The largest town in Mexico’s Costa Maya, Mahahual is a hidden jewel along the country’s Caribbean Coast.
While Mahahual is a popular stop for cruise ships, it remains a quiet seaside village with plenty of local charm. Thanks to its location away from the busy tourist centers like Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, and Tulum, Mahahual offers a quiet getaway and more authentic taste of Mexico.
Where is Mahahual Mexico located?
Tucked away in the southern reaches of Quintana Roo State not far from the Belize border, Mahahual Mexico sits near the second largest barrier reef in the world. The easiest way to get to Mahahual is by renting a car, however, there are also collectivos (small shared vans) that can take you there.
To get to Mahahual, you will need to drive along Highway 307. I loved the drive, as it was scenic and took us through several small Mexican pueblos (or villages) with an authentic atmosphere that can’t be found in many touristy places up the coast.
Distances to Mahahual
- Cancun to Mahahual – 355.7 km (220 miles) – 4 hr 32 min
- Playa Del Carmen to Mahahual – 289.7 km (180 miles) – 3 hr 34 min
- Tulum to Mahahual – 225.5 km (140 miles) – 2 hr 35 min
- Bacalar to Mahahual – 103.7 km (64 miles) – 1 hr 14 min
- Chetumal to Mahahual – 142.1 km (88 miles) – 1 hr 47 min
How do I get to Mahahual?
There are several ways to get to Mahahual from different parts of the Yucatan Peninsula. Most travelers arrive to Mahahual from Tulum, Playa Del Carmen and other coastal areas in Mexico’s Rivera Maya. Here’s a quick overview of the options:
Renting a car to get to Mahahual
I rented a car in Cancun before traveling to Mahahual and had a great time on my road trip. The roads are nice and well maintained, but you need to watch out for speed bumps (or topes) that are common along small villages and bus stops all over the Yucatan Peninsula.
PRO TIP: To stay safe and avoid common tourist mistakes during your trip to Mahahual, check my 30 tips for traveling to Mexico.
To rent a car for your trip to Mahahual from Cancun, check out City Car Rentals, one of the best car rentals in Cancun with good inventory that also offers services in many other parts of Mexico. Another option is to book your rental with DiscoverCars that has a huge inventory and budget-friendly rates.
Taking a private transportation to Mahahual
If you want to head to Mahahual from Cancun after landing at the airport, I recommend hiring a private transportation because there are NO direct buses between Cancun and Mahahual. eTransfers is a great local company that provides private transportation to many parts of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, and can get you to your hotel in Mahahual from Cancun after they pick you up at the airport.
Tulum to Mahahual
If you are traveling from Tulum to Mahahual, book a private transportation, instead of relying on public transportation or taxis. The driver will pick you up at your hotel and drive you straight to Mahahual. You will save a ton of time and hassle. Win-win!
Taking a bus to Mahahual
If you are traveling from Cancun, you should know that there’s no direct bus from Cancun to Mahahual. To get to Mahahual from Cancun, you will have to spend a lot of time time on the road, as you will need to take a bus from Cancun to Playa Del Carmen and from Playa Del Carmen to Mahahual. And, you will also need to catch a bus toward your hotel.
Sounds like a super long day on the road?
That’s why I recommend renting a car for your trip to Mahahual or taking a private transportation. You will save a ton of time that could be better spent exploring some of the best things to do in Mahahual Mexico!
Flying to Chetumal
Since there’s no commercial airport in Mahahual, you will need to fly to Chetumal, if you are traveling to Mahahual from Cancun or Mexico City. Chetumal is the capital of Mexico’s Quintana Roo state, located near the border with Belize.
You can find tickets to Chetumal and compare prices and other characteristics here.
When you arrive at the Chetumal airport, instead of taking a taxi from Chetumal to Mahahual, book a private transportation ahead of your trip to save time and money.
Recently, several U.S. airlines announced that they will also open regional routes to Chetumal from the United States. I will make sure to keep you posted, as soon as these flights launch.
