Flights to the Riviera Maya

There is a vast choice of flights to the Riviera Maya, as well as the prices. Needless to say that it also depends on the season, which is why this is the time for good offers and discounts on the ticket prices. And, although there are many packages which include hotels, we will take a look at the airfares. A round trip, of course.

For example, if we leave on the Friday 5th October to come back on the 12th in tourist class, we can choose between three flights of Iberia to Cancun, where the airport to the Riviera Maya is. Depending on the travel agency, there might be a difference of 30 euros more or less, including taxes and this is about 740 euros, almost the same as travelling with Air Europa, but this company only has one flight on this date.

It is a good idea to check if it a direct flight or not, although it doesn’t seem to be a direct flight for that day. And it is also important to check the duration of the flight since there big differences of up to 5 hours within the same company and between 15 to 20 hours. It is also common to change the company during the stopover. Iberia for example, almost always entrusts Aeroméxico the second part of the trip.

If we left on the 8th October to come back on the 15th, we can find a wide range of flights and prices. Curiously, the cheapest company is the Dutch KLM, which offers flights (two on this day) with a stopover in Amsterdam, of course. But there are also other companies: American Airlines, Aeroméxico, Cubana, Air Europa, Delta, Iberia, Continental Airlines, British Airways or Mexicana. Air Europa and Aeroméxico offer direct flights.

If, on the contrary, we want to leave on Tuesday 9th October and come back on the 16th October, we will be saving 50 euros on the airfare travelling with Aeroméxico in tourist class with a stopover.

When surfing the internet in search of air tickets there are tens of sites where we find flights: Rumbo, Easy Viajar, Destinia, eDreams, Muchoviaje, Viajar… it is always good to have references of the airlines we are flying. A good way is to visit the Internet forums where travellers share their experiences. One of the negative experiences most commented on of these forums is the change of the schedule of the planes, which normally happens after we have paid for the ticket and is always for worse: suddenly there is a technical problem that will make our flight last three hours more. But, the most successful are the packages that include the flight and the hotel. Paying for packages is almost the same as paying for the flight alone.

And, although there is a huge difference and we have spent a lot of time and money, reaching the Riviera Maya and discovering its marvels is quite compensation.

Francisco Cenamor

The Fives USA blog about Playa del Carmen & the Riviera Maya, Mexico

Chichén Itzá: a compulsory visit from Playa del Carmen to one of the most important archaeological centres in the world

Chicén Itzá photo. A master piece of the Mayan ruins. Mayan archaeological.

Chichén Itzá is located at 133 miles of Playa del Carmen, but it is almost compulsory to find a way to visit this impressive Mayan city which is possibly the best preserved. In Playa del Carmen there are several agencies that organise the tours. For example, the company Cancún All Tours offers trips from Playa del Carmen on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 54 euros for adults and 45 for children (plus 10% for taxes). This trip include transport in a luxury bus, breakfast, lunch, water and other drinks, the tickets to visit the sites…

Cancún Travels also offers trips from Playa del Carmen, with a wide range of several ways of travelling, so we recommend you to visit their website for more information. And, surfing the Internet, we can find loads of offers to get to Chichén Itzá from Playa del Carmen. We can even rent a car or go on our own. There are also buses from the station of the Fifth Avenue.

Chichén Itzá is situated on the Yucatan Peninsula, southeast of Merida, the capital of the State of Mexico. Its name means “at the mouth of the wells of Itzá”. This archaeological site has been declared World Heritage by the UNESCO in 1988 and, recently, in a private survey on the Internet, with no official value, was voted as one of the new 7 Wonders of the World. Until the year 325, Chichén Itzá was a small village with structures made of straw and wood, but it started to get rich and be fuelled by people from other villages till it became one of the most prominent Mayan cities in its history. The first big monuments were built dispersedly and when the city was organized they were connected by a wide network of stone ways that can still be admired nowadays.

The majority of the most important monument is found in the Gran Explanada ( ) of Chichén Itzá, in the middle of which stands the impressive Kukulkán’s Pyramid, a four corner pyramid, possibly built around the year 800, on which there is a temple; and is sustained by a square base measuring 60 yards by side and 78 feet tall. In the center of each side rises a monumental stair way leading to the top of the structure. The stairways are flanked by stone balustrades and the stairway on the northern side we can admire two enormous and beautiful plumed serpent’s head, which are the effigies of the god Kukulcán.

