Cruise Excursion: Chacchoben Mayan Ruins, Costa Maya, Mexico


Our first port was Costa Maya, Mexico. We decided to leave the two younger children at the Royal Caribbean kids’ club and take our oldest to see the Mayan ruins of Chacchoben. My parents also chose to do the same excursion, so we all went together.

The first thing we saw when the ship docked in Costa Maya was the incredibly blue water.

Turquoise Waters

Then we saw a very tiny little resort/shopping area with the typical brightly colored Mexican buildings.

Costa Maya

Then we saw a beach that had been decimated by Hurricane Dean in 2007.  It was not a windy day when we got off the ship—the palm trees look like they are perpetually in a windstorm because of the strength of the hurricane. A lot of the area is still being rebuilt, and they’ve only been able to have cruise ships dock there again for a year or so (if I understood correctly) because the pier was also destroyed in the storm.

Costa Maya

We excitedly got off of the ship, ready for our adventure. My oldest daughter has been studying the Maya and the Aztec in Social Studies at school, so it was especially neat for her to finally figure out why we bother with Social Studies in the first place.

On the pier

First, we met our tour guide and loaded on a bus for the hour drive to the ruins. On the way we learned many interesting tidbits about the area, but I had a couple favorites.  Like, the reason why the area is called the Yucatan peninsula is because when the Spanish came, the Maya kept saying “Yu u catan” which means “I don’t understand you.” It was also interesting to learn that the Maya were very small people with round heads, especially since all the time I was in both Costa Maya and Cozumel I could see that most of the local people were quite small (the men were rarely over 5’4″ or thereabouts)(let’s just say I felt rather gigantic) and they really did have round heads. It just fascinates me that we think of the Mayan race as being gone, but really they were only conquered by the Spanish and a new culture was formed—the people as a race continue.

Our first look at a Mayan pyramid—picture taken out the bus window.

First view

Once we got to the site, we had a bit of time to use the facilities and wander around to look at the touristy things that were for sale everywhere.


Then we got to see three pyramids, and a very large set of stairs. The ruins have been dated between 50 BC and 700 AD, so they were left to the forces of nature for well over 1,000 years. Before the archaeologists excavated, they looked like hills covered with grass and shrubbery. The area should be totally flat, and that is how they knew there were ruins there. Most of them still have some grass and plants growing on them! The root systems are so deep it’s better to leave them than ruin the ruins by pulling them out.

Now I am going to post a whole freaking lot of pictures for you, because I took about 200 while at the ruins and everything was so incredibly cool. Also, please ignore all of the pictures that have a bunch of strangers in them. That’s the one problem with going to a popular site with a tour group—it’s practically impossible to take a picture without people you don’t know getting into the frame.

TogetherChacchobenMommy and BriaChacchobenChacchoben

This is the view from the top of one of the pyramids.

Spectacular View

On to even more pictures.

ChacchobenChacchobenChacchobenMamah and BriaChacchobenI was thereSo was JoelClimbingHuman Sacrifice?Daddy's Girl

After the pyramids, we went into the jungle a bit to see the living quarters. The Mayan people would build stone platforms and then put thatched huts on top of them. This is one of the platform areas.

Mayan Living Quarters

Back in the jungle we saw the tallest, skinniest palm tree I’ve ever seen.

Tall TreeNeck Craning

We also saw some that were our size. I really love this picture of my daughter. It was very fun to have just her with us.

Tropical Beauty

And then we saw the coolest thing ever! Spider monkeys! It was a mom and her baby. They were way up there, but after getting my pictures up on the camera I was able to sort of zoom in.

Mom and BabyMonkey

Get a load of that incredibly long tail!!!

Spider Monkey Tail

Here’s an extremely cropped picture of the baby. He’s pretty cute, isn’t he?

Baby Spider Monkey

After the tour was over, we rode back to the pier on the bus (and took much needed naps while we were at it), got back on the ship for lunch and then came back on shore with all of our kids so the other two could experience a little bit of Mexico.

Pictures to come…

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Very, very cool pictures. And what a treat to see those spider monkeys? No honkin' lizards??


That is WAY cool–I want my kids to see these pictures! Did you notice Brad Pitt in the 1st picture you showed of Bria and your parents? I remember when Bria was BORN! So neat to see how your family has grown. Also wondering . . . you said you used the kids club more than you thought you would. How did you get the point of feeling fine about leaving the younger girls there? We would love to take a vacation like this sometime. Hope you've recovered by now . . .
Love, Michelle from Nauvoo

annie valentine

These are amazing, I'm so glad someone got away from the January gloom.


Great pictures! How much fun.

But the real question is, but Bria learn why we study Social Studies?


I would love to see spider monkeys! All of your photos are great. Glad you had such a wonderful time.


Very fun, Lara. Great pictures, too!


VERY cool, that looks really neat.
How fun for B to get to do it alone. Were the other 2 bitter?


Love the pictures of Bria! Was your mom the first one up the steps?

The Atomic Mom

It's good to see you in the pictures too! 🙂

What a fun trip. Those pyramids look huge by the way. And I loved Joel being sass-say, with Bria.

If you're interested there is a Nova documentary called "Cracking the Maya Code" about how archeologists and linguists deciphered the Maya language. It's very interesting. It's also on Netflix instant as well

Mollie Tre

Awesome! (Now that I know about this little excursion, I will be prodding Bria to share with the rest of the class.)

Rachel Sue

It has to be said. You are just SO lucky.


What a fun thing for Bria to experience with just her parents and grandparents:) Love the picture of her and her dad posing!


OK. Now that is just TOO COOL!! I haven't always wanted to see something like that! So jealous!!

L.T. Elliot

Those pictures are like a thanksgiving feast. Seriously. That is fascinating! And the spider monkeys were pretty cute.

You guys look so happy! And your mom is a looker!


Hi, there!
I came across this entry in a google search. I am considering visiting the ruins during a cruise stop in Costa Maya, but am concerned it might be too much for my parents, who are in their mid-60's.

I would appreciate any thoughts on this : )


Lara Neves

Hi Megan,

Hopefully you'll get this, because I can't see your profile at all.

It was easy for the most part as far as physical work goes. We only had to climb the one really large staircase. My mother has some trouble with stairs due to a health issue, and she was okay as long as she was holding on to someone. Otherwise, we just walked on flat land, no actual hiking involved. It was very hot, so bring water!


Thanks so much for the information! I really appreciate it~


How cool!! That is so neat that you can say you have been there!