There are many things to do in Cozumel – Mexico’s largest Caribbean Island. When we mention Cozumel to other travellers, their eye’s glaze over and they imagine silvery white sandy beaches, swaying palm trees and an azure blue ocean. Cozumel certainly offers all of that and much more.
When backpacking Mexico, you may just want to chill out on this Caribbean Island (only 30 miles long and 10 miles wide), and we understand completely. But, after visiting here, we would recommend you leave the beach behind and experience the many things to do in Cozumel.
Would you be able to fit in a submarine tour, snorkelling the 2nd largest coral reef in the world, visiting a Mayan archaeological site or trying an ancient Mayan chocolate recipe in just a few days? Probably not!
We highly recommend that you plan a minimum of a week to see all the things to do in Cozumel, you may even want to plan 2 weeks. With numerous incredible things to do in Mexico, make sure Cozumel is on your list.
Where is Cozumel?
The Island of Cozumel or “Isla Cozumel” as it’s known in Spanish is located 12 miles off the coast opposite Playa del Carmen in the Yucatan Peninsula. Cancun, known as “Mexico’s top party destination” is 45 miles to the north of Cozumel.
Cozumel is the quieter alternative to Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Actually, one of the best things to do in Playa del Carmen is to take a ferry across to tranquil Cozumel. In Playa del Carmen, the terminal is located downtown near the main square. In just 45 minutes, you’ll cross the sea and arrive in Cozumel. Click here for the Cozumel Ferry schedule, which includes costs.
When is The Best Time to Visit Cozumel?
Mexico travel can be enjoyed year-round, but the best time to visit Cozumel is during the months from March to June, before the hurricane season commences. The hottest months are July and August which coincides with the hurricane season that lasts until November. Winter is Cozumel’s busiest period and it runs from December through to March.
Now that you know when to visit and how to get there, here’s my list of the top things to do in Cozumel that you don’t want to miss!
1. Punta Sur Ecological Park
Punta Sur Eco Beach is the best beach on the Island, and a visit to this eco park is definitely one of the top things to do in Cozumel. This area is located on the south of the island and covers an area of 2,500 acres. Here you’ll find exotic birds, crocodiles, sea turtles, beautiful flowers and beautiful beaches – the perfect place for nature lovers.
If you don’t feel like snorkelling the reef or visiting the lighthouse (see below), you can just hang out on hammocks and enjoy the sun. There’s an entrance fee for this park ($14 USD for adults and $8 for children), but in my opinion, it’s worth it. Click here to learn more and to pre-purchase your tickets.
Within the Punta Sur Eco Park is the Celarain Lighthouse, which was constructed to warn sailors at night of the dangers of running aground off the southern coast of Cozumel. The Lighthouse is now part of a maritime museum. For 360 degree views of the Island, you can climb the 127 steps to the top. On a clear day you can even see the coast of Cuba, but unfortunately for us, that was not the case.
Entrance fees to the Punta Sur Eco Park include the Celerain Lighthouse.
A 40 minute tour of the Marshlands of Punta Sur Ecological Park is also available. They can’t guarantee that you will see any crocodiles on the day of the tour, but you will see many species of birds especially the roseate spoonbill.
The Punta Sur Ecological Park has so much to see and do, there’s even a Mayan Ruin here. El Caracol ruin – also called Tumba del Caracol because of its small size – dates back to 1200-1500 AD.
Caracol means snail in Spanish and the ruins were named this because of the snails that decorate the small dome on the top of the temple. The structure was built as an early hurricane warning system for the Mayan people. The roof was constructed in a way that the strong breeze gave a humming noise alerting the Mayans of the impending danger.
2. Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park
Just 10 minutes away from the Cruise Port is Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park. The name Chankanaab in Mayan means ‘small sea’. The beach is perfect for snorkelling where you can see schools of colourful fish, the vibrant Mesoamerican Reef (the 2nd largest coral reef in the world), plus an array of underwater statues that create a unique museum.
It’s important to note that the park is closed on Sundays, but from Monday to Saturday it’s open from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. The cost of entry for adults (as of 2018) is $21 per person and for children aged between 3 and 11 years, the cost is $14. I suggest you bring your children’s passports as they do check the age. The park can be quite busy when Cruise Ships are in.
*Note that Goats On The Road does not condone any tourism activities that involve cruelty to animals, or promotes their captivity. This Adventure Park, and many places to visit in Mexico offer tours such as swimming with dolphins. Please be a responsible traveller and consider where you want to spend your tourism dollars, and avoid any animal shows or activities. It’s way more fun to see the animals in the wild anyways! Go snorkelling or on a boat tour and have a more authentic experience with the wildlife.
A unique way of experiencing Chankanaab underwater is by a tour from Seatrek. Seatrek runs ‘helmet diving tours’. The fully enclosed helmet sits neatly on your shoulders and a steady stream of air assists you in breathing. If you wear prescription glasses no problem, you can still wear them in the helmet as you walk along the bottom of the ocean at around 20 – 25 feet. Bookings for this tour can be made direct at Seatrek.
