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Cruise ship ports in Central America

Port Highlights: Exploring the Busiest Cruise Ship Ports in Central America

Cruising in 2023 is still big, and Central America is more of an attraction than ever for these ships. In this article we look at the top five cruise ship ports in Central America.

Here in Central America, we quite rightly tout each country in the region as a destination in its own right, worth visiting and exploring for an extended period. We’re the first to admit that cruising isn’t really our thing, and we want visitors to take a deeper dive into the region than a day or so in port.

But we would be arrogant to assume everyone wants to travel the way we want them to do. And cruising remains insanely popular. In fact, in 2021, almost 14 million passengers worldwide took to the seas on a cruise ship. The pandemic was damaging to the cruise ship industry, but it’s bounced back with a vengeance, with revenue totaling some $18 billion in 2022.

Numbers like that shouldn’t be sneezed at. And anyone who’s spent time on a Central American beach, Pacific or Caribbean, will have seen those big ships offshore, plying their way left or right, north or south. Where are they going? Where did they come from? Who’s aboard? Is that a public or a private cruise? Below, we provide the most obvious answers to the first two questions by listing the four busiest cruise ship ports in Central America:

Coxen Hole Port, Roatán, Honduras

In Central America, Honduras is the king of cruising and the island of Roatán is the jewel in the crown of said king. Roatán attracts so many cruise ships that it actually needs two ports to service them. And Coxen Hole Port is the main one, attracting 170 ships per year. No other Central American cruise ship port comes close. Managed by Royal Caribbean, three ships can dock at a time at this port. The port is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and offers a variety of amenities for cruise passengers, including duty-free shopping, restaurants, bars, and tour operators.

Fort Street Tourism Village, Belize City, Belize

Located in Belize City, the Fort Street Tourism Village is the main cruise ship center serving Belize. This is more of a tourist attracting serving passengers than a port in itself. Shallow waters around Belize City mean that the ships themselves anchor a couple of kilometers offshore – a 15-minute boat ride from the Fort Street Tourism Village. According to the Belize Tourism Board, Fort Street Tourism Village in Belize City received 96 cruise ships in 2021. The village boasts multiple courtyards, snack bars, and local duty-free shops. A variety of restaurants serve authentic Caribbean and international cuisine.

Mahogany Bay, Roatán, Honduras

Mahogany Bay is the second cruise ship port in Roatán. Built to ease some of the pressure on the Coxen Hole Port. Mahogany Bay opened in 2010 and can accommodate two ships at a time, or 8,000 passengers per day. Being a newer port than Coxen Hole, Mahogany Bay has more facilities for passengers who disembark. Mahogany Bay is wholly owned by Carnival, so the following cruise lines typically use this port:

  • Carnival Cruise Line
  • Princess Cruises
  • Holland America Line
  • Regent Seven Seas
  • Oceania

Harvest Caye, Belize

Harvest Caye is the second cruise ship terminal in Belize, located on a private island in the south of the country, not far from Placencia. This terminal (and the island itself) is owned by Norwegian Cruises, who have exclusive access to the island. Unlike Fort Street in Belize City, Harvest Caye has its own dock, meaning passengers don’t have to wait for boat transfers to and from the ship. The idea of Harvest Caye is to give passengers a tropical, “desert island” feel. After leaving the ship, they find a pool area with lounge chairs and a swim-up bar for relaxation. The beach area is ideal for swimming, shaded by palm trees. Over 370,000 Norwegian Cruises passengers visited Harvest Caye in 2021.

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Limón, Costa Rica

It might be a surprise to note that Puerto Limón, on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, makes the top five busiest cruise ports in Central America. Costa Rica, after all, is far more famous as an eco-destination than a cruise ship stop. But Costa Rica has become more popular with cruise ships in recent years, and most of them visit the Hernán Garrón Salazar terminal in Limón. Costa Rica’s only Caribbean port receives well over half of all cruise ships that come to Costa Rica. There’s not a great deal to do in Limón itself, and most passengers get straight onto buses to check out the sites elsewhere. Plans are in place, however, to upgrade Hernán Garrón Salazar into a state of the art terminal.

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The above cruise ship ports are all on the Caribbean side of Central America

This stands to reason as the Caribbean is the largest cruise ship market in the world, due in no small part to the proximity of Miami, the world’s biggest cruise line center. Some 38% of cruise ships operate in the Caribbean.

That said, cruise ships plying the Pacific do call into some Central American ports, including Puntarenas and Caldera in Costa Rica and Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala. In Panama City, Panama, there’s also a brand new terminal on the Amador Causeway. Chances are though, if you’re taking a Central American cruise, you’ll most likely be visiting the Caribbean terminals listed above.

CA Staff

CA Staff