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Playa del Carmen – The Shining Star of the Riviera Maya


Deep in the heart of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, you can hear the heartbeats of novice explorers living their Mayan dream.  Retracing the steps of a society lost to the modern civilization. Listening to the drums telling the story of the past. And, finding the adventure 

that they have been waiting for all of their lives.

While the Riviera Maya is well reputed for its roots in the Mayan empire, in the dive world, it lives in the shadow of its neighbor Cozumel. Cozumel is, arguably, the Mecca of Scuba diving.  It calls like a Siren, worldwide, to divers for its famed drift diving, beautiful reefs and larger than life marine ecosystems. For many, Cozumel is a perennial visit.  Divers flock to the dozens of dive resorts and hotels and to the hundreds of dive operators that scurry divers to the busy reefs every morning. Seeing so many faithful divers, in one spot, is a truly extraordinary sight. At night, as the diver
intensity drifts off to casual Caribbean ambience, resting divers can see the lights of Playa del Carmen across the channel. The lights of Fifth Avenue shine bright; calling to the vacationers only 14 miles away.  This calling does not ring silent.  The opportunities, for divers, are rich with excitement. Divers are learning this is not a shadow that veils over the Riviera Maya … It’s a well maintained secret.

As you back roll into the clear, bath-water-warm, Caribbean waters, the bubbles clear and you look down 30, 40 … maybe 50 feet.  The water is crystal clear.  The reef is a vibrant rainbow of colors and the marine life is cordially meeting you as you glide down gingerly into a comfortable position a few feet above the reef. Your dive buddy flashes you the “OK sign” and you casually answer him back.  A deep, relaxed calm overcomes you.  You feel your breathing slowing down and you can actually hear your heartbeat soften as the quick adrenaline rush, commonly experienced at the beginning of every dive, starts to wane.  There is a little drift today, but very manageable. This drift moves you along like a conveyor belt, making the dive almost effortless.  Small kicks correct your position, but you need no power to move you along.  Then, out of the corner of your eye, you spot a green line tucked under the reef. Instinctively, your curiosity propels you to the location of the enigmatic underwater creature. It’s at this point; you realize how docile the drift is for you to kick against.  Just a light flutter-kick and it holds you right in place.  Now, you are hovering just a few feet
above a large Green Moray Eel.   It was only two hundred years ago, when the image of the moray would scare experienced sailors into a panic.

These stout men of the sea truly believed morays were terrorizing sea monsters.  This  is what you came hunting for, however not with a weapon.  A camera is what you shoot  with today. You brazenly stare at this beautiful creature getting ready to take a picture to capture the majestic nature of this denizen of the deep. It’s hard to fit this six foot “sea monster” into the entire view screen.  However, with a little maneuvering, you take the
one picture that will inspire all your friends, back at home, to give Scuba diving a try. The perfect shot, his eyes glancing menacingly, his mouth open (to the uneducated, he looks like he ready to attack), his tale wrapped gently around the rocks in which it spends the daylight hours. This moment in time is captured for eternity.  You pause  immersed in this moment; however, it is just a small fragment of time in this spectacular  dive. This aquatic neighborhood is teaming with marine life, all posing for your camera.   Turtles, Stingrays, Bull Sharks, thousands of reef fish, and, who could forget, that goofy dive buddy that likes to stick his tongue out when you snap an underwater photo of  him.  This is what diving is all about.  This is the dive life!

As you come to the surface, you are a stone’s throw away from the pearl white beaches of the Riviera Maya. Your dive boat is patiently  waiting for you.  Fresh water and pineapple waiting on board your Playa del Carmen based Panga Boat. As you surface interval, drifting  off the beaches of Paamul and Playacar, you talk to your Divemaster about the next chapter of your Mayan Dive Adventure – tomorrow’s  trip to the Cenotes.

After your morning of Scuba diving the beautiful reefs of Playa del Carmen, you may have opted to relax by the resort pool or beautiful  beach.  If, however, you wanted to keep the adventure going, you may have visited one of the sites where they offer zip-line tours or tubing through a cave.  All of these exciting activities are a quick trip after lunch and can easily be done in an afternoon off from diving.

Part 2 – tomorrow

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