As one of the most popular cruise ports in the Caribbean, you’ll find more things to do on Cozumel than you could possibly squeeze into one day. Read on to find tips on navigating the Cozumel cruise port, discover which Cozumel port excursions will help you get the most out of your day, and a few tips on how to save some money. You can find many affordable fun things to do in Cozumel, Mexico!
WELCOME TO COZUMEL PORT!
The Cozumel port is one of the most visited cruise ports in the Caribbean. What primarily differentiates it from its neighboring islands is its rich Mayan history and archeology, and its fundamental Mexican culture. Most Cozumel residents are concentrated in the island’s one town, San Miguel.
The island sits atop a large coral reef making it an ideal playground for divers and snorkelers from around the world. As for Cozumel excursions, visitors also have the opportunity to explore the jungle, lounge on the beach, try a wide range of water activities, or indulge in some adrenaline pumping adventure outings.
Cozumel regularly receives more than 2 million visitors each year. And, on any given day, you will probably find at least 6 ships visiting the island. On really busy days, there may be as many as 10!
Given the amount of cruise ship traffic, it is not surprising that the island has three different cruise ports: Puerta Maya, Punta Langosta, and the International Pier. Carnival and Princess use the Puerta Maya port. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity use the International Pier. The other cruise lines such as Disney, MSC and Norwegian utilize Punta Langosta. When the island is particularly crowded, the typical line up may change. Punta Langosta is located in downtown San Miguel. The other two piers are about three miles farther down the coast.
KEY TIPS ON COZUMEL PORT LOGISTICS
One of the most important logistical facts to know about Cozumel, Mexico is that it does not follow North American Daylight Savings Time. Thus, depending on which cruise line you are sailing, it is particularly important that you stay on “ship time” rather than local time when going ashore. You can find a handy cheat sheet on Cozumel local time vs individual cruise lines here.
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As for getting around the island, most people use taxis. And this is a great option for most families because most Cozumel excursions are fairly close to the piers. Like many places in the Caribbean, car seats aren’t really the norm. If you can’t bring your own, you’ll probably end up holding your kids on your lap as the locals do. Also, note that many taxis do not have seat belts.
You should know that taxi cab drivers must carry approved rate cards. You should confirm the price for your trip before you get in the cab. And, if you have any doubts about the price quoted, ask to see the card.
IS COZUMEL PORT SAFE?
At times, the U.S. State Department has issued several warnings about travel in Mexico. So, you may be wondering if Cozumel port is safe and whether you should be concerned about your safety when taking Cozumel excursions.
Consensus View: Cozumel Is Safe For Travelers
It is relatively safe for families to travel in Cozumel.
Although there are serious concerns about tourist travel in several parts of Mexico, major tourist cities such as Cozumel are generally considered safe for travel (comparable to travel in most major cities in North America). According to the State Department’s website:
“There are no restrictions on travel for U.S. government employees in Quintana Roo state, which include tourist areas in: Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and the Riviera Maya.”
And, according to Mexican officials, overall crime on the island of Cozumel is down 50%.
Notably, a 2018 analysis of crime rates in major mexican tourist destinations like Cancun, placed violent crime rates as comparable to Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. And less than cities such as New Orleans and Baltimore.
To put things in perspective, most parts of Mexico that contain the popular tourist destinations currently have a “Level 2” travel advisory. Which on the State Department’s scale means “exercise increased caution.” As of this writing, these are some of the other popular tourist countries that also carry “Level 2” travel advisories:
- Turks & Caicos
Safety Tips For Cozumel
- Be mindful of possible “skimming” of credit or debit card information. Watch as shopkeepers swipe your card, and check your account for unauthorized transactions.
- Exercise caution when visiting the ATM. Avoid ones located in isolated areas.
- Avoid hailing a taxi in the street. Use licensed and registered taxis that are available at hotels, resorts, restaurants, and nightclubs.
- The most common crimes of concern for tourists in Cozumel and other tourist cities are petty street crimes like theft and pickpocketing. So keep cash and valuables secure.
