Just returned from a week in PDC! My husband and I had an absolute blast! We had excellent weather (about mid-80s with heat index making it feel like 90s) and the ocean/pools were warm enough to get right in. We booked our trip with Expedia.
We stayed at Mosquito Blue right off of 5th Ave, between 12th and 14th Sts. It was the perfect location, being in the middle of all the action. We were glad we stayed here rather than at an all-inclusive since the price was right, and shopping and plenty of restaurants were all within a very short walking distance.
Mosquito Blue is affiliated with the Tukan Beach club, and the beach there was magnificent! We never had a problem getting a beach chair (we arrived at 11am one day), however if you want a palapa, get there before 9am. If you want to order food from the Beach club's grill, we recommend ordering from the beach as we received faster service than we did when we went up to the grill/restaurant patio. On the beach, they will bring you a table to put your food on. We also noticed that there were not as many women going topless as we expected. About 90% of the women were not topless.
We took 3 day trips. We went to Xel-Ha, Akumal/Half-Moon Bay/Yal-ku, and Chichen Itza.
For Xel-Ha, we booked online with the all-inclusive package. That is definitely the best value. We took a bus there (a Ford Econoline 350, from the corner of Juarez and 20th) for 50 pesos one way. We got there early before the tour buses arrived (about 8:15am) and to our surprise we were also allowed into the park at that time, so we were able to get our snorkels, locker, towels without any wait. We were able to see all of the park, have plenty of food and drink (try the Garrafon!), and still have time to sleep on the hammocks for 2-3hrs! Make sure you snorkel by the floating bridge, the fish are huge and we even saw a barracuda! We bought biodegradable sunscreen on 5th Av, but we were never questioned about it, never had our bags checked.
For Akumal/Half-Moon Bay/Yal-ku, we took the Ford E350 again. Make sure you are dropped off at "las casitas" resort if you want to start off in Akumal, as there are many "akumal" exits, and it is your job to tell the driver where to stop. We snorkeled and saw quite a few fish in Akumal, but the wind was pretty strong that day, making the ocean pretty choppy. We didn't snorkel in Half Moon Bay for the same reason, but Yal-ku is in a lagoon and that was gorgeous. We probably saw more fish (although they were the same types) in Yal-ku than we did in Xel-Ha.
For Chichen Itza, we booked a tour off of 5th Ave, right across the street from Mosquito Blue's entrance. We paid $38 USD/pp. The hotel's tour was priced at $82/pp! We had a tour guide for 2 hrs, went on our own for an hr, went to a buffet lunch, swam in a cenote, and visited Valladolid afterwards. We returned to our hotel around 7:30pm. If you are shopping for souvenirs, I would definitely recommend buying them at Chichen Itza. I purchased a 12'' diameter ceramic bowl for $10 when I would have spent over $40 on 5th Av.
For restaurants, we ate at Sur, La Parilla, Yaxche, and Karen's. Sur was our favorite. Their grill is excellent, they have fantastic drinks, and they have over 25 different pizzas!The Mexicana was our favorite pizza. Try their mixed grill kabobs also!
For bottled water, we found the best value at Chedraui, the supermarket on Calle 2 Sur and 45th Av. We drank bottled water, brushed our teeth with it and neither of us got sick on our trip. We also had ice with our drinks at the restaurants and had no problems.
I think our trip was just perfect. I wouldn't change anything that we did. I think doing 3 day trips in 1 week was just right, it gave us something to do, but at the same time, it gave us enough time to relax.
We found that there were many different types of vacationers in PDC, not just spring breakers. There were more families than spring breakers. There were also young couples, older couples, and singles. I have never been to Cancun, but from what I have heard about it, the crowd in PDC is much more subdued than in Cancun. We never felt out of place or that the crowd was inappropriate.
We will definitely be back!