4. Atlantis Submarines
In Barbados, we had the opportunity to experience a night dive with Atlantis Submarines. In Cozumel, they offer 3 daytime departures at 10:00am, 12 noon and 1:pm. During the dive, you will visit the Felipe Xicotencatl wreck that sank in 2000 plus colourful schools of fish, sharks, turtles, stingrays and lobsters. For more information and the latest prices click here.
5. Cozumel Private Jeep Tour With Lunch and Snorkelling
One of the best activities to do in Cozumel is a private Jeep Tour with lunch and the opportunity to go snorkelling. The tour comes with your own private guide which means that he knows the best secluded beaches to go snorkelling and swimming without the crowds.
Included in the tour is tequila tasting, a Mexican lunch of tacos and of course a margarita or two! For more information click here.
6. Sail The Waters Off Cozumel in a Catamaran
This is definitely one of the best things to do in Cozumel! There are many things to see around the island and hopping aboard a catamaran is the best way to do so.
You can either relax on board enjoying drinks and snacks or you can snorkel the reef and check out the abundant sea life. When you’re snorkelling you’ll have the chance to spot some sea turtles, stingrays and maybe a shark or two. The waters around Cozumel are abundant with marine life and are safe for swimming and snorkelling.
7. Enjoy a Pirate Cruise With A Lobster Dinner
An Old Spanish Galleon will whisk you away from the port for a splendid 2.5 hour cruise with lots of games and dancing. This is a fun night full of adventure while enjoying a delicious lobster dinner. If lobster isn’t to your liking, they have options of steak and chicken. As the sun goes down you can enjoy one of Mexico’s amazing sunsets with a Margarita or a cold beer in your hand.
8. Visit the Cozumel Pearl Farm
A visit to the family owned and operated Cozumel Pearl Farm is a unique experience where you are taken to a secluded beach on an uninhabited area of Cozumel by boat.
The first part of the tour is a demonstration and explanation of pearl farming techniques. The second part of the tour takes you to the pearl hatchery itself where you can snorkel to view how the pearls are grown, while learning how a reef grows and viewing the underwater life-size Virgen de Guadalupe statue.
The rest of your time is spent either swimming in the warm azure waters or lazing in one of the many hammocks, and of course, enjoying your lunch with drinks which are included. Click here to learn more.
9. Check out the Mayan Cacao Company
Just 15 minutes from downtown Cozumel and next to Playa Mia Beach Club is the Mayan Cacao Company. Who doesn’t love chocolate?! One thing that the Mayans did well was to produce chocolate from the beans of the cacao trees. Another great place to check out the cacao is in San Cristobal de las Casas.
After the fermenting, drying and roasting process, they ground the beans into a paste, added hot water and made the first hot chocolate drink. The tour lasts for 70 minutes and you can try ancient Mayan recipes and of course buy some of the tasty chocolate.
For more details on the Mayan Cacao Company and ticket prices click here.
10. Visit the El Mirador
El Mirador is located on the east side of the Island of Cozumel, 30 minutes from downtown. Hire a moped, rent a car or take a private taxi here. It’s a naturally beautiful spot where the sea has carved an arch in the rocks over the years. You can climb to the top for stunning views.
This is an excellent place to avoid the crowds and if you’re looking to relax, a visit to El Mirador is one of the best things to do in Cozumel.
☞ For other natural rock formations surrounded by water, don’t miss Lands End, one of the top things to do in Cabo San Lucas.
11. Swim and Snorkel at Playa Chen Rio
Cozumel has some of the best beaches in Mexico. Playa Chen Rio is suitable for all levels of swimmers and snorkellers with its protected area and shallow waters. Playa Chen Rio is located on the east coast, less popular than those beaches that are located on the west coast, and perfect if you want to get away from the crowds.
12. Enjoy Playa Uva Sur
Playa Uva Sur is located on the west coast and is the exact opposite of Playa Chen Rio (above). This beach is an upmarket experience, where you can hire kayaks, laze on sun beds or enjoy the Beach Club.
The Uvas Beach Club has an entrance fee of $15 for the basic package which includes a welcome drink, snorkel gear, 30 minute guided snorkel tour, 30 minutes of kayaking, the marine park fees and you’ll have access to the chairs, umbrellas, wifi, hammocks and the restaurant/bar. You can upgrade to premium packages which include open bar. For more information click here.
☞ SEE ALSO: Manzanillo Colima – The Ultimate Travel Guide
13. Visit the Capital of Cozumel – San Miguel
Since San Miguel is located on the west coast, one of the best activities here is to walk the broad sidewalk along the seafront at sunset. During the day when the cruise ships are in port the sidewalk is very busy with cruise passengers, but outside of that time, it’s fairly quiet.
In the middle of San Miguel is the Zocalo (a central park), every Mexican city or town has a Zocalo. It’s a meeting place for locals or a spot to sit down and just ‘people watch’. If you are in Cozumel on a Sunday evening head to the Zocalo at around 8:00 pm for many free events.
☞ In Mexico, you’ll find numerous seaside promenades with zocalos and free activities going on. Don’t miss wandering along the Malecon and seeing street performers, these are some of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta, La Paz and many other Mexican cities.
