Overall Score: B
Cost: C (we paid with resort credits, but it is pricey, depending on what activity you choose)
Fun Potential: A
While staying at the Beach Palace Resort in Cancun, we chose to spend most of our resort credits on Dolphin Discovery Park on Isla Mujeres island. This excursion required us to use our resort credits for both the ferry to Isla Mujeres island and for the dolphin park. (Click here to read a previous post about the resort credits at Beach Palace Resort.)
We were picked up at our hotel at 10 am by a coach bus and proceeded to pick up guests from other hotels. At the marina, there was a brief line where we paid the $8 per person dock fee. Guests going on the ferry to Isla Mujeres for Dolphin Discovery were escorted across the street to a different dock. After boarding the large boat, we were on our way to the island.
The ride itself wasn’t long, and it was made shorter for many by the free alcohol and drinks provided. Being that it was only 10:45, it was just a little too early in the day for me. Snacks were available for a fee.
When we docked at Dolphin Discovery on Isla Mujeres, it was kind of a free for all, as no one knew where they were going. We knew our dolphin encounter was at noon, but the park was large and all the confused tourists just made it worse. Everyone flooded the information desk as no one knew where to go or what to do. We inquired where to go for our dolphin swim and then headed to the locker rooms. Dolphin Discovery provides lockers and towels (only one per person) to place all your belongings here before the swim. Shoes, sunglasses, and cameras are not allowed.
Now I have to preface here that I was not 100% comfortable swimming with these dolphins. I believe all creatures big and small shouldn’t be caged up or be made to entertain us. At one point in the beginning of the swim, I started to tear up at the dolphins, so beautiful, yet living in captivity. However, it’s what my youngest daughter wanted to do so I decided to just go with it, as we were on vacation. Perhaps it would serve as an educational tool to increase awareness in our environment, conservation, and care of all animals.
The area where the dolphins swam was actually part of the Caribbean Sea, enclosed by underwater fences. A boardwalk surrounded the entire pool, and each trainer had a pair of dolphins. After getting our life vest and taking the obligatory Dolphin Discovery family photo, we got into the water. We stood with our group (approximately 12 of us) and dolphin trainer on a catwalk within the water that was about hip height.
During our dolphin encounter, not only did our dolphins do tricks for us, but they did tricks to us. A few times, we were required to swim into the middle of the pool (with life jackets on), take a certain position, and then the dolphins came up behind us. Once the dolphins pushed the bottom of my feet and swam, raising me out of the water with outstretched arms. Another time, I grabbed onto their dorsal fins as they pulled me forward. Feeling their strength and power as they swam was amazing. Everyone in the group got to experience all of their skills individually.
Not only was this experience entertaining, but it was very educational as well. We learned about dolphin anatomy, diet, and habitat. Dolphin Discovery would not allow any photos to be taken, except those by the staff photographer. This is where they get your money. They charge an arm and a leg for photos of your dolphin experience. If I remember correctly, to buy a CD with all of the photos of ONE person from the encounter cost $80. This may include anywhere from 20-40 photos. I think another offer was three printed photos for $50. Prices were outrageous and I was prepared for that ahead of time, but they were much higher than I was anticipating.
There are a few other areas in the park where you can interact with other animals. I spotted manatees, sea lions, and sting rays. Dolphin Discovery also takes people out on boat tours for snorkeling. To check out all of the activities they offer, check out their website.
Included in our day at Dolphin Discovery was an unlimited buffet, drinks, and an open bar. Not included were snacks and ice cream, but they were available and sold at the bar. The food was mediocre at best, but they had enough options for me as a vegetarian. (My lunch consisted of mostly rice and french fries, but it filled me up.) The open bar was nice. There were also swings near the bar to just hang on and sit, not really for swinging.
You could also spend your time here in one of the few pools and aquatic play area that they have.
In addition, Dolphin Discovery has a gift shop, a coffee shop that brews Starbucks, lounging areas, and an upstairs VIP area with a nicer dining option and infinity pool. The VIP addition was another $30 per person. We passed.
Our ferry ride to Isla Mujeres also included a late afternoon shopping tour of Isla Mujeres, but I figured that consisted of another bus ride into town and a return on the later ferry. Two ferry returns were available: 3:30 and 5:30. Only the 5:30 ferry included a bus ride from the marina back to our hotel. We decided to skip the shopping tour, head back to Cancun on the earlier ferry, and catch a taxi back to Beach Palace Resort.
Overall, aside from the confusion after docking at Dolphin Discovery, it was a good trip. The facility needed to have people on the dock explaining the activities or selecting groups to escort to their assigned areas. Since we didn’t get any brochures or information from Beach Palace, we were only half informed. Even a map would have helped. In addition, they could do a little better with the buffet lunch. The food was lacking in quality, presentation, and quantity. With hundreds of people eating there, you would think they could splurge a little bit and improve their food.
It’s not everyday that you get to swim with and experience a dolphin encounter. I do recommend this activity for families of school aged children or those that are enamored with sea life. Perhaps you’ll leave the docks with a future marine biologist in your group!