Where and who to dive with in Playa del Carmen (and 3)

As I was surfing the Internet, looking for information about diving in Playa del Carmen, I found new centers where to enjoy this beautiful water activity. Here are the new diving centers.

Go Cenotes (Español, English, Français and Deutsch) is a new PADI certified center that operates from Playa del Carmen. They offer diving and snorkeling in the reefs of Playa del Carmen, Cozumel and Tulum, as well as night immersions. The diving and snorkeling routes can be guided or not, and, the truth is that the prices seem quite affordable. They also offer good programs for certified and experienced divers. Moreover, they can record your immersions so that you take with us a beautiful memory of our stay in Playa del Carmen.

Phantom Divers offers almost the whole range of PADI courses, from beginners to advanced divers. From this center in Playa del Carmen we can dive in the pristine waters of its coasts and the reefs of Cozumel Island. Their routes to the cenotes, with all the necessary equipment and guides have quite affordable prices and also a wide range of schedules. They also offer long visits and diving of seven to ten days.

On their part, Sealife Divers, which Website the photo of the head of this post is taken from, offer several water activities in Playa del Carmen, such as: cheap diving programs if contracted for days with the possibility of choosing which days to enjoy them. The diving spots are the usual ones and they are also officially certified.

Scuba Caribe has branches in several places in the Caribbean, among which Playa del Carmen, where they offer certified courses and an interesting family program. The picture of the fish is taken from their Website. Diversity Diving, offers a wide range of prices as well as specialized and certified courses together with excursions to the most popular reefs and cenotes. All these websites we have talked about include photographs and videos, which undoubtedly, are an invitation to immerse in the reefs and cenotes of the Riviera Maya.

To close this series of articles, here are links to companies that do the same activity, but in other places. As you can see, Cozumel Island, the diving paradise in the Riviera Maya, is just opposite the coast of Playa del Carmen.

Cozumel Island: Aqua Safari, Blue Angel, Deep Exposure Dive Center, Del Mar Aquatics, Blue Bubble Divers, Sand Dollar Sports, Studio Blue Cozumel, Dive College, Deep Blue, Dive Palancar, Dive Paradise, Dive With Martin, Dressel Divers, Scuba Clun Cozumel, Scuba Du.

Puerto Aventuras: Aquanauts, Pro Dive México, Scuba Caribe.

Akumal: Akumal Dive Shop, Bahia Dive Center.

Puerto Morelos: Wet Set.

Tulum: Maya Diving.

Cancun: AquaWorld, Manta Divers, Scuba Cancun, Scuba Caribe.

Isla Mujeres: Aqua Adventures, Coral Scuba Dive Center.

Francisco Cenamor

Where and who to dive with in Playa del Carmen (2)

Although we have talked about them before but there is no harm in reminding you here of the existence of two big natural theme and archaeological parks where you can dive in the Mayans cenotes. These are the Xel-Há Water Theme Park and the Eco-Archaeological Park of Xcaret.

Altournative is one the companies based in Playa del Carmen that organizes all kinds of adventure routes; several of these routes include diving in the cenotes On their Website they claim to be a socially responsible company which respects the people and the Mayan culture and whose trips have the least impact on the environment, two things that are always good to be taken into account. The information on the site is in English only and the picture of this post is taken from the site.

The journey to the cenote and any other route is by quad, a four-wheeled motorbike. It is organized by AVT Explorer, which offers tours in the jungle in these vehicles including snorkeling in different cenotes. They also have an office in Playa del Carmen and their Website is in English.

Opposite the watchtower of Playa del Carmen are other centers like Jaime’s Marina, from which you can make routes including snorkeling: you can take your own equipment or rent one there. They are specialized in diving in the coral reefs and their Website is also in English.

If apart from visiting the cenotes, you want to do specific diving courses, one of the practical possibilities is to do it with Labna-Ha (Español, English and Deutsch). Labna-Ha in Mayan means “old house in the water”. They offer many courses and also organize routes to practise diving and snorkeling. Besides, they manage Magic Mayan World Eco-park where the cenote Caracol, one of the famous cenotes of the area, is. Since they are also very strict with the protection of the environment, the groups are very small so you have to book in advance. The second photo is taken from their Website.

Scuba Libre has been working in Playa del Carmen for ten years and has two centers. They organize diving courses certified by international institutions. They have many diving spots opposite the coasts of Playa del Carmen. They also organize snorkeling in six different cenotes not very far from Playa del Carmen and visits to several places of the western coast of Cozumel Island.

Yucatek Divers (Español, English, Français, Deutsch), are specialized in services for physically disabled people. But, of course, they also offer a lot of activities: starter courses, diving on the coasts of Playa de Carmen or in several cenotes. One of their specialties is diving with sharks on Hotbox Island, and their tours start from Playa del Carmen. Their other two specialties are snorkeling at the same places and a specific program for children. They organize guided tours around Playa del Carmen and the surrounding jungles and to several archaeological spots, and curiously, also offer Spanish courses.

And, to finish this review, here are three other centers in Playa del Carmen specialized in diving in its several specialties: Aquanauts, Dive Mike (English, Dansk) and Akumal Dive Adventures.

Francisco Cenamor

(Click here to read (in Spanish) the first part of this post and also click here to read this in English).

Aktun Chen y Kantun-Chi, two small ecological parks to visit from Playa del Carmen and enjoy the cenotes

On the way to Tulum, some 31 miles from Playa del Carmen, is the Eco-park of Aktun Chen (English Website). It is not difficult to get there by bus, van, taxi or a rented car. We can also contract a one-day visit at the reception area of the hotel or through Lomas Travel (English Website), the tour operator.

