While traveling around Yucatan Peninsula for two months I also stumbled upon the lovely beach village Mahahual in Costa Maya. I was happy I added it to my Yucatan itinerary as more than anything I loved the super laid-back vibe at this fishing village transformed into a popular tourist destination in Yucatan. In this Costa Maya travel guide I will tell you all the best things to do in Costa Maya and secret travel tips I found out about Mahahual.
Mid March 2019 I drove my rental car across Yucatan Peninsula and via Rio Lagartos, Valladolid and Bacalar I arrived in Mahahual, or Costa Maya as most people like to call it. I stayed around for 3 days, but could have stayed much longer as it was the perfect place to totally unwind from traveling. The best thing to do in the Costa Maya is for sure to kick-back! Most of the days I just wandered along the 5 miles long boulevard, found a place to lunch, grabbed a beer and chilled in the ocean. There are a ton of Mahahual restaurants, beach clubs and bars. First I will tell you the best things to do in the Costa Maya, but I will also give you some insider travel tips for Mahahual.
Mahahual reminded me a little of my amazing time traveling to Isla Holbox. The islandlife feeling, the laid-back vibe and the don't worry be happy mentality! On top of these beach destinations I can also recommend you to travel to Valladolid or Merida Mexico. Want more info about day trips from Playa del Carmen or Cancun then read about my Tulum and Coba tour, Selvatica Canopy adventure or my Rio Secreto review.
Costa Maya Mahahual
The Costa Maya is a region of about 100 kilometers (60 miles) on the southeast coast of the Yucatan peninsula. It was fairly undeveloped until the Costa Maya cruise port was built in Mahahual. This tourist area is part of the Quintana Roo state on the Yucatan Peninsula and about 2 hours north of Chetumal, the state capital and 5 hours south from Cancun. The Mahahual village is just 2 miles south.
Where is the Costa Maya cruise port
The Costa Maya cruise terminal is located less than 2 miles outside the sleepy fishing village of Mahahual. Within minutes you can reach Mahahual, or even on foot, just walk South along the beach, grab a taxi or rent a bike. Costa Maya is the name all the cruise ships give this as their destination but in fact your are arriving to Mahahual.
There are two sides to Mahahual. There is a residential and very much NOT interesting village around the Costa Maya cruise port terminal and there is the charming and super lovely beach village just 2 miles away. Make sure you go straight to the beachside of Mahahual, the beach town I totally fell in love with.
Mahahual on a cruise day is complete the opposite than Mahahual on a non-cruise day. The following videos will show you the differences.
Mahahual Costa Maya on a cruise day.
Mahahual Costa Maya on a non-cruise day.
On non-cruise days some Mahahual beach clubs are actually closed, see the picture below.
Is Costa Maya safe for tourists?
Yes without a doubt! There are only about 1,000 people living in Costa Maya/Mahahual and almost all of them are living from the tourism industry and the Costa Maya cruise port. This is such a sleepy town, that crime is non-existing. You can roam the streets without any problem, the only people that may be bothering you are the ones that want to sell you something but a friendly 'no, gracias' is enough to keep them away.
Best time to travel to Costa Maya
The least chance of rain and the modest temperatures are between December and April. These months are the best time to visit Costa Maya Mahahual. The summer months can get pretty hot and local Costa Maya tourism is booming as well. Mexicans have found this lovely beach town and tourists from nearby Belize also travel to Mahahual for their holidays.
When traveling to Mahahual Costa Maya bring a sweater for chill evenings. As Mahahual is right on the ocean at nights it gets significantly cooler because of the sea breeze.
13 Things to do in Costa Maya
1. Explore the Costa Maya cruise port
This relatively new cruise terminal is designed in such a way that it can easily handle 3 big cruise ships at the same time. There are days that 3 cruise ships dock at the Costa Maya cruise terminal and it tends to get busy. But there is a shopping mall, 3 salt-water swimming pools, multiple restaurants and bars like Señor Frogs, Carlos & Charlies and more. But can I name this as the best thing to do in the Costa Maya? No! Why would you are willing to hang in the cruise terminal only? Go out and explore! Mahahual is just 5 minutes away and this authentic fishing village has MUCH more soul.
