Cozumel, Mexico’s largest island, just off the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, is home to beautiful crystal clear beaches, the second largest coral reef in the world, and world-class snorkel and scuba diving. This vibrant island is also the #1 cruise port in the Caribbean Sea, and for good reason! It’s the perfect city to explore while cruising. From snorkeling tours and exploring ancient Mayan ruins to exciting jeep tours, the shore excursions you can experience are endless.
The Ultimate Cozumel Shore Excursions Guide
There’s so much to see and do in Cozumel; it is one of the most popular cruise ship destinations in the world, and a wonderful port of call if you’re looking to explore beyond the beach.
A Short History Lesson
The island was settled by the Maya and later colonized by the Spanish in the 1500s, before it became largely abandoned. Cozumel was later reputed to be a pirate haven in the 16th and 17th centuries, its most famous buccaneer being American pirate Jean LaFitte. A few British settled here around the same time, for logging opportunities. The island repopulated with the 1848 Caste War, as people from the Mexican mainland sought refuge from the fighting.
Long a hub for trade and transportation, the island of Cozumel today is a Caribbean hotspot thanks to its beautiful beaches and snorkeling/scuba diving opportunities.
What is Cozumel known for?
People love Cozumel —and with good reason! This island has something for everyone, including beautiful beaches, secluded cenotes (underwater caves), incredible diving and snorkeling spots and, of course, those magnificent Mayan ruins and archaeological sites which date back thousands of years ago.
Best Time of Year to Visit
Cozumel can be enjoyed any time of the year, but it does tend to get a bit more humid in the summer months. The best time to go to Cozumel is between November-April, when you can expect lots of sun, blue skies, and warm, balmy temperatures.
If you’re looking for a tropical paradise without the crowds, consider visiting during the off-season (May–October). You’ll still enjoy sunny days and warm temperatures but without the crowds or high prices that accompany them. Keep in mind that June-November is the wet season as well as hurricane season.
How To Get Around
Cozumel is home to one of the most beautiful ports in the Caribbean. The cruise ships dock right next to downtown Cozumel, making it easy for you to disembark and spend the day experiencing all the island has to offer.
There are many ways to get around Cozumel that make it an easy place to explore on your own. You can rent a car or bike, take a taxi, or use public transportation.
Best Cozumel Shore Excursions You Should Definitely Do While Cruising
Cozumel shore excursions are special because they offer you the chance to experience the island in a way that’s both easy and fun.
When you’re looking for a great place to go onshore, there are a lot of options—and it can be hard to know where to start. We’re here to help! Check out these exciting choices:
For the Adventurer
We’re not going to beat around the bush: Cozumel is your island. You’ve got the adventure in your blood, and you want to explore the area to your heart’s content.
You can blaze through the jungle or canvass the roads in a Jeep, swim in the emerald green waters of Jade Caverns, and take to the sea to snorkel at El Cielo, the Columbia reef, or the splendid coral reef at National Marine Park.
And when you’re done with all that?
You can strap on a Sea Trek helmet and go helmet diving in the ocean waters — no diving experience or certificate required!
Cozumel is where you can do all those things — and more.
For the Families
If you’re bringing your family along for the ride, there are plenty of activities for everyone in your group.
At Parque Chankanaab you can go swimming with dolphins and snorkel in crystal clear waters. Alternatively, get up close to the world-famous Chankanaab Reef to watch barracudas, stingrays, and more with an exciting underwater submarine tour!
The shallow waters of El Cielo are great for younger swimmers, plus children of all ages will absolutely marvel at the giant starfish peeking back up at you through the turquoise water.
For the History Lover
If you’re more interested in ancient civilizations than modern ones, then you cannot leave Cozumel without exploring the Mayan city of Tulum. This ancient city is the only Mayan one that was built along the coastline, making it a strategic spot as well as a prime trade center. Walk along the massive limestone wall, view the beautiful art in the Temple of Frescoes, and explore in and around El Castillo (the Castle).
For the Foodies
If you’re into food, Cozumel is your paradise. The island has an incredible variety of cuisine — from traditional Mexican fare to international options like Italian and French. And what would a trip to Mexico be without sampling some of their famous tequila? You’ll find plenty of places to do so on the island.
For Those Who Want to Do — and See — it All
As you can see, there are plenty of activities for you on Cozumel. Plus there are plenty of beaches to relax on while enjoying the sun and sand!
Besides being known for having the best beaches in the world,, did you know that Cozumel is also home to a secret river? Yes! The Secret River is an underground spring-fed waterway that flows through a limestone cave system.
If you really want it all, consider this special Jeep and beach adventure: it has everything — sightseeing, Mayan ruins, swimming, snorkeling, and scrumptious cuisine! Tour around the island in a Jeep, visit the El Caracol Mayan ruin, enjoy the beach and water activities at Punta Sur Bay, check out the museum and the Punta Celarain Lighthouse, and top off your adventure with authentic Mexican fare.
Beyond Cozumel, Mexico
Shore excursion packages can be your bffs, depending on your cruise itinerary. Check out these exclusive options that include Cozumel:
Cabo San Lucas, Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta, and Santa Cruz — snorkeling opportunities abound along Cabo’s Golden Coast as well as Cozumel’s El Cielo and Columbia Reef. Learn deeply revered cultural traditions and customs in Huatulco, and enjoy an in-depth city tour of Puerto Vallarta.
Belize, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Roatan — explore cave tubing in Belize, snorkel at Cozumel’s El Cielo and Columbia Reef, get up close and personal with stingrays in Grand Cayman, and go zip lining across Roatan’s lush canopy.
Local Tips and Tricks You Most Definitely Don’t Know About
Some things to know as you visit Cozumel:
- You must carry identification with you at all times in Mexico
- You should never leave your valuables unattended — better yet, leave them onboard the ship
- Don’t drink the tap water! Stick to bottled water to keep any ugly stomach bugs at bay
- The official language is Spanish, but English is commonly spoken in the touristy areas
- The local currency is the Mexican peso, but most vendors are happy to take US Dollars (though you will probably get your change back in pesos)
- Speaking of currency, it’s important to note that most prices are in pesos rather than dollars; this is especially true when eating out at restaurants or buying from street vendors
- Bargaining is a favorite past time in Cozumel, though many prices tend to be fixed
- Tipping is expected; plan on 10-15% at restaurants and 10% to taxi drivers and tour guides
Is Cozumel Safe?
Cozumel is generally safe for travelers; however, keep in mind that, as with many touristy areas, you always need to be aware of your surroundings — including who is around you and what they are doing.
What to Pack
Packing for a trip to Cozumel can be tricky – but don’t worry! We’ve got you covered.
Here’s what to pack:
- A sunhat, sunglasses, and sunscreen are essential when visiting Cozumel— the island is known for its warm weather, but the sun can be intense
- A bathing suit for swimming in the ocean or lounging at the pool, plus a cover up to wear afterward
- Bring light, casual clothes; a light jacket or long sleeve shirt is good for cool afternoons or for damp weather
- Pack comfortable shoes for hiking or exploring the ruins; think water shoes or sandals for the beach
Ready to explore this cool, laid-back paradise? With its clear waters, white sand beaches, and lush green mountains, Cozumel is an amazing place to visit. Let us help you make the most of it! Learn more about Cozumel – including its dazzling beaches and sizzling food scene, then give us a call to help set you up with your own Cozumel encounter.