What to Do In Costa Maya Mexico Instead of an Expensive Shore Excursion

If you’re going to Costa Maya on your cruise, lucky you!  This port is one of my favorites in the Caribbean.  By the time you’re finished reading this, you’ll know why.

Puerto Costa Maya and nearby sleepy Mahahual were once rural fishing villages. In 2002, this region was transformed into a popular cruise ship destination.  It was the first “manufactured” cruise port in the Caribbean, but it didn’t last long.  After a year of rebuilding following Hurricane Dean’s devastating impact in 2007, the cruise port of Costa Maya reopened.  And it’s been growing ever since.

What to do in Costa Maya Mexico
You can literally walk from your ship to the Costa Maya entertainment complex. Or take the free tram.

Most people wonder, “what’s there to do in Costa Maya?”  Actually, most people haven’t heard of Costa Maya or they’ve heard the name but have no clue what to do there.  Isn’t that partly why you’re reading this?

Every cruise line offers full-day and expensive shore excursions to visit the incredible Mayan pyramids, dolphin encounters or snorkeling.  When I’m here, I just want a really good lunch and a cold drink.  Followed by a couple of hours lounging in a beach chair and floating in the ocean.   Here’s how to do exactly that, save a bundle of cash and have one of the best port days ever.

costa maya cruise port
The Costa Maya entertainment complex with shops, a pool and places to eat.

Directions from the port

  1. Walk (or take the free tram) along the lengthy pier from your ship to the port’s colorful Disney-esque entrance.
  2. Follow the pedestrian walk along your right side, past the little shops until you see the grand staircase on your right.
Costa Maya staircase with short cut to trolley
Don’t worry. You don’t have to walk up these stone stairs.

See the little path between the tree and the stairs?  Walk through there and when you emerge, you’ll notice a makeshift table under a long awning. Head to the table and you’ll have two choices, both for the same price.

Taxi or trolley to the beach

You can either buy a $3 trolley ticket or take a $3 taxi ride (all per person).  Tell whomever is driving that you want to go to 40 Canons Hotel or in Spanish, simply, Cuarenta Canones.  It’s a 10-15 minute until you reach the last stop at the end of the road.  The town is actually Mahahual.

If you have no back or neck issues, the trolley is fun as it happily bounces along the bumpy roads. Taxis of course provide a much smoother ride but not quite as much fun.  If you’re a solo traveler, you’ll probably have a few laughs and make some some new cruise friends along the way.

Costa Maya trolley to Mahahual
Get ready for a fun…and very bumpy ride.

Enter the whitewashed breezeway at 40 Canons and walk towards the beach.  You can’t miss it.

40 Canons breezeway Costa Maya
View looking back towards the road with my back to the beach.

And then there’s this – 40 Canons Beach Club.

40 Canons Beach Club
Beach Club access opposite 40 Canons.

and this…

40 Canons at the Promenade
You can walk and walk along this quiet promenade. Some nice little shops, too.

Spend the day on the beach – there are several beach clubs along this stretch of promenade. Pez Quadro, part of 40 Canons, has an All You Can Drink package which includes a meal, wifi and a laundry list of inclusions.

40 canones restaurant costa maya
My favorite restaurant in Costa Maya is at 40 Canones.

Time for a Mexican (or Italian) lunch

Personally, I always go to the outdoor dining area at the hotel for a fabulous lunch.  Actually, you can choose Italian or Mexican.  The owners are Italian and serve traditional Italian meals.

Shrimp fajitas at 40 Canones Costa Maya Mexico
Freshly caught shrimp for their fajitas, tasty guacamole and so much more.

I love the shrimp fajitas.  Guacamole is awesome, too…everything there is good.  A full lunch with a drink will run from $12 to $30 depending of course if you order a fresh-caught lobster or a cheese quesadilla.

Homemade guacamole and chips at 40 Canones in Costa Maya Mexico
More of the same…so good.

Take a walk along the promenade after lunch…maybe set yourself down on a beach chair and take a brief siesta.  You’ll find the beach and town quiet, peaceful and pretty much undeveloped.

When it’s time to head back to your ship (be sure to allow at least an hour) just walk back to the road through the hotel.  Taxis are usually available but leave enough time just in case you have to wait.

As you drive back to Costa Maya (for a short distance it’s a different route) look for these rainbow-colored cabanas.

Colorful tiny houses in Mahajual Mexico near Costa Maya
I asked the driver to slow down so I could get a photo of these tiny houses.

Once back at the cruise port, just follow the crowds out towards the pier.  You can buy any last minute souvenirs from the hundreds of stalls and shops at the complex.

trolley at Costa Maya port
Hop on the free trolley to go to and from your ship.

