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

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

Sian Ka’an, a “gift from Heaven” below the Riviera Maya and 50 miles from Playa del Carmen

If you are going to stay for some days in Playa del Carmen it is almost compulsory to pay a visit to one of the most impressive places in the world: the biosphere reserve of Sian Ka’an. It is situated 50 miles from Playa del Carmen but it will take almost two hours to get to an inner site where we will begin our journey.

The Mayans perfectly knew how to name this impressive place. Sian Ka’an means “gift from heaven” or “where heaven is born”. There are 75 miles of coast, 650,000 of jungles, rivers, and mangrove swamps. In 1985 this place was declared national park and only one year after UNESCO declared its biosphere reserve, world heritage.

Inside we can discover more than twenty zones of archaeological sites, some of the discoveries are 2,300 years. And, even tough there are three zones completely restricted to visitors, there is a lot to be seen.

It is an important nesting zone for water birds. More than 300 species of birds live here or pass through. Bird watching is one of the most requested activities by visitors. More than one hundred mammal species also inhabit this paradise.

The habitat here is also very different: beaches, where there are up to four species of endangered turtles; the second coral reef in size in the world with 68 miles; the coast dunes and the mangrove swamps, natural barriers against weather harshness and regions full of flora and fauna; a wide network of tunnels of fresh water joining hundreds of cenotes; small lakes of fresh and salty water with tens of islets and also the jungles.

Travelers who came here do not recommend coming on your own because this is a highly protected place (and it is good to be so) and the number of visitors is limited so we can be barred from entering after getting here.

The best option is to hire some guided visit. Some hotels and operators in Playa del Carmen offer a one-day trip. It is a good solution since it usually includes transportation, the guided tour on the motorboat in the jungles, food, drink and snorkel. This service is approximately 60 dollars (45 Euros).

They also have promotions to stay for more than one day, sleeping in well-equipped ecologic houses outside the reserve or in hotels placed in a nearby town as Punta Allen. The option to sleep inside consists in hammocks, tents or huts.

My recommendation in this case is to hire the service with eco-tourism operators, they know what to do to respect the place and that is why they are authorized by the reserve authorities. Here is a list of addresses of some local eco-tourism operators and organisations offering activities: EcoColors, Ecoturismo Yucatán, Amigos de Sian Ka’an, Centro Ecológico Sian Ka’an.

Sian Ka’an is not just a place to visit; it is a place for nature, flora and fauna lovers who are conscious of the importance of nature preservation.

Francisco Cenamor

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

Note: Feel free to visit our sponsor: The Fives Resort & Private Residences in Playa del Carmen

Logo The Fives Resort

Walking around Playa del Carmen and its surroundings

There are many opportunities for walking around Playa del Carmen and for going to other places from that point. Obviously, each opportunity depends on where you would like to go as well as the amount of money you are willing to spend. This is because once you have arrived here you will really want to see everything that you can because of the great many things the city offers. Moreover, the fact that it is practically situated in the middle of the Mexican Riviera makes it an excellent starting point to explore this small Mexican paradise.

Cancún, the administrative center of the Mexican Riviera, and Playa del Carmen are connected with public transport buses. The bus service is available between 6 and 10 pm, in which the journey takes approx. an hour with buses running every ten minutes. The fare is approximately 3 US dollars. It is also 3 USD to travel between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, although the buses only run every thirty minutes. The bus station is located on the main street of the city, Fifth Avenue.

Private transport companies with similar fares and trip frequencies offer more services: regular lines, personalized transport, car rental without a driver, and traditional vans (small van for the transportation of passengers). These companies normally offer their services at airports and bus stations for several local hotels, which makes them easy to find.

In Playa del Carmen, there are many places you can go walking because it is not a very large city. However, it is sometimes necessary to use public or private transport. The best way to go is with a taxi, but you have to ask the driver about the total price for the trip prior to accepting the service in order to avoid any misunderstandings. Moving around within the city and beaches normally costs between 15 and 30 pesos, or approx. 1.5 to 3 US dollars. Taxis work in the usual way: you hail an unoccupied taxi on the street. If you request a taxi at your hotel, you will have to pay your hotel for that service.

