The Mayan Riviera is one of the most popular cruise destinations in the world. Soft sand beaches, crystal blue waters and a rich cultural history have been attracting tourists for generations.
So in 2001, with the cruise industry seeking to expand its available ports of call in the region, a large port was built in Costa Maya, Mexico, south of Cancun near the Belize border.
Since that time, the area has been developing rapidly, offering thousands of tourists unique access to pristine beaches, untouched rainforests, and some of the most stunning Mayan ruins to be seen.
If You Build It, They Will Come
One of the best parts of building a port of call from the ground up was the ability to design exactly what tourists want. The area had been almost completely undeveloped before 2001, and now there are shopping malls, theaters, swimming pools, and new access to the ancient lagoons, villages and ruins that had always been there.
In the Costa Maya port, the central plaza has salt-water pools and swim up bars, as well as shopping areas just for cruise ship passengers, featuring duty-free standards such as alcohol, leather goods, souvenirs and jewelry.
If you feel like venturing a little outside the port, the most popular shore excursions in Costa Maya involve the sand and the water. The region had been one of the dive world’s best kept secrets. But now, snorkeling excursions allow you to get up close and personal with angelfish, eagle rays and schools of colorful parrotfish.
The fine coral sands of Uvero Beach are a beautiful place to lounge on a deck chair, join in a game of beach volleyball, or just sit and sip a chilly margarita while the kids build sandcastles and play in the surf.
If you want to check out some of the tropical wonder of the region, you can book a Biomaya Canopy Experience, which features a tandem zip line circuit through the rainforest and a visit to the Bacalar Lagoon, where the water color varies from turquoise to pale to electric blue.
Costa Maya also offers unique access to the past. The Mayan city of Chacchoben dates back to 360 AD when it was a Mayan trading post rich in mahogany and jade. It’s relatively unexcavated, full of temples and gardens site deep in the jungle.
Or you can tour the ancient multilevel city of Kohunlich, which covers nearly 21 acres in the heart of the tropical rainforest. These ruins were largely untouched until the 1990s, and offer an amazing look at how the Mayans lived, with courtyards and plazas, citadels and pyramids, all engineered with drainage systems and reservoirs. A highlight of this expedition is a visit to the Temple of Masks, built to honor the Mayan sun god.
It may be a relatively new port of call for cruise lines, but from a relaxing day on the beach to an exhilarating trip back in time, Costa Maya offers a wide variety of activities guaranteed to make any visit a memorable one.