Costa Maya Cruise Port: Be Your Own Tour Guide

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Can you be your own tour guide at the Costa Maya cruise port? Yes, you can!

Whether you plan on taking a guided tour or exploring independently with a rented golf cart, Costa Maya promises an exciting day. The stunning cerulean waters beckon you to come out and play the moment you get a glimpse of it from your cruise balcony. As you walk down the long dock towards the port, peek at the marine life below—colorful fish and occasional stingrays—will set the tone for what awaits at the beach.

On our first visit to Costa Maya, we chose a guided tour with Native Choice, exploring the Chacchoben Ruins, followed by a relaxing afternoon at the “Seven Colors of the Seas” Lagoon, or Lago Bacalar. We enjoyed a delightful lunch with unlimited piña coladas—a perfect day.

Returning exactly a year later, we opted for spontaneity. Without set plans on the Norwegian Pearl, we were open to adventure or another laid-back beach day. Each visit to Costa Maya has been memorable, and we can’t wait for our next time in port.

featured blog image | view of the Costa Maya Cruise Port with clear blue waters, a lush green landscape, and a dock extending towards thatched-roof structures and ancient Mayan-themed buildings. The image has overlay text reading "COSTA MAYA CRUISE PORT"Pin

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In this article, we’ll share our personal experiences and tips to help you navigate and enjoy Costa Maya.

The Costa Maya Cruise Terminal: A Tourist Haven

View of Costa Maya Cruise Terminal from the cruise shipPin

Where is the Costa Maya cruise port? It’s located on the eastern coast of Mexico, near Mahahual in the state of Quintana Roo.

The Costa Maya cruise port terminal is designed so you never need to leave its confines unless you choose to. It’s like a mini-city, with many shops, restaurants, bars, rocky beach front, and even a free pool.

The area is bustling with local entertainment and numerous photo ops—it almost gives off a Disneyland vibe, making it one of the nicest cruise terminals we’ve encountered.

It’s ideal for tourists who prefer to stay close to their ship. The terminal itself is quite the labyrinth. It’s amusing yet challenging to navigate; the journey through this maze becomes an adventure. Although finding the exit can be tricky, especially with shop owners eagerly drawing your attention to step into their stores, it’s all part of the experience. This might be my least favorite aspect of this port, but as I always say, the journey is part of the adventure—and adventure always awaits just before the exit.

Costa Maya Mexico Cruise Port • TastyItinerary.comPin

Be Your Own Tour Guide at Costa Maya Cruise Port

Rent a Golf Cart!

Just when we thought we’d navigated the Costa Maya cruise terminal maze, freedom called in the form of a golf cart. At first, we hesitated and started to walk away, but then we turned back, a sudden urge for adventure hitting us—why stick to taxis when you could have the thrill of driving yourself?

In no time, we were haggling like pros, securing a five-hour rental for a steal. Remember, it’s okay to bargain a bit—but always keep it fair.

I was relieved my hubby loves to drive because steering a doorless, windowless golf cart isn’t exactly my style. Make sure you’re comfortable behind the wheel before you take off.

The rental place equipped us with a map and suggested routes specifically good for golf carts, even highlighting spots where parking was free.

Navigating the Open Road in Costa Maya

With the map in hand, we were told to stick to two main streets that loop around the area. But true to our adventurous spirit, we veered off into backstreets and unpaved paths. While it’s fun to explore, I’d advise staying on paved roads unless you’re up for a bumpy ride!

Driving along, the ocean views were spectacular, with beachside bars and secluded beaches dotting the landscape. The locals were incredibly welcoming, ensuring we enjoyed ourselves—a reminder not to skimp on tips.

We never felt unsafe. This is important because many cruisers stay at the terminal and don’t explore because of predetermined assumptions.

Beach and boat view from the road exploring Mahahual • TastyItinerary.comPin

Don’t be afraid to be your own tour guide.

– Kathy, Tasty Itinerary

Don’t hesitate to explore beyond the terminal. Mahahual offers beautiful and fun sights like the bustling Malecon—perfect for a quick but memorable excursion. Being your own tour guide means stopping whenever and wherever you want, diving into the local scene at your own pace.

