A common island stop on a , Cozumel attracts visitors to its sandy beaches and spectacular diving sites. Second, in size to the Great Barrier Reef, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef off Cozumel’s coast is a diver’s paradise. While the are water-based, there are plenty of inexpensive land activities too.
The majority of travelers arrive by cruise ship since flying to mainland Mexico is significantly less expensive than getting to Cozumel. With the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef being the star attraction, most Cozumel cruise excursions include a dip in the ocean.
For those who’d rather stay dry, mainland tours are accessible by ferry. While most places accept American dollars, some only take Pesos.
With approximately three million cruise passengers visiting each year, it’s surprising the island remains widely unprogressive. Should you arrive by cruise ship, vessels dock at San Miguel de Cozumel on the east coast. There are many options for exploration from the Cozumel cruise port.
Where Is Cozumel?
Located off the Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, Cozumel is a long island across from Playa del Carmen. Unlike its neighbors, Cozumel’s island is mostly undeveloped, more laid back, and has an abundance of untouched coastline.
While travelers transcend Playa del Carmen and Cancun for their lively atmosphere, Cozumel visitors enjoy a more remote and unurbanized locale. The eastern side of the island, which faces the Caribbean Sea, has stronger currents and larger waves. For diving, snorkeling, or just enjoying a lazy day at the beach, the west coast fits the bill.
More On The Caribbean:
● What to do in Grand Cayman on a cruise.
● The ultimate Belize excursion to Shark Ray Alley.
Cozumel’s Best Port Excursions
Docking in San Miguel, most Cozumel attractions are a taxi ride away. Therefore, it’s best to book Cozumel excursions in advance of arrival. Alternatively, review the island tours and grab a last-minute excursion on a port day.
1. Visit San Gervasio Mayan Ruins
- Duration: 1-1/2 to 4 hours | Cost: USD 9.50 entrance fee, USD 40.00 for the San Gervasio tour with chocolate tasting
When travelers arrive in Mexico, they often conjure up ideas of visiting a Located in a bug-filled jungle, participants should use . Yet, cruisers don’t need to travel to the mainland to see one. may not be as impressive as , but at 11 miles from , it’s a hidden gem on . mosquito repellent as well as sunscreen.
Dating back to 100 BC, San Gervasio was home to Ixchel, the goddess of fertility and midwifery. In ancient times, young women traveled to this religious site to worship the goddess.
Today, the ruin is remarkably preserved, with the archeological area presenting many temples and shrines. Spread out over several kilometers, only a small section of the site is viewable. The rest remains unexcavated on private land.
There are several ways to access the Cozumel ruin. Travelers can take a taxi from Cozumel and pay an entrance fee of US 9.50. The optional guide of US 20.00 is well worth the money, and you’ll learn the history of the ruin and the people who lived there.
Cruise ships combine the Mayan ruin with chocolate tasting at the cost of US 40.00. Touring the ruin takes one to one and a half hours, while the cruise tour takes up to four hours.
2. Swim With Dolphins
- Duration: 1 hour to 1-1/2 hours | Cost: USD 109.00 to USD 199.00+ per person
Located in Chankanaab National Park, the Dolphin Discovery sells interactive tours with dolphins and manatees. While I’m not an advocate for keeping wild creatures in captivity and would not do this excursion myself, others have enjoyed the experience.
The dolphin encounter features a kiss and a handshake with a dolphin and watching some tricks. A dolphin swim tour includes the above, plus a belly ride across the pool riding on the dolphin’s back. The granddaddy and most expensive activity is the royal dolphin swim.
It includes a ride across the pool while holding two dorsal fins, a dorsal tow, and a foot push. Although tours range from one hour to ninety minutes, the total time in the pool is thirty to forty minutes.
During the excursion, cameras are not allowed. Should you choose to purchase an observer’s ticket, the observation area is so far from the pool that photography is not possible. Instead, Dolphin Discovery will attempt to sell you an expensive photography package of the event.