For longer trips, Aerosaab offers an air taxi service. You can visit the ruins of Chichén Itzá on an organized trip starting from 247 US dollars. This trip takes only an hour versus six hours on a bus. However, you can also travel to other places such as Cozumel, Islas Mujeres, Islas Holbox, Cancun, Tulum, and even take panoramic flights with this same company at a wide range of prices. The address of the company, which is located at the Cancun airport, is Avenida 20 Sur, Calle 1. It is essential to book these types of services far in advance.

The bus station also offers public and private services for long distance trips, and obviously, they are cheaper than the air taxi. For some destinations that are not well-connected, you can travel by taxi at a price that you should agree upon in advance with the driver. You can always also rent a private car as a last resort.

Another way to travel to locations near Playa del Carmen is per a ferry to the several islands of the Riviera Maya and even to other cities. Generally, it is better to take a ferry only if you are going to the islands, unless you would just like to explore the coast out of sheer pleasure. The companies that offer these services have an extensive timetable. The fare, for example, from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel is approximately 8.7 US dollars.

Francisco Cenamor

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

Note: Feel free to visit our sponsor: The Fives Resort & Private Residences in Playa del Carmen

Welcome to the Riviera Maya, a paradise for relaxing in a natural environment

The Riviera Maya is one of the most heavenly places of the Caribbean. It is located in Mexico, on the eastern end of the Peninsula of Yucatan. Some 74.56 miles of beaches that separate a sea of a bright turquoise color from luxuriant forests.

In the last years important and modern buildings have been developed in the area to facilitate a relaxing and welcoming stay to visitors. Besides, you will find many activities: long strolls on the beautiful beaches of soft sand, excursions to the forest and other interesting ecological trips, visits to the impressive archaeological sites excavations, scuba diving and other water sports, visits to the cenotes, peculiar source water deposits, and visits to typical villages of the surroundings.

One of the main advantages for visitors is the great variety of alternatives that are offered to tourists, for the independent traveler as well as the most demanding or the most adventurous sportsperson and the one that seeks peace and relax. And this is due to the fact that there is a wide range of lodgings at the traveler’s disposal, from a solitary lodge in the seashore to the luxury services of the hotel chains offering all the services, to the variety of small hotels that can be found in the villages of the area.

For those who love nature, it is not difficult to visit the numerous and luxuriant forests of the Riviera Maya. In those impressive forests, you can observe different species of flora and fauna that are only found in the area. Besides, you can spend the night there thanks to a network of bungalows established for this purpose. It is also possible to visit one of the best preserved biosphere and almost intact reserves: the ecologic paradise of Sian Ka’an. Not to forget the ecologic and recreational activities organized in the parks of Xcaret and Xel-Há.

From the marinas you can also easily access the abundant submarine nature to practice scuba diving or snorkeling along the bright coral reefs. For those who wish to devote their visit to scuba diving, it is mostly recommended to do the so-called “Tour of the jungle” which includes immersion in the Nohoch Nachich, the center of the subterranean rivers that cover the Peninsula of Yucatan.

Combining rest and activities on the beach with cultural activities is another of the interesting tourist offers of the Riviera Maya. The small surrounding villages and hamlets are characterized by their picturesque popular architecture, but of course, the most impressive is the accumulation of archaeological remains, a legacy of the attractive and mysterious Mayan Empire. In the depths of the immense forest, there is the pre-hispanic town of Coba, constructed intentionally among five lagoons and inhabited until the XV century. You can also visit the old walled city of Tulum, situated on the highest peak of a cliff and that shows the architectural remains of the XIII to the XVI centuries.

The most important urban enclave of the area is Playa del Carmen, a cosmopolitan and welcoming city equipped with the most modern facilities of assistance to citizens. Its streets are full of malls were you can shop as well as important restaurants and leisure areas. There are also other well-equipped towns on the Riviera Maya such as Puerto Aventuras, Akumal and Tulum, the ultimate bohemian city, where there is a fusion between the different languages of the visitors and the Mayan dialects of the peaceful inhabitants.

Finally, reaching the Riviera Maya is not troublesome at all since it is only some miles from the modern international airport of Cancun, where planes arrive from the most important cities of the planet.

All in all, the Riviera Maya is a heavenly place where to enjoy a wide range of ecologic tourism and relax at the reach of all pockets.

Francisco Cenamor

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

Note: Feel free to visit our sponsor: The Fives Resort & Private Residences in Playa del Carmen