The Perfect Day in Costa Maya, Mexico

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Costa Maya, Mexico is one of the most popular cruise ship destinations in the Caribbean. The majority of tourists really only go due to the cruise ship industry, but this place is more than just a small beach town.

As we were working on cruise ships for years, we have been to Costa Maya probably around 100 times. So you can definitely say that we know a thing or two when it comes to exploring this port of call!

With just a few hours in port, we are going to tell you the best way to spend your limited time in this Caribbean destination. Here is everything you need to know about Costa Maya, Mexico.

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Where is Costa Maya?

Costa Maya is translated to "The Mayan Coast". This area is a stretch of land located along the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, south of the Riviera Maya in Mexico. On the map below you can see exactly where it's located in relation to other spots in the country.

where is Costa Maya

Costa Maya is located south of the Riviera Maya in Mexico.

How to Get to Costa Maya

The most popular way to reach Costa Maya is by the cruise. This area actually really only became popular from being a popular cruise port. A ton of different cruise lines make stops here such as Royal Caribbean, Virgin, Norwegian, Disney and more. 

If you'd like to visit here apart from a cruise ship, you can visit Mahahual (the main fishing town of Costa Maya) by getting a bus from Tulum with ADO. This is the same bus that goes to Bacalar, and you can book a ticket below.

Another option can be renting a car from larger surrounding cities such as Chetumal, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, or Cancun.

Entry Requirements for Mexico

While many people will be visiting Costa Maya on cruise ships, it's still important to know exactly the requirements for entering. Here is all you need to know for what to do in Costa Maya when it comes to entry requirements.

Visa Entry Requirements

Back in the day, Americans were able to travel without passports. It's been a while since that has changed, but I think it's important to address since I have met hundreds of cruisers thinking they could go onboard without a passport. Whether you are visiting Costa Maya via cruise ship or on your own, you will in fact need your passport to travel.

Covid Entry Requirements

From day one Mexico has been much more accepting to letting people in during times of Covid. Luckily conditions around the world have kept getting better, and there are no longer any restrictions due to Covid.

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Local Adjustments for Costa Maya, Mexico

Whenever you're traveling somewhere new, there are things that you may forget about, that could differ from where you are coming from. Here are a few of the local adjustments to keep in mind while traveling to Costa Maya, Mexico.

What Language is Spoken in Costa Maya?

The official language in Costa Maya is the same as the rest of Mexico, which is Spanish. It definitely helps to learn a bit of the language beforehand when it comes to bargaining. However, if you don't speak Spanish it's nothing to worry about.

Being such a highly trafficked spot by cruise ships, many people do speak English as well.

Currency in Costa Maya

The currency used in Mexico is the Mexican peso. Currently (March 2024) the exchange rate is about 17 Mexican pesos for every 1 USD. 

Do I Need Pesos in Costa Maya?

In Costa Maya it is very common for places to accept USD. However, if you have Mexican pesos things will actually be much cheaper. We always go to the ATM to take out local money, and there is one right in the center of Mahahual where you can do so.

Electrical Outlets in Mexico

Mexico uses the same plug types as the rest of North America, which are types A & B. The standard voltage in Mexico is 127 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz.

If you are from the US you will be able to use your electronics without needing an adapter or energy converter. If you are from Europe, you will need an adapter with energy conversion.

Can You Drink the Water in Costa Maya?

The water is pretty notorious for not being super safe to drink. While I've drank the tap water, and had ice in my drinks with no issue, it is advised to stick the bottled water here.

Tipping in Costa Maya, Mexico

The tipping culture in Mexico varies a bit, but is pretty similar to the US. Especially in Costa Maya, where there is a high influx of Americans, it is common to tip between 15-20% in restaurants, and services such as massages.

What to Do in Costa Maya, Mexico

When people think of Costa Maya, Mexico, they think that there is just a beach. There is in fact a lot of different things that you can do in and around this small port town! Here are some great ways to spend your day in this port of call:

Rent a Golf Cart

One of the most fun things to do here is to rent a golf cart, and explore a little. There are routes that are designated for the carts and they include drinks and chairs on the beach stops. In the port they will charge up to $100/ day, but we know a great guy that is just outside the port who has much cheaper prices!

