Tropical Island Fun: 10 Best Attractions near Cozumel's Cruise Ship Ports

The Mexican island of Cozumel, a popular cruise ship port, is a tropical paradise, complete with world-class scuba diving and snorkeling, ancient Mayan history, a charming town square, unique dining options (and the old favorites like Senor Frogs and the Hard Rock Cafe), plenty of shopping and endless attractions and activites for all ages.

Explore Cozumel's Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second largest coral barrier reef in the world, at Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park. If what you really want is to spend the day lounging on a white sand beach with a drink in your hand, Nachi Cocom or Playa Palancar are two options. If you'd like to participate in various activities, try Chankanaab National Park or Paradise Beach Cozumel. Maybe you'd like to go ziplining, horseback riding, off-roading or participate in a paintball war. Ecoparque Cuzam offers all of these activities. See the "wild side" (named for the rocky shoreline and big waves) of the island during the Cozumel Bar Hop Tour, where you'll visit four of the best beach bars on Cozumel. Salsa and Salsa, Stingray Beach and Discover Mexico provide unique experiences that you'll never forget.

You'll want to make the most of your day on Cozumel, so try one of these ten unforgettable attractions, all of which are within 20 minutes of the cruise ship port.


Chankanaab National Park is located at km 9.5 of the coastal highway. This eco-park offers snorkeling, scuba diving and Snuba, a natural spa, swimming with dolphins or manatees, a sea lion show, tropical gardens, Mayan ruin replicas, a bird sanctuary, a crocodile farm, a playground and more. It's just a 10 minute taxi ride from the cruise ship dock. If you don't feel like doing anything at all, you can do that at Chankanaab as well... just relax on the beach under a palapa or in a hammock with a bucket of beer. Don't book though the cruise line. Take a taxi to the park yourself and save a lot of money.

If you've ever wanted to get up close and personal with stingrays, here is your chance. After you're briefed on how to handle the marine creatures, you'll be able to pet, hold, kiss and feed them. The staff will take pictures of your encounter which will be available for purchase at the end of your tour at a reasonable price. Next you'll go snorkeling. Afterwards grab a bite from the snack bar while the kids play on the water trampoline. This is a great alternative for those who don't want to/can't spend the money to swim with dolphins. The whole family will enjoy this experience.

If you're tired of lying around on a lounge chair with a drink in your hand on the cruise ship deck and you're ready for a jungle adventure, Ecoparque Cuzam is the perfect place for you to spend the day. This ecopark, where you can ride horses, go ziplining, play paintball or ride ATVs is located just a few miles from the Cozumel cruise docks. They also feature two swimming pools, one for adults and one for kids and a children's play area. Ecoparque Cuzam is a more economical alternative to other cruise ship excursions. The purchase of an activity includes use of the swimming pool, lockers, showers, sun chairs and WiFi.


Playa Palancar is one of the few beaches on Cozumel with free access. Located at Kilometer 19.5 on the coastal highway, this beach offers free parking, a bar/restaurant, lounge chairs and sun umbrellas, changing rooms, bathrooms, an outdoor shower, massages and three little shacks for souvenir shopping. You can also snorkel right off the beach or hire a guide to take you out to the reef in a boat. Playa Palancar is not as crowded as some of the other beach clubs which cater to cruise ship passengers. There are always taxis waiting to take you back to the cruise ship docks.

Paradise Beach is a lot of fun for the whole family, whether you want to relax or play all day. A 12 dollar fun pass will give you unlimited time with tons of fun activities including kayaks, snorkel gear, water trampolines, floating water mats, a bungee trampoline jump, water slides, floating climbing structures and paddle boards. They have free internet and computers you can use at the bar and boutiques for shopping. Get a massage, a henna tattoo, or braids. If you feel like relaxing, take it easy at the swim-up pool bar or on a lounge chair. People, this is the king of all beach clubs.

Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park
Photo courtesy of eaglerayjoel/iStock

Cozumel, a snorkel and dive mecca, is an island located approximately 11 miles off the coast of Playa del Carmen and is home to the second largest coral barrier reef in the world, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. In 1956, Mexican film director Rene Cardona shot the movie A New World in the waters of Cozumel. It was Cardona's film that brought the coral reefs of Cozumel to the attention of American divers. There are both shallow reefs, great for snorkeling, and deep dives available. It is important to note that hitting or kicking the reef, even by accident, can damage years of coral growth, so it's very important to be careful and follow all instructions given by your guide.

The Cozumel Bar Hop Tour is five hours of tipsy tropical island fun. Guests travel on an air-conditioned party bus between rustic beach bars, all of which are located on Cozumel's eastern coast or "wild side", named for the rough shoreline and open ocean surf. Hop stops include popular Cozumel bar/restaurans; Rasta's aka The Bob Marley Bar, Playa Bonita, Coconuts Bar & Grill and Punta Morena. Each beach bar has its own distinct personality, specialty drink, delicious international food and spectacular views of the open Caribbean Sea. Hoppers receive a Cozumel Bar Hop t-shirt and a house specialty welcome shot at every bar.

During this unique tour which takes place at a beach front resort, you will learn how to make six different kinds of authentic salsas. You'll then try your creations on quesadillas, taquitos and tortilla chips. Yum! You'll also learn how to make two different types of margaritas. Cheers! The margaritas should help you with the next part of the tour... learn how to dance Salsa with 6 basic steps. One of the best things about this tour is that you can take all of these skills home with you. The Dancing Chefs/teachers include two lovely young ladies from Cozumel, one from Mazatlan and one from the US.

Discover Mexico is one of Cozumels newest parks. The goal here is to present Cozumel as just a part of a colorful, diverse country that is rich in tradition, culture and natural resources... Mexico! The park includes a Video Experience Room where you can tour all of Mexico without ever leaving your seat, a Popular Art Museum which features handmade pieces from all over Mexico and the Outdoor Walk through Time and Space, where you can explore Prehispanic, Colonial and Modern Mexican wonders. There's also a snack bar and handicrafts/souvenir shop. Don't miss the Tequila Seminar, where you'll try 6 different types of tequila.

Nachi Cocom is a heavenly beach club located just a 15-20 minute taxi ride from the Cozumel cruise ports. This is the beach paradise you're been dreaming of... spend the day relaxing under an umbrella while being served cold tropical drinks and delicious food. For only 55 usd/adult, you'll receive lounge chairs and a palapa (first come first serve), all you can drink, a 4-course lunch, and use of hammocks, a private beach, outdoor hot tub and swimming pool, restrooms and outdoor showers. For an extra fee you can get a massage, go snorkeling, diving or fishing or participate in various water sports. This is the day you'll fantasize about when your vacation is over and you're back at work.


Meet Kristin Busse

After vacationing in Mexico many times, Kristin decided to move to Cancun "for a year". That was in 2001.

Kristin grew-up in Michigan and studied Communications at Michigan State University....  More About Kristin