Cozumel is an island paradise steeped in Mayan, Mexican and Caribbean culture. It’s widely loved for its pristine coral reefs and sparkling blue waters. It’s an exciting combination of everything that makes Cozumel so special — rich history, archaeological sites, modern resort amenities and a culmination of travelers and locals who share a love for the island.
Table of Contents
- About Cozumel
- Communicating in Cozumel
- Getting Around the Port
- Currency Used in Cozumel
- What to See and Do in Cozumel
- Tips for Visiting Cozumel
- Book Your Cozumel Cruise Today
Learn more about this island destination with our Cozumel cruise port guide.
Few places in the world offer a blend of upscale modern establishments and historic villages settled amidst ruins. Travelers love porting in Cozumel because of the variety they find here. You can eat at a fine-dining restaurant, board a ferry for the mainland, visit the bustling city of San Miguel, explore Mayan sites or sun on the sandy beaches. No matter what a tropical cruise vacation looks like to you, Cozumel has it.
History and Culture
Early Cozumel was all about Mayan culture. The Mayans were strong proponents of the “cycles” of life and nature, as evidenced by the now-famous Mayan calendar. They made strides in astronomy, math and architecture, and the Mayan ruins are among the most intricate and fascinating in the world. Mayans began creating homes and building a civilization in Yucatán in 2500 B.C.
They considered Cozumel a type of sacred space, an island sanctuary, and it became a site for many important ceremonies and rituals. One such practice was the fertility ritual, and you can still spot remnants of these temples around the island. The Spaniards arrived in Cozumel around 1518 and the rest is history.
Communicating in Cozumel
While many people in Cozumel speak English, it’s a good idea to brush up on your Spanish before you go. This is a respectful thing to do before mingling with the locals, and you’ll also have an easier time navigating around the island. It will also make it easier to understand and order from restaurant menus.
Getting Around the Port
Cozumel has several cruise terminals, including Punta Langosta Pier and Puerta Maya Pier. Each one is close to San Miguel, but make sure you keep track of which port you need to find when it’s time to board your ship again.
Here are the easiest ways to get around the island:
- Taxis: Taxis are the primary mode of transportation for cruise travelers on Cozumel. All taxis operate under a fixed fare, with the island split into several “destination zones” that vary in cost. Many taxi operators will accept the U.S. dollar, but try to pay in pesos if you can.
- Ferries: If you want to visit other parts of Quintana Roo, you’ll need to take the passenger ferry to get there. The ferry ride takes about 45 minutes one-way and operates throughout the year.
- Scooters and bikes: There are several scooter and bicycle rental options available on the island for a fun way to get around. Only rent a motorized scooter for the day if you have extensive experience operating one, as they can be dangerous to untrained travelers. Always follow all speed limits and navigate carefully on roadways.
- Walking: Many places around the island are walkable, especially in San Miguel. If you plan to walk a lot, remember to bring a pair of walking shoes and always travel with a partner.
Currency Used in Cozumel
Cozumel operates via the Mexican peso, but many establishments also accept the U.S. dollar. Before you visit, use a currency converter to make sure you have enough money on hand. If you plan on paying for your goods and services via credit or debit card, keep in mind that many places — including taxis — may accept cash only. Call your card company before you begin spending and let them know you’re out of the country so they do not freeze your account for suspicious activity.
What to See and Do in Cozumel
Grab your day bag, camera and a Cozumel cruise port map and start your island adventure at these traveler-favorite spots.
Sightseeing in Cozumel could only mean one thing — touring the ancient Mayan ruins. These archaeological sites are popular with locals and tourists because they bring history to life and are beautiful to see. Because they’re a traveler hot spot, expect some lines during the busy season. Many also charge an admission fee, so have some pesos with you before you go.
These are some of the can’t-miss Mayan sites on Cozumel and the nearby mainland:
- San Gervasio: San Gervasio is a ruin in San Miguel where Mayans once worshipped goddess Ixchel and conducted important political and economic meetings.
