Sheer Simplicity will Capture You in Tulum!

 

Sheer Simplicity will Capture You in Tulum! - Condo Hotels Playa del CarmenTulum is a place very special in my heart! It is a destination with deep history and beauty, but also an extraordinary feeling for all that set foot on its paradisiacal soft white sand beaches! It is a true escape from anywhere you are in your life! Even when you already come from paradise!

Many people associate Tulum as an excursion with the existence and tour of the Mayan Ruins! While this is a beautiful and wonderful treasure of Tulum, which adds magic and mystery to the town, it’s certainly not the only secret to what makes Tulum such a special paradise!

What does create all the amazement is the feeling of calmness, the tropical attitude, the involvement with nature and the site of virgin beaches and turquoise Caribbean waters so pristine it will take your breath away! If any place is going to make you forget your woes for a day, it will be here!

The first time I traveled to Mexico was to Playa del Carmen. That was beautiful enough in my eyes but at the time I truly had no idea how beauty travels and changes throughout every few miles of land.

I had my first encounter with Tulum when I ventured out back to the Riviera Maya to visit my boyfriend (now husband) whom I had met on a previous vacation there. Yes, love sparked and now here I am!

He took me on adventure to the beautiful Cenotes, to beaches of Akumal and ultimately to Tulum – a place where I swear you could feel rays of astonishment shine right through me! It was just so beautiful!

After exploring the intriguing Ruins, which were the stomping ground of the Mayan Community many years before our time, we set out on a Bohemian Jungle road where we found a beachfront cabana to stay the night!

We had dinner outdoors at a charming Mexican restaurant situated along the tropical jungle path! I should mention that many of the restaurants along the way have a casual yet romantic feel; and so far, I have experienced the food and atmosphere to be amazing everywhere we have tried.

After dinner we sat on the beach watching the night sky as it was completely mesmerizing! At night the lights diminish giving the perfect setting for the shining stars to miraculously steal the show! A blanket, a glass of wine and those amazing stars! A simplicity so seamless and perfect it could never be replaced.

We awoke at sunrise with a view so serene you felt like you had died and gone to heaven! Really! I know that sounds like a cliché but I’m not really how else you could actually describe it! The water was gleaming and sparkling like nothing I have ever seen in my life!

And in that moment, all I could imagine was the shattering possibility that I almost went through life without ever knowing such a place. I felt such a sense of gratitude that I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to experience this once in my lifetime! Of course not knowing that in fact, my future would take me back time and time again!

Sheer Simplicity will Capture You in Tulum!My husband and I make our escape to Tulum usually about once a month, as it is only about a 40 minute drive south from our home in Playa del Carmen. We always visit the same spot – at OM Beach Club in Tulum, where you will find a chair which has gained fame in its painted striking words – “The only chair you will remember for the rest of your life”! Well, isn’t that the truth!

Sometimes we take a little walk around the town center of Tulum, located away from the shore, where you can find great eats and small shops. It is a very small town and holds plenty of charm!

Tulum is always a place where we go to be free from our normal everyday life! From cell phones, from work, from our never ending to do list! And it’s always wonderful to continue to see a place that remains exquisite and unchanged!

I would most certainly recommend anyone vacationing in city-like environments, like Cancun or Playa del Carmen, to take a day out to spend in Tulum; simply to understand the true Mexican Caribbean vibe!

When we book of vacations we dream of being secluded; yet we tend to choose spots where conveniences are available – That is normal! But a day trip to Tulum allows you to make that escape, if only for a day, so that you can truly let yourself be free in nature and the beauty surrounding you! Visit the Mayan Ruins, Relax on the Beach, Eat Delicious and come home with memories that will live with you forever!

A Tour so Surreal and Magical, it Will Feel Like a Dream – Swimming with the Whale Sharks Riviera Maya!

Swimming with Whale Sharks - Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen“Today was the best day of my life”, my sister in law said after we got off the boat; ending a miraculous day in the open sea, swimming with one of the most magnificent creatures I’ve ever witnessed – The Whale Shark!

