Costa Maya, Mexico: A Travel Guide

Last Updated on 27 Nov 2022 by Fiona Perisone

Costa Maya is a stunning place to visit as it encompasses dense jungles and incredible ancient Mayan ruins and offers world-renowned diving. With amazing reefs, clear water, and pristine beaches, Costa Maya is a hidden treasure that's becoming more popular among tourists, known mainly by cruisegoers.

Many cruises thread their leisurely way through the Caribbean, and Puerto Costa Maya is one of the popular cruise ports along these routes! First manufactured in 2002 and then rebuilt following hurricanes in 2007 and 2012, Puerto Costa Maya is a relatively new destination for cruise lines, and it's steadily growing in popularity as a major tourist cruise port!

Whether you are adventuring through Mexico or your cruise ship docked in Costa Maya, we'll discuss all the wonderful things to do in and around Costa Maya below.

Best Time To Visit Costa Maya

Cruise ships dock at Costa Maya all year long. The crowds at Costa Maya depend largely on how many ships come to port at one time and how large they are. Summer months are always the busiest months in the cruise industry, but you'll probably enjoy your cruise and your day trip to the beach in Costa Maya. Better if you book your trip during the off-season. The crowds will be lesser, and the price of the cruise itself will likely be lower!

Best Places To Visit In Costa Maya

Seven Colors Lagoon

Seven Colors Lagoon

Also known as Bacalar Lagoon or "The Lake Of Seven Colors," here is a freshwater lagoon that is great for snorkeling, swimming, and other water activities! With the white sandy bottom that gives the effects of the different hues of blue, this lagoon is truly a fantastic place to visit.

Booked excursions here cover transportation, food, and drinks. It's a quiet, secluded location named for the multiple shades of blue in this beautiful body of water. Kayak tours will take you from the cruise port to the lagoon.

Mahahual Village

Mahahual Village Mexico


If you decide to leave the terminal, you can jump on a shuttle bus and head to the nearby town of Mahahual. This is the closest beach area. While you'll get some great food and drinks in the terminal, you will find the most authentic food in this small fishing village. You'll also find shops, artisan storefronts, water sports shops, and even a bookstore!

The Mahahual beach is open to the public and is lovely, although more crowded than those owned by beach clubs. The beach's northern end is deeper, so it's more crowded. Because more tourists head there, that area of town is nicer. The beach's southern end is shallower and not as nice, but it's also not as crowded. Do your best to head for the middle!

Chacchoben Ruins

Chacchoben Ruins


Located in the south of Quintana Roo state, Chacchoben Ruins are the most popular ancient ruins in the Costa Maya region.

Also known as the Land of the Red Corn, this 3.000-year-old site was once an important pilgrimage place for the ancient Mayans. If you are a history buff, you would appreciate the rich history of this site and admire the big ceremonial temple named Gran Basamento.

Maya, The Lost Mayan Kingdom Theme Waterpark

Maya, The Lost Mayan Kingdom Theme Waterpark


Particularly if you have children, you need to stop at Maya, a waterpark themed around the Mayan ruins around the area. This waterpark checks all the boxes - twisty water slides, zip lines, swimming pools, tubing rivers, and eateries. Book tickets before you go. Not only does it reach capacity quickly during the peak tourist season, but it's also sometimes closed for weeks at a time.

Dzibanche and Kohunlich Mayan Ruins

Dzibanche and Kohunlich Mayan Ruins1

These two ruins are two archeological zones within the same area. Don't miss the opportunity to visit the ruins of these two Mayan civilizations lost in the jungle close to the Belize border.

When booked as an excursion, you will see two ruins together, and it is typically a long journey that can take up to 8 hours. Excursions typically include food and beverage.

Mayan Museum

Mayan Museum


You'll walk along a lovely pedestrian corridor by heading out of the gated parking lot of the cruise terminal. It once was flanked by bustling buildings for tourists to explore, but hurricanes have ravaged the area. However, the Mayan Museum is still standing and operational, although the outside looks a little rough. It's a free museum with many interesting exhibits and provides a historical context for any ruins exploration you may take on later.

Cruise Terminal

Cruise Terminal Costa Maya


The cruise terminal is the first place you'll go upon docking, which is full of amenities and entertainment. Some cruise ship passengers will enjoy their entire port stop at this terminal! It's a destination in itself! The tour dispatch area is located here, and if you didn't get a shore excursion booked before docking, there's also a late-minute tour desk so you can see what's available.

There are many shops inside the cruise terminal, with craft markets on one side and duty-free shops on the left. Many stores also sell Mexican wares, such as tequila and boots. Some say that the best deal on cigars and tequila, for both quality and price, is found in Costa Maya!

When it comes to entertainment at the terminal, an aquatic show called Dolphin Discovery tops the list. You can also sign up to swim with the dolphins! There's also a large saltwater swimming pool with pool bars around the edges.

You should also check out the Aviarius - a trail consisting of hanging bridges and exotic birds - and the flying gymnastics show called Papantla's.

Then go to the Kakaw Chocolate Factory or the La Consentida Tequila Museum before rounding off the day at the Mayan Wellness Retreat, where you can experience an hour-long spa treatment using pre-Hispanic techniques. Afterward, stop at any of the many restaurants serving authentic Mexican cuisine.

Best Things To Do In Costa Maya

Costa Maya beach

Explore Beaches

The beaches at the Costa Maya cruise port area are pristine. You can explore the beaches on your own, but many of them belong to resorts and beach clubs and will require a day pass.

