Mahajual/Mahahual: Almost Two Different Towns

About half an hour north and then half an hour east of Chetumal is the small beach town of Mahahual, Mexico.

The town was almost totally levelled in August of 2007 when Hurricane Dean (my first real hurricane experience on San Pedro) made a direct hit as a Category 5.  Situated at the northern end of the world’s second longest barrier reef that spans the southern Yucatan, Belize to Honduras, the town has two totally distinct halves.

On one side of town, there is a massive cruise ship dock and cruise ship village.  It is like a giant mall in the middle of a deserted beach with none of the places you’d want to visit.  They have a Hard Rock Cafe, Diamonds International and about 1000 junky trinket stores.  Since the cruise ships come in on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays and we arrived on a Saturday, the place was closed and in fact, the whole town was pretty empty.

In the other direction, there is the town proper.  There is quite a bit of building going on (and some super touristy stuff like Senor Frogs)…but the beach is very pretty with a nice wide pedestrian promenade along the sea and the water perfect for wading right up to the reef.

We even spotted a bathing suit photo shoot.  I was hoping for some sort of super star…maybe Giselle Bundchen or possibly a Kardashian…I mean, why not?  The scenery is that pretty.  But this girl I did not recognize.

See how close the reef is?

The beach walk is lined with beach clubs, bars and restaurants.

We had a really good and reasonably priced fresh fish lunch.  I had the Coconut Curry grouper…

And Dani and Cesar split the seafood stuffed fish fillet.

The owner brought over 2 rounds of free tequila cocktail-shots.  The first was delicious, a tequila sunrise.  The second was called Mahahual Tequila.  If this green anise flavored attrocity is presented to you, politely decline.  It is horrible.

The town was blissfully quiet…and even more quiet as we drove south.  Just outside the cement buildings and construction, the road turns to sand and you feel as though you turned the clock back 30 years.  A bumpy road, small locals shops and churches, tiny hotels, a few dive shops and mostly empty beach and empty land.

Check out this tiny church we stumbled upon about 2 miles south while looking for a place to camp.  The church could probably hold about 12 people maximum and was more decorated than many cathedrals I’ve visited.

The beach here is very much like San Pedro.
Looks kind of familiar, right?
There are some good sized hotels…
But more beach shacks and houses…and lots of empty land.
We found a very cute place to spend the night.  This little locally owned hotel was perfectly maintained and had a really fantastic bathroom and shower area…something that I really appreciate.  There was lots of prep work going on in the yard…apparently all of Easter week in Mexico EVERYONE hits the beach.
I woke up early the next day to check out some dives shops.
My camping sleep schedule seems to be bed at about 830pm (if I can make it that late) and then up for the sunrise each morning.
I was wondering how much cheaper it was to dive in Mahahual, Mexico compared to San Pedro, Belize.  I found that early Sunday morning, the shops were closed.
Maybe it shouldn’t be cheaper.  This town has a pretty special diving location.  Just off shore is the largest coral atoll in the Northern Hemisphere called Banco Chinchorro.  Supposedly it is fantastic…with incredibly vivid corals, tons of sea life and nine ship wrecks.
I emailed the dive shop above for more information.  Their website is pretty comprehensive with pricing, pictures and dive information.  Pricing seems slightly cheaper than San Pedro, but not much.
For all of the information, check out – DreamTimeDiving.
In the end, I really like Mahajual.  It was what I picture San Pedro to be 30 or more years ago…and then add the cheap Mexican beer.  I will definitely be back.  But I will be there on any day but Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.  I shiver to think what happens when a huge cruise ship unloads…



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  • Jesse

    The San Pedro that I miss from 20 years ago….great memories!
    Jesse

  • Love your trip reports! Are you going to Xcalak too? You must eat at The Leaky Palapa!

    Cheers!
    Judy

  • Me

    I love going on the trips! Didn’t make it down to Xcalak…25 miles down that dirt road might have killed us! I think I’ll have to do that one by boat from San Pedro.

  • Looks gorgeous — and quiet! Thanks for sharing it with us.