Playa del Carmen is one of the best places worldwide to dive with bull sharks. If you are an experienced diver and are looking for an unforgettable experience, get close to a bull shark!
Despite of what Jaws made us believe, only very few of the over 400 shark species grow as large as to cause serious injuries to a human. The bull shark, muscular and fast, is one of them, considered as one of the most aggressive and dangerous sharks in the ocean. But it’s mainly circumstances that lead to dangerous situations, since bull sharks like to spend time at the shallow waters close to the beach. But don’t worry – unless you are spear fishing (the vibrations of the fish flipping around and the taste of blood gets the sharks excited), attacks are highly uncommon. Actually, more deaths are caused in household accidents than by sharks, and according to statistics we’re more likely to get struck by lightning.
Bull sharks grow up to 3,5 m (11 feet) and can live in fresh and in salt water. They have been known to swim quite a distance upstream. There is one place, however, where bull sharks have been spotted regularly for decades: the shallow waters of the Riviera Maya. It is the breeding ground of female bull sharks. Usually they can be seen here from November to March, before they move up north.
Only a few things in life will give more amazement and adrenaline than facing a shark. It’s a breathtaking experience you’ll never forget! To dive with bull sharks you need to be a certified and advanced diver, with more than 30 logged dives. Most dive tours take you to a depth of about 25 meters (80 feet). Usually it’s a static dive, where you have to stay in your assigned place. You can also choose to dive in the shallow waters of the reef, with depths of up to 18 meters (60 feet). Whatever you choose, be prepared for this adventure of a lifetime, since bull sharks are not shy and may pass very close to you.
There are many dive shops in Playa del Carmen to organize your dive experiences with bull sharks. We recommend the Phantom Divers, just around the corner from Playa Palms Beach Hotel. They are pioneers in this region, diving with sharks since over 20 years. In cooperation with the NGO Saving Our Sharks they are working on creating a shark sanctuary, implying full protection of sharks in this area.
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!
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.
Are you looking for a day trip from Playa del Carmen to a close by paradise? Try Cozumel, the island just off the coast. Here are the top 5 things you should definitely when visiting Cozumel:
1 Chankanaab National Park
This unique park has it all: diving and snorkeling among the coral reef, underwater statues, nature trails, dolphins, sea lions and other animals, amazing beaches and a lagoon. One of those places where you spend all day and don’t even notice how time flies by. Chankanaab is open from Monday to Saturday, 8 am to 4 pm and has a 21 USD admission fee (14 USD for children 3 – 11 years).
2 El Cielo
Without doubt one of the most mesmerizing beaches in the world! The many starfishes you can see in the only waist-high water, gave this beach its name. It’s also a wonderful snorkeling place with sea turtles and many colorful fishes to see. El cielo is only accessible by boat, what makes it necessary to book a tour to get there. Our staff at Playa Palms Beach Hotel is happy to help you!
3 Cozumel’s Pearl Farm
Who isn’t fascinated by pearls? The Cozumel Pearl Farm is located in a naturally protected beach, only accessible by boat. This has kept the environment around the farm in pristine condition. The farm is surrounded by the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean sea on one side and dense mangrove lagoons on the other. The cultivated pearls are available for purchase.
4 Passion Island
The most romantic getaway in the Mexican Caribbean lies just off Cozumel’s shores. The Maya considered the island a sacred place and it’s alleged that if a wedding ceremony is celebrated there, the marriage will hold for all eternity. True or not, its white sandy beaches are a beautiful place to leave everyday hassles far behind. Picture yourself sipping on a delicious cocktail (yes, those with the little umbrella), lying in a hammock hanging suspended over the ocean. Or try one of the many water activities.
5 Rent a Bike
If you’re more about adventures than relaxing, rent a Jeep, ATV or a motorbike and go explore the island! Get away from the crowds and discover hidden beaches, Mayan ruins and the town by yourself. Let the island surprise you!
The ferry to Cozumel leaves at the beginning of the 5th Avenue, about 10 walking minutes from Playa Palms Beach Hotel. There are different ferry companies, they all charge between 135 and 167 pesos each way and leave quite often. It takes roughly 45 minutes to cross. The last ferry from Cozumel back to Playa del Carmen leaves usually at 10 pm.
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