Costa Maya Mexico golf carts

Renting a golf cart is one of the top things to do in Costa Maya, Mexico

As crew members, we were going to Costa Maya, Mexico almost every week, so we’ve already explored all the options. We found a guy with the best deals, and went back to him every time because of his prices, and the quality of the carts he gives. Want to learn our secret? Buy us a coffee down below and we'll share it!

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2. Have a Relaxing Beach Day

Although this port of call is called Costa Maya, the town is in fact called Mahahual. Mahahual is a small fishing village located on the beach, which is just a few minutes away, and very family friendly. There are tons of restaurants, shops, and amenities spread along the main beach.

beach Costa Maya, Mexico
coconuts in Costa Maya
beach in Costa Maya, Mexico

The beach in Costa Maya is just a few minutes from the cruise port.

Beach Clubs in Costa Maya Mexico

There are plenty of beach clubs located in Mahahual. Some have a $10 entrance fee, which includes chairs, showers, wifi, and sometimes kayaks. Others are free entry, but you need to purchase food or drinks there. Beach clubs are the easier, more comfortable option.

Kayaks Costa Maya Mexico

The beach clubs usually give free kayak rentals.

The Public Beach

The entire beach is public at Mahahual. However, if you use the chairs, hammocks, or other amenities that are part of the local restaurants or hotels, that is when you will be charged.

If you want to save a few bucks, you can just put your towel down on an area between the resorts, and get beers from the local shop for just 20 pesos. Here you can only pay in cash, and everything is cheaper if you pay in the local currency.

The area where people usually get dropped off is the busiest area, with the most beach clubs, and has many vendors. If you are looking for a quieter experience, we suggest just walking 5-10 minutes further down, where there are far less tourists or people trying to sell you things.

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Get a Massage

Having a massage on the beach is a must, as there are ladies everywhere offering you massages. Normally they will start with a price of $40/hr, but you can find one for as little as $20/hr.

Massages Costa Maya Mexico

Massages are super cheap in Costa Maya.

How to Get to the Beach Area

The beach in Costa Maya, Mexico is only located 5-10 minutes away from the port. To get to the main beach from the port, you can either take the tram for $3/person or a taxi for $8. Going back to the port only taxis are available for a flat rate of $8.

Visit the Mayan Ruins

Mexico isn't just beaches! (although we love their beaches) All over this country you can find Mayan ruins, for a more historic and cultural experience. In Costa Maya, Mexico, there are a few that can be visited.

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Costa Maya Mexico Pin
Costa Maya Mexico Pin
Costa Maya Mexico Pin

Chacchoben Ruins

These are the closest ruins to Costa Maya, Mexico, and are just a little over an hour away. Taxis outside the port will take you, but we personally think taking an excursion is the safest and easiest way. Take comfortable shoes and a camera.

Most cruise lines also do a combo excursion including the blue lagoon! This lagoon is like being at a pristine beach, but without the salt. The restaurant also includes food and drinks, which are all excellent. The blue lagoon is just 5-10 minutes from the ruins, making it to perfect spot to go after being at the ruins.

Chacchoben Ruins Costa Maya Mexico
Blue Lagoon Costa Maya Mexico

Some excursions do a combo with the blue lagoon.

Want to book an excursion Chacchoben ruins from Costa Maya? Here are a few different options:

Kohunlich & Dzbanche

These ruins are a little more impressive, but also further away. They are visited as a combination on tours due to their proximity to one another. They are about 2 hours away, so we urge you to go on an excursion for this one, so you don't risk missing the ship. (Even if an excursion is late, the ships will always wait for the passengers in these circumstances.)

Want an excursion set up in advance? Here are a few different options that you can choose from:

Take a Trip to Bacalar

Bacalar is a seven colored lagoon just an hour-hour ½ away from the port. It is called "seven colored" due to all of its different shades of blue and it's absolutely gorgeous. This large lagoon is great for taking a dip in its fresh water off one of the many docks, but also has a lot of special places to offer.

Seven Colored Lagoon, Lakes in mexico
Swing in Bacalar in Mexico

Cenote Azul

This cenote has the bluest and clearest water you’ll ever see. Take a dip to cool off, or swim across to find the nature that awaits on the other side!

Cenote Azul Bacalar

Cenote Azul is right across from the seven colored lagoon.

Hop on a boat ride

At the 7 colored lagoon you can find plenty of small boats offering to take you around for an hour- 2 hour tour where they will bring you around the lagoon to see different cenotes!

