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Mexican Riviera

Best Mexican Riviera Shore Excursions

The huge Cabo marina is surrounded by more than a mile of shops and restaurants. © 2019 Scott S. Bateman
The huge Cabo marina is surrounded by more than a mile of shops and restaurants. © 2019 Scott S. Bateman
The Mexican Riviera has a wide variety of shore excursions for cruise visitors and hotel visitors alike.

While the Caribbean has many unique historical and natural attractions, the Mexican Riviera has a greater emphasis on recreational shore excursions and Mexican culture.

For budget-minded travelers, a few shore excursions along the Mexican Riviera are available for less than $50 per person. These inexpensive excursions often include city tours, boat tours and beach visits (without amenities). They usually last one to two hours but may go longer.

Most shore excursions range between $50 and $150 per person and usually last about three to four hours. They often include snorkeling, sailing, beginner scuba, ATV rides, dolphin swims and whale watching.

A small number of high-end excursions go from $150 to $300 or more. These are usually private tours, deep sea fishing and other exclusive activities. One VIP private yacht experience in Cabo San Lucas starts at $1,400.

We recommend reviewing the cruise itinerary, setting an excursion budget and picking just one memorable excursion. If the budget allows, then pick a second one and possibly a third one or more.

The following shore excursions are a sample of what is available in each Mexican Riviera cruise port.

Ensenada


The Ensenada cruise port on the Baja Peninsula is the first port of call south of the embarkation ports of San Diego, Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Francisco. It is a common stop for three- to five-night cruises but not for six- to seven-night cruises.

The most famous natural attraction in Ensenada is La Bufadora, a marine geyser that creates a tremendous noise and shoots ocean water more than 100 feet into the air. It is one of the world’s largest marine geysers, which blows out sea water trapped with cair inside sea caves. The geyser is 21 miles south from the city of Ensenada. A typical four-hour shore excursion will cost about $40 to $50.

The Ensenada area is known for its wineries. Wineries tours range in price from $50 to $100 depending on the length of time, sailing date and other factors.

Ensenada is known for whale watching because great gray whales travel south to warmer waters to give birth to calves. Guided boat tours take visitors from the port of Ensenada into Todos Santos Bay.

Los Cabos


Cabo San Lucas Arch
The Cabo San Lucas Arch is a quick, popular and inexpensive shore excursion.
Cabo San Lucas is a popular cruise port on the Baja Peninsula and probably the most popular port of all on a Mexican Riviera cruise. As a result, it has many possible shore excursions.

Cab has a well-developed dining, shopping and entertainment district and surrounding the city’s harbor and massive marina. The city also has an attractive art district at Distrito del Arte, San Jose del Cabo, behind the main-square and church.

So visitors can find many attractions and points of interest on their own by walking around. Otherwise, they can venture elsewhere for more interesting shore excursions.

One of the most popular natural attractions is the Arch of Cabo San Lucas. Boat tours take passengers out to this unique arch at the tip of Baja California. A trip just to the Arch will cost at least $35 per person. Some excursions also include snorkeling or whale watching for prices up to $100 or more.

The Cabo San Lucas Bayoften has visits from Gray Whales, Humpback Whales and other species. The typical trip will last about two hours and cost up to $100 or more depending on the tour operator, services provided and length of trip. As a whale watching veteran, I can tell you that these cruise excursions are hit or miss.

The Cabo Dolphin Center has a variety of programs for visitors to swim and interact with dolphins. Most prices range between $100 and $150 per person depending on the program.


Mazatlan


Mazatlán has plenty of the usual recreational excursions, but it also has much more culture, sightseeing and colonial history than Cabo San Lucas.

The port has several points of interest that visitors can see on their own. One of the most popular is the malecon or beach promenade, one of the largest in the world.

El Mercado is a marketplace in the center of town where visitors can buy arts, crafts, souvenirs and fresh produce.

Mazatlán’s history goes back to the Aztecs and the Spanish conquerors. Old Town is a historical district with colonial buildings that date back to the early 19th century. Visitors can walk on cobblestone streets, dine at restaurants and shop at boutiques. The district also has a museum of archaeology with ancient Mexican artifacts.

Anyone who wants a guided tour and an easier time of finding everything will pay about $40 per person for a three-hour tour. Sites include the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Angela Peralta Theater, Machado Square and the Municipal Market.

An inexpensive excursions with an emphasis on culture is a day trip to the quiet colonial town of El Quelite. Visitors can see a cheese factory, traditional bakery and fish tank factory. They also can eat at El Meson de los Laureanos, the top Mexican restaurant in the state of Sinaloa. The trip lasts about five hours and costs $45 not including lunch. The town is 25 miles from Mazatlán.

Mazatlán Aquarium is the largest in Mexico with more than 200 species of fish. It has a planetarium, bird theater, botanical gardens and sea lion show. Visitors can rent diving equipment to swim with a pair of Nurse Sharks. Prices that include time on a beach plus food start at $70 per person with discounts for children.

Puerto Vallarta


Puerto Vallarta is somewhat like Mazatlán with its own colonial history, malecon boardwalk,

El Centro is a popular site for walking tours. This town square filled with shops, restaurants and colonial architecture including the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Guided walking tours that include Oldtown District, the Malecón, Cuale Island Market and a chance to relax in Lazaro Cardenas Park. The cost is about $35 to $40 per person.

Like many warm-water ports, Puerto Vallarta has a swimming with the dolphins facility. Dolphin lovers can visit the Dolphin Center at Nuevo Vallarta to swim with Pacific Bottlenose dolphins. Prices start at about $125 per person with discounts for children and go higher depending on the program.

Dolphin facilities continue to grow in ports around the world. So do zipline centers. The one at Puerto Vallarta with 11 ziplines will cost up to $100 per person and last about two hours.

Acapulco


Acapulco is the southernmost port on the Mexican Riviera and usually has ships that visit during Panama Canal cruises.

The world-famous cliffs of La Quebrada are known for the daring cliff divers who leap from heights of 100 feet or more into a narrow ocean cove below. Divers have been competing with each other and entertaining visitors since 1934. Shore excursions to the cliff diving are quick and inexpensive with prices starting at about $15 to $20 per person.

Guided city tours are more common than most Mexican Riviera cruise ports. They may include cliff divers, the Chapel of Peace and the Vallarino Turtle Camp among other sights. Like most guided city tours, they are among the least expensive shore excursions with prices averaging about $40 per person.

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