If your Caribbean cruise ship itinerary includes a stop at the Costa Maya Cruise Port, you’re in for a treat! From duty-free shopping and beach-front dining to sun-kissed beach-resorts, Puerto Costa Maya (as it is locally known) is a delightful slice of paradise that offers relaxation, exploration, and a touch of adventure.

Here are some insider tips for an unforgettable day exploring Costa Maya from someone who experienced the delights of this Mexican resort town with his wife and three young children in October 2023.

Alex’s Costa Maya Cruise Port Guide #1: When You Arrive

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As you disembark from your cruise ship at Costa Maya make sure you bring the following items with you: a towel to dry off after a dip in one of the many resort pools and photo ID for reboarding the ship. The walk to the terminal from the cruise ship is stunning – you are surrounded by the azure waters of the Caribbean Sea and can see fish swimming around the jetty. That being said, if you have mobility issues or just don’t feel like walking, there is a free tram next to the ship waiting to pick you up and transport you to the terminal.

Costa Maya Travel Tips: Photo-op in Front of the Ship
There is a wonderful photo op in front of the cruise ship as you walk the jetty to the terminal. You won’t find many cruise ship docks as picturesque as this anywhere in the world, so be sure to take advantage of it!

Alex’s Costa Maya Guide #2: Exploring the Terminal

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You can could spend the entire stop without leaving the cruise terminal and have a great time! The terminal boasts numerous bars, restaurants, spas, duty-free shops, multiple pools free for all cruise ship passengers and a swimming-with-dolphins experience. You can get all your eating, drinking and souvenir shopping needs met without ever leaving the confines of the terminal. There are also changing areas by the pools and rentable lockers for passenger convenience.

The only downside is that when several cruise ships dock at once the terminal can get crowded with passengers shopping, swimming, dining and drinking – which is not necessarily a bad thing if you prefer a livelier party atmosphere in your cruise ship stops!

Costa Maya Travel Tips: Pick the Right Swimming Pool in the Terminal
There is more than one pool available for free to cruise ship passengers in the Costa Maya Cruise Terminal. During our stop-over the main swimming pool area was quite busy – there is a second newer pool near the taxi stand that had fewer people and would be a better option. The second pool also had an in-pool bar and shallow areas for younger kids – a better option, in my opinion.

Alex’s Costa Maya Guide #3: Exploring the Town

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The more adventurous among you will want to venture beyond the port to discover the charms of Costa Maya proper. Outside the terminal you will find even more shops and restaurants, beach clubs, and various local attractions. Some of my favorite things to do in Cost Maya include:

  • Golf Cart Tours: When you leave the port and enter the large parking area you can find golf carts waiting to pick up tourists. We rented a golf cart in advance for our tour of Costa Maya. Mayahaul Red Shirts Golf Carts provide a great service and is our preferred golf cart tour company.
  • Miniature Mayan Temple: As you drive out of the port, keep an eye out for the miniature Mayan temple replica. It’s a unique sight that adds to the magic of Costa Maya.
  • Mahahual: This small town with a laid-back vibe has plenty to offer visitors. There are many local shops and sea-front restaurants to explore. The famous Costa Maya lighthouse is also worth a visit. The area is traffic free, even in peak tourist season.
  • Visit a Beach Club: There are many beach clubs that cater to cruise ship tourists in the area. Think of them as mini beach-front resorts. Our favorites are the Krazy Lobster Beach Club off Mahahual’s main boulevard and the Chunky Monkey Beach Club.

Costa Maya Travel Tips: Watch Out for High Prices Outside the Terminal Area
A lot of the stores and restaurants in and around Costa Maya cater exclusively to cruise ship passengers and the prices in some can be considerably higher than what you might find inside the terminal. Compare prices before spending money in shops, restaurants or beach-clubs and check online reviews.

Alex’s Costa Maya Guide #4: Departure Tips

When it’s time to leave Costa Maya, remember to show your cruise ship cards to the guards at the terminal entrance to re-enter the port area. You will also need to show your photo ID to get back on the ship. The embarkation points on the ship can get crowded when all the cruise ship passengers return at once. The elevators to your cabin may have a queue, so for a better experience walk to the next set of elevators a little further away – those tend to be less crowded with returning passengers.

Final Thoughts on the Costa Maya Cruise Port

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Costa Maya is a hidden gem that offers more than just port-side amenities of the cruise-ship terminal. Embrace the adventure, explore the town, and create memories that go beyond the souvenir shops and resort pools. This guide covers only the places and things we personally had time to experience ourselves on our brief stay in Costa Maya – there’s much more out there that we didn’t have time to explore.

I hope these tips piqued your curiosity about Costa Maya and gives you the urge to discover the hidden charms of this vibrant Mexican cruise ship port.

Carnival Cruise Line has consistently proven to be a fantastic choice for family vacations, especially for those with young children. One of the standout features that keep us coming back to Carnival Cruise is their Night Owls program – an on-ship childcare program that stands out from the competition. It has been a lifesaver for us as parents travelling with three young kids, including one under 3 years.

What is the Carnival Cruise Night Owls Program?

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The Night Owls program caters to children aged 6 months to 11 years old, offering a unique group babysitting service from 10:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. each night of the cruise. What sets Carnival apart is their inclusivity – most cruise lines mandate that children must be at least 3 years old and potty trained to qualify for their youth programs. Carnival breaks the mold by welcoming even 6-month-olds into Night Owls. For parents with toddlers, this is a game-changer. The program allows parents and guardians to enjoy the cruise’s nightlife worry-free, knowing their little ones are in safe hands. Older kids, like our 9-year-old Aiden and 7-year-old Ethan, can also participate, but the big selling point here is that they also welcomed our toddler Emma, who was under 3 years old at the time we used their service.

The Night Owls program takes place inside Camp Ocean, the dedicated facility on Carnival Cruise ships for kids aged 6 months to 11 years. The atmosphere is akin to a slumber party, complete with movie time, arts and crafts, toys, video games, snacks, and more. Parents are encouraged to inform the Camp Ocean staff during the day if their child will be participating in Night Owls that evening. This helps ensure that the program runs smoothly, as it may be closed by midnight if there are no participating children.

How Much Does the Carnival Cruise Night Owls Program Cost?

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The Night Owls program comes with a cost of $7.50 per hour plus an 18% service charge per child, which I feel is reasonable. Any child left beyond 1:00 a.m. will incur additional charges, so be sure to pick up your little ones before then.

While not all parents may be comfortable leaving their children in a group setting, the Night Owls experience has received positive reviews from us and other parents who participated. Carnival’s staff has consistently proven to be fantastic, creating a comfortable environment for the kids. The program provides flexibility for parents with its sign-in and sign-out policy. Authorization for other family members or friends to sign in and out your children can be arranged, streamlining the process for those traveling in larger family groups.

One perk for parents with children under 2 years old in the Night Owls program is the provision of a cell phone throughout the cruise. This facilitates communication in case of emergencies, offering both peace of mind and convenience.

Is the Carnival Cruise Night Owls Program Worth It?

Carnival Cruise’s Night Owls program is a beacon of relief for parents traveling with children under 3 years old. The flexibility, inclusivity, and attentive staff make it a standout feature, allowing parents to strike the perfect balance between family time and well-deserved breaks during their cruise vacation.

For more up-to-date information on the Carnival Cruise Night Owls program, please visit their official page.