I spent the last month studying Spanish in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, at the International House spanish language school. Playa is the kind off town where you can easily get caught up in the party-beach-party lifestyle, which really is a major part of its allure. People come here from all over the world for the tranquil beachy location, and the thumping all-night parties. But when you get tired of lounging on the beach all day and partying all night long at the massive, Las Vegas style nightclubs, it’s nice to know you can take break for a bit of nature and culture.
Silvino “Chimy” Palofox is International House’s resident tour provider, and he invited me to join him on a trip to the Xaman Ha Aviary, combined with a stop at the small Mayan ruin site in Playa del Carmen’s suburb of Playacar, where there is also a nice, less-crowded beach.
The tour includes entrance to the aviary (the ruins and beach stops are free), as well as bike rental. Chimy met us at the school, where he had already arranged for our bikes to be waiting for us. We even had one tandem bike, that two students in the group had requested- and it was a lot of fun to watch then struggle to get it moving!
We took a leisurely cruise through Playa del Carmen, up avenida 10 and then to the entrance if the aviary at __. The Xaman Ha Aviary is home to 60 species of tropical birds from the Yucatan peninsula. I’m not a big fan of zoos, or any animals in cages, so I was happy to see that this aviary was full of open space and natural jungle. There is a large screened off section where some if the more flighty birds live, but it’s spacious natural and visitors are able to walk inside and view the toucan (Which I loved!), among others, up close and personal. There was a large open wetland with a decent amount of flamingos, balancing, as they do, on one leg in all of their pink splendor.
One of the caretakers at the aviary even let us hold the giant, red Guacamayas (Macaws) and take pictures. This was a real highlight for me, considering I’m actually not a fan of birds, having been attacked in the face by my father’s pet Yellow Naped Amazon as a child. But these birds were friendly and only nibbled lightly, despite their imposing size.
After the aviary, we cruised into Playacar to view the ruins. Playacar is an interesting development of high end homes and condos, along a stretch of beach, just south of Playa del Carmen. The homes are modern, and look like something out of Miami, more than Mexico. The ruins are small, and relatively unimpressive, compared to the ones in and around Tulum, or in Chichen Itza but it’s nice to see a bit of Mayan cultural history in the midst of such a modern and lavish tourist destination. The ruins were once sanctuaries, mainly aligned along the shore of what is now Playacar Beach, and were used as reference for pre-Hispanic navigation.
After a bit of exploring at the ruins, and a bit of relaxing at the beach, we turned our bikes back towards Playa and headed to a shop on La Quinta, the main road in town with is about 2 miles of pedestrian only touristic chaos where venders sell kninknacks and hammocks and statuettes of The Predator (strange, but true). I typically avoid La Quinta, but this particular store was giving away free shots of tequila in an attempt to lure tourists into buying a bottle. I don’t know what it’s normally like there, but on this occasion, it was a self-pour type situation, so obviously, I took control if the bottle and we all had more than a few shots.
Once we were sufficiently boozed up, we all donned ponchos and sombreros and posed for photos. I’ve never felt like more of a gringo in my life, but there’s no harm in a bit of silly, touristy fun to end the day.
We cruised our bikes back in to town, locked them up at IH, and thus concluded the tour!
Chimy offers tours in Playa del Carmen and all over Quintana Roo, including tours to the Sian Ka’an Nature Reserve, the Tulum Ruins, and traditional Mayan villages. To book a tour with Chimy, you can contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.