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I cruised to a tiny town in Mexico you’ve probably never heard of, and it was the highlight of my cruise vacation

06 Mar 2023

There’s a charming small town just minutes away from one of Mexico’s busiest cruise ports, and it’s by far my favorite place to visit on any Caribbean cruise.

With lively culture, gorgeous beaches, and world-famous cuisine, visiting Mexico is a must whenever I’m planning a Caribbean cruise. Yet as a culturally-focused traveler, I’m more interested in exploring local places rather than spending the day at a gated resort.

So when I first discovered Mahahual, a small fishing village located just 1.5 miles from the Costa Maya cruise port, I knew I had to check it out. With a little over 2,500 residents, it’s worlds away from destinations like Cancún and Puerto Vallarta, and I was intrigued.

I visited Mahahual for the first time last April and immediately fell in love with the town’s relaxed, beachy vibe. I couldn’t wait to return, so when I booked another cruise to Mexico, I knew I’d be heading back.

Let’s take a walkthrough of a perfect cruise ship port day in Mahahual, from sunbathing at the beach to endless tacos and guacamole. If you’re planning a cruise to Mexico soon, this may just be the best place to visit.

Getting there

The town of Mahahual is split into two sections: the main town—where most residents live—and the boardwalk.

The boardwalk, known as the malecón in Spanish, is the main tourist area of the town, and it's where most visitors will spend the day. Getting to the Boardwalk is easy, but you’ll first have to navigate the maze of the Costa Maya cruise port!

Once you walk off the ship and enter the Costa Maya cruise port, you’ll be met with a maze of restaurants, bars, shops, and even a pool. Although the port area is nice (it even features its own aviary), I’d highly recommend leaving port and heading to Mahahual for a more authentic travel experience.

To do so, keep heading left through the port, following a path that will eventually lead you to a line of taxis. Taxis to Mahahual are $4 per person each way.

On my recent port day, we took a taxi to the Faro de Mahahual, a 72 foot lighthouse marking the start of the town’s oceanfront boardwalk.

Exploring Mahahual

We arrived at the lighthouse around 8AM local time, just as Mahahual started to wake up. The breezy morning weather made for an excellent time to walk the boardwalk.

Mahahual’s malecón is car-free and lined with coconut trees, shops, and beach clubs. The town is an up-and-coming diving destination, so there are plenty of small bungalows and hotels along the way.

Several massage stands were set up along the boardwalk, too, which are guaranteed to be priced lower than on the ship!

Although the morning in Mahahual is quiet, it’s the best time to walk the mile-long boardwalk. Temperatures are comfortable, there are few crowds, and you’ll get a better taste for the tranquil atmosphere of the town before other tourists arrive.

After 20 minutes walking the boardwalk, we were ready for Mahahual’s main attraction: the beach.

Beaches in Mahahual and Costa Maya, Mexico

Mexican law states that all beaches must guarantee free public access to anyone; there are no private beaches in the country! Because of this law, the beach in Mahahual is accessible to any visitor, but there are a few things to be aware of.

Beach clubs

Mahahual’s coastline is full of beach clubs and hotels, most of which use beach space for chairs and umbrellas. While you can technically access the beach at any location, use of beach equipment is reserved for guests at the respective businesses.

Therefore, booking a day pass to a beach club is the most comfortable option for a beach day in Mahahual. Some beach clubs offer free entry if you buy food and drinks whereas others offer an all-inclusive cover charge.

Here are a few of the best beach clubs in Mahahual:

Maya Chan is another popular day pass in Mahahual, but it is not located in the town center.

Free beach access

If you’re hoping for a free beach day in Mahahual, your best bet is to find a quiet spot of sand in between beach clubs. To do this, walk further down the boardwalk where there are fewer businesses and tourists. You can place your towel on the sand here for free!

Jaime’s at the Blue Reef

My favorite beach club in Mahahual is Jaime's at the Blue Reef, and this is where we spent the majority of our day in town. At $56 per adult, a day at Jaime's provides an all-inclusive experience with unlimited food and drinks.