My sister in law was visiting, and we always do something a little out of the ordinary for my husband’s birthday, so the three of us picked from a list of options! Since we were in the exact perfect season for it, we decided the whale sharks would be the one!

To be honest with you, when we decided to book the tour, I was not so sure that I would love it so much. I mean, I wasn’t scared but at the same time it seemed something “normal” to me like swimming with the dolphins or the Sea Turtles in Akumal. Maybe living here in the Riviera Maya for 2.5 years, you get a little numb to the excitement of swimming with sea creatures!

But to my surprise, this experience topped any and all adventurous experiences I have had in the Riviera Maya thus far! I mean just miraculously incredible and unexpected!

We booked the tour through one of the most respected whale shark tour operators in the area called Ocean Tours. We were picked up in the center of Playa del Carmen and taken to the dock in Cancun where we would embark on our journey!On the Boat - Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen

Once we arrived to the dock we were assigned to a group and a tour guide. Each boat is good enough for a group of about 10 people!

Our tour guide was named Rod and he was not only knowledgeable but very friendly and entertaining! On our boat we had English speaking people, French Speaking and Spanish Speaking. He spoke all three languages to accommodate everyone and to be sure everyone understood the proper instructions.

It takes about 1 hour to reach the destination where the whale sharks are feeding, which is somewhere between the Islands of Isla Mujeres and Holbox. It is not always certain where the whale sharks will gather that day so it can take more or less time to arrive depending on the day! So until then you just sit back and enjoy the ride, the sunshine and the view of the open sea!

Finally we had arrived to see a swarm of large whale sharks swimming and feeding at the ocean’s surface! It was then that I understood that this was about to be an experience of a life time!

We were sent out to swim in groups of two, for a total of 3 separate jumps! The timing has to be very specific as the tour guides do their very best to get you to swim right up close and personal with the whale sharks as they are moving by! The whale sharks are not curious creatures and won’t be interested in your presence, so you must adapt to them as they will just continue on swimming in their own direction.

Swimming with Whale Sharks - Condo Hotels Playa del CarmenReady, set, go… and we were in the water swimming rapidly alongside the whale shark! Wow! It was invigorating. You just find yourself with unexpected power to swim, as you just want more and more!

There you are, in the beautiful blue Caribbean Sea, surrounded by these massive and glorious creatures! Even without the presence of the whale sharks, the feeling of being in the deep ocean, surrounded by the brilliant rays of sunlight which gleam and sparkle underneath the ocean waters, is so beautiful and surreal!

Actually the whole experience is somewhat surreal! I never imagined that I would ever be here! But I was and it felt amazing – almost like being in a dream!

Our second jump was the most incredible, as our tour guide led us right over the whale shark – literally almost on top of him (or her)! It was in that moment in which you realize how small you really are compared to the shark! Did I mentioned that whale sharks weigh up to 4 tons? Yes, they do! But not even that fact is scary when you are in the moment.

When you first start the tour and they tell you that you have 3 jumps – your first thought may be something like… “Only 3 jumps? What am I paying for then?” But believe me, after jump number 2 you are wiped out and tired from the intense swimming. You really don’t realize it in the moment when you are in the action, but afterwards you will feel like you just put yourself through an intense total body workout!

After jump number 3, they did give us an option for an extra jump but nobody wanted to take it as we were all exhausted and needed the break! But still it’s an option if you are still roaring to go!

As a part of the complete tour, the day did not end there! The next part of our adventure sent us to a beautiful coral reef just meters away from Isla Mujeres! This was my first swim in a larger coral reef; and again, simply amazing! They allowed us to explore for about 20 minutes before entering the boat, which will then took us meters away to the beautiful Island of Isla Mujeres!

Lunch - Condo Hotels Playa del CarmenWe docked close to the shore and enjoyed free time to swim in the pristine crystal waters which touched the Island! They also provided us with a delicious fish ceviche lunch with guacamole, beer and soda, which were served on floating tables inside the water! How cool is that?

