Our first stop in Mexico is only a few miles north of the Guatemalan border. Puerto Chiapas opened in 1975 and in 2006 was upgraded to support larger cargo and cruise ships. Indeed, with the NCL Pearl, NCL Sun and the cargo ship Carleone docked at the pier, the port looked to be at capacity for large vessels.
The nearest town, Tapachula, is a half-hour drive, and the nearest NCL-offered shore excursions meant a 90-minute bus ride to the site, give or take. We decided we would stay close to the ship at this port as we really weren’t attracted to any specific excursion. I’m sure someone will let us know that we missed a fabulous opportunity for photographs, culture, history or whatever. One stop of note for those interested in ancient Native American history, the pre-Colombian ruins at Izapa should be on your list. Don’t confuse Izapa with Ixtapa, a resort area near Zihuatanejo; which is further north along the western seaboard of Mexico. In any case, we opted to do some shopping at the large palapa. We would also find an inexpensive Internet “café” charging only $1 US for a 30-minute connection. After getting our Internet “fix”, we walked the short distance back to the ship where we had lunch and relaxed until our departure time of 4 PM.
Inside the palapa, a large rectangular “pit” became center stage for musicians and dancers in colorful costumes. About twenty dancers of all ages performed a wide variety of dance routines. Around the perimeter of the pit were a couple dozen vendor spaces selling everything from the typical tee-shirts and sombreros to artists who exhibited some very high quality art works for sale.
We weren’t the only passengers who opted to stay near the ship and the shops were all crowded. A couple of food and beverage vendors provided some refreshment. No mixed drinks, but water, soda pop and cerveza were available. We picked up a nice beach basket we would use to carry our swimming gear and towels on our snorkeling excursion in a couple of days.
In my opinion, Puerto Chiapas is clearly a working port with few attractions to interest tourists. For a time we entertained ourselves by watching the activity near and on the cargo ship Carleone, docked directly behind the Pearl. That didn’t last long as their work activities concluded shortly after we started watching.
I am constantly amazed at the wealth of information available via the Internet. While researching background for this post, simply typing “Carleone ship” into Google gave me a full page reference about the ship, its capacity, registry and naming history.
Across the bay from the commercial dock there appeared to be private docks. There was no signage and no indication that any of them were commercial or public launch facilities.
At the entrance to the harbor, there appeared to be a resort beach with several large palapas. As it was cool and a bit windy, there didn’t appear to be much beach activity from what I could discern with my limited telephoto lens. In searching the Internet while preparing this post, I didn’t bring up any information about recreational facilities in Puerto Chiapas, so I cannot report on what might have been available.
Visiting with other cruisers on our ship who purchased a $10 US bus ride to Tapachula and back, no one we talked with were impressed. One said it best, “We were dropped off in the middle of a city where we don’t speak the language, knowing only where to get back on the bus when it became time to go.” All in all, Puerto Chiapas might have been an interesting start point for an excursion to the ruins, but we opted to take a siesta instead.