- Chichén Itzá: Chichén Itzá is on the mainland, but it’s well worth the trip. Rather than a single ruin, Chichén Itzá is an entire ancient city that historians believe once acted as the center for commerce, military and religion. One of the most famous and recognizable ruins here is the Kukulkán Pyramid, known as “El Castillo,” one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
- Tulum: The Tulum ruins are another mainland site located near Cancun. You’ll find it standing on a picturesque cliff by the ocean — a sight you’re not likely to forget.
- El Cedral: El Cedral, a Mayan temple, is on the south part of Cozumel. Though plain to look at, it was once an important religious place for the Mayan civilization, and many locals still consider it sacred.
- Cobá: The Cobá ruins is a large pyramid on the mainland with more than 100 stone steps that you can climb to the top. This site is more rural than others, so consider going with an experienced guide.
From seafood to Mexican cuisine — and everything in between — Cozumel has no shortage of quality restaurants. Here are some of our travelers’ favorite picks:
- Señor Frog’s: Señor Frog’s is a fun, casual eatery and bar known for its festive, party-like atmosphere and signature drinks. Cozumel currently has two locations — one downtown and one at the Cozumel Pier.
- Crazy King Burrito: Crazy King Burrito is an unassuming restaurant at Calle 4 Norte 5 that serves up giant, mouthwatering burritos loaded with fresh flavor.
- Kinta: Kinta Mexican Bistro is an upscale restaurant that features a sophisticated seasonal menu in a cozy garden space in downtown Cozumel. Reservations are encouraged.
- La Perlita: You can’t leave Cozumel without indulging in a fresh seafood meal, and La Perlita is the best place to get one on the island. It’s an out-of-the-way establishment you won’t find listed in many guidebooks, but locals and travelers alike will tell you it’s a can’t-miss experience.
- Guido’s: Guido’s prides itself on its talented chefs, hospitable service and warm, inviting atmosphere. Dine on a seasonal menu of seafood, pasta and meat dishes.
- Buccanos at Night: Buccanos at Night offers a unique experience by the waterside. Enjoy multi-ethnic, signature seafood meals with soft lighting and a sweeping view of the ocean that you can’t beat.
Don’t leave Cozumel without picking up a few things to commemorate your trip. Some of the best places to shop on the island are:
- Punta Langosta Mall: This multi-level shopping mall houses numerous stores, including clothing, souvenir and jewelry retailers. It’s near the cruise ports, making it the perfect way to kick-off your Cozumel journey.
- Casa Colectiva: If you’re looking for an edible gift or delicious Cozumel pick-me-up, head to Casa Colectiva. This collective combines a bakery, café and organic market, where you can find produce, pastries, plants and snacks.
- Mente de Cacao: Mente de Cacao is a special shopping destination specializing in one thing — chocolate. Here you’ll have your choice between sweet and savory chocolate concoctions harvested from organic cacao farms.
You will also find numerous small shops, boutiques and specialty stores located all across Cozumel where you can stop by, meet the locals and find something truly unique.
The island is home to the Cozumel Country Club, a popular golfing destination designed by Jack Nicklaus. Beginners, hobbyists and professional players will love the 18-hole course set against a lush wooded area. The club also offers bird watching and an on-site restaurant that you can take advantage of before you hit the green.
A visit to Cozumel isn’t complete without having fun in — or on — the warm, refreshing water. Cool off with any of these fun water activities:
- Beaches: Cozumel has gorgeous beaches, but don’t make the mistake of visiting just one! Every beach offers something a little different, including wave strength and overall atmosphere. For example, Punta Sur Eco Beach Park is ideal for wildlife lovers, and Playa Bonita is a romantic, remote shoreline. On the other hand, Playa Punta Morena is a more lively beach experience.