Too tired to walk?  Take the complimentary trolley back to your ship.

Seriously….you could have this…

swimming pool at entertainment complex in Costa Maya
Doesn’t look too bad…

Or you could have this…it’s your vacation.

sandy beach at Costa Maya in Mahajual Mexico
The beach beckons…

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34 thoughts on “What to Do In Costa Maya Mexico Instead of an Expensive Shore Excursion”

  • Hi Jim,
    Thank you for taking the time to write and for reading my blog! Much appreciated. I’m not sure what you mean by “port experience”? Is this a Royal Caribbean shore excursion? There are options to purchase tours once you are in the cruise port pool complex but if there’s a trip that your really want to take, you might want to purchase it as soon as possible. Your travel agent or someone at Royal Caribbean should be able to find an answer to your port question. I’m familiar with spending time in Mahahual not a planned tour excursion. Sorry I can’t be of more help. It’s a wonderfully peaceful place to visit once you’re outside of the pool complex. Have a wonderful cruise!
    Sherry

  • Hi Sherry,

    Great blog, thanks for the information on Costa Maya. I will be visiting there next March with our granddaughter and wanted to know what the cost of the port experience should be. Royal wants about $40pp but can’t you purchase tickets once you get to the port area directly? And what if you only want to see the animals/birds, can you only do one thing?

    Thanks,
    Jim

  • Hi Michael,
    Congratulations on your oldest graduating into high school – perfect time for a celebration cruise. You’re best bet is to read other comments online about Costa Maya. You can also contact a travel agent who can possibly arrange shore tours for you and your family.

    The only change in my article is that the short-cut to the taxi at the Costa Maya cruise complex has been closed. Now you have to walk all the way around the complex to get to the taxi/trolley boarding area. Costa Maya is great if you want a simple beach day. But be aware that seaweed has been an ongoing issue along the entire stretch of Costa Maya beach and going into the water isn’t pleasant. This could of course change at any given moment.

    Have a fabulous family cruise! Thank you very much for reading my articles and taking the time to write.
    Sherry

  • I am going to be going on a cruise and stopping in costa maya and want to make sure I’m well prepared for what we will be doing. We are going to be there the week of may 23 2020. I have 2 kids going 1 is 9 the other 13 and this is their first cruise. The 13 year old is going to graduate 8th grade so kind of a celebration and they both want to go to the beach. Can you email me some details so I can have everything in line for what we need to do and what to do so we are not spending that much money. Thank you for your time.

  • Hi Alan,
    Thank you very much for taking the time to write your comments. All excellent points. I am disappointed to learn that the little short cut by the stairs is no longer available. It was nice to escape the shopping mall en route to the taxi area.

    Yes, I’ve read about the seaweed problem being an ongoing issue with no end in close sight. Personally, I rarely go into the water so thank you again for your report on the seaweed/sargassum and snorkeling. The few times I have, I remember the shoreline being rather rocky and full of shells.

    I will work on an update to the article asap. Thank you again for your really great comments. Much appreciated.
    Sherry

  • Just a little feedback from our trip here on 7/11/19.

    1-You can no longer pass under the stairs to the taxi area. They have walled that off so you have to go all the way through the mall area, out the back, through the parking lot/security and then you find the taxis. Everything went well with the taxis, no issues getting there or back.

    2-This and some surrounding resorts are now part of some cruises excursions so it’s not as secluded as it once was. We still had no issue getting seated or anything along those lines, just worth noting.

    3-The seaweed/sargassum is overrunning this beach all the way up and down. They were extending the fence offshore during our stay and attempting to keep up with removal but it was pretty thick and you had to go through it to get to the water.

    4-Snorkeling off the beach was not worthwhile. You can go beyond the fence (make sure to pay attention when crossing just past there as it is the path the boats take to get in/out of the bay) but even that was just sand and sea grass, mostly conchs not really anything in the fish area. There is a stand right beside the chairs that will take you out on a boat to snorkel for a very reasonable rate but we did not try that during our stay.

    5-You will experience numerous vendors passing through the seats trying to sell things. They are very friendly but also respectful if you indicate no interest they will not continue to pursue. You can haggle on price (we did buy a couple things) but I have no idea how to haggle so I’m sure they enjoyed me being there…

    Food and drinks were good and staff was very nice. They were able to accommodate my eldest daughters Celiac (gluten allergy). The $20pp fee is adults only…I didn’t realize that so I was trying to eat and drink for 4 including my kids to reach my misunderstood $80 threshold which was only $40 (whoops), but no complaints as it was all very good. All in all it was good, just wanted to call out some items that have changed since the original column was written.

