Why we wouldn’t recommend Mahahual in Mexico

The beach town of Mahahual in Mexico is often recommended as an undiscovered gem on the Caribbean coast by travel guides and travel blogs. We loved how that sounded, so Mahahual was on top of our Mexico bucket list. But we weren’t crazy about the beach town at all. Why we wouldn’t recommend Mahahual? What didn’t we like about this Mexican destination? And which bounty beach alternative did we find and fell in love with? 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 relaxing experience. The prices range from 20 to 30 (US) dollars per hour.

One of the unique things to do in Mahahual is snorkeling in the tropical coral reef just off the coast. You don’t even need a guide or boat for this. Even more beautiful is the protected Banco Chinchorro coral reef. The snorkeling and diving tours visiting the Banco Chinchorro reef are very popular. The reef offers the chance to swim with tropical fish and sea turtles. And you can explore some shipwrecks on the seabed as well!

We also liked the great places to eat in Mahahual. There are many trendy hotspots to visit. 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, so I can finally choose all menu options. Ohm Shanti, below the Bambu Hostel, is the best place for vegan and vegetarian options in Mahahual. We didn’t really 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 Nohoch Kay. It seemed like everyone was in love with this restaurant, as it was hard to get a table. The vegetarian fajitas are the best (110Q)!

Another highlight of Mahahual is one of the best places to stay on the Costa Maya coast. The paradisiacal Eco Cabanas Bluekay is located on the northern edge of town at the Mahahual lighthouse. This incredible accommodation is a perfect fit for each travel budget. Eco Cabanas Bluekay offers dormitories for small prices, but the charming and perfectly located cabanas on the beach are the real gems of this beach resort. Because Eco Cabanas Bluekay has its own white-sand beach, you can enjoy the beautiful Mahahual coast here without the crowds. Check the current prices and availability of Eco Cabanas Bluekay.

The downsides of Mahahual

Still, we didn’t like Mahahual that much and we actually wouldn’t recommend you to include it in your Yucatan Mexico travel itinerary. It is mostly a very touristy place. It seems like the entire beach town is focused on travelers, especially the (American) passengers of the many cruise ships that dock here.

We usually don’t mind tourist spots, because it often means that it’s simply one of the most beautiful destinations in the country. 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 hand out American dollars instead of Mexican pesos?

Tip: the only ATM machine with Mexican pesos is at the 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 you when visiting Mahahual.

We often heard the advice to keep an eye on the schedule of the cruise ships (you can find the schedule online). Most of the Mahahual visitors are from these ships. That is why you’ll see a lot of guides and blogs recommending visiting Mahahual on the days there are no or fewer cruise ships. We have indeed experienced that when the ships leave at the end of the afternoon, it is much quieter in Mahahual. But during our visit, it becomes so quiet that many restaurants close and there is little to experience. Mahahual felt a bit like a ghost town to us after the cruise ships left.

If you are looking for a place to sleep in Mahahual, make sure to take a good look at its location. You will find most hotels in the grey concrete part of Mahahual where the cruise ships dock (and where you will find the only ATM with pesos). The best accommodations in Mahahual can be found on the strip along the coast with great options like the charming and budget-friendly Eco Cabanas Bluekay and the boutique hotel 40 Cañones. Both places to stay have a private beach, which makes your Mahahual stay at these accommodations feel less touristy than on the touristy, public beaches. More hotel tips for Mahahual? This is our selection of the best-rated places to stay in Mahahual.

The perfect bounty alternative near Mahahual

Mahahual is not the only beach along the paradisiacal Costa Maya. Just south of the village are stunning unspoiled beaches and the most charming beach cabins! We accidentally book the perfect off-the-grid beach cabin, as we didn’t realize at the time that these cabins were not on the edge of Mahahual but a lot further away. It turned out to be the exact small piece of paradise we were looking for and we instantly fell in love with this bounty beach destination!

#1 Cabanas Costa Maya

Our paradise beach cabin was part of the Cabanas Costa Maya Ecoturisticas, a small-scale accommodation about 30 minutes drive from Mahahual. Don’t expect a luxury resort. The cottages are very basic, without electricity and with a cold shower. The bed was a bit small, especially for the 2-meter tall Sebastiaan. It was all part of an unforgettable off-the-grid experience.

The guests of the cabanas have the beautiful private beach all to themselves. There is no crowded beach stuffed with sunbeds like in Mahahual, but endless rows of palm trees and tranquillity. There are relaxing chairs in the shade of palm trees that guests can use freely. Just like the kayaks and the snorkelling sets. Just off the coast is the tropical coral reef with rays and colorful fish, just like in Mahahual. In the evening the staff lights a cozy campfire after you enjoy a communal dinner with the ‘catch of the day’.

Check the current prices and availability of Cabanas Ecoturisticas Costa Maya.

#2 Almaplena Beach Resort

If you prefer a bit more luxury than this off-the-grid cabin experience, you should book a stay with Almaplena Eco Beach Resort! This beach paradise is a little closer to Mahahual – a 20-minute drive – but feels equally secluded and relaxed.

Almaplena is beautifully nestled between a vast private beach and a lush rainforest. It is a small-scale resort with only 8 suites, all equipped with a king-size bed, balcony and of course a private bathroom. There is a private beach club with a swimming pool, sunbeds and palapa palm shelters for shade. The restaurant serves Mexican and Italian food, so there is no reason to leave this beach paradise during your stay.

Check the current prices and availability of Almaplena Beach Resort.

#3 Ecological Hotel Maya Luna

This beach hotel on a lovely unspoiled beach makes you feel like you are on a desert island. Maya Luna offers a beach hotel there with simple, nice rooms for a low price. This accommodation on the Maya Luna also has its own private beach, where the palm trees sway in the wind. There are sunbeds, hammocks and an on-site bar and restaurant. Despite its remote location, Maya Luna offers free WiFi for its guests.

Check the current prices and availability of Maya Luna.

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