“If you are serious about chucking it all and moving to a beach in Mexico, it helps to be crazy.”
That line, is from the first chapter of the book “It Helps To Be Crazy – The Story of Maya Chan Beach.” It not only explains how Maya Chan resort in Mahahuan, Mexico came to be, but pretty much sums up the most recent history of the entire Costa Maya region – as expats discovered the area and bought up beachfront plots, often with no electricity or running water.
We connected with the author of that book, Jane Ostrow, and met her son, David, when we spent a truly memorable afternoon lounging, paddle boarding, snorkeling and generally enjoying life – along with some delicious homemade tacos and copious amounts of rum drinks and Mexican beer – at Maya Chan last year. So, naturally, when we decided to feature Costa Maya in our next travel guide we reached out to Jane and the nice folks at Maya Chan to get their locals’ insight.
Costa Maya – or “Grand Costa Maya” – is a tourist region in the state of Quintana Roo that begins just south of Cancun and continues down Mexico’s Caribbean coast almost to Belize. Much of the population growth in recent years has occurred around the sleepy fishing village of Mahahual, thanks to a modern cruise ship port that was built nearby after the area was devastated by Hurricane Dean in 2007.
Although most visitors to the area will arrive via ship, you can also make the drive down from Cozumel or Playa Del Carmen in around four hours. Whichever way you get there, in Costa Maya you will find quiet, scenic beaches, Mayan ruins, and plenty of ecotourism and outdoor adventure – from bird watching and fishing to sailing to scuba diving.
Travel Tip: Mexico’s currency is the peso. The $ sign is used to refer to pesos, so you might be surprised at first and think prices are much higher than they actually are. Look for U.S. dollars listed as “US$” or “USD”. Major credit cards are also accepted at most hotels, restaurants and shops.
Weather: Daytime temps range from the low 80’s in May, to the low 70’s in October, with nighttime temps cooling into the 50’s and even 40’s during the colder months. Summer is considered Hurricane season and the area is subject to severe storms due to its proximity to the Caribbean.
Cruise ships: Although often overshadowed by its more populated and rowdy neighbors to the north, Cancun and Cozumel, Costa Maya has become a popular destination for travelers cruising the Western Caribbean.
The port area is clean and packed with things to do, including a number of bars and restaurants and plenty of shopping. You can enjoy a full day in the pool and swim up bar.
While the cruise ship port offers more than enough activities to occupy an afternoon, the real Costa Maya is best seen by leaving the gates and exploring via tour group, car rental, or even a local taxi. An inexpensive shuttle will also take you from the cruise port into the town of Mahahual.
Costa Maya Things to Do:
Mayan Ruins: A must for history buffs. Guides at all the main sites must be government certified, so are very knowledgeable and well qualified to answer any questions you might have. Chaccoben, “The Place Of The Red Corn”, is one of the most popular. Located in the jungle, Chaccoben dates back as far as 500 BC but wasn’t discovered until 1972 and has only been opened to tourists since 2003. Local merchants sell their wares on the site (bring your bartering skills) and there is a stand where you can purchase water, soda and snacks.
Snorkeling and Diving: The Yucatan Peninsula is home to the world’s second largest coral reef (behind Great Barrier Reef). From the cruise port you can catch a number of boats geared toward all skill levels, whether you prefer to splash on top of the water watching tropical fish and stingrays swim under you or are a certified diver looking for shipwrecks. Chinchorro Reef offers plenty of the latter, along with its famous black coral.
BioMaya Canopy Zip Line: About an hour from Mahahual, BioMaya features three separate zip lines leaving from some of the world’s tallest platforms. Not for the faint of heart but worth it for the incredible scenic views as you fly over Bacalar Lagoon, which changes color depending on the time of day.
Maya Chan: Small eco-friendly day resort that runs on solar power and rain water. Takes about 40 minutes to get there from the cruise port, mostly because much of the drive involves bumping slowly along an unpaved beach road, past small homes and dive shacks. When you arrive, you will be warmly greeted by a member of the Maya Chan team and instantly made to feel at home. Walk along the flower lined trail, under a large palapa featuring an outdoor grill and fully stocked bar, to your reserved beach side sitting area – some with hammocks and others with full sized beds, perfect for an afternoon siesta.
The resort is “all inclusive” which means all the water activities – kayaks, paddle boards, and snorkeling – along with a delicious homemade meal of local specialties and all the Mexican beer, tequila and boat drinks you care to enjoy – are included in the price. There is also free WiFi, clean bathrooms, and changing rooms with showers, so you can wash the salt water off before heading back to your hotel or cruise ship.
Costa Maya Places To Eat:
Fernando’s 100% Agave (Mahahual): “Owned by a local guy we all want to be our mayor. He oversees every order himself and, as the name suggests, is a veritable genius when it comes to tequila.” – Jane
Leaky Palapa (Xcalak): About an hour drive from the cruise port, the menu mixes traditional local dishes like chile encrusted pork with Caribbean specialties like Lobster tail and Squid ink pasta in an intimate tropical garden setting. Closed for the Summer season.
Hayhu Beach (Mahahual): Thirty minutes south of the cruise port. Work up an appetite by going kiteboarding, kayaking, snorkeling or just lounging on the white sand beach then enjoy South American style grilled meats and fresh seafood. Full bar, too.
Costa Maya Where To Stay:
Balamku Inn On The Beach: “The place where we stayed while developing Maya Chan. It is just north of Maya Chan on the beach road and eco friendly like us.” – Jane
Hotel El Caballo Blanco (Mahahual): Private beach, rooms with refrigerators, great place to watch the sunset. Walk to restaurants and a dive shop.
Mayan Beach Garden: Boutique beachfront B&B about 20 miles north of Mahahual with restaurant and bar on property.
Like what you see?
If you’d like more info on visiting this destination, or anywhere else in the world, call me today at (404) 642-4749 or email me at [email protected] Leave a comment or send an email and let me know what places you’d like to see in a future edition of my travel series! Come by my website anytime for the latest travel deals: Travel By Georgia