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Things to do in the Port of Cozumel, Mexico
Welcome to our blog on things to do in Cozumel cruise port. We hope you enjoy this guide to this very popular cruise port of call that lies just off the coast of Mexico
Cozumel Cruise Port at a Glance
The island of Cozumel is located about 12 miles off the Mexican mainland. It is an incredibly popular stop for cruise ships and for good reason. Cozumel is a fascinating mix of old authentic Mexico alongside brash touristy developments. Friendly locals and a spirited Caribbean energy make it a fascinating port stop. There are amazing adventures to be had such as diving or snorkelling at some of the best reefs in the world. However, if you plan to simply stretch out on a beach or lie near the cooling waters of a pool you will be spoilt for choice in Cozumel. And of course, being Mexico it some of the best food choices in the Caribbean
Where do the cruise ships dock in Cozumel?
Cozumel Cruise Port has three docking locations for cruise ships in Cozumel.
- Punta Langosta Cruise Terminal. This pier is the closest to the downtown area of San Miguel which is the largest city in Cozumel. It’s only about a 5-minute walk. You can join a walking tour of San Miguel or just explore on your own without having to walk very far at all. There are plenty of shops and restaurants within strolling distance.
- International Pier Cruise Terminal. This is where some of the larger cruise ships will dock: ships like Royal Caribbean Oasis-class ships and larger Norwegian Cruise Line ships. This is the oldest cruise pier in Cozumel and is about 3 miles from downtown.
- Puerta Maya Cruise Terminal. This pier was built by Carnival Cruise Line and is only used for Carnival owned ships. It’s right next to the International Pier. It’s been nicknamed “Little Cozumel” as many shops, restaurants, and modern amenities are offered right within the terminal area.
What to do with a day in Cozumel Cruise Port
For the cruise day-tripper, there is plenty to keep you busy whether this is your first or a return visit.
Mayan Ruins of Tulum
This Cozumel Cruise Port guide wouldn’t be complete without a mention of this fascinating place. Although there are Mayan Ruins on Cozumel itself (San Gervasio) none are as impressive or extensive as those located at Tulum. Located on the Mexican Mainland you need to allow yourself enough time to travel there and back. 6 or 7 hours is ideal as it involves a 45min ferry ride and then another 45min drive to the ruins. Be sure to check how long your ship is docked and leave yourself plenty of time.
If you would prefer to stay on the island and get your Mayan Temple fix, then San Gervasio is the place to go. These are the largest and most significant ruins in Cozumel. Other smaller Mayan ruins dot the island and are well worth a visit but do bear in mind that there is often little shade at these places and the dazzling Mexican sunshine warrants a wide brim, plenty of water and some bug spray.
Hire a driver
If you really want to explore the island one of the best ways to do this is to hire your own driver to show you around. Yes, it will be more expensive but there are several advantages than sharing a coach with lots of other guests.
- You can set up a personalised itinerary.
- See the sights at your own speed.
- It’s just you. So there is no hanging around waiting for other people to return (who never seem to understand the concept of time-keeping).
Shopping in Cozumel
Cozumel’s capital is a laid-back, charming town called San Miguel. A walk or bicycle tour of the town will take you to charming, unpretentious, authentic Mexican shops and eateries. Relax at El Zocalo or The Plaza as you admire and take in the beauty of the town. San Miguel is a duty-free zone, so you may find bargains on watches, alcohol and fragrances. The shopping zone in the city of San Miguel itself is clean and easy to navigate. There are ample sidewalks and pedestrian-only streets.
Shoppers will find a large variety of unique souvenirs such as:
Hand-loomed wool blankets
Leather boots, purses and bags
Silver, gold, coral, onyx, and amber jewellery
Quality Tequila & Vanilla Extract
Fine Cigars and speciality liqueurs
Cozumel beaches near the cruise port
There are some great beaches in Cozumel and because some of your time in port is limited we have selected some of the best beaches that are closest to the cruise terminals. Please bear in mind that the distance to the beaches will vary dependent on which cruise terminal you arrive into. All of the beaches listed below are south of the Puerto Maya and International Terminals. If you arrive into Punta Langosta Terminal then this is roughly 3 miles north of the others so you would need to add in approximately 20mins extra travel time to reach the same beaches. We should also add that there are no decent beaches within walking distance of the terminal except perhaps a couple of beachfront hotel locations that are quite small.
San Fransisco Beach
The closest beach to the cruise terminals in San Fransisco Beach. This beach is fairly small but the waters a good for swimming. There are some rocks dotted around but the waters are fairly clear making it easy to avoid them. Beach Sandals are always a good idea when venturing into the sea. Check out our beach packing list for some ideas on what to bring along for your day at the beach.
Quite a lot of vendors at this public beach than can be a little overwhelming for some. There is a freshwater pool available and also jet ski rentals for the more daring and adventurous souls.
