We decided to do the Dolphin Encounter at Chankanaab (because of our little one) but also knew that we wanted to do some snorkeling and had heard that the snorkeling here was AWESOME.
This review is the Chankanaab portion, because that is what we did first. If you want to read the dolphin swim (and manatee swim) at Dolphin Discovery (located here at Chankanaab Park), you can go here ----> (click the dolphin)
The Dolphin Encounter price included admission to Chankanaab, so we didn’t have to pay the $21.00 admission price (which after going there, I would more than be willing to pay the admission price). There is a discount coupon online for $2.00 off admission if you are going there and not doing a dolphin, manatee or sea lion swim.
You can find the $2.00 off coupon here:
There's plenty of information about everything this place offers, located on their site:
We caught a cab right outside the port and the driver told us it would be $12 to Chankanaab. Now I know, because I do extensive research prior to going anywhere, that it was supposed to be a $10 ride. (Please note, prices change and have changed since this review). However, I did know that RC Allure and a Carnival ship was docked on down (toward the way we would be traveling, and I knew exactly where we would be going because I “walked the streets” in that entire area on google earth to familiarize myself with it before hand LOL) and thought, well maybe it’s because they are docked closer and the $10 taxi fee was cheaper there. WRONG, on the way home, we found out it was a $10 ride back. So, yea, I was scammed $2. No big deal I guess.
We arrived and immediately knew this was going to be good. The entrance and huge “hut” you walk under was beautiful. Waterfalls, beautifully decorated and several shops. We immediately went to the left (after passing the falls on the left that say Chankanaab) Also, if you need to use the restrooms when you enter, they are located UNDER the falls in the “cave”. ;o)
To the left was a really neat path that takes you to different sculptures and replicas of Mayan Ruins. It was in a rain forest type setting and absolutely stunning IMO. We ran across several lizards/salamanders along the way and a big Iguana sunbathing on the roof of the “sacrifice hut”.
At the exit of the walk, we came out and found the small beach area, that people have mentioned over on cc before, that has nice calm waters with a gentle slope walking in. It’s the “kiddie” area people say. We decided not to stay there and walk over to the bigger beach area to look around first.
The beach was GORGEOUS! Of course it’s not a beach that you walk right into the water. There is a wall all the way around it and you must walk down steps OR rocks, depending where you enter at, to get into the water. But the sand is powdery soft and so beautiful.
We headed to the big snorkeling shack to see about renting equipment. It was $10pp for the mask, snorkel tube and fins. They did have snorkel vest, however, you had to pay $5 to rent them and they flat out told us that you could get them for free and the small shack right before them. So, we walked over to the small shack (which only had life vest, the kind you blow up=real snorkeling vest) and they just required your picture ID. Only 1 ID needed for everyone in your group. People have mentioned that they run out of these quickly, however, they seem to have plenty that day and as I mentioned, there were 3 ships there…including ALLURE!
We were ready for some snorkeling and put our things at one of the MANY shade hut/papaya’s they had along the beach and would get ready to head for the water.
One of the locals told us that the water is calmer more to the right (while facing the beach) than to the left. So, we headed down that way. There were a lot of places along there to enter (maybe 7 or 8???). Immediately there were fish EVERYWHERE….WOW. What a beautiful site! Some places had metal steps to walk into the water (then dropped off at the last step) and others just had huge rocks placed as steps. They are slippery, so be careful. I would walk down far enough to get my fins on then pretty much dive in to keep from walking on the steps. We start toward the right and worked our way toward the left. I could not believe how clear the water was and just how many different types of fish we seen all by the areas along the shore line entrances. You could just swim up and down there and see tons without even going out.
Sakari was having a blast and just squeeled with excitement at all the fish. They were just surrounding her and brushing up against her feet and legs. She still talks about this moment to this day. At one point (I got VERY LUCKY) and a fish jumped up out of the water and stared at her while she was staring back at it. At that split second, I managed to snap the picture and catch them eye to eye. It's one of my favorite pictures to date (and hers).
There are several statues that are placed deeper out in the water. My husband swam out there later in the day to take pictures. I stayed back with our little one because at that point, she had snorkeled herself out and just wanted to play in the sand. We started to head out that way at one point, then I saw how deep it was getting and the water was getting colder and turned back because of her. Facing the beach, to the left far out is a person statue standing real tall. To the far right and far out were several other small statues. There were a lot of scuba divers out there, which made my husband very jealous and he wanted to scuba after that. Now, I don’t know how things work in Mexico, but we were told that we could scuba right then and there and the person at the rental hut can “certify us on the spot”. Hmmm, anyone know anything about this? Doesn’t sound too safe to me.
We did run a tab with one of the waiters going up and down the beach taking orders. I thought that was nice that they allowed you to do that. The banana daiquiris were AMAZING! Alcoholic drinks (mixed) were $6.00 and soda was $2.00. We didn't eat any food since we ate a big breakfast prior to getting off the ship and we would eat after we returned to the ship.
After hanging out at the palapa's and enjoying our drinks for awhile, we decided to check out the lagoon area and get some pictures. Truth be known, I also wanted to spot some of these huge iguanas in the area that I had heard about. So off we went.
The lagoon was amazingly beautiful! We walked all the way around it taking pictures. I did manage to find several iguanas (black in color) laying around here and there. I had seen pictures of some orange iguanas and had hoped to find one….no luck. We did notice someone along the side with a pool like skimmer taking the leaves and such off the top of the water around the edges. They must hire someone to care for the lagoon to keep it so beautiful.
Then back to the snorkeling we went for a little longer.
I did manage to see different types of fish this time around and was super excited to find some flamingo tongue snails on a purple sea fan close to the entrance. This was the first time I had ever seen one of these. The markings on them were really unique and pretty. But if you get too close, they pull back and the markings go away and turn white.
I was also able to find a huge French Angelfish as well as some parrot fishes and a black spotted trunkfish. I would say my day was complete and I had the best time.
We had scheduled our dolphin swim for 1pm (but there was a mix up, which I’ll go into in my Dolphin review) so we decided to turn in our equipment and start walking toward the dolphin area. On the way back, I finally ran into several green iguanas (had a little bit of orange on them). I don’t know a lot about iguanas, so maybe they start black, turn green, then orange as they mature and get older??? Or maybe they are just a different species all together?
Whenever we decide to revisit Cozumel…this place will be a priority on our list. We loved it that much! Last year we loved Sapphire Beach at St Thomas on the east Caribbean, now we’ve found our little slice of heaven for the western Caribbean as well. We did not want to ever leave!!!!
Even though people complain about the admission price (which I completely understand, especially if you are a large family), I personally would splurge and pay it myself. You have to remember, it's not just a beach or snorkeling place, it is a National Park. It's a huge place and there's so much to do there that we couldn't fit everything in.
The reef was amazing and the lagoon is beautiful. For those with younger children, you also have the small inlet swimming area that is shallow and easy entry. They have a botanical garden and eco-arquelogical self-guided tour with a mayan house.
They also have a sea lion show which is FREE!!
You can rent your snorkle equipment and also do the scuba dives. I believe I have read they also have clear bottom kayaks and snuba as well.
They do have lockers in several locations, showers, the palapas/chairs are free to use, snack bars and souvenir shops. You can also get your hair braided there too. There's plenty of places to eat in the various area's or you can just sit at the palapa and have the waiter serve you.
Since we were there, they have also added a crocodile exhibit and a zip line as well.