Camaleón Golf Course is one part jungle, one part mangrove forest and
one part Caribbean Sea. This 7,100-yard (6,461-meter) ecological
trilogy is a once in a lifetime golf thriller comprised of landscape
freaks of nature, exotic people, friendly wildlife, and oceanfront
vistas that are worthy of the Louvre.
legend Greg Norman, or the “Shark,” shattered a myth when he carved a
golf course from the deepest part of the Playa Del Carmen jungle. He
left no doubt that one can “go green” and still create a world-class
In 2007, its first year in existence, Golf Magazine declared
El Camaleón “Best International Course.” The same year, the new home of
the PGA’s Mayakoba Classic was honored with a rare Audubon Cooperative
all the fuss? On the first hole, before having time to adjust the GPS
on your state-of-the art golf cart, golfers witness their initial “only
at El Camaleón” moment. On the second shot of the 532-yard (484-meter)
Par 5, be prepared to stare down a yawningly monstrous cenoté
During the construction of El Camaleón, this particular cenoté was
discovered beneath the ground of what was to become the first hole
One choice was to blanket the cenoté with the most beautiful green
tones of paspalum fairway grass you have ever seen. But Greg Norman’s
design mantra is one of least disturbance. Norman decided to preserve
the cenoté and make it a course feature that golfers won’t find
anywhere else on the planet. Score one for the Shark.
second hole, a 142-yard (129-meter) Par 3, includes a skittishly
friendly family of iguanas near the second green. Directly behind the
green and near the third tee box, is another cenoté. Are you getting
the picture here? At El Camaleón, golfers become real-life characters
in a National Geographic documentary.
Your personal fact-is-stranger-than-fiction account of 18 holes will
have friends back home wondering if, before the round, you sampled the
tequila bar at the nearby Fairmont Mayakoba Hotel.
trying to describe the feel of El Camaleon’s front nine, check the
Mexican translation guide for the words “jungle” and “serenity.” Beyond
the abundant bird life, iguanas and occasional meercat, what is notable
is the quiet of the surroundings. Silence is golden in this mutual
admiration society featuring you, the wildlife, and this awesome
Eco-friendly travel is available at both the Fairmont Mayakoba and El Camaleón.
blissful tranquility of the opening holes eventually gives way to a
symphony of chirping frogs. This cheerful chorus is a golfer’s first
clue that he or she is entering the mangrove portion of El Camaleón.
on the eighth hole, golfers are flanked by thick clusters of mangrove
trees standing shoulder to shoulder on both sides of the fairway.
The commitment to the mangrove by El Camaleón and the Fairmont Mayakoba
is significant. Prior to construction, environmental experts stressed
that replenishment of the mangroves was non negotiable.
In Playa Del Carmen, the trees are an integral link between land and
sea. The mangroves not only serve as a buffer during hurricane season,
but their impact on the overall eco-system is essential. This is
especially true for the area’s pristine coral reef, one that is the
second largest in the world. Today, the benefits of the decision to
preserve the mangrove are evident in a golf environment that is
thriving with life.
course’s mangrove and palm trees bow to the ocean on the show-stopping
15th hole. In shades of ultra blue, the Caribbean Sea frames the
putting green on this 144-yard (131-meter) Par 3. Upon completing your
round, the 15th is where you’ll recall the course living up to its
heritage. Like the reptile it’s named after, El Camaleón is a course of
when you thought El Camaleón had finally outdone itself, golfers
encounter the 17th hole. At first glance, the 386-yard (351-meter) Par
4 is rather unassuming. But then, to the left of the tee box, is a
small electric boat channeling quietly along a canal. This vision of a
gondolier navigating a boat with a thatched roof seems like a scene out
of Humphrey Bogart’s African Queen.
these miles of meandering canals are man-made. In fact, the building of
the canals took six long years. The canals of El Camaleón and the
Fairmont hotel properties create an aura reminiscent of ancient Italy.
The presence of the canals translates to the area being heralded as the
“Venice of the Mayan Riviera.”
The perfect capper to a round at El Camaleón is to head to Las Brisas Terrace bar at neighboring Fairmont Mayakoba.
Following a round of golf that left your senses on overdrive, you can’t
help but appreciate the gorgeous elevated view of this quaint outdoor
This open-air emporium creates no walls between you, the white sand beach below, and water that is bluer than blue.
Have the bartender pour you a frosty cold beer with a lime.
After savoring every ounce of the cerveza, sit back and reflect on your once in a lifetime round of golf.