In many guides and blogs, the beach village of Mahahual in Mexico is recommended as an undiscovered gem on the Caribbean coast. That sounded like music to us, but we are not that crazy about the beach town ourselves. Why we wouldn’t recommend Mahahual? And which bounty beach alternative we found on both Airbnb and Booking.com? Continue reading to find out!
The positive sides of Mahahual
The beach village is little more than a small coastal strip with a clear blue sea. A sea with a beautiful coral reef just off the coast and an even more beautiful reef at a sailing distance from the beach. It is the perfect place for wonderful days lazing by the beach, interspersed with snorkeling and diving. Along the beach, massages are offered for the ultimate relax experience. The prices range from 20 to 30 (US) dollars per hour.
You can also snorkel all by yourself with your own or rented snorkeling set just off the coast. But especially popular are the snorkeling and diving tours to the protected reef Banco Chinchorro. The ref offers the chance to swim with tropical fish and sea turtles. And did you know it also has some shipwrecks to explore underwater?
In addition, Mahahual has a number of great hotspots to settle down for a snack and a drink. Panaderia La Tarteleta is a good bakery for a breakfast with fresh croissants, a cake and really good coffee. And all for a small price. As a vegetarian, I am always happy with vegan restaurants, as then I finally have a lot of options on the menu as well to choose from. In Mahahual Ohm Shanti, below the Bambu Hostel, is the best place for vegan and vegetarian options. We didn’t like the quinoa bowl (90Q), but the falafel with hummus (130Q) was delicious. For the perfect crepes with Nutella (60Q), head to Gelateria La Dolce Vita. But our absolute favorite in Mahahual was the restaurant Nohoch Kay. And we were certainly not the only ones, because it is almost always busy here. The vegetarian fajitas are the best (110Q)!
The downsides of Mahahual
Still, we didn’t like Mahahual that much and wouldn’t recommend you to include it in your Yucatan Mexico travel itinerary. It is mostly a very touristy place. Almost everything is aimed at travelers and especially the (American) passengers of the many cruise ships that dock here.
We don’t always mind tourist spots, because it often means that it’s really a beautiful place worth visiting. But in Mahahual it actually has the upper hand and dominates the good sides of the small town. Prices are often (also) indicated in dollars, the beach is packed with beach tents with sunbeds and the walkway along the beach is all about souvenir stalls. And did you know that there are quite a lot of ATM machines in Mahahual, but they only provide American dollars instead of Mexican pesos?
Tip: you can find the only ATM machine with Mexican pesos at Costa Maya Inn. That is quite far from the beach if you don’t have a rental car. So you might want to bring enough cash money with your when visiting Mahahual.
We often read to keep an eye on the schedule of the cruise ships (click here for the schedule). Most of the tourists in Mahuhual come from these ships. So as soon as the ships leave around 5 or 6 pm or on days when there are no ships, it is much quieter there. We didn’t like those quieter moments though, as unfortunately many restaurants and shops will close and there is little to experience at the deserted beaches and streets. Mahahual felt a bit like a ghost town to us at those moments.
The perfect alternative: eco cabanas on a bounty beach
But no worries. We found the perfect alternative for a bounty beach experience with Airbnb: small-scale off the grid eco cabanas right on the beach. The beach cabins are only a 30-minute drive from Mahahual and are a small bounty beach paradise. Just picture: off the grid cabanas on a white sand beach with palm trees, the coral reef directly just a few meters outside the coast, kayaks and snorkeling sets to use and a cozy campfire in the evening. We have to admit we booked this Airbnb by accident for our Mahahual visit, as we didn’t realize it was a 30-minute drive from town. But as soon as we were disappointed with Mahahual and completely charmed by this beach paradise, it was worth every extra minute in the car.
Want to know more? Read this blog about our time in this Costa Maya bounty paradise!