The menu has a variety of both Mexican and American dishes, including quesadillas, onion rings, ceviche, and tacos. We dined on chips and salsa, guacamole, and several types of tacos, and everything was delicious.

Jaime, the owner of the Blue Reef, even made us a special dish of rice with freshly caught shrimp cooked in white wine and pepper. The hospitality of the Blue Reef keeps me coming back each time I visit Mahahual!

Beach club access also includes a private, padded beach chair placed perfectly in the shade of coconut trees and palapas.

In between food and drinks, taking a dip in the ocean is a must. Although this region of Mexico is prone to seaweed, most beaches in Mahahual are protected by a barrier in the water, and we found the water perfectly clear during our stay.

Of course, you can't beat the views from the rooftop at Jaime's at the Blue Reef, either, which feature the most spectacular panoramic views Mahahual has to offer.

Like always, my time at the Blue Reef was a highlight of my day in Mahahual.

What to do in Mahahual

Although a day in Mahahual is best spent at the beach, there are a few other ways to enjoy your time in the town, too, from dining to cycling and more.

Food & Drinks

One of the best reasons to cruise to Mexico is for the food, of course, and Mahahual boasts plenty of culinary options to match any tastes. As the town receives many tourists, both American and Mexican fare can be found in town.

Many visitors will dine at one of Mahahual’s beach clubs. If you're looking for a restaurant more off the beaten path, though, walk a few blocks away from the busy oceanfront.

Here you'll find restaurants frequented by Mahahual locals, such as La Curvita, which serves breakfast and lunch dishes for under $5 USD. Menu highlights include tortas, quesadillas, Mexican-style eggs, fajitas, empanadas, and more.

A variety of bakeries and cafes are located along the boardwalk as well. Panadería La Tartaleta is a fantastic spot for coffees and pastries, whereas La Dolce Vita makes unbelievably fresh smoothies.

The passionfruit, mango, and banana smoothie is one of the best drinks to try in Mahahual, so I made sure to pick one up on my recent port day.


Because Mahahual’s boardwalk is car-free, it’s a popular spot for bike riding. Several cycling excursions cruise the boardwalk each day, but you can also rent a bike on your own.

Bike rentals cost between $3-8 for a rental, which you can rent for only an hour or for the whole day.

Although I didn’t have time to cycle during my recent visit to Mahahual, I’d recommend this option for those looking to see as much of the town as possible in a short port visit. You can ride bikes past the boardwalk and onto a sandy beachfront road or head to the local side of Mahahual to ride amongst the neighborhoods there.


The waters off the eastern coast of the Yucatán peninsula are known for having some of the best scuba diving in the world. If you’d like to give diving a try, you can do so in Mahahual.

Several diving companies are located throughout the town, but if you are trying for the first time, I’d recommend a Discover Scuba lesson from Mar Adentro Diving, located right off the boardwalk in Mahahual.

Back to the ship: why you should visit Mahahual on your next cruise to Mexico

After a wonderful day walking around Mahahual and suntanning at Jaime’s at the Blue Reef, it was time to head back to Symphony of the Seas. While taxis are available directly from the Blue Reef, we wanted to walk down the boardwalk one last time.

Now mid-afternoon, the boardwalk was packed with visitors from the two cruise ships in port. Music was pumping at beach clubs, street food vendors were rolling carts down the street, and vendors were ready to sell any type of souvenir and trinket you could imagine.

Like any tourist area, it's important to be prepared to be asked to buy souvenirs, massages, and food. A simple "no, gracias" is a polite way to dismiss any vendors on the beach or boardwalk, and they weren't pushy.

We walked the mile back to the lighthouse, where we were easily able to get a taxi back to port for $4 per person.

My day in Mahahual was the highlight of my cruise vacation. The town’s small, walkable size makes it easy to explore, and it has everything you could need in a port day: great food, picturesque beaches, plentiful activities, and affordable prices.

I love the energy of Mahahual, and even though many tourists visit each day, it still has a laid-back feel. Combined with the friendliness of everyone I encountered in town, Mahahual is a place I plan to visit over and over again.

If you have a cruise booked that visits Costa Maya, don’t hesitate to leave the port area and take a taxi to Mahahual.

