Playa del Carmen and its surroundings are a paradise for nature lovers. There are miles and miles of coastline, with many stunning natural attractions to visit that go far beyond the beautiful tropical beaches. Here are Playa Palms Beach Hotel’s top picks.Read More >>
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.
Isla Mujeres is the perfect destination for a day trip from Playa del Carmen. The laid back island has way more to offer than heavenly, Caribbean beaches with white, powdery sand, swaying palm trees and crystal clear water. Swim with the giants of the Sea, discover ancient Mayan history and a wildlife refuge!
About Isla Mujeres
The island gained its name “Island of the Women” because of the many carved images of women the Spanish found when they arrived there. This was because the island was a sanctuary for Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of the moon, fertility, medicine and happiness. The temple was built on the south tip of Isla Mujeres, which happens to be the most eastern point of Mexico. It also served as a lighthouse, to guide Mayan seafarers.
A few hundred years later, the island turned to be the perfect refugee for pirates and buccaneers. It’s said that they kept their women here while they went out plundering the Spanish ships, loaded with gold from Yucatan.
Beginning in the middle of the 20th century Isla Mujeres already welcomed visitors, long before Cancun was discovered by tourism. Since there was no ferry service yet, tourists would signal with flashing their car lights from a make shift dock, for local fishermen to pick them up.
How to get to and get around in Isla Mujeres
Nowadays it’s much easier to visit the island. Puerto Juarez in Cancun has two ferry docks that service Isla Mujeres on a very regular basis. The two docks are a few blocks apart and about 10 minutes north of downtown Cancun.
The easiest way to get around Isla Mujeres is by renting a golf cart or by taxi. Most golf carts are about $45 – $65 USD a day and it makes it easy to visit all the following places!
Welcome to the island’s most popular beach. And there’s a reason for it. Playa Norte is a truly paradisiacal beach, with crystal clear water and white sand, post card like, just as you expect a Caribbean beach to be. Getting off the ferry, you turn left on the main road and walk about 10 minutes until you reach the beach, or take a cab. There are several beach clubs; some have a restaurant and bar service, some just offer loungers and sun umbrellas.
You arrived to Mexico’s most eastern point, where the remnants of the before mentioned temple of Ixchel stand. Although severely damaged by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, it can still be visited. Besides of the ruins, Punta Sur offers a breathtaking view of the coast line of Cancun. With this view and its steep, naturally carved cliffs, Punta Sur sure is one of the most beautiful spots on the Island, with a lot of wildlife to see. You can walk down a trail to get closer to the water and to a little cave.
El Garrafón Natural Reef Park
The Natural Park just next to Punta Sur is ideal for snorkeling. It’s named after the gorgeous reef formation at its shore, which is home to many different species and guarantees an incredible snorkeling adventure. If snorkeling isn’t your thing, how about swimming with dolphins, zip-lining or kayaking? Or just relax in a hammock, plunge in the pool and refresh with delicious drinks at the bar. The park is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, and the entrance fee starts at $89 USD. Ask our staff at Playa Palms Beach Hotel to help you with reservations.
Turtle Farm Tortugranja
About halfway to Punta Sur you find this sanctuary for sea turtles. Sadly, sea turtles are an endangered species, which is why at Tortugranja they aim to protect the animals and increase their population, while educating visitors on a very interesting one hour tour. They offer shelter to injured turtles and other animals, and have a turtle nursery. You can walk through indoor and outdoor pools and observe not only baby and adult turtles, but also fish, sharks, sea horses, and crabs. The center opens daily from 9 am to 5 pm and charges a small entrance fee.
Swim with Whale sharks
This is probably the most incredible experience you will have, not only on your trip to the Riviera Maya but in your whole life. Don’t miss out on swimming with the peaceful giants if you happen to visit during the whale shark season, between June and September. Isla Mujeres is one of the best spots world wide to swim with whale sharks, maybe that’s why the island is formed like giant shark! Our staff at Playa Palms Beach Hotel is happy to help you book your tour. More information on swimming with whale sharks.
Once a year you can witness a fascinating spectacle in the Mexican Caribbean: the migration of the Blue Land Crab. Don’t miss out on this colorful parade if you’re lucky enough to be around!
The Blue Land Crab (cardisoma guanhum) used to live all over the Mexican Caribbean, but sadly it’s one of the most affected species by mankind in this region. Our infrastructures are big obstacles for them, the fast growing tourism with its facilities, and also the fact that apparently they’re tasty, are some of the reasons why they’re nowadays nearly only sighted in Cancun, Cozumel and Mahahual. Playa del Carmen hasn’t seen a Blue Crab in over ten years.
The crustaceans are born in the sea, where they spend their “childhood”. Once grown up, they move to live in the mangroves. They reach sizes up to about 35 cm (14 in) and are distinguished by their beautiful color. The name Blue Land Crab may be a bit confusing though, since they’re not solely of blue color, but also appear light gray and in red tones.
Once a year, typically on full moon nights in September and October, the females sally out for a spectacular journey towards the sea to deposit their eggs. You can literally see hundreds of Blue Crabs! Unfortunately, they simply follow their instincts, which leads them across busy coastal highways, with cars and buses threatening their lives. Cancun’s hotel zone, dividing the Caribbean Sea from the Nichupté Lagoon where they live, is a huge obstacle for the little creatures.
Of course we don’t just stand by idly and watch them being crushed. In Cozumel the government puts up signs to remind motorists to drive carefully. In Cancun, however, people spring into action. 25 years ago the Blue Crab Protection Campaign was brought to life, with support from Cancun’s Ecology Board. Every year locals and tourists gather to bring the little buddies safely across the road. Last year 960 Blue Crabs have successfully been brought to safety.
You happen to be around and want to participate? Here’s how and when:
When: September 12, 13 and 14; 6:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Where: Cancun’s Hotel Zone (Playa Las Perlas, El Niño, Punta Nizuc II (El Mirador II) & Malecón Tajamar).
Bring: Whatever type of container you can find (box, bucket, basket…), a scoop or gloves, a pocket lamp and wear white or bright clothing.
Send us a photo if you happen to see a Blue Crab or if you participate in the Protection Campaign!