Port Review: Cozumel, Mexico

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It is Mexico's largest island, nestled just off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, and famous for white sandy beaches and crystal clear water. But they are not the only attractions of this popular port of call. 


This interesting island, which features on many Western Caribbean cruise itineraries, is famous for a number of things. Being Mexico’s largest island is one, but it is also blessed with year-round summer weather, great diving and snorkelling, and, of course, quality Mayan ruins. All of which come together to make it a great cruise destination. Cozumel is also an ideal stop for anyone who just wants to relax on the beach and chill, but if you want to delve into Mexico’s ancient culture, tours to important cultural and historical sights are always on offer.

The Facts

Location: Off the Yucatan Peninsula on the eastern Gulf coast of Mexico in the Caribbean Sea.

Language: Spanish, but English is also quite widely spoken.

Currency: Mexican peso, but US dollars are also accepted everywhere.

Docking/anchoring: There are three cruise ship piers on the island, with the primary one being Punta Langosta Pier in the centre of San Miguel, the main town on the island. The TMM International Pier is approximately eight kilometres south of downtown, and the Puerta Maya Pier is just south of there.

Transport: If you dock at Punta Langosta you are within walking distance of shopping, restaurants and bars. At the other two piers shuttles are usually provided by the cruise line, and there are plenty of taxis for heading up to San Miguel, or venturing further afield to local beaches. If you’re feeling energetic you can also rent a bicycle, scooter or motorcycle.

Don’t Miss

San Miguel is a pleasant enough, fairly compact city if you don’t want to venture far on your port day, but there aren’t too many sights of interest to see. The primary purpose of hanging out here is to browse through the tax free shops, or wile away some time at one of its many lively restaurants and bars. 

Diving and snorkelling is plentiful here as the island has excellent reefs surrounding it, and which are abundant with marine life. One of the most famous is Palancar Reef, on the southern part of the island.

Playa Del Carmen is accessible via ferry from the San Miguel Passenger Ferry Pier, which is next to the Punta Langosta Pier in town. The ride to mainland is only 45 minutes if you have explored Cozumel before, but make sure you have enough time in port to get there and back comfortably.

Chankanaab Park is just south of the main town, and a nice eco-archeological park and museum site with gardens, faux Mayan ruins, dolphin and sea lion shows, and an undersea park which you can explore at your leisure using rented snorkelling equipment. 

Best Photo Op

The El Mirador lookout on the rugged east coast is a stunning rocky point featuring natural bridges, blowholes, and tidal pools. There’s a tower there to climb for the views, and photo ops.


The shopping in Cozumel isn't anything that special, and your pick of what to buy will be largely the same souvenirs and other trinkets you can find in most Mexican cruise ports of call. If you are in the market for silver jewellery or Indian blankets, however, you'll find them here at a reasonable price. And there’s always top quality tequila at prices much cheaper than home.

Food And Drink

Your best bet is to explore San Miguel, although most of the restaurants are somewhat American-styled rather than authentic Mexican. Besides common local fare such as chilli, tamales and enchiladas, one local dish to put your list is freshly caught grilled fish served on a skewer, typically local snapper. Enjoy with a cold Corona. 

Pick of the Excursions

Tulum is one of the best preserved and most mysterious Pre-Columbian Maya ruin sites in the country, and well worth the long day trip from the pier. Also known as the Walled City it’s perched 12 metres up on edge of a cliff above the Caribbean and was one of the last cities inhabited and built by the Mayas. 

Xel-Ha is just north of Tulum, this is often combined with a tour to the ancient Mayan site, and a lovely place to snorkel, or simply relax on the beach and soak up the sun. 

The Atlantis Submarine Expedition is a way to enjoy taking a passenger sub which can dive to depths of 30 metres, showcasing the impressive reef which surrounds the island. 

Joanna Hall