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Playa del Carmen / Cozumel / Isla Mujeres (or another whale shark place)


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#1 Cumbo

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 10:54 AM

We've decide to go on a holiday to Mexico. We have about 10 days (8 full and 2 when we fly from/to Miami). We want to
- do diving in Cozumel,
- snorkel with whale sharks and
- some topside activities.

Should we stay at Cozumel or can we go by boat from Playa del Carmen every morning for dives (how long is the boat ride)? Should we pick an all-inclusive resort with diving and meals included (i.e. are there some recommended ones) or should we take a hotel and take dives separately? Can you recommend nice dive companies/all inclusive resorts? We want a reputable company because my girlfriend is a beginner.

We also want to snorkel with whale sharks. Is Isla Mujeres the place to go or do you recommend something else? Any companies recommended?

How about topside activities? Is Cenote cave worth it? How about the Mayan ruins?

I'd really appreciate the help!

#2 operam

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 12:05 PM

We've decide to go on a holiday to Mexico. We have about 10 days (8 full and 2 when we fly from/to Miami). We want to
- do diving in Cozumel,
- snorkel with whale sharks and
- some topside activities.

Should we stay at Cozumel or can we go by boat from Playa del Carmen every morning for dives (how long is the boat ride)? Should we pick an all-inclusive resort with diving and meals included (i.e. are there some recommended ones) or should we take a hotel and take dives separately? Can you recommend nice dive companies/all inclusive resorts? We want a reputable company because my girlfriend is a beginner.

We also want to snorkel with whale sharks. Is Isla Mujeres the place to go or do you recommend something else? Any companies recommended?

How about topside activities? Is Cenote cave worth it? How about the Mayan ruins?

I'd really appreciate the help!


If you are going to spend most of your stay diving in Cozumel, then you should stay in Cozumel. Ferry is about 45 minutes one way, can get pricey if you stay in Playa and go to Cozumel for multiple days. OTOH, if you plan to spend maybe up to two days in Cozumel and the rest in the main land, taking the ferry might not be too bad.

I myself prefer avoiding all-inclusive (there's so much good food to be had both in Cozumel and Playa if you are willing to explore). But if you want to do one in Cozumel, Scuba Club Cozumel is pretty popular among scuba divers. Last time I was in Cozumel I went with Opal's Dream (what is used to be called Scuba Mau). I didn't have any problems with them, although if you look around the Internet you'll most likely find an accident associated with the shop and causing the death of one of the owners of the old Scuba Mau. The accident didn't involve any paying guests and happened on a fun dive between the said owner and her friends. Still, I'm putting it out for your consideration. Another shop that I haven't used but have heard quite a bit about is Aldora. One of their accomplishments is being used by the President of Mexico.

For the non-all-inclusive accommodation in Cozumel, you should first decide how close/far do you want to be from the main town. Being in the main town gives you easy access to food and supermarkets, but if you are not in the town it shouldn't be a problem either because taxis are easy to get and not that expensive.

Whale sharks, the problem is not so much the operator but whether the sharks are going to show up at all on the day you are going. I assume you plan to be there between now and August. Some operators leave from Cancun (the ferry terminal to Mujeres), so you don't have to go all the way to Isla Mujeres yourself. But again, there's no telling where the sharks are going to be, so it might be the case that the boat has to go all the way to Holbox to find the whale sharks. When I did this it was in late June, and the boat started in Cancun and ended up somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico before we found our sharks. August is the best time for whale sharks, I heard.

Cenote is worth it, but you might want to snorkel instead of dive it since your girlfriend is a beginner. And there are other Mayan ruins nearby, but I'd suggest you visit Chichen Itza.
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#3 eyu

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 03:38 PM

I go to Cancun just about every August to swim with the whale sharks off of Isla Mujeres, dive the cenotes and Cozumel. I stay in Cancun since it is more convenient and take the ferry to Cozumel when we dive there. To spend the whole day with the whale sharks we rent a private boat rather then taking one of the crowded tour boats. Look at: http://www.mydeeplife.com/ I have used them going on 5 yrs now and have been pleased with Eduardo's service.

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#4 troporobo

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 04:12 PM

The diving in Cozumel is fantastic, one of my favorite trips ever. However . . .

. . . if you have not been to any of the Mayan sites before, and you're going to be so close, it would be a tragedy not to visit Chichen Itza, and maybe also Uxmal. Both can be done as day trips if you're staying on the mainland, but its worth staying overnight to be there at dusk/dawn also

#5 Cumbo

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 01:47 AM

From their website:

"The cost for tours that allow guests to swim with whale sharks is set by the Mexican governing body, at $125 USD minimum."

