We never thought that we would find ourselves enjoying authentic Venezuelan food in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. But that’s the kind of unexpected travel adventure that Geocaching can give you. While taking a road trip around the Yucatan Peninsula, we wanted to check out a variety of cities and small towns. One of the places we wanted to check out was Playa del Carmen, along the coast just south of Cancun.
Knowing that Playa del Carmen is a cruise ship port and close to other ports (like Cozumel), we expected it to be quite touristy. So we wanted to find unique things to do in Playa del Carmen, and luckily our hobby of Geocaching gave us the perfect way to do this.
Unique Things to do in Playa del Carmen, Geocaching!
We arrived in Playa del Carmen in the morning, when many of the local shops were just opening up. Of all the things to do in Playa del Carmen, most of it is centered around the main shopping areas in town and on the nearby beach. At first we did enjoy the morning walk and browsing inside some of the shops, but soon we grew tired of seeing the same touristy souvenirs. So we figured it was time to pull out our Garmin GPS unit to see if there were any geocaches in the area. By this time it was nearly lunch so we were starting to get a bit hungry. So we decided to focus our search on nearby caches that were located inside restaurants.
One thing that we have noticed about touristy towns is that there are a lot of geocaches located in bars, shops, and restaurants. While some geocachers don’t care for caches that lead them into a business establishment, we have come to enjoy these types of geocaches. They give us an opportunity to check out different establishments, and meet some great people! Plus, people will make note in the cache logs whether or not the place is any good. And when you are in a touristy town, recommendations from fellow travelers are the most helpful!
As luck would have it, we saw that there was a Venezuelan restaurant near us that was the keeper of a geocache. After enjoying so much great Mexican food during our trip thus far, we thought it would be nice to taste something different. Plus we saw that this cache had a lot of favorite points, something that always piques our interest! Per the description of the cache, we made our way toward the “green umbrella” and went inside to ask the owner for the cache.
Jose Ramon, the Restaurant Owner From Venezuela
We approached the small restaurant and were immediately greeted with a big smile from a smaller gentleman, with a bigger than life personality! “Do you have a Geocache here?” we politely asked the man. The man’s face lit up with a smile. “Yes!” he said excitedly. “Let me bring it out to you.”
He returned to us moments later with the cache container. The geocache was filled with trackables and swag from travelers from all over the world! As we sat down at the plastic table and chairs to sign the log and check out the swag, the man offered us a glass of Venezuelan lemonade. He said it was a special recipe from his native country. We happily accepted his offer and looked forward to the refreshing beverage on this hot and humid day.
While sitting at the table trading trackables, the man returned with our beverages. The drink was darker in color, more brown than yellow. Anticipating our reaction to brown liquid in a glass, he explained that Venezuelan lemonade is pure lemon juice with water and fresh sugar cane, which gives it the brown color. It smelled wonderful, so we trusted him and took a swig. The drink was tangy, yet had a rich and unique sweetness from the sugar cane. It was much more refreshing than the tart lemonade here in the States, which leaves a sort of residue on your teeth. This lemonade went down very smooth.
After taking a few pictures of the cache, we remained seated to enjoy the rest of our lemonade. The man took a seat at the table with us and began telling us about himself, and stories about his homeland. We learned that the man’s name was Jose Ramon. He was originally from Venezuela, but moved to Playa del Carmen years ago. He and his wife run the restaurant together. Jose was the kind, smiling face who ran the “front of the house” while his wife was the wonderful chef.
Why Would a Venezuelan Restaurant Have a Geocache in Playa del Carmen?
Jose Ramon explained to us that it was his daughter who actually set up the geocache at the restaurant, so that’s how he got into it. He said that he was so grateful that she did because he loved meeting people from all over the world who came by for the geocache (and we’re sure it’s not bad for business either!).
By this time, we couldn’t resist the wonderful aromas of what Jose’s wife was cooking in the kitchen. We were ready to eat! We browsed the menus that Jose brought over to us, but all of it looked so delicious that we couldn’t decide what to order. So, Jose offered up some suggestions. He was so passionate about each suggestion that we decided to leave it up to the expert, and we just asked him to bring us his favorites. And he did, dish after dish, after dish!
The Best Food in Mexico Ended up Being Venezuelan Food
We had many incredible meals in Mexico, but this ranks as some of the best. We never expected to fall in love with Venezuelan food in Mexico, but we did! Jose wanted us to try a bit of everything, so he brought out samples of all of his favorites. Each time, he would explain carefully what each item was and give us a bit of background on it. With each bite the two of us were gushing with happiness. Everything was so good, we couldn’t decide on our favorite.
While we were thoroughly enjoying our lunch, several locals came into the restaurant for their lunch. Of course, Jose Ramon seemed to know every one of them by name. Liz and I were joking that Jose could run for Mayor of this place if he wanted to. He was really such a sweet and genuinely friendly guy!
Geocachers…They Are Everywhere!
When we were about finished with lunch, we noticed a group of 4 geocachers standing out front of the restaurant. How could we tell they were geocachers? Well, by now we are familiar with the geocaching pose. They were all holding their smartphones / GPS units and looking around with confusion and determination. We signaled toward them to indicate that they were in the right place, and persuaded them to come into the restaurant for lunch.
They took a seat on the patio and Jose Ramon came over to them with the cache, and offered them the same Venezuelan lemonade he offered us. At first they were a little taken aback by Jose’s outgoing personality, but we assured them that he was great and that they should try anything he offered. However, they said that they were day-trippers and didn’t have much time to stay.
While they drank their lemonade we asked them about geocaching in Playa del Carmen and what caches we should check out. After giving us a couple of recommendations, we said goodbye to our new friend Jose Ramon, and Liz and I left to continue geocaching around town.
The funniest part was that hours later we returned to our car that was parked near Jose’s restaurant. When we passed by we noticed that the same geocaching group of 4 were still sitting outside the restaurant, enjoying Jose Ramon’s company! We had to laugh. So much for them being in a hurry. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who stumbled across a great experience through geocaching that day!
Our Experience Geocaching in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
There are a lot of things to do in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, but rather than the typical touristy things, we enjoyed going geocaching instead. Overall, geocaching in Playa de Carmen wasn’t the most exciting place we’ve cached, but it brought us our favorite memory in Jose Ramon. We really loved the experience of learning about his Venezuelan culture and enjoying the delectable food, something we never expected to find in Mexico. This will go down as one of our favorite caches we have encountered on our travels around the world. Thanks again to Geocaching for taking us on a unique adventure, and helping us to meet amazing locals and learn about new cultures.