Quick Escape to Playa del Carmen

It’s been a few months since I’ve been to Sandy Toes and it’s time to check on my little beach pad. It’s fully equipped now and I can literally get my purse and hop on a plane. No packing necessary. Nada.

Here’s to everything being pristine at Sandy Toes, giving me 5 full beach days. PDC posts coming soon!


Time to Say Adios

After more than 2 months, I’m going to be leaving Sandy Toes in Playa in a couple of days. I have the same kind of feeling you get on a Sunday when you know you have to go to work on Monday. It’s getting harder to enjoy my time here now because I’m thinking of what still needs to be done before I leave.

The cleaning lady has been scheduled, Samantha’s visit to the vet for travel papers is happening today, transportation to the airport booked, and I’m now reviewing my Last Day To Do List making sure I have everything accounted for. I see a quick trip to Home Depot for bug spray and DampRid is still needed. A trip to the laundry mat for all the bedding and towels the day before I leave. A complete and easy departure is my goal.

I’ll be returning to Monterrey with improved Spanish, extended waistline, and a happy heart to be back with Sr. Elizondo again.





Sandy Toes “Almost Finished” Decor

Movin’ right along with my Sandy Toes beach condo. Here’s the final result from this visit. (No changing/rearranging anymore. Additions only!)

My “No Entryway” entryway

The sala

The kitchen

The desk zone

1 of 2 bedrooms

The 2nd bedroom is not worth looking at yet.

I’m leaving this time with Sandy Toes beginning to actually feel like a home.

Sandy Toes One Year Later

I got the keys and opened the front door to Sandy Toes one year ago in February. Unbelievable how time flies. I was one of the first owners to get their condo and now almost all of the condos are occupied. A majority of the people I saw back then were the construction workers. And at night, the parking lot had about 10 cars with the only noise being crickets from the jungle next to me.

A year later, it has changed dramatically. Sandy Toes is now part of a community. I would say there are only a few random condos not being used. My neighbors come from all over, Venezuela, Cuba, United States, Poland, Canada. And there are always travelers from different countries passing through as well. I can hear French being spoken as I write this. Children are playing together after school. They don’t always speak each others language, but they seem to work through the challenge.  The park is constantly in use with people playing basketball, jogging, and walking their dogs. I love spending time here. There are definitely bigger, more modern condos available, and ones closer to the beach for sure, but this one feels a lot like home for me now.

I now know the “yelp” that comes from the men who are bringing the water.  I know the “whistle” sound the man makes who will sharpen knives. I know my tank of gas for the home lasts about 1-1 1/2 months before it needs to be refilled. Mornings in Jan-Feb can be chilly and rains can come in a flash. Green bananas can ripen completely in one day. Nativo has the best juices/smoothies, El Fogon the best trompos, and Bio Organico the best vegetarian/vegan restaurant. DampRid works. Air conditioning is necessary, along with Netflix.  Line drying clothes isn’t so bad. My hair will never look good in a humid climate. Accept your car will have dings and scratches. Mexicans are happy to help foreigners. Sunrises over the ocean are equal in beauty to sunsets. Cenotes are a must see. My Spanish is better, but I still cannot speak it on the phone. Locals can get special pricing. Traffic can be chaotic. Poncho has the best coconuts. It’s a bad year for seaweed. It’s exactly one hour door to door to the airport.

Imagine what I’ll know by next year….hopefully its fluent Spanish!

Small Condo Hack-No Door Space

Have a closet or using an alcove as a closet, but don’t want the eyesore? Do what I did. I didn’t have enough room for a door in the hall closet, I opted for a window blind instead. People don’t even notice it at first.

Riviera Maya goes from slightly humid to “Omgawd, I can’t breathe” humid. So I chose to start the blind not quite at the top and have it pulled up slightly at the bottom. Circulation is key.

Eventually, I will have built in shelves and nicely organized, visually appealing storage. Until then, I’m totally okay with this.

Chichen Itza vs Coba

There are two main Mayan ruins for tourists to see in the Riviera Maya. One is Chichen Itza, the other is Coba. Here’s my short recap on both.

Chichen Itza has a more modern set up. And what I mean by that is that you have a modern building in the front with a few souvenir shops and restaurants. There is also a large paved parking lot and lots of tour buses.

As for the ruins, they are few, but impressive. Chichen Itza is famous for it’s large pyramid, but it’s for viewing only. You cannot walk among any of the ruins. They are all roped off. Regardless, the structures are amazing to see.

