THE 10 BEST Free Things to Do in Cozumel
Are you thinking of visiting Cozumel while in Mexico? Perhaps you have booked a cruise and this is one of the stops? Whatever reason there is that will bring you to this small island on the Yucatan Peninsula, you will definitely fall in love with it. After all, it is home to some of the best beaches with pristine white sands and turquoise waters.
But there is more to Cozumel than just its gorgeous beaches. In fact, a day trip may not be enough to fully appreciate the island and what it has to offer. From relaxing by a swimming pool to exploring the coral reefs, or shopping for souvenirs, there are tons of activities here that you don’t want to miss.
Things to Do in Cozumel on a Day Trip
If you are short on time, don’t worry. You will be able to fill your day with plenty of activities while visiting Cozumel. This will depend mostly on what you are interested in. For example, if you are a beach lover, you can get an all-inclusive day pass from Paradise Beach or Mr. Sancho’s Beach Club. Your pass will give you access to their private beach, amenities, food, and drinks.
Meanwhile, Playa Mia Grand Beach Park is another amazing beach and water park to visit. If you are looking for white sand beaches then you have found one! Aside from its pristine beach, it also has crystal clear waters for you to swim in. There are other beaches that dot the island, but I suggest that you stick to the west side of the island. It’s because the waters tend to be calmer on this side.
Aside from the beaches, there are plenty of shops and restaurants here that you can check out as well. There is also an archaeological site here called San Gervasio that you don’t want to miss. Of course, if you want to explore the waters, a glass bottom boat tour is a fun way to see the coral reefs. If you are not a professional scuba diver, book the Atlantis Submarine tour to see the shipwrecks up close.
How to Get to Cozumel
Cruise ship passengers will not have any difficulties reaching this island. After all, it is already part of the tour. However, most travelers from Cancun will need to travel to Playa del Carmen to get there. Of course, if you are in Playa del Carmen, staying for a day or two is not a bad idea. After all, you can enjoy Xcaret adventure parks there. This way you will not feel rushed during your trip.
From Playa del Carmen, you will take a 45-minute ferry ride to the island. It will cost you around $12/per adult and $10/per child. If you already know how long you are going to stay on the island, you can buy a round-trip ticket already. This lets you avoid falling in line at the ferry terminal of Cozumel when you are heading back to Playa del Carmen.
Aside from riding the ferry, it is also possible to fly to Cozumel if you prefer. However, most of the tourists visiting the area often disembark at the Cancun International Airport. Once you are on the island, you will need to consider how you are going to get around. Fortunately, the island is small which means that most of the places here are accessible on foot. Aside from that, you can rent a scooter or a rental car to get around. I would suggest any of these two because it will give you more freedom to explore the place.
Top 10 Free Things to Do In Cozumel
Cozumel is one of the best places to visit in Mexico with good reason. It has everything that you are looking for in a beach vacation. Aside from its beautiful beaches, this island packs a lot in terms of activities that its guests can do. In fact, some of the activities here are free of charge which I am sure you will want to take advantage of. Believe me, I did try them out as well so I am sharing these activities with you. After all, what you can save from these activities, you can use for the rest of your trip. Let’s get started!
- Visit El Mirador
If you are looking for a quiet place to hang out, I recommend that you drive out or have a taxi driver take you to El Mirador. This is on the east side of the island and is about half an hour away from downtown Cozumel. What I love about this place is its natural beauty. Just imagine heading to a rock formation that has been carved out by the sea over centuries.
Climb up to the top to see an impressive view of the ocean and the rest of the island. You can bring your food here to eat while enjoying the view. It’s the perfect spot to get away from the crowd in the capital of Cozumel. Make sure that you bring your camera with you because there are plenty of amazing photos to capture here.
- Enjoy the Sun, Sand, and Sea at Playa Chen Rio
One of the best things about Cozumel is that there is no shortage of amazing beaches. In fact, one of them is Playa Chen Rio which lies on the east coast. This is actually one of its advantages since this area is not frequented by cruise passengers hence the area is less crowded. It is easier to find a good spot here compared to those on the west coast so make sure that you visit this beach area.
