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At the end of our latest cruise, we were able to explore Mayan ruins and discover Costa Maya and Chacchoben.
So, it’s time to get back to cruising! We’ve come to our final port of call on our recent Caribbean cruise, Costa Maya. When Derek and I started to consider what shore excursions, if any, we would book for our latest cruise, Derek expressed interest in seeing Mayan ruins. I did some research on which ruins would be available for us to tour between the two ports of Cozumel and Costa Maya.
My research overwhelmingly recommended Costa Maya and Chacchoben as the best option for exploring Mayan ruins. So, on a very warm morning Derek, my dad, and I boarded a nice and chilly tour bus to drive an hour to the Mayan ruins known as Chacchoben.
When we booked this tour I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the idea of driving an hour each way to get to and from the ruins but it really wasn’t that bad. The tour bus was new with comfortable seats and cold air conditioning plus our tour guide, Prisila, was excellent and very informative. On our way to Chacchoben, she shared with us the Mayan belief system, their history, and what the ruins represented in the ancient Mayan culture.
The hour trip went by very quickly and before we knew it we had arrived at the ancient ruins that lie not far from the Belize border. Upon arrival, there is a small store with local goods, food, and drinks to purchase. There are also plenty of restrooms to use before and/or after the tour.
Prisila then led us along the path to the first structure. The site contains three excavated and restored pyramids with a cleared path that visitors follow to get to each one. With each stop along the way, Prisila would share information about the history, culture, and botanical landscape. A nice thing about this tour is that a large portion of it is shaded which visitors will appreciate because even in winter months, the sun is quite strong in this part of the world.
The tour from arrival to the end is about an hour. It ends with enough time to explore the last of the ruins and their surroundings on your own. My favorite part was that we were able to see a couple of monkeys in the trees nearby. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a picture of them. They kept moving and I needed more time than we had to capture the right moment.
The trip back to Costa Maya was “siesta time”. We all needed a light doze from all the walking and climbing we did in the warm Mayan jungle. If you do plan to visit Chacchoben during your time in Costa Maya, I do recommend a few things.
Book the Tour through the Cruise Line
I know that they can be a little more expensive but I’ve never been disappointed with the quality of the tours that I have booked through them over the years. You’ll also have the benefit of the cruise line handling your booking and tickets plus they typically allow you to cancel without penalty up to 48 hours before the tour departure.
Bring Extra Water
Although we did get a couple bottles of water each included in the tour, it’s good to bring extra just in case. It’s an active excursion in warm to hot weather and it’s important to stay hydrated.
Be Prepared for Walking and Climbing
This is a tour that is a bit on the strenuous side. There is a lot of walking over uneven surfaces. If you wish to get up close to the ruins then you can add climbing to the list of activities, too.
Wear Sunscreen, Hat, Bug Spray, and Comfortable Tennis Shoes
I’ve already mentioned the heat hence the sunscreen and hat but we actually didn’t think about bug spray. It was only listed on our tickets which we didn’t get until after we boarded our ship on the first day. We ended up buying some in Cozumel and got it for a great price at the Cozumel Mart but that’s not always the case. The stores especially right next to the port take advantage and hike the prices up on necessities. Bug spray is a necessity on this tour. I saw quite a few mosquitos during this tour but luckily the bug spray did keep me from getting bitten. They also require closed-toe shoes on this tour. Comfortable tennis shoes are definitely the way to go.
Bring Some Cash to Tip the Tour Guide and Driver
It’s so important to reward good service. We gave our bus driver a standard tip and Prisila a little more than standard because she was exceptional. If you need help deciding how much to tip, make sure to check out my tipping guides!
So now that we’ve covered Chacchoben let’s talk about Costa Maya. One thing to know, thanks to Prisila, is that Costa Maya is the name of the port not the town. The town’s name is Mahahual. Mahahual is a very small seaside fishing town that is slowly becoming a tourist destination thanks, in part, to the cruise industry. It has a small handful of restaurants and hotels.
Costa Maya is a small, commercialized port with a few spots to eat, shop, drink, and sunbathe. It can be quite busy and overwhelming to navigate midday depending on how many ships are in port at the same time. There are a few spots to shop for souvenirs and although there are many motivated sellers to try and get you to buy their wares, the experience is not nearly as bad as what you have in Cozumel.
Something that keeps me in awe when visiting this part of the world is the beautiful turquoise water. It is a sight I could never tire of and no matter what visitors decide to do while in port it is there to be appreciated.
We chose to have lunch on the ship after our tour and I’m glad we did because it was definitely less crowded than the port. I’m happy we decided to explore Chacchoben for our first visit to Costa Maya. It was very interesting and a really great experience. I definitely recommend considering Costa Maya and Chacchoben the next time you’re exploring Caribbean cruise itineraries. It definitely adds a little more variety to the usual ports.
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