You have many options for keeping valuables secured yet accessible when out and about. For something non-bulky and not obvious, try a running style travel belt that can hold a phone, passport as well as money.
POPULAR COZUMEL PORT ACTIVITIES
You could easily find enough fun things to do on Cozumel to fill up a 3-5 day trip. Cozumel may be best known for its excellent snorkeling and scuba diving. The island has some of the healthiest coral reefs in the world. And, it is surrounded by exceptionally clear blue water.
Cozumel also hosts beautiful beaches, Mayan ruins, and geography suitable for a wide range of outdoor adventures. Activities include ATV driving, horseback riding, dune buggies, zip lines, and many variations of Dolphin experiences or encounters with other sea creatures.
You will also find delightful Mexican cooking classes. And many opportunities to explore the island’s famous chocolate and tequila.
Conserve Time & Energy
You want to be cautious about trying to cram too many different things into one day. Otherwise, you may end up sacrificing a good chunk of your Cozumel port day traveling around and waiting around.
That said, you will find numerous examples of smorgasbord Cozumel excursions that purport to hit all or most of the big highlights. E.g., Mayan ruins + jungle jeep tour+ multi-stop snorkel + beach + ATV, etc. When you only have 6 to 8 hours to really work with, this does not leave much time to actually enjoy all of the components of the advertised package.
When traveling with kids, particularly young kids, a better option may be to pick one destination that offers multiple options of the best things to do in Cozumel. In other words, pick one spot that has access to most things you want to do and stay there.
This provides the advantage of being able to maximize your available leisure time by having fun. And, it minimizes the aggravations and/or disappointments associated with complicated logistics. And, if you plan ahead, you can also probably save some money by booking your Cozumel excursions online instead of through the cruise line.
BEST DESTINATION FAMILY EXCURSIONS
Here are three popular examples of one-stop shopping that offer something to family members of all ages. Most cruise lines will offer some version of excursions to these popular destinations. But if they don’t, or you want a different pricing scheme, you can also book directly or with alternative tour operators.
The Playa Mia Grand Beach Park resort offers the combination of a beach resort and a water park and has activities that appeal to all ages and ability levels.
On the beach side, you have your traditional sand, chairs, and umbrellas. Organized beach games. Water activities include a trampoline park, kayaks, sailboats, water cycles, and paddle boats. Or, you can snorkel through an underwater Mayan city. Other activities include floating mats, ping pong, a volleyball court, and a soccer court.
For an additional fee, you can also go on a guided snorkel tour, parasail, enjoy a fish spa service, or ride jet skis. You can also take salsa dance and cooking lessons, or partake of an international buffet and open bar.
The Water Park
On the water park side (included in the ticket price), you will find a large pool with a jacuzzi, an adjacent large splash park for kids (Buccaneers Bay) that includes a pirate ship and water cannons, and a set of 200-foot twin waterslides that end in a dunk pool.
The resort also features shops where you can browse and pick up souvenirs. And there are roaming photographers who provide souvenir photos for purchase.
A basic day pass starts at $25 for kids and $30 for adults. And they offer various transportation and meal/drink packages that scale up to about $95.
For people planning independent excursions, the resort is about a 10 minute taxi ride from Puerta Maya and International Pier and a 20 minute taxi ride from Punta Langosta. (Find out more from the online reviews posted on TripAdvisor.)
Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park
The Chankanaab Park is located inside Cozumel’s National Marine Park. It also has a wide range of activities to appeal to many tastes and fill out a complete day.
What’s included in the basic fare at the Park? Access to a beautiful beach with lifeguards, beach chairs, umbrellas, and hammocks. And access to a space to watch dolphins.
You will also find a children’s playground, volleyball court, snorkeling from the beach, and underwater statues. A replica of a Mayan village as well as archaeological prehispanic replicas (loosely referred to as “Mayan ruins”). The property also features a swimming pool, a sea lion show, and a botanical garden.
