The Best Mexican Riviera Cruise Guide – What do the Top Mexican Riviera Cruises include? Port cities on Mexico’s west coast are often referred to as the Mexican Riviera. This is because of their popularity with tourists and the beachfront resorts which dot the coast. Most major cruise lines offer a variety of Mexican Riviera cruises, varying in length from three to 10 days. About 20 cities are part of the Mexican Riviera; with about half of them being popular cruise-ship stops with lots of things to see and do. Five ports you will find on virtually every Mexican Riviera itinerary are Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Ensenada, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. For tips on cruises, visit here or visit us on Pinterest.
When Is The Best Time For a Mexican Riviera Cruise?
Many major cruise lines have scaled back to offering only seasonal service, but the Mexican Riviera is a year-round destination. Find the best cruise deals during the shoulder seasons during September and June. The country’s climate has several factors to take into account. Mexico’s dry season runs from December to April. Its coolest period is December through February, and the wettest period is May to October. Count on summers to be hot and humid. The most pleasant conditions occur in late fall and early winter. Hurricane season in Mexico and surrounding waters runs from the beginning of June through November. While the chance of a cruising through a hurricane is unlikely, it’s worth thinking about the risk to safety and vacation fun. Cruise lines use technology to adjust when necessary to keep passengers safe, but hurricanes can disrupt a cruise experience or lead to a cancellation.
The western coast of Mexico is so well known for its beautiful beaches and stunning coastline that it’s called the Mexican Riviera. Not be confused with the Mayan Riviera along the Yucatán Peninsula, the Pacific’s Mexican Riviera receives millions of visitors each year.
Mexico’s western coastline runs for hundreds of miles, and distances between cities can be wide. With 20 cities to choose from, the area is both geographically diverse and culturally abundant. Because it’s so vast, most savvy travelers enjoy the Mexican Riviera by embarking on a cruise as it’s one of the most convenient ways to take in most of the area’s breathtaking landscapes.
Top Mexican Riviera Cruise Ports
Acapulco might be known best for its cliff divers. Today, the made-for-tourist activity remains as the La Quebrada cliff divers still wow travelers with their leaps of faith. Within walking distance of the cruise port, passengers can explore the Fort of San Diego. It charges a minimal entrance fee to explore its museum and unusual five-pointed star-shaped structure. For the perfect beach day, choose Playa Condesa, which offers good access to water sports, or the less crowded option of Playa Icacos, next door. For more Acapulco travel information, visit our Acapulco Travel Guide.
Cabo San Lucas
At the end of the Baja Peninsula, Cabo San Lucas is almost an Americanized city with its modern vacation resorts. With its jagged rock formations in the ocean, most visitors take shore excursions to see the famous Arch and nearby Lover’s Beach. This is a great spot for enjoying water sports such as snorkeling or diving, and whale watching in season. For those looking for arts and cultural attractions, head to San Jose del Cabo, a twenty minute drive from Cabo San Lucas, and take a walk around the historical center and art district. For more travel information on Cabo, visit The Best Cabo San Lucas Travel Guide here.
Travelers enjoy Baja California Sur’s capital, La Paz, for its old-world charm and vibrant atmosphere. The longer Mexican Riviera cruises of ten days or more generally stop here. The best La Paz activities are ocean-based. Bucket list excursions to swim with whale sharks are fantastic. Other tours give options to see blue whales and swim with sea lions. If you’re a certified diver, scuba diving in the Sea of Cortez allows for giant manta ray, whale and hammerhead shark, and dolphin sightings. There are multiple dive sites such as El Bajo, Espiritu Santo National Park, and Isla Cerralvo. For the best La Paz Hotels, visit here.
Ensenada in Baja California is a common port on shorter three or four-day cruises. Being Mexico’s Napa Valley, tourists shop for wine at bargain prices. Visit one of many local wineries and sample some vino and cheese before making a purchase. Dating back to 1888, Bodegas de Santos Tomas offers a fantastic selection. 17 miles south of Ensenada, the La Bufadore attracts visitors to its fantastic blow hole. Rated as the world’s second-largest marine geyser, it spouts water over 60 feet into the air. Ensenada isn’t known for its pristine beaches, its coastline is rather rugged, and activities are suited to kayaking, surfing, and scuba diving. Visit The Best Ensenada Guide for more information on Ensenada.
