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Playa Palms Tested: Mayan Jungle Adventure

Join the Playa Palms Beach Hotel team on a real Mayan adventure through the jungle and exploring an underground cenote.

We write a lot about things to do in and around Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya, and at Playa Palms Beach Hotel we help you find the tour that suits you best. To make sure we know what we talk about, we sometimes go on these tours ourselves. Last week, some of our staff went on a crazy jungle adventure with Amazing Caribbean Tours, to see if we can really recommend their tour to our guests. It was a lot of fun!

The friendly driver dropped us off at the ranch in the middle of the jungle somewhere between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Our guides, Rafael and Alex, were already waiting for us. After safety instructions, Rafael explained us the how-tos of ATV motorcycle driving. Not that there is much to explain, it has a thumb-accelerator and hand brakes, making them very easy to operate. You can drive them from the age of 16 up and don’t need a driver’s license. Then we finally started the engines and hit the rocky road.

Alex led our small group, with me behind him, since I’m the one with nearly no driving experience (having spent so much time playing Mario Kart turned out really useful at this point), and Rafael at the end. After starting slowly to allow us to practice, we then sped up a bit. Alex and Rafael would always make sure that we’re ok though – safety first. If driving an ATV is something you’ve never done before, you should definitely go for it. It was so much fun speeding through the jungle! You can ride the ATV motorcycles with up to 2 people, or you can choose a buggy instead, but only if you have the drivers license.

After about an hour of adrenaline rushing fun, we returned to the entrance, where a vehicle waited to bring us to the cenote “La Gloria”. This is a small but beautiful cenote, where you can cool off in its crystal clear waters, jump of a swing, snorkel, and swim. Make sure to bring bug spray though, there are many mosquitoes, and put it on as soon as you get out of the water.

Then we continued to the cenote Hilarios, a cenote in an underground cave. Climbing down the steep and narrow entrance, we already felt like true adventurers. Equipped with flashlights and life jackets, we started our tour through the cavern. Stalagmites and stalactites are everywhere, what makes this cenote a photographer’s dream. Rafael, while guiding us safely through what to us seemed a labyrinth, told us not only interesting facts but also Mayan legends and stories that made this a truly unforgettable and special experience. Let me remark here, that the cavern is certainly not for you if you’re claustrophobic (they ask you before). I would recommend bringing water shoes, since the ground is very rocky, and bug spray – at the entrance of the cave the mosquitoes are waiting.

In a resume, this for sure is one of the most fun ways to explore the amazing Riviera Maya’s nature. We especially liked that they take small groups or even private tours, which means you don’t have to waste time waiting and can truly enjoy every moment. You can either make all 3 activities or can choose 2 of them, and the tour takes about 4 hours.

Amazing Caribbean Tours also offers excursions to Sian Kaan, Holbox, and Isla Contoy. Just let us know if you’re interested in any of these tours at the best price.

6 Things You Only Find in the Riviera Maya

Mexico is a special place, extremely diverse with a whole lot more to offer than just tequila and good parties. You find the most beautiful beaches at the incredible 9330 km of coastline, volcanoes, 67 national parks, an extremely rich culture and don’t even get us started on the food… Each region has its own charms, and there sure is a reason why the Riviera Maya is so highly ranked among international and national travelers.

 
Picture perfect beaches

The Riviera Maya has not only some of the most gorgeous beaches in Mexico but in the world. What makes them special apart from the azure water and the palm-tree-framed beaches, is that the powder white sand is not burning hot. Since its composed of crushed coral, the sand stays cool to the touch regardless of how hot the day is. Look forward to not burning your feet, lay back in a hammock, sip on an ice-cold drink and simply enjoy life. These are the most beautiful beaches of the Riviera Maya. 