Joining an organized tour of Mahahual
If you don’t feel like renting a car or taking a private transportation to get to Mahahual, you can also take a guided tour that will include a day trip to Mahahual and stops at the nearby Mayan Ruins. It’s a perfect option if you want to save the hassle of organizing transportation, hotels and other things for your trip to Mahahual.
Top things to do in Mahahual Mexico
Mahahual might be small, but it packs on plenty of charm and adventure. I spent 3 days here but was sad to leave when it was time to head to Bacalar. In this article, I will share some of my favorite things to do in Mahahual, so you can also plan your dream getaway.
1. Dive in the barrier reef
The World’s Second Largest Barrier Reef (or the Mesoamerican Reef System) is at the doorstep of Mahahual, which means you are less than 10 minutes away from some of the best diving in the world! When you go on a diving trip in Mahahual, you will see a stunning array of marine wildlife such as sea turtles, manta rays, all sorts of fish, and if you get lucky – even manatees!
Diving companies in Mahahual
There are several shops in Mahahual that offer diving and snorkeling tours, and most of them are located along the main street (Malecon).
Among them are Alux Divers that offers private and small group tours; Pepe Dive Mahahual that also sells diving trips to the neighboring town of Xcalak famous for its marine biodiversity and Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve that can be reached by boat from Mahahual; and Mahahual Dive Center that also offers diving and snorkeling tours in several locations in the Mahahual area.
If you are not a certified diver, you can obtain your PADI certification at any of these diving schools.
Learn scuba diving in Mahahual
While diving is by far one of the most popular things to do in Mahahual, there are also several other popular recreational options in Mahahual Mexico: paddle boarding and kayaking, both of which can be rented at businesses along the beach.
2. Relax at the beach
Mahahual beaches are second to none. Many restaurants along Malecon have beach clubs where you can stay all day after purchasing a drink and a meal. Crazy, right?:) My favorite beach club in Mahahual is Blue Kay, located across from Blue Kay Hotel on the northern end of Malecon.
GOOD TO KNOW: Another option is to book a whole day on the beach with the inclusion of food, drinks and rental of necessary equipment for water entertainment. Crazy, right?:)
This beautiful beach club with dreamy views has hammocks right above the water and also offers kayak rentals to its patrons, so you can get some exercise while enjoying the views of the barrier reef and look at the colorful fish swimming beneath you.
There are also tables and cute swings, so it’s an awesome place to spend your afternoon. And the staff is super friendly, so you should check it out.
3. Ride a bike on Malecon
Mahahual’s main promenade is a scenic stretch along the beach where you can find restaurants, beach clubs, street vendors, and all kinds of stores. Riding a bike on Malecon is a lot of fun, however, you can also walk if you want to stop for some souvenirs and talk to locals, that are super friendly by the way.
PRO TIP: PRO TIP: If you have a bike, you can also take a mini trip to the residential area of Mahahual where you can get groceries and stop at the ATM if you need cash.If you don’t have a bike, don’t despair and try this bike tour, which includes free transport from the port, paddling and a beach day.
4. Shop for souvenirs
Shopping for souvenirs was one of my favorite things to do in Mahahual Mexico. Walk along Malecon, and you will find dozens of street vendors selling beautiful handcrafted goods such as dream catchers, bracelets, hats, and much more.
I loved shopping in Mahahual and left the town with a beautiful dream catcher. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, local vendors are very nice, and always want to talk to you.
While many of them speak English, I recommend learning at least a couple of words in Spanish, to make things a bit easier. Applications like Babel and Duolingo are great if you are just a beginner.
5. Tour the ruins
When you get tired of laying on the beach, get in a car and take a road trip to a couple of Mayan ruins in the area. Chacchoben is the closest Mayan ruin site to Mahahual, located about 25 minutes north. If you want to go a little bit further, you can also visit more remote ruin sites of Dzibanche and Kinichna that are about 2 hours away from Mahahual, and sit less than 10 miles apart.
Best tours of Mayan Ruins in Costa Maya
If you don’t have a car, you can still see Mayan Ruins near Mahahual. To do that, you need to book a guided tour that will pick you up at your hotel and bring to the Mayan ruin site. A tour is accompanies by an English-speaking guide who will tell you about the history of the area. After the tour, you will get transported back to your hotel.
Other cool Mayan ruins south of Mahahual are Dzibanche, Kinichna and Kohunlich.
Kohunlich is a standalone site and takes about 2 hours from Mahahual by car, and Dzibanche and Kinichna are two very remote archaeological areas less than 5 minutes away from each other.
I visited all of three sites and loved every second of my trip here and I was the only person in Kohunlich when it opened at 9 a.m. If you decide to explore Costa Maya’s Mayan ruins make sure to bring enough cash, as entrance fees can’t be paid with a credit card.
GOOD TO KNOW: The Mayan ruins in Mexico’s Costa Maya are some of the most beautiful and less-explored in the country. Only a fraction of visitors make their way here, which is why I highly recommend you visit them during your time in Mahahual. Read about the best Mayan ruins in Mexico here.
6. Take a photo with a Mahahual sign
Right at the end of the Malecon, you will find a colorful Mahahual sign that is perfect for snapping a photo for your friends and family. There’s also a white lighthouse that is cool to watch during the nighttime when you can see the light that is used for ships in the area.
If you are an early riser, I particularly recommend watching the sunrise at this spot, as the colors are so stunning!
7. Take a day trip to Bacalar
If you decide to stay in Mahahual for a bit longer, but still want to explore the region a little bit more, I highly recommend taking a day trip to Bacalar, a neighboring town about 1 hour south of Mahahual that boasts a stunning lagoon of seven colors that will blow you away.
While Bacalar in itself is a destination and deserves more time than just a day, in my opinion, you can easily do it as a day trip from Mahahual. If you still decide to do a day trip from Mahahual to Bacalar, I recommend booking a boat tour of the Bacalar lagoon before your trip.
PRO TIP: Bacalar is one of the most beautiful places in Mexico, But as much as it is gorgeous, its ecosystem is extremely fragile. That’s why you shouldn’t use sunscreen or any cosmetics or chemicals if you are planning to swim in the lagoon or explore cenotes in Bacalar.
Interested in reading more about Bacalar? check my blog post.
Best hotels in Mahahual Mexico
During my trip to Mahahual, I stayed at Hotel Noah, and loved it! This property is located along Malecon and offers amazing views of the Caribbean and has super friendly staff. There’s also a restaurant on the first floor that offers delicious food and drinks, so you don’t have to go too far to get food.
Best restaurants in Mahahual Mexico
As a vegan, I found some really good options in Mahahual, however, there are plenty of good places to check out if you are not a plant-based eater. For example, Malecon 21, a restaurant on the first floor of Hotel Noah has delicious food and a gorgeous beachfront setting.
Another great place to check out is Tierra Verde, a photogenic all-vegan restaurant on the third floor of Blue Kay Hostel. Other restaurants in Mahahual that I really enjoyed were Yaya Beach; Perlas and Cocos.
And if you like ice cream, stop at La Dolce Vita, a small ice cream shop next to Yaya Beach that has many flavors of regular ice cream as well as several flavors of vegan sorbet.
What to bring on your trip to Mahahual
Mahahual is a dreamy destination, however, there are a couple of things you should know that will help you to have a better experience. First, the sun can be strong here, so you will need good sunscreen. Because of the proximity to the reef, you need to make sure that your sunscreen is reef safe, so it doesn’t end up hurting marine animals and bleach corals.
Second, there are some mosquitos and bugs, so don’t forget about a bug spray. This is something that you should keep in mind, especially if you plan a trip to the Mayan ruins in the middle of the jungle.
Finally, if you are planning on diving, don’t forget to bring a GoPro to capture amazing sea turtles, manta rays, and tropical fish. Put everything in a waterproof bag, and you are ready to go!
Is Mahahual worth visiting?