2. Explore Mahahual
Take a taxi for just 100 Pesos ($5) and get off in town. Mahahual beach town is actually two streets that go parallel on the beach. It is full of local places, souvenir shops, restaurants and hotels and guesthouses. The beach is just a few meters away from the main street. This sleeping village doesn’t have a long list of things to do, but with such crystal clear water you don’t need much.
3. Swing in a sea hammock
There are several sea hammock scattered along the beach and most of them belong to beach clubs. On cruise days you will need to buy drinks to get a spot in one of the sea hammocks, but on non-cruise days you can bring your cans from the supermarket. A pint Corona in the supermarket cost 15 Pesos ($0.80). No need to tell you that swinging in a sea hammocks was among my favorite thing to do in Costa Maya.
4. Hit the Mahahual beach clubs
The Mahahual beach clubs have either a minimum spend or an open bar. Most of the beach clubs require a minimum spend of around 250 Pesos ($12). There are also beach clubs with an open bar for $25 per person. These are the best Mahahual Beach Clubs: Yaya Beach, Blue Kay, Pitaya, Ibiza.
5. Watch sunrise at the lighthouse
May you be in town very early then watching sunrise at the lighthouse is the perfect way to start your day. The sun rises directly behind the lighthouse at the start of the Mahahual boulevard. There might be a handful other people around but most probably you will have the place all for yourself.
For me a morning run on the boulevard after sunrise was one of the best things to do in Costa Maya Mahahual.
6. Stroll along the Mahahual boulevard
This is the best place to get a feel with this lovely beach town. The boulevard starts at the lighthouse and follows the beach south. The boulevard continues for about 5 miles and is a great walk or perfect for a morning run. Along the boulevard is where you will find all the Mahahual beach clubs, restaurants, bars, supermarkets and endless souvenir shops.
7. Visit the Costa Maya Ruins
There are three Costa Maya ruins that make perfect Costa Maya excursions.
The most popular and most stunning Costa Maya ruin is Chacchoben. These ruins are only 45 miles outside of the Costa Maya cruise terminal and very easy to get to. There is only one road heading out of the Costa Maya port. Renting a car at Costa Maya is cheap and can be found for less than $20 a day. Rental cars make a great day trip to explore the Costa Maya. You can also join a group tour for around $40, mind you that the entrance fee for the Chacchoben Ruins is only 55 Pesos ($3). Unfortunately you are not allowed to climb the Chacchoben ruins.
The Kohunlich ruins are more than 100 miles out of the Costa Maya cruise port and best to be visited when renting a car. It is a spectacular archaeological Maya site and the biggest Costa Maya ruins. It is one of the greater things to do in the Costa Maya but doesn’t get busy because it is off the beaten path. You can climb 27 steps up to the top of one of the temples for great views over the jungle. You will most probably also see monkeys here. Visiting Kohunlich ruins is best to be combined with a day trip to Dzibanche and the Kinichna ruins and Bacalar
Dzibanche and the Kinichna ruins
Just a little further than the Kohunlich Maya site you will find the Dzibanche and the Kinichna ruins. These ruins are on the same archaeological site and a a unique place to visit in the Costa Maya. It is pretty hard to get to and the road is not in a great condition, therefore the Dzibanche and the Kinichna ruins are may be best done on a Costa Maya excursion. Most ruins are well preserved and pretty tall.
8. Visit Bacalar
When going on a road trip in Costa Maya then don’t miss Bacalar. It is one of the best places to visit in Costa Maya and a popular spot for backpacking in Yucatan Peninsula. Bacalar is located on an utterly stunning lake, often also called the lake with 7 shades of blue. Take a boat trip to Pirates Channel and chill out in the shallow crystal clear waters.
9. Snorkel Banco Chinchorro
One of the best things about Mahahual is that the second biggest reef in the world is right in front of the town. Only a couple hundred meters from the beach you will find the Banco Chinchorro, part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. No need to tell you that snorkeling here is great. In 2008 I was diving in the nearby Deep Blue Hole in Belize, one of the best scuba dive destinations in the world. Also on this trip I was snorkeling in the Riviera May in the same reef, read about it in my Puerto Morelos travel blog.
There are people selling snorkel tours for 300 Pesos ($15) which you can find on the beach and book them on the spot. These snorkel tours go out a little further and they guarantee you will see turtles. At least that is what they say!
