The thought of slowly rocking in a hammock along a pristine Caribbean coastline, sipping on frozen drinks while watching the waves break is enough to make almost anybody want to book a vacation. For cruise passengers traveling to Costa Maya, Mexico, this scenario, commonly referred to at the “beach break” is a common and affordable way to spend a day off of the ship.
Ibiza Sunset, along with many other beachfront day resorts, is located in the village of Mahahual, about a 5-10 minute taxi ride from the Costa Maya cruise port, making it a breeze to get there and enjoy the day, even if your ship is not scheduled to dock until later in the morning. Taxis are located at the entrance of the cruise port and will cost about $4 per person traveling to Ibiza Sunset.
Ibiza Sunset is located along the Malecón, a paved pedestrian and bicycle pathway that runs the length of the village. On one side is the Caribbean Sea and pristine beach with many beachfront day resorts catering to cruise passengers. On the other side are restaurants, bars, and shops that offer a break from the hard work of holding a beach lounger to the ground with your ass.
Booking your reservation
Reservations are probably not necessary, and can be a bit tricky to make. Clicking the reserve button on their website brings you to a What’s App conversation, where you can chat with an agent, who will then provide you with a PayPal link for payment ($10 per person deposit). The system is clunky, but it works.
Options and Packages
I chose Ibiza Sunset for a shore excursion because my wife and I wanted to do some stand-up paddleboarding. Undertoe Mexico, a local outfitter is located on-site, so it seemed a good fit. We rented two boards and were able to do some paddling in the shallow water just off of the beach. The coastline is protected by a section of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef just a few hundred meters offshore, so even though the winds were pretty high at 20 kts., the water inside the reef was calm.
Ibiza Sunset has a few options for your beach break:
- All-Inclusive: Includes shaded loungers for the day, unlimited drinks including beer and basic cocktails and a lunch entree. Burritos, fajitas, tacos, nachos, and quesadillas are all on the menu and the quality is excellent. There are also plenty of typical kids menu items available for the little ones.
- Children and Teens: Same as above, but without the alcohol.
Both of the options above include snorkeling gear.
In addition to the standard beach break, Ibiza Sunset has additional tours including guided snorkeling, ATV tours, and bicycle tours. Massages are also offered beachside under open-air cabanas for about one-fourth the price you might pay onboard the cruise ship.
Throughout your stay at the beach, you will be approached many times from street vendors peddling trinkets, souvenirs, and photo opportunities with giant iguanas. This is just part of being in a tourist destination in Mexico. However, unlike some islands like Jamaica that are notorious for hassling visitors, a quick wave of the hand will turn them around. All of the vendors were extremely polite.
Shaded Beach Loungers
Rest assured that you won't be baking in the hot sun all day. Ibiza Sunset has plenty of shaded loungers, tables, and hammocks to keep you comfortable.
Keep a few loose dollars on hand to hand out to vendors and dudes offering pics with animals. Here is my daughter with a pretty good-sized dragon.
Close to Port
Mahahual is only 3km from the cruise port, making this an easy excursion to book on your own. If you don't want to take the 90-minute ride to Bacalar or the Mayan ruins, then a beach day is a great option.
Can I Drink the Water?
All of the water used to make drinks and food at Ibiza Sunset is bottled water, purified and shipped in 5-gallon re-fillable jugs, locally referred to as garrafones. Similarly, ice is made from purified water and shipped in bags to the restaurant. Generally speaking, all of the restaurants that serve tourists and visitors follow this same practice. Even beyond the tourist areas, purified water is the standard. Mexicans are the largest consumers of bottled water worldwide, mostly because they do not trust what comes out of the tap. So you can feel safe ordering food and beverages here, or at any other restaurant along the Malecón.
The beaches along the Maya Coast are simply beautiful. The barrier reef keeps the water shallow, calm, and without any current, making it safe for young families. The water clarity at the time of our visit was excellent, although like much of the Caribbean the beaches have been prone to infestations of sargassum, a free-floating seaweed that can build up in the water and on the beaches in huge quantities. All of the resorts work diligently to rake the seaweed from the beaches, but it could be an issue during your visit to any of the Costa Maya beaches. Prior to making a final decision, I recommend that you check Trip Advisor for any reviews within a week of your visit to get an update on the water quality. It was not an issue during our visit.
Located at Ibiza Sunset, Undertoe Mexico is owned and operated by US ex-pats Curt and Julie Devoir, who also happen to be directors of the Professional Stand Up Paddle Association. Undertoe Mexico offers SUP rentals, guided tours, and beginner instruction for those who are looking to paddle for the first time.
If you are an experienced paddler, then a 90-minute rental should be sufficient if you just want to stay inside the reef and paddle along the beach. If you are looking for something more adventurous such as moving into the open water, then a guided paddle would be more appropriate and of course, would be dependent on the wind/weather.
Book your paddleboards online prior to arrival at https://undertoemexico.com/
I have one final recommendation for your visit to Costa Maya. Whatever you do, get out of the cruise port. You traveled a long way to get here, so don't let your only experience be what amounts to an overcrowded, outdoor shopping mall. The cruise port is nice, but the congestion is unbearable. In fact, on our trip to Mahahual, the most difficult part was finding the exit to the port due to the crowd. Even if you do not feel like purchasing a beach break shore excursion, at least take a taxi to the Malecón where you can walk or rent a bicycle and enjoy some of Mexico's beautiful Maya Coast.
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