Travel beyond Borders -- Cosa Maya

American Roads and Global Highways

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view of Costa Maya from the sea

Western Caribbean cruises frequently include a port stop in Cozumel, Mexico, but in recent years, another port has become part of the itinerary: Costa Maya.


There are ways to get to this small colorful island -- a tourist region in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo -- but the easiest and most convenient way is via cruise vacation. Even a half day's worth of exploration is enjoyable.


Part of the Yucatan Peninsula, Costa Maya, with the turquoise Caribbean Sea as its eastern border -- is known for its beaches, jungles and historic Mayan ruins.


Mayan greeter on Costa Maya Welcome sign
Visitors are welcomed by a Mayan greeter


Puerto (port of) Costa Maya was specifically designed for the enjoyment of cruise ship guests. Some ten years ago, it was a simple laid-back fishing town that was morphed thanks to rebuilding and expansion. Now there is a promenade that runs along the beach. 


Visitors stroll the plaza at Costa Maya
Visitors shop and sunbathe at Costa Maya's plaza


Now, when cruise guests disembark the ship, they find themselves entering Costa Maya's 70,000-square-foot shopping and entertainment center complete with saltwater pools, a 650-seat amphitheater, markets and restaurants. In the massive central swimming pool, guests stay cool while enjoying the sounds of music and the tropical views of the Caribbean.


The pool overlooks shops selling clothing, jewelry -- everything from Tanzanite and diamonds to gold watches -- and handicrafts, to Mayan art, silver, leather, fragrances, etc. Walk around the complex and you may come upon partnered male and female dancers festively twirling and dancing to lively music while dressed in vibrantly colorful outfits.

Dancers at Costa Maya
Dancers perform in the shopping plaza at Costa Maya


Costa Maya's population is only about 2,000, but the region itself is home to a huge population of Mayan descendants, and a large concentration of ancient Mayan archaeological sites. The Great Mayan Reef off Costa Maya's coast is an ecosystem that is touted as the world's second largest barrier reef.


All of this gives visitors plentiful choices for activities and diversions. This is why cruise ships offer so many Costa Maya excursions. If shopping or lazing on a beach is not your ideal, and if kayaking and snorkeling aren't on your recreation list, then consider a tour of Chacchoen Mayan ruins located in a jungle setting about an hour from the port of Costa Maya,  or Kohunlich Mayan ruins with its array of temples, palaces and gardens. Among the latter ruins is the pyramid-shaped Temple of the Masks.


For a family adventure, take a glass bottom boat tour that begins in the nearby Mayan fishing village of Mahahual. Visitors come to this small fishing village to surf the lagoon and to enjoy the inviting soft-sand beaches.


Houses in Costa Maya are painted in bright pastels typical of the Caribbean, and shops selling local wares and restaurants offering local produce are also to be expected, but what most surprises the visitor to Costa Maya is that humongous swimming pool in the middle of the outdoor shopping complex at the pier. As far as photo ops, this makes a big splash.