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).

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 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

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