Aerial Pictures Part 1: Playa del Carmen to Boca Paila, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Playa del Carmen to Boca Paila
This month's spotlight is a collection of photos from an October 2007 flight over the Riviera Maya's coast. We flew nearly the length of the Riviera Maya, from Boca Paila in the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve to Puerto Morelos. Although there has been plenty of development since our last flight in 2004, you will be happy to know that there are still plenty of pristine beaches to discover, and little known places to explore.
Below, traffic on Highway 307 in Playa del Carmen, just south of Avenida Juarez
Once referred to as a "sleepy fishing village", Playa del Carmen has transformed over the years into a thriving tourist metropolis, complete with membership shopping clubs, fast food, boutique bars and restaurants, and countless hotels, condos, homes and resorts. Everything under the sun is here, along with a pulsating night club scene, seasonal outdoor jazz and reggae concert's, dozens of adventure tour operators, and of course, beautiful beaches. More on Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen and Playacar's coastline faces the blue Mexican Caribbean
After take off we high-tailed it down south to Boca Paila, then U-turned for the run up the coast. Below is the Boca Paila bridge and inlet; gateway to the upper reaches of the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve and Punta Allen.
This is a good example of the mangrove estuary and waterway that lies on the west side of the barrier strip of land. From the air the contrast of the brackish green estuary against the blue Caribbean is quite striking. It's not uncommon for boutique resorts, hotels and fishing lodges to have a landing or boat dock on the estuary side.
Below, a look from the sea side. The mangrove plays an indispensible role as fish hatchery for millions of fish, and water purifier for all the freshwater draining from inland.
A closer view of the Sian Ka'an's healthy reef. More on Sian Ka'an
Below, an example of hurricane beach erosion on a high primary dune
Below, a long shot looking north up Tulum beach. Ten years ago there was next to nothing here. Today a chain of "eco-chic" low impact alternate energy beach hotels line the shore. Fortunately the beach is low, and the sand is powdery and prolific. More on Tulum
Tulum beach's north end has the widest stretches of sand, ending at the Tulum archaeological zone.
Tulum ruins from the sea and Tulum pueblo on the horizon, left side.
For those who think they have seen all the Mayan archaeological sites on the coast, think again. Plenty of surprises and secret places remain virtually unknown. Can you guess where this one is? Wear some good shoes if you go. More on Mayan ruins
Two of the largest bays on the coast north of Tulum are Tankah Bay and Soliman Bay. These are primarily residential areas with almost no hotels but they do have some fine vacation homes right on the beach. More on Tankah Bay and Soliman Bay. Tankah Bay below.