6 Unforgettable Experiences in Cozumel
Cozumel will always have a special place in my heart. It was my first international destination! Since our first visit in 2008, we have been back to this beautiful island many times, each time getting to explore a little bit more of what Cozumel has to offer. So, if you’re looking for things to do in Cozumel, we have a great list for you!
If you’re not staying in a resort, chances are you’ll be visiting Cozumel via cruise ship. Unless this will be your only trip to Mexico ever, we recommend adventuring around the island instead of opting for a boat ride over to the mainland. It may be small, but isla de Cozumel has quite a lot to offer, and it’s an excellent place for day trippers to get a taste of the culture of the Yucatan!
Top 6 Things To Do in Cozumel:
1. Mayan Ruins of San Gervasio
While many excursions will offer to take you to the mainland for Mayan Ruin adventures, you can save time by visiting the ruins of San Gervasio, located right on the island of Cozumel!
The structures are a bit more rugged and definitely smaller than what you’d see at Chichen Itza or Uxmal, but San Gervasio offers just as much of an opportunity to learn about the Mayan culture. The surrounding jungle area seems untouched and wild. You’ll definitely get the chance to visit with an iguana or two!
San Gervasio was an important place in Mayan culture because it was made to honor the fertility goddess of Ixmal. It was customary for Mayan women to visit San Gervasio at least once during their life to pay honor to Ixmal.
2. El Mirador (and the OTHER side of the island)
The tour guide who took us to San Gervasio back in 2012 surprised us by stopping us by the uninhabited side of the island. No crowds, no tourist attractions, no hotels, almost zero traffic. Now, does that sound like a vacation or what?!
On our more recent 2017 trip to Cozumel, we rented a dune buggy so that we could go back and see the east coast on our own time.
The beaches are clear of people, and even though they’re rocky, you’ll want to walk right on down to the water and take a look at the gorgeous surroundings. Blue skies, clear blue water, and picture-perfect waves crashing on the beautiful rock formations all make for a breathtaking scene!
El Mirador, or “the lookout”, is a beautiful area to stop. Be sure to watch out for the blowholes when the water flies up through the rocks and the arch that has been carved out of the rock…it may be right under your feet!
There are a few huts set up near the beach for souvenirs, a snack, or a Coke. If you’ve never tried Mexican Coca-Cola, which is made with real sugar cane, give it a try!
3. Authentic Mexican Food
Trying new, authentic food should always be at the top of your travel list. Even though there are a gazillion Mexican restaurants in the USA, they just can not beat the flavors of true Mexican food. Except maybe in Texas. Texas can do it right.
Handmade tortillas are one of my favorite things in the whole world. They smell like biscuits (the southern, eat-at-breakfast type of biscuit, not sweet cookie biscuits), and I will eat them totally bare with no fillings just because of the flavor.
Speaking of flavor, the meats are seasoned just right, and the veggies are always fresh. Guacamole, salsa, and chips? Fresh and handmade. Basically, you’ll want to order one of everything and absolutely scrape (or lick, no judgement here) the plate clean.
One restaurant that we’d like to recommend in Cozumel is Pancho’s Backyard. There are two locations in the shopping areas near the cruise ports, each connected to one of my favorite stores called Los Cinco Soles.
The patio-type seating is cool and clean. Friendly service and there may even be some dining entertainment! We listened to a father/daughter xylophone team, playing and singing fun songs including “Macarena”, “La Cucaracha”, and “The Chicken Dance.”
4. Tequila Tour
TEQUILA! The drink that is synonymous with Mexico. Makes sense to learn all about it while in the country, right? Right.
Tequila is not actually produced on the island of Cozumel, but there are several locations where you can tour facilities to learn about the Agave plants and the process that goes into turning the plant into what we know as Tequila.
Our tour, that we highly recommend, was at Hacienda Antigua. Starting our tour off with free margaritas was a plus.
The margaritas were made with their special mix, which our tour guide called “Love Potion Number Five.” Basically, the mix already has the tequila in it, and the glass is topped off with Fresca. I originally thought I was tasting Sprite. Sound strange? It was delicious!
