Vamos a la Playa

“Vamos a la playa!” is perhaps my favourite phrase in the Spanish language. It is a little like the Brits saying “let’s have a nice cup of tea shall we?”, meaning let’s forget what ails us and focus on something else.

In Spain and the Spanish-speaking world of Latin America, this is totally justified—it conjures carefree and giddy joy in the sun (whereas a visit to a beach in the UK often involves an anorak). In Mexico I think this is especially true, and there is no better playa on which to leave our woes than along the Mayan Riviera. Mexico’s darn fine beaches also have some supreme hotels to match (check out The Rosewood MayakobaAna y Jose, and The Tides Riviera Maya).

Now this may seem strange, but hear me out—once you’ve overdone the beach, Mexico also has an excellent selection of ditches. That’s right, holes in the ground—this may not sound as glamourous as la playa, but they lead you to another world, somewhat surreal in nature, where you can most certainly leave your worries above ground. Known as cenotes, they are essentially sinkholes to jump down and go cave-diving (or snorkeling) in. Liberally dotted around the Yucatan Peninsula, the cenotes are underground freshwater pools formed by the collapse of cave roofs that lead to large cave systems.

Once in the cenote, there is an eerie calm that descends; no sound can be heard but your own breathing. As your guide leads the way, and you slowly and hypnotically cruise through stalactites and stalagmites, it becomes apparent that you are in an epic, underwater James Cameron movie. The water is startlingly clear, until you arrive at a mixture of saltwater and freshwater—here things may become a little disorienting. The effect is like looking though jellified water, a bizarre experience, and these brief pools of fascinating visual effect add to the otherness of the experience.

As your torch picks out the amazing oceanscape around you it is important to retain your balance and equilibrium, or you end-up repeatedly hitting your head (I managed to make this a fine art). It’s worth the goose egg, however, to experience one of the most striking effects; dive through the dark and watch a sinkhole transform the environs with the sun bursting in. It appears almost religious as intense light-beams filter through the water around you.

This part of Mexico also has fabulous reef diving and whale shark diving. And if diving or snorkeling isn’t your thing, simply vamos a la playa.

Anton Lynch is Trufflepig’s newest trip planner, and he brings with him a wealth of South America expertise. If you’re looking for an adventure way south of the border, get in touch with him.

The cenotes are underground freshwater pools formed by the collapse of cave roofs that lead to large cave systems.

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