Some Things Never Change in Playa del Carmen

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

Sunday Bliss at El Taj and Indigo

We awoke to a blazing blue sky on Sunday morning at El Taj Oceanfront and immediately knew it was going to be a great day. Though every day in Playa del Carmen seems like a weekend, Sundays have a special feeling of relaxation; a chance to completely unwind before the week ahead. First though, we had a few dilemmas to face in regards to how we would spend the day…

After waking up in our deluxe King bed clothed in high thread count linen,

Deluxe King Bed at El Taj

Perhaps we’d brew a pot of delicious strong coffee in our fully appointed chef’s kitchen?

Kitchen at El Taj

Then sip it on the terrace overlooking the pool, lush gardens and Caribbean Sea?

Balcony view at El Taj

Or head to Imprevist restaurant to indulge in a gourmet breakfast of pastries, fruit, yogurt and eggs?

Imprevist in Playa del Carmen

After breakfast, maybe we’d relax in the infinity Jacuzzi perched over the main pool like an overflowing champagne fountain?

Jacuzzi at El Taj

Or simply chill out on our private terrace, taking in the view of the stunning Caribbean sea, streaked with ten different shades of blue…

View from El Taj

Perhaps a soak in our private, heated Jacuzzi, relaxing our muscles against the massaging jets would be in order?

private jacuzzi El Taj

Then maybe we would spend the afternoon with a good book under one of the umbrellas at Indigo beach club, listening to the waves lap against the shore and watching pelicans soar overhead…

Indigo beach club

Later, we could make use of the complimentary ‘Manager’s Welcome Party’ buffet at Indigo, while sipping on fruity cocktails and listening to the live tunes of the resident band.

Indigo beach club

Then walk along the pier in our ‘front yard’ and watch local families haul shiny silver fish from the water with nets.

Pier condo

Fishing El Taj pier

Perhaps we’ll stop on the pier for a while, watching the sun set over our ‘home away from home’, El Taj, wishing we could stay forever in this Caribbean paradise…

Sunset at El Taj

Then make our way back to the comfy lounges at Indigo, singing along to old favorites as the beach turns black and the palm trees are illuminated with golden light.

Indigo band

Afterwards, maybe we’d retire to the luxurious comfort of our condo to watch a movie on one of our three flat screen televisions, lounging on the spacious modular sofa with a large bowl of pop corn…

With so many options, how would we possibly choose how to spend our Sunday at El Taj?

By doing them all of course!

So that’s exactly what we did, experiencing a day of food, music, sun, relaxation and pure bliss; the perfect Sunday at El Taj Oceanfront and Indigo beach club.

I’m already dreaming of next Sunday…

Aquatone at El Taj: Working Out in Style

There’s nothing like a little glamour to encourage me to exercise, which is exactly why I attended my first Aquatone class at the luxurious El Taj Condo Hotel on Friday morning. Surrounded by tropical gardens and presided over by two standing Buddha statues, the gorgeous beach-front pool seemed like the perfect place to work out in style.

playa del carmen hotel

I have to admit, before starting the class I thought it would be a breeze. I mean, how much of a workout can you really have in a gorgeous Balinese-style pool? For me, the word ‘workout’ conjures images of sweaty repetitions and bulky gym equipment, not floating around in a tropical paradise.

playa del carmen hotels

I joined several other ladies and a couple of men in the crystal clear waters to begin the class which began at 10 AM. Our instructor Melissa started with some slow shoulder rolls to get us loosened up.

Then as the sound of the waves faded against the uplifting soundtrack, we started picking up the pace.

“Hey, this is pretty tough!” I thought to myself as I moved my arms and legs through the water, trying to keep up with Melissa’s coordinated moves.

I found it hard to keep my feet on the floor – I kept floating up as my arms moved through the water – and had to work on stabilizing my core to stop myself from floating away!

Melissa demonstrated every move from outside the pool, encouraging us to “be aggressive” and push ourselves harder. I felt my muscles burn as we lifted our knees, ran on the spot as fast as we could, and ‘frog jumped’ up and down the pool.

gym in playa del carmen

It was quite a tough workout after all!

As I looked around at the faces of my class-mates through the splashes made by our moving limbs, they were all smiling and laughing, which encouraged me to loosen up and enjoy the watery workout. So I kept moving, and kept smiling.

I felt rather uncoordinated under the water as though I was moving through jello or walking on the moon, but I knew it was just the water providing my muscles with the resistance necessary to build strength and stamina.

And I could certainly do with some of that!

Melissa encouraged us to use the water to our advantage and move against it deliberately and powerfully. I felt my heart rate increase and was very grateful to be surrounded by the pool’s cooling embrace, unlike poor Melissa who was having a much warmer workout on the pool’s edge.

We began some slower stretching as the class started to wind down. Waves crashed onto the nearby shore and water trickled down from the ‘infinity Jacuzzi’ perched above a tiled feature wall at the end of the pool. It was definitely the most beautiful setting for a workout I had ever experienced, and I was actually a little sad when the class came to an end.

After a healthy breakfast of fresh fruit salad I secured my sunbed for the morning at Indigo Beach Club. A light breeze flowed in from the turquoise Caribbean Sea as birds glided across the clear-blue sky above me. Just in front, fishing boats bobbed around gently on their moorings, having recently returned with the morning’s catch.

I thought to myself, “Yes, Aquatone at El Taj is definitely the kind of workout I could get used to.”

*Aquatone classes are at 10 am Monday, Wednesday and Friday and are complimentary for all Condo Hotel guests, as are all the classes and facilities of The Gym fitness center nearby*