7 things we learned about Costa Maya and Mahahual, Mexico. Is it safe for family travelers in 2018? Explore with us in photos and video.
A family cruise in January of 2018 brought us to Puerto Costa Maya for the first time. At first, we were a bit apprehensive about this port, and the surrounding area, as it's still an "up-and-coming" port and not as established as other ports, such as Cozumel.
We spent a good amount of time in the port of Costa Maya and we also venture into the nearby village of Mahahual, Mexico as well. We had a wonderful time and can't wait to return. Below is a journal of our experience, including a few important things we learned (like how to pronounce "Mahahual") to ensure the safety of visitors to this growing destination.
We learned how to pronounce "Mahahual".
Being unfamiliar with the port and surrounding area, one of my first missions was to figure out how to properly pronounce the town I was exploring. My wife and I had a great conversation with a local vendor.
He told us about the region and how that he and his brother were fishermen and local craftsmen. He was kind enough to tell us how to pronounce Mahahual, explaining that it's pronounced "Ma-ha-wal".
"It sounds Hawaiian, but it isn't. It's very unique", he said. I agree, and I love that I know how it's pronounced now!
An introduction to the port of Costa Maya, Mexico.
This was our first time to the port of Costa Maya, but not our first time to the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, located on the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Costa Maya is just south by south-west of the popular island port town of Cozumel.
The region is a popular tourist destination and also prone to being in the path of storms during the summer hurricane season. Our visit was in late January, so we were safe from the storms during our visit, but even in the off-season, the weather can vary.
The port is modern and serves as a hub of activity for visitors arriving aboard cruise ships. The port itself can accommodate up to three cruise ships at once, and the government of Mexico has big plans for the area beyond just cruise ship tourists.
Ship passengers enter the port area in the north-east side and most of the port sits south-west of the pier. Security going from the ship to the port and vice-versa was very light during our trip in 2018, but I expect that to evolve as the port grows.
We learned: What is there to do in the port of Costa Maya?
The port of Costa Maya was built specifically for cruise ship passengers, and it shows. There's quite a bit to do in the port, and more is being added both inside and just outside the port.
Mexico is known for its bars, and Costa Maya doesn't disappoint. There are five bars inside the port area as of this posting:
- Expedition Bar
- Playa Coco
- Tree Bar
- Mojito Bar
- La Fruteira
What restaurants are there in the port of Costa Maya?
Costa Maya has seven restaurants (many also have full bar service). As of this posting, the restaurants in the port are:
- Flavors of Mexico
- Cantina Latina
- El Faro
- El mero mero
- Café México
- Pan Dulce
- La Tortillería
We stopped on our way out of the port and had margaritas (what else, right?) at Cantina Latina. This restaurant and bar had both inside and outside seating with a great view of the swimming pool found within the port.
How is shopping in the port of Costa Maya?
Costa Maya shopping is good and also growing. There are a lot of small to medium size shops in the port area. You can buy everything from local souvenirs, to art, clothing, jewelry, chocolate and more.
We tend to avoid the typical tourist trap stores, but really enjoyed the Kakaw chocolate shop & mini museum. We found everyone working there to be very friendly. They didn't pressure for a sale at all and they offer free samples, too! You can watch them as they make one of the numerous flavors of chocolate they offer for sale.
By far, our favorite and must-see vendor at Costa Maya was spray paint artist Julian Botero. Mr. Botero is tucked away in a corner near the pool lounge chairs, right next to a restroom. He was working hard producing his art each time we passed by and every time there was a crowd around, watching him as he worked. We ended up purchasing two prints from him, and at only $25 USD (at the time), the price is a steal as well. We tipped Mr. Botera a few extra dollars for his work and hope to see him if we return to the port again.
Are the trams or shuttles from the port in Costa Maya to Mahahual safe?
It's possible and actually quite easy to leave the port of Costa Maya and head into the local village of Mahahual, Mexico. We don't always leave the port (or the ship) but since this was our first visit, we decided we needed to see the town.
We paid just $3 per person for a shuttle that runs from the port to the town. The shuttles are trailers pulled by pickup trucks that can seat around 20 people. Our trip had around a dozen passengers. The trip from the port to the town only takes a few minutes and is very bumpy because of the road. I would say this method of travel isn't the safest, but we never specifically felt in danger.
It's important to also know that the shuttle won't pick you up for your return trip to the port. You'll have to catch a taxi in the town to get back to port.
Is it safe to walk from the port to the town of Mahahual, Mexico?
In a word: nope.
I would strongly advise against walking between the port of Costa Maya to the town of Mahahual. I wouldn't say the danger relates to the what or whom you may encounter along the way.
The danger is in the road itself, as there really isn't a safe place to walk. The road is very bumpy and each direction is treated as a two-lane road, with cars often passing scooters or other slower moving traffic. There's no sidewalk for pedestrians and some parts of the route are quite thick with brush on the sides of the road.
Is the town of Mahahual, Mexico safe for tourists?
Yes, I felt that Mahahual was as safe as any other port town in Mexico. That said, it's important to take steps to protect yourself when traveling to almost any destination you're unfamiliar with.
Don't make yourself a target, be kind to the locals, leave your valuables on the ship and don't be afraid to spend a little money. In reality, the people that live in and around the town want it to have a good reputation so that more visitors come. We found everyone we met and spoke with in Mahahual to be very friendly and not pushy in what they had to sell.
Is a trip into the town of Mahahual worth the time?
Yes, if you find yourself in the port of Costa Maya and you don't otherwise have an excursion planned, the trip into Mahahual is well worth the time and small amount of money it costs to get there and back.
My wife isn't always a fan of most cruise ports and tends to just stay on the ship at some. I was a bit surprised when I was able to talk her into coming into the town with me. We walked all over the town and the beach and caught a taxi back. As we were boarding the ship again, she told me that was her favorite port we've ever been to.