Cozumel is an island oasis off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. This attractive island is a hugely popular stop on Western Caribbean cruise itineraries. When you step off the ship, you’ll know why. The blue-green waters are mesmerizing, and the weather is always sunny. (The average daily temperature is above 80 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.)
If you are a frequent cruiser and love the Caribbean, you probably have been on a cruise that stops in Cozumel. Or maybe you’re planning your first cruise, you’ll be heading to Cozumel and you want to know what to do when you arrive.
We’ve got you covered either way because Cozumel is packed with all kinds of fun things to check out whether you like exploring nature, culture or perhaps a good mix of both.
Note: You won’t find Carlos ‘n Charlie’s or Senor Frog’s recommended on this list.
RELATED: Best Things to Do in Cozumel on a cruise
An All-Inclusive Beach Day
If you came to the Caribbean to enjoy the beaches, Cozumel has some of the best. And you can optimize your time by getting yourself to one of the several all-inclusive beach clubs. Look for clubs like Mr. Sancho’s Beach Club, El Cid La Ceiba Beach and Playa Mia Beach and Water Park that feature all the amenities you want for a fun day. You get pristine white sands leading to the ocean, lounge chairs, umbrellas, Wi-Fi, towels, swimming pools, food and beverages, and watersports activities.
Shopping at the Market
Whether you are docked at the International Pier or Punta Langosta cruise terminal in downtown San Miguel, you will find plenty of opportunities to shop at small businesses and wrangle over prices for a range of items. Beware: Some goods are junky knockoffs; be patient to find cool handmade crafts.
About a four-minute stroll from the International Pier, Royal Village Shopping Center is a nice mall that features a blend of big name retailers like Diamonds International and small businesses that sell items like Mexican pottery and clothing.
The options expand greatly if you are shopping downtown. Vendors sell souvenirs, foods and other items set up in kiosks and under tents at the town square Plaza del Sol in San Miguel. Head down the streets away from the waterfront, and you’ll find dozens of funky shops selling artwork, hammocks, ceramics and wood carvings.
Walking the Malecon
You can enjoy a safe easy walk along the waterfront along Avenue Rafael E. Melgar for the three miles between the International Cruise Pier and downtown San Miguel. This stretch is home to tiny beaches, quaint bars, watersports centers, shopping opportunities and incredibly picturesque scenery. Joggers will also like this route. You can head out with no specific plans and find a great swimming hole and lunch spot for a fun, flexible day ashore.
If you’re in Mexico, you are going to be tempted by tequila, and numerous tequila tours are available. You can book one independently or check what your ship offers as a shore excursion. Guides give an overview of the history and production process, and you likely will be treated to margaritas and sipping tequila to try as well as some tasty treats like chips and salsa.
Cozumel is surrounded by beautiful warm waters. So, why not plan to take advantage and dive right in? You can book a power boat or catamaran outing that includes swimming, beach stops, drinks, lunch or snacks, and snorkeling.
San Miguel de Cozumel is the island’s lone town, and it is filled with interesting places to check out, whether you are doing your own walking tour or booking a formal tour of San Miguel. Street musicians are on display, and El Museo features work by local artists and exhibits highlighting Cozumel’s history and heritage. El Mercado is the traditional marketplace, and other downtown highlights include the Zolaco, a pretty town square, restaurants, cafes and the small San Miguel Church.
Diving in at Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park
This marine park is situated close to the cruise port area and features a wide array of amenities that will please families. A pretty beach offers a lagoon swimming area that is protected from rough ocean surf. The complex also offers tequila tastings, dolphin experiences, snorkeling and diving tours, ziplining, gardens, nature trails and sea lion shows.
Discovering the Ruins
Cruisers can book excursions that take them to the mainland via ferry to see the popular ruins attractions like Chichen Itza, Coba or Tulum. These archaeological sites are fascinating and reveal the daily lives, technological advancements, religious ceremonies, building methods and sporting activities of the ancient Mayan people. These tours require long days ashore to get to and from the sites. The San Gervasio ruins on Cozumel is of much smaller scale, but it’s worth a visit to this wildlife park and refuge if you want to mix in a visit to ruins with other things during your limited time ashore.
Exploring Punta Sur Ecological Reserve
This natural wonder is part of the Cozumel Reefs National Park, which is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef system, the second-largest in the world (to the Great Barrier Reef). The Punta Sur reserve, located about 18 miles from San Miguel on the southernmost point of the island, offers some of the best snorkeling and diving in the Caribbean. You also can enjoy the beach and check out the views from the Celerain Point Lighthouse and the wetlands that are home to migratory birds and alligators.
Venturing to El Mirador
Located on the “other side of Cozumel,” this East Coast attraction is notable for its rugged natural beauty. El Mirador Lookout features magnificent crashing waves and stunning rock formations. This activity is best done on a private taxi tour and is mostly a great chance to get cool photos on the side of Cozumel that looks out toward Cuba and Jamaica.
John Roberts is a freelance writer and operator of InTheLoopTravel.com. He writes about cruising and active travel, highlighting how people can connect with the world and other cultures through rewarding travel experiences.