Isla Mujeres Mystery ~ Lynda L. Lock

The Ups and Downs of Garrafon Natural Reef Park

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The distinctive sound of small metal wheels zinging on a thick metal wire, laughter, and whoops of joy; the sounds of riding the zip-line at Garrafon Natural Reef Park on the south end of Isla Mujeres.  We recently spent a day there with John and his two boys Ethan and Evan.  It’s a handy location, right here on Isla, to entertain a couple of energetic youngsters for a few hours with a choice of snorkeling, kayaking, swimming in the pool, or riding the zip-line.

The scenery couldn’t be better, sunshine sparkling on turquoise blue water, feathery green palms, and sugar white sand.  My version of heaven.  Being permanent residents, and in possession of Mexican seniors’ card (unfortunately, yes, we qualify as seniors) Lawrie and I were able to secure a 25% price reduction for our entry fee.  John and Ethan were the regular price, while Evan was considered to be in the 50% off age range. 

The snorkeling was interesting especially with the new Cannon underwater camera that John and the boys had with them.  I tried it out for a few photos and discovered that wearing a snorkeling mast made it almost impossible to compose a photo – you just have to point, shoot, and hope for the best.  

Predictably we had a number of photos that included the tail-end of a pretty fish, or a kid-sized arm, or a big pink finger stuck over the lens.  Still, it is something that is worth considering for future snorkeling adventures.  John wisely attached a floatation device to the camera for the times when it might slip out of small and busy hands. 
Even though Garrafon Natural Reef Park opens at nine in the morning, the zip-lines don’t start up until eleven so we spent the first hour snorkeling and fooling around in the two-person kayaks.  These two activities and equipment are included in the entry price, while the zip-lines are an additional $10.00 US per person.  The kayaks were fun for a few minutes, but the area they are confined in is quite small, allowing a couple of back and forth trips before it becomes repetitive.  I accidentally strayed too far out of bounds and was promptly whistled back inside boundary by the beach instructors.  “Don’t go there!”  Oops, sorry.
But as it turns out the big disappointment of the park was the zip-line rides; only one trip per person, and both boys had to be accompanied by one of the park instructors.  The age for riding alone is thirteen and older, as the braking system consists of applying pressure to the metal lines with a wooden block.  It is too primitive and difficult for younger hands.  Last year at X-Plor, south of Cancun near Playa del Carmen, the boys were able to do the zip-lines on their own as that park has a better braking system.   Evan was so keen to ride the zip-lines we convinced the instructors to use first John’s ticket, and then my ticket to give him two additional rides.  Luckily in Mexico there is usually a creative way to get around most rules.

The other thing that was a little bit annoying was the park had two different buffets set up – one for people who came in the main entrance, and a better one for the day-trippers from Cancun who arrived via the Garrafon company boats.  Either way the boys managed to find enough food to satisfy them after a morning of activities.

Well darn, this sounds like we didn’t enjoy ourselves at all. But we did; and I bought the complete photo package to remember the fun.  

It’s just that having been to X-Plor last year we are spoiled.  

The up side of Garrafon is the location, convenience for islanders, scenery and it is less expensive than X-Plor.  

The down side is we kept comparing the amenities to X-Plor, and Garrafon comes up a bit short. 


4 Replies to “The Ups and Downs of Garrafon Natural Reef Park”

  1. I'm almost ashamed to admit it, but we've never been there. I had a forced encounter (a business character building outing) with ATV/zipline 'fun' at Desertica north of Cabo San Lucas back in 2007. 16 ziplines, hiking in mountain terrain, very primitive equipment suspended 250 feet over mountain canyons, etc… It might be hard to get me on a zipline again. LOL Their braking mechanism was your leather glove on the metal cable. Kind of frightening at 60 mph. Craig would probably love to repeat it, but I'd rather do a hurricane. Despite that, I've always thought the zips at Garrafon looked like they'd be fun. Glad you're having fun with the grandkids!


  2. I stopped at the park a few days ago before they opened to see what the posted price was and of course there were no posted prices or info about prices. Do you mind sharing as the website only has expensive inclusive packages from Cancun. What is the adult walk in price if you are already on Isla? Thanks! Enjoy your blog. Helen


  3. Becky: Had a good giggle over your 'forced encounter' with a zip line!

    And anonymous: I can't exactly remember, but doing the math backwards from what we paid we think it is $79.00 for adults, and $59.00 for children under the age of ten. Sorry but I wasn't paying that much attention with the two grandsons buzzing around me.



  4. Just did some research and found out that it will cost us $89.00 US pp to go sit on the beach and do a little snorkeling with our own equipment, will take a pass on this one.


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