Here are a few general tips to keep your Playa vacation budget-friendly:
- Use local transportation. It's not difficult to learn, and we love helping our guests get the most of this option. Taking taxis everywhere or renting a car for a whole week can really eat into your cash. If you want to go exploring, just rent a car in Playa for the day or two instead of for your whole trip. For us, traveling like the locals do includes taking the bus from the airport to Playa instead of a shuttle (if the total number in our party is 4 or less). The ADO bus station is a short walk from our condo and can take you to destinations up and down the coastline as well as inland to popular ruins and colonial cities, for little more than a song. And the colectivo system is hard to beat for getting up and down the coastline inexpensively and on your own time schedule. The bonus is you get to experience true local flavor.
- Visit the grocery store upon your arrival and stock up on adult beverages, snacks and items to make a few meals in the condo. You'll be glad you did.
- When eating out, don't be afraid to venture away from 5th Avenue. Just a few short blocks "inland" and you will find some of the best local restaurants at very inexpensive prices. Ask us - we'll be happy to give you some specific suggestions. There is a Mexican food glossary in our condo that will help you navigate the menus in Spanish.
- Skip the ice cream spots on 5th Avenue and opt for Mexican ice cream on 10th or Juarez - there are lots of them. Instead of paying $10US for a scoop of Haagan Daaz, you'll pay about $1-2US and experience some new flavors at the same time.
- Slow down. Really. This is Mexico, where life should be lived to the fullest! Don't feel that you need to plan out every day. Save time to explore the area at a slow pace and be aware of the beautiful scenery around you. Spend a day at the pool (WalMart has lots of pool toys) instead of forking out cash every day for another eco-park. They can be really fun, but pricey. Our pool is pretty cool and with sandwich makings upstairs, it's a really inexpensive day.
- Ride bikes around the Playacar neighborhood - there are lots of beautiful homes to see. (We supply 2 bikes in our condo). Just be careful and watch for pedestrians and other bikers!
- Visit a cenote - there are a couple that are close to Playa and easy to get to using the colectivos. They have very inexpensive entrance prices ($5-10US) and are a great way to experience something unique to the area. Pack a lunch and make it an even more affordable way to spend a day.
- People watch. For the price of a cervesa on 5th Avenue or at the beach - you will be surprised at how entertaining our species can be, and how varied! We love hanging at the outdoor cafes.
- Also on or around 5th Avenue - pop into some of the charming boutique hotels and wander around. We've never seen such beautiful and totally unique properties anywhere else we have traveled. The various pools and courtyards are really worth seeing, and the architecture, too. We've never had anyone object to this, and many have offered to show us a room which is fun. Some to try - Kinbe, Luna Blue, Deseo, Hacienda del Caribe, Moskito Blue, but the list is almost infinite.
- Watch the calendar at Buy Playa for local activities going on - especially the art walks. Often on Tuesday and Thursday evenings you can see local artisans showing their work on or close to 5th. And at any time you can duck into the Casa Mediterranea (between Calle 6 & 8 on 5th Avenue) and explore their galleries and boutique shops with local work. There are a couple of other small galleries up and down 5th - check them out.
- One of the local activities that is fun (and free) is to volunteer at a charity event or activity. Coco's Cat Rescue is one of our favorites. Every Friday afternoon you can play with rescued kittens, getting them used to people and ready to be adopted. Be careful, though, you might fall in love with a couple of them yourself!
- Lots of local clubs have live music and wonderful bands for you to enjoy, just watch what you spend on drinks or this can work against you. Some of the most popular joints are WahWah's, Bad Boys, Luna Blue and Kixte.
- Spend a day at Akumal swimming with the turtles. Akumal is about 30 minutes south of Playa and is accessible by colectivo for a song. Once there, if you have your own snorkel gear, it's just a matter of laying down your beach towel and getting in the water. There are dive shops there that will rent you snorkel gear pretty inexpensively for the entire day, for the cost of one snorkel excursion that may only last a few hours. Eat lunch at the Economica lunch counter near the convenience store just outside the arches. See more info in our Things to Do tab.
- You can even check out a few small ruins for free without leaving town. Although certainly nothing like the magnificent pyramids outside of town, there are some interesting ones throughout Playa that are fun to see. One is just around the first corner (headed west) from the condo. Another is immediately out the back door of WahWah's beach club. We like the ones that are at the end of the path through the wooded area in Playacar (take the path by the guard gate headed to the beach).
What are your favorite ways to enjoy Playa del Carmen inexpensively?