The tour guide led us through the beautiful property, where we could see row after row of Agave plants. He explained the differences between the plants and different areas where they are grown in Mexico.
Did you know that when the leaves are removed, the plant looks a lot like a pineapple (which is also a type of Agave!)? It is this part of the plant that is made into tequila.
After our tequila lesson, we were given the chance to taste-test the many varieties available of Cava Antigua. Great flavors included cherry, almond, and the instantly-recognizable “Love Potion Number Five”, which is actually called Mar Mix.
The bottles are handmade with labels made from stamped leather. How’s that for craftsmanship? We came home with a bottle of the almond flavored tequila.
Multiple opportunities for snorkeling can be found within the tourist parks on the island, but some of the best is a boat ride away.
Our favorite snorkeling experience in Cozumel was through the excursion called “Three Reef Snorkel by Boat”, which we booked through Carnival Cruise Line. The tour guides take guests to three different areas to see various reefs of coral and fishies!
The reefs visited on the excursion are Cardona, Paradise, and Dzul Ha. Beautiful clear water, schools of fish, and coral.
Probably something you’d like to experience sooner rather than later… I’m sure you’ve heard that our reefs are dying out. Hearing about the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia literally brought me to tears.
While researching for our latest cruise, I found that you can also swim with whale sharks off the coast of Cozumel. Why didn’t we sign up? Because yours truly is terribly prone to seasickness/motion sickness. Basically, if it moves, I’ll throw up on it. Okay, maybe that’s not completely true, but the motion does make me feel horrible.
Definitely be aware of how you cope with motion if you’re headed out on a snorkeling adventure. Not only will the motion be worse on a smaller boat versus a large boat, but the waves themselves can make you sick while you’re swimming. Trust me, I know.
If you’re afraid of water, I also feel your pain. I wrote a blog post awhile back on how I deal with my fear of water, so give it a read before you discount snorkeling altogether!
See Related: 5 Tips for Snorkeling with a Fear of Water
Cozumel is home to some amazing shopping opportunities! We love browsing the arts and handicrafts from all over Mexico.
Hand-painted colorful pottery, black pottery called Barro Negro, and Oaxacan wood art known as Alebrijes are some of our favorite items to look for. I have a growing collection of the Alebrijes figures, one from each trip to Mexico. The figures are animals or creatures, painted in bright colors with intricate designs. They are said to be painted from dreams of the artist.
You should also take home a bottle (or two or three) of real Mexican vanilla. The smell alone will entice you. We love shopping at Los Cinco Soles.
Definitely spend time looking at local arts, crafts, and foods as your souvenirs! Why is this important? Well, if you’ve ever been on a cruise, especially a Carnival cruise, you’ll know that the shopping directors are like watching one big infomercial for jewelry and other extravagances in port.
That’s definitely not bad if you’re in the market for a new diamond, but for the rest of us, we sure didn’t take a budget cruise to spend thousands on new jewelry. Don’t give in to that “fear of missing out” that they LOVE to capitalize on!
So, should you NOT buy jewelry in Cozumel? Eh…I’m not the expert here. I believe they probably offer some good prices, but I would definitely do homework BEFORE leaving on a cruise. Don’t get talked into a purchase in the moment. Also, make sure you are protected against fake jewelry. Yes, that happens. The cruise ships often offer a guarantee as long as you are buying from one of their trusted stores.
The road circling the island of Cozumel is only a total of 45 miles, but that definitely does not mean that you can see or enjoy all of Cozumel in one day. We have visited the island probably seven times since 2008, and it continues to surprise us.
Enjoy your time on Cozumel! The people are friendly and the surroundings are gorgeous!
What are you most looking forward to on your trip to Cozumel? Have you been before? What did we miss? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Pin it! Share this post on Pinterest!
Jennifer is the founder of Just Chasing Rabbits travel blog. She lives in Mississippi with husband/travel companion, Mark, and three fur babies. After obtaining a BA degree in studio art and working in the field of photography for years, Jenni has combined her love of travel and photography to form this blog. Mark and Jenni share their experiences in hopes of inspiring others to have wonderful adventures and see the world.
You can follow Jenni on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.