The highlight of Puerto Vallarta is the Malecon, a winding promenade that runs along the oceanfront. The picturesque pathway is dotted with interesting and unique sculptures by various artists. Puerto Vallarta has many bars, restaurants, shopping, and outdoor activities to occupy your time. Activities here include zip-lining tours, speed boat rentals, surfing lessons, stand-up paddle boarding, and diving for the adventurous. For a leisurely day, stroll the Malecon, sample some tequila, visit a chocolate factory, and have your hair braided. For more Puerto Vallarta information, visit our Puerto Vallarta Travel Guide.
With over thirty beaches to choose from, you can’t go wrong in Huatulco. Spend some time exploring La Crucecita or the downtown area. Its intimate restaurants and shops are charming, and who can resist an authentic Mexican meal? Ten miles from Huatulco, travelers can explore the Spanish culture at Copalita Ecological Park. The 200-acre grounds feature an indoor museum with exhibits and historical artifacts. Outside, wander one of many trails to enjoy the flora, fauna, and crumbling ruins. Looking to stop in Huatulco? Visit our Huatulco Guide Here.
Manzanillo is Mexico’s busiest port, supplying goods to Mexico City. It is also the “Sailfish capital of the world. Take time for historic Comala and Colima, the Colima Cathedral, and the pyramid ruins of La Campana. The La Campana ruins are the largest archaeological location in Western Mexico. Head to Santiago Bay, a family friendly beach that is regarded as the best. If you prefer to snorkel, take a catamaran to Elephant Rock, an excellent location for snorkeling. Get more information on Manzanillo by visiting our Manzanillo Travel Guide.
With golden beaches, and vibrant nightlife as well as a host of water sports and wildlife watching activities available, Mazatlan has a lot to offer. Explore town and board one of the golf cart taxis known as “pulmonias,” or take a day trip to one of Mazatlán’s picturesque islands, such as Isla de Venados (Deer Island), which can be explored on foot or by kayak. If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, check out the Huana Coa Canopy Adventure. Visit our Mazatlan travel guide and start planning your Mazatlan vacation.
The Sea of Cortez’s abundant sea life makes Loreto a mecca for snorkelers and sport fishermen. Loreto also features pristine beaches, hiking, golf, and water sports, without the frenetic atmosphere of neighboring towns like Cabo San Lucas. In Loreto, the watchword is relaxation. For those who plan to spend at least part of the day in the village, Loreto has its own unique culinary traditions. You’ll have a good meal which, combined with a cold beverage or two, can make for a very pleasant day. Get the Best of Loreto Vacations here.
Top Mexican Riviera Cruises
The Disney Wonder has family-oriented amenities and entertainment offerings like the classic meet and greets with Disney characters. The ship offers plenty of activity with 10 designated family areas, five youth clubs and seven adults-only spaces. While younger passengers can play at age-appropriate clubs, grown-ups can relax at the adults-only Quiet Cove pool. Disney Wonder offers six options, including one adults-only specialty restaurant. At night, adults can unwind and enjoy After Hours, a section of the ship that features three nightclubs and lounges. Like the rest of the ship, staterooms are designed with families in mind. Interior staterooms can accommodate up to four passengers, while larger Suites can sleep up to seven guests. All cabins come equipped with flat-screen TVs, seating areas and classic Disney designs.
The Royal Princess has unique features like a top-deck pool and the SeaWalk, a glass-paneled walkway that stretches 28 feet beyond the ship’s edge, make Royal Princess stand out among competitors. On board activities include an indoor driving range, duty-free boutiques and educational programming through Discovery at SEA. Younger passengers can participate in age-appropriate youth clubs while adults play games in the casino or sip cocktails from one of multiple lounges. When it’s time to dine, passengers can choose from three main dining rooms, four specialty restaurants or six casual eateries.