In addition, Playa Chen Rio is a protected area with calm and shallow water perfect for swimming in. This makes it a great place for families with kids because they can also splash around the waters. Just make sure that they don’t venture out into the deeper parts because there are strong currents there. Always keep an eye on where your little ones are and just follow the locals where they swim. They can show you which areas are safe to swim in along the east coast.
- Explore San Miguel de Cozumel
If you are looking for free things to do in Cozumel, I suggest that you head to San Miguel de Cozumel. This is the perfect place to go for a stroll along the seafront during sunset. During the day, the area gets crowded because the cruise port is full of passengers. Outside of their time, the area is fairly quiet and laidback which makes it an ideal stop if you want to grab a bite to eat or just sit and relax while admiring the view.
Head to the center of San Miguel and you will be at the main square or the Zocalo. Every town in Mexico has one. In fact, this is a popular spot among locals to get together and just chat while having something to eat. If you want to feel like a local, you definitely need to make your way here. It’s actually fun just sitting there and ordering food from street vendors nearby. And if you are here on a Sunday, you will be entertained by live music and performances done for free.
Aside from that, downtown San Miguel is where you can find souvenir shops, restaurants, and bars as well. You can spend the afternoon here while waiting for the sunset that Cozumel is known for.
- Check Out the Public Beaches
Meanwhile, if you want to work on your tan, then head to Cozumel’s public beaches. There are several that you will find on either side of the island that you can head out to. Among these are Paradise Beach, Sunset Beach, and Playa Palancar. Don’t forget to bring your own snorkel gear so that you can go snorkeling to see tropical fish and other sea creatures in the area. You can also rent your gear from one of the shops along the beaches.
Aside from snorkeling, you can also enjoy various water sports on these beaches. You can play beach volleyball, rent a kayak, or go paddle boarding. The last two will require a rental fee, true, but it will be cheaper compared to renting one from the hotels nearby.
- Go on a DIY Food Trip
One of the fun things to do in Cozumel is to sample the local cuisine. If you are a foodie, then this should definitely be included in your itinerary. You can start your food trip in the capital where most of the restaurants are found. However, feel free to explore San Miguel’s local food scene, especially those hole-in-the-wall types of eateries. They do have some dishes that are not only cheap but delicious too.
In fact, I suggest that you go where the locals often eat. After all, they know where the best spots are. A good rule of thumb while in Mexico is that when you see locals line up in a store, the food there is actually good. I would say that eating street food in Cozumel is an experience you don’t want to miss out on. They have different dishes waiting for you from burritos to tacos to churros and others. You will definitely be spoiled for choices here.
- Go Snorkeling or Scuba Diving in Cozumel
Of course, no trip to Cozumel will be complete without going snorkeling or scuba diving. Places like the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef at the Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park are among the popular places to go snorkeling and scuba diving. After all, the coral reefs here are protected which means that marine life is thriving. In fact, you will come across various sea creatures here like sea turtles, manta rays, and whale sharks even.
Although this means that you will have to book a tour, there are areas on the island where you can explore underwater on your own. This means that you will have your gear with you when traveling here. If you have rented a car then you can easily find a public beach and go snorkeling from there. Just make sure that you are aware where the safe areas out in the open waters. This is especially true while you are on the east side of Cozumel. After all, the waters here tend to have strong currents that might drag you if you are not too careful.
- Try a Temazcal Ceremony
If you are looking forward to having a relaxing day in Cozumel, joining a Temazcal ceremony is a good idea. This ancient Mayan ceremony focuses on cleansing, relaxing, and rejuvenating your body. In this ceremony, you will enter a hut where a shaman will greet you. The interior of the hut is warmed by hot lava rocks which creates a sauna effect. You will undergo several relaxation techniques that will cleanse your body of any impurities.
