Mexico/Explore the Mexican Mayan Rivera along the Caribbean Coast
Hit the beach and enjoy many watersports from windsurfing to scuba diving, jetskiing to peaceful snorkeling. Lie on the beach and tan, or boogie the night away to live music at a local hotspot. Take a short daytrip and visit Mayan ruins nestled in the jungle at Coba, or overlooking the Caribbean at Tulum. Visit the natural aquariums at Xel-Ha, or the nearby park at Xcaret.
In Playa and its surrounding environs you'll discover some of the worlds best diving and snorkeling. The waters are crystal clear, boast incredible visibility, and a diversity of marine plant and animal life forms in size, shapes, and colors that will astound the pro and novice alike.
Please note that coral reefs are extremely fragile and vulnerable. The lightest touch of hand or flipper can destroy years of growth. So please, DON'T TOUCH!!
Stroll along the new pedestrian walkway and discover fine dining and great shopping opportunities. Take a day trip and have an adventure...centoes, snorkeling, ruins, swimming, lagoons - it's all kick ass! Our restaurants run the gamut from fresh seafood to T-bone steaks. Traditional Mexican, Yucatecan, French, and Italian dishes are all offered. Tacos and fresh pizza, spaghetti or grilled shish kabobs... lobster and shrimp... tropical fruit drinks and salads... Whatever your taste, chances are you can find it here in PLAYA!!
Discover Mexico's Cenotes
Cenotes may technically be considered "sinkholes", but the ones found here differ considerably from what we generally envision when we think of a "sinkhole".
The Yucatan peninsula has only a few lakes and rivers... above ground level. Below ground, however, this peninsula is covered with a limestone "shelf", when a portion of earth above the river/lake does collapses, it tends to stay that way. (As opposed to sand caving into an empty cavern). Understand this is crystal clear water (often at places totally dry at ground level) and it's easy to understand how the original inhabitants of this land would make their first settlements near a cenote.
Cenote in the Mayan Riviera
There are big, well known cenotes, and small "unknown" cenotes as well. They are everywhere. Ask the local children, when you travel, where their favorite "swimming hole" is? There are several small cenotes right in Playa del Carmen, and some larger ones suitable for swimming within just a few miles.
A particularly nice one is Cenote Azul, about 4 kilometers from Puerto Aventuras. Fantastic fresh water swimming of course, but it's specially a delight to cave divers because this is a principal entry point to visit many other cenotes.
BIG caution to divers - you must be cave-dive certified to dive these underground rivers. It's easy - and deadly - to get lost. There are experienced professional dive-masters in Playa who are familiar with these cenotes and rivers and have the specialized equipment (lights, rope etc.) needed to dive them safely. Take advantage of their knowledge and services.
Not only do they provide fresh drinking water for the people, but also for the indigenous wildlife... which is where easier hunting comes in. The vast majority of the Yucatan is parched for most of the year, so it can't be overstated how important the cenotes were to the original inhabitants. It is worth nothing that all the (well known and secret) sites associated with the Maya are located where cenotes exist. It seems the bigger the cenote the larger the site. No coincidence. Because these cenotes provided such an important and basic natural resource, it is only natural that the ancient Maya included these cenotes in their religious rituals.
Explore the areas local Cenotes, the underground lakes & rivers...
There are big, well known cenotes, and small "unknown" cenotes as well. They are everywhere. Ask the local children, when you travel, where their favorite "swimming hole" is?
Playa del Carmen is located near the Mayan ruins of Tulum, Xel-ha, Xcaret, Chichen-Itza and Coba. Take a short daytrip and visit ruins nestled in the jungle at Coba, or overlooking the Caribbean at Tulum. Visit the natural aquariums at Xel-Ha, or the nearby park at Xcaret.
The Mayan Ruins
Playa del Carmen has some interesting Mayan ruins near by, but if you want to see some truly magnificent pyramids you'll want to visit these sites. Tulm is about a 45 minute ride (by bus, taxi, or rental car) south of Playa del Carmen. The only Mayan city built directly on the sea, Tulum is thought to date from 400-900A.D. After exploring the ruins and enjoying the spectacular view from atop EL CASTILLO.
