Cruise Ship Visitor’s Guide to Cozumel

Cozumel is a small island in the Caribbean, a part of Mexico and just off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. A popular cruise ship port of call, Cozumel is also a great destination for a vacation, or as a side trip from the resort of Cancun.

I had the opportunity to visit earlier this month as part of a cruise on the Carnival Destiny, leaving from Miami. As most cruise ship visitors have limited time, it’s essential to have a plan when arriving in Cozumel. With good planning, cruise ship visitors can visit the town of San Miguel, explore the Mayan ruins, then spend the afternoon snorkeling and enjoying a beach resort. I found the weather perfect, the water warm, the people friendly and the beer cold, a perfect combination.

The Island
Cruise ship passengers will arrive at the cruise ship port, which is about 10 minutes from the downtown (San Miguel) area and about 30 minutes from the resort area. There isn’t much to do in the port area and visitors will want to either take a taxi or other transportation to get downtown or to the resorts. Cozumel lacks decent public beaches, but features a number of resorts that welcome day-trippers. The resorts feature beaches, water sports and food and booze and cost from $15 to $50 per person per day depending on the level of activities and services provided. For $50 per day, you can get unlimited food and drinks.

We like Paradise Beach, it’s a large, clean resort, featuring several swimming pools and all the water activities you can imagine. The admission is $12 per day, with additional charges for some equipment and activities.

Getting around
Cruise ship visitors to Cozumel deal with three main areas: the port, the downtown area and the resort area. Taxi service is available from the port, with a set fare of $7 to the downtown area and $15 to the resort area. Scooter and car rentals are also available from numerous suppliers. The downtown area is a fun mix of shops and restaurants, be prepared for some aggressive shop owners.

The big draw to Cozumel is the crystal clear water and coral reefs, they make it one of the best places for snorkeling and scuba diving in the whole world. Cruise ships offer many shore excursions or they can be booked from providers after arrival. There are many booths and people offering tours and excursions to tourists. We’ve had good experiences with Cozumel Tours by Johann and Sandra, the company offers all kinds of tours and activities, from island jeep tours to swimming with dolphins.

Mayan ruins
Cozumel was home to the ancient Mayan people and the San Gervasio ruins were first inhabited around 800 A.D. A visit to the site makes a great historic compliment to the island’s beaches and resorts and was a highlight of our visit.

While most visitors are shopping in the duty-free shops or drinking on the beach, I took some time to visit the Cozumel Island Museum, a great bargain at $4 per person. The museum featured some interesting exhibits about local ecology and natural wildlife, I really enjoyed the historic exhibitions with rooms filled with old sailing and naval artifacts. The museum had a lot of cool items from Cozumel’s history including Spanish cannons, swords and numerous Mayan carvings and sculpture. Before becoming a popular tourist destination, the island was an important shipping port in the Caribbean trade originally for Spain, then for the United States and Mexico.

Freddy Sherman is a world traveler and editor of the travel blog You can follow him on twitter, @thefredsherman

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