Are you going to Costa Maya on a cruise? Then you’re probably wondering what you could do there! That’s exactly what I was thinking on my recent trip on Norwegian Escape! And when your cruise ship stops in Costa Maya, you definitely don’t want to miss the opportunity to get off the ship and experience all that this amazing port has to offer!
What is and (where is) Costa Maya, Mexico?
Costa Maya is a small tourist region in Mexico, the area used to be undeveloped but has been growing rapidly since the construction of a large cruise ship pier. Before cruises were there almost every day, this area was a small fishing village, but the area has a really interesting history. Port Costa Maya is also the closest tourist destination to the lesser-known Mayan ruins, Kohunlich and Chacchoben.
A Little About the History of Costa Maya
The area has been inhabited for more than 6300 years and was once a trading hub for jade, salt, fabric, and shells.
In the 16th century, English pirates took over a large part of the coast and attacked Spanish ships that transported gold and riches to Spain. Spain tried to defend its interests by constructing forts such as the one at Bacalar, but pirates continued to devastate the region, trying to take over the entire area in the name of the English Crown. The reign of the pirates lasted until the end of the 19th century, taking advantage of the indigenous rebellions.
In 1897, during the presidency of Porfirio Diaz, a treaty was signed which established the territorial limits between Belize and Mexico. The area had been a major port until 1955 when Hurricane Janet had left it in ruins. Many Mexicans died and many of the remaining natives moved inland. The ones who remained returned to fishing.
In 2001, as the result of a joint effort between Mexico’s government and a local Mexican developer, Puerto Costa Maya opened.
Port Costa Maya features a modern shopping mall, central plaza and saltwater pools. There are also several shops selling brand jewelry, beachwear, Mexican hand made crafts and souvenirs. It is very large (almost like a labyrinth) and is generally open to cruise ship passengers only.
The port can accommodate three cruise ships at once and has three large pavilions, luxury shopping areas, saltwater pools, a beach club, and many restaurants and bars.
Things to Do in Costa Maya
As a popular cruise destination, there are a lot of things you can do in Costa Maya! However, what is different in Costa Maya from other cruise ports, is that you can purchase a lot of the excursions when you get off the boat. On our trip on Norwegian Escape, we planned a day of snorkeling and were really looking forward to it, (my first time!) However, when we got off the ship, we were told that the current is strong and visibility is about 40%. So, instead of going on the excursion we planned, we could choose another one right there at the port. And that’s exactly what we did!
We didn’t really have anything in mind and walked over to the help desk at the port entrance. After sharing some of the options that were available, we were able to easily switch to the Party Bus – Beach Break. That really wasn’t something we were looking for, our goal was to spend a day at the beach but also see some other things that Costa Maya has to offer. The other excursion was automatically taken off our itinerary on the ship and this one was charged to our ship card – a pretty easy switch!
Costa Maya Party Bus – Beach Break Review
What’s included in the Party Bus Beach Break on Costa Maya:
- Transportation to Beach Club on the Party Bus
- A stop next to the old lighthouse
- Beer and rum punch on the bus
- Kayaks, sun chairs, and facilities of the beach club
- Open bar at the Beach Club
What I did enjoy was driving through Mahahual, a tiny fishing village next to Costa Maya. With a population of just 500, Mahahual is a great non-touristy place to visit and I wish I could stay there longer.
Let’s be real: who wants to take shots at 10 am? Apparently a lot of people. So, if that’s what you’re looking for, this is the perfect choice for you. But, to disappoint, the bus ride lasts 20 minutes. So if you’re looking for a party, you will have to find it at the beach.
A beach with open bar, beautiful views, and wifi? What can be better? There is anything you can ever want on this beach. I would highly recommend it if it wasn’t for one thing. Imagine you’re lying under a palm tree and enjoying the views.. Only to be interrupted by an offer of jewelry, shark teeth, massages and more literally every 3 minutes. There is a long row of souvenir shops and a lot of people harassing you on the beach. If there was a little less focus on trying to get money out of you, this would be a perfect experience.
I Wish I Knew…
You remember that I really wanted to try snorkeling in Costa Maya. Well, you could rent snorkel gear for $10 per person. (Although I saw them rent it to someone for $20) However, the snorkel gear they are renting SUCKED! The water kept getting into my eyes and nose and overall it was a horrible experience. Next time I go to a beach, I will be bringing my own snorkeling gear.
What I Would do Instead…
Instead of taking a party bus (just a 20-minute ride for $69), I would take a taxi or a cheaper transportation option to the beach. The beach has an open bar, wifi, plenty of space to lounge, and a lot of fun entertainment options and shops. But, I would also check out other options in Costa Maya.
Other Things to Do At Costa Maya
There are a lot of other awesome excursions at Costa Maya that I heard about! Here are some of my favorites:
Bacalar Fort & Seven Colors Lagoon – Visit the Ancient Fort of Bacalar, take a motorboat to Isla de Pájaros and Canal de Piratas and see seven shades of blue at the lagoon!
ATV Jungle & Beach Adventure – Hop on your ATV and explore the off-road paths and hidden trails of the Costa Maya jungle.
Lost Mayan Kingdom – A fun-filled adventure at an amazing water park!
Shop at the Costa Maya Cruise Terminal – Costa Maya cruise port is like a city of its own. There are so many shops, restaurants, and even a pool!
Costa Maya Tips for Cruisers
Costa Maya or Mahahual
Costa Maya and Mahahual are often used interchangeably, but there is a big difference: Costa Maya is the port area and complex for cruise ship passengers to enjoy, Mahahual is the small fishing village just outside of this area.
Aggressive Sales People
When you visit a town that was built on tourism, then you should always expect there to be a fair amount of aggressive vendors in the area looking to make a few extra bucks. If this is the case on your trip, a simple no thank you should be enough to get you moving on your way.
Don’t Forget to Pack Your Port Bag
I am a big fan of packing lists (I don’t like forgetting things), so use this cruise packing list for your trip and pack your port bag well!
Plan Your Excursions Beforehand
I wish I did more research and had an alternative option when the snorkeling excursion got canceled. Instead, I had to choose fast. If I had weighed my options beforehand, I would definitely choose something else instead of the party bus.
Related: Use the Ultimate Cruise Checklist
No Pesos, No Worries!
No need to exchange your dollars to pesos, you can use both in Costa Maya.