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Best Things to Do in Costa Maya Mexico on Your Cruise [2024]

Going to Costa Maya on a cruise?  Wondering what you should do and see while you’re there for the day? 

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There are plenty of things to keep you busy either near the cruise terminal area or at a lovely beach nearby.  We’ve got you covered with this complete guide to Costa Maya!

Things to do in Costa Maya Mexico on a cruise
Costa Maya, Mexico (Photo Credit: Cruise Fever)

We just got back from a visit to this popular Caribbean cruise port, and if you haven’t been to Costa Maya in a few years you will notice a lot of changes at the cruise terminal.  This article reflects some of the updates we experienced.

Costa Maya (Puerto Costa Maya) is a small cruise port area located on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula near Belize

Being in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo it is approximately 130 miles south of Cozumel and is famous for having the largest Mayan ruins nearby and quaint fishing villages and its shores.

Note: This post contains affiliate links which may provide us with a small commission should you decide to purchase through them.

Costa Maya Map of Cruise Port

map of costa maya cruise port showing shops, main pool and excursion points Photo courtesy of CostaMaya.com

A little about Puerto Costa Maya

As a part of many Western Caribbean cruise itineraries, Costa Maya has become a very popular port of call.  It is renowned for its stunning beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and vibrant marine life.

It serves as a gateway to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, offering incredible snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities –although don’t try to snorkel near the pier or you may get detained by local authorities (don’t ask me how I know).

Cruise passengers can explore colorful coral reefs teeming with tropical fish or even swim with dolphins without having to even step outside the main port area. Costa Maya also boasts pristine white sandy beaches such as Mahahual Beach, where visitors can relax and soak up the sun.

costa maya cruise port pool

Another allure of Costa Maya is its rich cultural heritage. The region was once inhabited by the ancient Mayans, leaving behind remarkable archaeological sites waiting to be explored.

Chacchoben, one of the most famous Mayan ruins near Costa Maya, offers an insight into their civilization with its majestic pyramids and sacred temples.

For those seeking adventure and excitement during their shore excursion in Costa Maya, there are plenty of thrilling activities to indulge in. From zip-lining through lush jungles to ATV rides along rugged trails, adrenaline junkies will find an abundance of options here too.

The Costa Maya Port

Costa Maya cruise port with Celebration, Seaside and Allure of the Seas
Three ships docked at Costa Maya’s cruise port (Photo Credit: Cruise Fever)

Up to three cruise ships can be in port at one time, so if your cruise line has the earlier schedule to arrive in port first, you can have first dibs at some of the amenities on shore.

It’s a long walk from the ship to the entrance to the port, but there is a free trolley that will take cruise passenger the length of the pier.

During our recent Carnival cruise to Costa Maya, our ship was first and the entire pool area as still quiet and uncrowded.

After checking this same pool once a Royal Caribbean and MSC cruise ship were docked, the pool was packed and the lounge chairs were just about full.

These loungers can be used for free –sorta.  There are signs everywhere saying you can use them if you at least buy a drink or something from a nearby bar.

Costa Maya cruise port pool, shops, and more
Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

The Papantla Flyers

As soon as you walk passed the cruise terminal and through the main shop you will see one of the most fascinating street performances you can witness.

You will hear a voice recording in English as you watch 4 men climb a 100 foot pole and then slowly spin around it as they “fly” upside down to the ground to the sound of a flute.  It is the ritual of the Papantla Flyers, and it’s a free show but donations are encouraged.

This always draws a crowd right near the entrance of many of the ships and the pool, so things can get bottle necked here pretty quickly.

Around the port

There is a huge variety of shops right around the terminal area and main pool, so you could spend all day here if shopping is your thing.  The pool is massive and is surrounded by bars and places to eat, so it get crowded here fast by around noon.

Right near the terminal you will also notice a large massage center with open-air massage tables and even hammocks for a hammock massage.  Castaway Pool Bar is right behind the massage spa and is in the center of a less crowded pool area.  It also has better views of the ocean.