The last stage of the ceremony is swimming in one of the cenotes nearby. I find this ceremony to be a meditative ritual that aligns your mind, body, and spirit. Think of it as an ancient spa therapy session. I guarantee that you will feel great afterward.
- Enjoy a Free Concert
There is no denying that the pandemic has taken a toll on Mexico’s beach towns, including Cozumel. But let me tell you that tourism on this island is back in full swing! In fact, the pre-Carnival festivities have already started which is one of the reasons why tourists are flocking to the island. There are plenty of free public shows and concerts happening at Benito Juarez Park so you might want to make your way there. Aside from that, the nightlife is back to its bustling atmosphere which is always something to look forward to while on the island.
What’s great about this place is that most have outdoor areas where guests hang out. If you don’t want to pay for anything, you can just find a spot nearby and just listen to the music spilling out from the bars. In fact, you can walk around downtown moving from one bar area to the next to listen to the tunes.
Of course, I would suggest that you head to the park in front of the Palacio Municipal. This is where most of the free activities are done. Aside from that, there is a children’s park in the area for your little ones. You can grab a bite to eat from one of the vendors while keeping an eye on your kids as they have fun at the park.
- Watch the Morning Work at the Waterfront
One of the fun things to do for free in Cozumel is to watch how the locals get ready for the day. In fact, I suggest that you wake up early in the day and go for a stroll on the town’s waterfront. Here you will find local fishermen going out into the sea while dive shop crews ready their equipment on board their boats.
You can even take photos of the cruise ships docked at the cruise port if you like. I like to see the raw beauty of the island by watching how locals live day by day. And what better place to see that than at the waterfront? You can even catch taxi drivers lining up for their morning gossip over coffee too.
- Explore Cozumel Market
If you still have some free time on your hands, why not explore the Cozumel market? El Mercado is where you can find fresh produce, seafood, meat, and others. You can also grab a bite to eat here as there are vendors selling freshly made food here too which is a plus. I like the fact that this market has vendors showing off their craft-making skills for free. It is pure entertainment!
Don’t forget to try the local restaurants nearby if you are feeling famished. After all, you might come across great food that you won’t find anywhere else. This is actually a good spot to learn more about Mexican culture because this is where most locals shop. If you want to immerse yourself in local culture, you can try your hand at haggling with the shop owners.
Best Activities to Do in Cozumel
Now that you have an idea of all the free things that you can do on the island, let’s take it a step further. Here I will share with you the most popular activities that you can try while visiting Cozumel but this time, they come with a fee.
- See Punta Sur Ecological Park
The first on my list is for you to visit Punta Sur Eco Beach Park. It is considered the best beach on the island because of its pristine white sand and clear waters. Aside from that, this ecological reserve is home to exotic birds and plenty of wildlife that you will need to keep your eyes peeled as you tour the premises. Nature lovers will certainly want to include this park in their itinerary. You can go swimming, snorkeling, and diving here which are among the popular water activities.
In addition, there is a lighthouse on the property that you can also visit. Climb all the way to the top to get a great view of the park and the open waters. There is an entrance fee of $18 for adults, but it is going to be worth it. After all, the entire park covers 2,500 acres of land where there are tons of things to see and do. Take note that this also serves as a gateway to the National Marine Park which is a plus.
- Go on Boat Tours
Aside from exploring Cozumel by land, why not see it from the waters? The best way to do this is to go on a boat tour to hop around Cozumel. In fact, catamaran rides are often booked by tourists who are looking for a different kind of experience. Just imagine having lunch or a couple of drinks on board a catamaran while admiring Cozumel.
What’s great about these tours is that you can book a private boat ride. This lets you fully customize your trip. In fact, you can add snorkeling, swimming, and diving to your itinerary if you like. This is perfect if you are traveling with the whole family and want some privacy while out in the open waters.
