Playa del Carmen may be known as more of a party town than a cultural center, but there is actually a lot more to do here than just lay on the beach all day and party in the clubs all night. While I was studying spanish at International house, the staff put me in touch with their resident tour guide, Silvino “Chimy” Palofox. Chimy runs tours in and around Playa del Carmen, and students at IH get a bit of a discount on the price.
I was able to take two tours with Chimy durning my time at IH, and both were really fun experiences.
The first trip we did was to the nearby beach town of Akumal, about 40 minutes south of Playa. The trip included a stop at a Cenote and Dolphin Discovery. The Marine sanctuary is mostly for gringo tourists who want to pay to swim with dolphins, but out was cool to see the manatees floating lazily in their pool, munching on lettuce like like bloated, prehistoric behemoths. It was also it was fun to watch the tourists swim with the dolphins because the trainers put on a good show for those if us watching from the edge of the pool.
The next stop was a Cenote known as Jardin de Eden. Cenotes are freshwater sinkhole pools, usually attached to underwater caves. They are common in the Yukatan and the Qintana Roo regions, and are believed to have been formed when an asteroid hit the Yucatan peninsula , 65 million years ago (the same asteroid that many believe caused the extinction of the dinosaurs), causing the molten rock to bubble beneath the surface and leave a complex network of caves. When the caves collapse, become are now beautiful, Edenic ponds. This particular cenote was certainly beautiful. It was full of freshwater fish, and we used the snorkels and goggles that Chimy provided to gawk at the beautiful world beneath the surface. There was also a spot where you could jump from the edge of the cenote into the deep waters below. It was only about 15 feet, but it was still a great adrenaline rush, and we all enjoyed taking turns jumping and snapping photos.
After an hour or so, we hopped in the bus and headed just down the road to Akumal. The beaches in Akumal are just as beautiful as in Playa, and there are less tourists and resorts, making it a great place to escape for the day. If you don’t want to take a tour, it’s easy to get to Akumal via one if the ubiquitous Colectivo shuttles that run up and down the coast, for just about 25 pesos.
The name Akumal means “place of the turtle” in the Mayan languae – and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. We all strapped on our snorkels and goggles and marched into the sea. Close to shore, you’ll find stingrays and some small fish, but if you swim out about 100 yards you’ll find plenty of tortugas, or sea turtles lounging at the bottom of the ocean, munching on seaweed. you can swim down and try to touch them, but they are surprisingly fast!
After a bit of snorkeling and a bit of relaxing on the beach, the bus took us back to playa. All in all, the tour lasted about 4 hours, included 3 stops, and it was worth every peso!
Chimy offers tours in Playa del Carmen and much of Quintana Roo, including tours to the Coba ruins, excursions to Isla de Mujeres, and snorkeling in Cozumel. If you want to book a tour with Chimy, you can contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.