Chacchoben Mayan Ruins
Food and Drink in Costa Maya
Several bars and restaurants are located within the port village. Within Mahahual, it's easy to find menus with the standard Mexican favorites, such as guacamole, chips and pico de gallo, and tacos. A growing Italian population means that many of the hotels serving food are influenced by Italy, offering more European dining choices.
By the Port: Fancy a little Mexican wrestling with your nachos? Cantina Latina is a cheerful, open-air restaurant in the village that features playful Lucha Libre-style wrestling matches in a center ring.
In Mahahual: The shrimp tacos and seafood at Nohoch Kay, located at the far end of the malecon, are considered the best in town. American Steve Uhl, owner of Tropicante, has built a following among cruisers for the complimentary loungers he reserves ahead of time for his Tex-Mex restaurant's guests -- no minimum required. Expect the standard tacos, enchiladas and burritos.
For a varied menu, including breakfast for early port calls, try Pez Quadro, the restaurant and lounge on the malecon affiliated with 40 Canones, a hotel owned by an expat Italian. Locals and crewmembers also love Luna de Plata, which is a little removed from the strip, with a quieter beach and a full menu of Italian and seafood dishes.
Beaches in Costa Maya
Best for Relaxing: It's a little bit of a drive from the port -- about 20 minutes -- but the beach outside Almaplena Eco Beach Resort is not only far from Mahahual's madding crowd, it lacks the sea grass that is prevalent on the main strip. This resort offers all-inclusive day-pass pricing for cruisers.
Best for Active Types: Owned by the port, the Jungle Beach Club on Uvero Beach is the center of cruise line shore excursions, so if you've booked an activity or beach day through the ship, chances are you'll end up here. The enclosure that once housed the dolphin show has now become an artificial reef, so even if you aren't on an official snorkeling excursion, you can rent a mask and see the fish that flock here.
Best for Kids: A natural reef protects the beach in Mahahual, making it shallow and kid-friendly, although the water can be murky. Of the many all-inclusive beach clubs, Maya Chan receives props for organizing kid-friendly activities, such as scavenger hunts, kayaking and snorkeling tours. Transportation is provided with the price, which varies depending on age level.
Don't Miss in Costa Maya
Water activities: The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef runs through Costa Maya, and shore excursions aimed at getting you out to see the coral and fish include diving, snorkeling or kayaking in a glass-bottom kayak. Or, you can plop down at a local beach club and rent your own equipment, or go parasailing.
Jungle activities: If you've had enough of the water, why not go into the jungle on an ATV? Actually, you don't have to choose. Most activities that head into the jungle include some time at a beach club to chill.
Maya Water Park: Costa Maya has a water park called Maya, the Lost Mayan Kingdom, complete with waterslides, ziplines and a lazy river attraction. It's bookable as a shore excursion through your cruise line, and is a fun option for families. The park is about a 10 minute walk from the cruise pier, and there is also a trolley that runs between the pier and the park.
Pyramids: Several Mayan pyramids are within driving distance from Costa Maya. Chacchoben is the best known, and it's only an hour away. Other ruins that lie further afield include Kohunlich and Dzibanche. You'll want to make sure you're ready for a long bus ride if you choose these options.
Massages: If the ship's spa prices are too high for you, then Costa Maya is the place to get your fix, at much lower prices. There's a spa called Mayan Healing Rituals within the port area; prices for a 50-minute massage start at $55. Or, go really cheap and get a massage on the beach from one of the many vendors in Mahahaul. What you sacrifice in privacy, you save in money -- we were able to get a lovely 40-minute massage for a mere $20. Paying cash here is best.