It’s been more than 5 years since we visited Playa Sonrisa. We remember reading that the resort was up for sale and figured that if we didn’t go right now, we might never get another chance to see this piece of paradise on the Mexican Caribbean coast. Because you never know who will buy it. Maybe it would soon become another dive or fishing resort, where at least a minimum amount of clothing would be required.
Although it had been quite a pain to get there, Playa Sonrisa quickly got a high spot on our favourites list. We swore to come back soon, but you know how things go. So many plans, so little time. Several months ago, we got the news that Playa Sonrisa was finally sold, to a couple that was planning to keep it clothing-optional. This was our cue to return.
How to get to Playa Sonrisa
At the moment, the nearest airport to Playa Sonrisa is in Cancun, about a 6-hour drive away. By the end of 2023 or early 2024, a new airport in Tulum should open, which will make the journey 2 hours shorter. Once the Maya Railway also opens in 2024, it should be possible to get from the airport to Playa Sonrisa in more or less 3 hours.
5 years ago, we decided to get to the resort by public transport only. A whole organisation with several buses that eventually had us end up in Xcalak town. A BIG MISTAKE, as we hadn’t thought of the 7-kilometer walk through a hot and humid jungle to get from town to the resort and there are no taxis in Xcalak.
If you don’t want to drive in Mexico, it is possible to take a 2nd class bus from Cancun to Limones and catch a taxi to the resort from there. You won’t find these tickets online but have to buy them in the Cancun bus station. A much more comfortable solution but also more expensive is to have Playa Sonrisa organise an airport pickup.
The most convenient and also quite affordable option is to rent a car from Cancun airport and drive to Playa Sonrisa. As the journey is about 6 hours, and driving after dark is not really recommended, it’s best to overnight in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum if your flight arrives in the afternoon or evening. There are plenty of car rental offices at the airport.
Where to stay at Playa Sonrisa
What makes Playa Sonrisa quite a unique resort is that it’s right on the beach at the Caribbean Sea, but doesn’t accommodate more than 14 people at the same time. In most of Mexico or even the Caribbean, being on the beach means staying in a large, expensive, all-inclusive resort. But not here.
There are two rows of bungalows, at the front row, you can see the sea from your bed and step into the sand as soon as you step out of your door. The second row has no direct sea view from the room, but as you have a rooftop terrace, you get the view from there while enjoying a beer or a cocktail. There are also two bedrooms which are slightly larger than the bungalows but have a bit less of a Caribbean vibe.
All bungalows and rooms have an ensuite bathroom. There is no air conditioning because the whole resort is solar-powered, but the combination of the fan with the ocean breeze was more than enough to give us a comfortable sleep.
What to do at Playa Sonrisa
One of the slogans of Playa Sonrisa is “You come here to do nothing or less.” This is not the kind of resort where you can expect loud music and entertainment from dawn till dusk, but rather a place to relax and unwind. The perfect spot to finally read that weighty tome you never got to, or to just gaze at the sea and get carried away in thoughts and dreams. It’s also a great place for daytime napping.
This doesn’t mean that there’s absolutely nothing to do though. The games area can probably keep you busy for hours playing cornhole, petanque, or board games. You can go for a swim in the sea, or take a kayak, paddle board, or snorkelling gear from the “Ask First Marina”. There is a small reef just 15-20 minutes kayaking from the resort, where you can check out the coral and colourful fish.
And, of course, there’s the bar and restaurant. Breakfast is included in the price and comes in the form of bread, cake, fruit, coffee or thee, and a different style of eggs every day. Lunch and dinner are on demand, as this is a small resort, and there isn’t an abundance of choices, but the chef happily listens to what you like and will make one delicious dish after the other. The bar is an honesty system. You just take whatever you want, write it down, and pay later.
Around Playa Sonrisa
The best way to describe Xcalak is a Mexican village that hasn’t been polluted yet by mass tourism. It’s very authentic, but this also means that there isn’t much to do. A stroll of an hour is enough to see the whole village. You can spend another hour (or two) having drinks and food in the town’s restaurant.
Xcalak is a famous fishing destination though. Especially if you’re into fly fishing, you’ll have a lot of fun on fishing trips. The Mesoamerican Reef is then again a great place for diving. The owners of Playa Sonrisa can hook you up with a dive instructor who doesn’t mind if you want to try diving naked. The dive and fishing resorts often have their own restaurant, so if you’d like to try the food outside Playa Sonrisa, those are good places to go to.
With tourism coming closer because of the new airport and railway, parts of the jungle are likely to be further explored and it’s quite possible that in the near future, Maya ruins and cenotes will be discovered in the area. To us, this gives a bit of a double feeling. On the one hand, it would be great if there was more to see and do in the area, but on the other hand, we also like that this part of Mexico is still undiscovered.
Staff & Guests of Playa Sonrisa
Blaney and Steve, the new owners of the resort, literally moved in about a month before our visit. They were still very busy upgrading the rooms, changing the info brochures, and finding their way into their newly bought resort. But it wasn’t hard to notice that they will be great hosts. They have this sixth sense to know when guests like to be entertained and when they rather want to be left alone. A very important skill, if you ask us.
When it comes to guests, Playa Sonrisa is not for everybody. But if you can enjoy peace and quiet and are a little bit adventurous, it could be something for you. If you ever wanted to know what it’s like to live on a deserted beach but without the discomfort of having to build your own hut and catch your own food, it’s definitely something for you. If you’re looking for the perfect place to escape your busy life and the rat race, you better book right now.
Book at Playa Sonrisa
The best ways to book at Playa Sonrisa are:
English and Spanish are fluently spoken
Playa Sonrisa’s spot on our favourites list has once again been confirmed, and we’re sure that we will be back again soon. When exactly that will be, is something the future will tell. In the meantime, this just means that there’s more space for you to enjoy this lovely resort.
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