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Planning a family trip to Rivera Maya. Where to stay and where to dive?

Discussion in 'Mexico' started by tmassey, Dec 9, 2019.

  1. tmassey

    tmassey Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Shelby Township, MI USA
    443
    495
    63
    Hello!

    My family and I are considering a trip to Mexico. Diving is a big part of it, but so is the family. So I’m looking for some suggestions.

    Diving: I’m the only diver. I’m a baby full cave diver, and caves are at the top of the list. I’m also an avid shipwreck diver. Reefs tend to bore me after 30 minutes, unless it’s Molasses Reef in full sun. Big aquatic life are interesting. But caves and (significantly penetratable) shipwrecks are a must.

    Famly: It’s me, my wife, 11 year old son and 6 year old daughter. They will not be diving. We are all reasonably fit, but not athletes. They will need things to do. We are not big beach people: a day or two, but not much more. My son is interested in ruins and similar things. My wife only tolerates museums, and the kids only last maybe 3 hours in them. Local experiences are also important to us. We are a homeschool family and education is important for all of us.

    Food is big for us: not just eating, but buying and making. Markets, street food, cooking (even cooking classes?). Not expensive and fancy restaurants: the more local and approachable the better.

    Transportation: we are not interested in renting a car. If we can get a 20” bike for the 6 year old, bikes would be a fine option: we all ride, and even the 6 year old is good for 5+ miles. Buses are fine as long as they’re safe — even the crazy local versions. Taxi if we have to, but budget is always an issue.

    Lodging: with four people, we find AirBnB type things to be a useful option. One bedroom places with a couch or futon are effective: and we will use a kitchen. Fancy is completely unnecessary. Hotel rooms are anti-useful: expensive, small, no kitchen, etc. We appreciate local, and even funky, but do want clean and safe.

    So... does this give you some ideas?

    Sight unseen, my first thought is downtown Tulum. Near caves, near quality dive shops with cave guides, affordable food and lodging options. But I don’t know anything about the rest of my list. What about the rest of the family and items on my list?

    From what I see, Playa del Carmen might have more going on family wise, but seems to be more expensive. We’re hoping for two weeks, and that means cost matters more. It also seems to be farther from the caves.

    I know there are places in between them, but I know nothing about them. Is there some place I’m missing that would be better?

    Are there dives besides caves I should consider? They’d have to be world-class for me to value them over caves. A good shipwreck could do it, but a reef would have to be *stunning*.

    Any other experiences my family and I should not miss? We want to avoid “tourist traps” but are up for a wide variety of local experiences.

    Thank you for your help!
     
  2. Sh0rtBus

    Sh0rtBus BUBBLLLLLLES! My Bubbles ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Denton, TX
    736
    452
    63
    From Tulum, it's only a 15-20 minute Colectivo ride to PDC and might cost you $10 USD. Street tacos in PDC are worth the trip! Plenty of good dive ops down there for caves/cenotes, too. Check out Cenote Xperience CenoteXperience - Cavern, Cave and Ocean Diving in Playa del Carmen Yucatan Mexico - Home and I think you'll be happy. Martin and Nico are great guides and just good guys. I've only used them so I can't speak to any of the other ops.

    As for wreck diving, only the C-53 Felipe Xicotencatl off Cozumel comes to mind. It's a 154' WWII mine sweeper scuttled in about 70fsw that you can swim around and though. Plenty of aquatic life in and around it, too. Saw the biggest lobster I've ever seen in the reef near the bow. Thing was bigger than my 38 lb Boston Terrier. Lots of bait fish, etc. schooling around inside, too. And if you get to it at the right time, you might even be able to swim by the submarine tour that goes over that way and wave to all the tourists. Aside from that, most of the other dives are drift dives in and around the reef in Cozumel. Not sure what PDC or Cancun have to offer in the way of diving as I haven't made any mainland dives just yet. But I think if you're looking to go soon, it's getting to be the season for bull sharks, so you can possibly do those specialty dives while you're there.

    Hope that helps at least a little.
     
    tmassey and Ontwreckdiver like this.
  3. carobinsoniv

    carobinsoniv Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Moultrie, Georgia
    724
    153
    43
    Getting some thoughts up but what time of the year and are you BM or SM?
     
  4. tmassey

    tmassey Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Shelby Township, MI USA
    443
    495
    63
    Excellent questions! February, and right now I am exclusively back mount. My understanding is that, while there are advantages to side mount in Mexico and certainly side mount only areas, there’s still tens of thousands of feet that are perfectly doable in back mount. Given that, I would rather my first experience in Mexico not be spent with a lot of time on learning a new way to dive… :)
     
    carobinsoniv likes this.
  5. lowwall

    lowwall Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Chicago
    501
    294
    63
    How are you going to get to the cenotes without a rental car? If you are planning on having a dive op provide transportation, then you need to figure out the dive op first.

