On most cruises we venture forth on our own at most ports, with an excursion booked here and there. The first time we went to Costa Maya we found a taxi tour to the Chacchoben Mayan ruins. On our cruise on Celebrity Constellation we mainly booked excursions. This was during the height of the omicron outbreak so that kept us mainly around other people from our ship. Besides wanting to stay healthy we had another cruise scheduled for the day after disembarkation so we’d again need a negative covid test to board. At least that’s what we thought when booking the excursions. The second cruise, which was supposed to be on Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas got cancelled while we were on the first one so we didn’t actually end up needing that.
In Costa Maya I’d eyed a river tubing excursion through the ship that went to Bacalar Lagoon, AKA the 7 colors lagoon. That one went down a river into the lagoon. We often book our cruises through Vacations to Go as they have a selection of reduced-price cruises for a variety of lines. They send out a notice about booking excursions through them, but we hadn’t actually done one that way before. I noticed their selection included kayaking on the 7 colors lagoon for half the price of the river tubing excursion so we booked that one instead. Costa Maya is in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo.
Their instructions were to meet at the Native Choice office outside the port 45 minutes after the ship docked. The ticket included directions and a link to a map. Having been to Costa Maya once before we were familiar with the port and knew it was a bit of a walk to the exit. We had also seen the pyramid in the middle of the road where we were to turn so we had a pretty good idea where to go.
The total walk from the ship to their office was 1.5 kilometers, which is just shy of a mile, so not a bad walk. Their instructions did mention people could take a taxi from the port if they didn’t want to walk, though they’d probably be around halfway there before they got to the taxis. On our way there we came across other people also making their way to that office, and a guy at the pyramid directing people where to go. The office was a few blocks walk down the road beyond the pyramid on a gravel path surrounded in trees. It was easy to spot due to the fleet of white vans parked outside. Inside they handed out various colors of wristbands depending on where people had booked to go. There was just one other couple in our van so we had a nearly private excursion. They were very nice people and it turned out they were also on both the snorkel excursions we had in later ports. The local guide talked about the area and the people on the way there. She also said that all of the money paid for excursions through their company went straight to locals. While the ship only waits for its own excursions, she said their company had never brought anyone back late so nobody booking through them had ever missed their ship.
It took about an hour to get from the port to the lagoon, a lot of it on a very straight road through the jungle. On cruise ship days there is a bit of traffic on that road, but according to our driver it’s pretty deserted if there are no ships at the dock.
Our guide said the area had not been settled until the 1980’s when the government gave people land there and they came in from other areas of the country. The original people of the area are descendants of the Maya, but there are people of Spanish and other descents now, and a lot of mixed blood residents, of which she was one. We passed through two small villages on the way, the first she said was mainly mixed blood people and the second Mayan descendants. At the far end of the second village the van headed down a steep and rutted dirt road to a tiny resort at the bottom, which was our destination. It looked like the sort of road you need a 4×4 to traverse, but our van did make it back up – though not easily. It took the driver some maneuvering from one side of the road to the other rather than heading up the middle to reach the top. The village is called Buenavista, but there are other Buena Vistas in Mexico so Bacalar and Quintana Roo are important to designate this specific village.
The little private resort called Cora’s Place had a little villa where people could stay and a separate little open sided restaurant/bar. Another small building housed restrooms. Some people made a brief appearance on the porch of the villa they were staying in, but the four of us and our guide had the restaurant, beach chairs, and dock to ourselves. They were expecting a bigger group from Carnival Dream later, but they did not get there until after we left so we had it to ourselves the whole time we were there. The people staying in the villa were allowed to use the dock and outside area, but did not come out while we were there.
First the guide and someone from the resort put kayaks into the water. Both couples opted for doubles while she took a single. They were a bit wet from an overnight rain, but the instructions had said to bring a swimsuit, which we all had on so it didn’t matter if we got a bit wet. Stepping into the kayak, the water in the lagoon was a bit refreshing (as they say on snorkel excursions when it’s kind of cold), but the puddle in the bottom of the kayaks was warm.
We paddled along the edge of the lagoon until we had gone as far as the guide said we could and then turned back. You must have to fly over the lagoon to see all 7 colors. From where we were it just looked like a very large lake with a little color variation that is more noticeable in photos than it was while we were there. The guide said sunlight and a variety of minerals give it the different colors so some of them only show up in the right light.
We had a fun time kayaking. It was pretty relaxing. With so few people there was no worries about keeping up with a group. If somebody stopped for photos or something the others waited if they got too far ahead. We were all going slow enough that it wouldn’t have been hard to catch up even if nobody waited. Near one dock along the way the guide stopped to point out the only fully solar powered boat on the lagoon.
The last time we went kayaking on a cruise I’d just recently broken my arm and was forbidden to paddle at all. This time John was recovering from a broken wrist, though that was farther distant in the past so I was the main paddler, but he could contribute some too. Usually he sits in the back in a double kayak, but this time I did since I’d be the main paddler. We decided we both like it better with me in front. We saw some interesting vegetation along the way. Something growing on a tree looked like a giant Venus fly trap, though I have no idea if it was carnivorous.
After kayaking we had some free time. The water was still a bit on the cold side, but I waded out to the giant swing next to the dock, which meant getting wet waist high. It’s hard to get a swing to actually swing when it is sitting on the surface of the water, but I got it to go a little. Easier to do from a standing position than sitting. Then I joined the others sitting on the dock, which had some deck chairs and the option of sunny or shady spots, where the loungers on shore had only sun. If the water had been a bit warmer I would have gone for a swim and probably snorkeled too, but I decided I didn’t want to be that wet for the rest of the day. I normally pick shady spots, but went with sunny this time to have a better chance of getting somewhat drier.
Lunch and drinks were included with the tour. People could get what they wanted to drink from the bar. The main lunch was fajitas with the option of chicken, pork, or some of each along with an assortment of toppings. The guide asked about special diet needs on the way there, and they had made a special vegetarian meal for one of the other people as he did not eat meat. Real Mexican food made by real Mexicans in Mexico and it was delicious.
We had a different driver on the way back as the first one had left right after dropping us off to go back and take other people somewhere else. The guide stayed behind to wait for the Carnival group. It started pouring rain when we were nearly back. They drop people off at the port entrance rather than walking the whole way back, but he stopped by the office and got rain ponchos for everyone on the way. They were quite useful on the walk into the port, but it stopped raining before we got all the way to the ship.
Ours was the only ship there when we left for our excursion, but when we got back besides Carnival Dream there was also Celebrity Edge and Caribbean Princess. The Princess ship looked pretty small compared to the rest, but for some reason from the dock Constellation looked bigger than Edge. An optical illusion due to the positioning of the two on the dock I suppose because Edge is actually quite a bit bigger, as was obvious once we were onboard. On the other hand, Caribbean Princess actually was considerably smaller than the other three ships docked there.
We haven’t booked outside excursions often, but when we have we’ve always made it back to the ship on time. It was nice that this one provided transportation both directions as not all of them do. We did an awesome horse swim in Jamaica once where they did take us back to the ship, but we had to get there on our own.