Mexican Cruises - Ports of Call

When selecting a cruise holiday from the extensive maze of offerings, top priorities are the personality of the fleet and a specific ship, along with the itinerary, ports of call and shore excursions. If first considerations are ports of call, CruiseLines.US offers a user-friendly overview of Mexico's popular cruise ports.

1. Acapulco -- Southern West Coast
2. Cozumel -- Caribbean Island off the Yucatan coast
3. Ensenada -- Northern West Coast
4. Ixtapa & Zihuatanejo -- Southern West Coast
5. Los Cabos -- Land's End, Baja Peninsula
6. Mazatlan -- Central West Coast
7. Puerto Vallarta -- Central West Coast

Remember, some lines such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean International are committed to Mexico on weekly itineraries, while others visit the country on positioning cruises or a segment of a World Cruise. Itineraries and shore excursions are as varied as the vast selection of ships.


A few years ago some clever marketing folks tabbed a section of Mexico's west coast, "Mexican Riviera." Somehow the name has endured though some clarification is in order. According to the designation, Mexican Riviera, in terms of a cruise itinerary roughly includes two separate coastlines: Los Cabos at the tip of the Baja peninsula and, on mainland Mexico, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo.

South of Mazatlan, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo and Acapulco beg to differ with the marketing ploy. If a dictionary refers to "Riviera" as a coastal resort area usually characterized by a temperate climate, the two remaining Mexican west coast cruise ports should fit nicely into the Riviera tourism marketing puzzle.

Advertising gimmicks or not, the tag, "Riviera" is not found on any World Atlas map when referring to Mexico. However, the big two often are included as part of the Riviera by the media, eager advertising moguls, cruise lines and tourists who like the ring of the word.

Put aside for a moment the thought of France and the original Riviera, long known as an opulent gathering place for the affluent and acclaimed, and think southern North America, Mexico's west coast and the Mexican Caribbean.

Mexico's cruise destinations proudly laud their own beaches and ports complete with a distinct personality ringing of year- round fiestas and icy margaritas, sunburn and snorkeling, an overwhelming abundance of handicrafts and art, golf galore and even a touch of history. The Big Sombrero also attracts the affluent and acclaimed who enjoy flashy seaside resorts, a distinguished cuisine, joyful live music, a predictable climate ruled by sunny days, and a proud hard working people who are the essence of hospitality.

1. ACAPULCO, Mexico's oldest resort destination, once a shining star for the International set in the 1940s, faded badly in the 1970s then made a dramatic comeback in the 1990s with new lipstick, a casual coiffeur and big smile. One of the world's great view cities, passengers find a bustling port with an overwhelming selection of swimming beaches, resort wear boutiques, and view restaurants like Su Casa overlooking Acapulco Bay.
Parasailing, glass-bottom boat cruises, championship golf courses, city tours to see the famed cliff divers, the 300-year old Fort San Diego, and the colorful beach setting of Pie de la Cuesta, eight miles northwest of the city, is Acapulco at it's best.

2. COZUMEL, 12 miles off the intriguing Yucatan Peninsula in Caribbean waters, and one of the world's noted dive centers, is mostly undeveloped with the exception of San Miguel town located on the west coast. (pop. 61,000).
Water sports rule. Cozumel hosts some 85,000 divers a year and claims to offer more dive options than any island in the world. Two small subs with glass bottoms are one way to see marine life. Another option is the crystal clear waters of Chankanaab Park and lagoon which offers Mayan and Olmec reproductions, lush gardens and bird life.
Mexico's largest island, 28 miles long and 11 mile wide, is the gateway to the mainland Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, Tulum and Xel-Ha. The modest San Gervasio ruins on Cozumel are easily reached from San Miguel.

3. ENSENADA, 65 miles south of the International border on the Baja Peninsula is a port of call on round trip, three and four day cruises from Los Angeles. Passengers stroll through wineries, a hundred or so shops selling clothing, jewelry, handicrafts and trinkets. Hussong's Cantina, the oldest bar on the Baja peninsula dating to 1892, is a favorite hangout for cruisers. South of town are some nice beaches and seaside restaurants. A shore excursion is to La Bufadora where the ocean surges into a crevice and sprays high into the air.

4. IXTAPA/ZIHUATANEJO. The dynamic duo, 150 miles northwest of Acapulco are exciting bed partners. Ixtapa, once a sleepy plantation, developed by Mexico in the mid-1970s, is tile to tile with high-rise hotels and Happy Hour enticements, handicraft markets, and the Ixtapa Golf Club complete with gators that lounge in a pond between the 5th and 6th greens.
Next door, Zihuatanejo, an attractive cobbled-stoned village, is alive with art galleries, shops selling colorful beach garb and sidewalk restaurants. Visitors swim at Las Gatas beach or hop the boat to Ixtapa Island and snorkel or dive numerous sites. Atop the El Faro lighthouse in the marina are views of the Sierra Madre range and blazing sunsets.

5. The name LOS CABOS, much to the chagrin of old time residents, is a marketing tag encompassing the working town of San Jose del Cabo and the cruise port of Cabo San Lucas, 20 or so miles down the road at Land's End on the rugged Baja peninsula. Along the corridor, tucked among golf greens are some of Mexico's best resorts such as the classic Twin Dolphin and the Palmilla.
Virtually crime free, the region offers catch and release sport fishing now over shadowed by four golf courses with more on the drawing board. Sparkling beaches, (watch the undertow), a casual lifestyle with sizzling party bars, designer boutiques, open-air markets and nature tours are the essence of Los Cabos.

6. MAZATLAN, Mexico's largest west coast city is located on a splendid peninsula with miles of sandy beaches and rolling breakers. Pulmonias, the Mazatlan variation of a chugging golf cart, haul visitors along a busy, carnival-like 15-mile-long malecon and seawall lined with restaurants and shops. The big resort in town is El Cid resort where golf and tennis are featured.
Passengers visit Ice Box Hill for a view of the harbor, see swan divers who leap from rocky cliffs and the El Faro lighthouse. Activities also offered are sport fishing among the country's largest shrimping fleet, snorkeling at Deer Island, and a visit to Mercado Municipal, one of Mexico's largest, most complete and colorful markets.
Adjacent to the market is the old restored city, the main plaza and the neo-gothic-style cathedral. River boat tours and excursions to Copala, an 18th century silver-mining town in the Sierra Madre foothills, is a look at a fascinating countryside.

7. PUERTO VALLARTA, spreading along 625-square-mile Bandaras Bay, is bordered by romantic hillside retreats, flashy hotels and narrow, one-way streets. PV has spread its wings and stretches north between the cruise terminal/marina and the airport creating a Nueva Vallarta (new Vallarta), in competition with Old Town.
Old Town, which includes the main downtown district north and south, is a major shopping and art center and a great walking town. Cruisers can golf, or take a trimaran cruise to the fishing villages of Yelapa and Las Animas beach with a stop at Senor Chico's restaurant bursting with character. A backroads jeep safari through the hilly back country adds to the romance of PV.