Thursday, August 26, 2010

Underwater Museum, second phase

The Cancun Underwater Museum is a project created to help conserve the area's natural reefs. After a $350,000 investment, Phase 1 of the project was launched in November of last year, when three sculptures by artist and sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor were submerged into the waters of the Mexican Caribbean.

Currently, preparations are underway for Phase 2, which is expected to place 400 sculptures in the National Marine Park. The sculptures will be embedded on the surface of the sand at different depths to become a part of the National Marine Park, which is officially recognized as the world's largest underwater museum. These sculptures will be placed in the bottom of the sea, at different depths, in order to create an artificial natural habitat. Coral is already blooming in the sunken sculptures.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Did you know there are all these cool things to do within five minutes of Sereno?

There are literally thousands of places to visit in Riviera Maya. You would need at least months to visit them all. Fortunately, the excellent location of Sereno, allows you to enjoy plenty of activities located just a few minutes away.

Jump off a cliff at the Taj Majal Cenote

Cliff jumping into this ama –zing Cenote is a must when visiting the Riviera Maya. With guided Cavern dives, taking you down a string of light zones creating an im-pressive underwater laser like show. The area is highly appreciated among guides and customers who return to this exact spot only to watch the change in the dive as the seasons alter (depending on the angle of the sun). Caused by lines separating the changes in salt content, Haloclines, the deeper areas turns into mirror reflections as divers pene-trate into the different layers of saltwater. A recommen-dation for the brave one: keep your eyes open during the dive as it is decorated with cave formations, stalagmites and stalactites.

Aside from the limestone formations, you will come across numerous shell and coral fossils in the Taj Majal Cenote that emphasize the 65 million year history of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Dive Cenote Azul

Cenote Azul is slightly smaller compared to similar Cenotes in the area, but a great one to visit. Be sure to get there early because once the area gets too full, the entrance gets cut off. The grounds are well maintained: with a great jump off point and a wooden lounging deck located just above the cenote. To make the swim even more interesting, bring your own mask or rent one onsite and snorkel to get the experience of being in a live aquarium. With Cenote Azul as home to a large quantity of local fish species, this makes it a great place to snorkel.

Snorkel right off our beach and see the second largest living coral reef on the planet (the Great Mayan Reef System) only surpassed by the Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Mayan Reef, also called Meso-american Barrier Reef System, is located off the coasts of Cancun and the Mayan Riviera. It stretches more than 620 miles which makes it the second largest reef in the world, only the Great Barrier Reef of Australia is bigger.

The wonderful Mayan Reef is born at Cabo Catoche, on the north of Quintana Roo, and extends to the coasts of Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. This sub-marine paradise is one of the hot spots in the world to scuba dive and snorkeling thanks to the other worldly transparency of the Mexican Ca -ribbean, allowing sunlight to reach great depths. This biodi-versity jewel hosts an enormous amount of organisms in more than 65 mixes of coral and 500 fish species, including lobster, pink snail, white, hawksbill and caguama turtles, dol-phins and whale sharks.

Visit the broken dock with the kids

Just a few steps away from Sereno, is a charming broken dock where the kids can turn themselves into pirates for an hour or two. As always in Riviera Maya, you can go for a swim as well.

Lunch at Al Cielo on their com-fortable and hip beach beds

Are you in South Beach? No $28 mixed drinks, and a prettier beach might be a tip off that you are not, but these ultra-hip beach loungers in Al Cielo could confuse you. This beach restaurant is located right down from Sereno. The dining room has a large thatch roof palapa on the beach with stunning views of the Caribbean Sea. Eating at Al Cielo gives you the oppor-tunity to enjoy fresh seafood, fish and shellfish, look-ing for excellence in local and international dishes. This quiet beachfront restaurant is perfect for enjoying gourmet cuisine in a true Caribbean atmosphere.

Listen to live music at the beachfront Xpu Ha Beach Club.

The perfect place to en-joy alone or with the family, “La Playa Xpu Ha” is one of the best kept secrets of locals in the area with one of the best sea food restaurants, with additional dishes that fits everyone’s taste, tacos and hamburgers. Enjoy their live music starting at 2:30 pm.

