Welcome to Costa Maya cruise port! (Post updated: October 2023)
The port of Costa Maya is located in the Yucatan peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo (Mexico), and is the only port in the Western Caribbean designed specifically for cruise ships. This beautiful port of call is known for its gorgeous beaches, a wide range of activities offered, and archeological ruins attractive not only to history buffs but to all visitors wanting to learn about Mexico’s rich historical and cultural heritage. In this article, read about:
- Costa Maya cruise port info (cruise terminal, local transportation)
- Top 7 things to do in Costa Maya cruise port and best shore excursions
Costa Maya Cruise Port Info
Costa Maya port (Puerto Costa Maya) is Mexico’s second-largest cruise port after Cozumel. It is located about 10 minutes ride from the small fishing village of Mahahual, and around 290 km (180 miles) south of Playa del Carmen and the island of Cozumel. See Costa Maya cruise port on Google Maps
Resembling an authentic Mayan city, the Costa Maya cruise port complex is designed to suit the cruise ship passengers’ needs. Costa Maya cruise terminal can accommodate the world’s largest cruise liners (Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class) and has 4 berths in total. If there are more than 4 cruise ships in port simultaneously, other ships will anchor and transfer their guests ashore via tender boats.
Once you exit the ship, a long flat pier takes you to the terminal building housed in an orange building. If you have walking difficulties or traveling with small kids, there is a free trolley service to take you from your ship to the terminal building. This is where you normally meet for shore excursions, and where you can book last-minute excursions if you wish.
The port complex features a wide range of facilities:
- Craft market where you can buy authentic handicrafts and souvenirs; duty-free shops and internationally recognized brands including Diamonds International, Tanzanite International, Carpet Emporium, Del Sol, Havana Club offering premium quality cigars at affordable prices, Tequileria International with hundreds of tequila brands, and a few others.
- Poolside restaurants, beach bars, and cafes (seafood, fish and local specialties, grill) with live entertainment and amazing sea views.
- ATM (USD only)
- A massage center offering spa rituals and wellness treatments inspired by the Mayan civilization.
- Three swimming pools filled with salt water free of charge for the visitors to enjoy, with pool bars.
- Beach chairs and loungers are available on a first-come-first-serve basis, as well as restrooms, showers and changing rooms around the pool area.
- Dolphin Discovery Center offering dolphin interaction programs and shows is also located within the cruise port complex; a last-minute tour desk is located near the tour meeting location.
- Outside the cruise terminal area (there are two exits), you will find a large taxi rank, golf carts, bike/car/ATV rentals, local tour vendors, the Jade Maya Museum, a replica of a Mayan pyramid, and a few more facilities/places of interest.
- There is also a tour booth where you can get a shuttle transfer to Mahahual village for $5 per person each way, and the ride takes no more than 5 – 7 minutes. An alternative is to take a 30-minute walk from the cruise port to Mahahual.
- At the kiosk, you can also book tours, taxis/golf carts per hour, and various beach packages. Taxis will also offer private tours to the main tourist locations, but make sure you agree on the price beforehand to avoid inconveniences.
- Public transportation is available, but I do not think it is a good idea to experiment with the service due to the limited time in port and especially if you do not speak Spanish.
- Car rentals are also available inside the cruise port complex.
- The official currency in Mexico is the Mexican Peso (MXN) and 1 US dollar equals approximately 20 pesos. I strongly suggest that you have small bill denominations for taxis and souvenir purchases and reconfirm in advance that your change will be given in USD as cruise lines do not offer exchange service for this currency. For larger purchases, you can use your credit card but bear in mind that some establishments will charge an extra 5% for using your credit card.
- Spanish is the main language in Mexico, however, like in any major tourist cruise port, English is widely spoken.
- Costa Maya has a tropical climate with high temperatures throughout the year. Get tips on what to bring on your cruise in my article What to Pack for a Cruise – Top 60 Cruise Essentials
- Check out Costa Maya tours and activities
- Search the best Caribbean cruise deals
Watch my YouTube video on the Costa Maya cruise port!
7 Amazing Things to Do in Costa Maya Cruise Port
1. Mahahual Beach & Village
This beautiful beach is located in the lively fishing village of Mahahual and is the closest one to the port. White powdery sands and a barrier reef make it ideal for swimming and snorkeling as the water is calm and crystal clear, so make sure you get your camera ready for turtles, stingrays and a spectacular coral reef!
Mahahual village is very safe and the beach is ideal for families and people of all ages. Along the beach, you will encounter local restaurants, bars, and beach clubs offering beach chairs, umbrellas, watersports, and fantastic service. Most of the beach clubs have either a minimum spend or an open bar, and you should definitely check out Yaya Beach, Blue Kay, Ibiza Sunset, Pitaya Beach Club, and Pez Quadro. Local vendors and beach massage areas are also available, as well as other facilities including showers, changing rooms, and restrooms.
Besides the gorgeous sandy beach, Mahahual has several other spots of interest, such as the Faro de Mahahual lighthouse, and Mahahual Boulevard filled with countless shops, supermarkets, restaurants, and bars. Transfers and taxis from the Costa Maya cruise port to the beach cost around $5 USD per person each way.
2. Get a Cruise Port Pass
If you decide to stay around the port area, you can take advantage of this pass that gives you access to 3 port attractions:
- Aviarius (the Aviary): Located within the cruise terminal area, the Aviary offers a unique opportunity to meet and feed the most beautiful and exotic birds in the Caribbean. This family-friendly experience offers amazing photo opportunities so get your camera and smiles ready!
- The Kakaw: Learn all about the importance of chocolate to the Mayans and tour around the chocolate factory – a great adventure full of flavors that you cannot miss!
- Tequila Museum: Learn about the production process of the famous Mexican tequila before tasting some of the best tequila brands.
