If you’re like us, then you’ve got a budget for traveling (and if you don’t have a budget, then you’re probably on a yacht instead of a cruise ship and can just skip this post). This guide tells all of the people who are cruising (instead of yachting) all of the inexpensive things that you can do in the Costa Maya cruise port and save money on shore excursions for some of the other ports.
Costa Maya is one of those ports that you can completely wing. So don’t worry if you’re not a planner, Costa Maya is the place for you (although if you’re not a planner, you probably aren’t reading this are you?). Anyways, Costa Maya is really easy as far as cruise ports go. You walk right off your cruise ship and follow the only pier all the way into the port (towards land!). There are several great photo ops along your walk which is nice because it’s a really long pier and sometimes you need an excuse to stop (hey honey, this looks like a great place for a family photo – wink, wink!).
(see those huts on the left that are really small, that’s the pool!).
- 1 Map of the Costa Maya Cruise Port:
- 1.1 1. Take a swim in the free pool
- 1.2 2. Watch the dolphins swim
- 1.3 3. Take pictures with the colorful alebrijes (statues).
- 1.4 4. Take a taxi to the nearby beach
- 1.5 5. Eat Tacos & Guacamole
- 1.6 6. Sample Mexican Chocolate
- 1.7 7. Look at the colorful birds
- 1.8 8. Wander the shops looking for colorful Mexican Souvenirs
- 1.9 9. Take Instagram worthy photos of the Costa Maya signs
- 1.10 10. Watch the musicians or observe a silly Mexican wrestling match!
Map of the Costa Maya Cruise Port:
Below is a hopefully helpful map of the Costa Maya cruise port. This map seems to be a bit outdated. As of January 2019, there is actually another set of buildings on the back of the cruise port. If you walk all the way down to the south side, then to the west, an alley curves around with more places to eat and it takes you to the alebrijes, the yellow Costa Maya sign, and the taxi stand.
1. Take a swim in the free pool
When you first walk into the port of Costa Maya, you’ll see tons of stands set up selling typical Mexican souvenirs. But if you walk through those and to the left a little bit, then in the middle of the port area there is a huge awesome swimming pool that is completely free! Just grab a beach chair, waiters will bring you any food or drinks that you need (or you can use the swim up bar), and jump right in.
The day that we visited just happened to be the one day that the Polar Vortex covered the entire U.S. *(what are the odds?) and so the temperature in Costa Maya dipped to about 75 which meant it was a chilly pool. I can’t imagine that would ever happen to you on your trip, but no worries if it does because there are 9 other fun things to do in the rest of my guide.
The awesome thing is that kids generally aren’t affected by cold swimming pools at all, so my nephew had a great time splashing around and playing in the fountains in the shallow end.
2. Watch the dolphins swim
This is animal tourism and therefore may be a little bit controversial, but yes – you can watch the dolphin’s swim. At Costa Maya you can spend a lot of money to swim with dolphins and support animal tourism. Or you can go the budget route and watch the dolphins swim around for free. This way you’re saving money and you aren’t giving a penny to a company that may or may not be exploiting animals! And let’s face it, little kids will just think that the dolphins are really neat! We watched them for probably about 10 minutes and one swam right up to look at Jackson in his stroller. So go ahead and make some free memories watching dolphins.
There are signs all around the dolphin tank asking you not to take pictures. So like a good little traveler, I didn’t. The picture below is taken with my back to the dolphin tank.
3. Take pictures with the colorful alebrijes (statues).
Alebrijes are brightly colored Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical (fantasy/mythical) creatures. You will see many vendors selling small versions of alebrijes to take home. However, there are at least 2 huge statues at the cruise port of Costa Maya. They are really colorful and I think are the most instagrammable photo opportunities at Costa Maya. They are located just about as far away from the pier as you can go, so they’re a bit of a secret and are only found by those who wander the furthest!
4. Take a taxi to the nearby beach
Okay, earlier I mentioned that you don’t have to leave the cruise port to have an amazing day in Costa Maya and that’s completely true. But, if you’re just dying to see the beach, you should know that there’s one located just about 10 minutes away from Costa Maya. Walk all the way through the cruise port and hail a taxi for a few dollars per person in 2019.
We didn’t end up doing this option, but I’d love to hear in the comments if you did and what your experience was?!
5. Eat Tacos & Guacamole
There are places to get food all throughout the cruise port. But we stumbled upon a place in the back street by the alebrijes that roasted fresh meat on spits and sold tacos. And it was delicious. We spent a relaxing hour sitting at a table in the street, eating tacos and guacamole while our little guy napped on his daddy’s shoulder.
6. Sample Mexican Chocolate
Near the Aviary and the dolphins is a shop called the Kakaw Chocolate Factory. This stores sells fresh mexican chocolate and they offer free samples on a daily basis. If you’ve never had it, Mexican chocolate is a bit spicy (seriously!) and unlike any chocolate anywhere else!
7. Look at the colorful birds
In the middle of the cruise port near the pool, there is a large treehouse like structure where you can pay a small amount to climb up and see and hold all different types of colorful tropical birds. If you don’t want to pay, there are a few that you can see from the outside including a whole little pool with flamingos.
8. Wander the shops looking for colorful Mexican Souvenirs
If you’re looking for Mexican souvenirs, there are a few things that are pretty typical. First, you can find Mexican pottery in all shapes and sizes. And it’s one of those souvenirs that you can actually use. A few years ago, I bought a beautiful bowl that I use for a fruit bowl in our kitchen. If you’re more into knick-knacks, then you can pick up some small alebrijes to take home with you. For jewelry, you can find certified Mexican silver jewelry. Food based Mexican souvenirs include bottles of Vanilla for cooking, or you can take home some Mexican chocolate. Lastly, there is always things like maracas, ponchos, sombrerors, or wrestling costumes which you can take home. Our nephews loved their silly wrestling masks!
9. Take Instagram worthy photos of the Costa Maya signs
There are at least 3 different signs where you can take your picture and prove that you actually visited Costa Maya! Two of the signs are located right when you walk off the pier and into the shopping area. The third (and way less crowded sign) is located in the back part of Costa Maya near the alebrijes and the taxi stand.
10. Watch the musicians or observe a silly Mexican wrestling match!
Last but not least, if you’re in need of some entertainment, there are a couple of options. First, there are musicians located throughout the cruise port. There are also some people dressed up in Mayan costumes and dancing near the shops area. Lastly if you’re really into it, the same restaurant with the swim-up bar has a ring set up for Mexican wrestling matches, with silly costumes and all. We had a good time listening to the wrestling from the pool.
Well, we hope you find our guide helpful so that you have as good of a visit to Costa Maya’s cruise port as we did!