Excursion Review: Jaime's at the Blue Reef all-inclusive day pass in Costa Maya

29 Sep 2022

Costa Maya is one of the busiest cruise ports in Mexico, and we’re always looking for new excursions to try in this small beach town. We recently tried an all-inclusive day pass at Jaime’s at the Blue Reef, a local hotel near the port, to see if the amenities, food, and drinks were worth the admission fee.

The result? A gorgeous beach day complete with spicy tacos, refreshing margaritas, and luxurious pool views.

Let's take a look at our experience at Jaime's at the Blue Reef to help you determine if you should give it a try on your next visit to Costa Maya.


Jaime’s at the Blue Reef is a 10 minute taxi ride away from the Costa Maya cruise port, and a taxi costs $4 per person each way. It is located in the small beachfront town of Mahahual, Mexico.

Jaime’s at the Blue Reef is a hotel and restaurant offering day passes to cruise ship guests. Capacity is kept low in an effort to provide the best service possible. No more than 28 day passes are sold each day.

All-inclusive day passes at Jaime’s at the Blue Reef include the following amenities:

  • Unlimited food and beverages
  • Private spot on the beach with padded lounge chairs
  • Shaded palapas
  • Kayaks, floats, and paddle boards
  • Pool access (dependent on availability and adults-only)
  • Wi-fi

Day passes at Jaime’s at the Blue Reef often sell out, so it’s important to reserve your booking ahead of time. To reserve a day pass, visit the official website for Jaime’s at the Blue Reef.

At the time of review, the cost of admission was:

  • Adults: $57 USD
  • 13 to 17: $33 USD
  • 6 to 12: $19.95 USD
  • 5 & under: Free

After being checked in, a staff member will escort your group to your private, padded lounge chairs and palapa along the beach.


Jaime's at the Blue Reef has a calm, clean, and warm beach which is protected from strong currents and seaweed by a barrier in the water.

The water is so calm, clear, and warm that it is almost like swimming in a bathtub, and the sand is soft with no rocks and very little seaweed.

Water sport equipment is available at no extra charge, and many guests (mostly kids) chose to try a kayak or stand up paddle in the protected beach area.

The padded beach loungers are sufficiently shaded from the palapa and coconut trees above.

Jaime’s at the Blue Reef has a small pool located on the roof, although day pass guests should check with the hotel before booking to see if the pool will be available.

When we visited, the pool was only open to adults. There is no shade at the pool, but it offers panoramic views of the ocean, town, and coral reefs in the distance.

Jaime’s at the Blue Reef does not offer services like massages, boat tours, etc., but these activities are offered by other local companies located just a few feet from the hotel. A snorkeling tour may be offered by Jaime’s each day, but it’s best to contact the hotel for availability and pricing.

Guests can enjoy unlimited food and drinks throughout the day at Jaime’s at the Blue Reef, and this offers a great value for those hoping to taste a variety of foods and snacks.

The food menu had both standard Mexican fare (tacos, quesadillas, nachos, ceviche, etc.) and also American fare (hamburgers, onion rings, chicken fingers, etc.).

Jaime's at the Blue Reef has a cocktail and beer menu available along with a selection of non-alcoholic beverages.

Waiters can bring food and drinks to your beach chair or you can sit at the shaded bar and restaurant area.


I’m not a fan of the immediate port area where cruise ships dock in Costa Maya as it feels very inauthentic, so I always search for things to do in the nearby town of Mahahual instead.

I like how the hotel's location is right in the middle of the town of Mahahual, as it was easy to access, yet I didn't feel "stuck" at a resort with nowhere else to go.

After lunch, I took a walk around Mahahual's Boardwalk. I love this small town and it's always fun to walk around, shop, and chat with locals. This is something I wouldn't be able to do as easily at a more secluded resort, and it was a nice way to break up the day.

Because it was located along the busy beachfront boardwalk, however, there were frequent visits from locals trying to sell souvenirs like sunglasses, jewelry, trinkets, etc. This could be a downside for some guests, although none of the vendors were pushy, so I didn't mind.

Beach & Pool

I appreciated the calm waters at the beach, as I don’t enjoy fighting strong waves or currents. There was virtually no seaweed in the water, too, which was a huge plus.

