Costa Maya Cruise Port: Be Your Own Tour Guide

Can you be your own tour guide at the Costa Maya cruise port?

You absolutely can!

We have experienced guided tours and rented a golf cart to explore independently.

Either way, you’ll have a great time exploring Costa Maya.

One of our favorite things about the Costa Maya, Mexico cruise port is the water. That cerulean blue invites you to come out and play from the moment you take that peek out of your balcony. 

As you’re strolling down the long dock towards the port, you can peer over it, and you might see a preview of what you may see if you spend some time at the beach.

There is plenty of colorful fish, and sometimes you’ll see a stingray.

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During our first time in Costa Maya, we enjoyed a great tour with Native Choice.

After visiting Chacchoben Ruins, we spent the afternoon of fun and relaxation at Seven Color of the Seas Lagoon, also known as Lago Bacalar. Here we also had a delicious lunch and unlimited piña coladas.

It was a great day! We look forward to returning in the future. Little did we know at the time then that we’d be back here exactly a year later and exploring on our own.

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

We didn’t make any specific plans for this cruise itinerary with the Norwegian Pearl.

We thought we’d wing it and figure it out at the port. If something adventurous didn’t spark our spontaneity, we were fine with another beach day.

Costa Maya Cruise Port

View of Costa Maya Cruise Terminal from the cruise shipPin

The Costa Maya Cruise Terminal

The Costa Maya cruise port terminal is built, so you never have to leave its confines unless you want to. It’s a maze with many shops, restaurants, bars, access to the beach, and even a free pool.

There is a variety of entertainment provided by locals and plenty of photo opportunities.

Truthfully, it reminds us slightly of Disneyland. But it’s one of the nicest cruise terminals we’ve been to thus far.

Costa Maya cruise terminal is great for tourists who don’t want to venture far and want to stay close to the ship.

Costa Maya Mexico Cruise Port • TastyItinerary.comPin

Did we mention it’s a maze? Finding your way out of the terminal is an adventure in itself. It doesn’t help that shop owners are eager to get your attention, so you’ll step into one of their business establishments. All while you’re trying to find the exit. It delays things for sure.

It’s my least favorite part of this port. However, THE JOURNEY IS PART OF THE ADVENTURE, and adventure is what we find right before the exit.

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What to Do in Costa Maya Cruise Port?

Rent a Golf Cart

Finally! After our way out of the maze, we bumped into a vendor renting golf carts. At first, we started to walk away, but then we looked over our shoulders and thought, “FREEDOM!”

Taxi, smaxi. Psfff. Who needs a taxi when you can drive yourself around?

In minutes we negotiated a 5-hour rental for much less than they offered.  So, don’t be afraid to haggle a little. Still, be fair.

Thankfully, hubby loves to drive because if it were just up to me, I am not sure if this is the route I would have chosen. Make sure you’re comfortable being behind the wheel and in a golf cart with no doors or windows.

With the rental, they will provide you with a map and give you the route you’ll want to stay on with the golf carts. They may also point out locations where you can park for free.

Read More: Helpful Tips for Booking Shore Excursions Independently

Driving Around Costa Maya

The vendor handed us a map and instructed us on two main streets that looped around the Costa Maya, Mexico, cruise port area. We didn’t pay too close attention to that since we drove through the back streets and even passed unpaved roads.

We highly recommend you stay on the paved roads as the ride becomes bumpy, and the driver will have a harder time maneuvering the car.

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

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

Being your own tour guide means you can make as many stops as you like. There are many beachside bars, resorts, and unoccupied beaches. Locals are eager to ensure you’re having a good time there – don’t forget to tip.

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

Leave the terminal, and explore what this Mahahual village has to offer, even if it’s just a quick trip to Malecon.

Other Transportation at Costa Maya Cruise Port

  • Shuttles are available before exiting the cruise terminal that will take you to El Malecon (the boardwalk) for a couple of US dollars per person.
  • Taxis are outside of the cruise terminal. You must exit and pass the golf carts. 

Warning: There are many potholes on the roads. If you leave the port terminal or go out with a tour guide, expect a bumpy ride.

Mahahual Malecon (Downtown)

Mahahual Lighthouse in Costa Maya

El Malecon in Mahahual is considered Costa Maya’s beachside downtown area. The pier is filled with beachgoers and nightlife.

Most cruisers take the quick shuttle from the terminal and spend it here for the day. For us, this was our last stop.

You will find everything at el Malecon:

  • Beach bars
  • Restaurants
  • Plenty of chairs along the beach at these bars and restaurants.
  • Massages
  • Hair braiding
  • Pedicures
  • Souvenirs
  • The famous Mahahual sign
  • Lighthouse

This may be your option if you’re looking for a no-frills beach day. You can take the shuttle to El Malecon, find a bar on the beach, order a margarita and some ceviche, and sit under a palm tree between dips in the ocean.

The water here is gorgeous!

It sounds like heaven!

Beach Packing List

Pack your snorkeling gear! Don’t forget the sunscreen. Here are 25 things to pack for the beach, whether you’re taking a beach vacation or a beach day trip from home.

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 popular choice. What’s not to like? Pay an entrance fee, and it may include drinks, food, and activities like kayaking and snorkeling.

We do not have any personal experience with these beach clubs yet, but we’ve heard many great things about them. We have them on our list for future trips. Since this trip was booked last minute, so everything was booked.

Book reservations well in advance. Make your selection wisely. Ask what’s included with the entrance fee.

122 Quick and Helpful Cruise Tips

Are you in the process of planning your cruise vacation? From cruise packing tips and hacks to what to do on the cruise ship and at the cruise ports, we have everything you need to know to ensure your cruise is unforgettable.

Other Things to Do in Costa Maya, Mexico

1. Maya, Mayan Lost Magic Kingdom

This is a great alternative for families with kiddos. Not far from the cruise terminal, you’ll find Costa Maya’s water park.

It’s a great way to spend a day cooling down. There are zip lines, pools, and waterslides everyone can enjoy.

  1. You can purchase tickets with your cruise line, including transportation.
  2. Or you can buy the tickets online and hop in a taxi outside the terminal to get there.

2. 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.

3. 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 have to make the most of your time at port!

4. 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.

Pros & Cons We Observed

These are simply observations we made.

👎 The maze at the port terminal. There should be an easier exit. If you find it out, please share the tip!

According to a reader in our comments (thank you, Doug!), the easiest way to cut through the maze is to go through the ice cream shop (Amorino Gelato) because it has two entrances.

👎 The constant push for tips left a bad taste in our mouths. We are not cheap. If anything, we always overtip. We regularly tip because we understand what it means to provide service to others with little in return. However, at this stop, they were asking for tips for every little thing that didn’t warrant a tip. When we didn’t oblige, we’d get an attitude.

👎 Garbage on the side of the roads. Very unfortunate that you’re driving along the coast, enjoying stupendous views, only to be disappointed by street rubbish. It’s a shame that people do not pick up after themselves. We ask that you please be kind to our world and not leave any trash behind.

❤️ The water is calm, clear, and warm.

❤️ Safe and easy to get around.

❤️ The food! Although we have plenty of Mexican food here in Los Angeles, it’s still far superior when having it in Mexico.

Our TASTY ITINERARY TIP is to eat lunch at one of the many restaurants or ensure it is included in the tour. The food is amazing. 

❤️ Aside from the pushiness for tips, everyone was welcoming and warm. We understand they are working hard to provide for their families.

Next Stop: Back to New Orleans to disembark.

Costa Maya Cruise Port is one of those ports that will not disappoint. You can have a wonderful day exploring, spending it at the beach, taking a cooking class, or going on one of the many tours.

Your cruise day can be as relaxing or as adventurous as you want.

The water in Mahahual is incredible, so we will probably always do something water related… as long as there is food involved before or after. 😀

What are your must-sees and do’s at the Costa Maya Cruise Port? We would LOVE  to hear about your experience.

Other Related Western Caribbean Itinerary Articles:

Harvest Caye, Belize: Don’t Stay on the Ship

Spend a Fun Day at Paradise Beach in Cozumel, Mexico

Swimming with Stingrays in Grand Cayman

Explore and Tour the Beautiful Rio Dulce Guatemala

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Quick Cruise Planning Guide

Where to book a cruise?
We like to shop around before booking by going directly to the cruise line and checking out the deals on GoToSea, CruiseDirect.com, Costco Travel, and Cruise Compete. Ultimately, the best advice is to find a travel agent you can trust to help you book a cruise.

Hotels for pre-cruise and post-cruise stays
We always use Booking.com or Hotels.com to book international accommodations and Expedia or Hotels.com for US accommodations. Airbnb or Vrbo for vacation rentals.

Can I book my own shore excursions?
Yes, you’ll save money booking your own excursions and not with the cruise ship. We like to use Viator or WithLocals. Don’t forget to read up on our tips for booking.

Car Rentals
We like to rent a car at cruise ports and for the freedom to explore on our own when the destination makes sense. We also sometimes rent cars during our pre-cruise stay or on embarkation day.

Should I book cruise insurance?
Yes! Cruise insurance is essential. We always book with a third party rather than the cruise line. Compare pricing on Insuremytrip.com.

Packing for a Cruise? Don’t miss our essential cruise packing list.

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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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13 Comments

  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?