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FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY FOR
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Playa Del Carmen and Tulum Travel Tips From A Destination Photographer’s First Trip to Mexico

Travel

August 18, 2022

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This summer I had the opportunity to travel to a new destination – MEXICO! For some reason my whole family has managed to travel here except me so I was thrilled when my couple told me they were having their intimate wedding in Mexico. Since this was my first time, I thought I’d share my tips on navigating around these beautiful locations.

PLAYA DEL CARMEN

The closest airport to get here is Cancun International Airport. We flew in from SFO and the flight was about five and a half hours. Once you get to the airport, you have to have a game plan. As soon as you grab your luggage, the airport is filled both inside and outside with people holding signs trying to get you to buy tours, rentals, and everything you probably don’t need. Don’t be deceived. If you booked transportation to your resort like us (we used Cancun Airport Transportation) exit the airport and go toward your left past all the people holding signs and into a car port with vans all parked. There will be a Cancun Airport Transportation rep there to coordinate your ride with your driver. This transportation service was great because they were air conditioned, comfortable and even offer bottled water on arrival. We also used this service to travel to our Airbnb in Tulum as well as transport back from Tulum to the Airport. Very reliable and on time. For service, I bought a Mexico data plan from T-mobile which worked pretty well.

Iberostar Quetzal Resort –

My couple’s wedding was held at Iberostar Quetzal which was about an hour away from Cancun Airport. Security is tight so you have to let your driver know your name when driving in. If you ever drive out for a local trip you have to let them know your room number as well. We actually had an awkward encounter because we ordered food one of the nights from a restaurant downtown and they wouldn’t let our food delivery driver through so be sure to call the front desk if you do this. There ARE on location restaurant buffets and specialty restaurants but sometimes you just want to try the local food (and this delivery was well worth it, details soon!)

I admit, I had some preconceived notions about all-inclusive resorts, thinking they were kind of cheesy with bad food and super commercial but our resort was not this. They really took sustainability to heart and you saw their efforts across the property. There were multiple pools, beach access with natural grass umbrellas, jungle habitat, and various outdoor activities. There were open bars, an ice cream stand, and some gift shops on site that had some of the essentials like bug spray, sunscreen, sandals, and more. One of my favorite memories was the dinner at the Japanese restaurant. They did a multi-course teppanyaki with sushi appetizer and dessert. The chefs were fun and engaging and we left pretty full. Highly recommend a reservation that you can book at the concierge or check with the hostess about availability.

There were water machines throughout the property where you could refill the large glass bottles they provide you with. It’s essential to fill both bottles because you’ll need one for brushing your teeth since you SHOULD NOT DRINK THE SINK WATER. We were pretty conscious about this throughout the whole trip and managed to have relatively happy tummies.

XPLOR –

This was one of the most unique activities I’ve experienced while traveling and highly recommend. Xplor is an adventure park around 15 minutes away from our resort. The ticket prices at the end of June were around $130 per adult and it’s inclusive of your safety gear, locker, and food buffets. There is also a fresh juice stand that is amazing and perfect after some adrenaline-pumping activities. We didn’t do everything but if you start early in the day you could definitely do each activity depending how busy the park is.

We started with a hammock zip line into the water, grabbed some food at the buffet which was pretty decent (another line though) and then headed to the zip line run. It was my first time zip lining and I won’t lie that I was pretty nervous. We did our first line and that was enough for me. unfortunately I had to do at least another 2 lines to get back to home base. So I can say zip lining over the jungle was a ONCE in a lifetime activity for me. After that we tried out the underground water cave paddling. Really hauntingly beautiful. Be sure to wear water shoes as you were not allowed to go on certain activities without feet coverings. Also there are no towels so you should bring your own in your locker with a change of clothes if you don’t want to be damp after you finish. There are some towels available in the gift shops but of course at a premium. I’d also recommend getting a waterproof pouch with a lanyard for your phone or wear a go-pro since you will definitely be submerged in water at some point if you zip line.

I’ll also point out that you can go to this park at night and they call it Xplor Fuego where they turn the water lights red and it’s definitely a bit spookier. My last tip is to download their app, XCARET! Before you arrive since service isn’t great there but you’ll have a pocket map of facilities and activities. You can also take a photo of the map on the way in. They also sell a photo pass for about $60 USD with photos in really cool angles you can’t get yourself when ziplining. It may sound like a lot, but if you want the memories to show your kids/grandkids how cool you are/were, it’s worth it. All in all a solid experience.

