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Puerto Chiapas On Your Own


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The 5 Top Things to do in Puerto Chiapas


Most of the activities in Puerto Chiapas take place far from the Cruise Terminal. The city of Tapachula is where you'll find the concentration of activities in the area.

  1. Explore the Izapa Mayan ruins. While not as grand as some of the other Mayan ruins in Chiapas, the Izapa ruins make for an interesting visit.

  2. Visit a coffee-growing finca. You'll get a new perspective on your favorite hot beverage.

  3. Explore the city of Tapachula. Here you can visit the museums, downtown square and see the cemetery.

  4. Enjoy a Chiapas meal. The restaurants that can be found in Tapachula and the Puerto Chiapas area are very good.

  5. Hire a taxi for a day's eco-tour. Taxis with English-speaking drivers can be found at the Cruise Terminal; just negotiate a rate for the entire day, tell him where you're going, and you're off.
Coffee Drinker

What You Need to Bring Ashore


Essentials

Even though your ship will be moored at the Puerto Chiapas Cruise Terminal, more than likely you'll be taking a trip inland to see the sights. Therefore, it's not so easy to return to the ship if you've forgotten something. Here's a list of the essential items you'll want to bring ashore:

  • Room Key Card. You'll need it to re-board your ship.

  • Sunscreen. The sun is very powerful in Chiapas.

  • Bug repellent. If you plan on visiting the Izapa ruins or your tour is taking you to the countryside, you'll need to apply bug repellent.

  • Hat. It helps you avoid getting your head fried in the sun.

  • Money. Pesos, or credit cards for that matter, would probably be the best way to pay for the things you're going to buy in Puerto Chiapas or Tapachula. Some shops and restaurants will accept US dollars, but your exchange rate will be less than the market rate. And if you do use dollars in a smaller shop, they more than likely won't have change for anything larger than a $20 bill, unless the change is in pesos. If you plan on getting cash on the go, bring your ATM card; you'll be withdrawing pesos from your account.

  • Tablet or Smartphone. There are a few places in Tapachula where the Wi-Fi is free, so you can spend a little time re-connecting with the real world that will cost you a lot less than the internet on board your ship.

  • Camera. Memorialize your time in Chiapas.

What to Wear

It's hot and humid in Chiapas, so dress accordingly. Make sure to dress light. Cool, casual, comfortable resort and leisure wear is acceptable everywhere.


Getting Around


Orientation

Your ship will dock at the Puerto Chiapas Cruise Terminal. On arrival, don't be surprised to see musicians and dancers in colorful costumes performing on the pier as you disembark. The park-like terminal consists of two buildings: one is home to the pier market, with several vendors selling their wares, as well as a performance space. The other building features a bar and restaurant, along with internet access.

All of the tours offered by the cruise lines will begin ship side in the terminal. Here you'll also find the desks of several tour agencies that offer guided excursions (with English-speaking guides) to the area's sights, as well as taxi drivers who also offer day tours of Tapachula, the Izapa ruins and the area's beaches.

A taxi will cost around $20 to $25 to take you on the 30 minute trip to Tapachula. You can also arrange with the driver for a day-long trip; the cost would be around $100 to $150/day. Suggested itineraries would include the museums, shops and restaurants around Parque Hidalgo in Tapachula, the Izapa archeological site and the beaches of the area.

Videos of the Chiapas Countryside:

Driving from the Airport to Tapachula (9:02) This interesting video shows you what you can expect on the drive from the Cruise Terminal to Tapachula.
Walking through the Jungle in Chiapas (7:27) This video shows you what it's like in the Chiapas jungles--not that this is anything that you're going to do!


Tipping in Puerto Chiapas


Tipping in General

Tipping

There are few hard and fast rules about tipping in Mexico. Tipping is customary, but in most situations, not required. Tips can be paid in either dollars (bills, no US coins) or in pesos, but tipping in pesos saves the recipient a trip to the Casa de Cambio (foreign exchange shop).

Restaurants

It is customary to offer your waiter or waitress a tip of 10% to 20% of the bill (la cuenta) if you feel that you have received good service. Some restaurants will add a 10% service charge to your bill, so check before automatically adding your tip.

Bars

An appropriate tip in a bar is one dollar per drink, or 10% to 15% of the total bar tab.

Taxi Cabs

It isn't customary to provide a tip to taxi drivers, unless they assist with your luggage; if so, plan on tipping 10 pesos per bag.

Tour Guides

If you are happy with your tour guide, a tip of 10% to 20% of the total cost of the tour is appropriate.


