Swimming in a cenote feels like an exclusive adventure and thrills are guaranteed! And their crystal clear water keeps you cool on a hot Mexican summer day.
Cenotes are natural pits, or sinkholes, that developed over millions of years. The word cenote derives from the Mayan “ts’onot”, that refers to any location with accessible groundwater. 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.
Some cenotes seem like a lake, others are underground, in a cave, often connected to an extensive underground river system. There are hundreds of cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsula, and they all contain astonishingly crystal clear, fresh and cool water with no or very low salinity. That makes them the perfect place to plunge in and cool off on one of those infamous tropical, hot days in Playa del Carmen.
Dos Ojos – For Divers
Dos Ojos, close to Xel-Ha is one of the ten longest underwater cave systems worldwide. The name means “two eyes”, referring to the two cenotes that are joined together by caves. The local Maya community operates it as a sustainable tourism project, offering dive and snorkel tours. Expect the dive experience of your life, diving through an underground river from one cenote another . If you’re an experienced diver don’t miss the famous “Pit”, a 110 meters (370 f) deep cenote where you can see ancient human and animal remains. Or you just snorkel and swim while admiring the stalactites and stalagmites.
Gran Cenote – For Families
This cenote, about 4 km west of Tulum, is partially open-air. It has partially submerged tunnels through which you can swim to other cenote pools. Over your head, bats are hanging from the roof and between your feet little fish swim around while you explore the underwater formations. There are docks to jump down from and it’s a lot of fun for all the family, since there are also pools with less deep water and sandy ground where kids can play.
Cenote Cristalino – For Spa-Goers
The open-air cenote about 30 km south of Playa del Carmen is next to 2 other cenotes (Azul and Jardin Eden), which are all similar. Cenote Cristalino is surrounded by mangroves which gives you the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere, relaxing in the nature. In the water are a lot of small fish that are not scared of humans, on the contrary, they like to suck on your skin, what tickles a bit. There’s a small shop where you can buy snacks and drinks or rent snorkel kits.
Cenote Ik-kil – For Gods
The tours that take you to Chichen-Itzá usually make a stop at this gorgeous cenote. The Mayan considered this cenote the perpetual dwelling of Chaac, god of the water and rain. Ik-kil is in fact so beautiful, that it might really be the residence of some god. The lush forest suddenly gives way to the earth and you find yourself in a hole that resembles a little piece of heaven. Swim in the clear and cold water, with the blue sky above you and water dropping from the vines hanging from the opening, creating tiny waterfalls. If you dare, jump from one of the platforms!
Rio Secreto – For Adventurers
Rio Secreto, about 5 km south of Playa del Carmen, seems to be an underground world of its own. Gear up for your spelunking experience with a wetsuit, neoprene boots, helmet and headlamps to wander through the mostly waist-deep water of its rivers and swim in the cenote pools. Besides stalactites and stalagmites you find the very rare and beautiful helictite formations. They grow out like branches, resembling bizarre icicles.
No matter what cenote you decide to visit, you’ll have a great time!
Swimming with whale sharks is the ultimate bucket list adventure! The Riviera Maya is one of only a few destinations where you can swim with the gentle giants.
One of the most unique experiences is to dive with whale sharks. Growing up to 13 meters (40 ft) long, they are the largest known fish in the ocean. Their size might be intimidating, but they are harmless. Whale sharks actually don’t even have teeth, so, no there is danger of them ripping you apart.
One of the largest gatherings of whale sharks in the world is found between Isla Mujeres and Isla Contoy. When we say large, we mean literally up to hundreds of them. They make a pit stop here to feed, because during the summer months, tunas are abundant in those waters. A snack that no self-respecting whale shark could pass up.
Whale sharks can be seen in the Riviera Maya between June and September, peak season is July and August, which means right now! The best way to organize your personal meet up with a whale shark is by taking a tour with a professional guide. Our team at Playa Palms Beach Hotel is happy to help you book your whale shark encounter for a fair price.
You know that we not only care about the well-being of you, our guests, but also about the environment and the creatures sharing this planet with us. Tourism does have an impact on animals and nature, but you can make a difference by following these few simple rules. They not only protect the whale sharks, but keep you safe too!
- For your own safety, only go with a professional guide.
- Observe, don’t touch! It will stress them and also it makes them dive instantly, what spoils the fun for everyone else.
- Don’t use a flash light and avoid taking flash photography.
- Keep noise to a minimum: Enter the water by sliding slowly from the boat (don’t jump) and keep your fins under the water surface while you are kicking to reduce splashing.
- Keep your distance: Stay at least 5 meters (16 ft) away from the head and 4 meters (13 ft) from the tail. If the whale shark swims directly toward you, remain calm and split into two groups so that the shark can swim between you.