Some experts agree on saying that these ruins, although clearly Mayan, show the remarkable influence of the Toltec, who were their neighbours from the north. The best periods to visit this impressive monument are the equinox of March and September, at specific times of the day; the sunlight bathes the western balustrade of the pyramid’s main stairway. This causes seven isosceles triangles to form imitating the body of a serpent 37 yards long that creeps downwards, something which those who built the pyramid had in mind and that shows the surprising level of mathematical knowledge for that period.

Francisco Cenamor

The Fives USA blog about Playa del Carmen & the Riviera Maya, Mexico

Coba, located about 100 kilometres of Playa del Carmen. A new archaeological centre to be visited

Coba, a photo of Mayan city. Riviera Maya, Mexico. By The Fives Resort.

The first news of the discovery of the ruins of the Mayan city of Coba dates back to 1842. From then on, researchers have been recovering its marvels little by little. Presently, it is one of the many archaeological centres that can be visited on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Coba is located at only 62 miles of Playa del Carmen, which makes it easy to be reached from there. The means of transportation are the usual ones: van or bus from the station of Fifth Avenue, or by a rented car. Hotels and agencies also organise all in one package tours. Once in Playa del Carmen, it is very easy to get there. The entrance fare is 45 pesos (about 3 dollars).

It is situated east of Tulum which gives us a good excuse to stay there for at least two and visit both places and spend the night in the modern Tulum. Coba in Mayan language means “the place of ruffled waters”.

It is possibly one of the Mayan cities to have reached its maximum magnificence quite early. There are vestiges that in the years 200 and 600 A.D., this city-state had an influence over all the northern part of the Peninsula of Yucatan, due to its location which made it the crossroad of countless commercial routes. Its power even reached some commercial ports such as Xel-Há. The result of this wide network, today we can enjoy the pictorial remains of Coba which clearly show the influence of the Teotihuacán’s, who came from the central part of Mexico.

But this supremacy of Coba will start decreasing with the rise of the area of Chichén Itzá. After a first period of confrontation, the supremacy of the latter Mayan city started from the year 900 or 1000 A.D. following territorial and commercial disputes between the two cities. When the Spanish people arrived in the area, the city of Coba was uninhabited. The consecutive necessities of the city throughout its history have left a set of areas very different chronologically as well as functionally, up to a perimeter of 43 square miles packed with archaeological remains. All the zones discovered cannot be visited, due partly to deterioration and partly to the fact that the discoveries are quite recent and there is still more to be investigated.

The visit starts by Grupo Coba, is composed by residences and palaces. The most important is the building devoted to cult, which in the zone is called Iglesia, (church) and is 82 feet tall. Another group that can be visited it the Nohoch Mul, which is older than the previous one. The height of its buildings is quite surprising especially the tallest of all those found in the several Mayan cities, is also called Nohoch Mul (which in Maya means “large hill”); the lowest plinth and the temple is about 138 feet height. Other two groups can also be visited: the Grupo de las Pinturas (Temple of the Paintings), in reference to the remains of mural paintings that are still preserved in some structures; and the Macanxoc, with remarkable steles in remembrance of the achievement some of the queens who governed Coba.

One of the added interests of the visit to Coba is that all the buildings are in the middle of luxuriant jungles where we can delight in the marvellous flora and fauna.

Francisco Cenamor

The Fives USA blog about Playa del Carmen & the Riviera Maya, Mexico

Isla Contoy, the bird sanctuary north of the Riviera Maya

Isla Contoy National Park photo in Blog The Fives Resort, Playa del Carmen.

The Isla Contoy National Park is located at the confluence of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. The best way to get there from Playa del Carmen is to take a ferry from the port of Cancun, although you can also leave from Puerto Juarez, Punta Sam or Isla Mujeres. Depending on the type pf ship and where you take it, the voyage may take between one and two hours. The longest one will be from Cancun situated at the south of the four starting points.

It is a sanctuary for highly protected birds, so only 200 visitors are allowed per day, so it convenient to contract our visit in advance. Hotels and agencies of Playa del Carmen offer one-day tours to this island. On some of these tours you can have one of the most exciting experiences of your stay in the Riviera Maya: diving with the whale sharks.

A normal day on Isla Contoy includes, apart from the traditional snorkelling, visiting a small island where we will be given information on this island, going up to a 65 feet tall watchtower from which we can have a spectacular view, taking a walk along two walking-paths while watching the abundant flora y fauna. In the only canteens of the island, we can savour the delicious seafood of the area.