The beach area had enough space for all guests, although chairs were relatively close together.

The pool was one of my favorite amenities at Jaime’s at the Blue Reef, and although it’s not listed on the hotel’s website as a day pass amenity, it was available when we were in town.

When I went to the pool, there were no other guests there, so I had the entire area to myself. While the pool isn’t very convenient to access (it’s on the roof of the 4-story hotel with no elevator), it’s well worth the trek for gorgeous views of Costa Maya.

Jaime explained that this area permits topless sunbathing, so it’s an adults-only area.

Food & Drink

I wasn’t sure how authentic the food would be at Jaime’s and was a bit skeptical once I saw how many American foods were on the menu. These worries quickly went away, however, with my first bite of guacamole.

I did not expect such a delicious appetizer. There’s no question that the guacamole is made-to-order with fresh avocados, and I could have eaten only chips and guacamole all day and been satisfied!

I also tried two varieties of tacos: fish and vegetable tempura. You can’t go wrong with tacos, and the two hot sauce selections were impressively spicy.

The highlight of the meal came when Jaime, the owner of Jaime’s at the Blue Reef, made a fresh, tropical fish ceviche. Made with white fish, pineapple, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, and black sesame seeds, it was tangy, savory, and sweet at the same time.

With the combination of Mexican and American fare offered, Jaime’s has a crowd-pleasing menu suitable for even the pickiest eaters.

As far as drinks go, I had no complaints and enjoyed a fresh pineapple juice and margarita. Others in our group ordered Modelos, a Tequila Sunrise, and (a few too many) shots of tequila.

Waiter service was relatively quick for both food and drinks, and all staff members were remarkably friendly. They constantly walked around the beach to check if we wanted to order anything else.

Final thoughts

I would definitely visit Jaime’s at the Blue Reef on future trips to Costa Maya. Considering the day pass includes a private, shaded beach chair, beach and pool access, drinks, food, water sports equipment, and wi-fi, I thought it offered a great value.

It wasn’t hard to “break even” on the $57 day pass, especially when considering the price of food and drinks in the immediate Costa Maya cruise port.

It was hard to find any complaints with the day pass, but if I had to pick a downside it would be the location of the pool, as it isn’t convenient to access on the roof. That being said, the pool location was a huge benefit to me as I could relax with stunning beach views.

If you’re looking for an all-inclusive beach day in a convenient, centrally-located area of Mahahual, Jaime’s at the Blue Reef may be the best choice for your day in port.

More all-inclusive day pass reviews:

Fun things to do on a cruise to Mexico

27 Jun 2019

Royal Caribbean can take you on a cruise to various ports in Mexico to swim, scuba, eat, drink and climb your way around the country’s storied ancient pyramids and cenotes.

We get a lot of requests for recommendations of what to do in various ports of call, so today we are focusing on the cruise ports in Mexico that Royal Caribbean serves, and hand-picked excursions offered by both the cruise line and on your own.

Royal Caribbean offers Western Caribbean cruises from four to seven nights that depart ports in Florida and Texas. If you are interested in some fun activities offered in each Mexican port Royal Caribbean visits, here are some great suggestions.


Fun in the ocean is at the heart of Cozumel, as it is known for its exotic and exquisite diving.  In fact, oceanographer Jacques Cousteau once said Cozumel had the best in the world for scuba diving.  Royal Caribbean offers shore excursions to snorkel in the Palancar Reef, where you can swim among starfish in a natural sanctuary.  Or give back a little and save sea turtle hatchlings.

You can combine the sea and land with a day by the beach. Cozumel has a number of great beach resorts you can spend the day at with a day pass.

If you want a little culture, try the Mexico in a Nutshell tour for a sampling of Mayan traditions, illustrated through aerial acrobatics and Mexican architecture. There are also tequila samplings and chocolate tastings to consider.

Costa Maya


Costa Maya has a great deal of intriguing options to consider to fill your day. Some of the best Mayan ruins are found around Costa Maya, including the premier preserved site at Chichen Itza. Royal Caribbean offers a multi-day tour that will take you to Chacchoben, Tulum and Chichen Itza, on an overnight adventure.

