Choosing the perfect Shore Excursion in Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel was my introduction to Mexico, and I ended up with a lot of mixed feelings. I loved the food, the vibe, the laidback atmosphere, and the gorgeous beaches but I was really disappointed with the attitude of the staff at most of the places we visited through our guided tour. While it isn’t uncommon for countries which are economically disadvantaged to have behaviours driven by survival and the need to secure limited opportunities (I come from one myself), I felt the people seemed too focused on selling products, asking for tips and finding other ways to solicit money from us, which unfortunately diminished by overall enjoyment. I felt often confronted with requests for money rather than being able to fully immerse myself in the experience.

Having said that, if you’re fully prepared to overlook this attitude, then besides the gorgeous, untouched beaches of Cozumel, there are several activities that you should indulge in, and having spent enough time in the water and seeing a lot of the sea during the cruise, moving a little away from the coast to explore some cultural and gastronomical experiences was more appealing to us.

While we felt that a guided tour was better than renting a buggy car and driving around because of the convenience of it, if I were to go back in time and make that choice again, I’d probably go for the latter. The buggies look cool, and Cozumel is safer than most other Mexican cities to be able to experience something like this. Also, the weather was nice, and we would’ve loved the flexibility to go to places of our choosing rather than the ones our guided tour selected for us.

The Cozumel Port: The Cozumel Cruise port has 3 terminals, all of which are near San Miguel. Our MSC Cruise docked at the International Cruise Terminal, which is an amazing place to explore. The setting, the restaurants, the shops, everything was exactly what you would expect from a small city in Mexico, so if you choose not to go too far from the port, you can easily spend a few hours relaxing here, enjoying some tequila sunrise drinks, tacos & gorgeous views. Right outside the port, there’s a plethora of shops too, where you can your souvenirs.

Choosing the perfect shore excursion in Cozumel:

There are 3 options that you can choose from, based on your level of adventure, need for flexibility, comfort & convenience.

Option 1: 5-hour group tour including traditional Mayan experience, tequila tasting & beach visit This is the tour we chose. We were picked up in a small bus with a group of people and headed for tequila tasting, followed by Otoch Mayan experience, visited San Martin beach, and finally downtown Cozumel.

Option 2: Cozumel buggy tour with beach, snorkel & lunch: This would’ve been the tour of my choice for two reasons: you would get to experience the buggy driving (beware, it’s manual!), as well as join a guide who can take you around without you having to bother to find the best routes + get access to his local knowledge and recommendations.

Option 3: Rent a buggy and DIY: This is a great option for those who really want to experience adventure and flexibility to the next level. Should you choose to do this, you have 5-6 hrs to explore the entire island, choose from the many traditional cultural experience, visit the tequila tasting place of your choice, and relax on the beach you find best suited to you.

Buggy tour in Cozumel


Here are the top experiences and places to visit on your customizable tour, on your perfect shore excursion in Cozumel:

Otoch Mayan Experience

While it is a tourist trap, the Mayan performance itself along with taco and chocolate tasting was a good way to gain a meaningful connection to Mayan culture. Step back in time and experience the traditions, lifestyle, and wisdom of the Mayan people in an engaging way. You are welcomed with a traditional Mayan blessing ceremony conducted by a local shaman. Then, expert guides, who are also descendants of the Mayan people, provide detailed narratives about the Mayan civilization’s history, including their achievements in astronomy, mathematics, and architecture. Finally, you’ll enjoy a culinary experience that includes sampling traditional dishes such as cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork), tamales, and handmade tortillas. If this is part of your guided tour, the ticket will be included. However, if you plan to DIY, then the price is around $17 per person.

Tequila Tasting

Tequila tasting in Cozumel is a delightful way to experience the rich flavors and cultural heritage of Mexico’s most famous spirit. There are several places where you can try tequila tasting in Cozumel:

El Cedral Tequila Factory: I recommend this because the El Cedral village itself is of great historical significance and retains some Mayan ruins to this date. it’s home to a tequila factory that offers tours and tastings. It is also home to a tequila factory where you can learn about the traditional methods of tequila production and sample different varieties while enjoying the charming setting.

Tequila Aventura: If you’re looking to sample more premium tequilas, then head to this once. The tour includes a detailed explanation of the tequila-making process, from agave cultivation to distillation, and offers tastings of several premium tequilas. You’re not obliged to make a purchase!

The Mayan Cacao Company: If you love both tequila and chocolate, then this is where to head. While primarily known for its chocolate, The Mayan Cacao Company also offers a tequila tasting experience. You can enjoy a tour that includes the history and production of both chocolate and tequila, followed by tastings of various tequilas paired with artisanal chocolates.

Tequila Tour by Casa Mission: If you’re looking to enjoy a nice meal in a beautiful setting along with tequila tasting, then this is where you need to go. You can explore the lovely gardens, enjoy a traditional Mexican meal, and participate in a tequila tasting session.

Playa de San Martin

We were bit unlucky with the weather in the sense of how choppy the ocean waters were on the day we spent in Cozumel. Playa de San Martin is a gorgeous beach, but it was empty, and it was way too breezy to spend some ‘calm’ time there. On a better day, it would be a great place to relax on the sand, take a refreshing swim, or simply enjoy the stunning views. This beach provides a serene and unspoiled environment that is hard to find elsewhere on the island.

Skyreef Beach Club

If you’re looking for a place to enjoy a refreshing drink, amazing seafood and go snorkeling, then this is the place. They often have promotions going on that will give you a access to the club as well as food, snorkeling, happy hours on the drinks, etc. One can easily spend 2-3 hours, if your objective in Cozumel is to take it easy, relax and experience the underwater sea life.

El Cedral

If you’re looking to go offbeat and do something different on your shore excursion in Cozumel, El Cedral is a good choice. El Cedral is located on the southwestern part of Cozumel, away from the main tourist areas. It is also where the Fiesta de Santa Cruz, an annual festival with traditional music, dance, food, bullfights, and other cultural activities, is celebrated during late April/ early May. There’s also a Mayan temple and some other ruins here to explore.

San Gervasio

If your main objective of the shore excursion in Cozumel, Mexico is to explore historical and cultural areas, then head to San Gervasio after El Cedral, the largest and most significant archaeological site on Cozumel. It served as a ceremonial center dedicated to the Mayan goddess Ixchel, who was associated with fertility, medicine, and the moon. While the ruins are not as extensive as those on the mainland (such as Chichen Itza, Tulum, or Coba), San Gervasio offers visitors a chance to explore various structures and learn about Mayan culture and religious practices.

The Other Side or the Wild Side

Even if you only drive past this area, I’d recommend you take some time to explore the rugged coast of Cozumel by visiting the ‘Wild Side’ which is basically the east coast, which is underdeveloped, uncommercialised and has 7 miles of secluded beach front. This is where you’ll find deserted beaches, off-road jungle terrain, blow holes, hidden water caves, beach bars/restaurants, hatching baby sea turtles, rock formations and much more.

Downtown Cozumel

Lastly, although slightly far from the International Cruise Terminal, Downtown Cozumel is a pretty cool area to explore. It’s bustling with numerous shops, boutiques, and markets selling a variety of goods, including souvenirs, clothing, jewelry, handicrafts, and more. You’ll find everything from locally made items to international brands. It is also home to a wide range of restaurants, cafes, and eateries catering to different tastes and budgets. You can enjoy authentic Mexican cuisine, fresh seafood, international dishes, and fast-food options. It is located along the waterfront, offering beautiful views of the Caribbean Sea. You can take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront promenade, known as the Malecón, where you’ll find shops, restaurants, and vendors selling snacks and beverages.