Port and Shore Excursions
We booked our cave tubing adventure with Cave Tubing R Us. We chose this company because they use tubes with headrests that link together--so there is no foot/armpit hanging on required! We also read wonderful reviews about this company on Trip Advisor. Once on shore we quickly met up with our tour operator Dave and Henry from Cave Tubing R Us. Henry led the way to a large van/mini bus where 2 people were already waiting. Another group of 7 joined us shortly after. Dave greeted everyone with enthusiasm and excitement. He originally said he would be spending the day with us, which we thought would be wonderful, but then said he had to pick someone else up and took off.
We arrived at the Cave Tubing Park in the rain--it was not a heavy downpour, but it was steady. We hiked for 5 minutes in the rain before crossing the river.
Then we hiked for another 35 min along a well-kept trail, through the rainforest, again in the rain--all the while carrying inner tubes over our heads. (They worked well as umbrellas!) Henry said the rain is actually nice, as it can get quite hot and humid walking through the rainforest.
Our hike through the rainforest, did feel somewhat rushed. I could tell Henry really wanted to get ahead of the other tubing groups already ahead of us on the trail. Whereas other groups stopped along the trail to learn about different trees, plants etc., we walked passed it all. We didn't see the termite mound or the tarantula nest which we read so much about! We stopped once in a dry cave that had bats in it and Henry provided a narration about that--and that was about it with the rainforest tour.
Once we got to the river, the rain stopped. Our other guide Marcel, approached us holding out his hand to reveal live termites crawling all over it--this was kind of gross! The termites were much smaller than I imagined them to be. He asked if anyone wanted to taste a termite. My DH was brave and tasted some--he thought they tasted "minty".
Then Henry and Marcel divided the group up into two groups of 7 and linked our tubes together. Then with Marcel as our guide and with our helmet light to illuminate the way, we enjoyed floating for 35 minutes through the ancient Mayan caves. We saw interesting crystal formations as well as stalagmites and stalactites and even got splashed by the cave waterfall. After we exited the cave we were able to swim in the cool river and floated downstream for another 15 minutes before heading back to the van.
We read many reviews on Trip Advisor about Dave taking his groups to a local place called Cheers for lunch. We were hoping that we could go there too. My DH asked about stopping at Cheers and Henry said we wouldn't have enough time as it takes 30 minutes for them to prepare the food once you place your order. We were somewhat disappointed by that, but what can we do when time works against us?
Dave showed up and thanked everyone for booking with him. Although we only met Dave briefly, we could see that he has a very dynamic, joking and outgoing personality. To us, both Marcel and Henry were much more serious and business-like. Although we still had a good time cave tubing, I know our tubing experience would have been completely different and much more "lively" and memorable had Dave been a part of it.
On Tuesday we arrived in Puerta Maya, Cozumel shortly before 9:00 am. Again we were greeted with sunny skies and tropical heat which made spending a day at the beach just the perfect thing to do. Today, we had no private excursions booked; rather we planned to spend a day enjoying the facilities of Paradise Beach. Being this will be our first beach stop, we looked forward to feeling warm, tropical sand between our toes while hearing the peaceful rustle of palm fronds gently swaying in the wind. Add water toys and a cool drink from our collapsible cooler...and we've got paradise!
At Paradise Beach, it costs $12/person for use of the water toys and floats and another $2/person for a chair and umbrella. What makes this beach so special is the abundance of inflatable water toys which are located in the ocean. We noticed there were even more water toys since we visited here last in 2007. From the giant 14 foot iceberg to the water trampolines and slides, the boys had an blast somersaulting into the water, slipping, sliding and jumping to their hearts content into the warm ocean water below. The use of kayaks was also included in the price.
Our server took our lunch order from the beach and delivered our lunch about 20 minutes later. While we waited, we enjoyed lounging under the shade of tropical palm trees. Our food was delicious--everything tastes yummy under a palm tree!
Please Note: Entering the water was quite rocky with sharp rocks. Wearing water shoes here would have been a good idea.
We had an awesome day. This was certainly the perfect place for us to go with our DS's.
We visited Rum Point Beach as part of our Rays, Reef and Rum Point excursion with Nativeways. When we arrived at Rum Point we could see how very scenic this beach really is. Large casuarina pines gracefully cascade over the beach and lounge area, providing shade from the Caribbean sun, while large netting hangs across the tree branches. I am not sure how much of this netting is to keep birds out as it is to prevent pine needles from falling onto the tables and sand below.
Although Rum Point is scenic, we were not totally impressed with the actual beach area and water. We found the actual beach area to be quite small and the water was somewhat murky and seaweedy--not clear like it was at Stingray City or like our last experience at 7 mile beach in 2007. I do not know if the murkiness of the water is typical of Rum Point Beach or if we were there on an "off day". We also found it quite rocky entering the water. This is another time when beach shoes definitely would have come in handy.
We enjoyed a very good lunch on the beach (which was included in the price of the tour), swam in the warm water, relaxed on hammocks and rested on the complimentary lounge chairs for the 1 1/2 hours we were here.
We booked the Rays, Reef and Rum Point excursion with Nativeways. We climbed aboard a large boat and made our way up to its upper level. The rest of the group (about 20 of them) arrived soon after. We were the only ones on the boat who booked the Rays, Reef and Rum Point excursion but since all the others booked the Rays and Snorkel we shared the same boat to Stingray City.
There were four crew members on the boat. Our captain was Thomas and JC was the photographer. We found both of these guys to be friendly, funny, professional and informative.
