Costa Maya Profile
Costa Maya's history as a cruise ship destination has been brief but eventful. The port at Mahahual (also written as "Majahual") was built from scratch specifically to serve cruise ships and began receiving guests in 2001. Mahahual quickly emerged as one of the most popular stops in the Caribbean. For several years, in fact, it ranked as the fastest growing cruise ship port in the world.
The local population and port officials, however, were committed to rebuilding their industry. Within a year, Mahahual once again was welcoming cruise ship passengers. The new port is better than ever, with room to accommodate up to three cruise ships, including the next generation of super liners.
The recovery is especially remarkable considering that before 2001 Costa Maya was almost entirely overlooked by travelers and was dotted by a handful of small fishing villages. In terms of geography, Costa Maya begins where the major tourist areas of Cancun and Playa del Carmen end on the Yucatan Peninsula.
The region is still a far cry from the resort destinations up the coast, but the landscape has been rapidly transformed by the development of tourism and real estate, particularly by an influx of investors and retirees buying property in the area for vacation homes. Reconstruction after Hurricane Dean provided the fishing village of Mahahual with a dramatic facelift.
Costa Maya has made the most of its natural and cultural resources, including lush tropical beauty, spectacular coral reefs, and some of the most accessible and well-preserved Mayan ruins in the region.
The opening of the BioMaya ziplining complex in 2008 has proven to be a landmark event for the local tourism industry. BioMaya showcases Costa Maya's still largely pristine rainforest and the heritage of the indigenous Mayan community. Visitors enjoy the thrill of a world-class ziplining course and the stunning scenery of the Bacalar Lagoon.
For those seeking to explore Costa Maya's past, the Mayan ruins at Chacchoben and Kohunlich host thousands of tourists each year. Fortunately, Mexico takes the preservation of its Mayan past seriously. While tourists have ample access to the ruins, precautions have been taken to safeguard the ancient structures.
The development of Chacchoben is particularly fascinating. The excavation and restoration of the ruins was pushed forward largely by a single individual, Serviliano Cohuo. Of Mayan ancestry, Cohuo began farming around Chacchoben in the 1940s and devoted much of his life to protecting the complex. After his death, the National Institute of Anthropology and History undertook an extensive excavation effort. In 2002, Chacchoben was officially opened to the public under the protection of the government. Today, Cohuo's children continue their father's legacy, serving as leaders in the field of Mayan cultural preservation and historical tourism.
Not to be overlooked is the coastline of Costa Maya. The reefs near Majahual are an extension of the reef system that snakes along the coast of Central America beginning in Honduras. Scuba divers have enjoyed the reefs for decades, but the expansion of tourism has meant more divers, snorkelers, and sightseers.
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