Our day driving around Costa Maya was not just an adventure—it was one of spontaneity, making every moment unforgettable.

The Maze at the Port Terminal: Navigating the terminal can feel like solving a puzzle. A reader (thanks, Doug!) shared a pro tip: cut through the Amorino Gelato shop—it has two entrances and might be your shortcut out.

Other Transportation at Costa Maya Cruise Port

  • Shuttles are available before exiting the cruise terminal. They will take you to El Malecon (the boardwalk) for $3.00 US per person.
  • Taxis are outside of the cruise terminal. You must exit and pass the golf carts.
  • Rent an E-bike near the cruise port to explore Mahahual on your own.

Warning: The roads are full of potholes. If you leave the port terminal to explore, expect a bumpy ride.

Other Things to Do in Costa Maya, Mexico

Visit Mahahual Malecon (Downtown)

Mahahual Lighthouse in Costa Maya

El Malecon in Mahahual is the vibrant downtown area of Mahahual beach, bustling with beachgoers daily and lively with nightlife as the sun sets. Most cruisers opt for the quick shuttle from the terminal, spending their entire day soaking up the scene. We took our golf cart at the end of our time and parked it at a local bar so we could explore independently.

At El Malecon, you’ll discover a beach-lovers paradise:

  • Beach Bars & Restaurants: Find a spot along the beach at any bar or restaurant where you can enjoy refreshing drinks and tasty eats with your toes in the sand.
  • Relaxation Services: Treat yourself to massages, hair braiding, or even a pedicure on the beach.
  • Shopping: Browse through various stalls and shops offering everything from local souvenirs to the essentials for beach day fun.
  • Iconic Sights: Don’t miss snapping a photo at the famous Mahahual sign or by the picturesque lighthouse.

El Malecon is perfect if you’re looking for a straightforward, no-frills beach day. Just hop on the shuttle, grab a margarita and some ceviche at a beachfront bar, and settle under a palm tree for sunny relaxation and ocean dips. The water here? Gorgeous—it’s a slice of heaven!

Tip: The further you go, the nicer the beach areas get.

Plan a Day at a Costa Maya Beach Club

Beautiful clear water at a beach in Costa Maya, MexicoPin

Heading to a beach club is a fantastic option for those looking to make the most of their day at the beach. What’s not to love? For an entrance fee, you often get a package deal that includes drinks, food, and activities like kayaking and snorkeling.

While I haven’t personally visited these clubs, they are highly recommended and on my list for future visits. Unfortunately, everything was already booked since this trip was a spur-of-the-moment decision.

If you’re considering a beach club, making early reservations to secure your spot is wise. Be sure to inquire about what the entrance fee includes to ensure it meets your expectations. Some popular beach clubs in the area include:

Read More: Guide to Booking Your Own Shore Excursions

Spend the Day at Maya, Mayan Lost Magic Kingdom

If you’re cruising with kids, Maya, The Lost Mayan Kingdom Water Park is a blast and a short ride from the cruise terminal. It’s an awesome spot to cool off and has something for everyone: zip lines, pools, and waterslides galore.

Tickets? You can purchase them through your cruise line, which usually includes a ride to the terminal, or you can buy them online and hop a taxi at the terminal.

Visit Chacchoben Mayan City and Bacalar Lagoon

Tip of an orange kayak, pair of feet, pointing towards huts on a lagoon in Costa MayaPin

Combine culture with a day of swimming or kayaking in one of the most beautiful lagoons. As mentioned earlier, we visited our first Mayan temple during our first cruise to Costa Maya and then spent the rest of the afternoon at Bacalar Lagoon. It was one of the best days of our itinerary and we highly recommend it.

Book Discovery Scuba

Always wanted to learn to scuba diva but haven’t gotten to it? Discovery scuba is an amazing way for first-timers or beginners to get an introduction to scuba diving.

Take a Cooking Class

Spend the afternoon learning how to make a few of your favorite Mexican dishes, like guacamole and enchiladas! Karlita’s Kitchen fits right into this Tasty Itinerary. If there is time after lunch, hit the beach – you must make the most of your time at port!

Book an ATV Adventure

For those looking for adventure and thrill, ride ATVs through Costa Maya while your guide introduces you to their local culture. Then, have lunch at the beach before riding back.

