The rooms at the Hacienda Tres Rios are nice. They have polished marble floors, a flat screen television, comfortable beds, and a nice view from the balcony. But they do not make you feel like you are in Mexico. For all we knew, we could have been in a nice hotel in downtown Anywhere, USA.
After attempting to drain the hotels water supply by taking long showers we went to check out the beach and the resort’s swimming pools. The beaches were a little different. The water was not the typical turquoise color you usually imagine the Caribbean to be. It was brown, thick with organic matter, and did not look very inviting. The sand was the artificially-hardened-to-prevent-erosion type with a two foot drop off to the natural sand and organic matter down below. Not the nicest beach we had ever seen. The one thing going for this beach was that they had king size 4-poster beds with bedding and lots of pillows right on the beach. A perfect place to spend a lazy day drinking beer and reading books. Since the beach did not offer good swimming, we went to check out the swimming pools. Large resorts are famous for their amazing swimming pools. But not this one. No swim up bars, no vanishing pools, no swim through waterfalls, not even heat. They had the coldest swimming pool we had ever experienced. So off to check out the rivers. We walked over to where two of the rivers run into the Caribbean. The rivers were lined with mangroves and the water was warm, crystal clear, and had a couple of white sandy beaches. We had found our spot.
Our plan was to eat dinner at the resort that night and go into Playa del Carmen the next morning to go grocery shopping. We went down to the outdoor wood fired pizza oven restaurant. Closed. We went to a little outdoor café. Closed. We went to the family friendly buffet restaurant and inquired about the price. 650 pesos… each. At this moment we realized that the Hacienda Tres Rios tries hard to make their all-inclusive prices seem fair by jacking up their food prices. So, we went back to our room feeling defeated (and hungry) and feasted on Cliff Bars and pouches of tuna fish.
Another perk that was offered by signing up for the timeshare presentation was use of their free shuttle van that went to Playa del Carmen three times a day. So the next morning we hopped on their crowded van and made our way to Playa del Carmen. Sitting in front of us were two girls from Toronto Canada who Sydney immediately wanted to test their knowledge of what songs they knew. The 20 minute van ride was filled with the sounds of three girls singing Little Bunny Foofoo, Bear Goes Over the Mountain, and camp songs that the Canadian girls had learned. They dropped us off in the middle of the tourist zone and we quickly sought out a restaurant for breakfast. We spent $15 USD on coffee and toast, but it was still cheaper than anything at the resort.
After breakfast we walked down Playa del Carmen’s famous 5th Avenue. A pedestrian only street lined with overpriced tourist shops and restaurants. We had imagined Playa del Carmen to be a sleepy little town, but it was anything but that. It was busy, noisy, and expensive. After browsing through the standard Mexican souvenirs, we made our way up to Walmart to buy groceries. Normally, we avoid Walmart at all costs. But it was the only grocery store we knew about within walking distance.
Shopping for groceries in Mexico is always an adventure and as soon as we entered the store the fun began. While our shopping list was written in English, the labels on the packages are written in Spanish, which can be really fun when trying to figure out if the milk (leche) you are buying is real milk, soy milk, or some other kind of mystery milk. Since our food storage was limited to a mini-fridge and we had no way of cooking or heating anything other than heating water with the coffee maker, our shopping list was pretty basic. Stuff to make sandwiches, instant cup-o-noodle soups, bottled water, cereal, milk, snack food, and beer. What more does one need? After checking out we grabbed a taxi and headed back to the hotel. When we arrived back at the hotel and unloaded our plastic bags filled with groceries from the trunk of the taxi, the other guests and bell hops looked at us as if we were the Beverly Hillbillies. From that point on, we were marked as being the cheap bastards who were too cheap to pay the overpriced all-inclusive fee’s. At least we would not need to survive off of Cliff Bars and packets of tuna anymore.