If aquatic adventure is what you want, the Meso-American Barrier Reef offers kayaking or scuba diving. This area is an important marine region spanning nearly 700 miles. You can always head to the beach and enjoy a relaxing day at Maya Chan Beach.

If you want to try to reel in your fun (see what we did there?), then grab a lure and head out for some deep sea fishing.


A newer cruise port for Royal Caribbean, Progresso (also known as Yucatan), is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chichen Itza.

You can take a glimpse into Mexico's past with a visit to Merida, the capital of the Yucatan state. There you will find colonial-era estates known as Mexican haciendas.

Speaking of the past, you can explore Mayan culture at the Uxmal ruins, one of the civilization’s political hubs. You can explore the classic Mesoamerican ball courts, where ancient games were played, and the stone decorations of the aptly named House of the Turtles. The Dzibilchaltun ruins, an ancient trading center, and Temple of the Seven Dolls are worth a visit too, as they reveal the Mayans’ long-held understanding of the solar system.

Your thoughts

What is your favorite thing to do in Mexico on a cruise? Are you considering another tour? Share your experiences and questions in the comments below!

Excursion Focus: Maya Chan Beach in Costa Maya

23 Apr 2018

If there is a downside to having a really, really good time on any shore excursion it is that you begin to wonder if subsequent times going on that same excursion will match the first time.

Maya Chan Beach in Costa Maya, Mexico has been the high water mark for any all-inclusive excursion I have tried, ever since we went there back in 2010.  Having an opportunity to return eight years later, I was excited to try it again, but I was concerned perhaps the second visit would not match up to my first time.

While on Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas, we booked a visit to see if it could match up in a way similar to the hit Foreigner song.


Maya Chan Beach is an all-inclusive spot that offers all the drinks and food you like right on a prime spot in Mahahual, Mexico.

This excursion is booked directly via the Maya Chan website.  The process is fairly smooth, with some emails traded back and forth before completing the booking.

Maya Chan Beach is not near the port area of Costa Maya, so you will need to take a taxi to get there. The folks at Maya Chan Beach arrange transportation back and forth.  Upon exiting the port area, you take a short walk down the street and meet up with the Maya Chan Beach representative, where they immediately hail a taxi for you.

On our visit, the Maya Chan Beach representative informed us that the entire area (including Maya Chan Beach) has been inundated with seaweed.  They showed us photos of the beach area, and told us they had a team of guys working to clean the beach. They offered to give us a full refund if we decided the seaweed was too much of a problem.  Since the problem was not just limited to Maya Chan, we decided to go forth with the excursion. I appreciated their honesty and offer for a refund, as the flow of seaweed is hardly something they can control.

The taxi ride to Maya Chan Beach takes around 20-30 minutes, and passes through much of Mahahual. Most of the ride is over dirt road, which was recently smoothed over for a much improved ride.  The road used to be riddled with holes, but this time around it was quite smooth (minus the incredible amount of speed bumps locals have installed).

Upon arrival to Maya Chan Beach, the representative meets you at the entrance and gives you a quick run down of how things work, along with a welcome drink.  

Each family/group is assigned a palapa area, that has enough seating, hammock and sun bed to enjoy.  There are palapa areas of various sizes to accommodate different sized groups.

By far the best part of Maya Chan Beach is the level of service you receive.  Their team is comprised of a staff that speak perfect English and are constantly roaming the grounds to assist in getting anything.  The quality service was exactly as good as on our first visit, and it meant we never waited long for anything and always had drinks and food.

In terms of food and drink, you are greeted with a serving of chips, freshly made salsa and guacamole.  Refills are available at any time. 

Their cooking staff creates a lunch each day from scratch, that is a buffet of create your own tacos to enjoy.  Truly great food all around.

There is a full bar of drinks you can enjoy throughout the day.  You can opt to get it yourself from the bar, or have one of the servers bring it to you.  

In fact, the staff set up a pseudo-floating bar off the beach to enjoy.  I loved the creativity.

Besides eating and drinking, a day spent at Maya Chan is about enjoying the beach.  While Maya Chan does not have a pool, it does have a large amount of beach access for its guests.

As I mentioned, the inundation of seaweed made getting out past the first 10 feet a little icky, but they did provide water shoes you could borrow.  

Your day pass includes access to:

  • Free WiFi
  • Kayaks
  • Snorkel equipment
  • "Cleanest bathrooms in town"
  • Lockers
  • Showers

Maya Chan also built an observation tower, which you can climb up to and enjoy a perfect view of the beach and surrounding area.

Maya Chan is also home to a couple of dogs and a cat.  The pets are well behaved, and if you like dogs or cats, they roam around and are happy to come say hello in exchange for a good scratch behind the ears.


These days, there are a lot of all inclusive day pass options at pretty much any Caribbean island you visit.  What seperates Maya Chan from the rest is the level of service and quality overall experience they offer.

Maya Chan bills itself on its service, and I think that has to do with the fact the beach is owned and operated by a few American ex-pats, who understand really well what tourists are looking for in a beach day. The attention to detail the staff provides is exquisite, and why we came back.

Despite eight years between visits, I think Maya Chan absolutely lived up to my expectations from my first visit.  Our family had a great time enjoying a relaxing beach day.  When we arrived to our palapa, there was a bucket of beach toys waiting for my kids to use.

The one issue we encountered was the seaweed, which Maya Chan has no control over.  They did have at least four guys working from morning to afternoon to clear the stuff off the beach, and by lunch there was a path to the water.  Moreover, I really appreciated the fact they offered us a warning and refund prior to going to the beach.  That kind of honesty goes a long way.

There are no guarantees with anything, but if you are headed to Costa Maya and want the kind of beach day that is very, very, very unlikely to disappoint, booking Maya Chan Beach is a great idea.

Cost: Adults: $59, Kids 0-3 $19, Kids 4-7 $39, Kids 8-17 $49.

Reservations can be made at the Maya Chan website.

Excursion Focus: Maya Chan Beach

02 Aug 2010

If you're looking for an all-inclusive beach resort in Costa Maya where you can feel like a king (or queen), Maya Chan Beach Resort is the place to go check out.


Maya Chan Beach Resort is a private all-inclusive beach resort located in minutes south of Puerto Costa Maya in Mexico.  This resort limits the amount of guests on any given day to about 40, to ensure a private and secluded feel to the beach.  Guests are picked up at the port and driven by bus to the resort.  Once there, guests are escorted individually to their spot on the beach, which can feature amenities such as palapas, couches and lounge chairs.

In addition to the beach, included in the price for the day are access to water toys such as bikes, snorkels, kayaks and water floaties.  Moreover, guests are provided with a freshly cooked buffet lunch and unlimited alcoholic drinks.  Internet is also available for free.


Beautiful beaches in Mexico are a dime a dozen, but what makes Maya Chan Beach so great is the personal attention to detail the resort's staff provides their guests.  The included drinks are top shelf liquor and flow freely.  All too often I've been to all inclusive resorts where the staff is stingy with the drinks, but not here.  Staff regularly walk around offering to bring you drinks as well as complimentary snacks such as local fruit.

Lunch is served buffet style and comprised of fajitas that are all cooked freshly that day.  We found the food offered here to be the best Mexican food we had in all of Mexico.

In the end, it's the amazing customer service that won us over.  It's hard to describe just how accommodating everyone here was.  The staff speak very good English (most are American ex-pats, while others are Mexicans with very good English) and there is nothing here that they seemingly wont do for you.  

Location: K.M. 6.5 Carretera Majahual-XcalacSouth just after K.M.6.5.Majahual, Quintana Roo, Mexico 77940


Cost: $46 + $10 transportation

Oasis of the Seas skips Costa Maya due to Hurricane Alex

30 Jun 2010

Just a quick note that Oasis of the Seas has skipped the port of Costa Maya due to high winds and waves from Hurricane Alex.  Cruisers aboard Oasis of the Seas mentioned the change in itinerary on Cruise Critic. The ship's captain informed guests that the ship will not be stopping at Costa Maya as previously planned and the ship will instead have a sea day.

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