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.

Cozumel is one of the most popular destinations in the Western Caribbean, and for good reason. This beautiful island has plenty to offer people looking for a fun day out on their cruise ship stop. Whether you’re visiting as part of a cruise or staying at a hotel on the island, there are plenty of exciting excursions and activities to choose from.

Keep in mind is that it’s often better to book your excursions independently, rather than through the cruise line. While the cruise lines do offer excursions, they often charge a premium for these services. By doing a little research and booking on your own, you can often save money and have a more personalized experience. Cozumel has been a popular destination for many years. I have been to Cozumel as a child in the 80s and 90s with my parents, and more recently as an adult with my own family. The island has changed over time, with the rise of all-inclusive resorts and the increasing popularity of cruises.

Disclaimer About Vendors

As always, the Alex & Erika YouTube channel or blog do not accept sponsorships or freebies from vendors in these cruise stops to highlight them on the channel. Each beach resort, tour company or vendor featured in this blog or in the videos is something we have paid for and experienced ourselves.

Cozumel Terminal Amenities & Shopping Opportunities

Cozumel is a popular port for cruise ships, with several piers to accommodate the ships. The two terminal areas are the older, northern terminal and the newer, southern terminal with two long piers that branch off into two more piers, allowing for up to six cruise ships to dock daily. If you don’t have Wi-Fi on the ship, there are many stores and restaurants at the terminals where you can take advantage of the Wi-Fi by purchasing something.

There’s even a chain convenience store, sort of like a Mexican 7-Eleven, called Oxxo right outside the terminal, where you can buy basic items or liquor at a slightly better price than inside the terminal. However, if you’re looking for a specific bottle of fancy tequila, it may be better to head to a store in downtown Cozumel for a bigger selection. Pharmacies are also plentiful in Cozumel, both inside the terminals and outside on the street. Keep in mind that what you can buy over the counter in Mexico may not be allowed back in the United States, so be sure to make informed decisions.

Mexican Pesos and Using ATMs

When traveling to Mexico, it’s important to consider the currency exchange. Currently, the exchange rate is around 17 Mexican pesos to 1 US Dollar, but most places will give you a rate of 20 to 1 if you’re paying with Dollars, meaning you may lose some money in the exchange. I personally recommend using a credit card while traveling to get the most accurate exchange rate. If you prefer to use cash, I recommend use a legitimate ATM connected to a brick-and-mortar bank if you need to withdraw pesos while in Mexico. Avoid using freestanding ATMs found in the open, as they may not be secure and can steal your credit card information. Alternatively, you can exchange your dollars for pesos at a bank or currency exchange.

Cozumel on a Budget

A Western Caribbean cruise that includes a stop in Cozumel has many options for activities, regardless of your budget. For those on a budget in Cozumel, Sunset Beach is a great option that’s easily accessible from the cruise terminal. While it may not be the best beach, it’s a nice spot to relax, have a beer, and do some shopping. However, if you’re willing to spend a bit more money, taking a taxi to one of the better beaches on the island is highly recommended. These beaches are less crowded and offer clearer water, making for a more enjoyable afternoon. So don’t stress about spending too much money when in Cozumel – there’s always a way to have a great time without breaking the bank.

Here are some of our favorite things to do when in Cozumel:

Dune Buggy Tour – During my honeymoon with Erika some years ago, we had a great experience with a dune buggy ATV tour. Although it may not be the same as going off-roading in the desert, it’s a fun and mellow option for exploring the island. The tour company we used has since upgraded their equipment and offers a variety of tours, which I’ll link down below. Keep in mind that these tours are not offered through the cruise line, so be sure to book in advance. This company has a solid reputation, and I believe you’ll have a great time exploring Cozumel with them.

Mr. Sancho’s Beach Club – In our recent trips to Cozumel, we’ve found ourselves going to Mr. Sancho’s Beach Club multiple times because of the many benefits it offers. The food served at this beach club is surprisingly good, which is essential to us as we always want to try the local cuisine wherever we go. Unlike other all-inclusive resorts that serves mostly fried foods and burgers, Mr. Sancho’s offers a variety of fresh seafood dishes or mariscos, which is a popular Mexican seafood cuisine.

While Mr. Sancho’s Beach Club is a popular choice in Cozumel, there are some reasons why you might consider doing something else. For one, the place can get crowded, and sometimes it’s challenging to find a spot to relax. Additionally, they charge a cover fee per person, and prices can add up quickly, especially if you’re traveling with a group. There are several other beach clubs and restaurants in Cozumel that offer excellent local cuisine and activities. If you’re looking for something different, we suggest exploring other options to see what suits your preferences best. Remember, it’s always good to research your options before deciding to ensure you get the best value for your money.

Other Cozumel Beach Clubs

If you’re looking for a quieter experience with fewer crowds, there are three other beach club options I’d recommend. While all three offer a fantastic experience, they are much more serene and peaceful. One option is Buccano’s Beach Club, which has a private beach area and pool, and is reasonably priced. Another option is Paradise Beach in Cozumel, which has great reviews for its service, food, and drink, as well as water activities. The third option is Cabana Beach Club, which has a very tranquil atmosphere and private cabanas for up to six people.

Please note that I don’t want to give the impression that Mr. Sancho’s is a wild party beach club; it’s actually quite enjoyable and we’ve had a fantastic time there. But if you’re looking for something different or quieter, these other options may be worth considering. See the links below more information on each of these beach clubs. Ultimately, the reason we keep going back to Mr. Sancho’s is because we get a lot for our money and they provide a good product at a fair price.