We spent about an hour there relaxing, enjoying the sunshine and the beautiful scenery! Then we headed back to the dock in Cancun and found our transportation back to Playa!

It was a happy day! A day that will never be forgotten!

Suggestions and Considerations for your comfort!

My first piece of advice is if you are lucky enough to be in the Riviera Maya during this high season of whale sharks you must do this tour! You must!

Second, if you are someone that has the tendency to get sea sick- do take the Dramamine Pill! They are provided to you free of charge for your comfort! Yes, it makes you tired and there’s no way around that (be prepared) but being sick is worse. Take the pill and rely on the excitement to revive those sleepy eyes!

Floatation devices must be worn by law. They do provide standard life jackets free of charge but they do give the option to pay a little extra for a wetsuit. The wetsuit also acts as a floatation device and is very comfortable option to swim freely! I do highly recommend the wetsuit! If you own one then bring it along! It was my first time using it and I must say it is wonderful!

If you have a Go Pro or waterproof camera – DO NOT forget it! If you don’t have one, borrow one! And if you can’t borrow one then you may purchase the photos as your tour guide will be taking pictures along the way! We did both and we were glad we did!

Snorkeling & Swimming with Whale Sharks in Playa del Carmen

Snorkeling in Playa del Carmen Infographic - Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen

Share this Image On Your Site

Snorkeling in Playa del Carmen

There are millions of reasons – both on land and under water – to visit Playa del Carmen! While snorkeling off our shores, you’re bound to see spectacular creatures of all shapes and sizes. During the summer months, the Riviera Maya is graced with the presence of oceanic giants – whale sharks. You can swim with these mesmerizing creatures from June until August. On your snorkeling journey, you may run into countless other remarkable species.

Whale Shark - Rhincodon Typus

Swimming with Whale Sharks is a once in a lifetime opportunity! These massive creatures can grow up to 60 feet long. That’s the length of 4 Toyota Priuses!

Portuguese Man of War Jellyfish - Physalia Physalis

The Portuguese Man of War Jellyfish has tentacles up to 165ft long. That’s approximately 4 school buses!

Blue Marlin - Makaira Nigricans

The adult Blue Marlin weighs nearly 400 pounds!

Great Barracuda - Sphyraena Barracuda

Great Barracuda can swim 36mph – faster than the fastest human can run!

Mahi-Mahi - Coryphaena Hippurus

Mahi-Mahi, also called “Dorado” by the locals, can produce 1 million eggs per spawning cycle!

Manta Ray - Manta Alfredi

Manta Rays can grow up to 23 feet wide. That’s the same length as 4 divers!

Leatherback Sea Turtle - Dermochelys Coriacea

Approximately 7 feet long, the Leatherback Sea Turtles weighs 2,000 pounds. That’s 10 refrigerators!

Nurse Shark - Ginglymostoma Cirratum

Nurse Sharks can grow up to 10 ft!

Green Moray Eel - Gymnothorax Funebris

The Green Moray Eel is actually brown! Its namesake actually comes from a mucus that covers its body.

Queen Conch - Lobatus Gigas

These iconic shells have an estimated lifespan of up to 40 years and can grow to be up to a foot long!

The Great Maya Reef – Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System

The second largest reef structure on the planet, this reef is home to 65 species of stony coral, 350 species of mollusks and over 500 species of fish!

SOURCES

  1. http://www.nature.org/newsfeatures/specialfeatures/animals/fish/giant-barracuda.xml
  2. http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/fish/blue-marlin/
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahi-mahi
  4. http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/leatherback-sea-turtle/
  5. http://www.aqua.org/explore/animals/green-moray-eel
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manta_ray
  7. http://www.mcvrn.com/coral_reef.html
  8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesoamerican_Barrier_Reef_System
  9. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/invertebrates/queenconch.htm
  10. http://www.yucatanwildlife.com/species/fishes.htm
  11. http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/fish/nurse-shark/

Xcaret, Xel-ha or Xplor? Which Experience is Best for You?

