Playa del Carmen, Mexico has everything you need for the perfect beach vacation. White sand along with tantalizing blue water, luxurious beachfront resorts and delicious Mexican cuisine that goes beyond just tacos are just a few of the highlights here. As the fastest-growing city in Latin America, this fishing-village-turned-chic-destination on the Riviera Maya is high on many travelers’ list, but now this coastal gem can add freediving to its list of specialties.
What is Freediving?
Ever see those insane videos of people diving deep beneath the ocean’s surface for minutes at a time all using the same breath? Most people are stunned, if not terrified at the thought of diving so deep for so long without air, but what if we told you that you could learn how to freedive on your next beach vacation to Mexico and it’s not nearly as scary as it looks?
Mexico’s unique underwater caverns, or cenotes as locals call them, are more than just ancient portals to the underworld in Mayan folklore—they offer freedivers ideal conditions year round. The unlimited depth, crisp visibility and calm conditions make the cenotes a dream for divers of every level, but especially beginners. Plus, nothing lives in them—except maybe a few small fish—so those with fears of sharks or the ocean will be at ease.
Why You Should Try Freediving
Freediving is a great way to increase confidence, get out of your comfort zone and learn about yourself. Your experience will leave you with a new hobby, probably a few new friends and an intense desire to dive back in! Learning what your body is capable of in a safe environment with instructors surrounding you every step of the way allows you to stop worrying and fully enjoy the experience. Plus, you’ll get to explore parts of Mexico you wouldn’t normally go to on a beach vacation.
Where to Learn How to Freedive in Playa del Carmen
Just a two-minute walk from Quinta Avenida on Calle 6, a lively underwater mural marks your arrival at Amancay Freediving. It may look like a small operation, but what you’ll learn here will leave a big impact on you.
Amancay Freediving is the first dive center in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, offering courses for all levels. It’s a family business owned and run by two Argentinian sisters, Lucrecia and Candelaria. Their emphasis on safety and technique combined with the genuine good nature and patience of the instructors keeps divers coming back to Playa del Carmen just for additional freediving training.
Amancay Freediving Course Offerings
Amancay offers a variety of courses, with everything from half-day intro classes, all the way up to SSI Level 3 certification. We recommend the Freediving Level 1 course versus the Try Freediving course, so you come away with a great experience and a certification that’s valid worldwide. The Freediving Level 1 course is just two days and includes full gear, park fees, transportation and materials.
Day Trip Freediving Excursions
If you’re already a snorkel or scuba diver, Amancay also offers a variety of day trips to the cenotes, Cozumel and the local reef. While most of their excursions are offered year round, you can have a once-in-a-lifetime experience swimming with whale sharks during May through September.
What to Expect in Freediving Level 1 Course
Plan well in advance for your freediving courses, so you have ample time to complete the online class portion before arriving at Amancay Freediving. Each day starts with a couple hours of in-class instruction, so be sure to have breakfast before you arrive. If you have your own freediving gear, bring it along, otherwise, all you need is identification, bathing suit, change of clothes, towel, water and any snacks for throughout the day.
It’s only natural to feel nervous at the idea of diving and swimming in deep water. If you feel that way, it’s important to remember that freediving is a fun activity that brings deep relaxation and empowerment. People from all over have felt the same way and have been so happy to overcome their fears in a safe environment. All you have to do is get in the water and give it a try!
In-Class Freediving Instruction
Both days of the course start with in-class instruction at Amancay Freediving, where you’ll learn the history and physiology of freediving, breathing and equalization techniques, safety and more. It’s a laid-back environment where you can ask questions and feel comfortable as a total beginner.
Cenote Diving & Pool Practice
After an hour or so drive in a cozy van to Tulum or Puerto Morelos, you’ll arrive at a magical cenote. After changing into your wetsuit and gear, you’ll walk through a beautiful jungle to a calm cenote where the instructor sets up the dive line and buoy.
The in-water instruction is largely controlled by you, as everyone has different limits and strengths. One of the most important (and sometimes difficult) parts of the course is equalization, and the Amancay instructors go above and beyond to help each student learn the Frenzel technique. Once you’ve mastered this, you’ll try different freediving disciplines like Free Immersion and Constant Weight, and work on your duck dive and overall technique. As you get more and more comfortable in the water, you’ll start completing your skills for the Level 1 certification from 10 meters below.
On day two of your course, you’ll head next door to the pool at Sayab Hostel for Static Apnea and Dynamic practice before going to the cenote. With an instructor by your side, you’ll try to swim as many laps as you can underwater and then sit still and try to hold your breath underwater for as long as you can. You may be surprised how long you can hold your breath for!
Once you’ve completed all in-water skills for the certification, Amancay will email you a short exam and send in your certification upon completion. You won’t receive a physical certification card, but it’s always accessible in your online SSI account.
Where to Stay in Playa del Carmen
Amancay’s central location in the heart of Playa del Carmen makes it easily accessible from most beach hotels and resorts. If you’re looking for something boutique, Mahekal Beach Resort and Thompson Beach House both offer boho-chic accommodations on the beach with free WiFi, easy access to Quinta Avenida and of course, delicious eats. For a larger establishment, adults-only Hilton Playa del Carmen is just up the street with a large freshwater pool, luxury suites with private terraces and hot tubs, and a wide variety of restaurants and bars to suit every taste.