    I have exactly the same :)
     
  6. carobinsoniv

    carobinsoniv Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Moultrie, Georgia
    724
    153
    43
    As you noted in your post, Tulum would be a great place to go. Caves off the top of my head which will accommodate BM would be Nahoch, Escondido, Cristal, Car Wash, Jail House, Ponderosa, Temple of Doom, Dos Palmas, Ta Majal. YMMV but I normally make two dives at one site (plenty to see) rather than diving two different sites which involves packing up and moving. I visit Tulum annually and have always used www.protectulum.com. They have been super to deal with, and I highly recommend them. I know others will have some different recommendations, and honestly I rarely hear any negatives about the other shops. Also from what I have seen, the shops tend to get along pretty good as I have met several other shop owners/employees at ProTec. They have a sister shop in Playa.

    I have never dove any wrecks in the area and would defer to others on the forum.

    I have dove the reef across the street from Casa Cenote (10 or minutes north of Tulum) and would compare it to some of the reefs in the Fl Keys - not a lot of big marine life but enjoyable for me. You may want to dive a day or two in Cozumel. To save money, take a bus to Playa and then it is a short walk to the ferry which is less than an hour to Coz. I think there are three ferry companies. You may or may not see large marine life but you will see some very nice, large reefs and deep walls. Something to kill the afternoon would be a tour around the island. Search the Coz forum for suggestions. We negotiated a two hour ride with a taxi driver that we flagged down on a side street.

    I am not sure two weeks in Tulum would provide your family a lot to do after a few days but the dive shop may provide suggestions. The ruins in Tulum and at Chichen Itza (2 hours away) provide about two hours of entertainment once you get there. When we went to Chichen Itzza, we took a taxi and had him wait. It was probably a little more than taking a bus but we left early to return early and skipped the cenote tours. I have heard good things about the Coba ruins but have not been there. FWIW, in seven trips there, I have never seen the beach except from the Tulum ruins. Also, your family may enjoy swimming at some of the cenotes that you dive - Cristal or Car Wash

    I enjoy the food in town - A LOT! I had supper at two recommended restaurants across from the beach 5 years ago. One was delicious and the other was so so. They were just not the atmosphere that I was looking for on a dive vacation. ProTec is on Satellite which intersects H 307 (the main drag). On this road are several street vendors that serve outstanding food. You could easily feed a family of four for less than $10. Also, there are several restaurants such as Asadero, Mil Amores, and Acqua E Farino that are reasonably priced and good. Chick Trip Advisor for other restaurants on the main drag and its side streets.

    I have never rented a car but also diving has been my main interest where I rely on my guide. From the airport, you could take ADO bus to Playa for $10 a person and another bus to Tulum for $3 a person. It is comfortable and clean. But with four you may consider a shuttle for door to door service. It would be a little more but quicker. If you use a taxi, get the price before hand. Once in town, I normally walk everywhere.

    They is one hotel on Satellite called Biwa. My two daughters and I stayed there last year. A 2BR, 1Ba suite with a a good size great room and a full kitchen was about 110 a night. Not sure how that compares to the BNBs.

    Also, you could take a bus from Tulum to Belize or to the border town of Chetumal. Another town to visit is Merida which is on the NW side of the Yucatan Peninsula - maybe 3.5 hours from Tulum.

    Enjoy and give us a trip report.
     
    tmassey likes this.
  7. Ontwreckdiver

    Ontwreckdiver Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: St Thomas, Ontario, Canada
    971
    169
    43
    I also recommend CenoteXperience. I have been diving with Nicolas & Martin for over 8 years. They are great guys and excellent dive guides. They run a highly recommended small family dive shop in Playa. If you stay south of Puerto Adventuras and diving the cenotes, they will pick you up & return you to your "hotel" Tell Nico that Steve from Canada sent you. CenoteXperience - Cavern, Cave and Ocean Diving in Playa del Carmen Yucatan Mexico - Home
     
    tmassey and Sh0rtBus like this.
  8. BoundForElsewhere

    BoundForElsewhere ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: New York, New York
    535
    581
    93
    Lots of dive shops in Tulum for the Cenote / Cave dives. The ADO or collectivo buses are a great way to get back and forth to PDC. PDC is very touristy. After the family has exhausted the ruins (get there at sunrise, that's what its meant for), you might want to look into a trip inland to some of the villages. There might be a gastro tour operator or something that can get you in with the Maya. Many people in the Yucatan only speak Mayan or at the very least it is their primary language so many of the cultures and practices including food have been maintained.

    Definitely dive the Pit or Angelita. Its like diving in a horror movie.
     
    tmassey and Sh0rtBus like this.
  9. Sh0rtBus

    Sh0rtBus BUBBLLLLLLES! My Bubbles ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Denton, TX
    736
    452
    63
    The Pit was probably the most beautiful dive I've made to date. Can't wait to do it again! My avatar pic was taken on that dive.




    Martin @ CenoteXperience
     
    Ontwreckdiver and tmassey like this.
  10. FT

    FT Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Ottawa, Canada
    271
    95
    28
    You already have expert advice above on cenote diving. If the family are coming along to swim, they would benefit from skin suits at least. The water is cold.
    Coba is easy enough to reach by bus, a well shaded site. You can rent bikes including kid size to tour the Mayan ruins. Highly recommended.
    The cooking school we enjoyed at Puerto Morelos appears to have closed, but I see Web ads for similar offerings in Tulum.
     

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