What To Do While Visiting By Ship

What To Do While Visiting By Ship

When many cruisers take a look at their itineraries, they often pass over Costa Maya as just another stop they are unfamiliar with. However, there is a lot to do in this Caribbean port. 

The Costa Maya port area.

Costa Maya is quickly climbing the list of best cruise stops in the Caribbean. Once you visit, you will easily see why. At the cruise port and the surrounding countryside, there are many different activities for every interest.

Impressive Mayan ruins dot the area, while lagoons and beaches cling to a shore which is lined with small restaurants and bars. For those who don’t want to go more than a few steps from the port, there is a swimming pool, bar, and amenities right off the pier as well.

The Costa Maya Cruise Port

The Port Area

Ships dock right at the pier in Costa Maya, so there is no need for tendering to shore. This is great because it means you have the option of getting off the ship right away to make the most of your day or lingering around and waiting for the crowds to disembark first.

After walking off (a fairly long) the pier, visitors are greeted by a lovely port area with shops, a few restaurants and bars, and a swimming pool.

A Day at the Port

There is a lot to do in the port itself from swimming with the dolphins, swimming in a massive swimming pool, bars, massages, and shopping.

While this is nothing like the major shopping district at Cozumel, it is pleasant and fun to walk around.

Ship-organized tours assemble and board buses in this area. If you are on a privately arranged tour, or want to take a taxi or bus to the nearby village of Mahahual, then you’ll want to head right outside the port gates.  

Going to Mahahual

mahahual quintana roo mexico beach

Photo by descubriendo-el-mundo/Flickr

With just a tiny bit of effort, you can spend the day in the beach town of Mahahual, which has a fun and laid-back promenade lined with shops, restaurants, and bars. After leaving the port area, you have the option to take the trolley bus or taxi (both about $3 per person) for ten minutes south to the town.

A popular choice among cruisers here is “40 Canones” which offers delicious bites and a prime viewing spot right on the Caribbean Sea. Patrons can relax in a lounger, order food and drinks (a la carte), and spend the day relaxing in the beautiful sunshine.

READ: 10 Things To Know Before Sailing Royal Caribbean

This part of the Caribbean does have a seasonal problem with seaweed, but the locals do their best to keep it cleared away. When you are ready to return to the ship (leave time for about an hour before departure), simply get back on the trolley or hail a taxi. 

The village of Mahahual has been identified by the Mexican government for additional resources and development. So depending on your views, either get there before that happens or be excited about additional options and facilities.

Costa Maya Beach Clubs

Maya Chan costa maya mexico

Of course, Costa Maya is located along the shores of the Caribbean Sea, and as such offers beautiful white sand beaches. Along with the beach bars and restaurants in Mahahual, there are several different all-inclusive beach clubs to choose from, with the most popular being Maya Chan.

REVIEW: Maya Chan Beach Club 

For $59 per adult and descending price tiers for the under-18 crowd, visitors enjoy all-you-can-eat food and drink (including alcohol), non-motorized water sports including snorkel equipment, and beach loungers with umbrellas. Children’s sand toys are available at no charge as well. Free WiFi is also available.

To top it all off, transportation from the port is also included, making this a really easy way to enjoy a fun day at the beach without having to worry about prices or how to get there.

Visit the Mayan Ruins

For those interested in history or that are yearning for something besides a beach day, Costa Maya has you covered.

There are two incredible, ancient Mayan cities relatively close to the cruise port. Actually, there are quite a few smaller sites nearby as well, but the two largest and most interesting are Chacchoben and Dzibanche.

Founded over 1,300 years ago, they really are spectacular. If the only Mayan site that you have seen is Tulum, near Cozumel, then these ruins will be especially impressive.

While Tulum is situated in a very atmospheric location, perched along the sea, both of these sites are much larger and decidedly more impressive to view. 

Chacchoben and Dzibanche are easily visited by either cruise line excursions or independently booked tours. Chacchoben is just under an hour from the pier while Dzibanche is a little further afield, at two hours and 20 minutes.

Both contain several pyramids, ball courts, and other ruins of these once mighty cities. Many tours provide visits to either a combination of both cities or one city, with the addition of a butterfly farm or other interesting stops.

If you are limited on time, Chacchoben is the better choice as the ruins there are more complete and the closeness to the port makes it an easy trip. Make sure to bring along cash for any small purchases as well as sunscreen, a hat, and comfortable walking shoes.  

Bacalar Lagoon

bacalar lagoon quintana roo mexico costa maya

(Photo courtesy of 4nh3ll/Flickr)

This lake is often known as the “Lake of Seven Colors” and never fails to impress visitors with its many-hued waters. At nearly 26 miles long, but only 1.2 miles wide, Bacalar Lagoon is breathtakingly beautiful.

Around an hour from the port, the Bacalar Lagoon is often combined with visits to the Chacchoben Mayan ruins discussed above.

READ MORE: 5 Hot Spots for Western Caribbean Cruisers

Situated on the water’s edge is the Bacalar Fort, which was constructed to guard against pirate attacks. Another popular activity is to take a boat out into the lagoon with stops for swimming and bathing in the clear waters. However you choose to enjoy the lake, it is sure to impress.

Final Thoughts of Costa Maya

Whatever you decide to do in Costa Maya, you are bound to have a spectacular time. The port is way more relaxed than Cozumel, but it still carries a lot of the charming Mexican culture that travelers have come to love.

With the beaches, ruins, and gorgeous sights, Costa Maya is sure to leave you with lasting memories and fantastic photos.

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