Port and Shore Excursions
We were anchored pretty far from Belize City. It was a 15 minute tender boat. No big deal though. Upon arriving at the cruise terminal, we were greeted by our guide for our excursion. For our excursion, we went cave tubing in Jaguar Paw forest in the Crystal Cave.
Once we were all gathered, we took a bus ride for over an hour to the caves. We were able to capture a good feel for Belize City. The bus drove by the open fish market, cemetary, housing, businesses and more. Once outside the city, we were on a highway. The terrain is wetland savannah. It was very pretty.
When we arrived to the national park where the caves were, we noticed dozens and dozens of other busses. Those weren't for our cave! Those were for other cave tubing companies, and in particular cavetubing.bz. There had to be at least 40 busses. Anyway, for Crystal Caves we took another bus over a hill and were at basecamp. This was much less crowded and the facilities were actual buildings. We rented lockers (highly advisable) and changed clothes (highly advisable). Bring aquasocks or rent them there. YOU CANNOT CAVETUBE WITH SANDALS. Anyway, we hiked the trail and into the caves. We were in groups of 8 (2 rows of 4 tubes) with our tour guide in the front facing us. We tubed through 3 portions and walked a bit, too.
The caves were amazing. The scenery of the caves were beautiful. The various stalagmites and stalactites were beautiful. White ones of calcium. Yellow ones of sulphur. Rustic ones of iron. Very pretty. Amazing sights. There were some other amazing formations. A dry waterfall, a silent waterfall, old Mayan pottery.
The water is "refreshing". It was not cold but not warm. In fact, we swam a bit at the end. It was just a swim across a little lagoon. We didn't get spend much time in it. It was very pretty, especially with the natural light shining through. Amazing time. I highly recommend doing this.
We learned that the entire cave can take over 6 hours to see. We spent around 1.5 hours. Also, those who did the tour with zip-lining added to it, they didn't do as much of the cave as we did. In fact, they seemed to be rushed!
Afterwards, they had complimentary cashew wine tasting. They had food and other drinks for purchase. The professional pictures were only $25, but we only paid $20.
The ride back was the same going there. A time for a siesta! Upon arriving back to the cruise terminal, we had an hour or so for the last tender. We bought souvenir shirts and I tried to find Belize currency, but I couldn't! None of the locals had any. I found some guy who sold about $3.50 in Belize for $4 in American. He sold them wrapped as a souvenir gift. I was a little annoyed, but whatever. We grabbed a Belikin beer (official beer of Belize) and waited as long as we could before the last tender.
Belize was really special and we heard from others how much they enjoyed their respective excursions to the ruins, swamps, Caulker Cay. I definitely plan on going back!
Costa Maya actually refers to the entire coast south of Riviera Maya (where Cancun is). We were in a "settelment" of Mahahual. This was strictly developed for cruiseships. I believe it was only 10 years old. All that is there is a cruise terminal. Okay, there is some development going on, but that's it. The roads are in better condition than roads in the States!
Walking down the pier, we couldn't help but notice that beautiful BLUE water. Too bad we didn't get in it. Anyway, you begin to notice how dedicated to cruising Costa Maya is. They have permanent signs for shore excursions for lines to form!
Before we hopped in our line, we went to the tourism office DIRECTLY upstairs from the information booth. I mean, directly upstairs around the corner. They gave us a souvenir stamp for our passport, and then we made our way to get in line.
We took a nice bus for about an hour out to Chacchoben (chalk-choh-bin). Our guide (Leticia aka Lety) was awesome. She had all sorts of little trinkets and items to pass around the bus to make time fly by. She turned out to be our guide for our tour of the ruins. Once we arrived at the ruins. There was a building with a little cafe, gift shop and ticket booth (it's a park regulated by the government).
The tour was pretty amazing. The ruins are approximately 1,500 years old and really spectacular. We learned a lot about the Mayans and how they lived. There were 3 pyramids and several ruins of what was once a market place and dwellings. On the smallest pyramid, by the biggest pyramid, there was some of the original color (light brownish red) of the pyramid. We learned about some of the vegetation and its uses. We saw some of the mounds that still need to be unearthed. It was a great experience.
Once we arrived back to the terminal, we got to see just how cool the terminal is. There are pools with swim up bars. Other bars. Other alcohol serving carts. Shops. Loungers at the beach. All for the cruisers.