The ms Nieuw Amsterdam is famous for its extensive art collection valued at more than $3 million. Guests can admire works from Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein through a complimentary self-guided iPod tour. Passengers can also pass the time by the pool or in the Greenhouse Spa, while more enriching programs include the new America’s Test Kitchen, the BBC Earth Experiences and photography classes in the Digital Workshop, powered by Windows. While the ship offers youth clubs for kids ages 3 to 17, most activities are geared towards adults. Guests can choose from nine restaurants, including the popular Sel de Mer French seafood restaurant and the new Master Chef’s Table Pop Up that’s available on sailings of eight nights or more.
The ship’s 11 deck include six cabin categories, ranging from Interior staterooms (151 to 233 square feet) to Ocean-View and Verandah staterooms as well as Signature, Neptune and Pinnacle Suites. All cabins come equipped with Sealy Euro-top mattresses and flat-screen TVs. There is a versatile section of nine dining venues. Most notably, the ship offers the Sel de Mer French seafood restaurant and the new Master Chef’s Table Pop Up that’s available on itineraries that are eight nights or more. Activities range from the new America’s Test Kitchen to the BBC Earth Experiences. More active pursuits includes two swimming pools and sports courts. In the evenings, passengers can also sip cocktails at one of the bars and lounges or take in a show at the Lincoln Center Stage or B.B. King’s Blues Club.
With offerings like movie screenings beneath the stars and couples’ massages at the adults-only Sanctuary, Ruby Princess is a good choice for couples. 80 percent of exterior cabins are appointed with balconies, and comes equipped with flat-screen TVs and minifridges. While Interior cabins range from 158 to 162 square feet, Balcony category cabins offer more space and Pullman beds to accommodate extra guests. Activities include a nine-hole putting course, duty-free shopping boutiques and enrichment opportunities through the Discovery at SEA program. Dining is just as diverse, with a total of 11 venues to choose from including three main dining rooms, four specialty restaurants and four casual eateries. Come nightfall, travelers can try their luck at the casino, take in a show in the theater or dance until the wee hours at the top-deck nightclub.
Mexican Riviera Cruise Travel Tips
Book Shore Excursions Early
Select and book your Mexico shore excursions in advance, when you book your cruise, instead of waiting to book them while you are onboard. Many of the more popular shore excursions, such as swimming with dolphins, sell out in advance, and waiting until the night before may lead to bad news from the ship’s concierge. Heading ashore without a booked shore excursion can be dicey, since the legitimate tour operators generally won’t take drop-ins and there’s often not much to do in ports except shop, even in so-called tourist Meccas like Cabo San Lucas. Best shore excursions for the Mexican Riviera include snorkeling trips, swimming with dolphins, and in Ensenada, a road trip to La Bufadora, the town’s famous blowhole.
Bring Change Ashore
Passengers on Mexico-bound cruises are inevitably bombarded the moment they come on shore with people begging for money, generally children selling Chiclets or other candy. The grateful smiles are worth a quarter or two.
Be Prepared to Haggle
Vendors in Mexican mercados are accustomed to haggling over price, so never pay the marked or state price. It’s the way business is done. On the other hand, don’t be rude and don’t offer vendors a ridiculously low price. A good rule of thumb is to settle for about 20 percent off the original price.
Read the Fine Print
Cruise lines often reserve the right to change destinations in cases of severe weather. Cruises to Mexico have been known to substitute U.S. ports like San Diego and Avalon, on Catalina Island, at times when the Baja peninsula is hit with a hurricane.
Learn a Little Spanish
While the vendors, waiters and other service workers in Mexico ports of call invariably speak English, learning a little Spanish, and using it, is seen as a gracious sign of respect for their culture. Learn a few phrases and try them out.
Don’t Drink the Water
It’s an old saying, but one rooted in truth. Sanitation standards in Mexico aren’t up to par with those in the United States and tap water should never be ingested. Stick with bottled water.