Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it’s not always love at first sight. For me, it wasn’t. In fact, I’d sort of dismissed Mexico as a desirable travel destination for most of my life. I mean, I guess I like the beach as much as the next guy, but if I’m going to rough it in Latin America, then why not go somewhere more exotic, more beautiful, somewhere less… boring? I like history and culture and gourmet food. After all, isn’t the beach pretty much all Mexico has to offer?
Yes, I know. Settle down. I’m not proud of my ignorance or arrogance. And yes, I have subsequently fallen head over heals for Mexico. But, I have also come to realize that my misinformed opinion of Mexico is actually pretty pervasive throughout the US. The fact is, the average American just doesn’t hear that much good press about Mexico. We read about drug wars, kidnappings, and desperate poverty. And, those are all true, if exaggerated, just like they are true for the US. And, we only hear of touristy beach destinations that seem to promise a sanitized experience that feels like you never left home. Add it all up and it’s no wonder that I wasn’t interested.
Our first trip to Mexico was meant to be an escape from a dark and rainy Portland winter as well as an early family Christmas present. In this case, we did want a beach vacation, somewhere international, but not too far, and we didn’t want to break the bank. The price of airfare is what ultimately brought Mexico to the top of the list.
Resigned, I began researching locations and honed in on the Caribbean coast for its warm blue water and white sand beaches. Not only for the beauty, but also because I have a bit of a water phobia that is lessened when the water is clear, calm, and relatively shallow. This phobia began when, as a young child, I was foolish enough to watch the movies Jaws, Piranha and Alligator in fairly quick succession.
This being a family vacation, we weren’t interested in the partying and chaos that Cancun’s reputation implies. The destination needed to be small-ish, less touristy, have at least a few really good restaurants, a good selection of vacation rentals, be within easy driving distance from the airport, and we wanted to know we were in Mexico. I leaned toward Tulum or Akumal, but wasn’t sure if they were too small for our first trip. And, given that we don’t speak much Spanish and we had a 5 year old in tow, I didn’t want to make things harder than they needed to be. We chose Playa del Carmen.
As I said, it was not love at first sight, but after I let go of my initial misperceptions, took the time to learn about Mexico’s history and culture, and opened my eyes to the country’s stunning natural beauty, I did fall in love. And I fell hard. We all did.
In future posts I’ll describe our trip to Playa del Carmen as well as those to other parts of Mexico, including San Miguel de Allende, Mexico City, Guanajuato City, Queretaro, and Delores Hidalgo. Stay tuned!