Mayan Coast (Costa Maya)
The Mayan Coast (Costa Maya) is the area south of the Mayan Riviera. It runs from Punta Allen to Chetumal on the border with Belize. Whilst home to fantastically deserted beaches and unspoilt forests and mangroves which are teeming with wildlife and can be explored for days on end, there are three must-see locations, as detailed below:
Home to several colonial structures, including the famous fort which was built sometime in the mid-16th Century by the Spanish to protect their valuable gold shipments to the homeland being stolen by English pirates in the area. The fort didn’t help the Spanish, they continued to suffer significant defeats to the English, who had ambitions to turn the Yucatan peninsula into a colonial territory of their own. Indeed, the fighting raged until the start of the 20th Century, when Mexican leader Porfirio Diaz signed a treaty permitting the English to control modern-day Belize in exchange for a cease in the bloodshed.
Xcalak is a pre-Columbian settlement, with several Mayan structures only partially excavated. It is the most southerly town of Quintana Roo and thus is considered to be one of the last unspoilt areas of the Mexican Caribbean coastline. As with other sites, the diving and snorkelling opportunities are exquisite, especially around numerous shipwrecks on the Chinchorro Bank, but the difference with Xcalak is the feeling of sheer remoteness. The modern town was destroyed in a hurricane in 1955, and as such there are only the most basic of services and amenities available.
Lying just 3km from the cruise ship port, Mahahual is tipped to become the Playa del Carmen of the south. Like Playa, it started life as a tiny fishing village, but tourist money has fuelled a massive expansion in recent years. Now you can do water sports all day and party all night, but only if you have cash – ATMs are frequently out-of-order! The southern end of the town is reminiscent of Tulum, with eco-hotels and beachside restaurants that make ample use of hammocks as their preferred method of seating. Solar panels and collected rainwater are the modus operandi for the businesses in this region.