Canal de Las Piratas

This shallow canal has crystal clear water, a small fort, and mud that you can put on yourself to make your skin super smooth. Canal de Las Piratas is definitely one of the best spots to stop if you are taking one of the boat tours!

Canal de los Piratas Bacalar

You can give yourself a mud bath on a stop along Canal de las Piratas.

Cenote Cocalitos

This cenote is covered by rock formations that are 350 million years old! There is a restaurant, hammocks, and a picnic area as well. The entrance is just 20 pesos ($1 USD)

Cenote Cocalitos Bacalar

Cenote Cocalitos is hundreds of millions of years old!

Eat local seafood

Don’t miss out on the seafood here because it is super fresh and delicious! The prices are very reasonable, and portions are also generous.

How to Get to Bacalar

Unfortunately, there is no regular public transportation or rental cars in Costa Maya, Mexico, so the only way to get there is to hire a taxi or van (or to prebook something).

*It is very important to speak about prices before hopping in a taxi! Outside the port there will be people saying that it is anywhere between $50-100/person, which you should never pay! When we went we got a van for up to 14 people for $130 which is less than $10 a person!


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Keep in mind this was extremely difficult to find, and the same company told us we were liars and would not do it again for the same price (toucan tours). Just try to get the best price you can for a taxi but keep $150 as the max for a price, as in Mexico this is already an insane amount of money to pay.

If you have more flexibility in your schedule and want to visit Bacalar from Costa Maya by bus, you can book your ticket below: 

Bacalar is one of the hidden gems of the Yucatán Península! Come here to discover some of the most beautiful waters of Mexico, and explore the other great things it has to offer. Here is everything you need to know about visiting Bacalar in Mexico.*Please note that this blog post may

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Want to book an organized excursion to Bacalar from Costa Maya? Here are a few options you can choose from:

Cool Off at the Waterpark

The water park is a great option for a group looking to have some fun, without having to go too far. You will find everything including water slides, small zip lines, a lazy river, and a few pools, having your friends and family entertained for hours.

Located near to the port, it’s very accessible and the only one in the area, so you can’t miss it. We definitely recommend this for families with children.

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Ride Through the Jungle on ATVs or Buggies

There are two excursions that you can explore this area with, riding through the jungle, and by the seaside. Both the ATV and buggy excursions are really fun, and very similar. But if you are more on the wild side, we would choose the ATVs.

On this excursion you have a bumpy ride, and if it rained recently, you will get covered with mud! Make sure you bring a valid drivers license, a bathing suit, sneakers, and clothes you don't mind getting dirty.

ATV in COsta Maya, Mexico

ATVing in the jungle is one of the most fun excursions you can take in Costa Maya, Mexico.

Want to book an excursion before hand? Here are a few that you can choose from:

Getting Around Costa Maya, Mexico

There are just a couple of ways to get around the area of Costa Maya, Mexico. Outside the port, there is not much at all walking distance.

The Tram

If you would like to get to the beach area, you can take the tram there for $3. The tram only works one way, so it is just for those who want to go from the port area straight to the beach area.


Instead of taking the tram, you can take a taxi for $2/person (keep in mind these rates may have changed since cruises started back up in 2021). Taxis also are very easy to get from the beach back to port, so there is no need to call or make a reservation.

Golf Carts

This is our favorite way to get around, but keep in mind it is only for going to the beach area and staying local. Make sure you leave the port to get better rates, and "buy us a coffee" if you'd like the inside scoop and best rates!

Going Out of Town

If you would like to go to the ruins or Bacalar, you will either have to take an excursion, or hire a taxi. There are no car rentals in Costa Maya, Mexico, unless you hire one to come from Chetumal (which is an hour away), and they will charge you a lot extra being from such a distance.

Where to Eat in Costa Maya, Mexico

If you go to the beach you will find so many restaurants lined up, and normally people trying to convince you to eat there. These places have a nice atmosphere, but the food is terrible compared to what you can get here in Costa Maya, Mexico, and usually three times the price to say the least!

shrimp tacos

Having seafood in Costa Maya is a must.

Make sure to take advantage of the delicious seafood that this small fishing village has to offer.

We found a few restaurants literally on the street parallel to the main beach that are local and really good! El Izote is hands down our favorite.

