Have You REALLY Been to Mexico?
Being retired gives us a bit of time to more closely examine the “Costa Maya” and other places at a leisurely pace that the non-retired folks struggle to enjoy. Retirement is one of the reasons we have been able to discover the real Mahahual and find a little adventure in the back streets. In the late 1990’s Mahahual (also spelled as “Majahual”) was a poor, charming, quiet fishing village on Mexico’s southern Yucatan, Caribbean coast. Here the adventuresome traveler would find brilliant blue waters lapping gently on white sand beaches, impressive coral reefs offshore and Coconut Palms swaying overhead. There were no paved roads, electric or telephone service. Life was hard but close to nature and simple. It was a great place to retire from life for a while.
Then suddenly this seemingly frozen in time, picturesque little dot on the map, was chosen as the cruise ship port for the newly dubbed “Costa Maya”. Paved roads were put in and connected with nearby highways, electric and telephone lines were run and in 2001 “Puerto Costa Maya” was opened to Cruise ships from around the world. Now, every few days, the cruise ships spew 1000’s of passengers from their berths into “town” for an afternoon of jungle tours, sun worship, shopping, drinking, swimming and jet skiing.
Just outside the gates of the terminal is the new Mahahual complete with a Hard Rock Café, Senor Frogs, Starbucks and a Tequila Museum. There is even a genuine replica Mayan Ruin that spouts water from the top when a ship is in town just to add genuine flair. If you are careful you can visit Mexico here and not even have to experience anything but chains run by huge multinational corporations, manicured lawns and nothing over ten years old. Almost everyone immediately outside the gate speaks English and will be sure to smile and commiserate with you about your sunburn and hangover while telling you the “best” place to buy silver or “genuine” Mexican souvenirs.
What many of the passengers don’t realize – unless they take the time to get away from the dock – is that they really haven’t seen Mexico or Mahahual. Well, technically they can say they have but only in the sense that a tourist that only sees Disneyland can say he has seen the United States. For the slightly savvier there is, just behind the newly constructed Malecón and gift shops, a different Mahahual. It is not the Mahahual of the past but it is one that is genuine, vibrant and fun.
Instead of getting overpriced chicken strips and a Coors from the familiar chain why not wander the back and side streets of town and have a delicious Pollo Asado right off a wood fired grill and a delicious, dark Cerveza Leon? Why not ask around – always a chance to try out that high school Spanish – and find Fernando’s 100% Agave and get a deliciously grilled Pescado Entero (Whole Grilled Fish) and chase it down with – 100% Agave? Try It! You will be doing yourself, the local businesses and your wallet some good.