For additional fees, you can access snorkeling equipment, Snuba tour, sea-trek, scuba diving, towels and lockers, and their famous swim with dolphin experiences, and other sea creatures. On-site you will also find bars and restaurants, boutiques, drug store,s and ice cream parlor. Also a tequila tasting experience, a crocodile exhibition, and a spa. For those seeking more of an adventure experience, you will find zip lines, clear bottom kayaking, and Mayan laser tag.
The basic entrance fee is $21 for adults and $14 for kids. The park is easily accessible by taxi. It is about 3.5 miles from Puerta Maya and International Pier, and about 6.5 miles from Punta Langosta. (You can learn additional first-hand information from the, literally, thousands of online reviews for this park. You can also peruse a range of different excursion operators with reviews on Viator.)
Passion Island offers an all-inclusive beach getaway on a private island accessible only by boat. Enjoy a beautiful secluded beach with hammocks, tables, beach beds, chairs, and huts. Available activities include water toys, volleyball, soccer, snorkeling, paddle boat, kayaks, massage, and a kids’ castle and maze.
Access to Passion Island requires booking some type of organized excursion either through your cruise line or through any number of independent tour operators. Prices generally range between $45 and $70. Admission includes buffet lunch and bar.
(This property also receives overwhelmingly excellent online reviews.)
Cozumel Port Excursions Featuring Mayan Ruins
The Mayan Empire is one of the most fascinating ancient cultures that can be (relatively) easily visited in North America. And, you have several options for visiting Mayan ruins during your day at the Cozumel cruise port.
Best Age To Visit The Ruins?
If you are traveling with young children (i.e. preschool set and below), these popular excursions may not be quite right for you. Obviously, all kids aren’t the same. But, most small kids probably don’t have the attention spans to appreciate Mayan ruins. Or, the long travel times associated with venturing to the mainland.
Excursions centered around visiting Mayan ruins are typically recommended as best for kids age 8 and older. Something to keep in mind is that these may involve quite a bit of walking and climbing. (Although you can no longer climb the actual ruins at Chichen Itza.)
Where Are The Ruins?
You have two basic options for visiting Mayan ruins during a Cozumel port day. You can visit the ruins found on the actual island of Cozumel. Or, you can journey to the Mexican mainland. On the mainland, the closest ruins accessible from Cozumel are at Tulum and Chichen Itza.
Visiting local ruins can be an easy excursion. You will find the excavated ruins in Cozumel at San Gervasio. This site has several small temples connected by long white roads. It is part of a larger nature reserve that is home to many birds and butterflies.
You can book this excursion through a tour company or take a taxi on your own and pay the admission fee. $9.50 for adults; kids 10 and under a free. You can wander on your own or hire a guide. This site is in the jungle. So you will run across lizards, iguanas and lots of mosquitoes.
What About Visiting The Mainland From Cozumel Cruise Port?
The more elaborate ruins are found on the mainland. And they are indeed spectacular. But if you are planning a trip to visit the mainland ruins, you must be particular sensitive to time constraints. The ferry ride from Cozumel to Playa Del Carmen is about 30-45 minutes depending on sea conditions, and subject to delays. Once in Playa Del Carmen, you take a bus to Tulum which is about an hour’s drive each way.
If you want to visit Chichen Itza, you will be facing a very long day. And, while these ruins are truly amazing, you will not have much actual time at the site because of the logistics of getting there. This excursion also involves a boat ride to the mainland. And that will be followed by a 2.5 to 3 hour bus ride to the ruins, each way. That leaves only about 45 minutes to an hour to explore.
Because the travel times can be long and ferries can be delayed. You don’t want to risk missing your ship. If you are going to visit ruins on the mainland, it probably makes the most sense to book through your cruise line even though it will cost extra money.
- Cancun, Cozumel & the Yucatan – 9th edition (Lonely Planet)
A one-of-a-kind guide to the travel riches found in this dazzling corner of Mexico.
Keep the most relevant Mexican travel phrases at your fingertips. Includes practical phrases that you can use when bargaining in the market, ordering in restaurants, or in casual encounters.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
As noted above, Cozumel generally hosts thousands of cruise passengers daily. If you are looking for an experience that is less likely to be frequented by your fellow cruisers, check out the Cozumel Pearl Farm.
