I have been to Cozumel Mexico several times now and it is always my favorite stop of the cruise. After coming from Jamaica and Cayman Islands, I got to speak Spanish after two years of no practice! I also had a lot of chocolate samples at the chocolate factory and saw the Mayan ruins. Cozumel has so many attractions, you would have to make the difficult decision whether you want to spend your day on a perfect white-sand beach swimming or wandering the streets of a new, colorful city and trying new food. If you are getting off the ship for just a few hours, you might want to come back again for longer.
Cozumel is one of the largest Mexican islands and has been a beloved tourist destination for a long time. There is something for everyone on the island. You can visit beautiful beaches, go diving and snorkeling, swim with stingrays or dolphins, sample some of the delicious food and beverages that the island has to offer, or visit an archaeological site to learn about Mayan culture. Here I just have my favorite options and also tips for exploring Cozumel Mexico on your own.
Should You Take an Excursion or Explore Cozumel Mexico on Your Own?
I have been to Cozumel several times now, including once on Carnival Dream and on Norwegian Escape. If you’re wondering whether or not it’s safe to see Cozumel on your own, I would say it’s one of the best places to do so. There are many hotels and resorts in Cozumel, so Cozumel citizens are used to tourists and like them a lot. Of course, you should always be cautious and aware of your surroundings, but Cozumel is one of the safer places in Central America. Now, if you’re in Cozumel and want to go off the beaten path, you won’t find much public transportation to do so. When we got off at the Norwegian Escape at Cozumel, we really didn’t have a plan and wanted to see what’s out there. We expected to get off near San Miguel, but instead, we were a few miles from the city center. So, we rented a moped in Mexico!
Renting a Moped in Cozumel Sounds a Little Adventurous, Doesn’t it?
I felt adventurous. Renting a moped in a different country can feel quite scary. But, the main road around the island is mostly one-way and it is a beautiful drive. If you know how to drive a motorcycle, this is the best way to explore the island.
Tips for Renting a Moped in Cozumel
- Don’t rent a moped in the cruise terminal. A price at the terminal is $80, and as soon as you step out, price drops to $35. And yes, it was $40 at first, but the person at the office dropped it to $35 without us even asking.
- Don’t forget about the travel insurance. The right dealer will offer you travel insurance, it’s not much and you should definitely take it. Be adventurous, but cautious – my motto for this trip!
- Ask for advice about the best places to stop, but take it with a grain of salt. There is a lot to explore in Cozumel and I am sure the locals have some insight for the best locations.
- Take the ocean-side roadway around the island, making stops along the way.
- The road along the eastern side of the island is heavily patrolled by police and park rangers. If you need help, they are always happy to help. Call free roadside assistance by the number 078 and for other emergencies call 911.
- The speed limit on the coastal road is 40-70 km/h (or 24-44 mph).
Best Things to Do in Cozumel (on your own or not)
With its serene ocean coves and tropical atmosphere, Dolphinaris Cozumel is a great place to swim with dolphins. It is conveniently located right in downtown Cozumel Mexico and offers 40-minute dolphin interactions as well as unlimited food and drinks after your swim. You can also go snorkeling, kayaking, and paddleboarding for an additional fee. This experience is truly magical and it’s a perfect way to start off your day on the island.
Participate in the Amazing Cozumel Race
If you love The Amazing Race on television, this is your chance to compete in a real-life version of it. Just like the TV show, you follow clues and discover secrets to solve a mystery, all while trying to beat everyone else to the finish line. You can take your time and enjoy your surroundings and learning more about Mexican culture while solving the mystery, too. This race takes place on foot through the streets of San Miguel and along the shore, and the locals are in on the fun and happy to point you in the right direction. This one is great for families, but wear walking shoes and expect it to get hot!
Mexican owned and operated, Discover Mexico Cozumel Park introduces visitors to the rich cultural world of Mexico. The park’s main attraction is the garden that is home to reproductions of some of Mexico’s most iconic landmarks. Visitors can also enjoy the Papantla flyers show, the gift shop that sells local handicrafts, the restaurant, and the margarita center. Try out the José Cuervo tequila seminar, the Kaokao chocolate workshop, and the taco buffet, while you are there. This is a great place for anyone interested in local culture!
