Located just off Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, Cozumel offers cruise passengers an incredible array of options for spending their day in port. This little island is loaded with duty-free shopping, world-class snorkeling and diving opportunities, wildlife encounters, adventure tours, cultural experiences, and much more. Like the swallows for which Cozumel is named, it's no surprise that cruise passengers return here repeatedly. In fact, Cozumel receives more cruise ships than many other ports in the Western Caribbean.
Here are ten of the most popular activities and adventures while visiting Cozumel:
1. Shopping: Cozumel is known as a shopper's paradise with a wide array of stores from which to choose. Most cruise passengers head to the city of San Miguel to browse its many jewelry, handicraft and souvenir stores. If you're looking for well-priced souvenirs and jewelry, check out Los Cinco Soles. There are also a wide variety of restaurants and bars here as well.
2. Snorkeling and Diving: Although hurricanes have done some damage to Cozumel's famed coral reefs, Cozumel offers some of the best snorkeling and diving sites in the Caribbean. Favorites include the second longest reef system in the world, Palancar Reef, as well as La Ceiba Reef and Chankanaab Caves. Chankanaab National Park is a wonderful place for watersports lovers to spend the day. In addition to snorkeling, guests can swim with dolphins, relax under palapas on a beautiful sandy beach, have lunch, view replicas of ancient ruins, and hunt for iguanas sunning on the rocks.
3. Wildlife Encounters: Cruisers can get up close and personal with dolphins, sea lions and stingrays while visiting Cozumel. A variety of programs and options are available. If you're planning to do a dolphin encounter or swim while in Cozumel, make your shore excursion reservations early. These tours are very popular and tend to sell out quickly.
4. Glass-bottom Boat Tours: If you'd prefer not to get wet, view the area's beautiful coral formations and colorful fish from the comfort of a glass-bottom boat. Glass-bottom boat tours for cruise passengers are generally available directly through the shore excursions desk, although they can often also be arranged at private beach clubs as well.
5. Beach Breaks: Many cruise passengers seek out one of Cozumel's beach destinations for some fun in the sun while in port. A number of beach clubs and other tour destinations are available for cruisers. Some of the more popular places include Chankanaab National Park, Paradise Beach, Nachi Cocom, Mr. Sancho's Beach Club and Playa Mia. Each beach destination offers slightly different packages and most are quite reasonable. Check their websites for more information. Some of the most popular cruise ship shore excursions visit Isla Pasion, either via catamaran or on an exciting jet boat ride.
6. Adventure Excursions: ATV and adventure excursions abound in Cozumel. For example, the off-road Xrail Jungle Tour To Jade Cavern excursion take participants to a beautiful jade green cenote. ATV tours along this route are available as well.
7. Sailing Trips: These relaxing catamaran cruises usually combine sailing, snorkeling and drinks/snacks. Guides lead guests on snorkeling excursions while those who prefer not to get wet can simply enjoy the ride.
8. History & Cultural Tours: The port of Cozumel is a popular destination for those who wish to view Mayan ruins. There is a small archeological site called El Cedral near the center of the island. Those who wish to view larger sites such as Tulum or Coba will head to Playa del Carmen via ferry and depart on their tours from there.
9. Island Exploration: Rent a car or Jeep and explore the lovely island of Cozumel on your own. These can be a particularly good (and economical) choice for families. Some of the most beautiful - and least visited - beaches are on the island's east coast. Enjoy the undeveloped side of Cozumel, but make sure to swim and snorkel only in marked areas.
10. Day Trip to Playa del Carmen: Cozumel offers so much to do - it's hard to get bored here. If you've visited the island multiple times, however, get off the island and visit the laid-back town of Playa del Carmen. Accessible via a 45-minute ferry ride from Cozumel, Playa del Carmen offers a wide variety of charming restaurants and boutiques. The ferry ride can be rough, however, so pack some Bonine just in case.