I’m a cruise pro, and after 50+ cruises, I’ll have to say that the cruise ports of Mexico still excite me. Whether you are sailing the Mexican Riviera or the Mayan ruins, there is a lot to see and do at each cruise port, plus fantastic food everywhere you go. Here are the things I like to do at the cruise ports of Mexico, and some popular outdoor enthusiasts offerings, too. I hope these suggestions can help you decide what to do with your time at each port.
Cozumel Cruise Port
Cozumel is a very popular cruise port in Mexico, maybe even the most sought after, and it’s easy to see why. Here you can enjoy an array of activities from scuba diving, snorkeling, and sailing to exploring the beautiful beaches and archaeological sites. There are plenty of shops for souvenir shopping too – don’t forget to try the famous Cozumel margaritas!
From the cruise port, it is easy to walk around town, soak up the sights, and do some shopping and dining. It is okay to bargain for lower prices at the local shops and markets, but remember that the artisans put their heart and soul into their craft and have to feed their families.
If you are a lighthouse lover, check out Cozumel’s 85-foot Celarain Lighthouse on the Caribbean Sea, a beautiful place to stop for photos.
Why fight the crowds when you visit Cozumel for beach adventures and outdoor offerings? Head to Buccano’s Beach Club, located on the Caribbean Sea on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, about twenty minutes from the cruise port.
Buccano’s is a one-of-a-kind private paradise owned by the sweetest family that will cost you around $20-$30 per person to enjoy a secluded beach for snorkeling, scuba diving, sun beds, a fire pit, WiFi, showers, and epic scenery. Guests can experience a wide range of watersports, such as kayaking, windsurfing, sailing, and stand-up paddleboarding.
Here, you will not have to stress over the visitors from multiple cruise ships that are in port at the same time.
Buccano’s Beach Club has a phenomenal onsite restaurant serving modern Mexican food. For lunch, try the delicious Lobster Ravioli (brown butter, almonds, poblano peppers, fresh corn) or uber-fresh Buccano’s fish n’ chips. One bite, and you will see why Buccano’s is one of Cozumel’s favorite restaurants and where the locals go.
The Money Bar Beach Club
A fun and unforgettable restaurant destination to experience in Cozumel is The Money Bar Beach Club, a quick cab ride from the cruise port. You can also lay on their private beach and soak up the intense Mexico sunshine while enjoying the bar and restaurant, featuring signature cocktails and an extensive tequila selection. They even have an infinity pool! You can also rent jet skis, go paddle boarding, and snorkel.
Money Bar Beach Club’s menu is seafood heavy, so if you like fish tacos, ceviche, and shrimp, you will be in heaven! But they also have burgers and pizza. I prefer the Chicken Nachos, 10/10 excellent, and a Bushwacker frozen drink is a must.
When the sun sets, Money Bar turns up the party with live DJs spinning your favorite tunes and special events like foam and full moon parties.
Cozumel offers some of the best coral reefs and exotic fish in the world if you are a diver. Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park (eco-park) is a beachfront park in Cozumel. It’s the perfect place to experience amazing outdoor activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, and nature trails.
Visitors can also enjoy the breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea while relaxing on the white sand beach or exploring the exotic wildlife.
The park is home to a variety of marine life, such as sea turtles, manta rays, and dolphins. Guests can even swim with the friendly dolphins in an enclosed lagoon! If you’re feeling adventurous, take part in glass-bottom boat tours or learn more about the fascinating world beneath the waves on guided snorkeling excursions. This was my favorite thing to do at Chankanaab.
There are plenty of other activities to enjoy at Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park, such as zip lining through the mangroves and exploring the jungle trails on a four-wheel drive safari. You can also take part in daily cooking classes or relax at one of the beachfront restaurants.
Before boarding your ship, go to Coral Reefs Monument on Main Street for a great selfie.