Kite board on the same beach as the 2009 Kite board-ing World Championships

Experts say Kite boarding is about en-joying the elements and making use of what Mother Nature gives you, being crea-tive and making the best out of every situation.

People from all over the world come to Xpu Ha Beach every year enjoying days of wind and high flying fun.

Rent a Hobie Cat and feel the Caribbean Breeze running through your hair.

These small boats give you a changeling and fast ride if the wind is up. Lessons are available at most of the marinas. Normally six hours of lessons is enough to give you a good start. Hobie Cats are available for rent.

Stress out! Energy in!

You can request a relaxing or therapeutic massage in the beach. Our professional thera-pists can also offer you a Deep Tissue or Reiki session.

Go for a jog on a class 10 beach, one of the few on the planet!

A colorful sunrise or a beautiful sunset can be the perfect land-scape for a jogging in one of Forbes “15 Sexiest Beaches in the World”.

Have an afternoon cocktail the Ferrari Compound.

Yes your neighbor is a real Italian Duchess.

Spend your afternoon in Esencia Hotel’s bar or res-taurant. Enjoy a refreshing drink and rural cuisine served up in a superior setting that instantly warms its way into the hearts, and stomachs, from diners around the world.

All of this is within 5 minutes of Sereno!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The wood that sings

The marimba as we know it today is an instrument made from tuned wooden plates placed along a keyboard. You could say it is a xylophone with a deeper and broader sound, thanks to the resonating tubes located just below the plates.

Although most historians place the origin of the marimba in Africa, vestiges of something similar to a marimba have also been found in some pyramids in Southeast Mexico and Guatemala.

Currently, the marimba is one of the most representative instruments of the state of Chiapas and one of the most famous instruments of the country, where it is part of the local culture, not just in Chiapas, but also in Oaxaca and part of Veracruz.

From rural marimba players that move from town to town carrying their marimba on their back, to the official conservatories, where the Mexican Marimba is studied just like in Europe, Mexicans have made of this instrument something unmatched and that continues to evolve.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

SeaSon Bistro the new option in Playa del Carmen


SeaSon Bistro invites you to have an unforgettable and unique dining experience in Playa del Carmen, where you can enjoy every one of your senses.

This new place create a menu that changes with each season of the year, ensuring freshness, quality and unique taste in all our food.

SeaSon seeks the perfect balance between traditional cuisine and Copyright, evoking memories of flavors and aromas that will remain in you until your next visit. All to achieve the exquisite combination of flavors and textures that Season Bistro has for you.

Enjoy the freshness this is the only place in Playa del Carmen which changes its menu every season with seasonal ingredients, taking advantage of the great diversity of products offered by the region and throughout Mexico.

SeaSon complement this freshness having their own garden in which grow all the herbs used in the preparation of dishes, home baked bread and all the sauces and butters.
http://www.seasonbistro.com/

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

CaminArte, culture reaches the steets

Because cultural expressions have no ettiquete code. Because there is no regulation stating that an important exhibition should be set up in a luxurious museum. Because what is important is for works of art to be seen by everyone who wants to see them and because artists need an open forum, is that nearly a year ago CaminArte was born in Playa del Carmen.

At the start just a few streets were taken over by open air exhibitions where young representantives of culture offered all visitors samples of their work, from painting to sculptures and also music and dance.

Today, almost a year after the project started, it is now the famous Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen that which houses every Thursday all the exhibitors. Not only that, but since September of last year the art walk is also held on 12 Street every Tuesday, and if that wasn't enough, you can also enjoy it on the Fifth on Saturdays, between Streets 2 and 4.

Don't miss the chance to visit and enjoy the best cultural experience of the Mayan Riviera.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Mexico's Riviera Maya a magic carpet of sand / Seattlepi.com

By DAVID SWANSON


SPECIAL TO SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

In the early 1980s, the pristine, beach-girdled Caribbean coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula was marked by little more than a few fishing villages. There was a hotel here and a hammock there, but not much of an effort to identify their position, nor much infrastructure to support them.

But just as it did for Cancun, which sprang up only about 1974, Mexico's government tourism development agency decided to put a name to this beautiful face, and the Riviera Maya was born. And soon enough a highway paralleling the coast was built, linking this sun-drenched piece of real estate to the busy Cancun airport.

