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Once a sleepy enclave of fishing villages nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, today Costa Maya is a gateway to incredible natural wonders, ancient Mayan ruins, and some of Mexico’s best diving.

There are activities for every traveler’s pace in Costa Maya. Unwind on the beach with a margarita in hand. Adventurers can swim with dolphins, go tubing along a bright, clear lagoon, or learn a few salsa moves (and salsa recipes).

Ready to experience the Yucatan Peninsula like never before? Here are the 10 best things to do in Costa Maya, one of the hidden gems of Mexico.

1: Explore Historic Mayan Ruins

Picturesque Mayan ruins in Costa Maya

Chacchoben Ruins

Venture beyond Puerto Costa Maya to the most visited Mayan ruins in the area. The well-kept Chacchoben Ruins trace back over 3,000 years of history, a tiny civilization of temples, steps, and a towering ceremonial center.

Climb to the summit of Gran Basamento for sweeping jungle views. As you trace the footsteps of ancient Mayans, you may even spot local spider monkeys swinging from tree to tree. Remember to step carefully and respectfully among the ruins, which are a beloved peek into Mayan life.

2: Go Off the Beaten Path at Mahahual

Spa along the shores of Mahahual Beach

Mahahual Beach

Live like a local on a day trip to Mahahual, a small fishing town boasting the powder-white sands of Tulum without the crowds. Mahahual provides a glimpse into the history of the Yucatan Peninsula and the daily routines of locals in their schools, shops, and homes.

While on the beach at Mahahual, lounge in the sand or take to the water on a stand-up paddleboard. Go fishing, swim with sea turtles, or explore shipwrecks on a guided dive.

Read: Best Costa Maya Beaches

3: Scuba Dive the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef

Shipwreck in Mesoamerican Barrier Reef

Mesoamerican Barrier Reef

The allure of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is well known across the Caribbean. Not only is it one of the world’s best scuba dive sites, but it’s also the largest reef system in the Northern Hemisphere. A dive in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is one of the best things to do in Costa Maya, whether you’re a novice looking to learn the ropes or a certified diver.

You’ll spot tropical marine life, swim above bright coral, and pass dense mangrove forests as you scuba or snorkel. Look for marine life like bottlenose dolphins, nurse sharks, king crabs, gentle manatees, and sea turtles.

4: Go Tubing at Bacalar Lagoon

Aerial view of Bacalar Lagoon with different shades of blues and teals

Bacalar Lagoon

One of the most beautiful places in Mexico, Bacalar Lagoon in the state of Quintana Roo is only a short hour’s drive from Puerto Costa Maya, making for an easy day trip to paradise. This stunning lake, also popularly referred to as the 7 Colors Lagoon, more than lives up to its nickname.

Grab a float and set off on an adventure across this expanse of changing blues, which transform from shimmery, light turquoise to deep navy based on the depth of the water. Explore Bacalar Lagoon on a kayak, a swim, or simply lounge on a boat tour. Travel to the top of Fort San Felipe for far-reaching views and a photo op of the colorful waters below, or roam the museum to discover the history of piracy and Spanish occupation.

Read: Best Places in Mexico for Couples

5: ATV in the Mexican Jungle

People on an ATV in Costa Maya

ATV ride in Costa Maya

Turn the wilderness into your jungle gym on an ATV adventure. The rugged, lush rainforests that Mexico is known for are ripe for exploration on an all-terrain vehicle. Start in Costa Maya before riding off road along the coastline. Stop at a secluded shore for a beach break, and cool off with a swim in the Caribbean Sea.

6: Swim With Dolphins

Woman swimming with bottlenose dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins in Costa Maya

Dolphins tend to swim freely along the coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula, but there are also dedicated dolphin centers in Costa Maya not far from its biggest port. Spend an afternoon swimming and interacting with bottlenose dolphins as a marine specialist guides you through the experience and teaches you ways to touch and “kiss” these playful creatures.

7: Discover Mayan History Through the Ages

Handmade tortillas on a plate

Handmade tortillas

If you visit Costa Maya without experiencing the ancient traditions of the Mayans, you’re missing out on a critically important piece of local culture. Unlike popular myths, Mayans didn’t entirely disappear, but their culture lives on today in parts of Mexico. Learn about age-old Mayan customs and meet a community dedicated to protecting their legacy for centuries to come. Enjoy an authentic Mayan meal complete with locally sourced ingredients and handmade tortillas.

8: Explore Puerto Costa Maya

Scenic view of Puerto Costa Maya

Puerto Costa Maya

Unveiled back in 2001, Puerto Costa Maya is as much of a destination as the rest of the town surrounding it.  Not only does the port contain a variety of immersive experiences the entire family can enjoy, but it also features its own bay for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing.

Head to Aviarus for an unforgettable birding experience, where you’ll discover bird species in their various habitats. After, pop by Kakaw within the port for an interactive look at the rich history of Mexican cocoa. Learn how chocolate is made and, of course, sample a few sweet treats. Discover the distillery process of how local tequila is made at La Consentida. After a history lesson, enjoy the Mexican pastime of slowly sipping tequila.

9: Try a Mayan Healing Ritual

Set up of Mayan healing ritual

Mayan healing ritual

Take a much-needed wellness getaway in Costa Maya, where you can indulge in a complete mind and body detox in an authentic Mayan sauna. This sacred ritual of spiritual cleansing is performed by a knowledgeable shaman. Soak in a restorative bath, then head inside the Temazcal to sweat away impurities and toxins. Pamper yourself with nourishing clay or a massage treatment.

10: Salsa & Salsa Making Class

Man making guacamole

Salsa and guacamole making class

Enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience that fuses Mexican cuisine and entertainment into one. On an unforgettable day in Costa Maya, you’ll learn to make authentic salsa and guacamole—which of course, you can sample to your heart’s content—and sip margaritas on the beach. After a hands-on cooking lesson, loosen up and get dancing with a salsa instructor. You’ll discover new moves and a few tricks in the kitchen to bring back home with you.

People dancing salsa

Salsa dance class

These 10 best things to do in Costa Maya aren’t an exhaustive list, but enough to get you daydreaming about Mexican tequila tastings, Mayan ruins, and dips in the warm Caribbean Sea. Experience Puerto Costa Maya and more tropical paradises on a Caribbean cruise vacation. Start planning your Costa Maya cruise today.

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Free Vacation Planning Services