I recently returned from an extended weekend in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, packed with skydiving, nighttime zip-lining and cave exploration. This was kind of a last minute trip that I really didn't expect to be as exciting as it was since I don't typically do any tours or spend my day sitting at the beach. I've been to the Riviera Maya several times but this time I made sure to try some of the tourist stuff that I somehow managed to avoid on my previous trips.
I generally travel on a tight budget - since I decided to play tourist, I knew it wasn't going to be cheap so I had to save a few dollars on my hotel. I stayed at Jungla Caribe, a hotel right on the main street, Quinta Avenida (5th Ave.) that I had been going to for the last 10 years and I found a deal on travelocity for $40 USD per night. The hotel is a bit more rundown than their pictures will lead you to believe but the place is centrally located and only a block from the beach.
My Skydive Video - https://youtu.be/n7QQd3aYhTs
Skydiving in Playa was amazing! This wasn't my first time skydiving, or even my first time skydiving in Mexico, but it was still was unforgettable experience. We jumped at 10,000 feet, the free-fall lasted about 20-30 seconds and we parachuted for another 5 minutes. It was a clear day so we could see Cozumel off in the distance, the view from up their was once in a lifetime.
Xplor is an activity park that is connected to the Xcaret park group. Xplor Fuego is the nighttime version of the park where you get to do the activities at night. The park is located 15-20 minutes from Playa del Carmen right off the main highway. The activities consist of underwater river rafting, swimming in the caves, driving a 4 wheel vehicle through the jungle and a 8 segment zip-line course. That night was actually a lot of fun. We started with the underwater river and had too much fun splashing each other. There is a short cave trail with "waterfalls" along the way, then the zip-line course starts. The view from the top of the zip-lines towers at night was incredible. You can see the lights of Cozumel and the sheer darkness of the jungle all at once. When traveling down the zip-lines, there are fire loops that you pass through and a water landing inside of the cave at the end. Next we did the amphibious vehicles through the jungle and caves. The course is well maintained and not really a true jungle experience but it was fun nonetheless. My favorite part was driving the vehicle through a river in a cave and flames popping out of the walls as we exited! Our final activity was a hammock zip-line. It was a short track but again it ended in the water. Xplor Fuego was a really fun time and I would recommend it.
Chichen Itza & ik Kil Cenote Tour
We took a day tour to Chicen Itza, ik Kil Cenote and the city of Valladolid. The bus trip takes about two hours to get there and when you arrive, there are about 1,000 or more other people trying to get in. It was 105 degrees Fahrenheit when we arrived. We started the tour by checking out the Maya ball court; along the way the walls were covered with detailed engraved stones depicting how the game was played. The next stop was a wall that was made up stones, each an engraving of a head - the guide said each stone represented a sacrifice victim. The main attraction, El Castillo, was more inspiring that I expected. The details of every aspect that were put into engineering the building were simply spectacular - my favorite part was when you stand directly infront of the main staircase and clap, the sound travels up the staircase, enters the top chamber - reverberates throughout the chamber and comes out sounding like an animal call of some sort. The best time to see Chichen Itza is on March 21st in the afternoon, that is when you can see the sun cast a shadow that appears to be a snake body connecting to the serpents head at the bottom of the staircase.
The next stop was the ik Kil Cenote Archaeological Park. We didn't have a lot of time here since our group bus tour was behind on schedule. With tours, you get what you pay for, but don't overpay for the ticket. My ticket was $60, and some people paid over $150. The cenote from above was this big hole in the ground that was covered by a lot of trees and brush. Once you began walking down through the tunnel to the bottom, the cenote is basically a large cave with a 130 ft deep swimming pool in it. After a few jumps off "cliff", it was time to head back to the bus for the next destination.
ik Kil Cenote Jumping - https://youtu.be/FAnViAhp5cE
and the day-tour ended with a stop in Valladolid where we spent about an hour in the main square. The city is an old Spanish Colonial town that had a pleasant main square and cathedral. Our tour was running late so we didn't have enough time to explore the city but there were plenty of food vendors waiting for the tourist buses to stop in town. We were happy they were there!