14. Go Shopping
If you are in need of some ‘retail therapy’ during your trip, there are many opportunities for shopping in Cozumel. These are some of the main shopping areas where you’ll find clothing, souvenirs, jewelry and more:
- Puerta Maya
- Punta Langosta Mall
- Royal Village Cozumel
- Plaza del Sol in San Miguel
15. Experience Temazcal Cozumel
A Temazcal is an ancient Mayan ceremony, and while it’s one of the top things to do in Cancun, it’s also an incredible experience here in Cozumel. You’ll enter into a brick hut which is warmed by volcanic rocks – similar to an experience in a sauna – and will be greeted by a Shaman. During the Temazcal ritual, your body is put through a process of cleansing, relaxing and purification. It ends with a cooling swim in the nearby cenote.
The whole ceremony is a very spiritual experience and if you have a chance, don’t miss it. This is one of the most unique things to do in Cozumel.
16. Scuba Diving (one of the best things to do in Cozumel)
Scuba Diving along the Mesoamerican Reef is second to none. If you are an advanced scuba diver, you have the option to dive advanced sites in Cozumel like Maracaibo, Devil’s Throat, Cathedral or Barracuda. If you haven’t tried scuba diving before, there are PADI courses available.
17. Eat at Local Mexican Restaurants
Mexican Cuisine is our favourite. Eating street food is one of the best things to do in Mexico City, but if you’re not heading to the capital, you’ll still be spoiled for choice in Cozumel. Think burritos, tacos, tortas, ceviche, enchiladas, churros and of course drinks such as Tequila, Margaritas and a chilled Corona with a slice of lime.
Some of our favourite Cozumel restaurants are:
- Crazy King Burrito – Calle 4 Norte 5 in Centro San Miguel
- Tacy y Tequila – Avenue Rafael Melgar Plaza Punta Langosta
- Cuatro Tacos – Calle 3 Sur 5ta y Melga
18. Cozumel Chef Food Tour (one of the top things to do in Cozumel for foodies)
If you enjoy food tours Cozumel Chef Food Tour is the one for you. The tour takes you to several different Cozumel restaurants where you enjoy a Mexican dish and a local drink. The places you will visit are off the usual tourist path, meaning you’ll be eating like a local. Even vegetarians are well catered for during this tour. For more information and booking, click here.
19.Ha Haak Paddleboarding Cozumel
If you are a regular paddleboarder Cozumel will ‘wow’ you with its crystal clear blue waters, and if you’re a beginner, this is the place to learn. Ha Haak provides a super easy intro lesson for first-timers that you will get you up in no time.
Ha Haak’s location at Mr Sancho’s Cozumel Beach Club, South Hotel Zone, is the perfect place to enjoy the sport. For more details click here.
20. Deep Sea Fishing
For Deep Sea Fishing enthusiasts, Cozumel is the perfect location and one of the top companies (Chi Chi Charters) offers an awesome experience. Even if you’re not a hardcore fishermen, this is still one of the best things to do in Cozumel.
Barracuda, mahi mahi and trigger fish are some of the local catch around Cozumel. You can catch tuna all year round, and from March to July white and blue marlin and sailfish are available. For more information and bookings click here.
21. Watch Sunset
At the end of the day nothing beats a good sunset with a cocktail in hand. We recommend checking out El Palomar Restaurant and Bar on the west side of the island. If you head north about 5 minutes from the Ferry Terminal you will be greeted by El Palomar, who have actually stopped serving plastic straws, way to go! A margarita on the porch at sunset is a great way to end the day.
Ready for Cozumel?!
Cozumel is a true island paradise. It’s laid back just like the locals and offers the visitor a quieter atmosphere than its coastal neighbours. This island offers the best of adventures under the sea – where else in the world could you visit an underwater museum, dive to the bottom of the ocean onboard a submarine or snorkel around a pearl farm?!
Cozumel is an island that will wake you up with sunrise on the eastern side, while just 10 miles across the island, you can enjoy a sundowner on the west coast. There are numerous fun things to do in Cozumel and we hope this list gave you some good ideas of where to start.
Goats On The Road Recommended
Travel Resources for Cozumel
✓ Wondering where to stay in Cozumel? There are numerous accommodation options on Booking.com – from luxury resorts to midrange hotels and cute guesthouses. Goats On The Road uses and recommends Booking.com due to their awesome cancellation policy, discounts and deals. Click here to see properties available in Cozumel, Mexico.
✓ With all of the adventurous things to do in Cozumel, it’s important to have adequate travel insurance. Goats On The Road have used and recommend World Nomads (one of the most popular options for travellers). Click here for a free quote.
✓ If you’d like to rent a car in Cozumel or any other place in Mexico, we recommend checking out the prices on Expedia.com. Be warned though, in Mexico, you’ll have to pay around $15 more per day for a mandatory insurance fee. Goats On The Road always uses Expedia for our car rentals. Click here to find the latest prices.
✓ For tours, activities and other things to do in Cozumel, check out Get Your Guide for low prices and excellent service. Always cross reference your tours with reviews and find one that suits your needs.
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