The Chacchoben Mayan Ruins excursion from Costa Maya was a great choice. In addition to seeing the amazing ancient ruins, we also were able to get a real perspective of a rural farm village on the Mexican Yucatan peninsula. Had we stayed in the resort coastal area, it would be hard to say that we truly experienced Mexico at all.
The bus ride from Costa Maya to Chacchoben was about an hour long. Our tour guide, Antonio from Belize, was very entertaining and told us stories along the ride. The bus was air-conditioned and comfortable and the added commentary along the way was really a nice added bonus.
The area surrounding Chacchoben is rural farm country with a population of less than 700, and the predominant occupation is farming. Up through the 1960s, the cash crop of the area had been Chicle – a tropical evergreen tree sugary sap used as the base for chewing gum. Most chewing gums today use a synthetic gum base, although Glee Gum was referenced as a chewing gum that stills uses Chicle from this region.
The property of Chacchoben Mayan Ruins was purchased for farming in the 1940s by the hard-working father of 8, Serviliano Cohou. His youngest son, Ivan, recalls finding many artifacts, as he and his siblings explored the property in their youth.
In 1972, American Archaeologist Dr. Peter Harrison started the official exploration and mapping of what we now know to be the ancient Mayan ruins. Uncovered were temples, roads, walls, and an elaborate pond network that captured and stored water during the rainy season for washing, cooking, and consumption. As an engineer, I was amazed at the complexity of the design and how their tiered pond system allowed the settling of sediments and separation of water use. The walkways and ponds were lined with a lightweight concrete to hold the water. Not bad for 200-600 AD technology!
The temples are pyramid in shape with steps leading up to the top altar, meant for worship. The temples also had interior spaces for more reserved religious ceremonies which were not open to the tourists. We were able to climb the temple stairs and get our picture taken. There were 3 temples at the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins that we saw on our tour.
The tour takes you through a rain forest jungle and the tour guides told everyone to glance up at the tree tops every so often to keep an eye out for spider monkeys. That’s all our boys needed to hear (including the biggest one – Dad). We looked and looked for monkeys, but, alas, saw nary a one. Our tour guide indicated that approximately 1 in 3 tours would see a money gliding through the tree tops.
Although a transition from the high-stimulus adventure of the Disney Fantasy, the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins tour was a great excursion and way to take advantage of the cultural treasures just an hour from the Costa Maya pier. If you go, pack a snack, comfortable walking shoes, and a bottle of water. The tour did include a bottle of soda or water for the bus ride back to the port, but after an hour of strolling through the tropics, you’ll appreciate the extra water!