Note: Prices are valid as of September 2013. The smaller the resort, the more likely you should make an advance reservation.
Where: Located about 19 km outside of Mahahual, Almaplena has the distinction of being away from Costa Maya’s main beach. The sand is a little whiter and finer out here, and the vibe is a little quieter. No vendors. Owner Andrea and his wife Monica are Italian, and run a small eco-friendly hotel on the premises.
Cost: $59 per person; 3 and under free.
Size: 20 people
What’s included: Transportation, unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, volleyball, sand toys for kids, all-you-can-eat full Mexican buffet.
What’s not: Massages ($25/30 minutes; $45/60 minutes, reservation required).
Jungle Beach Club (Uvero)
Where: The largest beach club in Costa Maya, the Jungle Beach Club is owned by the port and is the base of operations for cruise line excursions, including regular and power snorkeling, SNUBA, boat blast, ATVs and mini-Jeeps (because these tours sell out, you need to buy them before you arrive; it’s very difficult to walk up and get a spot). Excursions include transportation to the beach, which is about a 20 minute drive north from the main port and Mahahual. The port is planning major investment at the club, with ambitious additions – including private cabanas, an underwater snorkeling museum and a water bouncy castle – planned in the next few years. There is vendor shopping on the premises and they are allowed to walk around the club.
Cost: Depends on the cruise line, but the range is $39-$49/adults on regular lines, $95 on luxury lines.
Size: Up to 900, although a more typical day draws 300.
What’s included: Transportation, unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, kayaks, beach volleyball, sand toys.
What’s not: Massages ($35/30 minutes; $60/60 minutes), snorkeling equipment if you aren’t on an excursion ($10), food, unless specified in your excursion (an order of nachos costs $8). Wave runners coming later this year.
Where: While still technically on the Mahahual beach, Maya Chan is a little further removed from the Malecon action. The vibe is homey and friendly, and the American owner Mark Ostrow and his son David have engendered a loyal following, both on Cruise Critic and TripAdvisor. Vendors are not allowed.
Cost: $59/adult (discounted rate for groups); $49/children 8-17; $30/children 4-7; $19/children 3 and under.
Size: 50 people
What’s included: Transportation, unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, a range of beach chair types, all-you-can eat Mexican buffet (try the guacamole), kayak use and tours, snorkeling use and tours, varying activities such as sand castle competition or tequila tasting, inflatable floats, bikes, Wi-fi.
What’s not: Massages ($25/30 minutes; $45/1 hour), scuba diving
Where: In the heart of the Malecon, Nacionale is more of a pay-as-you-go experience.
Cost: $10 for a chair
Size: 18 chairs
What’s included: Use of mini-pool, showers, restroom and Wifi
What’s not: Food and drink, although extensive menu is available. Local beer costs $3. Chips and salsa cost $4. No water toys.
Where: At the end of the main part of the Malecon, Nohoch Kay is another club that has a loyal following on Cruise Critic and TripAdvisor. Owner Jaime Cueto Strimpopulos stresses personal service and says he greets every visitor personally. Vendors are not allowed.
Cost: $50/adults; $30/ages 11-17; $20/children 5-10; Free/children 4 and under.
Size: 50 chairs, with another 50 seats in the restaurant
What’s included: Food (the restaurant is known for its shrimp tacos), unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, kayaks, floats, beach toys, equipment for off-the-beach snorkeling, Wi-Fi
What’s not: Snorkeling excursions off catamarans ($40/2.5 hour tour to two reefs). Massages ($30/30 minutes, $50/60 minutes).
Pez Quadro (40 Canones)
Where: Part of the 40 Cannons hotel, Pez Quadro offers beach club services that include consistent food (including a well-praised breakfast for early cruisers) and access to the nicely appointed lounge. Owners are part of Mahahual’s growing Italian community.
Cost: 3 packages, ranging from $25 to $45. All packages include a beach chair, open bar, and some food.
Size: 120 beach chairs
What’s included: Lockers, showers, WiFi,
What’s not: Kayaks ($10), snorkeling tour ($15), bikes ($10), stand-up paddleboarding ($10), wave runners ($50/30 minutes), Flyboard ($100/30 minutes), fishing ($50/excursion).
Ola Beach Club/Quinto Sole
Where: This boutique hotel, part of the Koox hotel group owned by partners from Barcelona, is expanding into the beach break business. The loungers are more upscale than you find elsewhere on the beach - think Miami-style beds, some with shade.
What’s included: 2 hour open bar, Mexican lunch, Wi-Fi
What’s not: Massages
Tequila Beach Club
Where: With all the equipment it has available (for extra fees), this large beach bar and activity operator on the Malecon strip might be a good choice for groups who want to try different water sports. Owner points out that anyone is allowed to walk on the beach under Mexican law, but vendors are not supposed to disturb guests at their tables (the club has an area for handicrafts).
Cost: $26/non-alcoholic drinks; $39/open bar
What’s included: Unlimited drinks (depending on your purchased package), one dish of chips and salsa, kayaks, Wi-Fi
What’s not: Full restaurant, massage ($30/60 minutes), pool table ($5/1 hour), towels ($2), snorkeling equipment and tours ($32/90 minutes), SCUBA (ranges from $78-$120), wave runners ($65/30 minutes; $95/60 minutes), golf cart rental ($80/day), fly fishing ($80), stand-up paddleboarding ($55/1 hour), transportation ($3).
Where: In the middle of the Malecon, Tropicante is a restaurant owned by American Steve Uhl that also offers beach chairs and services to its customers. Cruise passengers can reserve shade chairs or sun loungers with umbrellas in advance. He says that he’s promoting an atmosphere somewhere “between Senor Frog’s and Chuck E. Cheese.”
Cost: No cost for the chairs, or minimums. Menu items range from chips and salsa ($3) to a shrimp dinner ($14). Local beers are $3.
Size: 40 loungers, with more seating in the restaurant
What’s included: Wi-Fi, concierge services (the team will bring hair braiders or temporary tattoo artists to your chair, for example, although those services themselves will cost extra).
What’s not: Massages ($20/30 minutes, $30/60 minutes), snorkeling ($25/70 minutes), banana boat ($15/30 minutes), fishing ($50-$75/hr, depending on type), stand-up paddle boarding ($20/30 minutes, $30/60 minutes), discovery SCUBA ($85).
Senior Editor, Cruise Critic
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