The first time I visited Playa del Carmen, I settled for a mid-range Airbnb studio apartment that turned out to be more expensive than it was actually worth. So while my overall experience in the Riviera Maya then was amazing, my accommodation wasn't such a pleasant experience and it put a damper in my vacation. I've learned my lesson since then; and on my second visit a little over a year later, I manage to indulge in some well-deserved pampering. Sometimes, if you want to have the ultimate stress-free vacation, you have to splurge a little (or a lot) and partake in small luxuries.
Stay at an adults-only all-inclusive. Generally, adults-only all-inclusive resorts tend to be more expensive; but if it's a price you can pay, then it's a price that you would want to pay. Think about it--no screaming or crying or kids running around, and no stressed-out parents. As a result, adults-only resorts are more peaceful, less chaotic and extra stress-free. As a plus, since there's no need for kid-friendly facilities and amenities, there's plenty of room for additional amenities to spoil adults. The AAA four-diamond Royal Playa del Carmen, where I stayed, may just be the perfect choice with its palatial modern Mexican hacienda architecture, deluxe amenities (they have their own coffee shop as well as a 24-hour snack bar so you wouldn't never have to go hungry again!) and beachfront location.
Rent a private yacht for your excursions. Sure, regular excursions where you get to go on a tour with 20 other strangers can just be as fun; but having a boat all to yourselves has its perks especially when you're with a bigger group. There's the privacy, first of all, you can do whatever you want within reason and not have to worry about other people. There's also the fact that you won't have to follow a strict schedule or itinerary. You can go wherever you'd like to and do what you really want to do, and not have to endure a specific part of a tour that you are not particularly interested in. You can take a tour of the Mayan ruins like Tulum or just stay anchored in one spot to party and snorkel all day long, you can! Being a coastal destination, Playa del Carmen has many private yacht charters that are willing to accommodate many customer requests.
Schedule a spa day and get a delicious massage. Skip the offers of a quick massage from locals along the beach. Playa del Carmen is riddled with them and while it may be tempting due to the low price and the idyllic setting, opt instead for a proper spa day where you can get a delicious, deluxe massage as well as enjoy the spa amenities before or after your treatment. Spa Azul at the Royal Playa del Carmen boasts plenty of those: hot tubs, cold plunge pools, a steam room and a sauna. They offer delicious small bites too, so you can enjoy your pre- or post-treatment ritual without suffering the munchies. During my visit, I got a slumber-inducing 50-minute Relax Massage; but they have other amazing things on the menu including a yummy Chocolate wrap and massage.
Do a private tequila tasting. Most Americans assume that the only way to enjoy good tequila is to buy them cheap and take shots, but the fact is Mexicans don't actually take shots with their Tequila. They sip them like cognac. And most Americans aren't even aware that there are several different types of Tequila, the best of which is the extra anejo, which has been aged in oak barrels for three or more years. I have done four Tequila tastings now, and I have to say that while I enjoyed quite a few years of doing Tequila shots, I now have a better appreciation for the drink thanks to those tastings. Sure, they cost more than the usual shots at a bar, but you'll find the experience pleasurable and very educational.
Fine dine. I'm not saying that Mexican street food is not one of the best things on Earth. There's this terrific, truly authentic nightly street food fair a few blocks off of PlayaCar's Avenida 5 that served some of the best tacos I've ever had in my life. But there's something lovely about dining in a posh restaurant and feasting in exquisite fares and fine wine over a nice conversation. Playa del Carmen is home to a diverse food culture so you'll find different types of cuisines in town including Chinese, Brazilian, Mediterranean and Spanish. And if you've opted to stay at The Royal Playa del Carmen, you won't have to go very far. The resort has restaurants to sample all four cuisines.
Michelle Rae Uy is a travel writer, editor and amateur photographer based in Los Angeles. Check out her adventures on Another Spur on the Road.