Sure, the name rings of romanticized marketing conceit, but Riviera Maya is indeed an ideal description of the magic carpet of sand that unrolls virtually unbroken for 81 miles south of Cancun.

Better still is the sheer breadth of vacation options on offer: From elegant hideaway resorts to wallet-conscious all-inclusives, from lively beach bars to candlelit gourmet repasts - Riviera Maya delivers. But because the region's developed areas have sprung up as recently as, well, last month, you are excused for not knowing the difference between Xpu-Ha and Xel-Ha, Maroma and Mayakoba.

In fact, many travelers assume the Riviera Maya is merely an extension of Cancun (probably in part because they share an airport). It's not: With more than 37,000 hotel rooms of its own - a number projected to double by 2025 - and almost 3 million visitors annually, Riviera Maya is a fierce competitor to its more famous neighbor. But whereas Cancun is a busy resort city, down south the visitors are spread out over a much larger area and resorts tend to be more stand-alone, often more intimate.

So, pack up your rental car at the airport and head south on Highway 307. Let's get the lay of the land.

Northern star

The Riviera Maya starts in Puerto Morelos, one of the coast's last genuine fishing villages, 12 miles south of the airport. The beach here is not as impressive as those deeper into the region - the salt-and-pepper shoreline doesn't glisten quite as brightly, and less-than-translucent seas have a blanket of turtle grass underfoot.

But there are advantages to being based in Puerto Morelos. Your airport transfer is barely 20 minutes, and the proximity to Cancun makes an evening out on the town a realistic option. Nightlife in laid-back Puerto Morelos may be a tad scruffy, but it's fun for an evening or two. Better still, the barrier reef - the world's second longest - lies less than a mile offshore, and it's a designated marine reserve along this section of Riviera Maya. And the beaches of Puerto Morelos? Quiet and uncrowded.

Luxe landings

Eighteen miles south of the airport begins Riviera Maya's gold coast. Ask locals where their favorite beach sits, and watch their eyes go dreamy as they slowly mouth, "Maroma."

Virtually untouched by builders until recently, Maroma is where talcum-soft sand and tranquil waters meet to comprise what is arguably the region's finest beach, first inhabited by the classy Maroma hotel, a Mayan-Moorish honeymoon oasis. There's no town here: The jungle behind the beach is thick and daunting while the sand is a cream of alabaster - your footprint may be the first of the day.

Just south is Mayakoba, a 593-acre development shared by three hotels hugging a mile-long stretch of coast. The bulk of the rooms and facilities are situated a half-mile inland, a foresight that accommodates the strip of mangrove lagoon that sits just behind the beach dune. By leaving most of the mangrove undeveloped, Mayakoba has the feel of encroaching jungle, with cormorants and egrets fishing and preening in the morning sun. A 7,000-yard Greg Norman golf course snakes around the property.

Beach town

The de facto hub of the Riviera Maya and Mexico's fastest-growing city, Playa del Carmen is not exactly a place for seclusion and quiet, but it's also not some high-rise jungle. Often known simply as Playa, the beach fronting the town is surprisingly broad and relatively clean - especially north of main drag Constituyentes - and resort and dining prices are the region's most competitive. Years ago, city officials had the prescience to designate Fifth Avenue - one block in from the beach - as a pedestrian-only street, with restaurants and shops that percolate cheerfully each evening.

Despite 180,000-plus residents, Playa is an ideal location for car-free visitors who don't want their vacation to be defined by the swim-up pool bar. The town beach is lively, especially around Mamita's, a hip beach club with a pageant of white beds, loungers and umbrellas for rent, a DJ spinning electronica and hip-hop, spa services and good food.

Within walking distance just south of town is the Playacar complex, with hundreds of condos, a golf course and a collection of low- and midprice all-inclusive resorts. Intensive building close to the shoreline has taken its toll on the slender beach here; some hotels have planted immense sandbags in the water to hold the sand in - they appear much like beached whales. While good hotel deals can be found in Playacar, if you're staying elsewhere, it's not a beach to make a detour for.

