There is so much fun to be had in Playa! Below is a brief discussion of some of the more popular activities in the Riviera Maya along with personal experience. Hopefully these observations will help in planning your trip. Feel free to email for more information.
Snorkeling is an easy and popular activity in this area. The best snorkeling experience is to spend the day at Akumal snorkeling with the sea turtles. The lagoon in Akumal called Yal-Ku is excellent and for a bit more education on the ecosystem of the area, Xel-Ha is worth the learning experience. Also Cozumel is known for its snorkeling. If you have snorkel equipment bring it along, or it is easy to rent equipment in town at any of the dive shops. As always, there are many guided trips to these places if that is more to your comfort as they provide the transportation and equipment needed to make it a great experience.
The Island of Cozumel
Many people enjoy taking the ferry to Cozumel for the day. The ferry is about $15 USD per person one way. There are two different ferry companies that take turns with running almost every hour. Your buy your tickets at one of two booths outside the ferry boarding area for crossing and then again when you are ready to come back. The ride over takes about 30-45 minutes. Snorkeling at one of the parks or reefs near the shore is one of the highlights. Or dive trips can be arranged to take you to the reefs away from the shore. Another great experience is to rent a car or scooter (best to be comfortable with motorcycles!) and drive to the other side of the island where the waves crash against an iron shore. No swimming on that side of the island, but it is beautiful with some fun bars and restaurants.
We're not avid golfers, but we have been told that the Hard Rock Spa and Golf Club adjacent to us is a great course. The 18-hole course designed by Robert Von Hagge has a degree of difficulty to test any golfer yet a beauty that is worth the experience. The course is all-inclusive - you pay one price and that includes your cart, food and beverages (including beer) while you play delivered by the food cart that drives around the course. It's always suggested to stop in and ask what the current rate is - they offer specials all the time, especially during low season. Another course nearer Cancun is at the Moon Palace.
Also about three hours away are the ruins of Ek Balam. These are smaller and closer together than at Coba, but every bit as stunning. There is also a large pyramid to climb with a 360 degree view of the jungle. These ruins are newly discovered and still being uncovered. Both the Chichen-Itza and Ek Balam trip can be combined with an overnight stay in the colonial city of Valladolid.
the many operators either in places like Wal-Mart or along 5th Avenue or go exploring on your own. They are definitely worth the visit.
bit easier to navigate the beach vendors that will try to persuade you to choose their spot. Along with the sand, sun and water - people watching is a great pasttime.
Second, go 'DIY' by taking the chairs and umbrella in our condo to the secluded beach in Playacar. This is a long, beautiful stretch of beach, definitely easy walking distance through Playacar Fase I and some of the ruins. We take along a cooler with snacks and beverages to relax on this peaceful beach where crowds are not an issue. Just remember, no facilities provided.
Last, we encourage you to venture out of Playa and explore some of the other amazingly beautiful beaches up and down the coast. Favorites are Akumel which is calm and you can snorkel with the sea turtles or Tulum which has more wind and so a great place to wave surf. Again some research with our map/guide will help in finding the beach that suits you. Options to get to these beaches are either taxi, collectivo or the bus.
Another popular activity is to visit one of the many Mayan ruins. There are many small ruins actually in Playa del Carmen - a few are along 5th Avenue. Any time you are walking around the Playacar neighborhoods or around in the city, keep an eye out for ruins that are among the buildings/homes.
The closest Mayan city of ruins is Tulum, about an hour away. These are the only ruins built on the cliffs of the Riviera Maya and are striking. About two hours from Playa are the ruins of Coba. These are large, beautiful ruins spread out across many acres. Climbing the tallest pyramid is still open to the public which is fun and an accomplishment! Three hours away are the famous ruins of Chichen-Itza. Well-known worldwide for their size and beauty, this is one of the most popular sites in the Yucatan. Unfortunately you can no longer climb the large pyramid there, but the visit is still awe-inspiring.
Without doubt, the most popular activity in Playa is hanging out at one of the many beautiful beaches. The options are endless, but it is easiest to break it down into three suggested experiences. First, and most popular, is to spend a day at one of the beach clubs 'in town' on the long stretch of beach that starts at the south end of the ferry pier. We select a beach club for their location, umbrellas, lounge chairs, food and drinks as well as 'facilities'. In general the closer you are to the pier, the less expensive and more laid back you will find the beach clubs. Further north, closer to Constituyentes, they get more trendy which will equate to more expensive. You typically pay for food and drink so the chairs and umbrellas are free! We suggest a little pre-beach research with the maps/guides in the condo before heading out - it makes it a
Swim with the Dolphins
This is a controversial activity but it is worthy of mention should you be interested. There are several in the area, most popular are Puerto Aventuras and Xel-Ha. While there are some that discourage the activity, saying the animals are mistreated and held captive, friends that have done this have not seen anything like that. In fact they felt that the trainers adored their animals as well as the importance of educating visitors about the importance of protecting our oceans and their habitats.
Cenotes (3 syllables - Ce - no - tes)
Cenotes are the sinkholes that have formed all over the Yucatan in the limestone crust of the earth. In them you will find beautiful, crystal clear water along with small fish and interesting underwater formations. Since the cenotes are fresh water - it is colder than the beach and life-jackets might be necessary for those that are not comfortable swimmers.Each one has a uniqueness to enjoy. Jeanette went to the one in the picture to your left and jumped off the built-in cliff. An exhilarating experience!
One of the closest to Playa are the cenotes Cristallino and Azul. These and three others are located about 15 minutes south of Playa on the west side of the highway. Watch for a small sign across from the Barcelo Maya resort. There isn't much food, but they typically have snacks and some have restrooms. You might want to bring along bug spray as with some cenotes you walk through the jungle a bit. Either pick a tour with one of