Updated Nov. 2022!
After almost three years, I finally had the chance to return to Costa Maya last month. Costa Maya has always been one of my favorite cruise ports in the Western Caribbean.
A stop at the Costa Maya cruise port is a good excuse to eat some good local food and simply relax on the beach.
If you’re going to Costa Maya on your cruise, lucky you! By the time you’re finished reading this article, you’ll know why it’s one of my top Caribbean cruise ports.
And you’ll learn how to save money here, too.
Best Things to Do In Costa Maya, Mexico
You don’t have to spend a lot of money.
In this article, I’ll explain how to spend a really great day in Costa Maya without buying an expensive shore excursion.
Puerto Costa Maya (the port’s official name) and the nearby sleepy town of Mahahual was once a rural fishing village. It wasn’t until 2002 that this region was transformed into the popular cruise ship destination.
Costa Maya was the first “manufactured” cruise port in the Caribbean, but the infrastructure didn’t last too long. In 2007, Hurricane Dean had a devastating impact in the area. Costa Maya cruise port was closed for a little over a year.
Finally, Costa Maya reopened and the port complex has been growing ever since.
Where is Costa Maya, Mexico?
When your cruise is going to Costa Maya, most people wonder, “where is it and what’s there to do when I get there?” Actually, a lot of people haven’t even heard of Costa Maya, Mexico. Or they’ve heard the name but have no clue what to do there.
Situated along the turquoise-colored Caribbean Sea, Puerto Costa Maya (Costa Maya cruise port) and its nearby towns rest between the sea and the deep jungle.
Geographically speaking, Costa Maya, Mexico is located on the Yucatan peninsula, near the southern border of Quintana Roo, one of 32 Mexican states.
What to Do in Puerto Costa Maya Instead of a Shore Excursion
Cruise lines offer full-day and expensive shore excursions to visit the incredible Mayan pyramids, dolphin encounters or snorkeling. That’s great if you want to spend time on a motor coach.
Then there are the on-site tour operators who greet cruise passengers as they enter the port, hoping to pick up some last-minute business. These hard workers offer many of the same excursions as the cruise lines.
When I’m in Costa Maya, I just want a really good lunch and a cold drink. Followed by a couple of hours lounging in a beach chair or floating on a mat in the ocean.
Here’s how to do exactly that, save a bundle of cash and have one of the best port days ever. Head over to the town of Mahahual and its beautiful beaches.
How to Go Mahahual Beach from Costa Maya Cruise Port
Directions from the cruise ship complex to the transportation area has changed over the last few years.
As of November 2022, here’s how to get to Mahahual and the beaches on your own.
Walk (or take the free tram) along the lengthy pier from your ship to the port’s colorful entrance. Don’t hesitate to hop aboard the tram if it’s really hot outside. The walk is longer than it looks!1. After you pass through the entrance, follow the pedestrian path as you enter the bustling cruise recreation and shopping complex. You know you’re on the right path as you pass the grand staircase on your right.
Update: This little breezeway path behind the stairs is now closed.
You can’t “cut” through behind the stairs anymore to the taxi and transportation area. Now you have to walk past a zillion shops and snack bars until you come to the beautiful pink flamingoes.
Look to Your Right, Across from the Flamingoes
2. There are of course more shops. But what’s special about Amorino is that it’s the quickest (and maybe tastiest) shortcut to the transportation area out of the cruise complex!
Be polite as you cut through the shop and maybe promise to stop on your way back for a creamy gelato.
3. Once you’re on the other side of Amorino’s, you’re getting closer to the taxi and rental area. Plus you’ve avoided at least another dozen shops that try to lure you inside to buy.
TIP: Some of these locally owned shops have wonderful items, including unique turquoise and sterling silver jewelry, so plan to have some time to browse or shop on your way back to the ship.
4. Here’s what you’ll see as you approach the taxi area. Yes, you’re in the right place…it’s undergoing some improvements so don’t mind the appearance. Keep walking…
Here’s where you can rent a golf cart or hire a taxi. The trolley and/or shuttle are currently not operating, at least not when I was there.
Taxi or Golf Cart to the Beach
You can take a $8 taxi ride (that’s per taxi for one or more people) to anywhere in Mahahual. Or you can rent a golf cart for the day.
The current rate for a golf cart is $60 for a four-seater or $80 for a golf cart for 6 people for the entire day.
The golf cart rental company employees are wearing red shirts, thus the company name, Red Shirt Golf Carts!
5. Take a taxi to 40 Canons/Cuarenta Cañones/40 Canones.
Tell whomever is driving that you want to go to 40 Canons Hotel or in Spanish, simply, Cuarenta Cañones. It’s a 10-15 minute ride until you reach the last stop at the end of the road. The town is actually Mahahual.
The driver will stop at the entrance to the hotel. Enter the whitewashed breezeway at 40 Cañones and walk towards the beach. You can’t miss it.
And Then There’s This – 40 Cañones Beach Club
Spend the day on the beach – there are several beach clubs along this stretch of promenade. All charge a fee.
Pez Quadro, the Beach Club at 40 Cañones, has an All You Can Drink package that also includes a meal, wifi and lounge chair for $85 per person.
There’s also an all you can drink non-alcoholic package with the same amenities for only $45 per person. That’s a bargain price for sure. The food at the hotel is excellent.
Add a lobster meal and it will cost more; $119 and $60 respectively.
Time for a Mexican (or Italian) Lunch
Personally, I always go to the outdoor dining area at the hotel for a fabulous lunch. At 40 Canons you can choose Italian or Mexican. The owners are Italian and serve traditional Italian meals.
I love the shrimp fajitas. Guacamole is awesome, too…everything there is good. A full lunch with a drink will run from $12 to $30 depending of course if you order a fresh-caught lobster or a cheese quesadilla.
If you go with the Pez Quadro Beach Package, one dish is included in the rates.
After lunch, I like to take a walk along the promenade then head back to the hotel and the beach club.
You’ll find the beach and town quiet, peaceful and pretty much undeveloped.
When it’s time to head back to your ship (be sure to allow at least a full hour) just walk back to the road through the hotel. Taxis are usually available, but leave enough time just in case you have to wait.
As you drive back to Costa Maya (for a short distance it’s a different route) look for these rainbow-colored cabanas.
Once back at the cruise port, just follow the crowds out towards the pier. You can buy any last minute souvenirs from the hundreds of stalls and shops at the complex. Or that gelato I mentioned earlier!
Too tired to walk? Take the complimentary trolley back to your ship.
Seriously….You Could Have This…
Or You Could Have This…It’s Your Vacation
The beautiful beaches of Costa Maya, Mexico. One heck of a cruise port!
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I’m the editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com, a solo traveler cruising the world on waves and wheels, collecting recipes along the way. I hope my articles and photos entertain, advise and inspire you to travel the world without flying. Take a breath…stop for a local meal and a glass of wine along the way.