Beach club

Visit A Beach Club

Some of the beach clubs are owned by the resorts, and you'll need to book your pass through them. Some are managed individually and can be booked online, or you can also make a reservation directly with the cruise line. Here are some popular beach clubs

  • Maya Chan Beach Resort

  • Maelcon 21 Beach Club

  • Hayhu Beach Club

  • La Bamba Beach Club

  • Ibiza Sunset Beach Resort

  • Maramao Beach Club of Hotel El Fuerte

  • Nohoch Kay

Water sports

Enjoy Water Sports

It's nice to relax on beaches, but if you're up for something more active, there are many options! You can go parasailing, fly fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, jet skiing, and rafting - to name a few! The MesoAmerican Barrier Reef runs through the beach at Mahahual and is exciting to explore via snorkeling or scuba diving.

Costa Maya Dune Buggy

Adventurous Sightseeing

There are many ways to explore both the landscape and the ocean around the Costa Maya cruise port. Some of these include off-road ATV adventure, a safari tour, a dune buggy drive along the beaches, a scenic cycling group, a tour via segways, catamaran sailing, and a trip on a glass bottom boat.

Mayan ruin in Costa Maya

Explore Mayan Ruins

There is a wealth of ancient culture at the Costa Maya port, and the Chacchoben Mayan ruins are a highlight. Built in the 8th century AD, Chacchoben was a hub in the large Mayan kingdom, with multiple temples and pyramids. However, if that excursion is full, don't worry - there are many Mayan ruins around Costa Maya! You can explore the ruins of Kohunlick, Dzibanche, and Kinichna.

Beach bar

Hit Up A Beach Bar

How does spending a day on the beach and enjoying a few exotic cocktails and delicious food under the shades of palm trees sound? If this sounds like your kind of vacation, be sure to hit up one or maybe two.

There are few beach bars in the Costa Maya area, and some offer unlimited open bars for a set price.

Where To Stay

Whether you are going to Costa Maya for a honeymoon or a family getaway, there are many hotel options available in Costa Maya. From adult-only to five-star resorts to beach boutique hotels, you have various options to choose from.

Where Is Costa Maya Located?

Costa Maya is located in the south of Riviera Maya ad in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. It sits along the Caribbean Sea, near the small fishing village of Mahahual.

The Puerto (or port) of Costa Maya is located on the east coast of the Yucatan peninsula of Quintana Roo, in the mainland of Mexico. The Cozumel cruise port is 128 miles north, and the Belize City cruise port is 77 miles south.

How To Get To The Costa Maya And Costa Maya Port

Visiting Costa Maya is mostly done through a cruise. But you can absolutely get to Costa Maya without booking a cruise, such as by driving up from Belize, it's built as a cruise port, and many of the attractions are either gated in the cruise terminal area or only book tickets through a cruise line.

There are many cruise lines that are running cruise ships to Costa Maya, and more are being added every year. The major cruise lines that stop at Costa Maya and offer a port pass and shore excursions are Virgin Voyages, Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, and MSC Cruises. Check the West Caribbean itinerary to see if a day in Costa Maya is offered.

Aside from the cruise line, you can get to Costa Maya by land from Chetumal, Cozumel, Tulum, Playa Del Carmen, or Cancun. With Cancun being the farthest from Costa Maya. From Cancun, you can take an hour and twenty-minute flight to Chetumal International Airport and then take a car ride from there, or bus shuttles are also available.

TRANSPORTATION WITHIN

Shuttle Bus

Shuttle buses to Manhahual are available in the large parking area.

Taxis

You can find taxis near the port reasonably easily. The taxi stand is located near the far end of the cruise port area, past the shopping area and the large pool just past the tram loop outside the port area.

Golf Carts/Bike/ Scooter

If you would like to explore the city on your own, you can rent a golf cart, bike, or electric scooter for a few hours. They are typically charged by the hour.

Walking

You can explore the Costa Maya cruise port area on foot. But if you want to check out the nearby village of Mahahual, it's about a 30-45 minute walk from the cruise port.

Things To Know Before Visiting Puerto Costa Maya

Very Accessible

Because the Costa Maya cruise port is one of the few "manufactured" cruise ports and opened rather recently, it was designed with accessibility in mind. People with disabilities or difficulty walking should not have trouble exploring Costa Maya. Local transportation is widely available and affordable. For example, the walk from the pier to the terminal building is long, but a free trolley is available for both those with walking considerations and families with small children.

Book Excursions, Tours, And Day Passes In Advance

If you plan on venturing out of the cruise terminal, not much will be available (outside of visiting Mahahual and its beach) if you don't book tickets ahead of time. Many beaches belong to a beach club and require a day pass.
Many tours are available in many different formats, but these excursions fill up fast. While there is a desk in the terminal to help you book a last-minute shore excursion, your choices might be limited. Even if you plan on staying in the terminal, tickets for attractions such as the Dolphin encounters should be purchased ahead.

You're In Mexico

This should go without saying, but it's good to remember that Costa Maya is in Mexico. Spanish is the main language, although many people will speak English to some degree. The peso is the legal tender. You can pay for most things with US dollars, but you'll likely receive your change in pesos.

Dress For The Beach

If you're booking a Caribbean cruise, you're probably already planning to spend lots of time under the sun, but still - make sure you step off the pier dressed for the beach! Bring plenty of sunscreens and bottled water. Take your towel and a beach chair. Grab your sunglasses and wear loose, airy clothes.

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