To date, this has not been featured in the excursion brochures for the major cruise lines that visit Cozumel. Yet, it receives rave reviews on Trip Advisor. And, you can interact directly with the family owners through their Facebook page if you have particular questions.
This family-owned operation caters to small groups. Currently, they cap maximum participation for each tour at 8. The Farm is located on a secluded part of the island that involves a 45-minute boat ride from downtown.
For this DIY adventure, it is imperative that you pay close attention to the departure times for your ship. But, the operators say that they are willing to adjust their schedule to accommodate cruise ship timing.
The excursion includes touring the pearl cultivation facilities and some unique snorkeling opportunities. It also includes lunch and beach time. Adults are $110, kids ages 6-12 are $85, kids 5 and under are free. The standard tour runs from 10:00 to 4:00 Monday through Saturday. Tour price includes a guide, boat ride, snorkel gear, bottled water, soft drinks, beers, and lunch.
SHOPPING IN COZUMEL PORT
Time permitting, a popular way to wrap up a Cozumel port day is with a wee bit of shopping. And there’s lots of shopping to be found throughout Cozumel. You will generally find better prices the farther away you move from the cruise piers.
Mexican Pesos are the official currency of Mexico. But, almost all shop owners will accept U.S. Dollars. However, if you are spending dollars, you should confirm how your change will be returned to you. Pesos or dollars? And confirm the exchange rate. You should also plan to take small denomination bills to help simplify your transactions and make any potential haggling easier.
What Should I Buy In Cozumel?
As for Cozumel port shopping, here are some popular items to consider including on your list:
- Vanilla. Note that “pure vanilla flavor” and “pure vanilla extract” are not the same thing. You want the “extract” version. Pure vanilla extract has an alcohol content of at least 35%.
- Hammocks. You can find a wide variety of quality handmade woven hammocks for singles, couples and kids. Look for ones made from cotton.
- Chocolate. Mexico is considered the birthplace of chocolate.
- Tequila. Mexico’s national liquor. Look for 100% Agave. And for tips on making wise choices, check out How To Buy Tequila In the Mexican Caribbean. For tequila or any other liquor purchases, be prepared to be liberated of your purchase when you return to your ship. It will be returned to you at the conclusion of your trip.
- Handmade jewelry and leather goods. Look for things that are unique, appealing to your senses, and not overpriced.
- Hint: Items at stores that are right at or near the cruise pier are likely to be overpriced.
- Do not buy jewelry (or other goods) made from black coral or tortoise shells. These are considered endangered and will be confiscated at customs.
- If you are planning to buy silver, you should bring along a magnet to help you detect fakes. Real silver will not attach to magnets.
TIPS FOR SAVING MONEY ON YOUR COZUMEL PORT DAY
Cozumel is one of those ports where you can probably save some real money by doing a little research in advance. You will often find excursions that are virtually identical (or close proximity) to those listed in the cruise line’s brochure, but at a substantially reduced cost.
One issue may be transportation. Cruise line excursions always include transportation, whereas other deals you find online may or may not. But one of the wonderful things about Cozumel is that it’s fairly easy to get a taxi, and rates are affordable.
You should also pay close attention to whether the excursion includes open bar. If there is a price differential, and you don’t think you will be making much use of the bar, then you could seek an a la carte option.
Some of the markups for the popular Cozumel beach resorts appear to be in the range of $10-20 per person. Depending on the size of your travel party, you could achieve meaningful savings by arranging independent excursions outside the ship’s channels.
Cozumel is one of the most visited Caribbean islands for good reason. You will find an abundance of things to do in Cozumel. It is a beautiful destination filled with a range of activities to appeal to almost any traveler.
But, if you are traveling with your family on a cruise ship, your best bet may be to maximize your available time and minimize your potential stress levels by visiting one of the many destination parks or resorts on the island. And, if you plan ahead, you can also save some money by booking your Cozumel excursions online.
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