Excursions and sightseeing review in the Riviera Maya
Posted 05 July 2010 - 04:49 PM
Xcaret - Cancun most amazing eco park
25th March 2010
We pre-booked online to get the 10% discount.
I recommend you dont buy the two day pass online. On entry you are given a 50% discount ticket that is valid when you book a second day before you leave the park. If you are doing additional activities its likely you will need a second day because there is so much to see.
We did the "plus" entry with dolphins and felt the upgrade to "plus" entry was worth the extra cost.
It took us just over an hour to get there from Dreams Tulum and for a minibus (organised on the day with the bell boys at our hotel) that seated 13 it was $160 for a round trip. This may have been cheaper if pre-booked through an outside vendor but we didn't have time to shop around transport vendors before we left.
I recommend you get there asap, particularly if you are doing additional experiences. I dont know if its cos we had 13 people and we were all doing extra activities but it seemed to take ages to get our tickets issued and then once we entered the park we had to go to a second booth to get our schedule for our Dolphin encounter and then a third booth to get our schedule for the shark experience and sea trek!
All in all by the time we had got all our tickets, handed in our non bio sunlotion, walked to the plus changing facilities and stowed everything in our lockers it had taken over an hour!
Its a big place so make sure you take all your vouchers and essentials with you at this point to save having to come back here.
DOLPHIN ENCOUNTER: 9/10
We did the dolphin encounter at 11.30am and it was excellent. It was a full program with maximum interaction time and lots of photo opportunities.
Unfortunately you cannot take you own underwater camera into the enclosure with you. Take a credit card or extra cash for photos and the dvd, they were expensive but it was a once in a lifetime thing so we thought it was worth it and we just bought one per group and did copies at home.
More coming... Please be patient!
Posted 05 July 2010 - 04:55 PM
We then did the sea trek which is the underwater helmet walk. This was my least favourite activity.
It is definately an experience if you are unlikely to go underwater any other way. For anyone not accustomed or comfortable being in the water this is the perfect opportunity as all you have to do is walk around on the sea bed holding onto a handrail.
The best thing for me was being able to see the reactions of my family, some of which are really nervous in the water and would never have the experience of being submerged, surrounded by fish any other way.
The guide takes a bait ball down so at certain points in the walk there are a lot of fish feeding and swimming around you as you pass through.
Our whole group enjoyed it overall.
We were allowed to take our camera down with us and one of the guides even took our picture with it.
I personally have back problems and I felt that the helmets were heavy, uncomfortable and cumbersome. I found the whole thing to be quite disorientating and the noise inside the helmet is really loud.
I had backache and a stiff neck the next day.
I much prefer scuba diving to this. If you do dive unless you are doing this like we did as a "family" activity. I dont think you will get a lot from this.
SHARK ENCOUNTER: 8/10
This was much more nerveracking than I thought it would be. You have a cheesy presentation from the staff and then a safety briefing in an underground viewing area before entering the water, we were like, yeah yeah its all for show but my god those things are strong!!!
We had a few small barracuda swimming in the enclosure and our interaction was with 3 nurse sharks approx 6ft long.
Before you go into the water you sit at a platform on the edge and they bring the sharks to you to touch and feed and the power of them as they snatch the food is awesome.
You are then allowed to snorkel in the enclosure. The sharks tend to stay close to the bottom but they move fast and its kind of exciting. You are forbidden from returning to the "feeding platform" until the staff call you forward one by one to exit the water and they all stand guard. I didnt expect it to be so thrilling but the reactions of the staff show you that these are in fact predators that need to be respected!
We took our camera in with us whilst we snorkelled and also had an official picture done as we sat on the platform. Hubbys dad also took some from inside the underground viewing area which seemed like a good place to watch the snorkelling from. It also appeared to look onto a dolphin enclosure from the other side.
This is a closed lagoon area and the water in here is very smelly, wash your stuff asap when you return to your hotel, we left them in the bath and headed to the bar and the smell was awful when we returned!
There's a lot to see as you walk around the resort but we missed so much. By the time we had done our activities it was time to head towards the theatre for the shows. We could definately have done with a second day here. We didn't get any time just to snorkel in the various areas and missed out on a lot of the land areas. Two of our group dont do water based activities at all but they still managed to spend the whole day here seeing other things and really enjoyed it.
We stayed for the show, have your camera ready for the walk to the theatre.
We really liked the first half and the finale of the show, all the mayan history is really interesting and the most visually spectacular parts of the show. Our group as a whole thought the show went on for a bit too long, for me there was a lot of dancing and singing in the middle that it wouldn't hurt to do away with.
Everybody tends to leave at the same time so the exits and photo purchase points get pretty crowded. Unless you're a real culture junkie I say beat the crowds and head off at the interval.
More coming.... Please be patient!
Posted 05 July 2010 - 04:58 PM
27th March 2010
This is a 10 minute cab ride from our hotel Dreams Tulum. It was $7 one way.
We got there really early which I recommend. There is a barricade that prevents taxi's from taking you all the way to the entrance, its approx a 10 minute walk from the taxi drop off point to the entrance. There is a shuttle train that you can catch but if you get there early its not running yet. I dont know how frequent they are or if there is an extra charge cos we walked both ways.
We virtually had the place to ourselves for the first hour. I suggest as soon as you get in there to head to the left, towards the beach and cliff top ruins which are the most spectacular and also the best to photograph when there are less people around.
There are tons of large iguanas walking around the ruins which is pretty cool and makes for some good photos.
Be advised there are NO facilities here. The toilets are out by the ticket booths. There is very little shade once you get in there so on a hot day like the day we went it really is tiring and much better to be there early. Take plenty of water and wear a hat and sunscreen.
There is adequate information displayed around the ruins. Tour guides are also available. By 10am it was already really busy with numerous tour guides taking groups and no clear shots of the ruins without lots of people in the background. We were heading out by this time.
The whole thing takes 2 hours max. You could spend longer if you wanted to use the beach which looked beautiful but appeared to be closed when we were there. Possibly it was due to the tide or us being there early?
Our photographer visited here and also went to Coba ruins. He much preferred the location and layout of here. His opinion was that the cliff top setting and lush planting around Tulum ruins made for much nicer photo opportunities.
Coba is much bigger and required them to hire bicycles to see everything. He also said there is little information on display about the ruins and the guides were quite pushy.
If you only have chance to do one, his recommendation was Tulum rather than Coba.
HIDDEN WORLDS 9/10
I also really enjoyed the skycycle, we didnt see much in the way of wildlife but the different perspective through the jungle was nice.
Be aware that the "dads" struggled with this due to their fitness levels. My suggestion is allow the least fittest people in your group to go last. This is because for safety reasons you have to keep the person in front of you to be two brackets ahead of you at all times, therefore if the person in front is slow it holds up everyone or makes it less enjoyable for them cos they feel they have to go faster for the sake of those behind.
Lunch was basic but adequate. Only thing available on the menu were the chicken fajitas and refried beans. The cooks said burgers were off the menu cos they had no burger buns left, poss cos it was busier than usual.
If you're looking for fancy cuisine in a sterile clean environment, this isn't it! The restaurant is a shack. It took a long time to get the cooks to understand what we wanted, even longer for our orders to be made, when they came they were plentiful but lukewarm and the "veggie" fajitas were full of bits of chicken where they had been cooked on the same grill! Like I say, the place is charming and we laughed it off.
If possible I would say to skip lunch (or dont pay for a package that includes it) and use the extra 90 mins or so to repeat your favourite activities. Although its an unlimited activity pass the transport didn't collect us from our hotel till 10am, by the time we have travelled, watched the safety demo video, been fitted for wetsuits and travelled to the activity site we only had time to do every activity once except the cenote splashdown which we did twice.
The cenote snorkel was a nice experience but not as visually impressive as I imagined. We were intending to return here the week after for a cenote dive but based on this experience we decided against it.
The staff are all friendly and up for a laugh, skinnyman is a legend on his own right!
