Hello again! Hope all is well and everyone is having a great spring. A dive-buddy of mine Matt Wills and I went in the middle of this april to Playa Del Carmen, staying at Royal Haciendas, one of the latest and, I’m sure, the most luxurious addition to a chain of Royal resorts, most of which are located on Riviera Maya, Mexico.

San Miguel
Cancun
Cenotes of the Yucatan, Mexico
Playa Del Carmen

I’m not going to talk extensively about Royal Haciendas, tell you only that it’s a family oriented, beautiful, maybe a bit pricey, but immaculately kept resort. It is a time-share retreat and you can easily find comprehensive reports about this destination on the internet.

View from the room

Getting around

As you can see on the map above, staying in Playa will grant you quick, 40-50 min by car, access to all major dive spots in this region. Roads are clean, straight and well maintained. It is only 10 minutes from resort to the boat pier. And then 30 minutes later you’ll arrive to the shores of Cozumel. So it is really convenient to be based at Playa. As promised I’m not going to talk about Royal Haciendas, but only want to mention, that you will be able to find lots of small and more affordable hotels in the downtown of Playa Del Carmen. There you’ll find lot’s of attractions – numerous of nicely kept, cosy restaurants, colorful boutiques and walking through the streets of the town cheerful mariachis.

At 5th Avenue. Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.

Also, keep in mind, that Tulum, Coba and Chichen Itza are all located not too far from Playa.  On your way to those fine destination, you can stop by a large field of blue agave, walk into a cosy Mayapan Distillery in Valladolid factory and taste hand-crafted local tequila.

In 2007, Chichen Itza had made a list of the New 7 Wonders of the World. It is truly a remarkable historical site and I would highly recommend to visit it at least once in your lifetime. Perception that you can go back in time and reach to your ancestors will overfill your spirit when you stand in front of Kukulkan Pyramid.

At Mayapan Distillery

On а way back to the hotel, you can enjoy the refreshing plunge in one of the caves.

Diving

Now about diving. If you choose to settle in Royal Haciendas, there is a small drawback, from my point of view – the ocean right in front of you, but there is no shore diving off the property of the resort. I really hope that some day this may be remedied. Yet, right on the territory of the Haciendas there is a great scuba center – “Dive Balam”,  and for fellow-diver – it is the greatest asset to а premise.

Left to right; Matt Wills, Carlos Ortega, Timur K at Dive Balam shop

People at the shop are honest, work hard and aim to please. I’m sure you’ll enjoy communication with all of them. Marcos O. Mier, always will find the way to satisfy all your “scuba-desires”. Gunther Villa – may look very serious, but he’s fun and knows his business very well.  Cristian and Stephanie – great videographers and very efficient divers. Carlos Ortega – this guy, and his happy smile, will make you feel great. Maira Rozado – what a nymph … I meant water-nymph, who’d watch you underwater very close, to make sure you are safe. I’m sure you’ll also appreciate the ways this guys care about the health of the ocean and good state of local reefs, constantly protecting it from flippant moves of an indifferent diver, careless photographers, etc.

There are plenty of sites located right near Haciendas, but the week of our stay weather did not cooperate and due to strong wind and rain, possibility that harbor will be closed became very real. Matt and I did not want to lose a whole day of diving, so we elaborate a backup plan. If harbor-master kept boats at bay, we would dive at Cenotes of the Riviera Maya. Strong wind continued to be persistent and we managed to sign up for cenotes dives with another excellent dive shop. Specializing on cave diving, “Aquatic Tulum” conveniently situated in the town of Tulum and close proximities to all major caves. Owner and explorer – Alejandro Alvarez Enriquez, aka “Alex Alvarez”, welcomed us and gave a brief tour through his place, suggesting, according to his opinion, the best cenotes to visit. We ended up diving at three of them; started at Grand Cenotes, then at First and after Second Eye of Dos Ojos. You can read full report by Matt Wills about that excursion right here. ( Word “here” will be live when Matt complete his task ).

But as for me – my job is to tell you about diving in Playa. Well, as I’ve mentioned before, there are many spots to choose from. The island Cozumel, located just 30 minutes of boat travel from shores of the main land, presented quite a difference in comparison with Playa!

I visited Playa Del Carmen six times. Always wanted, yet never had a chance to do at least one dive at the island. But this year we were determined to get it done. So on thursday, 5.00 in the morning we packed our gear, parked our rental by the pier and at 7.30 successfully stepped on the island. Five minutes and $10 later, we’ve reached marina, where captain Phillipe, dive-master Javier Romero and owner on the “Cozumel Scuba Planet” – Hernan Bacelis, were waiting for us on one of their smallest boat “Embarcación Pescadito”. As this is a review of Playa Del Carmen, I don’t want to mix it up with our Cozumel experience, if interested – the trip to Cozumel on this page. But just would like to mention, the trip to Cozumel – well worth the trouble of waking up at 5 am.

Now back to Playa. As mentioned before, I visited this part of the Mexico a fair amount. Actually my “diving career” begun in 2009 at “Dive Balam”. I am, and always will be, deeply grateful to this place, to the whole team of “Dive Balam” and especially to Aurora Forteza, great diver  and my first teacher, for my first, unforgettable encounter with the ocean. So you see, my introduction to the realm of Neptune, which I still vividly remember, was right along the shores of Playa. Therefore, if I say diving in Playa is wonderful, I must admit that my opinion could be a bit … can I say influenced 🙂

Tres Rios, Playa Del Carmen

Average depth was around 50-70 feet. Waters are warm, around 78-84′ F, and most of the time over 50+ feet of visibility. There is an abundance of healthy reefs along with great variety of fauna. I am sure that anyone who’d want to dive at Playa, will not be disappointed. Also this year we dove at “Mama Vina”, the upright wreck, just a few hundred feet off water-park of Xelha. We jumped off, immediately dropped to 35 feet, and as strong current delivered us to the wreck, slowly descended to 90 feet, landing on the upper deck of the boat.

At “Mama Vina”

It was an awesome site to visit and we had great fun watching Carlos, dive-master, to “rest” inside one of the room.

So, as a conclusion, diving and staying at Playa will offer you unforgettable, comprehensive experience. As you can easily experience many well-known destinations. There is another very famous place for its underwater excursions – Isla Mujeres, the island located not too far from the shores of Cancun. But I know nothing about that place yet. Maybe one day …

Save diving and happy new discoveries to all.