All of the above can be done only a few steps from the entrance to Costa Maya’s cruise port.

The port of Costa Maya sees about 1.5 million cruise passengers every year, with over 500 ships pulling into port in that time frame.

The Best Things to Do in Costa Maya (In Summary)

costa maya ruins

We will go into more detail on all the things you can do in Costa Maya further into the article, but here are some of the highlights and more popular attractions around the port city.

  • Visit the Mayan Ruins of Chacchoben: The Chacchoben ruins are one of the largest and most impressive Mayan ruins in the region. It’s located just a short drive from the Costa Maya cruise port, and there are plenty of tour operators that offer day trips.
  • Relax on the Beach: Costa Maya has some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean for the perfect beach day. You can spend the day swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling. There are also several beach clubs that offer amenities like chairs, umbrellas, and food and drinks for the perfect day in Costa Maya.
  • Go Snorkeling or Diving: The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second largest barrier reef system in the world, is located just off the coast of Costa Maya. There are plenty of tour operators that offer snorkeling and diving excursions.
  • Swim with Dolphins: Costa Maya is a great place to swim with dolphins. There are several tour operators that offer this experience.
  • Visit the Town of Mahahual: Mahahual is a small fishing village located near the Costa Maya cruise port. You can wander the streets, shop for souvenirs, and enjoy a delicious meal at one of the many restaurants.

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Things to do near the Costa Maya cruise terminal

Some of the most popular things to do right in the port are swimming with dolphins, walking the hanging bridges of the Aviarius, enjoying one of the pools, getting a relaxing massage, or just lounging around in one of the many lounge chairs. 

You can do all of these things without leaving the port or hiring a taxi driver.

1.  Beach Escape Club

Enjoy the sun, the beach or the pool, and unlimited drinks as you relax and gaze upon the sparkling ocean waters.  This beach area is the perfect way for cruise passengers to enjoy the Mexican Caribbean Sea. 

The Beach Escape Club is located on the boardwalk at Fisherman’s Village.   It’s 15 minutes from the pier and kayaks are available for those who want a more immersive view of the gorgeous waters.  Beach chairs are included and kayaks are on a first-come first-serve basis.  Cost is around $55 – $65 per person.

2.  Maya Chan Beach

Just 4 miles south of the cruise port you will find this little gem.  Pamper yourself at Maya Chan Beach Resort, an independent day resort that limits the number of guests who visit each day. Reserve a private cabana and enjoy a hammock and daybed as well as unlimited drinks and food. 

Having a reservation ensures you don’t need to rush off the ship to get a spot as they will hold it for you.  There are glass-bottom kayaks available so you can really appreciate the beautiful coral, and snorkel gear is provided all at no extra cost.  Prices are currently $60 for an adult and are subject to change.

3.  YaYa Beach

A 5-minute taxi ride from the Costa Maya cruise port, Yaya Beach is located on the Malecon, near the hotel area in Mahahual. Relax at the beach bars on lounge chairs with umbrellas and enjoy unlimited drinks.  You will want to reserve this one early as only 50 spaces are open per day.  

The YaYa Beach Break Day Pass allows total access to loungers, umbrellas, free Wi-Fi and more.  For extra costs you can try stand-up paddle, SCUBA diving, massages and other fun activities.  Prices range from $24.99 to $99.99 per person depending on what package you choose.

4.  Pez Quadro Beach Club

Located on a gorgeous beach in Mahahual and with water perfectly clear and shallow for enjoying the coral, Pez Quadro is the beach club of 40 Canones Hotel.  Relax at this beach club which also includes a restaurant and bar, free WiFi, lounge chairs, bathrooms, and showers.  Guests can enjoy fishing, snorkeling, diving, massages and more.  

Day pass start at $45 and go up to $119 for the Costa Maya Pack which includes lobster.

5.  Mahahual

Mahahual is a 5-10 minute cab ride from the port that costs $4 per person. Just tell the cab driver that you want to go into town.

You can discover old-world Mexico in this small town with scenic beaches, a main street, dirt roads, and lots of local shops and restaurants.

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Mahahual in Costa Maya

The world’s second largest coral reef, located about 100 yards from shore, helps keep the water clear, calm, and safe to swim in. Play beach volleyball, snorkel, or rent jet skis, kayaks, or paddle boards for a water adventure.

Beach in Mahahual Costa Maya

6.  Dolphin Discovery

Dolphin Discovery at Costa Maya cruise port
The dolphin aquarium is right near the main pool, closer to the ocean. Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

If you want swim with dolphins while docked in Costa Maya you don’t have to go far at all.  Just steps from the cruise port is Dolphin Discovery, so there is no need for transportation.

Swim, kiss, or boogie board with dolphins on this incredible opportunity to frolic with these frisky marine animals. Feel like a marine animal as you interact with these delightful dolphins!  Prices range from $79 to $109 for Dolphin Encounter and Dolphin Swim Adventure respectively.

7.  Swimming Pool

If you want something free and easy to do in Costa Maya you don’t have to go far.  Plunge into the giant salt water swimming pool with swim-up bar that is complementary to use for cruise ship passengers.

The area can be busy with more than a couple ships in port, but if you can find some open loungers and don’t mind the music it can offer a nice affordable way to relax.

Pool at Costa Maya

8.  Aviarius

I paid for a walk through the Aviarius on my last cruise to Costa Maya.  

It’s right near the main pool and you will see a hanging-bridge walkway that is 15 feet or so above the ground. 

I spent the $14 to try it and got some great photos from there.  Along the way are many grass-roof huts full of exotic birds and it can take about 30 minutes or so if you take your time.   It’s a great experience if you like wildlife and easier to do since it’s right at the port.

By the way, they give you a wristband to get in, but it’s a one-time use.  I tried to get back in and they wouldn’t let me.

There are 8 bird habitats in the Aviarius and some great views along the walkway.
There are 8 bird habitats in the Aviarius and some great views along the walkway. Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

9.  Flamingos

Several pink flamingos live on a small sandbar in the port among the tropical surroundings.  Most people don’t even know they are there until they walk by and then stop to get a few pictures.  You can get a close up view and a great photo of these beautiful creatures. 

The Flamingo Aviary Fountain is a fairly new feature to the cruise port at Costa Maya. It’s right underneath the entrance to the aviary.  If you’re walking around the port you really can’t miss it.

Flamingos in Costa Maya
Just behind the main pool you will find these beautiful flamingos. Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

10.  Dining

There are plenty of restaurants to dine at in Costa Maya where you will enjoy fresh ingredients, the catch of the day, traditional dishes, and friendly staff. Savor the taste of Mexican culture with the Caribbean Sea in the background at some of these wonderful restaurants:

  • Café Mexico
  • Cantina Latina
  • El Faro
  • El Mero Mero
  • El Pan Dulce
  • Flavors of Mexico
  • La Tortilleria

Water Sports

photo op costa maya sign

11.  Snorkel

If you’re only in Costa Maya for a short time during your cruise you can find plenty of great reefs and locations near the port itself.  One of the best options is to take a boat about 10 minutes outside of town.  Each vendor has their own favorite location and know the best snorkeling spots. 

If you take a short taxi ride downtown you can get better rates.  A boat usually takes 10 or so snorkelers out for about an hour.   If you bring your own snorkel goggles and gear and just want to snorkel from the beach, your best option is Mahahual beach.  It’s a mile of white sand with calm, crystal-clear waters, protected by a sandbar.

12.  Power Snorkel

Power snorkeling can be a lot of fun.  Not that snorkeling takes a lot of effort, but if you want an exciting way to glide across the water or zoom down closer to the coral for a better look, your Sea Doo Scooter has you covered.  

You can cover more ground (or rather water) using a power scooter and you don’t have to start right next to the coral reef.  Most excursions will start at a beach club and could last up to 4 hours.  Pricing starts around $65 usually.

13.  Scuba Diving

Experience some of the best scuba diving in the world, whether you are a beginner or professional scuba diver. Encounter tropical fish, sea turtles, and barracudas. Beginners will take a safety course with no diving certification or experience necessary.

Learn scuba basics and get comfortable with your gear before taking a guided dive on the nearby Meso-American barrier reef. Be amazed at the variety of marine life like stingrays, squid, and seahorses!

14.  Scuba at Banco Chinchorro

Explore Banco Chinchorro off the coast of Mahahual. It is the largest coral atoll in the northern hemisphere. Tour a variety of shipwrecks, including a Dutch galleon with its cannons.

15.  Snuba Diving

Plunge into snuba diving – a mix of snorkeling and scuba diving. Snuba diving uses an air tank that is connected to a small raft floating on the water above you. This is an interesting way to experience the mesmerizing marine life of Costa Maya.

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Boating and Fishing

boats and fishing at Costa Maya

16.  Catamaran

Many of the catamaran excursions in Costa Maya will also include time for snorkeling as well.  You will get to sail along the shoreline and see some of the best beaches the area has to offer.  Cruise along the barrier reef onboard a catamaran and uncover the hidden treasures of the Caribbean along the barrier reef. 

Catamarans are can be fast and are fun for both experienced and first-timers as alike.   Most of the catamaran excursions I’ve found in Costa Maya hold about 4 passengers per vessel.

17.  Sailing

About an hour drive from the cruise port is Bacalar Lagoon.  A sailing tour of this lagoon is both relaxing and enlightening.  Without the sound of a motor to ruin the serenity you can let the captain sail you and your group around this 30 mile lagoon as you enjoy both marine life and bird life.  You can check out this excursion here.

18.  Glass Bottom Boat

Encounter marine life without getting wet from your comfortable seat aboard a glass bottom boat. See what is underneath the water, like tropical fish and all types of sea life that live along the barrier reef.

19.  Fly Fishing

Catch and release snapper, tarpon, and bonefish while fly fishing in some of the remote Costa Maya channels. A professional Guide will lead you to the best fly fishing locations so you can enjoy fishing success.

20.  Seven Colors Lagoon

Relax or paddle through the Seven Colors Lagoon, located inside the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. The Lagoon reflects vibrant shades of blue and is surrounded by thousands of acres of rain forest. Watch for birds at Isla de Los Pajaros and experience the Canal de Piratas, or the Channel of the Pirates. The channel connects the Hondo River with the Bacalar Lagoon and was historically the site of fearsome pirate battles.

Adventurous Things to do in Costa Maya

waverunners and jetskis in costa maya

21.  ATV Jungle

Drive through the Mayan jungle on an ATV and discover hidden trails and off-road paths. Experience an exhilarating ride over uneven terrain with a knowledgeable Guide and friendly atmosphere.

22.  Dune Buggy

Discover all that Costa Maya has to offer while exploring the coast and jungle on a custom-made Dune Buggy. An experienced Guide will provide a safety briefing then lead you into the jungle along sandy paths with a stop at the Fisherman’s village. Watch for exotic birds and iguanas.

23.  Jeep Willys Jungle Track

Venture into the breathtaking jungle on sandy paths in a custom-made Jeep. Explore the coastline and watch for exotic birds as you drive your jeep deep into the jungle.

24.  Bike Tour

You can get a close-up Costa Mayan experience with a Bike rental as you explore the surrounding area. You can enjoy some incredible views on the untouched coastline as you bike past a lighthouse and a small mangrove forest to the village of Mahahual. Cherish the local flavor of this charming fishing village.

25.  Segway Rides

Experience a fun new way to see Costa Maya. Learn how to pilot a Segway with individual instruction from experienced staff. Ride along the coast for spectacular ocean views and glide into town to explore and shop.

26.  Paddleboarding

Stand upright and paddle along the coast line on a paddleboard. Learn a few techniques from an experienced paddleboarder then test your balance and stamina while enjoying the marine life and coral you paddle over. Enjoy this fun, family-friendly activity and experience the sparkling waters of the Mexican Caribbean.

 27.  Jet Ski/Wave Runner

Zoom over the water on a jet ski or wave runner and explore the barrier reef. An experienced Guide will provide a brief safety lesson and provide a life jacket. You’ll start your fast-paced adventure inside the reef until you are comfortable on your vehicle.

Then, you will pilot your jet ski through the reef to open ocean where you can go full throttle and experiment with turns, jumps, and higher speeds. Enjoy this action-packed experience that you will never forget!

28.  Flyboarding

Fly over the water with a jet pack attached to your boots! An expert Instructor will provide instructions and review safety procedures before taking you out to open water. Soar over the water like Superman and experiment with tricks and acrobatics. You won’t want to miss this amazing experience!

29.  Kayak

Paddle through the sparkling waters and mangrove-lined canals and discover Costa Maya by sea. Observe tropical fish and marine life while paddling along the coast in a kayak.

Try a glass-bottom kayak and glide through the waters to view seagrass beds where sea turtles, baby reef fish, starfish, and sea urchins hide from predators. Be amazed by the marine life beneath you as you paddle over their world.

30.  Lost Mayan Kingdom Water Park

Play hard and spike your adrenaline at the Lost Mayan Kingdom. Experience a fun-filled day of the largest water slides in Mexico, the Kukulcan zip coaster, natural water pools, and zip lines. If you’re searching for an adrenaline boost, you’ll find it here.

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Nature and Wildlife

31.  Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

Sian Ka’an was established in January 1986 and means “Origin of the Sky.” The biosphere is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains tropical rainforests, mangroves, marshes, and a marine section. Over 379 bird species have been identified in the Reserve, and it is also home to many mammals, native bees, dragonflies, beetles, crustaceans, mosquitoes, and butterflies.

The reef which intersects the marine area is comprised of 84 species of coral. Sian Ka’an promotes sustainable tourism which will minimize the environmental impact of tourism within the Reserve and is the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean. Take a Nature Tour into the lagoons of Boca Paila and Caapechen through the natural mangrove canals and lagoons and try to spot crocodiles and tropical birds.

You will also see a Mayan temple along the way. The saltwater lagoons are world-famous among fly fishers. A Guide will take you to the best areas to catch fish like the barracuda, tarpon, and bonefish.

32. Mahahual Lighthouse

On your way into town, visit the Mahahual Lighthouse. It is completely solar-powered and 72-feet high. Take a souvenir photo with the Mahahual sign – along with the huge marlin sculpture.

lighthouse at costa maya near cruise port

33.  Parque Nacional de Arrecifes

The Arrecifes de Xcalak Park is the southernmost location in Costa Maya, located just seven miles from Belize. It has one of the last unspoiled stretches of the Mexican Caribbean and is designated as a Mexican national reef park. It is also a departure point for scuba and snorkel tours.

Explore the various eco-systems in the area, such as coastal lagoons, beaches, jungle, and coral reefs. Discover unique habitats for waterfowl such as great blue herons, ibis, and ospreys. The wetlands are also a breeding site for fish and crustaceans. Delight in this park and all of its natural wonders.

Cultural Tours

34.  Chacchoben

mayan ruins pyramid at chacchoben

I really enjoyed my visit to Chacchoben on my very first visit to Costa Maya.  It’s quite a drive from the cruise port so be mindful that it’s an all-day kind of thing.  I recommend booking through the cruise line if you see Chacchoben (you won’t get left behind).

Once you’re there you can hike around the site and learn about the city’s temples, pyramids, and ancient walls from your experienced Guide.   Your guide will tell you about the mysterious Mayans and how the ruins were discovered in 1970 by local rubber farmers searching for rubber trees.

Watch for howler monkeys, armadillos, spider monkeys, and toucans. Search for evidence of the nocturnal pumas and jaguars. The ruins are surrounded by lush vegetation and exotic wildlife which is believed to hide more ruins, as yet undiscovered.

35.  Kohunlich Ruins

The Kohunlich Ruins are larger than Chacchoben, but an hour further from the port. This major archeological site has few crowds and is a Mayan ruin site which dates back to 200 B.C. Find temples, palaces, ball courts, and residential complexes.

Stroll through beautiful gardens and discover the Temple of the Large Masks, some of which are eight-feet tall and depict Maya Kings or the Maya Sun God.

36.  Dzibanche Ruins

Climb to the top of impressive temples as you explore and learn about daily life and ritual in the ceremonial center. Examine one of the best examples of Mayan architecture and urban organization. Recent excavations have found jade for ruling family members. Learn about daily life and the military might of the Mayan dynasty.

37.  Bacalar Fort

Visit the Spanish Fortress at Bacalar, also known as Fuerte San Felipe Bacalar. The fortress is 90 minutes from the port and has historical significance. It was used by the Spaniards as a barrier against pirates and attacks by the natives. View the sparkling water and imposing cannons on the Fortress’ ramparts.

38.  Mayan Healing Rituals

Relax and refresh your energy while gazing upon the stunning views of the Caribbean. Find your inner self with this Mayan ritual that pampers and nurtures your body and spirit with purification, rejuvenation, rebirth, and harmony.

39.  Mayan Temazcal Ceremony

Purify your mind and body inside a traditional Temazcal sweat lodge. Enjoy this spiritual and therapeutic experience and leave your worries behind.

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Food and Drink

40.  Mayan Cooking Classes

Learn traditional techniques for cooking the cuisine of the Yucatecan Mexican people. These hands-on cooking classes will teach you how to cook foods like tortillas, empanadas, flautas, pico de gallo, tamales, coconut bread, coconut helado, jicama salad, and more!

41.  Mango Moonshining

Travel to the southernmost tip of Costa Maya and sample the local moonshine. Mango Moonshining is the first artisanal distillery and brewery in the area.

42.  Kakaw

Explore the history of chocolate and learn about the origins of cocoa. Learn how chocolate has become a cultural event. Enjoy this flavor adventure and savor the chocolate products.

43.  Shopping

shopping in costa maya cruise port
Shopping in Costa Maya cruise port. Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

Shop in the 70,000 square foot shopping plaza right within the port and discover all kinds of trinkets – t-shirts, pottery, ornaments, silver, and other souvenirs. The shopping center also has drug stores and convenience shops to satisfy all your needs. 

I’m not sure how port shops ended up all the way at #43, but for those who love the thrill of shopping in the tropics this cruise port has quite a few stores.  I always recommend shopping away from the main port area as well so you can support the local residents directly and get a better feel for what life is like there. 

But on the way back to the port you can always stop in the port shops for last minute gifts.

How to Get Around Costa Maya

There are a few different ways to get around Costa Maya. You can take a taxi, rent a car, or book a tour.

  • Taxi: Taxis are readily available at the Costa Maya cruise port. They are a convenient way to get around, but they can be expensive.
  • Rental Car: Renting a car is a good option if you want to explore Costa Maya at your own pace. However, be aware that the roads can be winding and narrow.
  • Tour: Booking a tour is a great way to see the best of Costa Maya without having to worry about transportation. There are a variety of tours available, including beach tours, Mayan ruin tours, and snorkeling tours.

Where to Eat in Costa Maya

There are a variety of restaurants to choose from in Costa Maya. You can find everything from Mexican cuisine to seafood to international fare.

