Being an island, it stands to reason much of the action on Cozumel centers around the surrounding water where you can go diving, snorkeling or just lounge beach-side.
For those looking for an alternative to a beach day, you can rent a scooter or jeep and head to the less-visited parts of island where you’ll find old ruins, a marine park and beautiful scenery. And if you’re feeling a bit wild, head straight into the jungle.
Are you ready to experience Cozumel? Here are the top 10 things to do when cruising to the Caribbean island of Cozumel.
Cozumel rates among the top dive destinations in the world and is known as the world’s drift diving capital. Experienced divers head to Palancar Reef to spot sea turtles, rays, eels and caves dotted with huge brain coral. Less-experienced divers can try the shallower Palancar Gardens. Book through your ship or find a reputable dive shop. Diving costs vary, starting around $60 plus wetsuit rental. The minimum age to dive is generally 10 and you will need to be scuba certified.
Not into scuba? The snorkeling at Chankanaab National Marine Park is dazzling, with colorful fish darting around underwater sculptures. Families delight in up-close encounters with dolphins (from $59 to $179) and gentle manatees ($59).
This beachfront park is a great choice for small children. It’s about six miles south of San Miguel and easy to reach by cab, which would cost about $9. Entrance fees are $21 for adults and $14 for children ages 3-11. There are showers, bathrooms and lockers. You can rent snorkel gear in the park, but we also recommend bringing your own snorkel gear.
Think swimming with dolphins is awesome? Ramp it up by being a dolphin trainer for a day at Dolphinaris. For $195 you get to practice hand signals on the dolphins before swimming with them. Dolphinaris is a short taxi ride from the piers. Book ahead with your ship or directly with Dolphinaris before your cruise.
Options abound for a day at the beach. Check out these choices in the calmer southwest shore. Paradise Beach features Cozumel’s largest heated pool, and the $3 admission will get you a beach chair. A $15 Fun Pass will get you snorkel gear, inflatable toys, a kayak and stand-up paddleboard. There’s actually great snorkeling at the end of the dock on Paradise Beach and tons of inflatable water slides and trampolines. There’s also a full-service bar and restaurant that makes great tacos and takes your order beachside. But beware that this beach gets packed if there are a lot of ships in port.
Just north, Mr. Sancho’s Beach Club (free admission) offers island drinks, snacks, snorkel rental and ATV tours. For a family-friendly beach, check out Playa San Francisco where tiny tots can build sandcastles and the entrance fee of $8 includes use of umbrellas, chairs and the swimming pool. You can book these Beach trips through the cruise line or go the DIY route for a taxi fare of about $15 each way.
Whether you’re into fly fishing, deep-sea fishing or sport fishing, there’s a boat waiting to take you away. Marlin and sailfish season runs from March to June. Throughout the year, cast your line for dorado, bonito, swordfish, barracuda or wahoo. We recommend booking these fishing trips through the cruise line and your chances are greater to actually catch a fish if the fish are in season. Unfortunately you can not bring the fish back on the cruise ship so they’re a catch and release. On certain fishing excursions the crew will clean the fish and you can have one of the local restaurants cook it for you for lunch.
Punta Sur Eco Beach Park at Cozumel’s southern tip is great for everyone, with white sand beaches, mangroves, exotic birds and crocodiles. Giant sea turtles come here between June and August to lay their eggs. While you’re at Punta Sur Eco Beach Park, check out the Navigation and Cultural Museum and climb the Celarain Lighthouse tower for fabulous views. Admission is $14 for adults; $8 for kids aged 3-11.
San Miguel, the island’s main town, has a laid-back Mexican vibe in the shady Plaza del Sol and the morning market located at the corner of Avenida 25 and Rosado Salas. Learn about local lore at the downtown Island Museum, Avenida Rafael Melgar and Avenida 4, Admission is $4; kids under 8 are free.
Hop on a horse to experience the island from a Mexican cowboy’s viewpoint. Jungle rides take you off the beaten path to see orchids, iguanas and butterflies. Your ride may take you to a cenote (natural well) for a swim, for a trot on the beach or to Rancho Buenavista an area once frequented by the Maya. You’re given a brief riding lesson and paired with a horse fitting your ability. Tours last about five hours and cost about $89. Transport is provided from cruise piers.
San Gervasio, the largest Mayan archeological site on Cozumel, served as a sanctuary for the goddess of fertility, Ixchel. The site includes a central plaza, civic buildings and temples dating from 300 A.D. to 1500. Explore on your own or with a guide. Admission is $5; kids under 10 years old are free. Get there by taxi or book through the cruise line. Be sure to pack sturdy sneakers and bug spray.
Tulum, Mexico’s only seaside Mayan ruins, rates as one of Cozumel’s most popular shore excursions. With the ruins located on the Mexican mainland, the ferry ride, bus trip and tour takes all day. This is one amazing adventure best booked with your ship. Cost is about $90 for a seven-hour tour.
Getting around the island.
Cozumel measures just 10 miles by 30 miles and is easy to get around by taxi. Fares from the cruise piers start at around $7 for northern beaches and $20 for tourist spots on the south shore. Ships dock at one of two ports on the exact western side of the island facing Playa del Carmen.
You can rent a car or open-air Jeep from Hertz or Avis, or a scooter from one of the local businesses, but note there are only a few gas stations on the island. If you’re cruising aboard Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line or some Carnival ships you will be docked at Punta Langosta Terminal (or the Cozumel Downtown Pier), just blocks away from the town center of Cozumel. Here you’ll find about 12 blocks of oceanfront shops, restaurants and bars. Cabs are just about everywhere in this area.
Most other ships dock at TMM International Cruise Ship Terminal and Pier (about five miles south of Punta Langosta Terminal). You’ll find a few shops, restaurants and bars at this pier, but not as many as Punta Langosta. As you exit the cruise terminal you will find a parking area with all the taxis. There are also people from the Cozumel Tourism Board standing near most of the large directories if you have any questions about where to go or how to get there.