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).

Where and who to dive with in Playa del Carmen (1)

Diving in its different forms is one of the main activities in Playa del Carmen that we have talked about during all these months that our blog has been created. So here are some reliable companies with whom you can dive in Playa del Carmen and its surroundings.

Maybe the most accessible activity to the majority of people is snorkeling (we have already talked about it), and Mayan Adventure is a specialized company, located in Playa del Carmen. They offer seven-hour diving tours in caverns and cenotes, which start from the time they pick you up at the airport in a van till they drop you back. Apart from transport, these tours include snorkeling, specialized guides, lunch. Noteworthy is the determination of this company to practise an ecotourism really respectful with the environment in which they work. They also offer another extreme tour that includes the visitor to the Mayan ruins of Tulum. Their Website does not have the price list.

Hidden Worlds Cenotes Park is a park specialized in water activities related to the cenotes. It is located half an hour from Playa del Carmen and offer several types of guided visits with snorkeling and scuba diving. The Website is in English only, but they have a good photo gallery that makes you green with envy (the photo of the head of this post is taken from their Website).

There are also many companies specialized in diving activities which are certified by international diving institutions. And, although they mainly give services to expert divers, they also offer diving courses, initiation tours and snorkeling. Among these companies are Scuba Playa (Español, English, Français), which offers a wide range of places where to dive or snorkel: from the most famous and beautiful cenotes like the Gran Cenote or the one of Nohoch Nachich, to several spots of the marvelous coral barrier that runs along the coast of the Riviera Maya. The site includes some videos which are a good reference of the places where you can practise immersions.

Dressel Divers International is a company also certified by international diving organizations based in Spain and in America which has two branches in Playa del Carmen. They offer certified courses and activities for experienced divers, but they also offer tours for amateurs and novice divers as well as several snorkeling routes in open sea, reefs (in the photo) and cenotes. The company was created by one of the greatest diving experts worldwide, Javier Ibrán Pardo, a Spaniard who is the current president. Their specific diving program for children is quite interesting.

Phocea Riviera Maya (Español, English, and Français) is more than a diving center because they also help you to prepare your own routes within the Yucatan Peninsula in order to travel independently but with information. As for diving, they have a French-Mexican team, highly specialized and offer immersions for experts as well as courses for amateurs and novice divers. Their head office is located in Playa del Carmen. The most interesting specialty of this company is diving with whale sharks on Holbox Island.

This post falls too short for all the information on the many other companies devoted to diving and snorkeling in Playa del Carmen or its surroundings, so we will continue writing on this topic.

Francisco Cenamor.

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