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Despite the widely-publicized "Garrafón Reef Restoration Program," much of the coral at this national marine park is dead—the result of hurricanes, boat anchors, and too many careless tourists. There are still colorful fish, but many of them will come near only if bribed with food. Although there's not much for snorkelers anymore, the park does have kayaks, restaurants, ziplines, bathrooms, and a gift shop. Be prepared to spend M$1,164 for the basic package called "Royal Garrafón," which includes snorkeling gear, breakfast, lunch, kayaks, transportation from Cancún, a bike tour, and an open bar. Another option is "Dolphin Discovery" (M$1,324–M$2,341), which lets you use the park amenities and swim with dolphins. The Beach Club Garrafón de Castilla next door is a much cheaper alternative; the snorkeling is at least equal to that available in the park, and a day pass is just M$50. You can take a taxi from town. El Garrafón National Park is home to the Santuario Maya a la Diosa
Ixchel, the sad vestiges of a Mayan temple once dedicated to the goddess Ixchel. This southern point is where the sun first rises in Mexico, meaning that thousands of travelers make a pilgrimage to the temple on New Year's to see the country awaken. A lovely walkway around the area remains, but the natural arch beneath the ruin has been blasted open and "repaired" with concrete badly disguised as rocks. The views are spectacular, though: you can look to the open ocean, where waves crash against dramatic cliffs on one side and the Bahía de Mujeres (Bay of Women) on the other. On the way to the temple there's a cutesy Caribbean-style shopping center selling overpriced jewelry and souvenirs, as well as a park with brightly painted abstract sculptures. The ruins (open daily 9–5) are near the old lighthouse, where the road turns northeast into the Corredor Panorámico. It costs M$30 to visit just the ruins and sculpture park, but this is included with admission to El Garrafón.
Punta Sur, southeast of Playa Lancheros, Carretera El Garrafón, Km 6, Sm 9, Mza 41, Lote 12, Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, 77400, Mexico
998-193–3360-call center; 866-393-5158-toll-free in the U.S.; 998-877–1100-park office
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