Critters of Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen ruines

Most of you who know me realize that my favorite part of travel is seeing all the critters. I love all kinds of creatures (except mosquitos… hate those jerks) and it’s better to see them out in the wild than in a cage. Don’t get me wrong. Rehabilitation centers are extremely important and I enjoy supporting the cause, but it’s way more fun to see something crazy like a cassowary run across the road in Australia! Those living dinosaurs with their funny blue heads can eviscerate a person! Danger!

Iguana on wall of Playa street art
Can you spot the iguana on this wall? See below for a closer photo.

Playa del Carmen, México is an active city, so a lot of the critters got the boot. It takes more effort to see animals (other than humans) while walking around. Because of the poor conditions of the sidewalks and the risk of getting run over by a drunk tourist, it’s dangerous to walk while distracted. But… must… look… for… critters! I have to watch out as I constantly scan the trees for iguanas. No dying!

Are all the butterflies causing more hurricanes?

Within a couple of days of getting to Playa, there was an influx of thousands of butterflies. There were so many butterflies flying around that it almost looked cloudy. It was crazy! I have a friend who is terrified of flying things with spots. It would not have been a good couple of days for her. Most of the butterflies were kind of purple-brown with dots on their wings. Not too big, but there were a lot of them.

Turns out that it was a butterfly migration. So cool! Not sure where they came from or where they were going, but it sure was fun to watch. I just sat in the apartment’s rooftop pool and watched the big event. Every once in a while, some bird (flycatcher or grackle mostly) would swoop past like a shark through a school of fish. Poor bugs!

Mixed throughout the thousands of small purple-brown butterflies, there would be the occasional big bright yellow anomaly. And even rarer still, I managed to spot the random elusive Monarch butterfly. Those things are huge and gorgeous. They are cool to see.

Thousands of butterflies in the sky
They are hard to see but there are thousands of butterflies in the sky. This is from my patio.

Okay… let’s talk about sugar ants

If you live in the tropics and you have a kitchen, it’s likely that you will have sugar ants. The ones in this apartment are crazy tiny. Like, so tiny that you can barely tell they are ants at all. There were loads when I got here, but the count has slowly dwindled with all my cleaning. I have had some misadventures, though.

Did you know ants can get into the microwave? I had a bit of an explosion in there. I’m really short, the microwave is up tall, and I didn’t notice right away. Well, the ants did. Tricky. Tricky. Also, they are so small that the microwave does not kill them. WTF? It took some cleaning, but they are no longer interested in the microwave.

I keep most every food item that is open in the fridge or freezer. However, there are a few things that caught me by surprise. Ants are not interested in bananas but they are in nopal (prickly-pear cactus). It took some convincing to get them to let go so I could put the nopal in the fridge! They also like corn starch. Makes sense, I guess. I now keep that in the fridge too. Live and learn.

There were a couple of major ant colony migrations through the apartment. Those were crazy! This one day I had a long line of ants from above my front door, along the wall, under the couch, and then under the patio door. Another line went from somewhere in my cabinets, behind the fridge, to the front door. And yet another went from a different cabinet, across the wall, and out under the patio door. You could see them carrying their little eggs. I’m assuming they went to a different apartment that had more food.


I found fragrance-free picaridin (also known as icaridin) mosquito repellent! It’s pretty cool. It feels just like alcohol hand gel. Goes on the same and evaporates the same. It shouldn’t harm the ocean. And it doesn’t eat plastic clothing like DEET does. Go me! I haven’t used a ton of it yet. There just aren’t that many mosquitos.

I worry a lot about malaria and dengue. Plus, I just read an article about how such diseases might alter how you smell to other mosquitos. They could make you smell delicious to mosquitos so that the diseases are more likely to spread to more people. Smart.

All I know is that a few weeks ago, a friend of mine was in a ridiculous amount of pain in one hip. Plus, he was exhausted. He could barely walk for about a week. I think he got the Chikungunya virus, but it could have been dengue. Either way, it was no fun. I’m really glad my place has window and door screens because not all the places around here do.

Iguana blending into the wall art
This iguana was hard to spot! They blend so well sometimes.

Iguanas… yes please!

I search everywhere for iguanas and anoles and geckos. I love them! They are so wonderfully exotic and fun to watch. Unfortunately, they are pretty hard to find in the city. Sigh. I miss all the iguanas of Costa Rica and the geckos of Belize. It helped that I was on the bottom floor in CR and in a major gecko breeding ground in Belize. I can occasionally hear geckos in Playa but they are very elusive.

House geckos are lucky. However, you usually have them because bugs are getting in. They eat cockroaches and ants and such. It’s a bit of a tradeoff. Would I rather have bugs plus geckos or neither? Unless we are talking about mosquitos (hate them!), I think I would go with the bugs and geckos. And yet I’m not willing to leave food out to get cockroaches, so maybe I’m not that committed to the cause?

Iguanas and anoles will have to be enough for now. I see them hiding out in trees and on brick walls. In fact, I just saw an anole on the patio of the restaurant I had lunch in. He had to watch out for grackles. Those birds are danger danger!

Gecko on wall behind TV
This little lady just wandered through my living room! She let me take a bunch of photos!

Update! Update! Just had a large gecko wander through the living room while watching the tele! She let me get all kinds of pictures. I think she posed even. I assume she’s a lady gecko because she was so quiet. The males chirp all cute like. She looked like she was looking for a way out, so I opened the patio screen a crack and she left me for more bug opportunities. So cool!

For more posts about critters, click here!


Playa has street cats and dogs just like loads of other tropical locations. The street dogs are not as nice as the ones in Costa Rica. I don’t think they get the same human socialization. In CR, it was difficult to tell which dogs were owned and which were sleeping in the rain at night. Here, you can really tell. Poor pups. They seem to keep the number of street cats down, though. I don’t see many of those.

Bugs making more bugs
These two weird looking bugs were making more bugs!

I don’t know if you remember me talking about agoutis in Honduras, but I saw one here! I know they are not the same species, but they look the same. I was just walking to the grocery store, and I spotted the little rodent crossing the street. Must follow!!! Must get picture for blog! I tried but didn’t make it before the little brown-bundle-of-cute lost itself in an overgrown yard.

Turns out agoutis are not called that here in México. They are called sereque. I will never remember that. They are called something different in a lot of the Central American countries (Wikipedia). Lots to learn. I’m going to try to get a usable picture of one. Adventures await!

Limes in water looking like a creature
I just had to add this! These limes in my water look like a sea critter.

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