It isn’t a restaurant that stands out much, and when you walk in it doesn’t look very promising. However, we promise you’ll get tasty homemade food, great prices, and amazing service by the family that runs this small restaurant. 

El Izote Restaurant, Mahahual

El Izote Restaurant, Mahahual

Another place you should stop by is the small shack (on the same road) that sells juices. For just 20 pesos ($1) you can get freshly squeezed juice of almost anything!

Where to Stay in Costa Maya

The majority of those traveling to Costa Maya are in fact cruise passengers, and won't need to read this part. However, if you are traveling through Mexico and still want to visit here, we highly suggest spending a night. Just check the map below for the different accommodation options in Costa Maya.

Is Costa Maya Safe? 

While Mexico gets a pretty bad rep, there are some areas that are more dangerous than others. Costa Maya is a very touristic spot, and is really safe to visit, especially as a cruise ship guest. So throw your worries away and go enjoy this beautiful tropical destination!

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What to Avoid in Costa Maya, Mexico

If you are cruising, you have just one day to enjoy Costa Maya Mexico! Here are some things to avoid, so you don't waste your one day here.

Staying in Port

The port may seem inviting. There are shops, food, and a big pool. But did you really go to Mexico to stay right next to the ship? Costa Maya is small and beautiful so get out of the port and check it out!

Accepting the First Price

The people here work off of tourism so it’s only natural that they will try to get the most money out of anything. But play smart. Mexico is cheap, and although they deserve to make money, no one deserves to be ripped off.

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Eating at the Beach

We’ve already explained that the food is way better across the street. Save those beach bars for some buckets of beer or tequila shots instead!

Want to know some tricks to save in the Caribbean? Make sure to check out our article below!

Let’s be honest...who doesn’t want to have the best vacation in the Caribbean? The area is full of paradise beaches, crystal clear waters and a relaxing vibe. The list of places to go is huge. But while they are might be amazing, they can be super pricey if you don't

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Other Things to Know About Visiting Costa Maya, Mexico

Now that you know what to do in Costa Maya, how to get around, and where to eat, here are a few other things to keep in mind.

Weather in Costa Maya, Mexico

Costa Maya is in the Caribbean area of the country, so it gets very hot and humid. It never gets cold at all here, but there are two seasons- rainy and dry. The dry season runs from mid to late October until April. The rainy season is from May to October, with the later months being prone to bigger storms like hurricanes.

The Best Time to Visit Costa Maya, Mexico

The best time to visit Costa Maya is definitely in the winter time, which is their dry season. Months like January and February have warm sunny days, and are the perfect time for a tropical getaway. Prices are also cheaper at this time, as Americans tend to flock to the Caribbean for either spring break or summer.

We definitely suggest avoiding the months of September and October, as the Caribbean is notorious for having hurricanes at this time.

What to Pack For a Trip to Costa Maya, Mexico

Costa Maya is a place to enjoy the beach, ruins, and jungle. Here are some of the things we suggest bringing:

  • Sunscreen (the sun is strong)
  • Flip flops (our favorites are Havaiana flip flops, as they are super durable)
  • Sneakers (if you do active excursions such as the ATVs)
  • Power bank (we use Anker power banks, as they are super long lasting and sturdy)
  • Bug Spray (if you go to the jungle or ruins)
  • Bathing Suit
  • Towel (if you are visiting from the cruise ship you can get one from the pool deck)
  • Action Camera (for all water activities) we use the Insta 360 X3 because it's small & waterproof
  • Drone (You can get super cool shots at the beaches! We use the Mavic Mini Pro 3 because it's super light and high quality)
  • Case Mate waterproof phone pouch (we use the Cafago Waterproof Phone Pouch)
  • Passport

Looking To Travel Somewhere?

Off The Beaten Trips is our travel agency.

But this isn't anything like you've ever experienced before. You'll have an epic trip without having to break the piggy bank.

Unique locations. Epic adventures. Lifetime memories.

Costa Maya, Mexico is definitely a beautiful destination that many cruise lines choose. Remember that there is always much more to see and do that what main tour offices (and even the cruise lines themselves) can offer, so keep this guide in mind next time you go!

Going on a cruise or traveling around Mexico? We have plenty of other travel guides throughout the country and the other islands in the area. 

Need help planning your trip? Let us help! Not only will we create you the most epic itinerary, but our promise is to also save you money. 

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