Cozumel is without a doubt one of the most popular cruise ports in North America. Each year literally millions of cruise passengers — and other visitors — call on the Mexican island.
As you would expect with such a popular destination, the tourist industry around Cozumel is booming. If there is anything you can think to do on the island — from taking out a sailboat to fishing to exploring the jungle via 4-wheeler — someone offers a trip… for a price.
In fact, it’s not unusual to find Cozumel excursions that costs $100 — or more — per person. That’s not to say they aren’t worth it, but for many people the extra cost is way too much, especially if you’re a family traveling together.
The good news? There are a ton of things you can do in Cozumel that won’t break the bank. We’ve rounded up some of the activities you can do that are either cheap or free. If you’re looking to stick to a budget while on your vacation, these ideas can save a ton of money.
1. Visit Playa San de Martin
Want a wide expanse of white-sand beach, electric blue water, and no huge crowds? That’s Playa San de Martin, and it’s free to visit. The beach is the east side of the island, opposite of the cruise piers. Because of that, not a ton of cruise passengers make the trip. Those that do are greeted with a postcard-like beach with hardly anyone on it. There is also a little beach bar you can go to when you want a shady place with a cold drink.
2. Explore San Miguel
Most people visit San Miguel (the main town) when in Cozumel but they normally just hit the shops along the waterfront. Go back into the town a little more and you’ll see some authentic Mexico. Sure, it’s not whitewashed and ready-made for tourists, but you didn’t come all the way to Mexico to hang out at Senor Frog’s the entire time, right?
3. Visit the Cozumel Island Museum
Today Cozumel is known as a tourist hotspot, but the history on the island goes way back. The Museo de la Isla de Cozumel tells you everything you could want to know about the island, it’s past, and the ecological area. See artifacts from ancient peoples that inhabited the land, up through present-day Cozumel. Best of all, it only costs $4 per person and kids under 8 are free.
4. Visit the Ruins of San Gervasio
The Mayan people inhabited the Yucatan Peninsula for centuries. Today there are ruins of their towns and cities throughout the area, including on Cozumel. With a short taxi ride you can visit the ruins at San Gervasio. The area was abandoned sometime in the 16th century, but many of the structures are still standing today. Admission is just $5 and free for kids under 10.
5. Take a Picture with WWII Fighter Planes
If you’re an aviation buff, then head over to the airport, just north of San Miguel. There are several WWII era fighters on display that are neat to visit. Plus, if you’re lucky you will time your visit with the landing of passenger jets bringing more visitors to the island. The low fly-by is fun to watch.
6. Go Snorkeling
Want something a little more active than just sitting on the beach? Bring some snorkel gear and hit up one of Cozumel’s many beaches. With the crystal clear water, this is one of the best places on the planet for beginners to try their hand at snorkeling. We recommend finding a beach on the west side of the island where the seas are usually calmer.
7. Go Souvenir Shopping
Sure, shopping costs money… if you buy things. But sometimes window shopping can be just as fun. Cozumel has a ton of shops selling everything from fine jewelry to cigars to kitschy knick-knacks. Just walk up and down the main boulevard in San Miguel and duck into any of the shops that catch your eye. Who knows? You might find something you can’t live without.
Need more ideas? Check out our article on 59 Things for Cruise Passengers to do in Cozumel.