beach’ looked wilder, more rugged, and more natural. It was as though my baby had turned into a wayward teenager, adopting a rough new look, and I was the shocked parent who didn’t know what to make of it.

“I think I’ll get used to it,” I thought to myself as I walked along the palm-fringed shore.

After all, that’s what nature does. It changes and evolves within a continuous cycle we are a part of but may never fully understand.

Playa del Carmen has certainly grown and evolved since I was here last year. New restaurants have popped up, whilst some have disappeared. Boutiques showcasing the latest local designers have emerged, along with smoothie bars and yoga centres focused on health and well-being.

‘Playa’ may be developing, but it is managing to do so whilst preserving the important natural treasures that make the area so special – the beaches, cenotes and jungle-clad ancient ruins – so we can all enjoy them for many years to come.

Thanks to being slightly jet-lagged, I was up early enough to see the sun rise over the Caribbean’s silvery seas (though the birds soaring gracefully overhead probably had the best view of all).

Sunrise in playa

A few other early risers stood on the pier at the end of Avenida Constituyentes to welcome the new day, including one very snappily dressed Chihuahua in a pink dress.

“Only in Mexico!” I thought to myself as I stepped off the pier and headed north, my feet slapping into the cool whitewash. As I walked along my favourite stretch of beach in front of the luxurious El Taj condos, I saw him.

The familiar face of a Playa local, a man I had met before along these shores, and surely would again.

“Buenos Dias!” he stated, as though imparting a fact rather than a greeting.

I’m not sure if he recognized me. It was rather unlikely since I had seen him hand out precious gifts to many different people (mostly ladies!) along the beach, but I accepted his offering with a heartfelt, “Gracias.”

I was thankful indeed, not just for the beautiful shell the old man pressed into my palm, but for the fact that no matter how long I had been away from Playa del Carmen, he had been here, striding along the beach as he did every morning, collecting shells in his weathered fingers to give to passers-by.

As I clutched the tiny gift in my hand, I proceeded up the beach with a spring in my step, grateful that no matter what changed in Playa del Carmen, the important things remained the same.

beach shell