In late September, I celebrated my birthday aboard the Carnival Valor. This Western Caribbean cruise took me to Cozumel, Mexico, Belize City, Belize, Roatan, Honduras, and Costa Maya, Mexico! I had never been to these countries prior, so I wanted the best of the best from each location. I did a ton of research- seriously, days of research- and finally found the best prices for the best activities. I lined up an ancient Mayan ruins tour, kayaking, suspension bridges tour in the jungle, snorkeling at 3 reefs, cave-tubing, zip lining, four-wheeling, mini submarines, and swimming with stingrays. Ready to have the best Caribbean vacation ever?
This is a popular 7 day cruise, that many cruise lines do, but the last destination may vary from either Georgetown, Grand Cayman or Costa Maya, Mexico. When trying to research Costa Maya, not much came up. I discovered after arriving that Costa Maya is only the name of the port and it somehow developed into the tourist name for the city. The correct name is- Majahual (“Ma-ha-wall”), Mexico, which is how I prefer to call it.
The first days are spent at sea, where they supply you with activities around the clock. After that, the adventure begins.
Day 1: Cozumel, Mexico
1. Mini-Sub Adventure
The first activity I lined up was the Mini-Sub Adventure, or as I like to call them, underwater scooters. Now, as long as you make an effort to get off the boat early, you can make a 10:30am reservation, with no problem. I booked the excursion with cozumel-tours.com at $79 ea. (1.5 hours)
The excursion is based out of the Cozumel Resort so you’ll have full access to their beach and amenities. It’s best to take a taxi here.
These little subs were great! They cruise around at a slow speed while you observe the small reef and fish in the area. After your short cruise around the reef you are anchored in and a diver will bring over animals that he finds in the reef. During my trip, he found (and handed to us) a stingray, a sea spider, a live conch, and a huge school of fish, that you can feed chum to.
Unfortunately, I only know this because my best friend has a stronger stomach than I, and she experienced it herself. After being tied in I felt the motion of the ocean and got a little sea sick. I had to give the thumbs up and they brought me back to the surface. So if you’re one to get sea sick easily, this might not be the best excursion for you. I’m glad I got to experience these cool machines, though. It was on my bucket list for a while!
After the tour you can relax in the natural ocean pool or lay under the palm trees in a hammock.
2. Swimming with Stingrays
Next, I went swimming with stingrays at Stingray Beach, $54/person (1 hour). It’s about a 10 minute walk back towards the ship. I recommend booking this at 1pm ship time and have lunch afterwards (eat a big breakfast!).
Stingrays are one of my favorite animals and after this adventure, they’ll probably become one of yours too. First, you get to feed and pet the stingrays. Then they’ll take you into slightly deeper water to handle one and learn more about this awesome creature.
Finally, you get to swim freely with the rays in deeper water. You’re able to dive down and pet them as much as you want.
After the stingrays, we took a taxi downtown for lunch. No matter where you go, get the tacos!
The rest of the day can be used for exploring the city and buying gifts.
*In summer months, swimming with whale sharks is available, that would have replaced one/both of these activities.
Day 2: Belize City, Belize
Belize is one of the most beautiful places you will ever visit in your life. I fell in love.
The ultimate trip package came from Butts-Up Cave Tubing, $100/person (all day). This tour includes zip lining, four-wheeling, and floating down a lazy river through a massive cave. Also, homemade Belize taquitos are included for lunch. This tour group will pick you up by bus, straight from the dock.
3. Four-wheeling in the Jungle
The four-wheeling was insane. The track goes through the stickiest mud and river-like trenches underneath a dense forest canopy. You’ll whip around the forest trying to keep up with the tour guide, but most likely you’ll get stuck in the process. Everyone learns to help each other out instead of waiting for the guide to return. It’s an adrenaline rush, for sure. No experience necessary.
4. Cave- Tubing
Next, we were taken to the caves. After gearing up we took a short stroll through the jungle. Along the way, our awesome tour guide, Jeff, pointed out medicinal plants that Belize people use everyday. He also shared some fun Mayan stories.
