Another Great Mexican Adventure: Exploring The Mayan Riviera and the Yucatan Peninsula
Our vacation project this year was a tour of the Yucatan Peninsula to see the Mayan ruins, as well as an exploration of the coast along the famous Mayan Riviera. This area is known as one of the very best diving spots in the world, and we had confirmed that fact during a previous diving trip to Cozumel. This time, we came equipped with a high resolution waterproof digital camera, so that we could capture all of the wonder below the surface.
I was also very interested in the hydrology of the region as the Yucatan Peninsula contains a huge underground aquifer 'river' under the thin top layer of kaarst (limestone). There are estimated to be approximately 6,000 cenotes - holes in the crust that reveal the pure, crystal clear water flowing just under the surface. The underground rivers connecting the cenotes can be explored by diving with scuba gear, and some have air space above water that can be used by snorkelers (the entrance to the underground river at Xcaret is pictured below, looking back at the start point as we disappear underground).
We finished our transit across the Gulf of Mexico and approached Cancun International at the north-eastern tip of the Yucatan, and I could see that the entire landmass was covered in a layer of puffy white clouds, apparently the result of some recent rainfall (the clouds vanished the next day).
As we got closer, it became apparent that there were holes in the cloud cover big enough to drive an air bus through, which is exactly what our intrepid pilots did. We landed gently with a slight screech of the tires and short blast of the thrust reversers, and suddenly we were there. It was a beautiful warm sunny day and from the ground the clouds above appeared as little more than a slight haze.
Customs processing was quick and friendly and there were helpful receptionists that guided us to our waiting rental car. We had done our usual months of research on the net before we left, and once again used Kayak.com to get the best car rental rate. We jumped into our little four door Nissan Tsuru and went straight down the 4 lane highway to Playa Del Carmen for the start of our trip.
It was possibly the smoothest arrival we've ever had, and it wasn't long before we were ensconced in our little boutique posada that we had chosen, the Playa Del Karma hotel. A mere 2 blocks from the famous 5th Avenue pedestrian stroll, it was comfortable, clean, quiet and affordable, with a very hospitable staff.
Many visitors prefer the grand illusion of the mega resorts in Cancun, but we prefer the cultural experience of all the folks in a Mexican town, and the affordable Playa Del Karma hotel was a great choice as we did not have to drive anywhere to enjoy the bustling street life. You just walk out of the hotel and all the excitement of the inner village on the famous 5th Avenue is at hand, with the spectacular beach only 4 blocks away.
There's no need to scramble out the door in the morning as they have a little palapa restaurant for guests upstairs. A continental breakfast is included with the price of the hotel, and if you want something more, Bebe (one of the owners) will cook you a beautiful chef grade breakfast for around $4.
The multi-lingual staff will also communicate with you by email, which I found to be a great help confirming reservations and eliminating any worries about our initial stay. I was also glad to find that they had high speed wifi all around the property, with a free computer terminal in the lobby for checking email, etc.
Although we generally do a driving tour with no hotel reservations, we like to reserve the first few days somewhere while we get used to the local environment, and the Playa Del Karma provided everything we had hoped for.