Like the dolphin tour, a manatee encounter offers an experience with the “mermaids of the sea.” At USD 89.00, this 45-minute excursion includes feeding the gentle giants and learning about these marine mammals. Tours with the dolphins and manatees include admission to Chankanaab National Park.
3. Learn To Make Salsa
- Duration: 4-1/2 hours | Cost: USD 94.00+
When seeking a less active excursion, consider a more relaxed outing on the salsa, salsa, and more salsa tour. The Cozumel cruise tour includes a cooking class, a dancing class, and time at the beach.
At Playa Mia, the informative class teaches three different versions of authentic salsa (the food). The recipes are simple and delicious, and participants discover the various steps to each recipe. During the class, complimentary drinks of tequila, mango margaritas, and virgin margaritas (for the non-drinkers) keep flowing.
After the cooking class and too many drinks, take to the dance floor for a salsa dancing lesson. Even if you have two left feet, the primary five steps are easy to master. After a lunch buffet and drinks from the open bar, head to the beach for some relaxation.
The Playa Mia resort is pristine and offers water slides, inflatable water toys, and plenty of loungers to enjoy the views. With tequila, salsa, guacamole, and quesadillas; is this not the best Cozumel shore excursion?
After the cooking class and too many drinks, take to the dance floor for a salsa dancing lesson. Even if you have two left feet, the primary five steps are easy to master. After a lunch buffet and drinks from the open bar, head to the beach for some relaxation. The Playa Mia resort is pristine and offers water slides, inflatable water toys, and plenty of loungers to enjoy the views. With tequila, salsa, guacamole, and quesadillas; is this not the best Cozumel port excursion?
4. Enjoy Cozumel On Horseback
- Duration: 1 to 4-1/2 hours | Cost: USD 85.00 to USD 99.00
While most tours center around water activities, get off the beaten path on a horseback adventure. There are various tours, from a quick 30-minute trip with Mr Sanchos Beach Club or much longer excursions through the local jungle.
While most areas don’t allow horses on the beach, in Cozumel, Mr Sanchos’ 30-minute beach ride also includes unlimited drinks, food, and use of their float toys at their beach club. And it’s a bargain at USD 85.00+.
If you prefer a port excursion from the port, it’s best to arrange one through your cruise line. Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and NCL have a 4-1/2-hour tour which includes transportation to and from the horse ranch.
Although the tour lasts 4-1/2 hours, the horseback ride is just 1-1/2 hours. The rest of the time is spent in transit, orientation with a horse, and 1-1/2 hours of free time to eat, swim, or relax on a .
It’s advisable to wear long pants on this (to prevent sores from the saddle) and closed-toe shoes. Due to the heat, it’s also best to use sunscreen, bring water, and your camera, of course. Since the cruise line’s tour doesn’t include lunch, you’ll need some cash for food and souvenirs. After the half-day , there’s still plenty of time for shopping in .
Other horseback excursions take paths through the jungle to . Cenote rides combine an adventure on horseback with a refreshing swim in a local sinkhole.
5. Take A Jeep Tour
- Duration: 6 hours | Cost: USD 70.00+ per person
What better way to discover Cozumel than with the wind in your hair and some beach time? A Jeep Tour excursion makes for the perfect family adventure with admiring views, water-based activities, and delicious Mexican food.
With a local guide, the adventure begins in San Miguel, close to the cruise terminal. Relax in the comfort of a Jeep Wrangler and drive to Punta Sur EcoPark on Cozumel’s southern tip.
This ecological park is a natural paradise where crocodiles and birds call the lagoons their home. With a steep climb to the top of Faro Celarain Lighthouse, visitors can appreciate panoramic views.
From Punta Sur EcoPark, the tour continues to Chankanaab Park for some snorkeling and a buffet lunch. At Chankanaab Park, the little ones will enjoy the complimentary sea lion show.
6. Spend A Day At Chankanaab National Park
- Duration: 1 hour to all day | Cost: USD 21.00+ per person
Chankanaab National Park offers a wide selection of activities, but it’s impossible to take them all in during a day visit. However, a day there is fun-filled, and the activities you choose determine how much you spend. With so many activities, Chankanaab Park is considered one of the best Cozumel excursions for families.
To get to the marine park, grab a taxi which should cost approximately USD 12.00 one-way. But throw away your ideas of a “real” national park, which I associate with Yosemite or Yellowstone. This park is over-commercialized and does little to preserve what’s natural.
The entrance fee is USD 21.00 for adults and USD 14.00 for children (3 to 11 years). It includes swimming, a sea lion show, exotic flower gardens, a crocodile exhibit, and the use of umbrellas and chairs.
But, like cruise vacations, additional fees can add up fast if you participate in add-ons. These include ziplining, tequila tasting, snorkel equipment rental, snub, spa treatments, and excursions at the Dolphin Discovery.
Scattered around the large park, the replica Mayan artwork is impressive and looks authentic. Snorkeling off the coast offers chances to view some underwater sculptures of the Virgin Mary and a 14-foot-tall statue of Christ. At the park, the cruise ships are viewable across the water.
7. Snorkeling Or Diving At Palancar Reef
- Duration: 4 hours to 4-1/2 hours | Cost: USD 55.00+ for snorkeling, USD 75.00+ for diving
Without a diving certificate, snorkelers can enjoy the pristine waters of Palancar Reef with its calm waters and gentle currents. While it’s a popular dive site, some areas of the reef rise to just below the water’s surface, offering an excellent destination for those not comfortable in deep water.
Snorkeling areas up to 20 feet deep are teeming with tropical fish and provide chances to see sea turtles, spotted rays, barracudas, and nurse sharks.
The Mexican government protected Palancar Reef from overfishing, so the underwater habitat is rich in marine life, algae, and colorful coral. Although not accessible from the coastline, there are plenty of local operators offering excursions.
Seasoned divers often return to the underwater garden of Eden again and again because the experience is never the same. With numerous dive points, the underwater landscape varies widely due to the caverns, walls, and overhead environments.
During his career as an oceanographer, Jacques Cousteau came to Mexico to film the Palancar Reef. While he declared it one of the best diving destinations globally, film clips never made it into his documentaries. However, even without a Cousteau documentary, the popularity of diving the Caribbean reef grew tremendously.
8. Escape To A Secluded Island
- Duration: 5 hours | Cost: USD 90.00
Get away from the hustle and bustle of San Miguel by taking a Cozumel excursion to secluded Isla Pasion or Passion Island. Located on the north end of Cozumel, it’s not accessible by vehicle, only by boat. Should there be many cruise ships in port, this beach escape can get quite crowded.
The boat ride to Isla Pasion takes 45 minutes but seems shorter since the views are so spectacular. On this beach break, lunch consists of a Mexican buffet of salsa, chips, rice, beans, chicken, fish, beef, and fajitas. The drinks are plentiful, and the service is attentive.
The excursion includes complimentary kayaks, beach chairs, and the hammocks and swings over the water are a nice touch.
9. Explore A Cenote And Underground Caverns
- Duration: 7 to 8-1/2 hours | Cost: USD 84.00+
Suitable for those five years and above, explore the fantastic underground caves and waterways on the mainland. This is a unique excursion that feels like a journey to the center of the earth. It’s a whole day excursion that requires a good level of fitness and staying power.
The tour starts with a 45-minute ferry ride to . From there, you have options to visit Cenote Azul, Rio Secreto Natural Reserve (Amazing Secret River), or Chaak Tun Cenotes.
Amazing Secret River
At the reserve, water shoes, short wetsuits, and helmets are provided, along with lockers and towels. Walking sticks are also available, and most people recommend them.
During the through the underground waterway, participants cannot bring a GoPro or cellphone for photos. A photographer accompanies the group and takes individual and group photos.
Before the cenote journey, the group receives a Mayan blessing. Wading through the caverns, and there are many of them (each with names), the natural beauty is breathtaking. The limestone stalactites and stalagmites formations are beyond words.
The experience of seeing underwater caverns that have remained undiscovered for many years is majestic. After the cave adventure, an authentic Mexico buffet follows. Since the Amazing Secret River does not allow cameras, pictures are purchasable at the cost of USD 25 for one or USD 99 for the whole package.
A short ride back to Playa del Carmen allows for some shopping time before catching the return ferry to San Miguel.
Chaak Tun Cenotes
The Chaak Tun Cenotes excursion includes water shoes, wetsuits, and snorkel gear. Unlike the Amazing Secret River, the Chaak Tun Cenotes tour does allow waterproof cameras.
The excursion explores the underground waterways that feed the Riviera Maya. The caves are impressive, with endless passageways shooting outwards. At the second cave, a descending spiral staircase allows for magnificent views of the cavern from above.
During the tour, participants will experience Temezcal, a traditional Mayan steam bath meant to cleanse the soul. Afterward, learn the process of making tequila and enjoy a Mayan-inspired lunch.
The Chaak Tun Cenotes excursion concludes in Playa del Carmen before the ferry ride back to San Miguel. Since these tours are on the mainland, the only way to guarantee to make it back to the ship on time is to book through the cruise line. As of March 2021, here is the pricing:
|Celebrity Cruises||Chaak Tun Cenotes||USD 84.00||8 hrs|
|Royal Caribbean||Chaak Tun Cenotes||USD 109.00||8 hrs|
|Princess Cruises||Amazing Secret River||USD 129.95||8 hrs|
|Norwegian||Amazing Secret River||USD 140.00||7 hrs|
|Disney||Amazing Secret River||USD 139.00||8 to 8-1/2 hrs|
|Carnival Cruises||Amazing Secret River||USD 109.00||7 hrs|
10. Discover Chichen Itza
- Duration: 8 hours | Cost: USD 120.00 to USD 190.00
Like the cenotes near Playa del Carmen, a trip to see the Chichen Itza pyramid requires a ferry ride to the mainland. If exploring the iconic ruins of Chichén Itzá is on your bucket list, cruise lines make this tour possible from Cozumel.
However, expect to spend approximately 3-1/2 traveling each way, with only one hour at the ruins. In all, it’s a 45-minute ferry ride combined with a 2-1/2-hour bus trip. When prone to motion sickness, it’s advisable to give this tour a miss.
As the largest city in the Mayan world, archeologists are still uncovering new discoveries. At its height, the city was home to 50,000 Mayans from the Yucatan Peninsula. El Castillo, also known as the Temple of Kukulcan, is the most recognizable structure with its pyramid shape and 364 steps flanked on four sides.
Unfortunately, visitors cannot ascent the pyramid, and much of the site is behind ropes to preserve the archeological environment. With 2 million tourists visiting each year, it’s understandable that it was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
11. Visit Pueblo del Maiz
- Duration: 8 hours | Cost: USD 20.00+
Pueblo del Maiz or Village of Corn is a hidden gem on Cozumel. This Cozumel excursion transcends to the ancient Mayan times. During the interactive tour through the park, discover the Mayan gods’ structures, watch a tortilla-making demonstration, and see how chocolate is made.
At the Chicle (chewing gum) camp, see how the resin is extracted from the chicozapote tree and made into gum, long before Wrigley’s invented it.
A Pueblo del Maiz excursion is ideal for all ages with face painting, weaving, and playing an ancient Mayan ball game. At the end of the tour, a fire-dancing local treats the visitors with Mayan song and dance.
12. Catamaran To Playa Norte
- Duration: 5 hours | Cost: USD 85.00+
During the busy season (November to April), Cozumel can see as many as eight cruise ships a day. With over 20,000 passengers converging on a town, this might not be the recipe for a relaxing day in paradise.
Instead, consider a catamaran sail across the turquoise waters to Playa Norte. Playa Norte is considered by most to be the best beach in Mexico. Located on Isla Mujeres, across from Cancun, the laid-back island exudes a feeling of tranquility.
The one-hour sail to the small island is relaxing and complemented with lunch, margaritas, and fresh local fruits. If this isn’t a recipe for relaxation, I don’t know what is? Arriving at the island, the white sand beach with palm trees is breathtaking. Expect to spend 2-1/2 hours enjoying the island’s activities away from San Miguel’s crowds.
On Isla Norte, the excursion includes snorkeling equipment and paddleboards. Additional food and drinks are available at a restaurant for an extra fee. After relaxing on a hammock and a refreshing swim in the ocean, head back to your catamaran for another one-hour sail back.
The return route sometimes offers an additional opportunity to snorkel off the vessel.
13. Get Dirty On A Jungle Adventure
- Duration: 3-1/2 hours | Cost: USD 75.00+
Do you remember your childhood days of jumping in muddy puddles? On the Jungle ATV and Jade Cavern excursion, you can relive those memories by driving an all-terrain vehicle on dusty and dirty jungle paths to see a freshwater cenote.
Guests have the option of a single-person ATV or a double occupancy buggy. It’s important to note this excursion has a minimum age of 16 and a maximum age of 70.
Participants are required to wear closed-toe shoes, and it’s advisable not to wear their best clothes due to the dirt and mud. The operator supplies helmets, goggles, and bandanas, and lockers are available for a small fee.
If Cozumel has experienced lots of rain, riders should expect muddy conditions. However, lack of rain makes the pathway very dusty instead.
It takes approximately 45 minutes to reach Jade Cavern, which gets its name from its water’s color. Depending on the conditions, participants have the option to swim in the cenote. Do note; that sunscreen is not allowed to prevent possible damage to coral.
Instead, use Rashguard clothing over your bathing suit as it generally has a UPF 50 rating. Being a dirty , a change of clothes is necessary for the trip back to port.
14. Visit The Mayan Bee Sanctuary
- Duration: 1-1/2 hours | Cost: USD 8.00+
A relatively new facility, the Mayan Bee Sanctuary introduces visitors to the rare stingless bee. The Mayan bees are declining in population in the Yucatan region. So, it’s nice to see a place that protects and educates the public on the life cycle of this rare species.
Stingless bees, called Melipona, don’t create honeycombs like traditional bees. Instead, they make nests in trees that resemble pots. The honey produced has a floral, citrus flavor with a long after taste.
These bees produce less honey, making the golden syrup more valuable. For this reason, the use of Melipona honey is preferable in medicine as opposed to a food sweetener.
While the entrance fee of USD 8.00 makes for a great budget-friendly excursion, expect to pay USD 50.00 through a cruise line. Cruise companies generally combine the bee sanctuary with a stop at a cocoa farm for some chocolate and tequila tasting.
Chocolate, tequila, and honey; could life be any sweeter? My only question is, why can’t all bees be stingless?
15. Explore A Pearl Farm
- Duration: 6 hours | Cost: USD 110.00 +
On the north side of Cozumel Island, a small family-owned operation started cultivating pearls in 2001. Since 2012, visitors to Cozumel can tour the remote farm to see the farm’s operation.
The family uses Atlantic Pearl Oysters, almost extinct in the Caribbean. Visitors can see the first cultivated pearls and learn about the long-cultivated process. After the cultivation class, take to the turquoise waters to view the oyster hatchery.
Under the water, a sizable statue of Our Lady Guadalupe welcomes sea goers. Unique pearl jewelry is available for purchase during the tour. The pearl farm tour includes a lunch of cheeseburgers, grilled pineapple, and Mexican beer before the boat ride back to San Miguel.
As one of the top diving destinations globally, visitors have the opportunity to play, relax, and enjoy good food. Weather-wise, Cozumel’s temperatures are ideal year-round, although fall to spring is more popular and brings bigger crowds. Whatever your interests and whoever you travel with, there’s something for everyone on this Mexican island.
With a one-day itinerary, it’s often hard to choose from the many tours in Cozumel. However, don’t fret because the variety of tours gives an excellent reason to return. Should you decide to take a ferry to Playa del Carmen or Cancun, be mindful of your cruise’s departure time.
Happy travels ~ Karen
Wednesday 13th of July 2022
Great information! We ended up doing the private jeep tour as our excursion in Cozumel.
Wednesday 13th of July 2022
Thank you. Cozumel has lots of options for fun in the sun and I'm glad you found the one you enjoyed.