Don’t Get Scammed at the Taxi Stand!

Lastly, I want to share a funny little story that happened a couple of years ago during our visit to Mr. Sancho’s. This wasn’t Mr. Sancho’s fault, but it’s a lesson that applies no matter where you travel in the world. When taking a taxi, always negotiate the price upfront and don’t pay until you reach your destination. We were leaving Mr. Sancho’s, and it was busy with many other cruise ship passengers rushing to get back to their ships. They had vans that charged around five dollars per person, and there were four adults and four kids in our group, so the lady at the taxi stand charged us 20 dollars for a cab ride back to the cruise terminal. We agreed and hopped in the van. When we reached the pier and I pulled out the money to pay, my friend Narciso, who’s from Mexico, said he already paid the lady on the street before we got in the cab. We were confused and asked why he paid her in advance, and the cab driver confirmed that the lady wasn’t affiliated with them and we would have to pay him at the end of the ride. We ended up paying 45 dollars for that cab ride back, and it was a learning experience for us. It was funny because someone from Mexico shouldn’t have been taken advantage of by another person from Mexico, but it taught us to always negotiate and confirm the total price upfront with the driver, regardless of where we are in the world.

I hope that you found this blog post and the YouTube video informative. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. If you found any of this helpful, please share it with others. I will include a link below with all the details and options that I discussed. Additionally, if there are any updates, I will include them in this post. Lastly, have a wonderful cruise! If you are taking a Western Caribbean cruise, please check out our some of my other post about the destinations in the region.

Cozumel Dune Buggy Tours – (site link)
Cozumel Beach Clubs – (site link)

Check out my other Caribbean Cruise blog posts:

If you have an upcoming cruise that will stop at Cabo, Mazatlán or Puerto Vallarta, this is one is a series of must-read articles about these ports. I will go into detail about what we typically do and what we recommended you do when visiting these three wonderful ports. In this post I will focus on the cruise stop-over at Puerto Vallarta.

Excursions & Information About the Cruise Line Stop to Puerto Vallarta

First some background info: We are frequent cruisers based in San Diego who have found Mexico to be a very safe place to visit, especially the tourist areas around Cabo, Mazatlán & Puerto Vallarta. We have spent a lot of time in Mexico and Erika, my wife, is originally from Mexico. This isn’t an advertisement for the cruise lines, I will mention the ups and downs of each stop in the Mexican Riviera Cruise – while we normally don’t do excursions through the cruise line, I believe these are worth doing for various reasons which I will explain in more detail below.

Puerto Vallarta

This is our third stop in the Cabo – Mazatlán – Puerto Vallarta loop. We love PV and our most recent visit did not disappoint! We left the kids on the cruise ship and had a great day on our own in PV. The boys were in the Kids Camp and Emma was with the babysitter. If you follow us you know that PV holds a special place in our heart. We spend a lot of time there and that is where Erika and I originally met.

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If you have an upcoming cruise that will stop at Cabo, Mazatlán or Puerto Vallarta, this is one is a series of must-read articles about these ports. I will go into detail about what we typically do and what we recommended you do when visiting these three wonderful ports. In this blog post I will focus on the Cabo leg of the cruise.

Excursions & Information About the Cruise Line Stop to Cabo

First some background info: We are frequent cruisers based in San Diego who have found Mexico to be a very safe place to visit, especially the tourist areas around Cabo, Mazatlán & Puerto Vallarta. We have spent a lot of time in Mexico and Erika, my wife, is originally from Mexico. This isn’t an advertisement for the cruise lines, I will mention the ups and downs of each stop in the Mexican Riviera Cruise – while we normally don’t do excursions through the cruise line, I believe these are worth doing for various reasons which I will explain in more detail below.

Cabo

In a typical 7 day Mexican Riviera cruise Cabo will be your first or last stop. My personal preference is when you visit Cabo first because you have more time in Cabo. If you visit Cabo last you typically have to leave by 3 pm in order to return to Long Beach in time.

After you read this post please read my post titled, Important & Useful Information For Your Mexican Riviera Cruise. You will find a lot of useful information there. Be sure to read that for more details.

I will give you a summary of the port and a breakdown of tours and options based on your budget.

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If you have an upcoming cruise that will stop at Cabo, Mazatlán or Puerto Vallarta, this is one is a series of must-read articles about these ports. I will go into detail about what we typically do and what we recommended you do when visiting these three wonderful ports. In this post I will focus on the Mazatlán leg of the cruise.

Excursions & Information About the Cruise Line Stop to Mazatlán

First some background info: We are frequent cruisers based in San Diego who have found Mexico to be a very safe place to visit, especially the tourist areas around Cabo, Mazatlán & Puerto Vallarta. We have spent a lot of time in Mexico and Erika, my wife, is originally from Mexico. This isn’t an advertisement for the cruise lines, I will mention the ups and downs of each stop in the Mexican Riviera Cruise – while we normally don’t do excursions through the cruise line, I believe these are worth doing for various reasons which I will explain in more detail below.

Mazatlán

Our second stop on the Cabo, Mazatlán & Puerto Vallarta loop. This section will consist of two sections. What we did on our most recent visit and what we typically do. I will explain what we did last time but it is not our preferred thing to do in Mazatlán. We had no choice because we took our 6 month old daughter off the ship in Mazatlán and had to do a bubble / ship organized excursion. For Cabo and Puerto Vallarta we left her on the ship with our baby sitter who was traveling with us at the time.

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