Optionally, we can contract a journey to the Puerto Viejo lagoon, a place where the biggest brown pelican of the area nests. The extra charge for this visit is aimed at financing the preservation of Isla Contoy National Park. The name seems to have originated from the Mayan word pontoj, which means “pelican”. From several discoveries of shells and ceramics, it is known that the island started to be inhabited on a permanent basis from the year 300-200 of our era. During the Mayan magnificence, it was part of a wide commercial network. Francisco Fernández de Córdoba, the first Spaniard to have reached Mexico, run into it after leaving Cuba and facing a great storm.

This island was visited by the most famous pirates of the Caribbean and it is thought that its waters are packed with the remains of tens of wrecked naves full of treasures still to be discovered. Isla Contoy is 4 miles long and only 65 feet wide. It is the ideal place for those who want to enjoy the best preserved nature, especially bird watching, as from winter there are 10.000 recorded species of birds on this small territory, including among others frigates, penguins, cormorants, terns, brown pelicans or herons.

In summer, hundreds of turtles (Carey, white and Caguama) come to its beaches to spawn. Its flora is also very abundant: there are 84 recorded species, but undoubtedly, the most abundant is the mangrove, which covers 70% of the surface of the island. In the surrounding waters, 234 marine species have been discovered, including the whale shark we mentioned earlier and enormous rays. In the nearby reef of Ixlaché, besides the great colourful beauty of the coral, we can also watch hundreds of organisms that find shelter there. Curiously, the lack of fresh water did not prevent the appearance of mammals on the island. During the period between September and February, around 300 fishermen se settle on its coasts to carry out fishing activities strictly regulated. The rest of the year, the island remains uninhabited.

Francisco Cenamor

The Fives USA blog about Playa del Carmen & the Riviera Maya, Mexico

Puerto Aventuras, some miles from Playa del Carmen, was one of the first tourist centers of the Riviera Maya

Puerto Aventuras photo. Rivera Maya, Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

At some 12 miles of Playa del Carmen we can find one of the first tourist centers of the Riviera Maya. Despite this, it did not experience a wild urban development and still keeps all the charm of a beautiful and calm hamlet: 240 hectares and 3 miles of marvellous beaches await the visitor. Being so near offers many possibilities of transportation: van, buses, rented car, taxi…, and even bicycle.

The type of most common building in the area: tourist resorts that offer all you need to enjoy a relaxing holiday in a heavenly spots. But, there are also a lot of activities to be done.

As I said before, the nearness allows you to do something for which Puerto Aventuras is renown on the Riviera Maya: its gastronomy. In spite of being a very small place, it enjoys some prestigious restaurants that offer a variety of food. Going for lunch and taking a stroll later on is something we can do on any of the days we spend in Playa del Carmen. But, we can also do other types of activities. Puerto Aventuras is the home of one of the main ports of the Riviera Maya, the Marina of San Carlos. Taking a stroll on the marina while admiring the any boats is quite a sight but, we can also find several water activities.

One of the main activities is sport fishing, due to the abundant and great variety of fish that can be found on the coast. You can also rent several types of boats with or without helmsman. We can also easily access the snorkel and diving centers. A type of more specialised diving very common in Puerto Aventuras is scuba diving, for which you need oxygen. Many scuba divers from all over the world come go there to dive at high sea and admire or investigate the marine fauna and flora.

Another activity related to nature is birding, not only in the surrounding jungles, but also on a small island located in the middle of the bay that shapes Puerto Aventuras.

Like in many other places in the Riviera Maya, there is a dolphinarium where we can swim among these friendly animals. And, if we want to have a swim, there are tens of signs along the highway that indicate where we can find the several cenotes that surround the city. In the majority of them, we will have to pay a small admission charge. A remarkable site is the cenote de Chacmool has numerous tunnels, caverns and caves; stalactite here is the world’s largest submarine with 12 meters in length.

Undoubtedly, one of the most original sites of Puerto Aventuras is its Museo de barcos hundidos (Shipwreck Museum) that displays that displays wreckage and artefacts collected from shipwrecks along the eastern coastline.

Francisco Cenamor

The Fives USA blog about Playa del Carmen & the Riviera Maya, Mexico

We can visit the Eco-archaelogical park of Xcaret situated some miles aways from Playa del Carmen

Theme Park of Xcaret in Playa del Carmen, Rivera Maya, Mexico

We have already talked about the Theme Park of Xela-Há. Well, it is time now to talk about another theme park that is also as spectacular and situated only 3.7 miles from Playa del Carmen. It is the Eco-Archaeological Park of Xcaret, which means, in Mayan language “little creek or cove.”