- See the Mayan Ruins
Would you believe that Cozumel has an archeological site? I was equally surprised upon hearing this that I immediately went to San Gervasio. It was not as grand as Chichen Itza, but it is impressive nonetheless. You can drive here in your rental car if you like since it is not far from the capital.
Although it is possible to explore the ruins on your own, I recommend that you hire a tour guide. One reason behind this is that you will get to learn more about its history. Take note that there are entrance fees to be paid on top of hiring a tour guide. I am telling you that it is worth hiring a guide since they will make the ruins more interesting to explore.
- Visit a Beach Club
Yes, public beaches are free to use, but they don’t have the amenities that beach clubs have. Unless you bring your own food and wait until you get back to your hotel to shower, why not get a day pass from one of the beach clubs instead? Here you get access to private beaches as well as the use of their lounge chairs, sun beds, bathrooms, and showers.
Not only that but you can also have your drink served to you on the beach. Pick a nice spot under the palm trees to sunbathe while enjoying a cool refreshing drink. Among the best beach clubs that you can try are Money Bar Beach Club and Uvas Beach Club.
- Shop Until You Drop
One of the great things that you can do in Cozumel is to go shopping. Yes, the main plaza in San Miguel is where most shops are, but there are more options to consider. Among these are Punta Langosta Mall, Plaza del Sol in San Miguel, and Puerta Maya.
Here you can shop for clothes, accessories, and food too. Some of the best restaurants are in these malls so you can spend an entire day here if you like.
- See the Cozumel Butterfly and Botanical Gardens
If you are disembarking from one of the cruise ship piers in San Miguel, then head to this attraction. It is near the cruise port so you can start your adventure immediately. After all, it is just a short walk from the pier and is the ideal place to see some of the flora thriving on the island.
The botanical garden is home to hundreds of plant species that you will be amazed by. Add to that the fact that this serves as the home for butterflies and you will learn to appreciate these plants more. It is open Monday to Saturday so you can time your trip here easily.
- Have Fun at Discover Mexico Park
Another great option for tourists to do on the island of Cozumel is to visit Discover Mexico Park. In fact, this is the perfect spot for families who are part of a cruise line. One reason behind this is that it is just ten minutes away from the port area. It means that it is accessible to everyone who arrives in Cozumel by boat.
Here you can go on water slides, splash around the pools, and even try their water trampolines. You are sure to have a good time here, especially with your kids, once they see the entirety of the theme park.
- Go Scuba Diving in Cozumel
Although it is possible to dive on your own in Cozumel, joining a diving tour is still the best way to see life under the ocean. Professional scuba divers will be taken to some of the best spots on the island such as Palancar Reef. If this is your first time diving, your captain will take you to diving spots that are suitable for your skill level. In fact, you can take diving lessons here as well if you have time.
I, for one, love exploring the waters of Mexico, and Cozumel is no different. If you can, make sure that you add this to your itinerary.
It’s hard not to enjoy a perfect day in Cozumel. After all, there are tons of activities to do here that you will not want for anything. It doesn’t matter if you are here on a day trip from Playa del Carmen or traveled here by plane, adventure awaits you as soon as you arrive. From horseback riding to swimming in one of the gorgeous beaches here, you will be spoiled for choices for sure.
If you prefer a more laid-back adventure, then explore the main town on foot. Here you will find old buildings, parks, and plazas where locals often congregate. Even some of the best hotels are within the area which is a plus. If you are willing to splurge on your trip here then try the beach hotels on the island. They do accept credit cards which is a plus for me.
Whether you are looking for free things to do or are willing to pay for your adventure, Cozumel will not disappoint. In fact, the ones mentioned here are but a fraction of the things that you can do here. You can choose from land-based adventures or, if you prefer the waters, search for snorkeling and diving tours here. Even deep-sea fishing adventures are popular here as well which I think is a must-try.
Of course, no trip to Cozumel will be complete without enjoying the local food scene. Go on a food tour or explore the restaurants on your own. Either way, you will have tons of interesting dishes to sample here.