Frequently Asked Questions

A tranquil beach scene with kathy on a swing hanging from a seaside tree, clear blue skies above, and the calm ocean in the background.Pin

Can you walk to the beach from the Costa Maya cruise port?

Mahahual Beach is the closest sandy beach to the Costa Maya cruise port, about a 40-minute walk away. We recommend taking a shuttle for $3 or a taxi for about $10.

Can you swim at the Costa Maya cruise port?

There is a pool at the Costa Maya terminal, but you’ll have to purchase food and drinks to use it. If you do not plan to explore outside of it, you’re probably better off exploring the terminal and returning to the ship to swim.

Is Costa Maya Cruise Port safe?

Yes. The cruise port terminal is secured for cruise passengers and employees who work at the terminal only. It is still safe once you leave the port area. We explored on our own and never felt unsafe or saw anything considered unsafe. Throughout our self-guided adventures outside the port area, the atmosphere remained welcoming, and we encountered nothing but friendly faces and helpful locals. The community is invested in ensuring that visitors have a pleasant experience.

Costa Maya Observations: The Good, The Bad, and The Tasty

During our visit to Costa Maya, we made some noteworthy observations:

👎 Overzealous Tipping Requests: While we’re not shy about tipping generously, the constant pressure for tips here was a bit much. It seemed like tips were expected for every little interaction, and when we didn’t comply, the attitude we received was off-putting.

👎 Litter Along the Coastline: It’s heartbreaking to drive along such beautiful coastal views only to see them marred by litter. If you visit, please keep it clean and respect its natural beauty.

❤️ The Water: Stunning! It’s as you’d hope—calm, clear, and invitingly warm.

❤️ Safe and Easy Navigation: Getting around here is straightforward and safe.

❤️ The Food is a Highlight: We love our Mexican food in Los Angeles, but it tastes better in Mexico.

Tasty Itinerary Tip: Enjoy a meal at one of the local restaurants or choose a tour that includes lunch. The food here is not to be missed.

❤️ Warm and Welcoming Locals: Despite the pushiness for tips, everyone was incredibly friendly and clearly hard at work to support their families.

These insights and experiences made our trip memorable, for better or worse, and we hope they help you make the most of your time in Costa Maya.



Kathy Ava

Meet Kathy Ava, a food, travel, and cruise writer based in Los Angeles/Pasadena, and the owner and main writer of Tasty Itinerary. With over 20 years of experience planning trips and logistics at her full-time job and for herself, she's become a pro at crafting unforgettable tasty itineraries. She's always on the hunt for delicious, fun travel destinations and cruise itineraries. She firmly believes that life is short and we must make the most of it, so always say yes to dessert.

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  1. This sounds great & the blue of the water looks amazing! What a fun idea to rent a golf buggy ? Totally agree that pushy shop/restaurant people are off putting. I always try to remind myself all cultures are different…

  2. The easy exit to cut through the maze of the port is to go through the ice cream shop as it has two entrances.

    1. @Doug Thompson, can you more specific directions to exit the port? Is the ice cream shop fourth shop or what? We will be here in April and I want to exit the port as soon as possible. Thanks.

    2. @Gloria,
      I too will be there in April, via Allure of the seas! So glad I found this post with the tip to exit the port!

  3. Our favorite place in Costa Maya is Maya Chan! It’s a small, laid back day resort run by an American family. You get your own beachside palapa, food is fantastic, view is beautiful, price is reasonable! And no vendors!

  4. You said the water is warm, what about in Feb? I would assume it’s always warm? Want to snorkel, where would be the best place for that? Thanks, 33 day to go! Carnival Breeze from Galveston

    1. The water is definitely warm year-round, although it may be warmer during the summer months. In Feb, I read the water can be as low as 76 degrees, which is fabulous to me. A snorkeling tour from a boat will probably take you to the best snorkeling spots. Although we’ve seen the most beautiful fish and even spotts stingrays from the shores of Mahahual. The water is so clear, too.

  5. hey there. Could you share more about the cost of golf carts? We are looking to plan a trip to the water park and then exploring the city. The water park is a 5 hour excursion and that would leave about 3 hours to explore the city. COuld we do a 2 hour gold cart ride?