When your cruise ship stops in Costa Maya, Mexico in the Western Caribbean you pretty much have three options to choose from for exploring Quintana Roo in one single day.
In order of ease:
- Visit the Costa Maya Cruise Ship Village at the port
- Visit the small fishing village of Mahahual
- Excursion to see the Mayan ruins, Chacchoben, Kohunlich and Dzibanche
Each one of these adventures is different from the next.
1. Costa Maya Cruise Port Village
The village was created purely for the cruise ships and is there for those who don’t want to venture outside the gates. When it comes to what to buy in Costa Maya, here you can find the usual souvenir shops, jewellery stores, liquor stores and a drugstore as well as entertainment, food and drink, and you don’t need to leave the secure area. It’s far from an authentic Mexican experience but is convenient if you want to get off the ship for just a few hours. It will be very busy depending on how many ships are in port and prices in the shops will be higher than if you venture outside.
The cost for the day: Free entry.
2. Mahahual Beach, Costa Maya
Walk towards the salt-water pool with the swim up bar in the centre of the village and look for the exit sign that leads towards the shuttles. Purchase a shuttle ticket for the “Fisherman’s Village” at the stand for $3US/person (one way).
(Over 10+ years ago when Costa Maya was still a new port for the cruise ships we walked over to the fishing village by following the shoreline – it’s only 3 km away. But you are no longer permitted to walk along the beachfront as they’ve built a massive wall. You can still walk to the fishing village, but it is along the road and not a very pleasant walk).
The drive is not very scenic. Once at the village you have a choice of 5 stops. The first stop is the busiest section of Mahahual, and the fourth stop is the least active.
We prefer to go to the middle (stop 3), or we get off the shuttle at stop 1 and walk. You can easily walk the entire length of the village.
Years ago, this was indeed a quiet, lazy fishing village with very few buildings and very few people. Now, the beach is filled with vendors offering massages, food and beverages, jewellery and crafts.
My how things have changed over the years but what hasn’t changed is the shallow, turquoise water and the ever-present cooling breeze that allows you to lounge all day long without getting overheated by the sun.
Our patch of paradise in Mahahual Costa Maya is an area called “Nohock Kay”
Nohock Kay is a great spot, mainly because the water is so shallow that you can walk a fair distance out into the water, which makes it an excellent place for families.
We had met a woman who purchased an all-inclusive pass online for this very location for $50US/person that gives you all you can eat/drink, a lounge chair with umbrella, Wi-Fi, restrooms/showers, kayak and floats at Nohock Kay.
Other operators on the beach offer similar packages while some provide chair and umbrella for free with food/drink purchase…so, shop around and negotiate.
We prefer to find a patch of sand under a palm tree and lay down a beach towel and forego the cost of the chair and umbrella.
Beer prices vary, but I did see signs for ten beers for $10US in the most populated parts of the beach.
Once you’ve had enough of the beach, walk over to one of the many taxi signs along the beach and take a cab back to the cruise port. $3US/person
Our total cost for 2 for the day = $12US for shuttle and taxi.
Chacchoben, Kohunlich and Dzibanche Mayan Ruins
Simply booking the ship’s tour is the easiest (and most expensive) way to visit the Mayan ruins. Your tour will include lunch, cold beverages, a guide and a shopping stop.
It has been over 10+ years since we’ve visited the ruins because it’s a long drive to get to the various sites. You can prearrange a tour online, or you can walk to the taxi stand and negotiate a driver for the day (pay cash). If you decide to hire a private tour, check the ship’s departure time and make sure that you factor in lots of extra time to get back to the port. The ship will not wait for you since you booked privately! We commonly plan to get back to port with at least 1-2 hours to spare just in case of traffic or car issues. Having time to spare allows you to explore the port area before you board the ship.
Note: Dzibanche (Pictured above) is the most impressive of the three ruins but is also the furthest, and it does require that you start your adventure early in the morning. Most tours that include Dzibanche demand a minimum 10 hours to allow for the distance.
Whatever your adventure in the Yucatan, enjoy the turquoise blue water and the Mexican sun!