I hate it when travel guides make places sound like somewhere that isn’t worth visiting when it totally is. ‘Tacky souvenir shops’, ‘gringo bars’ and ‘cruise ship dock’ are just some of the unattractive phrases that will come up when you google ‘what to do in Costa Maya’ and ‘Mahahual Mexico’. But we spent a fantastic few days there recently and would recommend it as a very worthwhile stop off if you are travelling up or down the Quintana Roo coast.
For one thing, Mahahual beach is one of the best we have visited so far on our Mexico backpacking adventure. And all the accommodation, restaurants and bars are right there on the beach front. So you can literally just roll out out bed as the sunrise wakes you and within a few steps be swimming in the beautiful warm sea. So if are wondering what to do in Costa Maya have a read of our guide and try out Mahahual.
What To Do In Costa Maya
There are basically two sections to Mahahual. The north side which is the area with the port is pretty much dominated by cruise tourism. The south side of the town however has a much more rustic, small town caribbean vibe going on and is where we would suggest staying. The malecon (beach front) is only around 5km long and everything revolves around this stretch plus 1 or 2 blocks back.
The shore is actually really unusual in that there is a natural break around 100m out meaning that up until that point the water is really calm and only deepens to around waist height in most places. Because of this and the fact that there are large patches of seaweed and underwater plants, Mahahual is an ideal spot for snorkelling. Because the surf is so shallow it is brilliant for kids and unconfident swimmers too.
Mahahual Mexico makes a perfect destination for a few days of relaxation. Spending your time alternating between playing in the water, relaxing with a beer or two at the beach bars and snoozing underneath a palm tree in a hammock are what a trip to Mahahual is all about. If you are looking for more activity during your stay there are trips to nearby Mayan ruins, fishing excursions, as well as bird watching excursions to the nearby Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve available.
Diving In Mahahual
We’re not divers so cannot personally comment on the quality of diving in Mahahual, however we were told by fellow travellers that it is some of the best. Owing to the fact that the entire coast here is home to the second largest coral reef in the world this really isn’t a surprise. There are plenty of dive shops in town where you can either book dive trips or just hire out the gear if you are certified yourself.
How To Get To Mahahual
Because of its remote coastal location, there is only one road in and out of the town. And you basically have 3 options when it comes to getting to Mahahual Mexico.
The first is to arrive via an ADO bus that run from most towns up and down Quintana Roo. There’s a small vendor/bus stop in town that sells tickets for onward travel (just ask anyone where the ADO shop is if you didn’t arrive by ADO) or you can of course book online. The price varies depending on where you are coming from but you can check the prices online here.
Because the buses from Mahahual are only 13 seaters and generally only leave once or twice a day it’s best to book a few days before, especially in high season. Your other option is to arrive via collectivo.
Collectivos are the white minivans that ferry tourists and residents alike up and down the coastal roads. There aren’t any that come directly into town, so whichever direction you are coming from you will need to change in Limones.
This is the cheapest option but they can’t be booked, so if it’s a busy time you can be waiting a while for one to come by with space. From there it’s a 45 minute journey for which we paid $50 pesos each (£2/$2.50USD).
Your third option is to get a taxi in from Limones and the taxis there will try to convince you by saying there are no more collectivos coming. We were quoted $400 pesos (£16.50/$21.50USD) to give you an idea, and when we declined, the collectivo we’d been told wasn’t coming arrived 2 minutes later.
Leaving Mahahual, the collectivos leave every hour from the ‘collectivo stop’ (again just ask anyone if you haven’t already come across it while there). Alternatively the taxi’s are yellow and are just dotted all around town, you really can’t miss them.
It’s around a 30 minute walk from the south of the town to the north cruise port area where there are more restaurants and shops, or taxi’s are just $20 pesos (80p/£1USD) which you should take if it’s dark because there aren’t any streetlights on part of the route.
Mahahual Accommodation Options
For such a small former fishing village there is a surprising range of accommodation options in Mahahual Mexico. From camping to hostels to private luxury cabanas, you’ll find something to suit your budget.
We stayed in a dorm room at Bambu hostel for £9 ($12USD) which was fine. Not the best hostel we’ve ever stayed in but it was clean, had a kitchen and a different few communal spaces to chill in.
If you are travelling on a really tight budget you can probably get away with camping for free towards the south of the town. I guess the higher end accommodations do offer air con but don’t worry if the place you’re staying doesn’t because there is a nice, consistent cool breeze that comes off the sea – which is also handy at keeping the mosquitos at bay. We just had fans and slept fine in the 10 bed dorm we were in.
Best Mahahual Restuarants
Naturally the restaurants right on the beach front are the most expensive places to eat in Mahahual Mexico. In terms of price comparison they are all much of a muchness at around $120-150 pesos (£5-6/$7-9USD) per seafood dish – which is the speciality here. Ibiza Sunset and Nohoch Kay have the best reputations food wise but they all do happy hours drinks offers most of the day.
One thing worth mentioning (which may be different in high season) is that while we were there in low season the beach front bars and restaurants all started to close up around sunset. The restaurant’s further back and up in the North of town are open later into the evening.
We went to an Italian restaurant that was really good and reasonably priced at $80 pesos (£3.50/$4.50USD) for a large enough pizza to share, called Pizza Papi on Avenida Paseo del Puerto.
We can also recommend two restaurants called El Primo and Camaroncito Caribeno on Calle Huauchinango which are one block back from the malecon in the south of town.
El Primo is cheaper and serves typical Mexican food such as meat burritos and chicken consume for around $20-30 pesos per dish (80p-£1.20/$1-1.50USD). Camaroncito Caribeno serves great seafood, if you go here be sure to try the prawn (camaron) tacos – they are seriously good. For 3 tacos each and two beers we paid $200 (£8/$11USD).
There are also quite a few unnamed pop up restaurants dotted around on the two blocks back from the streets. In fact one of the best meals we had in Mahahual was some cochinita tortas (slow roasted pulled pork sandwiches) from a small stand outside the couples’ house which cost just $25 pesos (£1/$1.30) each. There are also a couple of incredible smelling BBQ chicken places around that unfortunately we didn’t have time to try.
So if you read any negative stuff about Mahahual, don’t let it put you off. We had a really enjoyable few days there, the food is great and inexpensive, the beach is beautiful and it’s just got a really nice vibe to it.
Let us know in the comments if you found this guide useful and what you thought of Mahahual, or if you found any other tasty food spots we should include!
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