The first time I visited Playa Del Carmen was fifteen years ago. After a six-month stay in New York, I had to leave America and come back in order to extend my tourist visa. In New York I met an Israeli girl who had just gotten back from a month in Playa. She said it was an inexpensive heaven, and mentioned that her friend Natalie was still there, if I was interested in going, and that it would be easy to find Natalie because Playa is so small.
So the next day, I walked into an STA travel agency (remember travel agents?) and booked a roundtrip ticket to Cancun (which is about a one-hour drive from Playa).
My first night in Playa I stayed in a cheap hotel, an ex-brothel – the same one the Israeli girl had stayed in. Somehow she neglected to mention that it was a complete shit-hole. The next morning, I looked for a better place to stay. Back then, there was only one fancy hotel in town, which I couldn’t afford, and the rest of the places were cheap. A bungalow in Zula was ten bucks more than the first shit-hole, yet ten times better, and actually charming in its own humble way. The bed hung from the ceiling on heavy ropes, like a giant swing covered in mosquito net. The shared bathrooms were inconveniently located outside of the room, but the beauty, charm and tranquility of Playa made this a trivial detail. After I moved myself to Zula and had breakfast, I began to look for Natalie.
I couldn’t find Natalie anywhere. Instead, I found Brian. A handsome and sweet American boy who was at the end of a six-month trek through Central America. Naturally, he jumped at my offer to sleep at my “fancy” bungalow and to act as my bodyguard/boyfriend for the next five days. Fifteen years ago, people knew how to rely on their instincts. I didn’t need to Google Brian to know that he was one of the good guys.
Eventually I did bump into Natalie, who had been partying in Tulum, but we didn’t click like I did with Brian. Besides, who needs a Natalie when you have a Brian?
Fifteen years later, I came back to Playa with my handsome husband and sons and my best friend, who came from Israel with her husband and two sons. We all stayed in a big, cozy house in Playacar (PaseoUxamel) that we rented through Airbnb.
Playa is no longer the small, humble town I remembered. It’s a big, fat city now. Still charming, though. It’s definitely more expensive now than it was back then. I felt like my wallet was being milked wherever we went. We were constantly accosted by people who wanted to sell us something. Nevertheless, we had a great time together. Continue Reading…