We left with our picture cd's which we were happy with and our whole group really enjoyed the day and getting to do activities a bit different from the norm that we hadn't done before.
More coming.... Please be patient!
Posted 05 July 2010 - 05:06 PM
29th & 30th March 2010
We drove into Playa Del Carmen for dinner one night and also went there for shopping, diving and dinner the next day. There is much more to this place than we saw but here is a brief run down which might help if you're thinking about spending the day there.
Its a typical, tourist destination with everything you might want in the way of beaches, shopping, eating, diving, local tours etc.
Shops we saw range from large gift emporiums, designer boutiques and back street market stalls. Prices vary widely, haggling is expected and usually successful. You will find every Mexican themed gift, wedding favour, table decor you could want here.
Items range from traditional pottery, wood carvings, artwork, textiles, silver jewellry, intricate beaded items and beach clothes to fun stuff such as sombreros, ponchos, maracas, tequila and food stuff themed gifts.
My one minor regret is all the stress, time, effort and procrastinating and luggage space I wasted on our favours, maracas, etc. They took me ages to source, personalise and design and I was not really happy with them. I highly recommend skipping this and buying it all in PDC when you get there!
The guys went diving off Playa Del Carmen. They booked it here which was cheaper than the dive centre at our resort (Dreams Tulum)
David is a new diver but confident in the water. He was happy with the equipment and the instructor was extra vigilant with him and buddied him on the first dive until she was confident with his competency levels then she was more relaxed and allowed him space to explore with the other guys on the second dive.
The girls chilled out on the beach which is massive. The sand is lovely and lots of space to just throw down your towel rather than having to hire loungers. The only thing to say here is that there didnt appear to be any public toilets here. All the bars and restaurants on the beach have facilities for customers only. Some charge a toilet fee for non customers. It may just be that we were not sitting in the right place or just didnt see them.
Be aware of prices on the beach, always ask to see a menu or price list before ordering. We sat at a little basic shack of a place and for 3 beers and 2 awful watery pina colada's it was $30. It never occurred to us that it would be so expensive and we had already drunk the drinks so we just paid up and left a little wiser and a little poorer!!!
We ate on the main strip both nights and really enjoyed it. The first night we went to a really nice place called La Casa Del Agua. It was expensive but well worth it. Initially you are presented with the "scary" wine list but we passed on this and asked for cocktails which were excellent. The service was impeccable and the food delicious. Its a lovely place for the adults to go as a treat. Its a relaxed but sophisticated atmosphere with funky background music.
We were seated on the 2nd floor terrace and could have been a million miles away from the bustling 5th avenue strip below.
La Casa del Agua Restaurant Playa del Carmen Mexico
On the second night we wanted something equally nice but a bit cheaper and more relaxed after a day at the beach/diving. We asked the dive centre where they could recommend that was good for vegetarians and there suggestion was 100% natural.
It was a nice relaxed, informal atmosphere, with a rustic, natural feel. It was set back from the main strip with a waterfall fountain feature on the ground floor. We sat upstairs on the veranda which was nice and airy. Food was basic but good with a decent veggie selection.
RESTAURANTES 100% NATURAL ::. Come Natural, Vive Natural, Se Natural.
We wondered down the main strip and off onto the avenues and came across a street full of artists and impromptu street galleries, a drumming performance and a capoera performance.
Down these avenues there also seemed to be lots of expensive, trendy, boutique looking bars, clubs, hotels and restaurants if thats your scene.
On our 2nd visit here Christian (our photog) also had a tattoo done at Playa Ink which is between 5th and 10th avenue. Its got an open, funky feel to it, friendly and hygienic with a huge amount of design portfolios to look through or they offered to search the web or custom design something. The guy did it all freehand and Christians thrilled with it.
All my internet searches keep coming up with a place called scream ink, dont know if they changed the name or if this is a new place but here is the phone number thats on the card they gave us.
Tel: 984 803 20 38
As we left one of the local guys said that the owner was from L.A Ink, dont watch it so cannot say if its true or not.