  • El Portón: El Portón is a popular restaurant located in the Costa Maya cruise port. It serves a variety of Mexican dishes, including tacos, burritos, and fajitas.
  • El Pueblito: El Pueblito is a charming restaurant located in the town of Mahahual. It serves traditional Mexican dishes, such as mole poblano and cochinita pibil.
  • The Jungle Fish: The Jungle Fish is a seafood restaurant located on the beach. It serves fresh seafood dishes, such as grilled fish and shrimp scampi.
  • Maya Chan Beach Resort: Maya Chan Beach Resort is a beautiful resort located about a 10-minute drive from the Costa Maya cruise port. It has a restaurant that serves a variety of dishes, including Mexican, American, and international cuisine.

Tips for Cruise Passengers

Here are a few tips for cruise passengers visiting Costa Maya:

  • Book your tours in advance: Tour operators often offer discounts for cruise passengers who book in advance.
  • Bring sunscreen, insect repellent, and a hat: The sun can be strong in Costa Maya, and there are mosquitoes and other insects.
  • Drink plenty of water: It’s important to stay hydrated, especially in the hot and humid climate of Costa Maya.
  • Be aware of the time: Make sure to leave enough time to get back to the cruise ship before it departs.
  • Consider your time constraints: If you’re only in Costa Maya for a few hours, you’ll want to focus on one or two activities. If you have more time, you can explore more of the area.
  • Plan your transportation: There are a few different ways to get around Costa Maya, including taxi, rental car, and tour. Decide which option is best for you based on your budget and interests.
  • Bring cash: Some businesses in Costa Maya may not accept credit cards.
  • Be aware of the culture: Costa Maya is a Mexican destination, so it’s important to be respectful of the local culture and customs.
  • Learn a few Spanish phrases: A few basic Spanish phrases will go a long way in Costa Maya.
Costa Maya cruise port
Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

FAQ on Costa Maya

Where is Costa Maya located?

Costa Maya is located along Mexico’s eastern Yucatan Peninsula, just northeast of Belize.   The port city is in the state of Quintana Roo, the same state as Cancun and Cozumel.  It is almost directly west of Jamaica by about 700 miles.   Keep in mind that Costa Maya also happens to be the name of a subdivision near the village of Mahahual, which is a fishing village.

How far is Costa Maya from Cozumel, Mexico?

Costa Maya and Cozumel are about 200 miles apart, Cozumel being further north.  It would take about 5 hours to drive from Cozumel to Costa Maya.  Since Cozumel is an island off the eastern coast of Mexico, you would have to take a ferry from Cozumel to the mainland to complete the drive.

In what time zone is Costa Maya?

Costa Maya is in Eastern Standard Time, the same as New York and Miami in the United States.   However, clocks do not change in Riviera Maya, Mexico and Daylight Savings Time (DST) is not observed.  The last time DST was observed in the region was 2014.

Do people live in Costa Maya?

While the area is not very heavily populated (one of my favorite things about this port stop), there are local residents of Costa Maya and the surrounding small fishing village of Mahahual.  As few as 1,000 people live in this area year round.

Is Costa Maya safe?

Overall, Costa Maya is a very safe place to visit, and one of the safest ports in Mexico, especially any areas right near the cruise port, which is well-maintained.  I found the local residents to be friendly and helpful and not overly pushy when it came to sales tactics, as cannot be said about other places in the Caribbean.  The area relies on tourism so keeping a good reputation in terms of crime is important to the community.  Still, even in areas designated to be safe it is important to take proper precaution.

Does Costa Maya have an airport?

There is not an airport in Costa Maya.   There are two major airports most travelers use when visiting Costa Maya, though.  The Cancun International Airport and Chetumal International Airport.    Chetumal International Airport is a little closer, being only 88 miles west of Costa Maya (a 2 hour drive), but most will fly to Cancun as it is one of the largest airports in the region and hosts international and domestic flights.  The drive from Cancun to Costa Maya is about 4.5 hours

The nearest airport “as the crow flies” to Costa Maya is San Pedro (SPR). There is a ferry you can take from San Pedro to Costa Maya that operates every hour. Tickets cost $13 and the journey takes 22 min.  The drive from San Pedro to Costa Maya will be about 6 hours.

