I had booked this tour through the same site as the Roatan tour and after that experience had a bit of misgivings about this tour. Bt the end of the excursion any misgivings had been banished.
Here are the brochure details:
[“Experience the Mayan culture's past and present on this fascinating excursion. See the past during a tour at the famous Chacchoben ruins, and then experience the present during a visit and meal with locals in a Mayan house.
Departing the pier, you will drive approximately 50 minutes to the site of Chacchoben, where the first human settlements have been dated as early as 1000 B.C. Evidence collected during the excavations shows that most of the structures restored were built around the years 300-360 A.D. and were modified up to five times over their history.
Today, Chacchoben still keeps most of its secrets covered with vegetation, offering visitors a unique opportunity to experience its magic and feel the energy of an ancient city in ruins. The ceremonial center of the site covers an area of nearly six square kilometers and is located in an area known as the "Region of the Lakes," due to the number of lagoons.
Your expert guide will bring Chacchoben to life as he recants the history of the city and shares insights on its past and present during the approximately 90-minute walking tour of the site.
Your next stop will be Chacchoben Village, where you will meet a Mayan family in their home. Witness Mayan life and traditions as they unfold right before your eyes. Learn about traditional home remedies, savor a traditional Mayan meal, make new friends and experience their colorful cultural expressions. Lunch will consist of traditional Mayan dishes, most of them from pre-Hispanic times. The recipes will be explained widely during your visit, and you will also have the opportunity to see the ingredients and spices added to your meal and learn how they were used. The Mayan diet is mainly vegetarian, and by tradition meat is not frequently included. However, during this special occasion, you may find chicken or turkey has been added in your honor. You will not soon forget this memorable experience!”]
Along with the electronic excursion ticket were a map and specific instructions to make our way to the Native Choice Office. Because only tours booked through the ship are allowed in the dock area all others have to be met outside of the designated area. The map and directions were very easy to follow and we reached our destination, along with another couple, in very short order. We thought that the four of us would be on the same tour but the other couple, while going to Chacchoben were on a tour that did not include the Mayan lunch.
The organization at the Native Choice Office was superb! There were several different tours and as the participants were checked in they were given a coloured wrist band which designated which tour they would be on. Once everyone for a specific tour had arrived the office staff simple said “Orange on the bus” and off they/we went.
We had a small group of 14 in one van and it was off with our guide, Kasi, to the Mayan ruins’ site of Chacchoben. Along the way we were informed not only of where we were and the surrounding area but also some of the local history. Sadly, while offered the chance to try some fresh local pineapple from a roadside stand no one spoke up quickly enough and we missed the chance. Like Belize this area of Mexico is very flat and our guide informed us that any hillocks were more than likely over-grown Mayan ruins.
Unlike Lamanai, Chacchoben was very crowed with tourists and at one time I counted seven, of the 52 passenger buses, six vans and an untold number of taxis. This made for a very congested time at some of the temples and difficult to take photos with only a few people in them.
From various net sources:
[“Chacchoben, Place of Red Maize
The ruins site of Chacchoben takes its name from the village located a few miles away that has the same name. The most accepted translation of the name Chacchoben is "Place of Red Maize". To this day no inscriptions referring to the original name of the site have been found, therefore it is officially called Chacchoben, the place of the red corn.
First human settlements in the area of Chacchoben have been dated at around 1000BC. By 360AD Chacchoben had become the largest comunity in the region of the lakes and consolidated as the most prestigious ceremonial center boasting Gran Basamento as its most important ritual plaza.
Today, Temple One, soaring above the canopy of the tropical forest, still expresses the glory of Chacchoben's ancient sophistication.
Upon entrance, the first structure, Edifice twenty-four in Plaza B, is an impressive structure, but the most striking temples are located in the Gran Basamento to the west. The tallest structure on the site is labeled Temple I”]
I found that Chacchoben was less impressive than Lamanai, part of this may have been; of the number of people and because several years ago someone fell while climbing a temple, you are no longer allowed to climb to the top of the temples. Even with that said it was an interesting tour and Kasai was very knowledgeable about the site.
Leaving the site we made our way to the town of Chacchoben where we were, at 1pm, welcomed into a Mayan home for lunch. Kasai introduced us to the ‘lady of the house’ and showed us around the premises. The main house consisted of one room with a curtain that separated the main living area from the sleeping area.
The main cooking area consisting of an open fireplace was located outside under a banana thatch room. It was here that we were informed that before lunch we had to make our own tortillas. Our elderly hostess was instructing us on how to make them she informed us that the girls start making tortillas at the age of six and by the time they are eight they should be experts and that would be one of their daily tasks. It is much harder than it looks. Not one person made a one that met with her critical eye but luckily she repaired them and placed them on a lime stone plate to be cooked. They use a thin sheet of lime stone as a frying pan because nothing sticks to it - an age old form of teflon! After our tortillas were cooked there was a home made tomato sauce to spread on them - hot and delicious.
The food began to come out onto the buffet table and as each dish was placed the ingredients were explained which gave a bit more insight into what we were actually about to eat. There was a bounty off home cooked quality food: burritos, empanadas, chicken, an assortment of steamed vegetables and of course rice and black beans. For the brave of heart there was also a home made habanero hot sauce that you could add. Yes I tried a little bit of this! A refreshing hibiscus tea quenched our thirst. For dessert there was a kabob of fresh fruit. A most enjoyable meal. Sadly, after this delicious meal, it was time to depart and head back to be dropped off at the pier.
We arrived back on board at 3:20pm after a very enjoyable day. While the Chacchoben site may have been less dramatic than the Lamanai site the home cook meal and knowledgable guide made up for any disappointment. I suspect my reasoning that the site is less dramatic because it was more over-grown than Lamanai and the number of tourists.
Time: 6 hours 12 minutes
Distance: 160.5 Kms
Back on board we once again made it to the Masquerade Theatre to watch the show before supper.
Bill: Japanese Shrimp Dumplings (because of the small portion the waiter brought me two complete entrees!)
Wendy: Rack of Lamb
Arrive: Costa Maya 8am
Distance: 1927 Nautical miles
Depart: Costa Maya 5pm