Cenotes

Discover a magical underworld of turquoise pools! Cenotes are spectacular spots to swim, snorkel or dive. They are natural pits that developed over millions of years by the collapse of porous limestone bedrock, which has revealed groundwater pools. For the ancient Mayan civilization cenotes where the only source of water in the jungle. They were considered sacred, and portals to communicate with the underworld.Plunge into the crystal clear, fresh, and cool water in a cave or cavern, or swim under a jungle-framed sky! Check out the best cenotes of the region.

Beachfront Ruins

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In Mexico, you find plenty of pre-Columbian ruins. Many of them on the Yucatan peninsula, like Chichen Itza or Cobá. They are all beautiful in their own way. But none of them has a breathtaking scenery like Tulum. Mayans weren’t really fond of beachfront properties. This makes Tulum’s setting unique, built on a spectacular cliffside, overlooking the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. There is a reason why Tulum is the 3rd most visited archaeological site in Mexico! Learn all about Tulum. 

Whale Sharks

Every summer, these peaceful giants make a stop in the pristine waters around Isla Mujeres and up north in Holbox. There are only very few things in the world that compare to swimming with whale sharks, and the Riviera Maya is one of only a few destinations where you can live this unforgettable adventure. Peak season is in July and August. Here’s all you need to know to swim with whale sharks. 

 
Cultural Theme Parks

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Yes, of course, there are great theme parks wit big names all over the world. But Xcaret and Xel-ha have their own unparalleled magic. The eco-archaeological park Xcaret highlights the best of Mexican and Mayan culture and the natural beauty of the region. More than 40 different attraction await you, like a Mayan village, forest trails, underground rivers, or even swim with dolphins! When the night falls, head to the on-site theater for a spectacular show featuring the best in Mexican culture, dance, and history.
Xel-ha, composed of lagoons, inlets, and cenotes, is known as the world’s largest natural aquarium. It has an enormous estuary with hundreds of tropical fish, featuring some archaeological remains of the Mayans, as well as caverns and cenotes.

Playa del Carmen’s nightlife

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Sure, there are great parties in Cancun any many other Mexican cities too. But there’s something special about Playa del Carmen’s nightlife. Besides of the big and famous clubs like for example Cocobongo or Mandala, there are many special events and festivals and quirky places. One of our favorites are Playa del Carmen’s many beachside bars, to enjoy a tasty cocktail with a view. Here’s a guide to Playa del Carmen’s nightlife. 

 

How to Avoid The BPM Festival

Everybody who is currently staying in Playa del Carmen can’t ignore the fact that the town’s biggest event is happening: the famous BPM Festival. Electronic beats follow you wherever you go, beach clubs, bars, even some restaurants turn into instant clubs. This is great, as long as you love electronic music. If you don’t, here’s where you can avoid the crowd and the beats.

1 Tours

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Whatever time of the year, taking a day trip or a tour to one of the many Mayan ruins is always a good option. Exchange the ubiquitous electronic beats with Mayan dance performances and culture. If you’re looking for ruins off the beaten path, we recommend Ek-Balam, a good 2 hours drive from Playa del Carmen. Its pyramid, El Torre, is one of the largest Mayan structures on the Peninsula. For more off the beaten path trips read here.

2 Cozumel

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Enjoy beautiful beaches, restaurants, bars and souvenir shopping, but without all the BPM craze. Cozumel is just a short ferry ride away from Playa del Carmen, so it’s an easy day trip. Here are the activities we most recommend on the island.

 

3 Cenotes

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You can’t visit the Riviera Maya without having plunged into at least one cenote. These natural sinkholes, sacred to the Mayas, are magical places. Cool down in their fresh water and explore a whole new underground world! These are the top 5 cenotes around Playa del Carmen.

 

4 Punta Soliman

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This peaceful, paradisiac beach just about 15 minutes north of Tulum, is one of the Riviera Maya’s best kept secrets. Come here to relax, avoid the masses and simply unwind your mind on the large, crescent shaped bay. Just in front of the beach entrance you find Oscar & Lalo’s restaurant, famous for its seafood. Especially their ceviche and the grilled octopus will seduce your palate.

