playa del carmen whale shark tour

Whale Sharks – try a Whale Shark tour in Playa Del Carmen

Whale sharks are one of the most fascinating creatures in our oceans.  Experiencing one of these docile giants up close with one of this year’s whale shark tours in Playa Del Carmen is something that should be on everyone’s bucket list.  From June to September is whale shark season in the  Yucatán, as these gentle giants come to feed on the algae blooms in the area’s warm tropical waters.

The whale shark, so-called because of its great size and feeding habits, is the largest known fish still swimming in the oceans of the world.  Whale sharks are slow moving filter-feeding fish that feed much like baleen whales, by drawing water into their mouths and filtering out the tiny plankton on which they survive.

Whale sharks are the largest non-mammalian vertebrate, with reports of fish more than 46 feet long, weighing over 60 tons.  These huge sharks, called carpet sharks because of their intricate, carpet-like color patterns, may be huge, but they are completely harmless to humans.  The warm waters of the Yucatán are the perfect habitat for these warm water loving creatures.

Whale sharks can be found plying the clear, warm waters along the Yucatán in many exotic locations, including the world snorkeling destination of Isla Mujeres just 8 miles from Cancun with its stunning coral reefs and Isla Holbox in the Yum Balam Nature Reserve, across the Yalahau Lagoon, just north of the Yucatán in Quintana Roo, between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

The Yucatán is famous for whale shark tours.  Wherever you go, be sure there is a whale shark tour available not far from where you’re standing!  A whale shark tour in Playa Del Carmen, Isla Holbox or Isla Mujeres is sure to be the highlight of any trip.  Snorkeling with these huge and gentle creatures as they slowly cruise the warm surface of these tropical waters is an experience no one can forget!

cozumel snorkeling

Cozumel Snorkeling vs. Playa Del Carmen Snorkeling

Cozumel Snorkeling and Playa Del Carmen Snorkeling tours are very comparable in quality from my experience as a casual snorkeler. Cozumel is more famous and some people say the seacozumel snorkelingdives are better than Playa. But if you are staying in Playa you have the ability to easily try an exciting cenote dive or snorkeling adventure you could not do in Cozumel. Because so many people think Cozumel might be a better destination for snorkeling it has become very commercialized and crowded with snorkeling tour groups all around the best reef areas. I think this is why when I tried snorkeling in Cozumel I saw less fish and smaller fish. The coral reef formations were larger than the reef off the coast in Playa but sadly, it would seem, that the hordes of snorkelers have had an impact on the quality and quantity of the sea life at the more popular snorkeling sites.

the-sea-lovers-tour-playa-del-carmenMy experience with snorkeling in Playa Del Carmen was different. Although the coral reef formations were smaller there were way more large and colorful fish and massive sea turtles lurking around the reef. There were fewer snorkeling tour groups in the area we went and I think that’s why there was more to see including really interesting sea vegetation. The preservation of the coral reef, as many people know, is the most important thing for the fish and other sea life since it is estimated that 25% of the worlds fish species live on coral reefs.

The other disadvantage of Cozumel Snorkeling is the 50 minute ferry ride over from Playa. After waiting 15-30 min for the ferry to embark sometimes you can be in for a rough ride depending on how rough the sea is on any given day. Besides the the 2 or 2.5 hours you will need for the commute from Playa there are the sea conditions to consider. I have made the trip many times and on several occasions many people including myself were getting sick off the back of the ferry. Because I love Cozumel so much for cycling it’s worth it for me but for a snorkeling adventure I prefer staying in Playa and taking a spectacular and fun cenote or  sea tour .

 

best things to do in playa del carmen

Best Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen

Snorkeling with The Snorkel Shop is one of the best things to do in Playa Del Carmen according to U.S. News & World Report Travel.  “Playa del Carmen offers access to some of the best diving spots in the Western Hemisphere, especially just offshore near Isla Cozumel. Travelers say you can’t come to Playa del Carmen without taking a dip under the sea to explore its colorful population of fish. Many diving companies have set up shop in Playa..” READ FULL STORY

cenote snorkeling

Cenote Snorkeling

Cenote Snorkeling in Playa Del Carmen is possible at several of the nearby cenotes but some are better than others. I have heard different estimates but I think it is safe to say there are more than 6000 cenotes in the Yucatan. Cenotes , of course are underground springs, caverns, or swimming holes that sometimes form amazing rock formations or can be great swimming hole destinations with fresh, clean water sometimes high in mineralscenote snorkeling healthy for the skin.

 

There are basically two different kinds of cenotes that I have visited while living in Playa Del Carmen and traveling around the Yucatan Peninsula and Mayan Riviera. There are cavern/cave type cenotes and swimming hole type cenotes. I love them both and have visited many of both kinds. When the weather cooperates the swimming whole kind are great for cooling off and enjoying a day to swim and relax but there is not much to see underwater at this kind of cenote. My favorite Playa Del Carmen cenote for swimming is Cenote Azul. It is 1 of 3 that are all close to each other and only 20 minutes south of Playa Del Carmen. The others are Jardin of Eden and Cristalino. They are all inexpensive to enter and make for a great day of relaxing and swimming in cool refreshing water in the Riviera Maya. It is important to note , however that these cenotes are not the best for cenote snorkeling because they are not deep and do not have interesting stalactite/stalagmite formations like the cavern or cave type cenotes have.

cenote snorkelingMy favorite cavern type cenote in Playa Del Carmen is best explored snorkeling with a guide who can tell you about the history and show you the best secret caverns and places to look you might not see. One day when my best friends were here in Playa visiting we had plans to go to the beach and the weather turned foul. A little cool with tropical rains. Since we did not have a lot of other free time to visit with my friends and wanted to do something fun together we booked the cenote snorkeling tour. It was perfect for a rainy day because we spent our time underground while it was raining exploring the caverns and viewing the awesome underwater rock formations and stalactites. My friends really loved the experience and it did not take all day and was a short drive to get to. As we emerged from the final cavern and returned our snorkeling gear the rain was clearing and the sun was starting to come out for another Playa Del Carmen sunset.