During Lunch: Go Bar Hopping in Cozumel
You can drink pretty cheap and have real Mexican food at Three Amigos and other restaurants and bars. At the pier area, you’ll see Three Amigos and several other restaurants. These places are typically much cheaper than drinking on the ship. And if you feel like it, you should go exploring the streets of San Miguel while visiting different bars on the way. Some of the restaurants hidden in the streets and squares of San Miguel are delicious.
The ancient Mayan culture is so fascinating! The San Gervasio Mayan Archaeological Site is especially interesting as it was required for Mayan women to visit this site at least once during their lives. This one is the only official archaeological site on the island. It was a sanctuary to the ancient goddess Ixchel, Mayan goddess of fertility and love. The site is open every day of the week between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., with an admission fee of 70 pesos. Facilities include restrooms, a snack bar, free parking, and handicrafts and souvenirs for sale.
Visit the Mayan Cacao Company
How about some dessert in the afternoon? The Mayan Cacao Company is a great place to discover the origins of chocolate in the land of their creators: The Mayans. Did you know that the cocoa beans once had so much value that they were used as a form of currency? Originally prepared only as a drink, chocolate was served very bitter and mixed with spices or corn puree. At the Mayan Cacao Company, which is conveniently located right next to the Playa Mia beach, you can listen to a very informative lecture on the history of chocolate and how it was made. You will be able to try plenty of samples, including pure chocolate like the ancient Mayans would make it. They also offer unique chocolate creations studded with chili, lime, honey, and other natural flavorings. If you are a chocoholic like me, you will love it.
Relax on the Beach in Cozumel, Mexico
Among other all-inclusive beaches, you can go to Mr. Sanchos Beach Club. For about $55 per person, you get full access to a nice beach with beautiful water, pools, chairs, all you can eat/drink, showers, lockers, and more. It’s an easy way to enjoy the island’s beaches and get food and drink all at one price.
Traveler’s Tip: If you dock at the main cruise pier (the one that’s south of San Miguel), you can lounge on a free beach with great views of the ship. As you leave the pier, hang a left past Fat Tuesday’s. Walk down a bit and on your left you’ll see a small beach with a number of loungers. The sand is white and soft, but there isn’t water access. Still, it’s free and convenient, I recommend relaxing there for a few minutes and then go exploring San Miguel.
Another great free beach is near Punta Sur Eco Park. The waves are pretty hard, so don’t try to swim out too far. But, we saw quite a few people snorkeling.
Explore the San Miguel City Center
San Miguel has a lot of food options and a very beautiful plaza. You should spend a couple of hours there to eat authentic Mexican food and shop before returning to your ship!
Souvenir Shop at the Pier
From t-shirts to glassware to Mexican art, the area around the cruise piers has something for everyone. You can take time to stroll through the shopping areas and find anything you want with “Cozumel” written on it. When it comes to souvenirs, there are so many options, just don’t forget to “negotiate” the price. The street vendors are used to it, they even sell things at a higher price, so that they can negotiate if needed.
Cozumel Mexico offers plenty of duty-free shopping where you can pick up alcohol, cigarettes, chocolate, jewelry and more at good prices. You’ll make your way through the duty-free area as you make your way off the ship, so don’t worry about missing it. You should be a smart shopper, however, and know what’s a fair price before you shop. Don’t just assume you’re getting a good deal.
Traveler’s Tip: If you would like to look for some authentic souvenirs, you should get black coral jewelry. Cozumel is one of only two places in the world to buy black coral. Plus, it is inexpensive and would make a special gift instead of just a Cozumel magnet. But please, do be aware of fake black coral (plastic) being sold instead and make sure the black coral is “certified”.
Bonus Tip: Visit one of Cozumel’s many Tequila factories and sample it! Don’t be tricked into buying a lot of it, you can find it for cheaper in one of the stores or on the ship. One of the factories sold it at $150 per bottle, which is outrageous if you ask me!
Are you going to Cozumel Mexico soon? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!