Cruise Planning Tips
Cruise Port Tips
Costa Maya is not one of those iconic Mexican cities like Puerto Vallarta, Cozumel, or Cabo San Lucas. It is a small town built specifically for the cruise tourism business. Located near the Caribbean coast between Riviera Maya and Belize, Costa Maya is a small port of call offering a compound that has shops, restaurants, and a few activities to keep you busy.
The port of call is a common stop for Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line, and Carnival Cruise Line.
Where cruise ships dock
Cruise ships dock at the pier, which leads to the nearby shopping and entertainment areas.
What’s there to do in Costa Maya?
The two main draws for this port of call are tours to the local Mayan ruins or activities near the sea.
You can enjoy your day in Costa Maya without even leaving the port because many activities are on offer right in the compound. Cruise visitors staying in town close to the ship can shop, eat, drink, and enjoy the sun. For the more adventurous souls, there is a water park and a dolphin attraction. If these sound like fun, you can pre-book or purchase tickets from the vendors who are more than happy to help you. If you fancy a swim either use the pool (free of charge – bring a towel), or take a swim in the sea, but bring reef shoes because of rocks.
To get started making your plan for what to do in Costa Maya, go through the excursions offered by your cruise line to get a sense of what’s on offer. Besides the cruise line, there are vendors at the port or you can book shore excursions online with a reputable tour company. Keep in mind that if you do choose to make your own tour arrangements not offered by the cruise line, then make sure you get back to the ship before it sets sail. You could find yourself trying to catch up to the ship in the next port of call, which would be at your own expense.
Costa Maya is a cruise port that has been built specifically to meet the needs of cruise ship passengers. Once you get off the cruise ship take a walk directly into Costa Maya. You can stay right in port for the day. There are plenty of stores, restaurants, bars, and activities right in the town. You can use the pool, which is free of charge. Costa Maya is a nice place to hang out for the day especially if you want to chill and relax for the day and don’t want to spend much money on organized excursions.
There are plenty of excursions to keep you busy, from relaxing in the warm Caribbean waters, sightseeing, shopping, dining, or spend your time doing something adventurous. Thrill seekers might want to do an ATV adventure ride, swim with the dolphins, a Segway tour, zip lining, dune buggy rides, rain forests and wildlife tours, rent a jet ski, kayak, snorkel, or scuba dive. Besides spending time playing in the sun and enjoying outdoor activities, maybe you are more interested in the local culture and want to tour nearby Mayan ruins (keep in mind that you may also be visiting Cozumel or Playa del Carmen, which offer tours to the biggest Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza).
Besides hanging out in port on your own, some cruise passengers opt for an organized tour. If you did not make arrangements for a tour on the ship, you will notice that there are many vendors in port looking to sell you excursions. Be careful when using a vendor that is not affiliated with the cruise line. The risk is that you may miss the boat – literally. Also, one annoying thing that I have seen regarding purchasing tours from vendors in port is waiting. Sometimes it seems that you are all ready to go, but the tour vendor will wait to get more people to fill the group. This delay could cost valuable vacation time. Last thing about outside vendors, their prices may be negotiable, but at the end of the day, the cost could be the same as the ship.
The last option for cruise ship visitors to Costa Maya is walking outside the port area to get a taxi or a golf cart to explore on one’s own. Some people like heading into the small fishing town of Mahal. There are some nice beaches with lounge chairs and umbrellas. The only catch to use these amenities is purchasing a couple drinks and some food from the hotel or restaurant offering the service. Not a bad way to spend the day.
Pay particular attention to the time your ship is in port. Some of the attractions are located far from the port area. Like all port calls, stay on ship’s time. Cruise visitors wanting to venture off the Costa Maya development should make sure to book with the cruise line or find a reputable tour operator that guarantees your arrival back to the ship. Quick trips to the nearby fishing village of Majahual can be made via taxi or shuttle bus.
- Take an excursion to nearby Mayan ruins at Chacchoban, Kohunlich or Dzibanché
- Zip line through a Mayan forest from Costa Maya
- Charter a fishing boat
- Go to Uyumil Che (a nearby monkey farm)
- Go to Xcalak for a snorkel or dive at a nearby reef
- Go diving at Chinchorro Reef Underwater National Park in nearby Riviera Maya
- Visit Sian Ka’an, an UNESCO World Heritage site