When people think of vacationing along Mexico’s Riviera Maya, their thoughts generally gravitate to Cancun, but the region is rich with opportunities for adventure. Just down the road from Cancun is Playa del Carmen. A little bit more laid back than its glitzier sister to the North, a Playa del Carmen Mayan Riviera vacation has just as much to offer. We’ve listed 10 things you can do when visiting Playa del Carmen, but to be sure, there is much, much more.
1. Beaches: It’s in the name. Playa is the Spanish word for beach and the city rests along one of the most stunning stretches of beach in the Caribbean. While away the hours lounging in the sun, enjoying the tropical breezes, sipping on an ice-cold drink, perhaps finally reading that novel you’ve been meaning to get to.
2. Scuba diving and Snorkeling: Of course your Playa del Carmen vacation would not be complete without entering the water. Nestled next to the azure waters of the Caribbean Sea, Playa del Carmen offers some of the most spectacular snorkeling opportunities in the world. From the teeming and colorful wildlife to the strange and awe-inspiring coral formations of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef system. If you don’t know how to scuba dive, don’t worry, there are plenty of dive shops in and around the city that offer scuba diving classes.
3. Visit a Cenote: Not all of the Riviera Maya’s best diving is offshore. The region is dotted with naturally occurring freshwater sinkholes called cenotes. These once served as water sources for the ancient Mayans, but today, they invite visitors to rappel deep into their hearts and explore underground rivers and caves. Many local tour companies, like Aventuras Mayas, offer cenote snorkeling and diving excursions.
4. Swim with the dolphins: Our aquatic cousins are among the most intelligent creatures on Earth. And Mexico is one of the best places in the world to interact with them in their natural element. There are several locations close by to Playa del Carmen that offers the opportunity to swim with dolphins. It is truly an experience that should not be missed.
5. Tulum: The area surrounding Playa del Carmen also has a deep cultural history. The Mayan civilization once called the Yucatan Peninsula home. A short drive south of the city brings you to Tulum, a major Mayan port city in its day. Today, the city’s ghostly ruins beckon travelers from around the world to visit Mexico’s best-preserved coastal Maya site.
6. Chichen Itza: A short drive inland brings you to one of Mexico’s most famous archeological sites. The large pre-Columbian city features several step pyramids and temples, not to mention, an ancient ball court. Many consider the ancient Mayan site to be a wonder of the world. Indeed, Playa del Carmen Mexico would not be complete without a visit to Chichen Itza.
7. Shopping: Take a break from all the adventures the Riviera Maya has to offer and spend a little time wandering in and out of the shops along Playa del Carmen’s Quinta Avenida, or 5th Avenue. The city’s main tourism thoroughfare offers a variety of shops, restaurants and clubs.
8. Aventuras Ecological Parks: Also nearby are Aventuras Mayas ecological theme parks, which allow visitors to experience the natural wonders that the region has to offer, only in a more controlled setting.
9. Wildlife Parks: Another place to experience the Yucatan Peninsula’s wildlife is at this beautiful aviary. The park houses more than just birds, it also offers turtles, lizards and other small animals, as well as a wide variety of native plants.
10. Visit Cancun: Playa del Carmen’s neighbor to the north has plenty to offer, including wild nightlife. If you’re looking to party all night, you can hardly go wrong in Playa del Carmen, but you might want to try out Cancun’s party scene.Author: Jason Stiver
September 30, 2011