From Playa del Carmen we can take a Park bus at 9 am and entry fee is included in the entrance fee. The bus Station is beside the ferry dock and is very well known. From the downtown station, located in Quinta Avenida, there are also public buses for 2 Dollars every half an hour and they leave passengers 0.6 miles from the entrance, but the park also has a free service combined with the arrival of buses. And if we go by taxi, it will cost approximately 11.5 Dollars. Most hotels also offer visits to this Park.

There, we will enjoy the typical water activities: snorkel, scuba diving, visit to the coral reef and sliding in the subterranean rivers. Here the tube, the flippers and the glasses for snorkel are not included in some of the entrance fees; you can take them or hire them for approximately 7 Dollars.

One of the main attractions of this Park are the different Mayan pyramids and buildings that have been restored with the help of the Instituto Nacional de Arqueología e Historia (the Mexican National Institute of Archaeology and History); and the shows recreating sports, parties and traditions of the Maya in their impressive amphitheater for 6,000 people. More than 250 actors work daily in Xcaret.

Among the interesting installations we can find an aquarium, a bird and a butterfly site that shows us the natural fauna living in this zone. There are also guided tours to the jungle from where we can see –using binoculars- the fearsome jaguar in its natural habitat.

In order to enjoy the visits and shows, you must hire the services in advance; some of them have an additional price.

And if you want to tie the knot and give a sublime night to your family, you can get married in this Park, where magical moments are prepared for this ceremony.

The list of water activities, ecologic routes and shows included in the entrance fee seems to be endless, I can’t be visited in one day only, this may be the reason why they are offering a new product: a two-day ticket (to be used in six days starting from the first visit). It is free for children under 3.28 feet, 50% for children from 3.28 to 4.59 feet; and the fee for adults is 59 Dollars.

But there are other options. The normal ticket is 41 Dollars and 21 for children. The night ticket to attend shows is 30 Dollars and 15 for children. And if you buy Xcaret the Plus ticket, sodas, food and snorkel equipment are included for 63 Dollars for adults and 32 for children.

Entry for children of less than 3.28 feet is free and all the ticket options have a 10% discount if hired by Internet.

From Playa del Carmen those who love comfort have a special tour that will pick take them back to their hotel after the beautiful day at Xcaret for 63 Dollars and 32 for children.

Francisco Cenamor

The Fives USA blog about Playa del Carmen & the Riviera Maya, Mexico

Archaeological excavations of El Meco, an antique and important port of the ancient Riviera Maya

At approximately 37 miles from Playa del Carmen there are the archaeological excavations of El Meco, which, even tough they are not open to the public, can be visited requesting a permit from the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History.)

Therefore, this is the perfect place for lovers of Mayan history and archaeology since there are no guided tours and we must go on our own. It is not difficult to get there, we only have to get to Cancun and from there travel some miles to Punta Sam. The transportation options are the usual ones: bus, van, taxi or rented car. And there is also an air taxi service between Playa del Carmen and Cancun.

If you wish to stay there for some days this is not a problem since there are many hotels in Cancun as well as in Puerto Juárez. Most adventurers can use the camping site.

El Meco is the current name of this region, since (as with many other towns) the Mayan name of this city is unknown. It is believed that the current name comes from an inhabitant who, during the XIX century, had a coconut ranch on the coast and the place was named referring to his limp.

Located in the continental zone of Isla Mujeres, it has the highest building of the archaeological excavations near Cancun. This building is known as The Castel, a quadrangular basis with four sections and a temple in the higher part. This building is surrounded by two smaller buildings that seem to have been a temple and an administrative building.

The central park of excavations has many other buildings. One of them has a long string of columns inside. The best preserved building of the lot is a little temple north of the park.

The road from Puerto Juárez to Punta Sam has divided the antique Mayan city in two and the zone near the coast is practically unexplored. There we can see the remains of a pre-Hispanic dock.

 

And precisely this dock is the one that gave importance to this city since it was a shipping area for the important religious and commercial activities of Isla Mujeres.

Recent studies have shown that in this area there was a primitive fisher’s town which apparently disappeared in the year 600 A.D. and that was uninhabited until 1000 or 1100, when a new city emerged, possibly for the service of Chichén Itzá, and one hundred years later it became the head bridge of Isla Mujeres.

Francisco Cenamor

The Fives USA blog about Playa del Carmen & the Riviera Maya, Mexico

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