The name means “cave with an underground river inside” in Mayan language and this is precisely the main attraction of this park, since there are three caves with cenotes inside. The park has an area of 988 acres of unexplored rainforest; visiting them is another attraction altogether.

But it is undoubtedly an ideal place where to visit the caves, since one of them, has been enhanced with indirect lighting for a better view and enjoyment of the wonders inside. The caves are millions of years old and we can watch the fanciful shapes the passing of time formed with the stalactites and stalagmites.

Besides, the park offers a program of reproduction of the local wildlife and when strolling through the jungle, you can easily watch several endangered species such as the spider monkey, the white tail deer, the collared peccary, the wild boar or the wild turkey. There is also a snake observatory where to watch more than fifteen species of the region.

It opens from Monday to Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm and until 7 am in June, July and August. It costs 260 pesos (aprox. 24 dolllars/16 euros), half the price for children between 3 and 10 years.

Kantun-Chi (English website) is located hardly 14 miles from Playa del Carmen on the way to Puerto Aventuras. You can get there using the usual means of transport. They open from 9 am to 5 pm, and until 6 pm in summer. They have two types of tickets: the first one which costs 23 euros for adults and 20 for children includes a diving tour in the grottos and the cenotes with all the necessary equipment and a guided visit through the jungle. The second one only includes a route through the jungle and a visit to the cenotes; it costs 14 and 7 euros.

Kantun-Chi means “yellow stone mouth” in Mayan language. There is a rich variety of the flora and fauna common to this region. Once again, you can let yourself be impressed with a walk through the jungle, but the main attractions of this park are undoubtedly the grottos and the cenotes.

The main route is through one grotto that was formed over millions of years between two of the main cenotes of the park. The boat trip in the subterranean canals brings us close to marvelous formations of stalactites and stalagmites and the wide range of colors the few sunrays that are projected on the water and the walls of the caves. In some parts you can dive and snorkel.

In order to protect the endangered species, only four of the many cenotes of the park are open to the public. And, for this reason, the use of any kind or water-based sun block or lotions is not allowed. Kantun Chi is the cenote which gives its name to the park and the first one you encounter as you begin your adventure. The next one is Sas ka leen Ha, “transparent water” and resembles a crescent moon and was probably used by the ancient Mayans for the purification of their souls. Uchil Ha, “ancient water” has the shape of a ring and is the most unusual to be found on the Yucatan Peninsula. Lastly, Zazil Ha, “clear water” is the ideal place to watch the effects of the light at noon when sunrays cross through the small holes in the roof of the cenote.

Francisco Cenamor

Isla Holbox, a very attractive but further destination from Playa del Carmen

Isla Holbox is a marvellous place to visit, although it is not very close to Playa del Carmen (a four-hour drive by highway, at least by bus). The trip will surely take less time if we go by van or rent a car.

Anyway, if we choose to go by bus, we will have to go to Cancun and, from there, at the Terminal Central (Central Terminal), take a bus of the company Mayab to Puerto Chiquila where we can take the ferry. The bus fare is 8.50 euros for the roundtrip which takes about three hours. The journey in ferry from Chiquila to Isla Holbox costs about 5 euros for the roundtrip which takes 20 minutes.

If you can afford it, the best way to go is undoubtedly, by aero taxi. According to the information on the website of Aerosaab, the company that offers this type of service, the price per person is 334 euros plus airport taxes, in a charter flight. This same company offers a day trip to Isla Holbox in light aircraft and includes lunch and several visits for 196 euros per person.

But it is worth, according to travelers’ opinions on forums, to stay there some days in order to enjoy most of its marvels. There are not many hotels there, so it is convenient to book in advance.

Isla Holbox in Mayan language means “black hole”, referring to the subterranean lagoon located south. The Mayans used this island to settle fishing camps. To know more about the history of this island here is an interesting link. As a natural heaven, it is priceless. One of the most interesting spots is Isla Pájaros, a smallish nearby island, located at 30 minutes by boat, where in a space of no more than 200 square miles, we can watch thousands of birds, some of them endangered. Of course, it is compulsory to respect the zones limited for trekking and to watch them from the observation posts provided for this.

Isla Pasión, hardly 20 minutes away, is the typical uninhabited island where all of us would like to get lost, although we meet another visitor there. It is an island where one imagines to find a pirates treasure. Talking about pirates’ refuge, you don’t want to miss the lagoon of Yalahao or Yalahau, a surprising fresh water lagoon located between the island and the continental part of Isla Holbox. Needless to say that you can contract a guided tour to visit these three places in an “all inclusive package”.

You can travel freely around Isla Holbox, the most popular vehicles being bicycles and golf carts. Don’t forget that it is only 26 miles long by 1/1/4 miles wide. The adventure travelers may find completely deserted fine white sandy beaches. Another way of visiting the island is by motorboat and, if you are lucky, you can enjoy one of the unparalleled pleasures of swimming with whale sharks.

You can reach the continental part of Isla Holbox easily by van or rented car from Cancun. There, you can also visit interesting places like the archaeological remains of El Naranjal: 50 structures in hardly 1/1/4 miles of a marvellous ecological interesting route. Some of the ruins are being restored. There are many more attractive spots in this part of the island, so here is a link to discover further.


Francisco Cenamor

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

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

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