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Fodor's See It Mexico, 3rd Edition
Pac Chen Review
Pac Chen is a Maya jungle settlement of 125 people who still live in round thatch huts. There's no electricity or indoor plumbing, and the roads aren't paved. The inhabitants, who primarily make their living farming pineapple, beans, and plantains, still pray to the gods for good crops.
You can only visit Pac Chen on trips organized by Alltournative, an ecotour company based in Playa del Carmen. The "Coba Maya Encounter" includes transportation, entrance to Coba ruins, lunch, and Maya guides within the Pac-Chen village. Alltournative pays the villagers by the number of tourists it brings in, though no more than 80 people are allowed to visit on any given day. There's an additional $2 entrance fee per person.This money has made the village self-sustaining, and has given the people an alternative to logging and hunting, which were their main means of livelihood before.
The half-day tour starts with a trek through the jungle to a cenote where you grab onto a harness and zip-line to the other side. Next is the Jaguar cenote, set deeper into the forest, where you must rappel down the cavelike sides into a cool underground lagoon. You'll eat lunch under an open-air palapa overlooking another lagoon, where canoes await. The food includes such Mayan dishes as grilled achiote (annatto seed) chicken, fresh tortillas, beans, and watermelon.
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