Choosing your cruise excursions is an important decision. Not only do excursions add to your trip costs, but there are also usually many different options to pick from and you only have a short amount of time in each location.
Cruise lines don't always do a great job of explaining what these activities entail either. So, I've taken to sharing my excursion experiences and offering helpful details and a rating in order to make your decision an easier one.
For this post, I'll be reviewing the Chacchoben Ruins in Costa Maya, which can be summed up in three nouns: the jungle, ancient ruins, and monkeys. With this as an explanation, what's not to love?
What You'll Find In This Post:
Pin this post for later!
About the Activity
Costa Maya's most popular ruins to tour, Chacchoben means "the place of the red corn." The first human settlements there have been dated back to around 1000 BC, which is wild to think about. And you'll learn a lot about this community's way of life from your tour guide on this excursion, including what the sites were likely used for, what they ate, what else lived in the jungle with them, etc.
When you step off the bus, you'll get a quick bathroom break, and then you'll start your walk through the jungle. (FYI, the path has been cleared but it is dirt, so it can get muddy.) The surrounding tropical rainforest is so magical! Its canopies shade the area and will block most of a drizzle if it rains. We were also ecstatic to see monkeys swinging above our heads on several occasions. The jungle alone can make for great photo and video opportunities.
And if your primary interest is the ancient ruins, you'll be able to see multiple. (It's also interesting to note that there are more ruins than what will be shown on your tour, but they haven't been restored yet.)
Our first stop was a towering temple. While you can't climb to the top of this temple, for obvious reasons, you can climb up a little bit. On one side, your guide will tell you about a painting within the walls that was recovered for preservation purposes, and there's also a spot with some stonework near this temple where humans were sacrificed.
Our second stop was where some homes were located. A short wall surrounds this village, and it's one of the prettiest spots because some trees grow within it and make it look like a little jungle paradise.
The third stop begins with a walk up some steep steps. This is the hardest physical portion of this excursion, but it can also be avoided. When you reach the top, you'll find a temple, and if you walk to the left, there's another ancient ruin, but I can't remember what it was used for. The temple is another great photo op, and the second site is scalable on one side, which is pretty cool. (Just be careful.)
Your guide will share historical information at each ruin and also allow you time after each talk to walk around the ruin before heading to the next one. Don't be afraid to ask the guide questions as there isn't time to explain everything and there are plenty of things to be curious about.
After viewing these ruins, you'll then have time at the front to peruse the gift shop, eat and go to the restroom before heading out.
We did this excursion during a Carnival cruise, but it's possible to do it with other cruise lines too. It will just be more expensive. For example, currently Norwegian's is $119, and Royal Caribbean's is $126. The information below, however, is solely from our Carnival cruise, so if you're going with another cruise line, you'll want to double-check some of the information.
Time: 4 hours
It takes about an hour to get to the archeological site from the port. Then you spend 2 hours seeing the ruins and listening to your guide, plus buying souvenirs and eating food if you want it. Then it's one more hour back to the port.
This excursion can also be paired with another one, such as the Seven Color Lagoon, for a longer day trip.
We had a really nice bus with comfortable seats and air conditioning (which was surprising). So you shouldn't get overheated while traveling there or anything.
This price includes the bus drive, a can of water and your entrance fee into the archeological site. Keep in mind that this money is also used for the bus driver's salary and the guide's salary.
If you buy lunch, snacks or souvenirs, it will cost extra.
What To Bring:
Wear closed-toe shoes that are comfortable because you'll be doing some walking.
We didn't need it during our visit, but Carnival also suggests bug repellent. I can see why you might need it, however, since you are in the jungle.
If you're cruising when it could be rainy, it also might be a good idea to bring a rain jacket if you don't want to get wet. The trees provided a decent canopy for us when we were there, but we were still sprinkled on.
While $90 might seem like a lot to some to be on a bus for 2 hours and then walk around for 2 hours, it was worth it in my opinion. These ruins are some of the oldest structures in the world, and you get to learn about them, see them and even climb on parts of them. The jungle is also extremely beautiful. The bus ride wasn't bothersome either because it was a nice bus and the guide talked to us the whole way there. On the way back, you can sleep if you want.
This excursion is a much lower price than some of the other excursions through Carnival too. Not to mention, the same excursion with the other cruise lines is more expensive. (Maybe they offer a few more amenities than Carnival does, but I'm unsure.) I would still visit these ruins, though, even at the higher price because there aren't a lot of excursions at Costa Maya anyway. Most of them are trips to Mayan ruins, and Chacchoben is said to be the best. So putting all of these factors together, plus how cool and beautiful it is there, I would probably give this excursion 4/5 stars.