- Snorkel calmly and slowly: Do not chase whale sharks and don’t block their path. Approach the shark from the side and swim alongside near its pectoral fin. If the shark rolls over and presents its back, back away. Let the shark control the encounter!
- Please use only biodegradable sunscreen and don’t litter.
If you’re lucky enough to already have gone snorkeling with whale sharks, let us know below what it was like!
You’ve probably already heard about the park, where you fly through the Riviera Maya skies and waterfalls on a zip line. Did you know you can visit Xplor also at night? Discover the night flying with zip lines and riding an ATV through the park that’s lighted by torches, bonfires and fireflies. Your entry also includes a buffet with unlimited BBQ ribs, snacks and beverages.
Get to know the rich Mexican culture in the most fun and romantic way possible: in Xoximilco! It was built to pay tribute to the original Xochimilco in Mexico City, which is considered a Culture World Heritage, and one of Mexico’s most iconic places. In Xoximilco Riviera Maya you will probably live your most authentic Mexican experience while floating on colorful gondola-like boats (trajineras) through the canals. On the boat you will be served a wide variety of Mexican food and drinks, listen to Mariachis play, and, after some Tequilas, you will probably even dance with them.
We can’t possibly talk about nighttime activities in Playa del Carmen without mentioning its famous 12th street, just around the corner of Playa Palms Beach Hotel. Even though you’re not a party animal, it’s worth just strolling through the street. Listen to the music blasting from the open air clubs, watch the fire-artists juggling burning cones while strutting on stilts through the 12th street, or just people-watch Playa del Carmen’s party folk. If you are in the mood of a good party, we highly recommend Coco Bongo and its amazing show.
Night of Kukulkán
Chichen Itzá is a must see in this region. Now you can also visit the archaeological site by night, with its centerpiece, the pyramid El Castillo, shining through the night, illuminated with colorful lights. After a guided tour you will watch a light show on the walls of El Castillo, telling you the fascinating story of Chichen Itzá and the Mayan Civilization. Please know that if you want to visit Chichen Itzá for the night show, you have to go on your own account, since there’s no tour providing this nighttime activity. At morning or afternoon just ask at the box office on site to sign up for the show. Our staff at Playa Palms Beach Hotel is happy to help you organize transportation.
Are you looking for a whole different scuba diving experience? Try diving at night. Experience a whole new world, since the underwater environment is completely different with nocturnal creatures starting to wake up and emerging from their hiding places. Especially during full moon a night dive is a unique, beautiful and mystique experience. One of the most amazing things to experience during a night dive, besides the calmness, is the bioluminescence. Invisible during day, the plankton seems to gently glow in the darkness, making you feel like you’re swimming through the starry sky.
If you’ve stayed in the area before or researched a bit about your upcoming vacation, you surely heard about Akumal. A tranquil town in the Riviera Maya known for its beautiful beach and rich marine life.
Akumal in the Mayan language means land of the turtle, because since a very long time sea turtles have been coming here to feed and hatch. Tourism industry knew how to take advantage of it – it’s one of very few places in Mexico where you can snorkel among turtles in their natural habitat.
On a regular month around 15 000 tourists visit the bay, eager to swim with the animals. Unfortunately the increased demand of snorkel tours also led to an increase of dubious tour companies, with poorly trained guides and no adequate equipment. The the related bad snorkeling and marine practice like harassing the sea turtles or touching corals, and the overexploitation of Akumals natural resources have seriously damaged the underwater environment. In the last 10 years the coral cover reduced a 30 %, and there are less and less turtles in Akumal, since the high exposure to people causes them stress and their nesting habitat is disappearing.
The Silver Lining
The Centro Ecológico Akumal CEA is now taking appropriate steps to control the situation. The number of tours entering the bay will be controlled, visitors will be provided with information and services to reduce the impact on the environment. It will be a while until the new measurements will come into force. Be anyway conscious about your impact on the environment and to travel environmentally responsible – wherever you go.
What You Can Do
We’re not saying don’t go snorkeling. But be conscious. To begin with, don’t go with just any tour guide. Ask our concierge Carlos to help you book a tour or ask at an on-site dive shop or at the CEA for well established guides. Not only for environmental reasons, but also for your own safety.
Respect following rules to help protect coral reefs and marine life:
- Use biodegradable sunblock.
- Keep 2 meters (6.5 feet) distance from coral and marine species.
- Swim near marine creatures and corals, not above them, to reduce the risk of kicking corals (especially when wearing fins) and to allow sea turtles to rise to the water’s surface to breathe.
- Don’t touch corals or any marine creatures. Your own safety could be at risk and touching corals might kill them.
- Do not feed marine creatures and keep your distance when they’re feeding.
In other words, just as in daily life with your family, friends or co-workers, it’s all about respecting each other.