However, unless you're a big history buff, rather Mayan history buff, I'd pencil in another ruin. There are a lot of ruins, and granted, I don't know where Chacchoben ranks, but there are others to see in the area such as Chichen Itza, Tulum, Altun Ha, Copan, and more.
We were docked at Punta Langosta. Our visit in Cozumel started out disappointing. There were severe winds and the beach was red flagged. So, our excursion was cancelled. We spent most of our time in the city around Punta Langosta, in particular the Centro.
First, we went to El Coffee Cozumel. They have a wide selection of coffee drinks. My girlfriend and I both got frappuccinos. They were delicious, and a bit on the strong side.
We then made it our mission to find a tourism office to get our passports stamped. In the Centro, there is a town square a block off the beach boardwalk. Right by the flea market over there is a tourism office. They stamped our passports for us.
Afterwards, we pretty much strolled the city and beaches by the town center. We took pics on boardwalks. We went to a pharmacy for a waterproof camera. We bought some souvenirs at the flea market.
We spent about an hour at a bar called Ambar. It was one block parallel to the main boardwalk street. They had beers for $1.50. There wasn't anyone at first, but soon, a bunch of families and groups came along and the place became lively. A few people ordered nachos and they got a loaded plate with nachos that looked awesome.
We ate at a cafe by the town square. They actually had some spicy salsa. The food was great with no digestive issues later for those who are cautious about food in Mexico.
We felt extremely safe in Cozumel. There weren't aggressive vendors and no children begging. There were military men with machine guns throughout the boardwalk, but the security felt extremely at ease.
The water was to die for. We became really mad our excursion was cancelled because the water was so clear and so blue. However, we still had a fun day i Cozumel. We plan on going back!
We were anchored close to Roatan. The tender was only a few minutes. After the tender, we got our passports stamped right at the pier. There is a tourism hut and they just ask for a $1 donation for the schools of Honduras.
We were instantly greeted by our guide for Maya Key. We hopped on a boat on the same pier and cruised on over. Maya Key is right by the pier. It's the little tiny island you see.
We had an amazing day at Maya Key. Maya Key is a private island with an animal rescue and so much more. They have a website.
When we got there, we immediately rented snorkel gear and went off to claim our lounger on the beach. After we found a lounger, we got into the water. Now, the water at the beach isn't for snorkeling. In fact, about 30 yards from the shore, there are rocks with some seaweed like vegetation. The water was lovely. On that same beach, there is a pier that takes you out past the beach and rocks to the reefs. The reefs were so pretty. We saw lots of pretty fish. I thought the various brain corrals were the best site. The snorkeling was a lot of fun.
After that, we decided to walk around the island and check out the animals. There was a tiny island just for the howler monkeys. There was a jaguar, spider monkeys, crocodiles, boars, toucans, parrots, ocelots and much more. All of the animals are donated or rescued (you can see a big scar on the jaguar from abuse by his previous owner). My girlfriend fell in love with a baby monkey they had. It was really cool.
Then, we walked up to their replica of Copan, the Mayan ruin of Honduras. It was pretty. Lots of replica statues and stairs. Then, we went to check out a sea lion feeding. Next to the sea lion habitats, there is a nurse shark habitat and a manray habitat. You can swim in both of those if you want for a little extra ($15)
The lunch provided was delicious. I was most thrilled over the fried bass they served. It was very juicy and not a dominating fishy taste. Very good. They had a honey vinagerette dressing which was tasty. Also, the fried banana chips, red beans & rice and bbq chicken were great, too. We ate our lunch on the huge patio by the bar and pool. The bartenders were great. We ended up drinking some local Honduran beers: Salva Vida. It was like a budweiser. Also, they have a deal where you can buy a 6-pack for $15.
Lastly, we caught as much sun as could. I floated around on the beach as much as I could before our last boat took us back to the pier. We spent almsot 5 hours on Maya Key. I recommend checking it out. It's a good cause with the animal rescue.
Speaking of prices, the gift shop was really pricey on Maya Key. So were the vendors at the cruise terminal! I left the terminal to check out the vendors on the streets. It was a much different shopping environment. The vendors weren't aggressive, but there were kids begging. There were also disabled and handicapped children along the roadside. We didn't spend much time outside of the terminal on our own.
Oh yeah, I was able to find someone with Lempiras (Honduran currency). I got a 20, 10, 5 and 1 bills for $2. The exchange rate is 18 lempiras for 1 US dollar.
I would love to go back to Roatan. We didn't really even check out Roatan because we went straight to Maya Key. We'd love to go back!