Swimming with whale sharks is a once in a lifetime experience and the best destination to do so happens to be here!
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.
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.
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!