Your guide will carry a few of the tubes but some people may have to haul their own. I did, it’s not a big deal. Also, don’t forget your water shoes!
Inside the cave is a gorgeous cenote- or a sinkhole, where the ground caved in and vegetation grows under the earth.
5. Zip Lining
After the caves, we went zip lining over the river and forest canopy.
Don’t worry about the time, the guides know you came from the cruise ship and they will get you back to the port in a timely matter.
Day 3: Roatan, Honduras
Roatan is known for their amazing dive spots, but don’t worry if you aren’t certified, the snorkeling is just as great! The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest barrier reef system in the world. It runs along the coast of Mexico, Belize, and Honduras. It’s said that Roatan has the best reefs of them all, so this is the place you’ll want to snorkel/dive.
6. Snorkeling the 2nd Largest Barrier Reef
I booked a three reef snorkeling trip with Christopher Tours for $65/person. There are many places that will take you out on similar trips at the same price, but this tour also came with your own private tour guide and car for the entire day.
The particular reefs we visited were pretty shallow, you could stay at the surface to see everything. There were many fish, star fish, sea urchins, and lobsters.
7. Suspension Bridges in the Canopy
You can buy the canopy walking tour for a discounted rate here, or opt for the zip lining tour! The bridges were really neat to see. Here, you will also learn about more plants the Hondurans use for medicinal uses.
There were a ton of iguanas hiding in the trees, the tour guide was so good at finding them. They also have two pet capuchins you can play with for free.
After this, we asked our tour guide to bring us to a local restaurant for traditional Honduran food. He brought us to a small outdoor restaurant that a tourist would never find on their own. There were many locals on their lunch break eating along side of us- that’s how you know its good. They severed a few different plates, one including their traditional meal of iguana, if you’re feeling brave.
This place also had a personal exotic collection on the property. I try not support people like this, wild animals live in the wild. But, I checked it out to see the conditions. The animals were a healthy weight and seemed to be alright. A small monkey on a chain jumped on me and was then handed a bottle while passing through. What are you going to do though…
Back at the port, you’ll have plenty of time to cross everyone off your gift list in this open market. There are incredible Honduran made items for sale. Don’t forget to haggle! Before you get back on the boat, take the 5 minute nature trail located before the duty-free store.
Day 4: Majahual, Mexico
8. Ancient Mayan Ruins Tour
Majahual, Mexico is located on the mainland. This destination is known for their ancient Mayan ruins. There are a couple different ruins to choose from, but the best is the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins. I purchased my tour through thenativechoice.com for $80/person (all day). This package also included a trip to the Seven Colored Lagoon for lunch and kayaking.
Our guide LOVED his job. He knew everything there is to know about the Mayan people and their ancient ruins. He gives a small walking tour, but you can stray away if you want.
The Seven Colored Lagoon was a bumpy ride down a shared, one-lane gravel road in the forest/farmlands of Mexico. Talk about adventure. Just when you think you’ll never be seen again, you turn into a gorgeous 4-star bungalow retreat: picture perfect honeymoon location.
Here, they’ll serve you a homemade traditional Mexican lunch- margaritas included– and then you are free to use the property as you like.
9. Kayaking in the 7 Colors Lagoon
Don’t even think about skipping out on the kayaking! The still lagoon was perfect for beginners, yet large enough for the experienced to explore.
The last day is spent unwinding on the boat and perfecting that tan if you didn’t get around to it. You’ll need a little relaxation after the- kayaking, ruins climbing, jungle suspension bridge exploring, 3 reef exploration, monkey playing, cave-tubing, zip lining, four-wheeling, underwater scootin’, and stingray swimming week you’ve had! Stick to this game plan and you won’t be let down! *Remember when booking to confirm the time zone. The ship always runs on the same time zone that you set sail in, known as “ship time”. The excursion may be available on either island time or ship time. Feel free to contact me with any questions or updates on cheaper rates! I’d love to hear from you!
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