Shopping


What's Special in Tapachula

In Tapachula, there are a handful of items that are grown or made in the area. These include:

  • Coffee: Hey, you're in the middle of coffee growing country, and you can find some really delicious coffee here in Tapachula. A half-kilo bag of coffee grown and processed in the state of Chiapas will cost from $3 and up.

  • Morraletas de pita: Rope tote bags.

  • Hammocks: Unique hand-woven yarn hammocks can be found from any number of stores in the city.

  • Petates and hats: Hand-woven rugs and hats made out of dry palm fronds are popular souvenirs. They can be found in any number of stores.

Recommended Shops in Tapachula

See our Recommended Tapachula/Puerto Chiapas Shops Map for the locations of the retailers listed below.

Instituto Marca Chiapas. If you're looking for true Chiapas handicrafts, this shop fills the bill. It's a branch of the Chiapas state artesanias outlet, selling weavings, toys and locally-produced foodstuffs. Open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm.
28 Central Oriente, Tapachula
Phone: +052 (962) 118-3190

Gallerias Tapachula. This modern air conditioned shopping center features a Walmart as an anchor store, and hosts a large collection of other shops. It's a good place to stock up on supplies. If you're taking a taxi into Tapachula, it's conveniently located on the road from Puerto Chiapas. Open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm.
Carretera a Puerto Madero S/N, Centro, Tapachula
Phone: +052 (962) 628-4052

Chedraui. This hypermarket is a Mexican version of Walmart. If you're taking a taxi into Tapachula, it's conveniently located on the road from Puerto Chiapas, in the Plaza Cristal Shopping Centre. Open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.
4a Av. Sur, C Las Palomas No. 221, Centro, Tapachula
Phone: +052 (962) 625-5535

Recommended Pharmacies in Tapachula

Farmacia

Pharmacies (or "Farmacias") can be found throughout the city of Tapachula. If you're thinking about buying your prescription drugs in Mexico (where they can be up to 50% cheaper than in the United States), this helpful article is a good primer on what to look for and what to expect.

Esquivar Super Farmacia. This Chiapas farmacia chain has 8 branches in Tapachula. Open 24 hours.
Central Oriente at 9a Norte 58, Centro, Tapachula
Phone: +052 (962) 625-7750

Farmacias Del Ahorro. This Chiapas farmacia chain has several dozen branches in Tapachula. Open 24 hours.
Central Oriente 68, Centro, Tapachula
Phone: +01 (800) 711-2222


Chiapas Cuisine


Chiapas offers a great variety of native dishes for the adventurous. But the availability of these dishes will vary, depending on geographic location. The following are specialties one would typically find in a regional Mexican restaurant in Chiapas:

  • Escumite beans with chilpiin

  • Black beans with salted beef

  • Tanate and chumul (fish)

  • Shuti broth (snail broth)

  • Soconusco-style chanfaina (a meat and vegetable stew)

  • Iguana tamales

  • Armadillo stew

  • Jacuane tamales

Tapachula Specialties

Think seafood: stew (with shrimp, fish, crab and mollusk), fried fish with red or green sauce, crawfish, lobster, Lisa fish (a mullet) wrapped in paper, Lisa fish stuffed with vegetables and shrimp, and fish roe.

Unique beverages are available in Tapachula, including

  • Chicha water, a fermented corn beverage.

  • Pozol, a corn and cacao fermented drink.

Restaurants


Recommended Restaurants in Tapachula

Tortilla Soup

See our Recommended Tapachula/Puerto Chiapas Restaurants Map for the locations of the restaurants listed below.

Restaurante El Cafetal
Offers good International, Mexican national and regional cuisines. Located at the Hotel Loma Real, in Tapachula. This restaurant offers a nice panoramic view of the area.
Carretera Costera 200 Km. 244
Open from 7:00 am to 11:00 pm
Phone: +52 (962) 626-1143

Restaurante Quinta Carmelita
International Cuisine
Central Oriente # 76
Phone: +52 (962) 625-4007

Restaurante La Parrilla
International Cuisine
Located on the east side of Parque Hidalgo, Tapachula's central square, La Parrilla serves delicious sandwiches that are unique to the area, as well as a wide variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner items.
8a. Norte #20
Phone: +52 (962) 118-1428

Ostioneria El Rinconcito
Seafood
Located near the city cemetery (Pantheon Municipal), this popular restaurant offers 20 shrimp dishes, excellent robalo (snook) and langosta (lobster) in season. Open daily from 9:00 am to 8:30 pm.
Hormiguillo 4
Phone: +52 (962) 626-4913

Crystal
International cuisine
2nd Avenida Norte 17 Col. Centro
Phone: +52 (962) 626-6606

La Pena
International cuisine in one of the city's best restaurants.
21 Avenida Norte Col. Lomas de Sayula
Phone: +52 (962) 118-0894

