“Otra,” I told the nice guy running drinks from the comfort of my beach chair and handing the empty bottle back to him. The waves lightly slapped the rocks below us and I watched the wispy clouds move across the sky. I was struggling with a difficult decision: continue to sit here and do nothing, or go for my third snorkel of the day – some decisions can be really challenging on vacation. We’d heard some mixed reviews about Chankanaab National Park, but we were so glad we’d come.
The idea of being in close proximity to thousands of other cruise ship day trippers in Cozumel, Mexico had me worried. Laura had talked to someone who had been here and the review was not favorable. The two chief complaints were that it is cheesy touristy and it is absolutely packed with cruise ship visitors. But I need not have worried. Like most places in the world, you can find the good or bad anywhere. We found greatness at Chankanaab National Park!
To clear one thing up – Chankanaab National Park is not “rustic.” In my mind, I expected a roadside stall and a large empty beach (similar to Chileno Beach in Cabo San Lucas). That’s not Chankanaab. And frankly, the rustic idea in my head was totally unrealistic. Cozumel has grown tremendously since I was last here to the point of being unrecognizable.
However, Chankanaab National Park was perfect for our purposes. We’d come to Cozumel, Mexico on a cruise and the cruise company offered a rather pricey shore excursion to Chankanaab. We got off the boat, grabbed a cab and were at the beach in 20 minutes.
There are dozens of activities at Chankanaab National Park. Options include:
- Swimming pool (yes, a pool at the beach)
- A zip line experience
- Discover scuba diving
- Tequila tasting experience
- A free sea lion show
- Crocodile exhibition
- Mayan ruins walk (Note: All are replicas)
- A spa, complete with massage
- And the beach
There is no shortage of things to do here. The benefit of the place like Chankanaab is that there is truly something here for everyone!
For us, our goals were simple: the beach, beverages, guacamole, and snorkeling. (We brought our own snorkel equipment) and have written a more in-depth guide about snorkel gear options). On arriving at Chankanaab National Park, we were surprised by the vast numbers of people here (there were 5 other cruise ships in port that day). The beach was very crowded, but we just kept walking. A short way down the beach near the snorkel rental place, we found four chairs near a palm tree. The crowds thinned out to the point that there were very few people. And our helpful waiter Jose was happy to keep running drinks for us! So, “Otra!”
The snorkeling was great! The reef is in pretty rough shape (you can’t have a good reef with that many people visiting it), but the fish continued to populate the area. They have also put a number of underwater sculptures creating a kind of underwater museum. I had recently acquired a GoPro underwater camera for scuba diving and took it with me. I was able to get some photos of the underwater sculptures.
Truly, there is something at Chankanaab National Park for everyone. Laura’s sister could go to the sea lion show while I went snorkeling and Laura lounged in the sun reading a magazine. It was a perfect day and we saved a ton of money by just grabbing a cab and doing it ourselves (instead of the official cruise ship shore excursion)!
If you were going to spend the day in Cozumel, what would you do?
Chankanaab National Park Details
Park Hours: Monday-Saturday from 8:00am to 4:00pm. But, when cruises are in port, closing time is “flexible” (they’re not going to turn away your money).
Admission: $21.00 US Dollars for adults; children (3-11 years) is $14.00 US dollars. Note: We saw them asking for passports to prove kids ages.
Taxi: $10 for four people from the cruise pier to Chankanaab; the return fare was $15.
More details: Website
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