Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

11 Top Cozumel Shore Excursions

Playa del Carmen is a popular excursion for Cozumel visitors; © Scott S. Bateman
Playa del Carmen is a popular excursion for Cozumel visitors; © Scott S. Bateman

Cozumel’s most popular shore excursions include Mayan ruins, undersea adventure, beautiful beaches and Playa del Carmen.

Visitors who aren’t interested in the island’s well-known snorkeling and diving can go more into the center of the island to experience the jungle and lagoons, including Chankanaab National Park.

Cozumel also has Mayan ruins including San Gervasio, known as a sacred Mayan center and also for commercial and political development. Other Mayan sites are available for touring as well.

1) San Miguel

Anyone who docks at Punta Langosta has quick and easy walking access to San Miguel, Cozumel’s largest city. Anyone who docks at Puerta Maya or the International Terminal will need a taxi, rental car or excursion bus to reach the city.

The boardwalk and El Zócalo plaza are two of the more popular attractions. Look for the towering pink church, Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, that overlooks El Jardín.

2) Playa del Carmen

The largest and possibly most popular Cozumel attraction isn’t on the island but on the mainland.

The city of Playa del Carmen, which is easily available from Cozumel by ferry docks in San Miguel, is a popular place to visit for both cruise visitors and anyone staying along the Mayan Riviera coast. The ferry ride takes about 45 minutes and costs about $10-12 each way.

Fifth Avenue, one of the best Caribbean attractions for shoppers, is a thoroughly enjoyable mile-long street dedicated to shopping and dining. The district ranks among the best tourism meccas in the Caribbean.

It is mostly closed to anything but pedestrian traffic. The tourist areas are easily accessible by foot. Anyone with a car rental will find it easy to explore the city and nearby attractions including Cancun. The city is about 40 minutes away on a well-maintained highway.

3) Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park

Chankanaab park claims it is the most popular attraction on Cozumel itself. It has a beach, snorkeling, scuba diving, zip lines, botanical garden and family entertainment.

The park, which is 15 minutes south of the Cozumel cruise port, has the only inland coral reef formation in the world. It also has the Chankanaab Lagoon with more than 60 species of tropical fish, crustaceans and corals.

Other features include Dolphin Discovery, where visitors can swim with the dolphins; the Sea Lion Show; the Maya Zone, a reproduction of a Maya village; and Botanical Gardens, a forest with trails, 350 plant species and exotic birds.

Tickets are $26 for adults and teens and $18 for children ages 4 to 12. Children 3 years old and younger are free. Premium activities such as Dolphin Discovery have extra fees. A typical Dolphin Discovery shore excursion costs about $125 to $150 per person depending on the program.

4) San Gervasio Mayan Ruins

The largest Mayan archaeological site on the island was both a sacred and commercial center from 200 A.D. until the Spanish conquest.

San Gervasio attracted pilgrims from around the Mayan empire to come there to worship the fertility goddess Ixchel. Entrance fee is $5.50 per adult. The site is a 25-minute drive east of San Miguel.

Tickets are $4.50 for adults. Children under 10 are free.

5) El Cedral

This village was formerly the largest Mayan site on Cozumel.The small temple still shows signs of the original Mayan artist.

Additional ruins can be found with help in nearby undergrowth. The site is a 30-minute drive south of San Miguel.

6) Discover Mexico

This cultural theme park offers an exterior walk of Mexico’s most important archaeological sites and colonial buildings, a museum with various exhibits, and video and documentary displays.

The location is Km 5.5 Carretera Costera Sur about 15 minutes from San Miguel on the western coast of the island. Adult tickets cost $26 USD and children cost $19.

7) Punta Sur Ecological Reserve

Punta Sur Cozumel lighthouse
Punta Sur lighthouse. Credit: Wikimedia (Creative Commons License)

Punta Sur includes Punta Celarain and its historical lighthouse. It also has a beach and the Colombia Lagoon, home to endangered species such as marine turtles.

It sits on the southern tip of the island and is a 35-minute drive from San Miguel.

The 247-acre park ecological park has crocodiles, 220 species of birds, iguanas, and giant turtles. The turtles come to shore between June and August to lay their eggs. Nearby, visitors can see El Caracol, which was used by the Mayans to warn about approaching hurricanes.

Tickets are $14 for adults and $8 for children (subject to change).

8) El Mirador Lookout

Anyone with a rental car or other means of transportation may want to explore the rugged and less-developed east coast of the island.

El Mirador Lookout has natural bridges, blowholes and tide pools, along with rough waters and amazing views. It is near Punta Sur Ecological Reserve on the southern tip of the island.

9) Snorkeling and Diving

The island’s extensive reef system—part of the Great Maya Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world—makes it a popular destination for snorkeling and scuba diving.

An afternoon snorkeling or diving trip may include a lunch on the beach with exceptional and authentic local food. Some of the best spots are located on the southern coast of the island.

As always, keep in mind that snorkeling is sometimes a matter of luck with finding great sea creatures to view. Our snorkeling trip on Cozumel didn’t produce much to see.

10) Castillo Real (Royal Castle)

A Maya site on the eastern coast, near the northern tip of the island. The castillo (castle), located near the northern tip of the island, has a lookout tower, the base of a pyramid, and a temple with two chambers capped by a false arch.

11) Tulum Mayan Ruins

The famous seashore Mayan ruins at Tulum, which are about a half hour south of Playa del Carmen, are another popular shore excursion. Tulum has the only known Mayan ruins on a sea coast. This day trip will cost about $90 per person.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
February 15, 2021