- Diving: Travelers love Cozumel for its pristine coral reefs. See them up close during a dive in one of the island’s 40 dive zones. Expect to see plenty of sea life, tunnels, caves and the famous Cozumel Toad Fish or seasonal eagle rays. Please note that you will need a diving certification to complete underwater dives. Beginners can participate in many of the island’s guided snorkeling adventures.
- Water sports: Adventure seekers will love Cozumel’s water sports scene. Choose from paddleboarding, sailing, kitesurfing, flyboarding and more.
It’s tempting to fill your port schedule with nonstop fun and action, but try not to overwhelm yourself. Instead of scheduling every second of your journey, leave space to slow down and participate in wellness routines. Some of the best ways to relax in Cozumel include:
- Attending an indoor or beach Yoga class.
- Visiting a spa for a rejuvenating massage, facial or treatment.
- Spending the day lying on the beach, listening to the waves or catching up on your reading.
- Immersing yourself in something you love, whether that be an outdoor sport or dining with your significant other.
- Spending time basking in the natural, outdoor beauty of the island on a walking tour.
Whatever makes you feel calmer and refueled, be sure to set aside time during your Cozumel vacation to breathe and enjoy where you’re at.
Tips for Visiting Cozumel
Now that you’ve created your ideal Cozumel cruise itinerary, here are some tips and tricks for making the most of your time on the island:
- Know the rainy season: Cozumel’s rainy season lasts from July through November, which also encompasses the hurricane season. While many of the island activities are still enjoyable in the rain, keep an eye on the weather before you go to avoid visiting during tropical storm or hurricane conditions. Remember to pack rain gear in your suitcase, including an umbrella and travel parka.
- Practice sun safety: There’s so much to do and see in Cozumel that it can be easy to forget about the warm sun shining overhead. Stay safe and comfortable by regularly applying a high-SPF sunscreen and carrying a water bottle around to stay hydrated and healthy. If you participate in any physical activity, like swimming or hiking, double your water intake. Always reapply sunscreen after getting out of the water.
- Catch a show when you can: Cozumel holds several shows across the island, either during popular festivals and events or as a part of historical reenactments. If you have the chance, stop and watch these demonstrations as often as you can. They are an entertaining, educational way to pass the time that will leave you with a greater appreciation of the civilization around you.
- Remember the tip: Tipping in Mexico is a common, expected practice, and neglecting to leave a tip at a bar or restaurant is considered rude or indicative of the server’s performance. Though each establishment’s tipping policy varies, aim to tip around 10% to 20% of your bill at restaurants and 10% to 15% of your bill at bars. Grocery store baggers also work for tips, so be sure to compensate them when they pack your bags. You can also tip your tour guide operator if you take a day-long tour.
- Explore the mainland: If you’re porting in Cozumel for a while, consider riding the ferry to the mainland and exploring other popular Yucatán Peninsula destinations, like Cancun. Each place has its own flavor and rhythm, so you can get an authentic Quintana Roo experience.
- Find souvenirs and gifts: Of course, you’ll want to stock up on souvenirs to commemorate your trip and gifts for your loved ones back home, but what should you shop for? The island is known for its bottled vanilla extract, coral-infused items and Mexican chocolate.
Book Your Cozumel Cruise Today
Cozumel is the perfect destination for your cruise vacation, whether you want a relaxing island getaway or a thrill-filled excursion. Spend your day exploring ancient ruins, snorkeling the crystal-clear reefs or soaking up the sun on a sandy shore, then fill up on delicious seafood or Mexican cuisine at a local eatery. If this sounds like a dream come true, Windstar can make it happen with our unique onshore excursions.
Every Windstar cruise offers an elegant retreat free of busy crowds. Our small ships provide an intimate and personal vacation experience without the heavy crowding, allowing you to connect with our crews and your fellow travelers. Smaller ships also allow for us to dock at unique ports and other special areas that bigger ships wouldn’t have access to.
Enjoy top-quality meals and services we’ve designed with your relaxation in mind. Contact a Windstar representative to learn more about the Cozumel, Mexico cruise port and book your next cruise today!