Mazatlan Cruise Port
Mazatlan is a lesser-known cruise port but a gem for those looking for some culture and history. Spend time exploring the old town, visiting historic churches, or taking in the gorgeous views from one of the many rooftop bars. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can go zip lining and horseback riding in the nearby Sierra Madre Mountains.
I recommend doing a city tour with your cruise line, as Mazatlan has some notable crime. If the cruise line is taking you there, rest assured that they have their finger on the pulse of what’s happening, and your safety is their top concern. My top pick for Mazatlan excursion is: Mexican Dance, Sightseeing, and Shopping.
On my Mazatlan visit, I took part in a walking tour of The Golden Zone. We toured the historic 19th-century Mazatlan Cathedral (Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception), which was excellent for photos. Surrounded by lush vegetation and colorful buildings, this grand cathedral stands out from all others in Mazatlan with its distinct style and impressive architecture.
The cathedral features a grandiose portico with intricate carvings, high ceilings, and tall wooden doors. Inside, there are several chapels dedicated to varying saints, as well as vibrant fabrics that adorn the walls and floors.
Then we strolled around to see the street vendors, murals, and tree-lined plazas.
Angela Peralta Theater
Our tour group saw an intimate cultural performance at the Angela Peralta Theater, an iconic theater in Mazatlan that dates back to 1874, but was rehabbed in the 1980s. It is one of the city’s most beautiful landmarks.
We had a wonderful time at our show, which featured a cast of talented dancers and musicians that performed various dances and told a Mexican folkloric story. The performance lasted 90 minutes, and the costumes were stunning! It would have been nice if the cruise line had charged a few more dollars and included a snack and drink.
Mazatlán’s Malecón and High Cliff Divers
After the show, we walked down Ocean Boulevard for souvenir shopping and beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. Several street vendors sold shaved ice treats, jewelry, shell crafts, and beach accessories.
My friend and I stopped for chips, salsa (how can you resist?), and a margarita. Restaurants also have traditional Mexican fare, as well as seafood specialties like the famous ceviche.
Mazatlán’s Malecón is a 1.5-mile-long boardwalk lined with plenty of souvenir shops, boutiques, restaurants, and amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. It’s one of the most popular attractions in Mazatlan, drawing locals and tourists alike to soak up some sun and take in the beauty of this historic city. Fishermen Monument is also in on the promenade — the setting is gorgeous.
Pro Tip: You’ll find the trendy Mazatlan sign in this area.
On the ride back to the ship, we went to witness the El Clavadista high cliff divers. These locals jump from an elevated (50′) platform into angry crashing waves after getting the audience all pumped up and collecting donations. For me, it was more hype than excitement.
Cabo San Lucas Cruise Port
Cabo San Lucas is a great place to relax and enjoy some of the best beaches in Mexico. Spend your day lounging on the glamorous beach or swimming in one of the many coves. Don’t forget to explore the nearby nightlife and take a boat tour to see some of the incredible rock formations.
On my only visit there, my friend (Kim) wanted to swim with dolphins, so I gladly agreed to join her. The cruise port at Cabo (Marina Puerto Los Cabos) has plenty to see and do, and going out about the town is unnecessary unless you want to. It is spacious and picturesque but not too massive to enjoy it all.
Dolphin Discovery Cruise Port
Dolphin Discovery is the world’s largest certified swim with a dolphin organization and is at the cruise dock. This family-friendly marine life attraction offers a unique chance to interact with friendly dolphins in their natural habitat. Guests can participate in various interactive activities such as swimming or snorkeling with dolphins, feeding and playing with them, or simply observing them in their natural environment.
Kim and I reported there for our set time, put on wet suits (and a locker for storage), and hung out until our dolphin encounter. The facility is sleek and stylish, and the staff (marine mammal specialists) was informative and helpful in getting us on our way.
They called us to the platform, where we spent 10 to 15 minutes in small groups with a dolphin trainer who was ours to aid our experience.
