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Riviera Maya

Costa Maya Cruise Port: Tips, Attractions and Weather

Costa Maya is known for beaches and Maya ruins.
Costa Maya is known for beaches and Maya ruins.

The Costa Maya cruise port is a small but up-and-coming destination on the Caribbean coast of Mexico.

This isolated port is in the municipality of Othón P. Blanco and the state of Quintana Roo—the same state as Cancun, Cozumel and Playa del Carmen. It lies much farther south than them; it is near the border with Belize. Playa del Carmen is a 3.5-hour drive away.

Cruise travelers are more likely to visit Costa Maya if their western Caribbean itinerary includes the nearby Belize or Roatan. The port has some similar features with its sister municipalities, but it also has some important differences.

Quick Travel Tips

  • The private cruise port is two miles from the town of Mahahual and the best beach.
  • Two major commercial attractions are within walking distance of the cruise terminal.
  • Mayan ruins are major cultural attractions and shore excursions.

Attractions and Shore Excursions

Walking Around Attractions

Costa Maya Cruise Port Map

Unlike the larger Cancun and Cozumel, Costa Maya was developed specifically as a cruise destination by a private company. This cruise-focused port has shops, restaurants, bars and pools. It also has two water-based parks for entertainment. Visitors can easily spend the day at this small tourist village.

But this “village” was built specifically for cruise visitors. It doesn’t have cultural or historical attractions like other major cruise ports. Walkers will find that most sightseeing consists mainly of the many shops and restaurants.

Otherwise, two major attractions within walking distance that cost money are Dolphin Discovery and the Lost Mayan water park.

Dolphin Discovery is a three-minute walk south of the cruise port. Most tickets for Dolphin Discovery cost between $100 and $200 depending on the activity.

Lost Mayan is a themed water park based on a 1940s expedition. It has zip lines, pools and water slides among other features. The park is a half mile or 10 minute walk north of the docks. The giant Mayan temple with water slides is hard to miss for cruise visitors on the decks of visiting ships. Tickets for Lost Mayan started at $99 for adults and $89 for children.

Cruise lines offer both Dolphin Discovery and Lost Mayan as shore excursions that include transportation. Passengers who don’t mind walking might want to consider buying tickets directly from the parks if it saves money.

Shore Excursions

Anyone who doesn’t want to spend the day at Costa Maya has some options outside of the cruise port.

Costa Maya beach
Costa Maya beach. Credit: Wikimedia public domain

The closest nearby villages are Mahahual and Xcalak. Mahahual is about two miles from the cruise port, while Xcalak is about 36 miles or 92 kilometers south of the port.

Although shore excursions to Mahahual are available, we saw few cruise visitors in the village on the day of our visit. The village is more popular with hotel visitors.

Anyone interested in Mayan culture may want to visit the ruins at either Chacchoben, Kohunlich or the two ruins at Dzibanche and Kinichna. These excursions usually cost $100 to $150 per person depending on the location and amenities.

The most convenient Mayan excursion is about 50 minutes away at Chacchoben. It dates back to 1000 BC. The site is only partly restored, but cruise lines are promoting it more for excursion trips.

The other three sites are about two hours from the port, so visiting them is a full-day trip.

Snorkelers and scuba divers will have plenty to see at Banco Chinchorro, the largest coral atoll in the country. It is 20 miles away over the water. The atoll land is covered in mangrove while the inner lagoon has plenty of fish along with some shipwrecks.

Otherwise, cruise lines offer plenty of standard excursions such as sailing, fishing, cycling, Jeep tours and ATV tours.

Beaches Near the Port

Most cruise visitors who want a beach end up at Mahahual Beach, which is narrow and packed with chairs and tables. Mahahual Beach is often available as a shore excursion from cruise lines that include transportation.

The beach is two miles from the cruise docks right in front of the town of Mahahual, so visitors might combine shopping in town with a visit to the beach. It’s best to take a taxi or excursion bus to get there.

A typical excursion there lasts the entire day and includes lunch, an open bar and transportation for $60 to $70.

Other beach options include Pez Quadro Beach Club, Maya Chan Beach and Sian Ka’an.

The docks have a nearby beach, but the water is too rocky for swimming.

Shopping / Restaurants

Costa Maya is one of the smaller cruise ports in the Caribbean because it was privately developed. The company that developed the port also invested in the town of Mahahual.

Shopping and restaurants are available in both locations, although they are somewhat limited compared to larger ports.

Getting Around / Transportation

Anyone who wants to go into the town of Mahahual can walk the two miles in about 40 minutes—which is not advisable on a hot day—or take either a taxi or shuttle bus.

Taxi rates are set by a union, but it’s a good idea to ask for the rate before getting into the cab. The recent rate for getting to Mahahual was $5.

Weather / Best Times to Go

Like most western Caribbean cruise ports, Costa Maya is popular during the winter and early spring because of comfortable temperatures and low risk of rain.

The Caribbean coast of Mexico and Belize has average high temperatures in the mid-80s Fahrenheit during the winter and upper 80s to low 90s for the rest of the year.

Rainfall averages between one and three inches from January through April and reaches nine to 10 inches in September and October during the Caribbean hurricane season.

March and April are the best times to go for a combination of warm temperatures and low risk of rain. January and February also are good options, even though temperatures are a bit cooler.

Other Tips

  • Taxi service is available between Costa Maya and Mahahual.
  • Car rentals are available at the cruise port.
  • Currency is the Mexico Peso, but U.S. dollars are widely accepted.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
August 23, 2021