Our third, and final, port of call on our cruise on the Navigator of the Seas was Cozumel, Mexico and we had a great day exploring the Coba Mayan ruins. Thankfully whatever had me under the weather in Belize (still convinced it was just the heat) didn’t carry over to the next day and we were up bright and early for our last shore excursion.
This port required us to take a ferry from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen to meet up with our guide and it was an easy ride. The ferry is comfortable, quick, and air conditioned. When we reached Playa del Carmen we were met by our tour guide and found out that we’d be with a pretty small group for this tour so we made our way through the little streets of shops to our waiting van. With a quick run down of what to expect on our excursion our guide and driver whisked us off on the approximately 1.5 hr drive to the Coba ruins.
The ride there didn’t seem very long as we watched the sights going by and listened to our guide give us some information about the area. Did I act like a complete keener again and take notes? You bet I did! :-) Some of the tidbits our guide shared with us along the way were-
- The area we were in was the Yucatan Peninsula which is completely flat, hot, and humid. And yes it was. Though it didn’t seem as muggy as the day before.
- Home to the 2nd largest coral reef in the Caribbean Sea the area relies solely on the tourism industry as they don’t produce anything here.
- The area has (surprisingly to me anyway) lots of US companies and stores- but no Taco Bell. :-)
- May through November is the rainy season with pretty much rain all day and night in September and October. This might explain why 70% of the water in Mexico is in the Yucatan Peninsula!
- The area is semitropical savannah and is home to animals like iguanas and spider monkeys. Well we didn’t see any monkeys but L did get a pic of this cute little guy…
As we continued along the guide then told us more about the Mayan ruins that we were about to see at Coba. Only about 25% of the Mayan ruins are actually open to visitors and he reminded us that the Mayans didn’t predict the end of the world- it was just the end of their calendar!
There are still Mayan communities in existence today and their main industry is agriculture on plantations and chicken farms and they were once considered one of the most advanced cultures. We didn’t get to see any current communities, instead we stepped back in time to 600-900 AD to the time that Coba was built.
Quick Tip– if you end up taking this excursion and the guide suggests hiring a bike, do take him up on it. It was well worth a few extra dollars to get to see the whole complex in the time we had allotted, plus the cool breeze that we made biking sure was welcome in the heat.
At it’s height Coba was home to 45,000 people and was an important link and trading post between the cities on the coast and those inland, but after about 900 AD it was abandoned for reasons yet unknown. It missed discovery by the Spanish so it wasn’t found until about the 1890’s with excavations not starting until the 1970’s. It is believed to contain up to 6,500 structures, though only a small percentage of those have been restored and uncovered from the jungle. Most of it is still in great condition and many people would like it since it isn’t as excavated or reconstructed as the more popular sites of Chichen Itza or Tulum.
Amongst the jungle vegetation there are also a number of carved stelae (vertical stone tablets) that are on display to see. Also one of the mysteries found in these ruins are the Sacbe- which means “White Road“- that are perfectly straight stone paved roads that go through the jungle connecting major cities. People wonder how they were able to make them so straight with hardly way of getting their bearings.
The tallest pyramid we climbed is called “Nohoch Mul” which means “big mound” and is about 42 meters high. There is a rope up the side to help you climb but the steps are quite uneven so your attention is a must. Also don’t be a dough head like me and wear a skirt! I thought, after the day before, that I would be much cooler (and I was) however it was a long skirt so it made climbing a little more nerve wracking than I was ready for that day so I only got about 2/3 of the way up. The guys made it all the way up and were rewarded with views like this-
Also at Coba are some ball courts which were important to the Mayan society. The courts are basically an area with a slanted stone wall on either side where the teams tried to get the ball through the hoop. The really interesting bit about the story of these ball courts is that human sacrifice was part of the game! Different theories are out there as to who actually was sacrificed- the losing team or the winning team? Or just the captain of the team? And we thought the US was serious about their Superbowl! I think I’ll sit the Mayan ball game out thanks.
After a couple of hours wandering the ruins it was time to get back on the road for a lunch our guide promised us was in a very special place. And it was! We made our way back to the city of Playa del Carmen and stopped along the street outside a big metal door. Honestly we were thinking “Really, this is it? We’re just along the city streets”. But then once inside we were taken below ground to a restaurant called Alux that is in a cavern complete with stalactites and everything! The lunch itself was good, but the real treat was the tour of the restaurant once we were done. Our little group was the only one in there at that time so we had the place all to ourselves.
After lunch it was time for a quick run back to the catch the ferry to take us back to Cozumel to board the ship. And when they say you need to be back on time or they’ll leave without you they mean it. We were on with lots of time to spare but one poor girl almost didn’t make it. They had actually pulled the ferry away from the dock and she turned up so they pulled up to the dock and brought her aboard, that’s how close it was. I would have been soooo stressed. One of the reasons we opted to book our excursions through the cruise ship- they are guaranteed not to leave you behind.
Back on board we checked the Cruise Compass to see what fun things awaited us- the kiddo opted for the teen sports hour and pool party and we went for the “Quest Game Show”. It’s an adults only game show and all I will say is it was hilarious and so much fun because I don’t want to give too much away and ruin it for anyone. If you go on a cruise that offers the same or similar do go-you’ll have a great time.
If you’re interested in doing this shore excursion with Royal Caribbean in Cozumel it is called “Coba Ruins- The Mystery of the Mayan Civilization- CZR2” and was priced at $109.00 for adults and children.
To read more about our Caribbean Cruisin’ adventures, please feel free to check out these posts: