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  • dzibanche-edificio2.jpg - The Edificio 2 pyramid at the Mayan archaeological site Dzibanche in the Costa Maya region of Mexico.
  • Morph-Kiteboarding-fish-eye - A kiteboarder waits for her turn on the beach in Mexico.
  • dzibanche-edificio1.jpg - Temple of the Owl or Edificio 1, the main stepped pyramid at the Mayan ruins of Dzibanche, dates to 309-600 A.D.
  • dzibanche-edificio-6.jpg -  Edificio 6, also called the Building of the Lintels, inspired the Mayan name for Dzibanche in Mexico's Costa Maya region.
  • dzibanche-ruins.jpg -  The ruins of a tall pyramid still rise through the rainforest at Dzibanche in Mexico's Costa Maya region.
  • crab-mexico-beach.jpg - A crab spotted on the beach in Mexico.
  • mexico-wakeboarding.jpg - If you're game, try the sport of wakeboarding and perform some acrobatic maneuvers while trailing a speedboat.
  • dzibanche-plants.jpg - Boat lilies line the front of a pyramid at the Mayan ruins of Dzibanche in Mexico's Costa Maya region.
  • dzibanche-ruins-2.jpg - The side of a structure at the Mayan ruins of Dzibanche in Mexico's Yucatan.
  • dzibanche-trees2.jpg - Dzibanche is an archaeological site of the ancient Maya civilization dating to the third century A.D. in the Yucatan.
  • Morph-Kiteboarding - A kiteboarder catches some air along the coast of Mexico. Try it or just watch at Morph Kiteboarding in Tulum or El Cuyo, Yucatán.
  • passionfruit.jpg - A sliced passion fruit, which has shown surprising health and medicinal benefits, at Dzibanche in the Yucatan.
  • seashells.jpg - Colorful seashells spotted on the beach.
  • dzibanche-edificio2-side-view.jpg - A side view of Edificio 2 at the Mayan archaeological site Dzibanche in Mexico's Yucatan.
  • Morph-Kiteboarding-5 - A kiteboarder glides across the surf in Mexico.
  • monkey-along-roadway.jpg - A howler monkey kept in a backyard treehouse along the highway in Mexico's Costa Maya.
  • dzibanche-trees.jpg - The trippy-looking trees at the Mayan ruins of Dzibanche in Mexico's Costa Maya region.
  • dzibanche-tour-guide-hugo.jpg - Tour guide Hugo shows a small group of visitors the Mayan ruins of Dzibanche dating to the third century A.D.
  • dzibanche-stone-masonry.jpg -  Stone masonry at the Mayan ruins of Dzibanche in Costa Maya, Mexico.
  • dzibanche-moon-carving.jpg - A carving representing the moon (says our guide) found at Dzibanche in Mexico's Costa Maya region.
  • dzibanche-moon-carving2.jpg - A carving representing a heavenly monster (says our guide) found at Dzibanche in the Yucatan.
  • dzibanche-edificio13.jpg - A rebuilt thatched roof in front of Edifice 13, also known as the Building of the Captives, at the Mayan ruins of Dzibanche in Mexico's Costa Maya region.
  • dzibanche-ruins2.jpg -    Inside a lookout station atop a Mayan pyramid at  Dzibanche in Mexico's Costa Maya region.
  • Morph-Kiteboarding-7 - A kiteboarder catches some air along the coast of Mexico. Try it or just watch at Morph Kiteboarding in Tulum or El Cuyo, Yucatán.
  • Morph-Kiteboarding-2 - Ever want to try kiteboarding? It's a new extreme sport that combines windsurfing, paragliding and wakeboarding.
  • Morph-Kiteboarding-4 - A woman preps for a kitesurfing outing in Mexico. Try it at Morph Kiteboarding in Tulum or El Cuyo, Yucatán.
  • norwegian-pearl-1.jpg - Norwegian Pearl approaches the port of Costa Maya in Mexico.
  • dzibanche-pathway.jpg - Part of the royalty house at Edifice 11 at Dzibanche in Mexico's Costa Maya region.
  • dzibanche-carvings.jpg - A creature of the underworld seen on the side of Temple of the Owl at Dzibanche in Mexico's Costa Maya.
  • dzibanche-stone-relief.jpg -  A stone relief at Dzibanche, an archaeological site of the ancient Maya civilization dating to 309 A.D.
  • dzibanche-seen-from-edificio11.jpg -  The Mayan ruins of the ancient city of Dzibanche as seen from Edificio 11 in Mexico's Costa Maya region.

Costa Maya travel guide: What to do & see

our guide

The vibe

Costa Maya is the best of two worlds: a modern port built from the ground up for cruise passengers and an evocative gateway into the Mayan culture of yesterday and today.

Tucked into the Caribbean coast between Riviera Maya and Belize, Costa Maya has an enviable concentration of Maya archaeological sites and the largest existing Maya population in Mexico. Even a cruise day-tripper with a few hours on land can experience traditional culture on excursions into nearby towns and communities, or step back nearly 2,000 years into the past at one of the impressive nearby ruins. Popular with divers, snorkelers and kayakers, Costa Maya offers waters protected by an extensive coral reef supporting a variety of sea life. On shore, the landscape changes from beach and small villages to lush jungle, inviting exploration by bike, dune buggy, Jeep and ATV.  

Close to the cruise pier, a development called New Mahahual attracts visitors with swimming pools and other amenities. A new seaside malecon — pedestrian walkway — along the beach is lined with inviting restaurants and shops, so passengers who want to simply relax and enjoy all that was built just for them can. 

 Cruise lines that call on Costa Maya

Top reasons to go

  • The concentration of accessible Mayan ruins such as Chacchoban, Kohunlich and Dzibanché.
  • Snorkeling, kayaking and diving along the send largest reef in the world.
  • Cultural experiences with local Maya communities.
Temple of the Owl or Edificio 1, the main stepped pyramid at the Mayan ruins of Dzibanche, dates to 309-600 A.D.
JD Lasica / Special to CruiseableTemple of the Owl, the main stepped pyramid at the Mayan ruins of Dzibanche, dates to 309-600 A.D.

Things to see & do in Costa Maya

Culture & history

Three primary Maya archaeological sites close enough for a day visit. Note that Mexican law requires a fee of about $5 (US) for the use of video cameras at these sites.

  • Chacchoben dates to about 350 AD. The tallest pyramid rises above the trees, and though visitors could once climb to the top, that is no longer permitted. Several smaller ruins may have been the houses of nobles. Until 1972, this site was unknown, but today it's the most popular Maya ruin in the Costa Maya region. 
  • Kohunlich covers 21 acres and encompasses some 200 mounds, most of which have not been excavated. Its most renowned structure is the Temple of Masks, which features five well-preserved stucco masks along its central stairway. Plazas, courtyards and a palace complex are among the other structures here.
  • Dzibanché was once a major Maya city and believed to have been the early capital of the Kan dynasty. It's considered the most spectacular of the region's archaeological sites. Among its important structures are the Temple of the Captives, Temple of the Lintels and Temple of the Owl. The largest structure is the Cormoranes Pyramid, a funerary pyramid of a Kan dynasty king. This is the only site accessible from the cruise port where visitors are still allowed to climb to the top of the pyramids (the laws change so check to be sure). 
Ever want to try kiteboarding? It's a new extreme sport that combines windsurfing, paragliding and wakeboarding.
Courtesy of Morph KiteboardingEver want to try kiteboarding? It's a new extreme sport that combines windsurfing, paragliding and wakeboarding.

Beach & water fun

One of Costa Maya's defining natural features is the chain of reefs just off shore, part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which stretches nearly 700 miles from the northern Yucatan Peninsula down to Belize, Guatemala and the Bay Islands of Honduras. Costa Maya waters, protected by the reef,  are calm enough for snorkeling, kayaking, sailing and diving, all of which are offered by cruise ships in port. 

Fun fact

  • It is required by Mexican law that the VAT (Value Added Tax) is already included in the price on an item's label.
Shop for souvenirs in Costa Maya during your Norwegian Jewel cruise to Mexico.
Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise LineShop for souvenirs in Costa Maya during your Norwegian Jewel cruise to Mexico.

When you arrive

Docking information

The Costa Maya Port was built exclusively for cruise ships in 2001. Up to three ships can be accommodated at the same time. From the pier, travelers are transported to the Mayan entertainment complex. Pools, restaurants and bars as well as a modern shopping center featuring artisan crafts are part of the complex.

Getting around 

In the pier area you can get taxis and shuttles to the village Majahual, which is only half a mile or a $5 USD taxi ride away.

Free Wi-Fi

  • Bazar Costa Maya, Centro comercial del Paseo del Puerto, Mahahual
  • Loco Ricky’s Sports Bar & Restaurant, located in the Las Casitas area
  • Mamasita’s Restaurant, located in the port area across from the pool
  • Mobius Internet Cafe, Othón P. Blanco, Q Roo, located 1.5 miles west of the port at the end of the main street
  • [email protected] Cafe, Calle Cherna between El Malecon at Calle Huachinango

Need to know

Store hours: Stores are typically open from 10 am to 5 pm, Monday through Saturday. Stores in the cruise pier shopping complex will be open on Sunday when a cruise ship is in town.

Tipping:  15% of your bill is  adequate.

Safety: If you have an emergency while driving, call the Ministry of Tourism’s hotline or (55) 5250-8221, extension 130/297, to obtain help from the Green Angels.

ShoreFox and Wikitravel contributed to this guide.

Your take

Have you been to Costa Maya? Please share a story, tip or discovery. What was the highlight for you? 

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Christine Loomis
A longtime travel writer and editor,  I'm on the board of the Society of American Travel Writers and chair of SATW's Western Chapter. I've taken 20 cruises on 13 different cruise lines...so far.

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