10. Scuba Diving in Costa Maya
There are many dive centers around Mahahual town, most of them are a little further south on the boulevard. I saw at least about 5-6 dive centers. I would have loved to go scuba diving as I heard amazing stories about it. Unfortunately do I suffer eardrum problems ever since I did my divemaster training in Koh Tao, Thailand. Here is a map with all the amazing dive sites around Banco Chinchorro Reef.
11. Watersports in Mahahual
It is not hard to find all different kind of water sports while strolling along the boulevard. There are signs everywhere and you are able to book it on the spot very easily. You can also bargain for a better price, so no need to book watersports in advance.
12. Visit Water Park Lost Mayan Kingdom
From the rooftop of El Tarro I saw a huge Maya temple in the distance I thought but it was the Maya Water Park right next to the Costa Maya cruise port. Visiting this water park is one of the best things to do in Costa Maya with kids. There are loads of exciting water slides, zip lines and more exciting activities.
13. Massage on the beach
Most of the Mahahual beach clubs have massage therapists and special massage cabanas with massage tables. Massages are much cheaper than on board the cruise ship trust me. You can already find a 30 minute back massage for just $15.
12 Mahahual travel tips
1. Only a Telcel phone signal
In case you have aa AT&T or Movistar Mexico sim card, you won’t be able to use it. In Mahahual there is only a Telcel phone signal available. In my article best sim card in Mexico for tourists I found out that the AT&T and Movistar networks in Mexico are very weak!
2. ATM’s in Mahahual
Most Costa Maya travel guides are claiming there are no ATM’s in Mahahual, but that is fake news! I saw at least two ATM’s and several money changers.
3. El Primo local restaurant
By far my favorite Mahahual restaurant was El Primo. It is nothing fancy, but totally local. Meals here cost between $2 and $5. The Fajitas here were among the best I had in two months traveling in Yucatan they were 60 Pesos ($3). When you are traveling to Costa Maya Mahahual on a budget this is one of the best Mahahual travel tips.
4. Nohoch Kay for seafood
When you are craving seafood then walk a little further on the Bacalar boulevard than the standard tourist until you find Nohoch Kay. They serve delicious seafood dishes for affordable prices.
5. Tukano for good cocktails
Unfortunately not on the beach, but this is where you will meet locals/expats later in the evening. It is in a quiet place on the main road across from 40 Cañones Hotel. They have daily happy hour 2 for 1 cocktails from 7-9pm.
6. Boutique shop Galeria La Lola
One for the ladies as boutique shop Galeria La Lola is a great place to get some stylish beach wear.
7. Lawami lavanderia
If you are traveling to Costa Maya Mahahual a little longer and you need your clothes to be washed then bring them to Lawami where you pay 18 Pesos ($1) per KG with a minumum of 4KG. If you drop it in the morning you can pick it up in the evening. Perfect service for those visiting Costa Maya for a couple days.
8. Eat ice cream at La Dolce Vita
Find this place next to Yaya Beach club. I think it was a smart move to open an ice cream shop here, but after all they serve really good ice cream. I kept going again, again and again!
9. El Tarro rooftop bar for best view in Mahahual
Rooftop bar El Tarro is on the 4th floor of the Matan Ka’an Hotel. It offers great ocean views and is a great place for a sundowner.
10. Bike rental
There are many places to rent a bike and driving up and down the boulevard is heavenly especially in evenings when it is a little cooler. Just grab a 100 Pesos a day bike and drive all the way till the end. Beaches are deserted at night, bring some beers from the supermarket and you gonna have a great time watching shooting stars.
11. How to get to Costa Maya Mahahual
There are no airports in Costa Maya and the closest airport is Chetumal, about 1,5 hours away. Taxi’s from Chetumal to Costa Maya are expensive and it is best to take a bus from Chetumal.
For me it was fairly easy to get to Costa Maya Mahahual as I had my own car. My Yucatan road trip took over 2 weeks and renting a car was only like $20 per day including full coverage. So if that is an option go for it. Check my Yucatan itinerary for more inspiration.
Busses to Costa Maya Mahahual
The Mahahual bus station is right across El Primo in the main street. When you arrive by bus o Costa Maya Mahahual you can easily walk to your Mahahual hotel. Everything is within walking distance.