WOW. Is it really that expensive everywhere..? ;)

I go to Cancun just about every August to swim with the whale sharks off of Isla Mujeres, dive the cenotes and Cozumel. I stay in Cancun since it is more convenient and take the ferry to Cozumel when we dive there. To spend the whole day with the whale sharks we rent a private boat rather then taking one of the crowded tour boats. Look at: http://www.mydeeplife.com/ I have used them going on 5 yrs now and have been pleased with Eduardo's service.

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#6 eyu

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 03:55 AM

From their website:

"The cost for tours that allow guests to swim with whale sharks is set by the Mexican governing body, at $125 USD minimum."

WOW. Is it really that expensive everywhere..? ;)


It is well over an hour of a fast boat ride to get to the whale sharks from Cancun. If you look out of the right side of the plane as it is coming into Cancun you can see the boats and get an idea of the size of the shark aggregation and distance. Start looking about 20 minutes before landing.

Edited by eyu, 28 June 2012 - 05:10 PM.

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#7 Cumbo

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Posted 05 July 2012 - 03:05 AM

Thanks for the replies!

A couple of questions to add:
- Is it all the same if we book whale shark snorkeling at Isla Mujeres while we are there, one day before going on the trip? Or should we book in advance?
- Can one do the following kind of custom day trip: 1 dive at a Cenote (which one?) + see 1 or two of the Mayan pyramids (Chichen Itza / Uxmal / another one?)
- Which dive operator do you recommend at:
* Isla Mujeres (diving / snorkeling)
* Cozumel (diving)
* Playa del Carmen (Cenote / pyramids)

Edited by Cumbo, 05 July 2012 - 03:05 AM.


#8 diver dave1

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Posted 05 July 2012 - 04:08 AM

For Cenote diving at Playa, I would contact WP member NCmermaid. She and hubby run a dive shop at Playa that I used. They were great. They can also arrange a tour of Tulum. Cannot speak about other Mayan site tours with them.

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#9 gumbyDives

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Posted 27 July 2012 - 12:36 PM

I've been to the area twice, most recently this past June. First trip we stayed in Playa del Carmen and took a day dive trip to Cozumel. This year we spent most of our trip on Isla Mujeres but added a few days in Playa just to dive the cenotes.

Playa: We used the same shop both times in Playa and I highly recommend Gerardo and Irene at Scuba10 for ocean or cenotes diving. Cenotes may not be for everyone, but you have to try at least once imho. Work with the shop you choose to select a cenote based on your comfort level with buoyancy/visibility and what you'd like to see (halocline, stalagtite formations, jungle, cavern openings to pop up into, etc). I think it is Dos Ojos that has a mid-dive surface into the jungle.

You can do a cenote and Tulum or Coba in a day, but you need to plan carefully. Many cenotes are a healthy drive down an unpaved road into the jungle. One of our favorite cenotes is El Pit and it is around 40 minutes off the highway down dirt track. Most are closer.

Whalesharks: We did two days. My wife did a day out of Cancun, I believe with "whale shark daddy". She was very pleased with the boat and service. The next day, we went together from Isla Mujeres with Mundaca divers. We booked both just a day or two ahead. Granted, Isla did not seem to have many tourists at the beginning of June. But it seems that at least a few of the shops work together to organize people onto boats for any given day. I wasn't very impressed with Mundaca divers' boat or service, but they got the job done. I think the Cancun shop was ~$125 and from Isla was ~$105 including wetsuit. Both days were amazing in terms of interaction with the whale sharks. The experience here was different from our previous encounters in Maldives, Galapagos and La Paz. Everywhere else, we swam hard to keep up with the one or two sharks that would appear at a time. Here, we just sat in one place and let them come to us. At times, we had 3-5 mouths to dodge. Photography was frantic.

Pyramids: Tulum is closest to Playa del Carmen and can be reached by public bus ~1hr if I recall. Coba is a little further, but I don't know if there's a direct bus. Chitzen Itza is a couple hours and there are many tours that will take you. We've done Tulum by bus and rented a car to do Coba and Chitzen Itza in a day. Tulum is beautifully set on a bluff overlooking the ocean. The ruins are small. Coba is set deep in the jungle, had fewer tourists and is less redeveloped. Chitzen Itza is large with amazing ruins, but heavily touristed and a good hike from Playa. Depends what you enjoy. But Tulum is so close it is sort of a no-brainer for a half day.

Playa- we like this town. It is compact and there is good local food within a couple blocks of the tourist strip.

Hope that helps. Have a good trip.