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Guide to Mexican Riviera Cruise Excursions

Wondering how we got to Mexico? Click here to see our cabin aboard the cruise ship Norwegian Star!

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Look at us – so happy, so sun-kissed.

Planning our holiday cruise nine months in advance, we had plenty of time to research and pre-book our excursions, pocketing those sweet sweet discounts along the way. But how could we choose? Wading through beautiful photos of swimming with dolphins, guided city tours, ATV off-road adventures, zip-lining and rock climbing, whale watching, and parasailing, our minds spun with FOMO. Laying on the beach all afternoon wasn’t an option – we were ready to get active!

Taking a vote, we settled on three diverse excursions: snorkeling, electric biking, and making salsa.

First stop: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

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Climbing aboard the catamaran chartered to take us to our first excursion, we settle in for the hour-long trip along the coast, snapping photos of the gorgeous resorts nestled amongst dense jungle along the way. The endless beach fronts and gleaming hotels shone welcoming as we clipped along toward the serene beachfront of Majahuitas in Cabo Corrientes, Jalisco, Mexico that is only accessible by boat.

Donning our snorkels, flippers, and flotation devices, we jumped off the drifting vessel into warm blue-green water, near the sandy shore. I’d forgotten how much fun snorkeling is! Though we only saw a few fish here and there, the experience of comfortably breathing while fully submerged in water was dreamlike.

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Sea life was sparse in the open water, but lazy stingrays skirted along the sandy ocean floor, confidently out of reach. Swimming toward the rocky underwater cliffs, we encountered more movement. Families of dark, striped fish darted among the boulders while sneaky eels twirled near our feet.

Nearby, the rest of our excursion group chose different activities. Some scuba dove with bubbling oxygen tanks, some stood paddle boarding around the bay, while others glided by in brightly-colored canoes, or simply lounged on the beach with free drinks in hand.

After sandwiches and fresh fruit back on the catamaran, we headed to our next stop.

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In the small fishing village of Yelapa, we passed street vendors with colorful parrots on their shoulders standing in front of clay houses with children peeking out the door. A short ten minute hike through the jungle brought our group to this pristine waterfall for photos and a quick splash. Back on the Yelapa beach cove, we snacked on fresh shimp ceviche while wading through the crystal clear warm water, only to meet this handsome, scaly fellow under the cabana – Pedro the iguana!

On the boat ride back to the cruise ship, our friendly catamaran crew helped us pass the time by performing a musical show, complete with quick costume changes and Bruno Mars impersonations.

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Next stop: Mazatlán, Mexico

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Welcome to Salsa y Salsa at the Royal Villas Hotel and Resort!

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What is more quintessentially Mexican than salsa making and dancing the salsa? This shore excursion combined two fabulous aspects of Mexican culture into one delicious afternoon at a gorgeous ocean-front resort in the heart of Mazatlán. What I loved about our salsa-making lesson was that everything was chopped and smashed right at our table; no need for a complicated kitchen set up. Just a molcajete bowl and pestle to help grind up the fresh chiles and tomatillos, paired with a whole bunch of quesadillas and chips for scooping.

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You might not think to eat only salsa for a meal, but after three savory salsas, one Oaxacan-style guacamole, three sweet salsas, and endless margaritas, it takes some convincing to get up and learn to dance the salsa! Intriguingly, many of the recipes blended into each other, building flavor on flavor as they went. That is, if you didn’t eat all of one before making the next. Click here to see all the salsa and margarita recipes:

Which one will you make? Our favorites were the Tangy Green Salsa and Rompope Dessert Salsa.

As they proclaim in Mazatlán – “Salud, Dinero y Mucho Mucho Amor!”

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Of the dozens of cruise-goers who attended this excursion, Phoebe was called up to wear the fiesta sombrero and demonstrate how to make each recipe for the crowd. Looking good Phoebe!

Click here to learn more about the Salsa y Salsa excursion. Funny enough, the tour leader, Abi, was from England, having married a charming man from Mazatlán. Though once it was time to dance, she handed over our salsa lesson to Karla, a Mexican native. It’s all in the hips!

After chopping veggies all afternoon and stepping one two three to a hot salsa track, we finally caught our breath and lounged in the resort pool until it was time to head back to the cruise ship.

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Last stop: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

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Our week-long cruise was quickly coming to a close when we set off to the ocean-side desert of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Sun-drenched cactus fields stretched for miles on either side of the highway as we pulled up to a secluded, private ranch in the Baja outback. Passing corrals of friendly camels, we donned helmets, joint pads, and gloves while choosing which electric bike to claim for the afternoon ride along the beach.

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These fat-tire electric bikes are a cross between a regular bike and a moped, perfect for flying across a sandy beach with ease. Finding a balance between pedaling and using the throttle took a moment to get used to, and then we were off! Sailing down the untouched coastline, no buildings or sunbathing tourists for miles, our group leapt over sandy embankments and raced past spiky cactuses, steering clear of the ever-nearing waves. “Electricity and water don’t mix,” they warned, and we believed them.

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The beautiful Mexican outback. After a thrilling afternoon of fast-paced adventure, we slowed down long enough to enjoy homemade quesadillas filled with savory delights like poblano peppers, portobello mushrooms, and spicy pork, accented by authentic Mexican margaritas, hand-shaked and Tajin-rimmed during a group lesson moments before. This may have been our favorite excursion of all!

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Distant travelers on the “Mexican Outback and Camel Ride” excursion.

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Now with full knowledge of the fun that awaits you, you can book your next cruise excursion like a pro.

Word of advice from a (now) experienced cruise excursion-taker: rent the latest GoPro with a waterproof case. Ours was a lifesaver – we could capture action moments in all sorts of wet and dry environments without lugging around our expensive, professional camera, worrying about breaking it.

I would not recommend purchasing a GoPro unless you plan to use it all the time, because the better versions are constantly coming out, so it’s wiser to just rent the latest model when you need it.

Curious to see our cruise ship and cabin? Click here for a private tour.

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