  • Hi Brenda, Thank you very much for your nice comment; much appreciated. I will try to add your email address to my newsletter list and I think you will receive a double-check email asking you to please reconfirm that you want to receive my newsletter. Then if you click “yes” you’ll be on the list.
    Thank you again! Have a wonderful cruise and visit to Costa Maya.
    Sherry

  • Thoroughly enjoyed reading your info on Costa Maya regarding upcoming cruise. If you have a Newsletter please sign me up!!

    Thanks!

  • Hi DeOndra,
    Thank you for writing – it’s much appreciated. Since things change all the time, I would suggest that you contact the hotel direct. When I’ve been there, I’ve eaten lunch in the hotel restaurant (fabulous!) then walked across to the beach area and tipped the person for a chair. I’ve never tried the fishing excursion so I can’t advise on that one. Whatever you do, have a wonderful day in Costa Maya!
    Sherry

  • Hi there!
    My question is, if we pay for the all inclusive in advance, would we be eating in the actual 40 canons restaurant or just quesidallas off a menu in a lounge chair?
    I love the looks of the food and atmosphere of the actual restaurant .
    I would also like to know more about the fishing excursion that is mentioned in the Pez Quatro website, like how often do they really caught anything.
    Just trying to figure out the best option before November.
    Thank you!

  • Hi Trisha,
    It sounds like you have some good plans in place. For Mahahual, your kids can snorkel near the shore but while the water in Mahahual is usually calm, be aware that there could be a current or a rocky shoreline to wade through til it was deep enough. But everything else you’ve mentioned seems good. Yes, there are a lot of beach chairs and for a small gratuity I would think that the person collecting the entrance fees would rustle up 10 chairs for all of you to be near each other. I am not familiar with making reservations ahead of time to reserve lounge chairs. If you are referring to just staying at the cruise complex, then rounding up 10 chairs near each other could be interesting.
    I hope this was helpful. Have a wonderful family cruise.
    Sherry

  • Hi! Going next month and my kids love to Snorkel (11& 15yrs old). Can they swim out some and snorkel or would you recommend we find an excursion to do that? As of now plans are just to do lunch, little shopping and hangout at the beach. Also, are there always beach chairs to rent on beach? Can I reserve in advance? It’s a party of 10 and I want to make sure we can all sit together. Thanks!

  • Hi Esteban,
    Good question. Aside from going to Mahahual on your own, I wouldn’t suggest venturing out of the town limits without being on some kind of a group tour. You can have a really nice day in Mahahual without spending a lot of money on a full day tour to the Mayan ruins -though they are really beautiful and amazing to see. If you rent a golf cart, there’s not much to do with it after a couple of hours. Puerto Costa Maya is just a recreation complex and the ride to Mahahual is only 10 – 15 minutes away.

    I’d suggest taking either the $3 dollar trolley or a taxi down to 40 Canons, have lunch, relax at the beach and stroll along the promenade. Either way, have fun! Thanks for your question.
    Sherry

  • Hi!!!

    Going there in April but would like to deep more in the area….is the area big & secure??? Also, besides the golf carts are there any other options to move a little more??? Going with my parents and want to explore a little more…thanks!!!

  • Hi Liliana,
    Lucky you…Costa Maya is one of my favorite ports. You could follow the suggestions in the article and you can read the positive comments from readers. Have fun!
    Sherry

  • we are going for first time to Costa Maya, we are very exiting after I read all these comments,, we love the beach and w e are looking to relax in a pretty beach very clear where you can really relax, and enjoy the ocean and have some appetizers and a refreshing drink, where do you recommended to go?

  • Hi Dale,
    I’m SO glad everyone had a great time in Costa Maya and that my advice and directions worked! I totally agree that I’d also like to spend a 3-4 laid-back days in Mahahual at 40 Cannons. The food at Maramao is excellent and the ambiance is so very easy.

    Thank you for sharing your follow-up for Costa Maya. If you don’t mind, may I take a part of your comment to use on my website? Just a little blurb in the sidebar. I would only use your first name and last initial. I hope you’ll approve, but if not, I totally understand.

    Regards,
    Sherry

  • We followed your advice and glad we did. Cab ride to 40 Cannons was $8 for our group of 4. We checked out the area and two people had 45 minute massages for $20 each. We had lunch at Maramao. Very good and run by great people. Lobster and fish dishes as well as Italian. Prices were very reasonable and gave us access to the beach. We would not have found this place without your recommendation. I would consider going back to this place for a longer stay.

