Playa del Carmen in the Riviera Maya region on Mexico's Caribbean coast is bordered by the second largest reef in the world ? the most thriving coral reefs, caves, caverns (cenotes) and a vast network of underground rivers to explore. The Riviera Maya provides divers with a world of underwater options. A region long known for its white-sand beaches, cultural and historical attractions, the Riviera Maya is quickly becoming known as a top dive destination.
Home to more than 500 species of fish and many turtles, the Riviera Maya's Great Maya Reef offers some of the most spectacular reef diving in the Western Hemisphere. The Riviera Maya's 25 marked dive sites are just offshore from Playa del Carmen, Puerto Aventuras, Akumal and Tulúm, and are just a short boat ride away. With an average water temperature of 79 degrees, underwater visibility of about 65 feet and drop-offs starting at 33 feet, the Riviera Maya's dive sites beckon novice and experienced divers in search of a new diving experience.
Emptying into the ocean, the Riviera Maya's network of underground rivers running through the area's jungled interior offers divers a unique setting in which to explore one of nature's most fascinating ecosystems. Accessed by cenotes, these waterways span more than 400 kilometers and showcase impressive rock formations (stalactites and stalagmites), along with plant and fish life. Cenotes are unique to the Riviera Maya. They originated millions of years ago when areas of land above the subterranean rivers collapsed and filled with clear, tranquil fresh water.
At one time considered sacred by the Maya as the entrance to the spiritual underworld, cenotes also provided the sole source of fresh water in the jungle. Today the Riviera Maya boasts more than 100 cenotes, 52 of which have been identified as sufficient for diving and snorkeling, including Gran Cenote, Cenote Taj Mahal, Cenote Escondido, Angelitas, Cenote Car Wash, Cenote Azul, Sistema Choc Mool and Hidden Worlds Cenotes. Gateways to an underwater world of rivers, caverns illuminated by natural skylights, and cave systems, the Riviera Maya is one of the few places in the world where divers can experience cenote or cavern diving (no additional certification beyond open-water certification is required for cavern diving).
Reef and cenote diving can be arranged through the Riviera Maya's dive shops, many of which are members of the Riviera Maya Dive Association. Dive shops are located throughout the region, including in Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Aventuras, Akumal and Tulúm. (At most dive shops, $1 per diver per day goes to support the decompression chamber in Playa del Carmen, which is open 24 hours a day, every day.)
Easily accessible from many cities throughout the United States, the 81-mile stretch of Riviera Maya is in the Mexican Caribbean on the coastline of the Yucatán Peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. All major airlines serve the Rivera Maya. From 11 miles south of the Cancun International Airport in Puerto Morelos, it extends to Felipe Carrillo Puerto, a small town near the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve.
The region features the tranquility of uncrowded beaches, a vast network of underground rivers, more than 100 cenotes, eco-adventure sports including kayaking, mountain biking, scuba diving, snorkeling, trekking, bird watching and deep-sea fishing. It offers many of Mexico's most significant Mayan archeological sites and eco-archeological parks, plus golf courses, shopping, gourmet dining and a range of accommodations to suit every lifestyle and budget.