THE WEDDING –

My couple’s all inclusive wedding was so fun. The coordinator made sure to give me the lay of the land and I was able to find some lush locations for the portraits. The ceremony was held on the beach in a private section and the reception was down the center of the umbrellas of the resort. There are other guests roaming around the umbrellas but the reception had a clear setup of tables, DJ, and food buffet. The colors were bright and cheerful with an accommodating staff. Audio was great throughout and the dance floor was filled the whole night with high energy and laughter.

Destination weddings are great for having an intimate, beautiful experience with your loved ones and when hosting at the all-inclusive resort, there’s more stress off your plate. I will say that some resorts include photographers that are not the best, so booking your own professional photographer that speaks to your vision is a MUST for capturing your special day. I found a fab, local second shooter there so definitely give Wendy a follow!

FOOD IN PLAYA DEL CARMEN TO TRY –

Like I mentioned we tried local food delivery using Rappi , It was pretty easy to use and reminiscent of Doordash but like we mentioned earlier, be sure to call the front desk so they know you have a delivery driver coming. They may also ask if they are on a motorbike. Anyway, let’s get to the good stuff. THE MOST LIFE CHANGING TACOS we ordered were from La Cochi Loka. There was SO much flavor in these tacos as well as the salsas and truly the best taco I’ve had in life. Get the cochinita pibil tacos and you will be happy you came to Mexico to experience them. The pig is buried for hours, cooked slow after being marinated with all the good stuff. We tried the quesadilla as well but you just need the tacos.

Another local place we tried was Ah Cacao Chocolate Cafe. We didn’t try their coffee (but hear it is the best in the area) however we tried their chocolate ice cream, hot chocolate, chocolate frappe, and bought some coffee beans and chocolate for friends. There are several in the area so it’s worth checking out if you like ethically sourced chocolate.

TULUM –

Tulum is about an hour drive south of Playa Del Carmen. We knew about the hotel strip but opted to stay in a beautifully designed Airbnb in the La Veleta neighborhood. This is an up-and-coming neighborhood with plenty of ceynotes to explore. There are a lot of underdeveloped areas but it’s quiet and beautiful and we really enjoyed our stay here. Fosil is a total design apartment with various sized studios all with a private dipping pool and garden. We chose this location for relaxation but also to invite some local friends to get creative and shoot. There were nearby restaurants and activities such as yoga, meditation and massage nearby at different facilities and hotels. We tried a Mayan Ritual Massage at Hotel Era and it was really relaxing. (Side note, they did massage your belly so please be aware of that because I’ve never had that massaged in the states and it can catch you off guard.)

Photo Sourced From Hotel Era Website

In the morning we walked over to Jugos Naturales, a local fresh juice shack. I think they take cash or pesos but they were roughly around $3 each. We got fresh watermelon, coconut, pineapple, orange, green juice, and beet with orange. We definitely shared these with friends and they were so tasty and not overly sweet.

We tried another food app called Tomato.MX that is Tulum specific. Again, very easy to use and we were able to order from popular burrito spot, Burrito Amor for lunch. This place was SO good and the burritos came wrapped in banana leaves.

One of the experiences we had at our Airbnb was a local chef that cooked a multi-course dinner for us. It was seafood theme and SO tasty. It did take like an hour before we actually ate anything so keep that in mind, especially if you aren’t fluent in Spanish as our chef didn’t chat much with us but the food was outstanding. The last food of note that we ordered was from 85xciento La Vera Pizza al Taglio. I know what you’re thinking, “Pizza in Mexico, are you crazy?” but trust that this was very tasty especially if you’re having a craving.

FINAL NOTES –

Overall, had a beautiful time connecting with new friends creating a romantic editorial, capturing loved ones celebrating new beginnings, and experiencing the magic of Mexico’s spirit. Remember to always do as much research as you can about where you are traveling, the weather, and don’t be afraid to branch out of your resort. There’s so much wonder and warmth to behold. Adios until next time!

Thank You To Our Wonderful Tulum Creative Team:

Host, Photographers,Creative Directors: @iannivy @galaxieandrews

BTS Mobile Videographer: @see_cam_go

Couple: @locoamor_tulum @dani_mayamorcita @epic_ezriyah

Floral Artist, Tablescape, Ceramics: @aralia.mx

Hair & Makeup Artist:  @maria.ayalamua @zoeelizabethmakeup

Jewelry: @talayee_jewelry

Tableware and Linen Rentals: @archiverentals

Gown: @halston

Bridal Shoes: @bellabelleshoes 

Catering: @lacuisinedelamour.fauser

Tulum Editorial to come!

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I'm Iann and I'm so happy you're here. This journal is about love stories, travels, advice, and style. Stay a while and say hello!

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