 

Xcaret, Xplor and Xel Ha are three of the Riviera Maya’s most well-known excursions, mainly because of the positive reputation of Xcaret Xperiences and also because of rave reviews. It is most likely that your concierge or tour representative will recommend you to visit one of these parks. But if all of them are so wonderful then how to you choose which one is best for you!

I have visited all three of these wonderful parks and can tell you that each of them offers a completely different experience quite unique from one another. There is something for the adventure lover, the aquatic lover, the nature lover, history lover and of course the open bar lover!

Xcaret Xperience

Xcaret - Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen

 

Xcaret Park is probably the most magnificent excursion that I have done in the Riviera Maya. It is an excursion that can be done over and over and still be enjoyable! That park is so big that actually you may not even cover the whole park in one day depending on how quickly you move along through the beautiful path of nature!

Xcaret is meant to be a full day activity starting in the morning and ending in the nighttime hours as they do have a spectacular nighttime performance in which they are famous for. You don’t have to stay for this but if you are already there it’s truly a must see!

Xcaret is absolutely family friendly but you must be prepared to walk a lot and be prepared for the hot sun by wearing bio natural sunscreen! Everything is done at your leisure so you have plenty of opportunities to stop and relax along the way, grab a bite to eat, drink a cocktail or take a swim in one of the beautiful lagoons or cenotes.

Xcaret combines water activities with exciting nature sites and lessons of the Mayan history. You may also choose to add an extra experience such as swimming with the dolphins for an extra fee!

If you purchase the deluxe package which I highly recommend you do then you will also get to enjoy a 5 star buffet meal in one of their many amazing restaurants along the way (you get to choose one)! On that note: My favorite has always been their Mexican buffet! There are also many stops along the way where you can purchase snacks and drinks!

Xel-Ha Xperience

Xel Ha - Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen

This is usually the park that mostly gets compared to Xcaret and sometimes people believe that it is the same kind of park, just with a different location however it is actually much different. While Xel-Ha is a nature park it is really is a more laid back experience with a much more aquatic focus overall.

They have various cenotes for swimming or just grab a tube, float and relax. It’s also a beautiful place to snorkel as you can discover colorful fish and other beauties underwater world. There are some mild jump off points for those dare devils as well as other over the water activities like zip lining. I should note, these zip lines are not the adventurous ones flying high above the jungle. Rather they are very kid (and kid at heart) friendly; and are really meant to be a fun way to make a water slide type splash landing in the water.

It is a great excursion for families with younger children (swimmable age) because you spend more time in the water than actually walking around the park site seeing. This is also a very nice and relaxing day to spend with your friends or as a couple. Swim, take a beautiful nature walk or grab a bicycle along the way and take a nice bike ride through the walking and bike trails.

The perk of this excursion is that it is all inclusive with open bar and all you can eat, throughout the entire day! You may also purchase extra experiences such as swim with the dolphins or other unique underwater experiences.

Xplor Xperience

Xplor - Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen

This park is for all you adventure lovers! Xplor combines an aquatic experience with breathtaking adventure through the jungle! And you can do it by day or by night!

You will be wet the entire time so wear those water shoes and your bathing suit! Even if you are just doing it for the zip lining you will end the circuit with a splash landing in the water so keep that in mind!

You may want to start off your adventure with a swim through the underground river. I won’t give away the surprise but I will tell you that your swim ends with a simply breathtaking site that you will not want to miss!

Your next activity brings you to a 4 wheel drive through the amphibious jungle! During the night excursion, this circuit adds a little bit more mystery! Don’t worry, as there will be light and there are Xplor employees along the way to insure your comfort and safety.

The zip lining is always the main headline of the park, featuring a circuit of zip lines sending you flying high above the jungle! I should note that I have done other zip lining excursions in the Riviera Maya before and this is the one where I have definitely felt the best comfort level! I am a scardy cat at heart but I love this excursion! Once you do the first one you will want to do the rest.

Xplor also features an all you can eat buffet which you can take advantage of all day! Alcohol is not served at this park for obvious reasons.

This can be a family friendly activity but remember that it is a much more adventurous experience!

My Friendly Advice!

