Best of Costa Maya, Mexico, as a Cruise Ship Passenger

Costa Maya, or Mahahual, is a small Mexican port town visited by several cruise lines. The beaches are beautiful, the locals are friendly, and the port has many opportunities for trinket shopping. But if you want to see the real Costa Maya and get the most for your money, you need to venture outside of the tourist zone.

Costa Maya Cruise Port

Cruise ships are not our usual mode of travel, but recently we were invited to a destination wedding on Princess Cruises. When we weren’t celebrating the nuptials, we treated ourselves to the typical cruise luxuries – buffets, pools and unlimited drinks. It was nice to just turn our brains off and let the captain do all the work! Although, we definitely ate too much. Everything in moderation.

Costa Maya was one of our cruise destinations. Our ship docked for several hours, allowing passengers off the boat to explore. During that time, we had a chance to partake in a few budget friendly activities.

TOP RECOMMENDATIONS: Scuba Diving & Tequila Tasting

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Scuba outfitter in Costa Maya: Dreamtime Dive Resort

Costa Maya is a centrally located on the Meso-American Barrier Reef, the largest barrier reef in the Northern Hemisphere. Obviously, this makes the destination popular with scuba divers. If you’re hearty enough to go diving, you’ll have plenty of time as a cruise ship passenger.

I chose Dreamtime Dive Resort for my scuba outfitter. At Dreamtime, they provide all the equipment and the dive group numbers are kept small. Dreamtime was able to accommodate my port schedule (which, again, was limited due to the cruise ship).*Note: If you’re not scuba certified, Dreamtime also offers discovery dives for beginners and snorkeling tours. 

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Dive Conditions in Costa Maya

The diving sites around Costa Maya are in finger formations. Meaning, there are a variety of canyons to be enjoyed by divers. Dreamtime chose two dive sites with the best conditions : Dos Ojos (“Two Eyes”) and Escalones (“Staircase”). The visibility was slightly murky due to a recent storm, but the reef was alive and healthy.

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Swimming through the canyons was the highlight of the dive

Both dives were easy with almost no current. We saw a surprising amount of lionfish, an invasive species. You are allowed to kill lionfish on sight in Costa Maya, as they are wreaking havoc on reefs. I hear they are tasty little devils.

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Speaking of tasty fish, after diving, we had worked up an appetite. With a few hours remaining before needing to return to our ship, I asked for a local restaurant recommendation. That’s how we found Fernando’s.

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Excellent Mexican food, atmosphere and tequila!

Fernando’s is a family owned restaurant located on the beach in Costa Maya. I was overjoyed when I found this tiny, clean and atmospheric eatery. It’s not the cheapest place to eat in town, but for the quality and atmosphere, it’s a great deal. Splurge for a delicious meal, and save the rest of the week when you are chowing down at the buffet.

The food was fantastic – possibly the best Mexican food I’ve ever tasted! The fish was fresh and the salsas were flavorful. The restaurant is also famous for tequila tastings. If you have the time, I highly suggest sipping a margarita, watching the waves and chowing on some delicious grub before returning to your cruise ship.

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Seafood tacos and a salsa platter at FernandosCosta Maya Fernando's

Visit Fernando’s after you scuba dive. Otherwise the delicious food and tequila could end up overboard!

*For a similar story, read about snorkeling in Iceland, in the clearest water in the world!

7 thoughts on “Best of Costa Maya, Mexico, as a Cruise Ship Passenger”

  1. Scuba diving is one of the things that if I was filthy rich, I’d want to do everyday. The pictures you guys took are awesome! How’d you like Princess for the cruise? We’ve been on Royal Caribbean, but haven’t tried Princess yet.

  2. Have really enjoyed your blog. Thanks for all the great info. Seriously, it’s very well done and the pictures are amazing. Any tips on how you’re able to store a variety of clothes in the tiny house for all occasions – trips to Alaska (requiring parkas, boots, hats, etc.) and trips to warm weather locales (requiring t-shirts, sandals, shorts, etc.) and special occasion events like weddings on a cruise (formal dresses, heels)? I’m trying to simplify but still have to switch out my closet every spring and fall to store my off-season clothes in a plastic bin in my basement. Just wondering how you manage your closet in your tiny house. Thanks, Nancy.

  3. I don’t believe you want to taste lion fish, due to their venomous nature. During my time in the Maldive Islands we were warned to keep a safe distance from them.

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