Cruise port pass tickets can be obtained through the cruise line or at the tour desk on the pier. The port pass also includes 3 complimentary drinks at one of the bars located close to the port pools.
3. Lost Mayan Kingdom Waterpark
Located only a few minutes’ drive from Costa Maya cruise port, this amazing theme park inspired by the ancient Mayan culture of Mexico offers unforgettable adventure for the whole family! Those in search of adrenaline can enjoy the crazy water slide rides and hit the thrilling zip lines across the jungle, while those looking to relax can go floating on a river rube through the jungle-lined lazy river or relax on a hammock by the pool. Children can have fun at pint-sized slides and mini pools at the Monkey’s Island kids’ area.
The park has restrooms, changing rooms, showers, lockers (extra cost), a snack bar, and a souvenir shop. Round-trip transfers to the port are offered every 30 minutes.
Tickets for the Mayan Lost Kingdom can be purchased through the cruise line, the last-minute tour desk on the pier, or directly at the entrance of the park. Some of the activities are not suitable for guests with disabilities or special needs.
4. Chacchoben Ruins
Located in the south of Quintana Roo state, approximately 70 km (43 mi)/50-minute drive from Costa Maya, Chacchoben Ruins are the most popular ancient ruins in the Costa Maya region. Also known as the Land of the Red Corn, this 3,000-year-old site was once an important pilgrimage place for the ancient Mayans. Learn about the rich history and the importance of this site, and admire the big ceremonial temple known as Gran Basamento.
Taxis from the Costa Maya cruise port will charge around $50 per person for a round-trip transfer, including the guided portion of a tour as the taxi drivers also offer guide services. The ride takes between 50-60 minutes, subject to traffic. Chacchoben ruins are probably one of the few accessible Mayan ruins in Mexico.
5. Dzibanche and Kohunlich Mayan Ruins
Do not miss the opportunity to visit the ruins of these two Mayan civilizations lost in the jungle close to the Belize border. There are two archeological zones within the same area: the Archeological Zone Dzibanché – Kinichná, and the Archaeological Zone of Kohunlich.
5.1 Archeological Zone Dzibanché – Kinichná
Dzibanche is said to be the first capital of the Kaan Dynasty, also known as the Snake Dynasty and the center of social and economic activities for the local population. Within the same archeological zone, in the heart of the jungle, you can also visit Kinichná ruins located approximately 4 km (2.5 miles) from Dzibanche. The complex is dominated by a huge two-level pyramid that you can climb and admire the spectacular views of the lush rainforest and surrounding pyramids. There are usually no crowds as the place is off the beaten track.
Both Dzibanche and Kinichná belong to the same archeological zone and the admission ticket includes access to both sites.
5.2 Archaeological Zone of Kohunlich
Kohunlich archeological complex is the largest Costa Maya ruins that consists of mainly residential buildings and palaces. The archeological site is impressive and known for the beautiful stucco masks of the Sun God that decorate the central staircase of the Temple of the Masks. If you wish, climb the 27 steps up to the top of the acropolis for great views over the jungle, or walk through the ceremonial plazas, the ball court and another structural group.
Kohunlich archeological site is larger and it takes at least 1 hour to visit it and walk around. The area is beautifully preserved, with tall palm trees and monkeys that you can spot high up on the trees.
Useful tips if you are visiting Mayan ruins
- It is recommended to visit both archeological zones (Archeological Zone Dzibanché – Kinichná and Kohunlich archeological zone) on the same day, as they are located 45 minutes drive from each other. Both archeological sites are located around 2.5 hours from the Costa Maya cruise port.
- There is no cell phone signal and the roads are really bad, so be mindful of that in case you decide to come on your own. Make sure you bring insect repellent as there are many mosquitos, as well as water, snacks, and comfortable shoes. It can also be very hot, so bring your hat and sunglasses (Suggested article: What to Pack for a Cruise – Top 60 Cruise Essentials)
- Due to the distance, the best way to explore the ruins is through an organized shore excursion from the cruise line that includes entrance fees and normally provides a packed lunch box so you can maximize your time on site.
- If you choose to take a taxi, you should agree on the price with the driver in advance, as it all depends on the number of people taking a tour. Taxi drivers normally offer private tours and expect to pay around $80 per person for a round-trip transfer (they won’t take you for a one-way ride). A good alternative might be to rent a car, however, be careful because the roads are in extremely poor condition.
6. Bacalar Lagoon
Take a trip over to Bacalar village and cruise through “The Lake of the Seven Colors”, the second-largest natural body of fresh water in Mexico. This multicolor freshwater lake is fed by underground sinkholes or “cenotes” and a white sandy bottom that gives the effects of the different hues of blue. A truly fantastic place to visit and a great location for snorkeling, swimming and other water activities!
Bacalar is located approximately 91 km (56 mi) or a 1 hour 15-minute drive from Costa Maya. The best way to get here is through an organized shore excursion from the cruise ship. However, if you are more of an “on your own” person, then my suggestion is to check with the tourist information center for reliable tour companies and packages to this amazing place.
7. Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
Costa Maya is known for its second-largest coral reef in the world which makes it a perfect destination for snorkeling and scuba diving. Banco Chinchorro, an unspoiled reef atoll, is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and boasts incredible scuba diving and snorkeling. It faces Mahahual Beach and is home to turtles, crocodiles, catsharks, pink snails, and rich marine flora and fauna. This is the only place in the world where you can swim with crocodiles in the wild, so make sure you bring your best waterproof camera as you will want to capture this once-in-a-lifetime moment!
In case you book a tour, the snorkeling gear is normally included, but if you want to snorkel on your own, make sure you check out my article: Snorkel Gear and Scuba Diving Equipment -Tips by a Pro!
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