The beach town of Mahahual in Mexico is often recommended as a hidden gem on the Caribbean coast by travel guides and blogs. We were intrigued by this reputation and placed Mahahual at the top of our Mexico bucket list and decided to visit this gem.
We ended up being a bit disappointed with our experience in this town. So, why wouldn’t we recommend Mahahual? What aspects did we dislike about this Mexican destination? And which alternative beach did we discover and come to adore? Keep reading to find out!
The positive sides of Mahahual
The beach village is a small coastal strip with a clear blue sea. It features a beautiful coral reef just off the coast and another stunning reef at a sailing distance. It is the ideal location for enjoying lazy beach days, as well as snorkeling and diving. Massages are available along the beach for a truly relaxing experience, with prices ranging from $20 to $30 per hour.
One unique activity in Mahahual is snorkeling in the tropical coral reef near the coast. No guide or boat is necessary. Particularly stunning is the protected Banco Chinchorro reef. The tours to snorkel and dive in Banco Chinchorro are highly popular, offering the opportunity to swim alongside tropical fish and sea turtles. Additionally, there are shipwrecks to explore on the seabed.
We enjoyed the excellent dining options in Mahahual, including trendy hotspots. Panaderia La Tarteleta offers a delightful breakfast with fresh croissants, cake, and excellent coffee at an affordable price. As a vegetarian, I am always pleased to find vegan restaurants where I can choose from the entire menu.
Located below the Bambu Hostel, Ohm Shanti is the top choice for vegan and vegetarian options in Mahahual. While we were not impressed with the quinoa bowl (90Q), the falafel with hummus (130Q) was delicious.
For the perfect crepes with Nutella (60Q), visit Gelateria La Dolce Vita. However, our absolute favorite restaurant in Mahahual was Nohoch Kay. It was incredibly popular, making it difficult to secure a table. The vegetarian fajitas (110Q) were superb!
Mahahual boasts some of the top accommodations on the Costa Maya coast. The Eco Cabanas Bluekay, located at the Mahahual lighthouse on the northern edge of town, is a paradise. This accommodation is suitable for every travel budget.
Eco Cabanas Bluekay offers affordable dormitories, but the real treasures of this beach resort are the charming and well-situated cabanas on the beach. With its own white-sand beach, Eco Cabanas Bluekay allows you to enjoy the beautiful Mahahual coast without the crowds. Check the current prices and availability of Eco Cabanas Bluekay here.
The downsides of Mahahual
However, we do not highly recommend visiting Mahahual and suggest excluding it from your Yucatan Mexico travel itinerary. The town is primarily geared towards tourists, particularly American cruise ship passengers, who make up a significant portion of the visitors.
We don’t usually mind tourist spots because they often represent the most beautiful destinations in the country. However, in Mahahual, it clearly takes the lead and dominates the positive aspects of the small town.
Prices are frequently expressed in dollars, the beach is crowded with beach tents and sunbeds, and the beach walkway is filled with souvenir stalls. Also, it’s worth noting that Mahahual has numerous ATM machines, but they only dispense American dollars instead of Mexican pesos.
All in all, the touristy Mahahual is far from an authentic Mexican experience.
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 hear the advice to check the cruise ship schedule (available online at cruisetimetables.com). Most visitors to Mahahual come from these ships. Therefore, many guides and blogs recommend visiting Mahahual on days with fewer or no cruise ships.
We have experienced that when the ships depart in the late afternoon, Mahahual becomes much quieter. However, during our visit, it even became too quiet, with many restaurants closing and limited activities. Mahahual felt like a ghost town to us after the cruise ships left.
When searching for a place to stay in Mahahual, carefully consider its location. Most hotels are situated in the gray concrete area where cruise ships dock, which also happens to be where the only ATM with pesos can be found.
But the best accommodations in Mahahual are located along the coastal strip, offering excellent options such as the charming and affordable Eco Cabanas Bluekay and the boutique hotel 40 Cañones. Both establishments feature private beaches, creating a less touristy atmosphere compared to the public beaches. For more hotel recommendations in Mahahual, check out our selection of the highest-rated places to stay.
The perfect bounty alternative near Mahahual
Mahahual is not the sole beach on the beautiful Costa Maya. Just south of the village lie breathtaking pristine beaches and charming beach cabins!
By chance, we reserved the ideal secluded beach cabin, without realizing that these cabins were not located on the outskirts of Mahahual but rather a considerable distance away. To our delight, it proved to be the perfect little haven we had been seeking, and we immediately became enamored with this idyllic beach destination.
#1 Cabanas Costa Maya
Our beach cabin at Cabanas Costa Maya Ecoturisticas, located about a 30-minute drive from Mahahual, was a rustic accommodation.
Do not anticipate a luxurious resort. The cottages are extremely simple, lacking electricity and featuring only cold showers. The bed was somewhat small, particularly for Sebastiaan, who stands at 2 meters tall. However, this contributed to an unforgettable off-the-grid experience.
The cabana guests have exclusive access to a stunning private beach. Unlike Mahahual, there is no overcrowded beach with sunbeds. Instead, it offers endless rows of palm trees and serenity.
Guests can freely use the comfortable chairs in the shade of palm trees, as well as the kayaks and snorkeling sets. Adjacent to the coast lies a vibrant tropical coral reef teeming with rays and vibrant fish, reminiscent of Mahahual. In the evening, the staff ignites a cozy campfire following a communal dinner featuring the fresh ‘catch of the day’.
#2 Almaplena Beach Resort
For a more luxurious alternative to the off-the-grid cabin experience, consider booking a stay at Almaplena Eco Beach Resort. This beach paradise is located slightly closer to Mahahual, only a 20-minute drive away, but offers the same level of seclusion and relaxation.
Almaplena is nestled between a private beach and a lush rainforest. It is a small resort with 8 suites, each with a king-size bed, balcony, and private bathroom. There is a beach club with a swimming pool, sunbeds, and palm shelters for shade. The restaurant offers Mexican and Italian cuisine, ensuring you don’t need to leave this beach paradise during your stay.
#3 Ecological Hotel Maya Luna
Maya Luna beach hotel provides a tranquil atmosphere reminiscent of a desert island. It offers affordable, yet comfortable rooms. Guests can enjoy their own private beach with swaying palm trees, as well as access to sunbeds, hammocks, an on-site bar, and restaurant. Despite its secluded setting, Maya Luna also provides complimentary WiFi.