Both Captain Thomas and JC were in the ocean handling the stingrays. JC took hold of a large female stingray and showed us her stinger. I couldn't believe how large the stinger was. It was about as thick as a pencil and a good 6-8 inches long. In order to get stung by a stingray, the stinger must puncture right through your skin--oww, that would really hurt! JC also told us to notice the eyes on the stingray and how they look like the eyes of an alligator! While in the water, stingrays floated gracefully all around us and we even felt their smooth, slippery hide, brush against our legs.
We all got to hold a stingray, get a stingray massage and yes, even kiss a stingray! Then we were all given a piece of calamari to feed the stingrays. The stingray sucked up the calamari like a vacuum! I couldn't believe what strong suction those creatures have!
We spent 30 minutes in the water with the stingrays before it was time to go. From Stingray City it was a short boat ride to the reef. We put on masks, snorkels and fins and jumped into the warm, clear, turquoise blue water of the Caribbean Sea.
For 2o minutes we enjoyed snorkeling and looking below to see the many colorful, tropical fish swimming around in their underwater paradise. Then it was off to Rum Point!
Overall we thoroughly enjoyed our day and time with Nativeways. From all the tour operators we encountered on this cruise, Nativeways offered us the best tour guide experience. Not only did they deliver everything we expected to do on this excursion, but they were also jokey, funny, friendly, professional, helpful, and outgoing while providing us with a top-notch service.
We had a freestyle tour booked with Rony's Tours. Our plan for today was to go ziplining on the Pirates of Caribbean Extreme, Extreme Zipline, visit the monkeys at the monkey stop, stop for lunch at Rony's mothers restaurant and then head to the Mayan Princess for some beach time.
After making the trek up and down the hill outside the Mahogany Bay Village, we met our tour guide Tia (Rony's mother) and our driver Pedro. Although Tia could speak English very well, Pedro could only speak Spanish. Once in the van, Tia informed us that we would not be able to have lunch at her restaurant because she closes it down during low season (summer months). Although we understand the expense of keeping her restaurant opened during this time, we would have appreciated Rony informing us about this when we made our booking. This was one of our three disappointments with Rony's Tours.
Enroute to the zipline, we stopped at French Harbour. We had to be careful where we stepped, as there were dog droppings everywhere. I do not really know what the significance of this harbor was, but overall we did not think there was much to see here.
Our next stop was the Pirates of the Caribbean Extreme, Extreme zipline. This zipline zips the rider from mountain top to mountain top. Although the Pirates Extreme, Extreme zipline only has 8 zips, it is known as having the highest (328) and longest lines (1,980 feet) in all the Americans!
Besides seeing a few monkeys, we did not see any other visitors there. We paid for the excursion and were quickly harnessed up and then climbed aboard an open-air safari type truck. Our ziplining guides were Dwayne and Iron.
After a brief stop on an overlook which offered us a panoramic view of Coxen Hole and area, we were off to the Monkey Stop.
Admission into the Monkey Stop was $8/person and included the services of a local guide who took us through this zoo. On the way to the monkey cage, we passed cages which housed spider monkeys, a Tamandua, some "squirrel"-like animal and toucans. The most exciting part was going into a cage with two cute, little Capuchin monkeys. We enjoyed having those curious little critters jump and crawl around on us. After our time of interaction with these inquisitive little creatures, we were able to hold a parrot and saw island rabbits, a lemur and deer.
After this stop we were supposed to have at least 2 hours to enjoy West Bay Beach at the Mayan Princess. By the time Pedro got us there, we realized we would only be able to spend 45 minutes here before it would be time to head back. Since the resort charges a $10 fee per person, we decided it wasn't worth the money for our family to spend such a short time at this beach. We asked Tia to take us back to the port so we could at least enjoy some time on Carnival's private beach in Mahogany Bay (which is right next to where the cruise ship docks). Not being able to experience West Bay Beach at the Mayan Princess, was our second disappointment with Rony' Tours. Before I booked with Rony, I specifically told him that we wanted to be back at the port by 1:30 (because I wanted to have some time to check out Mahogany Bay). I asked if we would have enough time to do the zipline, monkey stop, lunch and beach. He responded back saying, "yes we would." When I asked him how much time we would get at the beach if we do all those stops, he informed me "2 hours." Considering we skipped the lunch stop, spent a little under 1 hour ziplining and the monkey stop was no more than 20 minutes, how come we did not have enough time to go to the Mayan Princess as Rony assured us we would? We guess our driver Pedro may have had something to do with this. You see, Pedro drove the van as slow as a turtle. I am sure we could have walked faster than he drove. DH sat in the front seat and noticed Pedro drove only 20 miles per hour the entire day. No wonder cars were honking and passing us by! It is one thing to be cautious, but this was a little extreme. Our ride in the open-air safari truck at the Pirates zipline went faster than that! We believe Pedro's extra slow driving made the travel time from getting from one spot to the next much longer than it should have taken which ended up cutting out our beach time at the Mayan Princess. This was our third disappointment with Rony's Tours.
Since we did not have enough time to spend at the Mayan Princess, Tia did offer to take us to a local restaurant for lunch instead. She said we could have 30 minutes there. Since we were already short on time, we decided that it would be too rushed to stop for lunch. We rather spend this time at the beach in Mahogany Bay.
Although we had an awesome time ziplining and thoroughly enjoyed our time at the monkey stop, we were somewhat disappointed with Rony's Tours. We have read many glowing reviews about Rony's Tours and how people mentioned their day with Rony was the highlight of their entire cruise. Although Tia was very sweet, pleasant and informative, I cannot say that our experience with this tour company was the highlight of our cruise. Again, I am sure that if we had Rony himself, our experience would have been completely different.