Remember at all three of the parks it is highly recommended to wear water shoes (very important in my opinion), proper attire for getting wet, and apply eco-friendly sunscreen!

No matter which of these excursion you choose, it is for sure you will have a great time! While you might not be able to fit in all three in one visit I definitely recommend you trying all of them at some point in time!

Xperiencing Xochimilco in a Riviera Maya Kind of Way!

Xperiencing Xochimilco in a Riviera Maya Kind of Way! - Condo Hotels Playa del CarmenAs if Xcaret Xperiences hasn’t done enough to continuously surpass expectations and make our lives incredibly more adventurous in the Riviera Maya, they have gone and done something else amazing with the recreation of Xochimilco right here in the Riviera Maya!

Before you experience this brand new fun activity you must understand how it came about, as it is actually a divine replica of a place so beautiful and famous! The original Xochimilco, otherwise called the City of Flowers, is a fun natural attraction located close to Mexico City.

There, you can arrive with your friends or family and rent a specially designed boat called a trajinera which will take you through the charming canals of Xochimilco. These brightly painted boats are designed to fit around 20 people, offering bench seating and a full length table running through the mid-section of the trajinera.

Imagine having a unique picnic while floating through a beautiful canal, overlooking the historic and colorful town, which is completely draped in floral.

The original Xochimilco is BYOB and is often associated with a full day of drinking alcoholic beverages with your amigos or a spending relaxing Sunday afternoon with family! If you’ve forgotten your supplies, you will likely find vendors passing by in other trajineras selling all sorts foods and beverages along the way.

This is a day trip that is famously loved by all who live or visit near Mexico City! For this reason, the same makers who brought you Xcaret, and other well-loved parks such as Xplor and Xel-ha, have created a unique excursion like no other – at Xoximilco, Riviera Maya!

Experiencing Xochimilco in the Riviera Maya!

The concept is fairly the same, although it is done in a much more organized fashion, and is actually sold as a tour rather than a hop on hop off kind of thing – with reservations and all! Also, I should mention this one is NOT BYOB, rather is sold as a 5 course dinner tour with open bar, featuring timeless classic Mexican foods; which replicate what can likely be found for sale at the original Xochimilco Canals.

The logistics of the tour are slightly Americanized, only to put order to the booking process and timing, however this one is truly designed to give you a real feel for the country’s traditions and an opportunity to discover authenticity of Mexico.

Once you arrive at the park you will be assigned to a trajinera! Each trajinera is named after an important Mexican state or landmark. While you wait for the boat to be prepared you can enjoy a typical Mexican snack of corn called “esquites” which is traditionally mixed with mayo, parmesan cheese, chili and lime! Soooo Delicious!!! Also you can refresh your taste buds with traditional flavored waters of Mexico including Orchata and Jamaica.

Eat, Drink, Dance underneath the moonlight!

Once your boat is prepared and ready, right around sunset, you will be called to enter the trajinera and start your journey, passing through some of the most pretty and amazing landmark replicas of the real Xochimilco!

During the way you will make multiple stops to visit other trajineras where you will receive each course of your dinner! Due to the idea of authenticity you may encounter some bizarre things (for the brave of course) like fried eatable grasshoppers, which will turn up as an appetizer option at your table. I’m not really a grasshopper kind of girl but my husband had no problem cleaning his plate and mine!

Don’t worry though! If grasshoppers aren’t your thing, you will still have a glorious amount of other selections. All of the traditional foods are amazingly appetizing and cooked with delicious traditional Mexican sauces and ingredients. Get ready to be FULL as you will experience over 20 different selections. You even get a huge dessert plate with an array of Mexican sweets and traditional candies! Oh how yummy!

Aside from the free flowing food and beverages, you receive an earful of history from your ever so entertaining and funny tour guide! You will also encounter wonderful Mexican music and Mariachis, featuring selections deriving from a variety of Mexican states.

There are plenty of opportunities to dance and sing and party! While the tour guides do a fantastic job at keeping the vibe up, I really think that the fun factor on this tour is up to you and your group.  I noticed some trajineras with fairly calm crowds while others who seemed to be having a total blast dancing and making their own party.

