Costa Maya, Mexico: What to Do During Your Visit

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The cruise industry is already above 80% of what 2020’s numbers were. While continuing to lag behind the number of people who traveled in 2019, this is a promising sight to see in an industry that many of us thought might not prevail. 

Now that we can reschedule those cruises once more, where are some popular destinations?

Mexico has always been a hot spot for tourists. Costa Maya, Mexico is a beautiful port that gets swept under the rug by Cancun and other, more popular areas including the cruise destination of Cozumel, just 130 miles away. However, it sports all the beauty and wonders Mexico has to offer. 

Costa Maya

Where is Costa Maya exactly? It sits just south of Cancun about 80 miles and has seen a spark in the tourist industry since the mid-2000s. Before then, Costa Maya was just a sleepy Mexican fishing village. 

Now it boasts a healthy influx of tropical cruises and tourists, all vying for a glimpse of hidden tropical beauty. 

Costa Maya encompasses dense jungles, Mayan ruins, and world-renowned diving. We won’t find sky-rise buildings like downtown Cancun hidden in the reprieve of Costa Maya. 

In fact, the Mexican port prides itself on a small-town Mexican village atmosphere with pristine waters and authentic villages. Sitting just north of Costa Maya lies the UNESCO Heritage Site of Sian Ka’an Reserve.

Costa Maya, Mexico
Costa Maya, Mexico (Photo Credit: NAPA / Shutterstock)

Making the drive or tour excursion there is well worth our time. The over 1 million acre refuge is full of rainforests, monkeys, and lagoons. Many tour operators schedule day trips to the region. 

While this is a great opportunity to see the wonders of the nature of Mexico, Costa Maya is also surrounded by local Mayan villages.

We remember the famous Chichen Itza, right? It is a wonderful site to see the extent of the architectural capabilities of Mayans if visiting the northern portion of the Yucatan. 

However, Chichen Itza isn’t the only lasting Mayan influence. Many Mayans still live in Mexico and scheduling tours through local villages near Costa Maya gives the local people a chance to profit off of tourism (an income for them) and we get a chance to see local cultures. 

Puerto Costa Maya

The Puerto Costa Maya port started construction around the 1990s, although as noted earlier, tourists didn’t start arriving until the early to mid-2000s. Hotels started to dot the beachside property, although it still took a while for tourism to really kick up and make it all worth it. 

Roads and electricity were a bit further to lag behind, surprisingly. Initially, the closest shops to the beach were running on diesel or gas generators. 

The port known also as Puerto Costa Maya was born out of the idea of establishing this port for tourism and that is exactly where the name came from.

Cruise Ship Docked at Costa Maya
Cruise Ship Docked at Costa Maya (Photo Credit: Nazar Skladanyi /

Tourism has largely kicked up in the port and trickled out to the surrounding areas. The emphasis has always been on “eco-tourism” meaning we won’t find any of those high-rise hotels. Most places still have an architecture that hints at simpler times. 

Nowadays, taxis and buses are parked at the port to take tourists on various tours. We also favor renting four-wheel-drive vehicles if visitors are craving the need for a little bit of added adventure. 

With the roads now paved, it is easier to navigate to the highways and there shouldn’t be any problems finding major sites, such as the Mayan ruins.

Worth Reading: IDEAL Things to Do in Cozumel, Mexico

The top two main goals of developing Costa Maya’s port are to improve the golf industry and dive or water businesses. By sitting right on top of the world’s second-largest barrier reef, Costa Maya should not have any problem in boosting their diving tourist industry. 

Hurricane Dean

In 2007, a massive hurricane wreaked havoc through the Yucatan region. It devastated Costa Maya for a while, with many cruise ships having to cancel their stops at the once pristine port.

At the time, it was the second busiest port in Mexico. Mahahual experienced the most damage from Hurricane Dean which topped out as a Category 5 hurricane. 

They lost hundreds of buildings from damage and the Costa Maya port lost another 50% of its infrastructure. Part of this included three ship berths. The initial estimate was that the port would be closed for at least half a year to rebuild.

Building in Mahahual
Building in Mahahual (Photo Credit: VIDEOLIFT / Shutterstock)

Unfortunately, that was a much too positive estimate and it took Costa Maya longer to rebuild its port and city. When the first cruise ships started to come back, the economy was being devastated by the housing market crash and tourism dropped.

Combined with an increasing gang and drug violence, it took a few more years for Costa Maya to get back on its feet. After crashing into the spotlight in the early 2000s, Costa Maya was knocked back down in 2007.

However, as time would tell—the port and region ended up recovering and it is still a booming cruise ship destination today. 

Diving or Snorkeling

It would be a shame to mention all of the wonders of Costa Maya without highlighting one of its best features. 

As we roll into port in Costa Maya it is hard not to be awe-struck by the beautiful waters. What causes such pristine waters?

The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System encompasses over 1,000 kilometers and provides divers an experience of a lifetime. The famous diving spots of Belize are part of these waters.

Snorkel Bay at Costa Maya
Snorkel Bay at Costa Maya (Photo Credit: CathyRL /

What we have not yet heard about is the secret diving spots of Costa Maya. With similar beauty to its neighboring countries and dive spots, Costa Maya is every diver’s dream. If scuba diving is of interest, check out the dive shops in Mahahual and Xcalak. 

Mahahual is a great place for us as we travel on Mexican cruises. It is also the closest beach area. It is only about two miles away and you can get there on a shuttle or taxi.

