It doesn’t take long to turn a sleepy little fishing village into a full-blown tourism hub, and no place knows that more than Mahahual, Mexico. To put this place into perspective, they didn’t even get electricity until the early 2000s. Unheard of, right? Well, as soon as the cruise ship port was built, this place was willing and able to welcome thousands of guests per day to fall in love with Mahahual as much as I did. And it's not as hard to say as it looks.
The cruise port itself is officially titled Costa Maya—it’s about a ten minute drive south into the fishing village of Mahahual, which is refreshingly small when you’re coming off of a gargantuan cruise ship. I felt immediately like I was being welcomed into someone’s hometown. Our guide was from Mexico City, but had been living in Mahahual for quite some time, and his love of the town made me love it even more.
I’m not much of an underwater swimmer, so the shore excursion my friend Michele and I chose was kayaking in clear-bottom boats, allowing you to see and watch everything you’re paddling over. It sounded to me like the next best thing to snorkeling, which I’ve always been a little wary to try. As soon as we stepped in the boats, Michele and I were screeching—no joke—with pure delight. It was fascinating to see the sea life below us, and the first thing we paddled over happened to be a sunken sailing ship. I was so dazzled that I could hardly believe Mahahual is a real place—it is truly a hidden gem. Michele and I absolutely loved our Moana moment as we guided our boats toward the reef. There was so much beautiful coral and so many tropical fish to gaze at that we were the last two in our group back to shore. We couldn’t resist paddling back and forth for just one more look.
Although we stayed near shore, anyone who has been kayaking will tell you it’s quite an arm workout. We were very ready for fresh fruit and cervezas afterward! I love Princess’ organized shore excursions for taking into consideration that we would need some relaxation time after an hour-long workout. The beach club was wondrously quiet, perfectly situated along the beach and in the sunlight that for a full two or three hours, I had zero complaints. The watermelon was fresh, the Pacifico was cold, and the views were outstanding.
Costa Maya had quite a different feel than any other cruise port I’ve been to. I will say it has to be one of the more recently developed ones—it was just reopened in 2009 after hurricanes devastated the town in 2007. Thankfully, it was unharmed by the recent hurricanes this fall and is in tip-top shape to welcome visitors, like dozens of other Caribbean destinations. The people at Costa Maya are so warm, and excited to share their stories and culture. Our tour guide Jose is one amigo I’ll never forget!
The photogenic port is perfectly clean and tidy, with lots to look at without even heading into town. There is beach access and pool access, drinks and restaurants galore and tons of souvenir shopping. You could spend the whole day there if you didn’t feel like venturing out. It felt a little like a Mexican theme park: some of the most exotic and exciting bits of the country rounded up for you to enjoy in one place. Personally, I recommend getting out and exploring. There is so much more to a country than what it offers tourists at face value—and Mahahual is a wonderful welcome to the beautiful country of Mexico.
Thank you to Princess Cruises for sponsoring this post.