Beach Break at Cozumel’s Chankanaab National Park

Beach Break at Cozumel’s Chankanaab National Park

We were fortunate enough to have been able to stop in Cozumels, #Mexico, the famous Chanakanaab, National park. A brilliant way to discover the #natural reserves, spend a #family day in the lush green tropics and swimming in the crystal waters. Every aspect of #adventure or #relaxation is incorporated into this magnificent park.


One of the biggest appeals on a cruise for us is that it has something for everyone in the family. It is sometimes hard to replicate that during the shore trips. We visited the Caribbean island of Cozumel, in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, last January on a cruise stop. We were fortunate to have spent a day at one of our favorite excursions – Chankanaab National Marine Park.

One of the biggest appeals on a cruise for us is that it has something for everyone in the family.

Our happy kids
Our happy kids

Chankanaab was a conservation area and a natural reserve and was established as a national park in 1980. This wasn’t the same as the National Parks we were used to visiting here in the USA. This looked more like a beachfront resort.

The word Chankanaab means Chan (small) Kanaab (sea or ocean) in Mayan and was so named for the natural lagoon within the park. Now filled with numerous tropical fish, this was a remnant of an old Mayan settlement. It was also used, at one time, by pirates as a refuge since the lagoon was fed by underwater caves. Swimming is not allowed in the lagoon to protect its fragile ecosystem. No matter its past uses, it was undeniably stunning.

filled with numerous tropical fish, this was a remnant of an old Mayan settlement

Beautiful view
Beautiful view

A botanical garden with over 350 species of tropical plants was a wonderful place to walk through. The fauna and flora here was one of the reasons this became a national park and an environmental conservation zone.

Relaxing walk
Relaxing walk
Great moments spend in nature
Great moments spend in nature
Ancient monuments
Ancient monuments

The small Mayan village was a replica of a traditional one from 2,000 years ago within the archaelogial park area. There were multiple huts and even gardens behind a couple of them to show how some of the Mayans lived and their farming practices.

The archaelogial park area
The archaelogial park area

Though the highlight of Chankanaab for us was its stretch of a clean and very well maintained beach. Once we caught sight of the beach, we felt like we stepped into paradise. White, powdery sand, palm trees for shades and straw hut umbrellas or palapas for the extra comfort were everywhere.

Once we caught sight of the beach, we felt like we stepped into paradise.

Amazing beach
Amazing beach

Chairs and palapas were on a first come, first serve basis. Three cruise ships were in port that day which made for a crowded park. There were already plenty of visitors and cruise passengers so we walked further along the beach.

Cruise ships
Cruise ships

It turned out to be our best decision of the day. We came upon rows and rows of hammocks tied to palm trees. The area looked like a postcard setting for some sort of beach retreat. They may not look the part but those hammocks were comfortable and with an ocean breeze, was the perfect place for a nap or to read a book.

We came upon rows and rows of hammocks tied to palm trees. The area looked like a postcard setting for some sort of beach retreat. 

Many hammocks on the beach
Many hammocks on the beach

There were plenty of palapas and chairs too with hardly anyone around. Sure, we had to walk further to the restrooms and restaurants but it was well worth it. We needed to walk off all the food we had eaten on the cruise anyway.

Though, some restaurant staff made their rounds to take food and drink orders too. I think the only thing missing from these tropical pictures were some beds for a beachside massage.

Relaxing place to be
Relaxing place to be

Cozumel is known for its clear waters and is popular with snorkelers and divers. It is considered one of the top five diving destinations in the world. My husband and kids snorkeled in a designated and easily accessible area. I was too content in my hammock to go with them. My husband was also too paranoid with leaving valuables in public tourist lockers so I became the watchman.

Cozumel is known for its clear waters and is popular with snorkelers and divers. It is considered one of the top five diving destinations in the world.

Swim time!
Swim time!

My kids loved their first try with snorkeling. The waters were warm, calm and close enough to the shore which made them more comfortable. You don’t have to worry about bringing your own gear since there were many shops renting out snorkeling and diving equipment.

Going to snorkelling
Going to snorkelling
Great sealife
Great sealife

Sea lion shows were available for the visitors at designated times throughout the day in a special outdoor theater. This was included with the admission price. For anyone who has been to Sea World, this was very similar to their shows. It was in English for the tourists. We found it entertaining enough and the animals were adorable.

Nice show
Nice show

After the show, guests were invited to go up on stage to meet the stars of the shows. Of course, my kids were so up for it. Visitors sat on a stage bench and the sea lion came up to kiss the guests. My daughter volunteered to be the recipient so she got the wet kiss from the cute sea lion.

She was initially worried that the sea lion would slobber all over her but it just gave her a peck on the cheek while we all amusingly watched. To no surprise, it all smelled very fishy on stage. Photographers were on hand to take that memorable photo and sell with a huge mark-up. Or dad can stay on the stands and use his zoom lens to take the below photo too to avoid the tourist trap.

Pictures with the sea lion
Pictures with the sea lion

Chankanaab is also known for its Dolphin Discovery Program. We saw some dolphins jumping high and visitors interacting and swimming with them. We didn’t even look into doing this, only because we live near Sea World and it was a bit pricey. But, it seemed like a fun excursion.

from  $89

Dolphin Encounter in Cozumel

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 Cozumel, Mexico
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There was also interaction with manatees and sea lions. Unfortunately, the manatee wasn’t around. From what we’ve read, cameras were not allowed during the dolphin swim and photos are $30 each. Yikes!

Beautiful experience
Beautiful experience

We stayed most of the day here and will gladly return. Although, there were some parts that felt like a tourist trap, the overall admission was well worth the price. It offered plenty of amenities and activities for everyone in the family. So, if you find yourself in Cozumel during a cruise stop, this is a wonderful place to go for a day of family fun.

Relaxing place
Relaxing place

Visiting Chankanaab National Park Tips and Basics

Print out the $2 off Discount Coupon for further savings.

Ask your Taxi driver for special promos. We got a $64 package special for the four of us which included a T-shirt and a drink for each of us.

Do not book this excursion through the cruise ship since it will likely be more expensive.

Taxi ride from the ports and downtown was $10 (up to 4 people) which took 10-15 minutes.

There is a Family area and Children’s Beach with calm, shallow waters sheltered from the ocean.

Two restaurants, a snack bar and gift shop were located inside the park. Their food items were reasonably priced and could be ordered for takeout to eat by your palapa.

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