Just slightly south of San Fransisco Beach we come to Paradise Beach. This is the first of the ‘All-Inclusive’ beaches you will find along this stretch of the Cozumel coast. It is $3 to enter which includes the use of the beach and pool (loungers are extra). However, if you want to eat there or use the water park and kayaking facilities then its worth considering the all-inclusive option which gives you all this for a set fee. The cost at the time of writing is $65 for adults down to $39 for small children (infants under 4yrs old are free). What is also nice about this excellent beach is that vendors are not allowed to pester you when you are relaxing. There seems to be some kind of imaginary line that they know not to cross.
One of the largest beaches on Cozumel. Playa Mia used to be called Playa Del Sol (and is sometimes still known as that). Similar to Paradise Beach there is an all-inclusive element and there are lots of options and add-ons you can choose from to suit your budget. This beach is particularly good for families as they have an excellent kids club if the adults want to relax and enjoy the beach knowing that their little ones are busily enjoying themselves elsewhere. The beach itself is sandy with lots of shaded areas
situated some 10 or so miles south of the cruise port Playa Palancar can be reached by road in around 15 minutes. This gorgeous beach offers some of the whitest sand and largest stretches of beach in Cozumel. You’ll encounter multiple beach clubs such as Nachi Cocom and Mr Sanchos Beach Club on this stretch of beach. These clubs offer upgraded services for a fee and can include some of the following:
- All you can eat buffet.
- All you want to drink (usually frozen cocktails and domestic beers).
- Beach loungers.
- Use of ocean kayak.
- Hammock area.
They usually limit the number of people that access the club so they never feel crowded. We have personally visited Nachi Cocum and had a great day at the beach. The facilities and service we received was amazing and can recommend them.
If you don’t want to use these beach clubs then Playa Palancar is free to access. There is free access to bathroom amenities and changing rooms. Nearby vendors will also provide all of the necessary rentals you might need, like snorkelling gear, kayaks, jet skis, chairs and umbrellas ($10 for the day), day beds, excursions and of course food and drink (prices will vary).
Need to know what to take with you to the beach? Read our Beach Packing List for some ideas.
Tips for beaches in Cozumel, Mexico
Check dangerous currents with the flags.
- Green Flag – Water conditions are safe for swimming
- Yellow Flag – Use caution whilst swimming
- Red Flag – Dangerous conditions
- Black Flag – The highest warning level – do not swim
Cozumel – Local food to try
A Yucatan favourite. Slow roasted pork, hence the name of Cochinita. You’ll find it in tacos or tortas on the island. We recommend trying either a Torta de Cochinita Pibil or Taco de Cochinita Pibil.
Fried fish is a classic dish in Mexico. It’s a quick and easy way to make a yummy meal. You can’t go wrong with fried fish! Here in Cozumel, most people go for a grouper or red snapper, but there are plenty of other fish in the sea which are great for frying. It all depends on what you like.
Shaped like a tortilla, but puffier and thicker, the fried masa forms a base for shredded or diced cabbage, pulled chicken or turkey, diced onion or pickled red onion, sliced avocado, sliced or diced tomato, with lime to flavour.
Very similar to Salbutes, except that they have refried black beans inside or on the masa, which Salbutes do not. Vendors make both fresh to order, often with some toppings like onion, salsa, and lime juice on the side for the consumer to adorn at will.
Huaraches are flattened ovals of masa shaped to resemble the sole of a Huarache (Mexican sandal). Hauaraches can be served small as an appetizer of made large enough to resemble a pizza. Traditional huaraches are filled with beans and fried until crisp
A very popular dish in tropical areas. It looks like a fish salad cooked in lime juice, but it can be prepared with many different ingredients.
Lean shredded beef, beans and a mild chilli sauce rolled in a fresh Tortilla topped with mild cheese. We had these at one of our favourite eating spots in Cozumel. Pancho’s Backyard. Not only is the food good. The Margaritas are awesome too.
Crisp and golden on the outside, soft and almost moist in the centre, and covered in a gritty mix of sugar and cinnamon, churros are one of the Mexicans’ favorite desserts. You can find churros being sold by street vendors in little paper bags in stands that have a heating light to keep them warm.
Good to know
Drink only bottled water and if you buy from a street vendor always check the seal is still intact.
Unfortunately, public transportation is generally not considered a viable option for travellers visiting Cozumel. There is a public bus system in Cozumel, but it does not go to main areas which visitors are likely to travel.
There are a lot of taxis in Cozumel and there is a strong drivers union so prices are pretty fixed and there is no bargaining.
Currency: Mexican Peso, US Dollars at some businesses but mostly all tourist attractions, restaurants, bars and shops will take dollars.
Language: Spanish, English
Money: ATMs are common and passengers can exchange US dollars for local currency at the exchange counters near the cruise ports.
Visas: Not required for citizens of the US, EU or Australia