Restaurante Los Comales
Excellent Mexican grill.
8 Avenida Norte and Portal Col. Centro
Phone: +52 (962) 626-2405

Restaurante El Ganadero
Regional Mexican cuisine specialties
Carretera Costera Km. #244

Los Jarrones
Regional Mexican cuisine specialties. Located inside the Don Miguel hotel.
1st Calle Poniente norte Col. Centro
Phone: +52 (962) 626-5053

Hacienda Los Morales
Traditional Mexican cuisine.
Calle Oaxaca Col. Fraccionamiento de Guadalajara.
Phone: +52 (962) 625-4621

El Siete Mares
Seafood specialties
Blvd. Diaz Ordaz #11 Coapantes
Phone: +52 (962) 625-9479

El Navegante
Seafood
This restaurant isn't far from Puerto Chiapas, and comes highly recommended.
Carretera a Puerto Chiapas
Phone: +52 (962) 120-3199

 

Activities


Archaeological Site

Mask

Izapa Ruins. The Izapa Ruins are 12 km (7 miles) from Tapachula; the drive to the site takes about 15 minutes from Tapachula.

Izapa is a very large pre-Columbian archaeological site located in the Mexican state of Chiapas; it was occupied during the Late Formative period. The site is situated on the Izapa River near the base of the Tacana volcano, the fourth largest mountain in Mexico.

The settlement at Izapa extended over 1.4 miles, making it the largest site in Chiapas. The site reached its apogee between 600 BCE and 100 AD. Izapa is located on wet and hilly land made of volcanic soil, though it is still fertile for agriculture. The weather is very hot and very wet. The area around Izapa was a major cacao producing area known as the Soconusco region, which was used by the Aztecs.

The site had eight groups of mounds with between 80 and 130 total mounds, of which roughly only half have been restored. The site included pyramids, sculptured plazas and squares, and possibly two ball courts.

Izapa gains its fame through its art style. The art found at the site includes sculptures of stelae and also altars that look like frogs. The stelae and frog altars generally went together; the toads symbolized rain. Much of the art of Izapa that features people includes large groups of people, not individuals. There are common characteristics of Izapan art, such as winged objects, long-lipped gods, Olmec-like swirling sky and clouds, feline mouth used as frame and representations of animals, including crocodile, jaguar, frog, fish and birds.

Like many Mesoamerican sites, Izapa is laid out just east of true north, it is aligned with the volcano Tacana and also seems to be situated to the December solstice horizon. Izapa is also included in the debate of the origin of the 260-day calendar.

The calendar was originally thought to be a Maya invention, but recently it has been hypothesized that calendar originated in Izapa. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that Izapa fits the geological and historical conditions better than the previous place thought to be the origin.

Hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily. Cost: approximately $15.00

For photographs of the site and a more detailed description of the relics to be found in Izapa, check out George DeLange's Izapa Olmec & Mayan Archaeological Ruins pages.

Videos of the Izapa Ruins:

Explorando el Enigmatico Izapa (6:38) (in Spanish)
The Lehi Stone: Tree of Life - Izapa Stela 5 (3:12)
Izapa Temple Restoration (7:35)
Walking Tour of the Izapa Ballcourt (2:46)

Beaches near Puerto Chiapas

La Escollera. This is a quiet place to take a seashore walk, ride on a inflated raft and enjoy the local seafood offered by the informal seaside restaurants.

Barra Cahoacan. Located at the end of the Playa Linda residential area is a group of palapas (thatched roof huts) and restaurants offering their wares. It's about a 10 minute drive from Puerto Chiapas to Barra Cahoacan.

Tapachula City Landmarks

Church

Parque Hidalgo (Hidalgo Park). This is the central square of Tapachula, and it is where the Tapachultecos hang out. The park offers entertainment and relaxation under shade trees, and is a good place to get a pulse of this hot and humid border city. Surrounding the park you'll find the House of Culture, the Portal Perez and the outdoor theater, where daily marimba concerts are performed, and shops and restaurants.

Casa de Cultura (House of Culture). Tapachula's erstwhile Municipal Palace (City Hall), this museum features displays of antiques and artifacts relating to the area. The two-story building is as enigmatic as its contents, as it is one of Chiapas' most notable examples of 20th century architecture. It was built in 1929 in the Art Deco style that was in vogue in Mexico City during the 1920s and 30s. Tapachulteco nationalism is reflected in the figures that flank the main facade of the building, including the Oaxaquena borders, the Aztec warriors, the stylized serpents and the coats of arms of both Mexico and Chiapas. Located at the central town square.