You can take a refreshing dip in the Caribbean from the pristine beach in front of the site. Tulum, in Quintana Roo near the town of El Crucero, is the place to go for ruins on the beach. It is the most visited Maya ruin and is the biggest attraction on the coast. It was the only Maya city built on the coast, possibly having housed 2000 people and once functioned as a trade center.
This port city was never conquered by the Spaniards and was one of the last Maya outposts left standing during their revolt against Mexican rule in the War of the Castes during the 1840's. There is no question why Tulum holds great significance to the Mayans. An impressive sight at Tulum is an imposing castle standing on the edge of a 12 meter cliff at the top of the ruins. Visitors may wish to bring a swim suit to cool off in a cove at the bottom of the site but there are no facilities. The area prime trekking ground for those who want to experience jungle wildlife living amidst pristine rain forest and unrestored Mayan ruins.
Cobá, north of Tulum in Quintana Roo, is about a 30 minute ride northwest of Tulum, and well worth visiting, accommodations are available for overnight stays. It was once a stately city which controlled the economy of the entire Maya region. Unlike most archeological sites on the Yucatan Peninsula, Coba is in the middle of the jungle, and a totally different experience. Take some mosquito repellent with you for this one, as the moist jungle environment supports quite on insect population. It prospered between AD 400 to 1100 and in its heyday, 40,000 people lived within its confines. Large temple pyramids still stand above the jungle, one of which is 138 feet tall, the highest in Northern Yucatan. Because Coba is isolated and off the coast, it is not visited as frequently as it should be. Mysterious ancient roads through the jungle radiate out from Cobá leading, it seems, to nowhere in particular. Also bring along some water, as you'll be doing a lot of hiking. What will you see? The highest pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula, for one thing, (Nohoch Mul). You may see or at least hear, howler monkeys and an incredible variety of jungle birds. The top of the gigantic Temple of the Churches affords a fantastic view of Lake Ma Can Xoc to the east and of Lake Cobo to the southwest. You'll also see many stelae, glyphs, and sculptures, some showing detailed relieves and complicated inscriptions. One stelae is dated November 30, 780 A.D. in Mayan glyphs.
Chichén Itzá, translates to mean "mouth of the well of Itza", is probably the best known and most visited of all the Mayan ruins, and with good reason. Chichen is the best known, best restored, and arguably most impressive Mayan ruin. Although it's due west of Playa del Carmen, you'll have to go north to Cancun to get the main highway to Chichen-Itza. It's about a three hour ride, so leave early to give yourself plenty of time to explore this fascinating site. We recommend you hire a guide, or at least buy a booklet to better understand what you are seeing. The structures are enormous and awesome.
Chichen Itza pyramid
The largest ballcourt in mesoamerica, stone sculptures of gods associated with human sacrifice, steam baths for ritual purification and the 98 foot tall El Castillo all reside here. Chichen had two principal wells, or cenote: one sacred and the other profane. The profane well was used for everyday needs. The sacred well, a largish 195 feet across by 120 feet deep, was used in worship, and offerings were continually made to it. Divers have retrieved skeletons and many ritual objects from its depths.
Only 6 km. south of Playa Del Carmen is the Mexican version of Disneyland, X-Caret. X-Caret is a 250 acre ecological theme park with a number of attractions. Archaeologists are still excavating the area and several ruins have been restored. One of the main attractions is the educational Dolphinaruim with workshops and dolphins with whom visitors can swim with for a fee ($60). Another main attraction is the underground river ride that floats visitors past coralline deposits and unusual fish in the river and lasts for about 25 minutes. Other park attractions include a botanical garden, a museum, a turtle farm, a butterfly garden, horseback riding, a lagoon great for young snorkelers and a beautiful beach. The park also has dive shops on site, a restaurant and a gift shop. Park fee is $25. Public transportation is available from Playa Del Carmen but many tour operators offer day excursions to the park.
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