Our instructor, Yuki, made hand gestures, and in return, our bottlenose dolphin did amazing tricks such as clapping its fins, shaking its head, speaking, and then rubbing its belly. Then, one by one, we were called up to interact solo with the dolphin by dancing with our dolphin, high-fiving, getting a kiss, and a tickle. The final trick was to grab the dolphin’s fin as it swam by and latch on for a short ride.
It was great fun! Dolphin Discovery Cabo San Lucas offers various packages for all ages and budgets.
Safety is always a top priority at Dolphin Discovery Cabo San Lucas. They employ highly trained staff who are always mindful of their guests’ and dolphins’ safety. All interactions with the dolphins are carefully monitored to ensure that everyone has a positive and rewarding experience.
Before returning to the ship, Kim and I sat down to a local meal at the cruise port (chips and salsa included) and did some shopping for souvenirs.
Puerto Vallarta Cruise Port
My favorite cruise port in Mexico is Puerto Vallarta, a great place for nature lovers! You can find everything from jungles, mountains, and waterfalls to pristine beaches here. Take a hike through the jungle or set out on an eco-tour. You can also take a boat tour to explore the nearby islands or visit one of the many beaches for surfing and snorkeling. Don’t forget to check out the vibrant nightlife in Puerto Vallarta too!
The entire region is gorgeous, and the downtown is vibrant, with a lovely mix of locals and European ex-pats.
With the help of a local guide and delicious regional dishes, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the unique flavors and vibrant culture that make this destination so special. That’s where Vallarta Food Tours comes in.
Vallarta Food Tours
I scheduled this exciting food tour, which required me to meet in the heart of town. So, I hired a taxi driver to give me a private hour-long tour of Puerto Vallarta before it. He shared with me some fantastic photo ops and beautiful Puerto Vallarta resorts and hotels.
A Puerto Vallarta food tour takes you on a tasty journey through the streets of Mexico’s famous beach town. You’ll visit some of the city’s most trendy restaurants and eateries and sample some of their most delicious local dishes. From tacos to tamales, ceviche to churros, you’ll find something for everyone’s taste buds.
Along the way, your guide will teach you about the history and culture of Puerto Vallarta. From its unique architecture to its lively music scene, this tour offers an exciting way to explore all the city has to offer. Your guide will also provide facts and stories about the food, from its origins to the ingredients used.
I found the taco stand information about how they go to a full-serve restaurant inspiring and very interesting.
Note: If you run into the man with “tuba”, you’re going to love it! I tell everyone going to PV about the exotic drinkmade from honey, pecans, apples, fermented palm tree sap, and strawberries.
Rhythms of the Night
One of the cruise port excursions was a nighttime dinner and show, Rhythms of the Night, described as “will leave you breathless.” It did just that. You have to check it out!
Rhythms of the Night is Puerto Vallarta’s #1 dinner show. And, if I had to rate one Caribbean/Mexico/Bahamas/Bermuda cruise excursion as #1 in over 40 cruises, this is it!
An hour-long boat ride from the cruise port brings you to Las Caletas Cove, a tropical paradise, where dinner and the high-energy production show take place. The jaw-dropping setting is straight out of a movie, with dancers, performers, and waitpersons welcoming us.
Dinner was served buffet-style and had many delicious choices of grilled seafood, meats, vegetables, salads, bread, and desserts. Wine was available, plus non-alcoholic beverages. You have to see the table settings on the waterfront to believe how gorgeous and special.
Afterward dinner, we were treated to an hour-long show featuring percussion musicians, acrobats, dancers, fire twirlers, knife swallowers, and much more. It was as entertaining and captivating as any show I’ve seen, including many Cirque du Soleil shows.
The party cranked up on the boat ride back to the ship, with loud music, dancing, and much fun. All in all, it was a perfect day in Puerto Vallarta.
No matter which port you choose, your cruise will be filled with amazing experiences in Mexico. From the famous Mayan ruins in Cozumel to snorkeling and dolphin encounters in Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas, you’ll be sure to find something that fits your interests.
Here are some other cruises you might be interested in trying: