That morning, as I go on deck to get my breakfast, I am faced with an awesome view. We are at Costa Maya, a brand new pier on the Riviera Maya. We are in the middle of nowhere! There is a stretch of sand and beyond: the jungle! A sea of green. And nothing. I am amazed at first. Then I wonder: what are we going to do. This is the only time I regretted not booking a shore trip. Being very culturally inclined, I quite wanted to see the Mayan Ruins. Justin is not. So, we compromised and decided we would go check the village of Majahual. From the information we received the day before, there is a pier with a tourism center and lots of attraction, it looked good, at least on paper. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain. We had to wait for the rain to stop (around 11 am) to disembark. The pier is very long but you have shuttles coming back and forth and you can hitch a ride. A RCA ship is in port as well (I think it was the Radiance but not sure).
The road to Majahual, looking towards Costa Maya with a Royal Caribbean ship in port.
At the door of the Costa Maya complex, we are greeted by someone dressed as a Mayan warrior. That is where I begin having serious suspicion. Once inside, it is confirmed: we are in the ultimate tourist trap. The whole thing is modeled on a resort with shops (and luring vendors), restaurants, bars, a swimming pool and a small artificial beach. It may be ok with tourists (and I am sure they will be satisfied by what they can find at Costa Maya) but not for us. I find it heartbreaking in fact and cannot wait to get out of there. So, we will walk to Majahual. As we are on our way, we meet a couple who was just coming back and told us it would take 20 minutes, half-an-hour to go there. It hot and humid as the skies are still cloudy and, we didn’t think about it but I hope it is a lesson to you, MOSQUITOES!!! That kind of weather drives them crazy and those critters are proliferating in that environment. We hadn’t thought about that and didn’t have any bugs repellent with us. We were at their mercy for a while, been bitten several times. But, the sun finally came out and the humidity dropped, the mosquitoes disappeared. The road to Majahual is a whole lot of nothing but it’s also quite exciting. You feel like being an explorer. A narrow path of yellow dirt (sand) is waving between the vegetation and the sea. It is deserted, although men are not far away (and there is a road not far away), almost halfway there, we come across a Mexican Navy base, it seems almost abandoned. The coast is lovely but I would not say unspoiled since you can find plastic bags or a plastic bottle. It’s a shame, but the clean places are lovely and have a rugged charm that is so hard to find in most popular port-of-calls. After a nice 25-minute walk, we arrive at Majahual. Guys, it is not Acapulco. It is a tiny fishermen village with one dirt main road, a couple of snack-bars-restaurant, the inevitable Beetle car… It is the real Mexico, poor but trying to get by. Some fellow cruisers sit on terraces and sip a Corona. Villagers are taking advantage of Costa Maya… even if it’s hard for most cruisers to walk all the way there. Vendors are selling jewelry and are not too pushy. They hopefully haven’t learnt the way of their big cities counterparts. I wish we could sit and have a drink, I’d rather spend my money here than in Costa Maya but Justin feels uncomfortable. He will admit he doesn’t feel at ease around poverty. I can’t blame him. It’s always a bit uneasy the first times. But I am glad we made the walked all the way there.
Majahual, restaurant and Beetle.
On our way back, I spot a young girl, alone, her long raven hair floating, walking her feet in the water. I take a picture. Further away, a little barge, half-broken, is abandoned but in a frame of palm trees… We are also looking for seashells and corals. They will be our souvenirs. Back at Costa Maya, I am forcing myself to take a look at the shops but don’t buy anything. After taking a look at the beach (which is very small and didn‘t look inviting), we decided it was time to go back to the ship, just on time for the ice cream buffet. Needless to say that once again, we had during the evening… but that’s a given. It was Thanksgiving so, we decided to go eat at the main dining room, so we wouldn’t miss the special dinner. The atrium had been decorated accordingly and looked really nice. When the main course (turkey of course) arrived, Justin was all disappointed because it was tiny slices of turkey when he expected a leg or a breast…
But the pumpkin pie was delicious. We went to see a stand-up comedian in the Princess Theater, unfortunately, I can’t remember his name. But he didn’t seem to make the crowd as much as he wanted (repeatedly asked if we were not asleep).
In short: Costa Maya is different from many port-of-calls and brings very radical feelings. Some hate it, some love it. I’ll try to be constructive. From what I’ve known, this is the work of the Mexican government to try to improve tourism revenue for the area. Is it done the right way? I am not sure that building a resort enclave where poverty is so close and so apparent is the right way. And I am not sure people from area are even participating since I heard some people were brought here from the capital. Some travel experts says that Cozumel started the same way. That still remains to be seen. My advice is to plan carefully what to do. If you don’t do anything, you ’re much better off staying on the ship. But it would be a shame to miss the Mayan ruins (I’m still banging my head on the wall over this).