If places like Cancun, Playa Del Carmen or even Tulum are too crowded to your taste, you will love Mahahual! This small pueblo remains a hidden gem in the touristy region of Mexico free from overdevelopment and high prices. It’s a perfect place to relax and enjoy a slow pace of life.
There’s a good chance you will see more tourists from other parts of Mexico than from overseas when you come Mahahual, so hurry up and check out this destination before everyone else decides to go there!
Is Mahahual safe?
Yes, Mahahual is perfectly safe to visit! It’s much safer than Cancun, Playa Del Carmen and Tulum. I never felt unsafe during my time in Mahahual when I was walking around and staying our late.
How many days do I need to spend in Mahahual?
Mahahual is a small pueblo which is perfect for a quick getaway. While most people spend between 2-3 days here, you can spend more time in Mahahual, if you want to visit some of the nearby Mayan ruins, take a trip to Bacalar or do several diving trips in the area.
What is the best time to visit Mahahual Mexico?
Similar to other destinations in Mexico’s Caribbean, Mahahual has a hot tropical climate. December through April is the dry season with little to no rain and plenty of sun and is the busiest time of the year in the region. Prices on hotels in Mahahual as well as tours tend to be more expensive than during this time.
The low season in Mahahual is from June through October when the area receives the most precipitation and the rainstorms are not uncommon. However, if you plan your trip carefully, you can still enjoy Mahahual as rain tends to fall in the afternoon and lasts only a few hours.
The east time to visit Mahahual is during the shoulder season from November through early December or from May through early June before the rain season begins.
Other hidden gems along Mexico’s Caribbean Coast
Mexico’s Caribbean has become famous thanks to places like Cancun, Playa Del Carmen and most recently, Tulum, but there’s a lot more to this part of the country!
Mahahual is just one of hidden secrets in the super touristy region, and you should check out at least one of them if you want to get a different experience, mingle with locals and practice your Spanish.
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of Playa Del Carmen, head to nearby Puerto Morelos, a fishing village that feels like a world away from the busy tourist hotspots that surround it.
Puerto Morelos has plenty of activities to keep busy for a day or two – it’s coral reef snorkelling, catamaran tours, ATV and zipline excursions and much more. This place offers a much-needed respite if you are looking for a quiet place to hunker down between your adventures in the Yucatan Peninsula.
Puerto Morelos has plenty of activities to keep busy for a day or two and offers a much-needed respite if you are looking for a quiet place to hunker down between your adventures in the Yucatan Peninsula.
Located north of Isla Mujeres, Isla Contoy is one of the most incredible natural wonders of the Yucatan Peninsula that somehow has managed to fly under the tourist radar. This paradise-like island with clear waters and sugary white beaches boasts rustic vibes and sees relatively few visitors, compared to many nearby destinations.
Eco tours is one of the most popular activities on this uninhibited island since it has been designated a protected area and became one of the prime destinations for nesting birds and turtles.
Although Akumal is just north of Tulum, it’s often overlooked by traveling masses. Meanwhile, this small town is considered one of the top places for snorkeling in Mexico’s Caribbean thanks to its shallow waters and rich array of marine wildlife such as turtles and manta rays that flock to this area.
There’s no surprise that Akumal translates as “Place of the Turtle” from the Mayan language.
In case Tulum beaches are too crowded to your taste, Akumal boasts a pristine coastline with very tourists. All you need to do is get a colectivo from Tulum for about 40 pesos to have an incredible day trip.
With this tour you can not only swim with turtles, but also explore the ancient Mayan cenote with a guide – the views themselves are already breathtaking!
Final word on visiting Mahahual Mexico
As someone who has seen a lot of places in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, I can say that Mahahual was one of my favorites.
While some people dismiss it as a cruise ship destination with tacky beach bars and tourist shops, I completely disagree with it! Most of the cruise ship activity is on the northern end of Mahahual, while the southern end of town has a quiet, rustic vibe to it.
In my opinion, Mahahual is worth a stop, as it offers a more laid-back and authentic getaway compared to other touristy places in Quintana Roo. I hope you choose Mahahual for your next adventure and enjoy this beautiful seaside town.
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