Are there any good cenotes to visit in Costa Maya?

There are some great lagoons near the port, but you need to travel quite a distance from the cruise port to find a cenote to explore.  Cenote Azul at Laguna Bacalar is over 60 miles from Costa Maya, so it would require a car rental or other type of transportation to get there.   There are plenty of cenotes near Tulum but that is about a 100 mile drive.

Does Costa Maya have good snorkeling?

Snorkeling is one of the most popular activities for cruisers to the region, and it’s for good reason.   The coral reef of Costa Maya is part of an underwater coral formation that is the second largest in the world.  The diversity of life and vibrancy of life is abundant in this region and the water is pristine.   If you want to try snorkeling from the beach Maya Chan Beach will provide snorkeling gear so you can check it out without having to book an expensive excursion.  Buoys will mark points of interest so you can find them easily.

Does Costa Maya take US Dollars?

The official currency of Costa Maya is the Mexican Peso, but as it is such a popular tourism hot spot, the US Dollar is widely accepted, especially at the cruise port itself.   A lot of menus at local restaurants will have their prices in US Dollars as well, so you will know right away if they accept US currency or not.   You can also use your credit card if you are so inclined.  Paying with US Dollars is not frowned upon either.  Local residents will typically gladly accept this currency and pay back change in US Dollars as well.  Keep in mind that if you pay with a credit card your receipt will show a peso amount.

What Cruise Lines Visit Costa Maya?

All of the major cruise lines will make ports of call in Costa Maya.  Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Virgin Voyages, MSC Cruises, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and other cruise lines currently make stops here.

Can you walk around Costa Maya near the cruise port?

Yes, the area around the Costa Maya cruise terminal is very walk-able and full of the typical shops and shore excursions desks you would expect.  There is a very nice and well-maintained pool area and places to eat there as well.  If you want to walk outside the port to the nearby areas it will be a much longer walk, however, so a shuttle or taxi is recommended.

A taxi ride from the port is $4 per person and will take you into the fishing village of Mahahual.

Is Costa Maya a tender port?

No, cruise ships have plenty of room to dock at Costa Maya’s port, so there is no need for tenders.  You can simply walk on and off the ship at your leisure.  Having the cruise ship docked right at the port makes it easier to have the perfect day in Costa Maya without having to worry about missing your ride.

What ruins are in Costa Maya?

One of the most popular Mayan ruins to visit from Costa Maya is Chacchoben.  It’s about a 50-minute drive from the port, but is well worth the trip.  It’s probably my favorite Mayan ruin location to visit, even above Tulum.

Another popular site is the Kohunlich Mayan Ruins which is a 1.5 hour drive from Costa Maya and has nicely manicured grounds, a rain forest, and of course some fantastically preserved Mayan ruins.

What is Costa Maya Known For?

Besides being an amazing destination for cruise travelers, the Costa Maya area is also known for its natural beauty.  This isn’t Cancun, where there’s a new resort around every corner.  The coastline is pristine and free of buildings and man-made structures.  The lagoons, coral reefs, and ancient ruins make for a perfect blend of nature and history.

Final Thoughts

Costa Maya is a beautiful and welcoming cruise port with something to offer everyone.  Port officials have done a great job updating the terminal and adding improvements.  And you don’t have to go far if you want a more relaxed and laid back port of call on your cruise vacation. 

If you want to use the pool I recommend getting off the ship early, but don’t forget to visit Playa Mahahual as it’s close by and one of the best beaches in the area.

What do you like to do when your cruise ship stops at Costa Maya?

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J. Souza
J. Souza
Jon is the co-founder of Cruise Fever and has been on 50+ cruises since his first in 2009. As an editor, 15-year writer on the cruise industry, and avid cruise enthusiast he has sailed with at least 10 cruise lines and is always looking for a great cruise deal. Jon lives in North Carolina and can be reached at [email protected].
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