Oh and side note: For those who are wondering how they will make it through 3 hours of open bar without a bathroom break – thankfully there is a scheduled stop along the way for that too!

Xperiencing Xochimilco in a Riviera Maya Kind of Way! - Condo Hotels Playa del CarmenIt’s all about making memories!

From the moment you arrive until the very end, there are professional photographers taking pretty outstanding photos – completely worth the 49 dollars to purchase the USB stick at the end of the tour. Once you get off the boat you can purchase your photos and other take home items at the souvenir shop. While sometimes considered pricey, my husband and I generally always purchase photos from our excursions! It’s a great way to look back on all of our adventures!

Xoximilco is family friendly, friends’ family and couple friendly! I would highly recommend doing this tour with a large group if you have the opportunity! But if you are taking the tour as a couple or small group it is a great opportunity to meet friends which is always a great thing!

Snapshot – A Brilliant Love for the Riviera Maya!

For the past three years I have lived and breathed almost everything that Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya have to offer. I say almost because every time I think I’ve seen it all, I find myself discovering even more beauty and magic.  Each section of beach, every jungle, every entertainment venue, excursion, and every restaurant all offer a different experience. There is no one section of the Riviera Maya that can even be compared to one another, as they all hold multiple versions of beauty in their own secret way. This is the very thing that keeps me happy and excited here all the time!Snapshot - A Brilliant Love for the Riviera Maya! - Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen

Having been both a faithful returning tourist and eventually a full time resident of Playa del Carmen, I have experienced the region from both perspectives. Perhaps you can say I am an area expert, or you could just say that I am a person who loves the Riviera Maya so much that I feel it is my obligation to share my experiences with the world; in hopes that someone else will have the opportunity to experience the beauties and excitements I have been so lucky to get to get to know.

I have traveled to many different countries, different cities, witnessed different sites and have tasted different foods from all over; but Playa del Carmen is the one place I feel you can wrap so many different flavors of life all into one place! Playa del Carmen is the Caribbean meets the Jungle meets New York City meets the charm of Europe. It is truly a place where there is something for everyone, every age, every taste and lifestyle.

In the coming weeks and months I will share more detailed experiences of my travels and adventures throughout the entire Riviera Maya, but today I would like to share just a short snapshot of every reason why you will fall absolutely in love with this, ever so exciting and artistic, region of the world – that is called the Riviera Maya!

Having the moments to lay your feet in the sand is what I believe is one of life’s simplest pleasures; and one that many long for, and look forward to, when planning their vacation! Follow that up with the heavenly view of sparkling turquoise Caribbean Sea and you feel like you have arrived to paradise – really!

Here you get chance to taste extraordinary international flavors (all wonderful), become involved with nature, drink from a coconut, swim in a natural fresh water cenote, zip line over the exotic jungle, get wet and wild in a water park, snorkel, dive into the deep sea, swim with the sea turtles, play with dolphins, encounter whale sharks up close and personal, get a lavishly spoiling massage on the beach, explore underground caves and the most amazing coral reefs in the world, climb historical Pyramids, shop till you drop, dive off of cliffs, skydive, parasail, get splashed riding a jet ski, visit a crocodile farm, go horseback riding while overlooking the amazement of the turquoise Caribbean sea, dance the night away, marry your sweetheart, have a smashing bachelorette bash, drink fresh juice, learn salsa dancing or even perhaps a new language, take a catamaran tour while sipping your open bar margaritas, watch the sunrise over the ocean while striking a yoga pose or during a serious jog session, and absolutely soak up the amazing sunshine which brings brilliant glow to your skin (with SPF of course) and naturally puts you in a happy state of mind.

The Riviera Maya is a consistently evolving adventure, full of charm and absolute beauty! When traveling on an average one week vacation I recommend creating an agenda which will combine adventure, exploration and relaxation; and please do try as much of the food as you possibly can! Once you experience this beautiful place you will find there are so many reasons to return back time and time again.