From Chetumal to Mahahual there are two busses a day, one from the airport and one from the city center. Don’t ask me why but the bus from Chetumal Airport is double as expensive, so you might just wanna hop on 30 Pesos taxi to go the main bus terminal in Chetumal from the airport.
From Cancun there is one bus a day that leaves at 16.45, the same bus stops at Playa del Carmen and there the bus leaves at 17.55 and arriving in Mahahual at 10:00pm. The bus from Playa del Carmen to Mahahual costs 250 Pesos ($13), from Cancun to Mahahual you pay 290 Pesos ($15).
ADO busses are tourists busses with a high comfortable level, it the best bus company to travel around Yucatan Peninsula for sure. If you are coming from Bacalar or Tulum you can also make your way to Limones. That is where the Chacchoben Ruins are. From there you will find local busses to Mahahual every hour until 7:00pm for just 50 Pesos ($2.5).
12. Getting away from Mahahual
There are local busses to Limones every hour for just $2, but there are also direct tourist class busses to the following Yucatan tourist destinations:
- Belize City: 375 Pesos ($19), daily at 12:50pm.
- Chetumal: 120 Pesos ($6), Mon - Fri at 2.30pm.
- Bacalar: 90 Pesos ($4.5), Mon - Fri at 2.30pm.
- Playa del Carmen: 400 Pesos ($20), daily 10.30am
- Cancun: 410 Pesos ($20.5), daily 10.30am
Where to stay in Costa Maya Mahahual
Unless you are visiting Costa Maya on a cruise ship looking for the right Mahahual hotels can be challenging. Simply because there is not that much choice! But if you have a chance you should stay a couple days. Mahahual is a small town and although there are more and more hotels built the choice is rather limited at the moment.
Please do NOT book a place to stay in the residential area close to the Costa Maya cruise port. The only interesting place there is Pizza Papi and La Tartaleta, a bakery with ok coffee. But if you are really deperate this is your best option:
The pool is rather small but at least there is one. Rooms are spacious and clean. This Mahahual hotel is great value, but it is in the city and NOT on the beach! This does not have my preference!
When looking for Mahahual hotels book something near the beach. There are not that many choices for budget travelers and Mahahual hostels are camp sites.
I stayed in a pretty cool place with indoor glamping tents. Although I had a private room with AC for myself for $30, the tents looked pretty appealing. They don’t have AC, but trust me at night you don’t need AC as it is pretty chilly.
The place is called Mahamaca and has an 8.1 review score out of 40 reviews and they have good WiFi, check their rates in the link. There are no Mahahual hostels, so basically your best option is Mahamaca if you are a budget traveler.
These are other favorite places to stay in Mahahual:
One of the more well known and upscale Mahahual hotels. This luxury boutique hotel has some rooms with ocean views and hammocks on the balconies. It has a delicious on site restaurant. It is right on the beach and if you are looking for a little more luxury on a great location then this is surely to your likings.
Walking into this Mahahual hotel made me feel a bit like Santorini style, or at least Mediterranean. They have a big refreshing pool and a rooftop jacuzzi. Matan Ka’an is also were you will find the El Tarro rooftop bar.
Another option for the budget traveler looking for a Mahahual hotel is this one! These Eco huts are just a couple steps from the beach directly on the boulevard and look great. Perfect location, however 't choose to stay here as people complain about the WiFi not working in their rooms.
Other great Mahahual hotels are:
Right on the beach, but far from the main town. This Mahahual hotel is great for a beach vacation and snorkeling is just right in front of the hotel, no tour needed. There is nothing around the hotel apart from serenity. Great for people going on a relaxing holiday or weekend break in Costa Maya Mahahual. To get to town you could rent a bike or a hop on a 15 minute taxi ride.
In total I traveled around Yucatan more than 2 months and saw pretty much all the best places to visit in Yucatan in Yucatan. Check here all my Mexico travel blogs with great travel tips for the Valladolid cenotes, Merida Mexico, Rio Lagartos, Isla Holbox, Isla Mujeres but also blogs about Coba vs. Tulum ruins, Selvatica Extreme Canopy adventure and many more!
I hope all the above things to do in Costa Maya and Mahahual tips were helpful for planning you trip. It was more than a pleasure put this travel blog online as when I was writing I was reliving the great moments on my Costa Maya Mahahual trip again.
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