Diving is a must for seeing clear blue waters, abundant marine life, and shipwrecks.

Many of us are not equipped with proper certifications or training to handle the deeper dives. Not to worry—Costa Maya boasts a plentiful amount of snorkeling spots for the more relaxed tourist. 

Mayan Ruins

If we aren’t feeling like diving in the deep blue, heading into the dense jungles for Mayan ruins sounds like an appealing alternative. Many cruises to Mexico highlight Mayan ruins and we don’t have to look far.

The Temples of Chacchoben is a fairly new restoration project that dates back to as early as 200 B.C. Although it was discovered in the mid 20th century, it wasn’t fully renovated until 1994. Additionally, it wasn’t available to the public until cruises started to dock at the Costa Maya, Mexico port in 2002.

Chacchoben Mayan Site
Chacchoben Mayan Site (Photo Credit: Nenad Basic / Shutterstock)

We have the option at Chacchoben to hire a guided tour or wander around ourselves. However, sometimes it is difficult to understand quite what is going on because of limited signs and information. 

The ruins include three temples and are sure to leave us wanting to see more of the incredible Mayan architectural sites. A smaller village lies off of Highway 307. Limones is a much smaller site but also has a pyramid that is easily spotted. 


On our adventure, we can travel outside of Costa Maya to visit the lakeside town of Bacalar. This mystical village sits right on the beautiful Laguna de Bacalar lake. We can choose to wander the streets in search of local boutiques and restaurants or head over to one of the most famous cenotes in Mexico.

Bacalar Lake and Cenotes
Bacalar Lake and Cenotes (Photo Credit: Rubi Rodriguez Martinez / SHutterstock)

A cenote is a sinkhole that often holds aqua blue waters and is very common in the Yucatan Peninsula. Bacalar hosts one of the deepest cenotes in Mexico, called the Cenote Azul.

The nice thing is we don’t have to be scuba certified and if diving freaks us out (it does for a lot of us) then relaxing in a cenote is a great replacement. One thing is for certain, at just a short drive from the Costa Maya port, Bacalar is teeming with potential for a boost in tourism. 


Mahahual is Costa Maya’s largest town—although large is relative in this instance. At a population estimate of less than a thousand, Mahahual is relatively unknown in Mexico. 

What once was a small fishing village has now extended industry to include tourists from Mexican cruises. 

Aerial view Malecon de Mahahual Costa Maya
Aerial view Malecon de Mahahual Costa Maya (Photo Credit: XAMAN / Shutterstock)

Mahahual is a great place to explore. It has anywhere from pristine beaches to world-class scuba diving. It also houses some great authentic Mexican food, and let’s be honest—who doesn’t love that?

When heading to Mahahual, be sure to check out some paddle boarding or kayaking over some of the most amazing azure blue waters we have seen.

If we want to relax, then how about a hammock over the ocean? The local beach clubs will usually let visitors camp out on the beach all afternoon if they purchase drinks or food. For us, that is well worth the bargain. 

Mahahual (Photo Credit: Nailotl /

The local shops are something fun for the whole family to explore and adding on a bike rental can make the experience even more memorable. By wandering the streets and local vendors, there is plenty of hand-crafted Mexican souvenirs that can be purchased. 

Not only does buying from locals help their economy and livelihood but then there will be something memorable to remember the area by. Mahahual may no longer be just a small, quaint fishing village in the future—be sure to check it out before the rest of the world finds out.

Also Read: IDEAL Things to Do in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Costa Maya Port Activities

The namesake of Costa Maya comes from this Mexican port where multiple cruise ships are often found docking. 

Surprisingly, many people opt to not get off of cruise ships when they port or they simply don’t want to wander too far. While much of Costa Maya’s beauty is in the surrounding area of the port, there is still a lot to do close to the cruise ship.

Costa Maya Port Area
Costa Maya Port Area (Joe Pace /

We love to hang out by the water and drink in the beautiful sights—which always should include a pina colada. 

The aviary is also close by and lets tourists take a closer look at some exotic birds while seeing the sights of the Costa Maya Port from higher up. Additionally, there are dolphins right in the port area for an up-close encounter. And let us be honest, who doesn’t love dolphins?

This is also a great opportunity for kids to have something fun to do while close to the cruise ship. 

Lastly, the Mayan Healing Rituals lets tourists be a part of the authenticity of the Mayan culture without needing to venture all the way to Chaccoben.


Can I currently book a cruise to Costa Maya

Yes. Cruise lines have resumed operations to Costa May, Mexico including Carnival Cruise Line which offers more itineraries to the port than most others.

Is Costa Maya kid-friendly?

Definitely! There are plenty of things close to the port such as shops, dolphin encounters, and beaches. You don’t have to venture far to find something for everyone.

Will my excursion cover the cost of transportation?

If you don’t want to tax places, then look towards excursions for all-inclusive packages. They typically include transportation, entry cost, and sometimes food or drinks.

Cruises to Mexico

Costa Maya is a great place for the whole family to have something to do. Better yet, it is still relatively unknown to the rest of the world. In a world where social media is bound to expose some neat wonder, take advantage of the opportunity to go somewhere absolutely pristine. 

In this hectic world we live in, we want our travel plans to be made easy. Having one place that is up to date on cruise ships will make trip planning and the experiences worth it. 

Haiyan Ma
Haiyan Ma
I absolutely love cruising with my favorite ports of call being in the Caribbean. As a former crew member for Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival Cruise Line I can continue my passion by sharing my experiences with readers. Find out more about us here.


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