Cozumel is a port of call and is actually an island on the southeast coast of Mexico with the port city being San Miguel de Cozumel. It is part of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo and a very popular cruise stop on most western Caribbean itineraries. Its real claim to fame are the beaches and the diving sites but it is also a good place for shopping as well.
Where Your Ship Docks
Terminal de Cruceros or Cruise Ship Terminal is the major location for cruise ships but there is another major terminal located in the town proper. With this destination being so popular there is a possibility that your ship could dock at either location.
The Terminal de Cruceros is a well developed area with excellent facilities, two shopping villages, a number of bars (the infamous Mini Senior Frog’s and Three Amigos) and a number of good restaurants. It is about four kilometers into downtown San Miguel. It is also right next to a remarkably good snorkeling area right at the “beach”.
The other cruise docking pier is central to San Miguel and an easy walk to the main shops, restaurants and the original Senior Frog’s.
If you are looking to get to locations within a few miles of the pier the best choice is a taxi. They are plentiful and moderately priced. Just make sure you settle on a fare before heading out. If your goal is to do some diving or serious snorkeling the recommendation is to book with a tour operator of which there are a number right at the pier and they usually include transportation. Taxi drivers also will offer a fixed price tour of the island and most people we have spoken with have been happy having taken this option. There are also numerous tours you can book with your ship.
The local currency is the Mexican peso ($1 about 2 pesos) but U.S. Dollars are commonly accepted. One word of caution – this is a location where liberating tourists from their money is a popular past time. Be cautious of ATM’s, pay phones and money changers. ATM fees can be very high and pay phones that take credit cards cannot be trusted.
Shopping – Both at the terminal and in town there are a number of bargains to be found. Mexico is famous for silver, onyx and pottery and often the prices are too good to pass up. Two items that are always a good deal are vanilla and tequila. In shopping for vanilla don’t be tempted by those large, cheap bottles of vanilla available in many gift shops. They may not contain real vanilla extract, and sometimes may contain something that could hurt you. That “something” is coumarin, an extract of the tonka bean that imparts an intense vanilla aroma and thus makes it smell like the real thing. Coumarin was banned as food additive in the U.S. in 1940 because of moderate toxicity. Pay attention and make sure you know what you are getting.
One good recommendation is a visit to a beach and one popular choice is Chankanaab. The cruise ships will offer tours including beach trips and snorkeling but if you are looking for a day at the beach our recommendation is to take a taxi to Chankanaab Beach Park and pay the park admission. You’ll save a lot of money over the tour cost and can go and return when you want. It’s not far and there are usually taxis waiting at the park to take you back to the ship. There is a beach bar, a couple of food options, snorkeling and beach chair rentals and the water is great. To get out to the better reefs it’s a bit of a swim though.