We thought we had seen the best of the ruins in Belize and couldn’t imagine visiting a more impressive sight, but the Chacchoben ruins near Costa Maya provide our group with the highlight of our cruise.
We booked the tour through the Shore Excursion Group with their return to ship and satisfaction guarantee, with the actual tour being provided by Native Choice Costa Maya Excursions. The only down side to this tour is that it departs from their office, which is located out of the port complex and slightly down the street from the exit of the port area. After walking all the way from the ship, through the port area and then down the street to the office, it seemed like quite a long walk. However, tour of the ruins themselves require much more walking that this, so if you can’t make this walk, then the tour itself might not be a good fit for you.
We quickly checked in with our tickets and our wrist bands and they put our group of 5 ladies plus 6 others on a mini-tour bus and off we went with very little waiting to the ruin site. During the drive our guide, an archeologist from Mexico City who has been living in a Mayan village and speaks fluent Mayan as well as English and Spanish, gave us some insight as to the area of Mexico known as Costa Maya. She had laminated maps and pictures of the flora and fauna that she shared with us as she told us a little about the history of the site that we would be visiting.
Place of the Red Corn
In Mayan, the name Chocchoben means “Place of the Red Corn.” The site dates from 300 BC to 700 AD. Dr. Peter Harrison, and American Archeologist officially reported the site to the Mexican government in 1972. As was the case with most Mayan site discoveries, archeologist spotted hills in the flat land, which had to have been man made and not naturally occurring. The natural plants and trees had simply overtaken these temples over a 1300 year period since the site was abandoned. The Mexican Institute of Anthropology excavated and restored the temples in 1994, and tourists began visiting the site in 2002.
Touring the Site
Upon arrival at the site we had the chance to use the restrooms and then our tour began. With our group being just 11 people it gave us plenty of opportunity to answer questions and to interact with our guide. Unfortunately the temples didn’t have particularly memorable names and I was unable to find a reference site which had names and maps for the temples. The first temple was quite impressive on it own,, towering very high above the flat area below. We got to walk around and take pictures and on the back side our guide showed us a picture of the painting that was found under the covered area. It is now covered up to preserve it. Next we walked the area that would have served as the royal palace. As we walked through the wooded area we spotted spider monkeys in the trees. From there we headed up to the most spectacular part of the tour. An upper platform, which to access we had to climb either steep stairs or a steep hill. This enormous man made plateau held two more remarkable pyramids or temples. These two temples had the most impressive architectural styles. This was a little to much of a climb for some in our group but for those who made the climb it was well worth it. It would be nice to come back and visit in another 5 to 10 years, as the archeologists are currently working on restoring several more temples.
At the bottom of the hill our driver was gathering everyone in our group as our archeological guide had to meet another tour group for the next tour.
Rating The Tour
Every one in our group gave this tour and A+ rating, mostly for our friendly knowledgeable guide and the small group size. It would have been nice to have been able to ascend all the pyramids, but for safety and preservation reasons they don’t allow it a this particular site.
Back In Costa Maya
Our bus returned us to the entrance to the port in Costa Maya where we had the opportunity to do some in port souvenir shopping, enjoy a margarita, and even watch the local swim with the Dolphins experience. Senior Frogs was too rowdy and expensive for our taste, so we found a Margarita kiosk and a lounge chair on the man made beach. Other people were enjoying the pool at the swim up bar and the in port restaurants. Guest who wanted more of a beach town experience could take the local shuttles over to the fishing village of Mahahual for better prices and authentic beach front cafes.