Cozumel Amazing River & Cavern Explore Excursion Reviews
Great excursion. Very neat. Cozumel was the port we were least excited about going to since we had both been there before, but this was something neither of us had done, and we really enjoyed it. Definitely need to be reasonably mobile/agile. Pictures were on the pricey side, but we knew they would be going in and factored it into the cost of the excursion.
Arriving in Cozumel was a different world from the previous destinations. From the last time I docked here 8 years ago, this place has really been built up! The areas immediately available to tourists are very much like the United States with business after business beckoning your patronage. I booked ‘The Amazing Secret River’ tour through my Carnival cruise and found it to be very well organized. We were escorted to a blue and yellow jet boat that loaded and embarked on the ten mile journey to Playa Del Carmen. This was the only time I felt queasy at sea. Playa Del Carmen, visited 23 years ago by me was shockingly modern. There’s a new outdoor mall with many upscale shops just like in the United States being built. I stopped into Starbucks for an iced espresso and my app worked on my phone in Mexico. It’s that seamless.
We took a van ride from Playa Del Carmen with 6 others from our ship and about 4 more people to the recently discovered Rio Secreto complex between Xel-ha and Xcaret on the multi-lane divided highway 407 running from Cancun to Tulum in the Mayan Riviera. Once on the property, there we rode another 35 minutes on a rough road to the coordination areas. Our group of 12 was led by a very gracious English-speaking guide who helped us with the whole experience. This is a natural wonder that is run by a very savvy management group. Between 300 and 400 people tour the 18 mile underground caves daily, generally in groups of 8-12. Admission on the Rio Secreto website is $109 per person with transportation, so Carnival isn’t marking this one up at all with the extra boat transfers from Cozumel.
After putting all of our belongings into lockers, we donned the optional half wet suits with aqua socks and lighted helmets, showered and then trekked through the jungle to the cenote opening of the cave system. The guide recommended walking sticks for the caves because they help with stability and give you a sense of the underwater cave floor beneath you. We stopped along the way for pictures by our photographer who accompanied our guide. Before entering the caves, a separate, optional stop included a blessing by a man acting as a Mayan priest with incense. We spent about 90 minutes in the cave itself, which was spectacular and definitely a highlight of my trip. It’s unbelievably cool and otherworldy there with all of the stalactites and stalagmites. You'll duck and swim a little along the way. It’s also potentially very dangerous, but we were in good hands. We ended the trip with a shot of a local cinnamon-anise liqueur and a pitch for the photos and packages. Since you can’t bring any cameras into the caves, these are your only options. They have a modern pavilion showing you pictures from your tour on little iPads and iMacs, (surprisingly sophisticated!) and the packages were available with pictures available singly for $25 a piece, an entire personalized CD of pictures of your group and 50 additional shots of the cave for $89, or for $119, the CD with 2 T-shirts and 2 bottles of liqueur. Ka-ching. The liqueur is delicious!
We finished with an all you can eat Mayan buffet of soup, vegetables, mini tacos and fruit. Drinks are extra, but the meal was adequate and filling. It gave us an opportunity to get to know our tour mates just a little better and fill out their feedback forms on how to make the experience better. I couldn't think of anything. They're doing pretty much everything right with this tour.
We took an excursion while we were in Cozumel. We picked the Secret River/Cave Diving excursion and it was AMAZING. This excursion is on the pricier side but i wholeheartedly recommend you take this trip if you can. You're put in a small group (under 10) and your guide takes you underground to explore an 18 mile cave system that was discovered just 7 years ago. You only explore a mile or so of the cave but that is still plenty. The cave is almost entirely natural and untouched. At the cave openings there are stairways but otherwise the cave is natural and lit only by the flashlight on your helmet. Our guide Carlos was great, friendly, knowledgable, funny. This was probably the best part of our trip. Really the only downside is that the was is a bit cold but you get a wetsuit which helps quite a bit. If you are unsure about which excursion to take please take this one, you won't regret it. Also the port is pleasant.
Bottom Line: Take this excursion!
Very fun and interesting trip exploring a cave. They fit you with wetsuits as the water is cold. You wade and swim through this cave. Lunch afterward was good.