Secret strands

Southbound traffic thins out after you pass Playa, and 4 miles beyond the aquatic theme park Xcaret lies Paamul, a throwback to the Riviera Maya of a couple of decades ago, an era of ramshackle fishing hamlets that ran on generator power. There's no real village in Paamul - blink, and you'll miss the turnoff - just a bare-bones hotel and trailer park, plus a modest restaurant overlooking the innocent crescent cove. It's worth a margarita stop.

Just south is Puerto Aventuras, but unlike most of the coast's tourism developments, this one is short on sand, and most of its beaches are artificial.

By contrast, 2 miles farther is Xpu-Ha. The Riviera Maya's beaches don't get any dreamier than this - the sand is bright white, plush and uncrowded. A couple of all-inclusive resorts anchor each end of the beach. But to access the choicest, broadest slice of silica, watch for the sign for Al Cielo restaurant, where the Mediterranean menu is strong on delicious seafood.

Turtle turf

Located 53 miles south of the airport, the beach fronting the town of Akumal is not grand, yet it's beloved for snorkeling, often accompanied by sea turtles that frequent the reefs close to shore. In fact, Akumal translates to "place of the turtles," and nighttime nestings and hatchings on the beach are a regular event from June through September.

The north end of Akumal is Half Moon Bay, the main turtle nesting area, lined with rental condos (many of them owned by American ex-pats). Akumal Bay fronts the central business area; this small beach can be busy, but there are restaurants, bars and water recreation options, which make it a good base for day-trippers. South of Akumal, the shore morphs into Jade Beach, with some rockier points of entry into the water, and then the sand improves at South Akumal - both areas are lined with rental condos.

Ruin with a view

Seventy miles south of Cancun airport is one of Mexico's most important archaeological sites, Tulum, the only Mayan city built right on the sea. It's also home to some of Riviera Maya's finest beaches along with a dizzying array of small inns. Tulum also is coping with a decade's worth of poorly regulated development; in fact, as many as a dozen hotels built close to the ruins may be torn down (for encroaching on national parkland) - stay tuned. Still, Tulum boasts off-the-grid chic that lures a young and international crowd for simpler cabana comforts that mingle with Buddha Bar aesthetics.

The ruin itself is perched on a rocky bluff - one of the few places along the Yucatan coast with any topographical character. A couple fine small coves are tucked into the rocks immediately below El Castillo - arrive early, before the crowds, or come late and you may have these little pockets of sand to yourself. A mile-long stretch of excellent beach extends south to another series of rocky bluffs directly in line with the town, which sits a mile inland. This stretch draws locals and the ambiance can be festive. Follow the coastal road just beyond the well-liked restaurant Zamas Que Fresco, and then the sand continues - unbroken, unnamed - for miles. Most beach access is from the paved road and in many areas requires walking through one of the many small, casual hotels.

Development ends at 1.5 million-acre Sian Ka'an Biosphere, a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the park is focused on jungle walks, mangrove lagoons and unexcavated ruins, the 22-mile Boca Paila Peninsula is fronted by a ribbon of fine white sand that will indulge your most escapist Robinson Crusoe fantasies. Beware the road heading south, the worst of which is best left to four-wheel-drive vehicles.

If you go

Getting there

A rental car is the best way to visit hideaway beaches, rented at the Cancun airport or from your hotel front desk; the main highway is easy to navigate and well maintained. Shared-van service runs regularly from the airport to points south: Budget $28 per person to Playa del Carmen and Playacar (or $112 for a private taxi for up to four), $47 for Akumal and Tulum (or $175 for private); www.cancunsharedshuttle.com.

Beaches

Mexico's beaches belong to the government and are theoretically open to all. But many all-inclusive resorts limit access to the sand from the highway; beach-strollers will find guards preventing nonguests from using their palapas and loungers (wristbands identify which all-inclusive resort you belong to). Watch for dirt roads leading off the north-bound side of the highway - usually unmarked, they sometimes lead to unheralded patches of sand. Aqua shoes are helpful for access along rocky areas.

For more information

The best tourist maps of the area are those sold by Can-Do Travel Guides, which contain plentiful dining recommendations as well. www.cancunmap.com.

E-mail comments to travel@sfchronicle.com.