Museo Arqueologico del Soconusco (Soconusco Archaeological Museum). This small two story museum features a collection of pieces from different archaeological sites along the Soconusco coast of Chiapas, with an emphasis on pieces from the neighboring Izapa ruin. The collection includes pottery, ceramics, musical instruments and an ornate Mixtec skull that has been laminated with gold and encrusted with turquoise. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. Located next to the House of Culture.

Parroquia de San Agustin (The Parish Church of San Augustine). This modest church was built in the late eighteenth century. The church was built in a classical style with Ionian columns, and has a wooden roof covered with adobe tiles. Hours: 8:00 am to 1:00 pm, and 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm daily. Located at the central town square.

Pantheon Municipal (Municipal cemetery). Tapachula's municipal cemetery provides good examples of funeral art; look for graves with German or Chinese names. The most interesting examples date from the turn of the 20th century. Located about 6 blocks southwest of Parque Hidalgo, at the corner of 8a Avenida Sur and 8a Calle Oriente.

Videos of Tapachula:

Mi Tapachula (4:17) (in Spanish)
Driving in Tapachula (2:31)
Downtown Tapachula (3:04)
Marimba Orchestra from Tapachula (4:26)
Old Tapachula (4:41) This charming video is one of our favorites.

Coffee and Flower Growing Fincas

Coffee Beans

Finca Argovia is a coffee and flower-growing finca (hacienda) located in the foothills only 90 minutes away from Tapachula. The Finca Argovia has a long history, and they offer tours of their facility. The road to the finca, once you're off the main road, can be quite bumpy. Contact the finca before you head off into the foothills.

Finca Hamburgo is a coffee-growing finca (hacienda) located in the foothills just 2½ hours away from Tapachula. Like the Finca Argovia, Finca Hamburgo has a long history, and they offer tours of their facility. The road to the finca is not for the faint of heart. Contact the finca before you head off into the foothills.

Videos of Finca Argovia:

Argovia Finca Resort (3:07)
Argovia Finca Resort (1:45)

Eco Tours & Out-of-Town Day Trips

Union Juarez. This colorful town, about a kilometer from Guatemala in a coffee-growing region, is known for its wooden architecture. It is also a good departure point for excursions through the Soconusco highlands and the waterfalls of Muxbal and Monteperla, the rock of Pico de Loro and climbing the Tacana volcano, which towers above the town at an elevation of 13,600 ft. Union Juarez is located on the slopes of the Tacana volcano, 25 miles from Tapachula; the trip from Tapachula takes about 1 hour 15 minutes each way, so it may not be practical for folks with a short time in port. Nonetheless, it's an interesting off the beaten track trip, and you'll get a great cup of joe when you visit!

Huehuetan. This is where you want to go if you want to raft the whitewater of the Cuilco River, whose currents run strong from May to November amid lush vegetation. From the starting point at San Francisco Huehuetan, the 12.5-mile trip down river includes an elevation drop of about 1,700 feet, with alternating rapids and waterfalls, making this one of Mexico's most exhilarating rides.

Activities You Can't Do On Your Own

No On Your Own

The cruise lines have contracted with a number of local companies to provide exclusive tours for their passengers. As part of the deal, the tour operators are prohibited from selling their tours to the general public.

The following tours are operated by the companies have exclusive deals with the cruise lines:

  • Mexican Culinary Class, Music & Culture/ Mexican Cooking Class/ Mexican Cooking, at the Hotel Loma Real Tapachula;

  • Izapa Mayan Ruins & Tapachula/ Chiapas Through the Ages: Izapa Ruins & Tapachula/ Chiapas Through the Ages/ Izapa Archaeological Site & City Tour;

  • Izapa Ruins & Chocolate Demonstration/ Izapa Ruins & Chocolate Discovery, at the town of Tuxtla Chico;

  • Mayan Tree of Life & Chocolate Discovery/ Chocolate Discovery & Maya Tree of Life, at the town of Tuxtla Chico;

  • Mexican Rodeo & City Overview;

  • Culinary, Cultural & Local Customs Demonstrations/ Everything Mayan, at the Garth Norman Center;

  • Folk Art, Tequila and Mezcal Tasting & Tapachula, at the Hotel Boutique Casa Mexicana;

  • Mangrove Boat Ride & Nature Exploration/ Mangrove Boat Ride & Bird Watching/ Mangrove & Nature Exploration/ Mangroves & Nature;

  • Banana Plantation & City Sights, at the Ejido Miguel Aleman banana plantation;

  • Banana Farm & Community Exploration/ Banana Plantation & Rural Community, at the Ejido Miguel Aleman banana plantation; and

  • Coffee Trail Hiking, at the Finca Argovia.
 

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