Unlike other scuba diving destinations, Playa del Carmen offers not only marine beauty but also the history of an ancient civilization. This stunning place on the Mayan Riviera has the second largest coral reef in the world, boasting mystical paths in the caverns of its cenotes, exotic marine life in its reefs and the opportunity to swim in its long underground rivers. Check out our list of the best spots in Playa del Carmen to discover the Mayan underworld.
Named Dos Ojos – which means Two Eyes – as it has two sinkholes very close to each other which, when viewed from above, look like two beautiful turquoise eyes. As they’re connected by a system of underground flooded caverns, it is considered a single cenote. It belongs to a system of underground rivers that are up to 57 km long and 24 meters deep (the third longest underground river in the world). The first eye is the bigger of the two, reaching 13 meters in depth. Remains of prehistoric animals and cave paintings were discovered in this sinkhole. How to get there? Take a bus from Playa del Carmen or go to Dos Ojos Dive Shop and ask about their services.
Mama Viña Sunken Ship
Another unusual option for diving, Mama Viña is an old shrimp ship intentionally sunk in 1995. Eventually becoming an artificial reef, it is now one of the best sites for scuba diving on the Riviera Maya. Due to its strong currents, it’s only advisable for experienced divers, suitable for multi-level and deep diving. Descend 18-30 meters (60-90 ft) deep and explore the interior of the ship and admire the corals and marine life.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Arrecife Tortugas means Turtles Reef and, as the name indicates, the object of diving this reef is to watch marine turtles. Located between Playa del Carmen and Puerto Aventuras, it takes just 30 minutes to reach by boat. Due to the currents, this is one of the most exciting drift dives at 26 meters deep. Be captivated by an amazing number of Hawksbill turtles, green moray eels, toad fishes and a wide range of beautiful fish.
Cenote Chac Mool
Located 20 minutes from Playa del Carmen, this cenote is ideal for intermediate level divers. What makes Chac Mool special is the variety of things to explore. There are two entrances, a large one called “Downstream” and a small side entrance called “Little Brother.” Further ahead, there are two caverns in which the sunshine lets you enjoy the jungle view from under the water. Next, there’s a dome-shaped area composed of stalactites. An “airbag” in the same area allows divers to explore stunning fossils, stalactites and roots of giant trees. The maximum depth is 13 meters.
Barracuda is located 20 minutes south of Playa del Carmen. Its slopes make it a good place for beginners; the first is only 12 meters deep and has excellent visibility. One hour is enough time to dive around the hawksbill turtles and jellyfish and see the diverse corals at the bottom. In the clear crystal waters you can admire colorful tropical fish, crabs, octopuses, lobsters and moray eels.
Pared Verde, translated as Green Wall, is a beautiful undersea landscape, covered by vibrant sea fans and sponges, that create a colorful undersea landscape. Swim among marine turtles, barracudas, crossbows, ayas whip and exotic fauna on this dazzling reef. If you’re not too adventurous, you may prefer to dive during the Mexican summer or spring, because during Mexican winter (from December until the end of February) it’s common to see sharks. An average dive takes approximately 50 minutes and has a medium difficulty and intermediate current.
This amazing site is reserved for certified divers or those who are about to qualify. The sea current can be strong, so it can be a challenge if you’re not sufficiently experienced. Its maximum depth is 15 meters, and part of the thrill is swimming in the caverns to see the Green moray eels, speckled moray eels, crabs and sea spiders. If you like marine photography, this is the place to capture colorful corals, sponges and the abundant marine fauna.
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