All along the ruins are paths of vendors selling Mexican goods. ALOT of vendors.

Coba feels more authentic. No modern building in front and no paved parking lot. You only see jungle. You can hire a person who has a bike with a cart and they will take you into the jungle along the ruins, stopping at each of the sites. None of the sites are roped off.

You can climb the pyramid at Coba. While it’s not as big as Chichen Itza or as architecturally appealing, it is still impressive with great views at the top.

There are some vendors in the front, outside of the ruins, but nothing like Chichen Itza.

I personally enjoyed Coba much more. It gives more of an overall feel for how the Mayans actually lived. However, both are worthy of a visit.

My Tulum Advice

Tulum in a nutshell is this: A small, but rapidly growing pueblo with a super hip, boho chic, eco conscious, beautiful beach strip. The thing to keep in mind when visiting Tulum is the pueblo is not within walking distance to the beach.

The total beach stretch of Tulum is approximately 9 km and this is the zone that makes Tulum, Tulum. When you reach Tulum from PDC by car, you turn left at the first stop light you come to. This road goes toward the ocean. You will then come to a roundabout. Ideally, you want to vere right and stay at a hotel on this side of the beach. This is where most of the hotels, restaurants, and shopping are. If you’re on a time constraint, I think 2 full days and nights is sufficient.

Bring a full wallet on your visit. Tulum’s beach strip is not cheap and the ATM’s are often empty.

The beach road is small and congested with cars, collectivos, taxis, bikes, and people walking. Understand, it’s one small road for everybody. There is also not a lot of immediate parking when you see a store or restaurant you want to go into. In my opinion, map it out. A taxi in between walking is your best bet. Biking is an option as well, just be careful.

If you’re on a budget, get a hotel in the pueblo and taxi to the beach. I’ve stayed at Tres Palmas and would definitely recommend it. Most of the beach hotels will let you use their loungers/umbrellas for a price (if it’s not high season and they’re not full). One of my personal favorites is Las Estrellas Hotel. It has a good location, funky vibe, and delicious healthy food.

If you’re on a day trip, go to the south beach side first. I personally would park in the pueblo, and take a taxi to whatever point on the beach strip, then walk my way back via shops, restaurants and beach. If you still have time after that, then go into the pueblo.

If you don’t have a car,  the ADO bus is economical from PDC and Cancun. The cheapest way is via Collectivo, but this option that’s popular with the locals can get very crowded at times.

If you like a boho-chic or hippie vibe, you will love Tulum. However, if you are easily frustrated with crowded roads/streets, it might not be worth it. Personally, I love Tulum.

Private Spanish Class Progress

  • Spanish native: your friend told me you’re fluent in Spanish! 
  • me thinking:  don’t do it
  • spanish native: starts speaking extra fast Spanish slang, only learned on the actual streets of Mexico
  • me: oh my god

I’m almost through with my 60 hours of private Spanish lessons. It is well worth the money. Here is why:

I’ve done the school Spanish classes using the books, learning the grammar and vocabulary, conjugating the verbs, etc. These classes are absolutely necessary for knowledge building of a language. And I always did exceptional on my tests.

However, I still could not hear or speak Spanish that well. Books did not prepare me for the rapid fire of the native speaker, slang, accents, idioms, etc. Book language is not reality. It’s disappointing and can be a little embarrassing when people ask you why you cannot understand a language when you’ve taken 4 years of classes. (Ugh…)

I have Spanish vocabulary and grammar in my head, but I need to practice pulling it out in conversation. This my friends, is not easy. Trying to hear another language, understand the meaning of what someone says without having to translate every word, then responding in conversation time,  picking out the correct conjugation of verb in the correct order with adverbs, conjunctions, adjectives, etc. (Double ugh…)

The beauty of the private language class is that it’s catered to you and your needs. My main need at this point is practice. To practice listening and speaking, and to let go of my fear of speaking. My class is 2 hours daily and at the end of class, I am mentally EXHAUSTED from concentrating the whole time. But is my Spanish better? Yes. Can Sr. Elizondo notice a difference in my Spanish after 45 hours? Yes. Are private Spanish classes worth it after the standard 4 years of school language? In my case,  yes.

Also worth noting: The teacher I have now is super friendly and a brainiac. She has a masters in Literature and strong knowledge of grammar/linguistics/language learning as she has studied in multiple countries. It’s a definite plus to have a well educated teacher.