  • Hi DeeDee,
    Good question. There are “free” beaches but if you want a lounge chair, you’ll pay a fee. Since you’re planning on a drink and a snack, that would surely take care of the cover charge. I’d suggest taking the trolley to the end at 40 Canones (why not have lunch and a drink there?) and then walk the promenade until you find whatever appeals to you. Have a wonderful time.
    Sherry

  • Hi Sherry,
    we will be at Costa Maya/Mahahual with a cruise. We want to go by trolley to Mahahual. Is there a part of the beach without paying a fee? Or a bar where you can just can have a drink and a small snack?

  • Hi Sarah,
    I always have lunch at 40 Canones and then just go across the pavement to the beach. If you only want to use the beach then yes, there would be a fee. Have fun!

    Sherry

  • Hi Megs,

    For a family, a day at the beach in Costa Maya is a good option, as long as you purchase beach chairs with shade. While most of the shoreline is smooth sand, depending on weather, current etc, aqua shoes are a good idea in case of a pebbly shore as you walk into the water. Meals and snacks are available along the promenade and you can sit and enjoy a nice lunch at 40 Canones. Though with a 2 yr old, I don’t know how relaxing it might for you! Actually, in thinking this through, your best and simplest bet might be to just spend the day at the cruise ship venue, right there at the port. Easy to push a buggy, you can find shade, there’s a kids pool area and you can head back to the ship much easier. Looking back to when my kids were small (first cruise at 5 and 7), the simpler I kept activities, made for an easier and more pleasant cruise experience.

    Have a wonderful cruise!
    Sherry

  • We are heading here in March. We are a family with smaller children (2-13), and was wondering if this would be a great place to come as a family? There aren’t a lot of options through the cruise line. I am more worried about missing our boarding time, since it’s early afternoon!

  • Hi Susan,

    Have fun! I love Costa Maya. Enjoy your lunch at 40 Canones and save time to walk along the promenade, too. If you think of it, please drop me a note when you return and let me know how it all worked. Thank you! Bon Voyage!
    Sherry

  • Hi Mary Ann,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a nice note. I’m happy that you and everyone enjoyed their day at 40 Canons. It’s one of my favorite self-made cruise days! If you don’t mind, may I use your first three sentences as a quote/testimonial? I will only include your first name (I don’t know your last name.) Thank you again for your note (it made my day!) and I hope you’ll approve.
    Sherry

  • My husband and I and another couple followed these instructions last week when our cruise ship stopped in Costa Maya. This was one of the best days we ever had. We followed your directions and had no problems. We never saw the little makeshift table you spoke of to get a ride on the trolley or taxi but there were a lot of people there who spoke English that could get us a taxi. The taxi was $2 a person. The taxi driver understood Forty Canons easily and we had printed out the paper to show him in case he didn’t. When we got to Forty Canons, we were so pleased. It is a beautiful resort. It sits on a promenade where you can take a leisurely stroll and looks at the wares that the locals were selling. It was very easy to negotiate a price when we wanted to buy something. We were greeted by one of the beach attendants who spoke English. He said the beach chair and umbrella was $20. We told him no, we would pay $10 so he said ok. He let us pick out where we wanted to sit. It was not crowded at all and had a wonderful scenic place to sit. The water was crystal clear and the beach was nice. There are locals who walk around trying to sell you stuff but when you just shake your head no they smile and leave you alone. It was not a problem. The attendants on the beach are there to serve you drinks and lunch if you want to order anything. It was not expensive at all and the drinks were delicious. It was very easy getting a cab back to the ship. There were many outside the hotel. All in all, we loved everything about the day.

  • Hi John,
    That plus some good food and you’re right! The beaches are gorgeous, too.
    Sherry

  • Hi Christina,
    Happy 10th anniversary! If you follow the directions in the article, you should have a pretty easy time getting to Mahahual and the beach. When you get to 40 Canons Hotel, you can ask anyone about renting a beach chair with them. Otherwise, you can cut through to the beach and walk along the promenade until you find a location you like. Bring US cash in small bills, too. Have a great time in Costa Maya!
    Sherry

  • We are headed here next week. Do I need any type of reservation or do I just walk in? I don’t speak Spanish well so I’m nervous. I want to have a great relaxing day as it’s my 10 year wedding anniversary the day we will be there. How do you get a seat on the beach? Just walk up and pick one or do they give you one

  • Hi Paula,
    Please contact a travel agency in your area or if that is not convenient, contact the cruise line directly and they can send a brochure.
    Sherry

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    Corning,box1i3, ap,Arkansas,72422t. 1la Rogerssend me literature on your cruises .

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