 

5 Plaza Punto 115

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If you still want to go out for a beer, but away from the techno kids, try Plaza Punto 115. The relatively new plaza attracts mainly a local crowd. You find restaurants like Don Sirloin where you can get some delicious tacos or the Italian restaurant La Piola. There are also several bars, for example Las Helodias, where you can try very Mexican beer. At any time of the year this plaza is a nice alternative to the always busy 12th Street.

Whatever you are looking for, just ask our concierge or our staff at the front desk of Playa Palms Beach Hotel for suggestions. We are always happy to help! By the way, on January 15, the BPM festival comes to an end and Playa del Carmen returns to normality. For the moment at least.

 

 

Top 5 Amazing Snorkeling Spots in the Riviera Maya

Did you know that the Riviera Maya is home to the world’s second largest coral reef? This is only one of the reasons why snorkeling should definitely be on your bucket list when visiting Playa del Carmen. Live an unforgettable adventure in its colorful world offshore or explore magical underground rivers. Here are the snorkeling highlights of the Riviera Maya.

1 Cozumel – The Classical

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Be prepared for a world class snorkeling experience! One of the most well-known and extraordinary spots on Cozumel are the Palancar Reef and the Columbia Shallows. Admire tropical fish dashing through the colorful reef, sea turtles, nurse sharks, and magnificent underwater gardens, canyons and caves. If you prefer going without a tour and like shore snorkeling, we recommend Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park, located inside Cozumel’s National Marine Park. Besides of the beautiful reef and the animals inhabiting it, the underwater statues make it a special experience.

 

2 Akumal – Place of the Turtles

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You definitely can’t talk snorkeling without mentioning Akumal. Mostly famous for its abundance of sea turtles, it’s also a peaceful, picturesque town with a gorgeous white sand beach and some really good places to eat. If you want to see sea turtles up close, go to Akumal Bay. Another recommendable spot is the beautiful Yal-Ku Lagoon. Its calm waters make it the perfect place to snorkel with kids or beginners.  Expect to see parrot fish, rays, barracudas and many other sea creatures.

 

3 Cenote Chaak-Tun – For Adventurers
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courtesy of Phantom Divers

Escape the heat and the crowded beaches to a secret underworld, realm of the Mayan god of rain. The Mayans believed that cenotes are portals to communicate with the underworld, and once you plunge into this magical underground world you’ll understand why it held them in awe. Chaak-Tun is just a 15 minute car ride from Playa Palms Beach Hotel. The spelunking cavern might not be the perfect place if you’re claustrophobic, but if you dare to enter this new world, an unforgettable experience is guaranteed. Swim in the cenote’s crystal clear, fresh water and discover its spectacular formations. An experienced tour guide will lead you through the caverns and explain you all the interesting details.

 

4 Cancun Underwater Museum MUSA – For Art Lovers

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Be prepared for a unique snorkel excursion, discovering the surreal underwater world created by sculptures of the British artist Jason deCaires Taylor. The Cancun Underwater Museum features over 470 submerged statues, some solitary, others in groups, each representing different aspects of the human race. It shows the relation of modern art with man and the environment.  See how numerous species have started making the underwater museum their home. The sculptures are slowly showing more and more coral growth, what makes the Cancun Underwater Museum the biggest artificial coral reef in the world.

5 Xel-Ha – Discover and Relax

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If you’re looking to explore Riviera Maya’s underwater world, but also want to get a drink or two and relax, this is the perfect place for you. Xel-Ha is formed by a beautiful inlet that creates a multi-channel fresh water estuary. Over 90 marine species make their home here, including the parrot fish, barracuda and sea turtles. Also, if traveling with a group or your family, Xel-Ha offers activities for everybody’s interests. Even if you can’t swim, in Xel-Ha you can walk in the sea using the sea trek technology, a helmet that allows you to breathe comfortably. Read here for more information about Xel-Ha.

Ask our concierge or our staff at the front desk at Playa Palms Beach Hotel if you want more information or to reserve a tour.