Western Caribbean Cruise: Roatan, Honduras; Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico; and Galveston, Texas

The goals for my family’s February vacations are relaxation, ease, and warm weather. For this year’s break, we chose a Western Caribbean cruise with Royal Caribbean, which included a new country for us, Honduras. The cruise vacation delivered precisely what we hoped for (much better than last year’s debacle). I hope our experience can help you plan your cruise stops in Roatan, Honduras; Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico; and Galveston, Texas.

A western Caribbean cruise experience
The beach at Mahahual in Costa Maya is shallow for a long distance. The person on the right in this photo is walking on a sandbar. Our ship, Harmony of the Seas, can be seen on the left.

How to Spend One Day in Galveston, Texas

Our cruise started and ended in Galveston, an island in southern Texas on the Gulf of Mexico.

The closest airport to Galveston is Houston Hobby Airport (HOU). The drive from Houston to the cruise port is about an hour. We flew in late on a Friday for our Sunday cruise, so we stayed at an airport hotel, Springhill Suites, at Houston Hobby Airport, which was comfortable and offered a complimentary breakfast and a free shuttle from the airport.

Things to Do in Galveston, Texas

Things to do in Galveston, Texas while waiting for your cruise.
We got unlucky with cold weather, but it was still warmer than New England while walking by the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier.
  • Take an E-bike tour through the streets and along Galveston’s beaches.
  • Visit Moody Gardens, a nature and conservation educational center.
  • Walk the 10.3-mile Galveston seawall, the longest sidewalk in the United States. If you aren’t up to walking the whole thing, you can take a Segway tour.
  • Tour a historic house like the Moody Mansion or Bishop’s Palace.
  • Play games on the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier. 

There is traffic in Galveston, so if you plan to stay there, I recommend staying in the middle of the action on the Seawall. A few hotels I haven’t stayed at but are well-situated are Gaido’s Seaside Inn and Four Seasons on the Gulf.

Roatan, Honduras Cruise Port: Things to Do in Roatan, Honduras

Roatan was my favorite port on this trip for two reasons: SCUBA diving and sloths!

What to do in Roatan Honduras
Cuddling with my friend, Charlie, brought me so much happiness.

That being said, the town around the port is not very nice. Although Roatan is the safest part of Honduras, I would recommend getting a cab (walk out of the port completely to find them) to hang out at one of their famous beaches if you aren’t going to take a tour here.

Roatan is known for world-class diving, and as someone who has dived around the world, from Egypt to Mexico and Hawaii, I can see why. Roatan is part of an island group that sits along the southern end of the MesioAmerican Barrier Reef System. The reef sits close to Roatan Island, so diving is convenient. There are huge corral heads and many gorgeous creatures, from brightly colored fish and lobsters to sharks.

We booked a dive with Roatan Divers. Two of us SCUBA dove and the other two snorkeled off the same boat. It was a top-notch dive shop all around. They also connected us with a driver who took us on an island tour after our dives and to meet sloths and monkeys.

what to do in Roatan Honduras
A view of Royal Caribbean’s port from a vista with shops our driver brought us to.

After our dives, we went to Mayan Eden to meet the sloths and monkeys. They also have ziplining, birds, and restaurants and is within walking distance from the Roatan port that Royal Caribbean uses. It is not fancy by any means, but the animals did seem happy and well-tended. A guide will help you interact with sloths, monkeys, and birds. The sloths are adorable and cuddly. The monkeys are playful and crazy. If you would like to take a tour for this part of the experience but skip the diving, check out this tour, which includes rum and chocolate tasting.

dving in Roatan Honduras
Because of the wind when we visited, we dove Shark Bay, instead of the island’s north side, which is supposed to be even better.

I heard nothing but bad things about horseback riding tours in Roatan. Here are a few other tours to check out:

Best Things to Do in Costa Maya

things to do in Costa Maya Mexico
The beaches of Mahahual, including the public beach below the Mahahual Lighthouse

Costa Maya is like Icy Strait Point, Alaska, an engineered cruise town in southeastern Mexico near the border of Belize. You can easily spend your whole day happily here without leaving port. The port has shops, pools, and beachside restaurants.

Hang at the Port

My favorite thing to do in the port was to tour its aviary. For $14 per person, you can walk on rope bridges over the harbor, see beautiful views, and enter large cages full of unique birds from around the world. Expect to spend an hour on this activity.

Chaccoben Mayan Ruins

What to see in Costa Maya
My family at one of the Mayan temples

We didn’t make plans for this port as we wanted to get up and off the boat at our leisure. We ended up booking a tour right outside the port area with Toucan Tours. My son decided that he would like to see the local Mayan ruins, Chaccoben. We have visited Tulum and Chichen Itza in the past, and this provided as much insight into the Mayan Empire, so it was well worth our time. Although we had to wait about half an hour for the tour to start, the van was comfortable, and drinks were provided for the 50-minute drives to and from the ruins.

The ruins are in varying degrees of discovery, so I enjoyed seeing temples still part of the jungle. Our guide did an excellent job at explaining the significance and history to kids and adults alike, and nothing felt rushed during our two-hour visit to Chaccoben.

Mahahual Beach

what to do in Costa Maya
Some of the rope bridges of Puerta Costa Maya’s aviary

Included in our tour was an hour-long stop at the local beach club, Tropicante, which was, of course, friends with the driver. We loved that we had a complimentary cabana and shallow water in which to swim. There is also a walking path and shopping. We enjoyed a drink, got a beachside massage, and had a nice swim.

The public portion of Mahahual Beach, which is around the Mahahual Lighthouse, is very close to the port, even within walking distance. But if you want to rent chairs and get food, grab a cab to bring you into the beach club area.

Things to Do in Cozumel

Things to do in Cozumel
The beach, chairs, and umbrellas at Playa Palancar, Cozumel

Cozumel is an island off the coast of Cancun, so depending on how long you want to travel for the day, you can see some of Cancun’s top sites or stay on the island.

A few of my favorite things to do on the Yucatan Peninsula are swimming with sea turtles in Tulum, swimming with whale sharks off of Cancun, and exploring cenotes. You can try this snorkeling adventure to see sea turtles on Cozumel.

In the past we took a private boat tour to Playa Cielo, which I loved. On the tour,  you snorkel in a few places, including a shallow spot with many giant starfish. At the end of the tour you enjoy boat time at a secluded beach. I highly recommend it.

What to do on Cozumel Mexico
Although they might be a deterrent to some, Playa Palancar has a pack of friendly raccoons and a few coatis.

The other option that most people do is to take a cab to a beach club. We wanted a quieter one, so we went to the farthest club, Playa Palancar. For this club, you do not need to book ahead. For around $40 per person, we had lunch on the beach, loungers and umbrellas, and a few drinks. They also have a less expensive option to visit. There are jetskis and snorkels for rent on the property. It is not fancy, but we enjoyed ourselves and ate excellent fish ceviche for lunch.

Another spot to check out is Punta Sur, an ecological national park.

This trip was the perfect cruise for our family, who wanted a low-key February escape from the New England cold. Have you visited these cruise ports? What did you do with your time in port?

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