All in all I think for those of you staying elsewhere in the Riviera Maya a trip to PDC is well worth it. Especially if you visit before your wedding to stock up on mexican theme favours and table decor.
More coming.... Please be patient!
Posted 05 July 2010 - 05:11 PM
More coming... Please be patient!
Posted 05 July 2010 - 05:13 PM
Unfortunately I was really sea-sick and myself and another member of the group managed to get sick underwater! Daniel was excellent he really took care of us and although it was scary at no time did I feel panicked, I trusted him totally.
I will NEVER, EVER go diving again without taking my seasickness meds!
Diane actually completed her 1st qualifying dive on this occasion with Daniel keeping her back as we ascended to complete some of the skills required. She then went onto have a private 2nd dive in a cenote lagoon to qualify her as a scuba diver. If she had more time she would have been more than happy to continue with dives 3 and 4 to qualify her as an Open Water diver with Daniel as her instructor.
David and I then went on a second dive a week later. On this dive we had a different instructor, Miguel. He is very experienced but I thought better suited to more experienced divers as he just kind of left us to it and gave minimal assistance. Dont get me wrong he did his job perfectly well I just preferred Daniel!
On this dive there were 5 of us again, 2 of the guys had qualified that week with Maya diving and there friend was an experienced diver.
We stayed on the Tankah reef but went to a very deep area. We didnt know we were doing this and Miguel announced it on the boat on our way to the site so although I was really nervous I felt a little tricked into it, like I couldn't back out.
It was also my first proper free descent and as we went down into "the abyss" I had a bit of a panic attack at not being able to see the bottom. Miguel was very good and guided me down. Once I was down there I was fine. We went to our limit of 29m but it honestly didnt feel any different to being at 13 metres. Although I was really nervous to begin with I'm really glad Miguel inadvertantly pushed me into this cos now I feel like I faced my fear of deep water.
Miguel has seen turtles and several species of shark in the area he took us to but unfortunately no such luck on our day. We didnt really see a lot other than fish and in all honesty other than the experience of going "deep" I actually preferred the shallow dive in terms of scenery and sea life.
I would recommend Maya Diving overall and would definately consider furthering my dive career with them.
OVERALL TRAVEL WITHIN RIVIERA MAYA: 9/10
I think its worth mentioning here that we found travel, taxi's and getting around in general off the resort to be well organised and safe. At no time did we feel uncomfortable and more often than not found people to be helpful and genuine. We have travelled all over the Caribbean and by far we felt safest here.
Most of our travel was done (with the help of our hotel) with local taxi firms. Most of the fares to and from the main parks are regulated and displayed at taxi/info points. More often than not the same driver collects you at a designated time and you do not pay until you are right back at the lobby of your hotel.
I felt that our hotel (Dreams Tulum) handled this system really well, calling reputable taxi's, advising of the fare before you travelled, logging the drivers name and numbers with your room number to log you in and out of the hotel which we thought was an excellent system and really gave us confidence to explore all that the Riviera Maya has to offer.
Our photographer hired a car on the night we went to PDC and found this to be an easy, hassle free process. They were even charged less than expected on returning there car the next day earlier than agreed. The only negative for us was the driving is a little crazy and as we were dealing with the whole "wrong side of the road driving!" he found it to be a little stressful.
There is so much to see and do here it would be such a shame not to venture out. We had to cut so many things from our program cos there just wasnt time, a great excuse for a return visit I reckon!
When off the resort be sensible, use the same wits and street sense as you would anywhere and have a fabulous time...
Posted 05 July 2010 - 05:48 PM
Posted 05 July 2010 - 06:10 PM
| Originally Posted by *Rachel* |
Wow! You did a ton! Great reviews. I should probably write a review on an excursion I did last month during my trip. We did Xel-ha too. It's soooo beautiful! However, I thought the lazy river should be renamed. It's more like "paddle river". There was no lazy floating for me. I worked my butt off. LOL
Posted 05 July 2010 - 06:17 PM
0 user(s) are reading this topic
0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users