The Punta Venado EcoPark is about a 10 minute drive south of Playa del Carmen. Its a little over 2000 acres with 2.5 miles of beach on the Caribbean coastline. The outdoor adventure activities in this park include horseback riding, atv trails, mountain biking and water sports such as kiteboarding and snorkeling. Mountain bike trails are rated according to difficulty and cut through dense jungle where there’s a good chance of wildlife encounters with spider monkeys, deer or a variety of other small mammals as you ride. Whenever you get hot or tired and need a break from biking, you can always stop at one of the cenotes found near several of the trails and take a refreshing dip in these natural pools of underground water. Another way to relax and cool off at the end of the day is to take the trail towards the park’s beach club where you’ll find a restaurant, bar, and the caribbean ocean.
Mexico has about 6,000 miles of coastline and over 450 beaches with a variety of physical characteristics. These range from desert to tropical environments but while it may be easy to classify beaches according to these objective characteristics, the choice of which beach resort is best for a vacation is much more subjective. A quick internet search will turn up several sites that rate beaches in Mexico by a variety of different criteria but there is only one objective system that rates beaches by strict criteria applied the world over and that site can be found at http://www.blueflag.org. Their system for evaluating beaches started in France around 1985 and is now run by the European Foundation for Environmental Education. In general, the Blue Flag criteria used to determine which beaches deserve to be awarded are water quality, safety, services, environmental management and information. As of now, there are 5 beaches that have earned the blue flag award in Mexico. Coincidently, all five of these beaches are also on the list of the best beaches in Mexico as published by websites such as Travelers Choice and magazines such as U.S News and Travel that use tourist opinions or travel writers opinions to rate beaches. So, if finding the best beach is a top priority on your next vacation, it comes down to a decision about the intangibles such as idyllic versus the tangibles such as environmental information signs. In the photo essay below there is a photo of Playa Delfines, a blue flag awarded beach, as well as several photos of beaches in Tulum which Travelers Choice rates as the best in Mexico. All other beach photos below are highly rated by one or more survey about best beaches in Mexico.
Cozumel is the largest of Mexico’s islands measuring 53 km by 14km and is found in the Caribbean Sea about 1 hour away from Playa del Carmen on the passenger ferries which make frequent trips on a daily basis. Although, there are a variety of things to do once you get to Cozumel the main attraction has always been snorkeling and scuba diving to experience the great meso american reef system. One travel guide book has a list of 86 attractions around Cozumel but 43 of them involve different scuba diving or snorkeling locations. Other things to do while on the island are related to either cultural activities, parks or beach clubs.
Three types of beaches can be found around this island and they will be either rocky, smooth white sand or hybrids. According to people in the know, rocky beaches are a indication of good snorkeling opportunities off shore and they are plentiful. The smooth white sand beaches are not as common as the rocky type but they can be found at the northern or southern tips of the island’s western shores such as Playa San Francisco near Punta Sur. Finally, there is the hybrid variety where sand has been brought in to build a beach on top of the limestone croppings that are the norm around Cozumel.. One such man made beach is found at the Chankannab National Park to the south of town.
At the end of the day, most people head for San Miguel to enjoy happy hour, dinner or other cultural activites. This is the only city on the island and it has a population of over 75,000 people according to the last count. One of the main attractions here is the pedestrian only Plaza Centro where you can find restaurants, shops, street artist, cafe’s and nightlife. In the photo gallery below you will find images and more information about Plaza Centro, a few of the beaches as well as some other highlights.
Xcaret Park was created to promote nature and mexican cultural heritage. To that end, part of the admission price is donated to developing programs for the preservation of wild flora and fauna. There are quite a variety of leisure and recreational activities in the park but all are related to this objective. In general, the main attractions include underground rivers, natural pools and inlets for snorkeling, exhibitions which include archeological zones, re-creations of ancient mayan cities along with mayan ceremonies, flora and fauna found on interpretative jungle trails, orchid and bromelaid museums, a butterfly pavilion, natural habitats for jaguars, puma’s and monkeys, aquariums, bee farms and deer shelters. The latest in their long list of natural attractions is the Sea Trek underwater adventure that offers a new technology for diving underwater without extensive training and cumbersome gear. All you need is their new hi-tech diving helmet that keeps water out while air is pumped in from a boat that hovers above the dive site. So, it is now possible for almost everyone to experience the coral reefs and tropical fish for which the Carribean is famous. Ladies will find this new helmet especially appealing because the helmet keeps hair dry and prevents make-up from washing off.
Playa del Carmen is located on the Maya Riviera and has the ambiance of a small beach resort but at the same time it is sophisticated in many ways. Here you will find vistors and shop owners from all over the world, special events such as the Maya Jazz Festival that features music from a variety of cultures, restaurants that serve many different kinds of cuisine
from different countries around the world, specialty retail shops with merchandise from all over mexico and small boutique lodging’s with distinct European styles. Most of the restaurants, cafes, shops, nightlife and other tourist activity are located on a 15 block section of fifth avenue which is limited to pedestrian foot traffic.
There are many other attractions in and around Playa del Carmen. Some of the best beaches in the world can be found in this area along with miles of offshore coral reefs that offer what are just about the most spectacular snorkeling and scuba diving sites anywhere in the world. If the beach or scuba diving are not your cup of tea, than there are several major theme parks near by such as Xcaret, Xel-Ha, Xplor and Xaman-Ha Avairy. Each offers its own unique blend of outdoor recreational activities. These are just a few of the reasons why Playa del Carmen was selected as the second best destination resort in Mexico for 2012 by travelers choice.
The Balandra Bioshpere is a complex of beaches, hills, dunes, and mangroves on the sea of cortez. It is one of many protected environments in Baja California Sur about 20 kilometers from La Paz, Mexico. The bay of balandra is very shallow with clear, warm water ideal for snorkeling and kayaking. It also forms several beaches but the main beach offers palapa´s and barbeque pits, in addition to, campsites.
Bahia Pulmo is both a national marine preserve and UNESCO world heritage site found on the East Cape of Baja California Sur about 60 miles from the Los Cabos resort area of Mexico. Bahia Pulmo is unique in that it has the only hard coral reef in the sea of cortez and is one of only 3 living reefs in North America. The abundant coral growth on the rocky reefs provides plenty of shelter for a variety of colorful reef fishes, many of which are not found anywhere else. This in turn is what attracts many scuba divers and snorkelers from all over the world to the Cabo Pulmo area.