One inexpensive shore excursion you can do on your own: Cozumel, Mexico
As with past posts, this is to provide you with all you need to know to do a cheap shore excursion on your own in port. Many cruise ships call in to Cozumel. The last time we visited there we did a round island bar hoping tour with our own private driver since the weather was not good. As luck would have it, we ran into our same driver during this trip but more of that later.
Our ship called into Puerta Maya, the furthest cruise terminal from the town centre of San Miguel. However, our first destination wasn’t the town, it was one of the beach clubs that line the southern end of the island’s west side. It was all of about 10 minutes by taxi and we passed some other options that might be more appropriate to you and your plans that you can research elsewhere. Along the way you’ll find Monkey Bar (which I think we will try on our next trip) and Chankanaab Park (which has an entry fee but offers a lot of what many cruise passengers are looking for).
We opted to go to Corona Beach Club at Playa Corona based on what we wanted to do first and foremost which was snorkel. This was the most recommended for snorkeling and we can tell you it exceeded our expectations. We arrived around the time the club was opening after our 10 minute and 12 USD taxi ride there.
If you’re looking for modern amenities with water slides and perhaps some water sports activities this is definitely NOT the place for you. If you’re looking for something a little more rustic and authentic without hordes of cruise passengers and really enjoy the sun and snorkeling then this is by far the best option that we’ve found. And there is a great fresh water outdoor shower to clean off afterwards. And no booties required to get in the water!
There were a few hammocks, about a dozen or so palapas with tables and chairs, a very small “bar” area that included some weight machines that were as rustic as the place itself. There is a put-in for snorkeling and they actually rent snorkel equipment so if you don’t bring yours you are okay here. We always bring our own so we don’t know how much it is to rent the equipment but I’m fairly certain it would be a pretty good deal considering the quality of the snorkeling experience we had.
For off shore snorkeling, I can’t imagine much better than this. There is a put-in in the centre of the club and there are sandbags to help you walk over some rocky bits. You barely have to go out to your waist before you can find incredible snorkeling experiences. We bought our underwater cameras stateside at a discount store for under ten bucks and it didn’t take long before they were filled up and we will create another blog story showing the underwater side of Playa Corona.
Right along the coast going north (to the right of the club as you face the Gulf) you will find a lot of live coral. Please be careful, we saw some inexperienced people actually brushing up against it and walking in this area. Don’t do that. Not only will the coral cut you but it is just awful for the fragile environment. It was shocking to see people with so little regard or so uneducated they just would do that.
The area is roped off (at about the 150 meter mark from shore) and you can swim all the way out – which we did. It was nice because we could take a break and do the area to the south on another swim. There is a No Fishing buoy and if you go north along the shore and then cut over the current will take you back down to the put-in.
There is usually no fee to come to these beach clubs. You just need to order some drinks and relax. We decided to share a plate of four chicken tacos and they were incredible. The other reviews we saw on various places attested to the good food and one particular reviewer suggested the fish tacos. Prices were very reasonable and there were a lot of things to choose from on the menu. The beer was cold as was the Coca-Cola Lights (served in glass bottles – the best).
We brought our own beach towels from the ship which were provided in our room. One thing I would strongly suggest bringing on this trip would be some bug spray. There were small ants in the sand (not a lot, just enough to swat off you a few times in several hours of sitting there) but the gnats or no-see-ems were apparently around as my partner got bit quite a lot – I had no reaction or showed any signs of bites so you know if you have a reaction to sand fleas or whatever may bite you in some of the tropical destinations to take precaution.
We next too a taxi from the beach club to the town of San Miguel for under USD 20. There was a taxi driver at the beach club and asked if we needed a ride. If you’re there the staff I’m sure could arrange a taxi for you or tell your driver to return at a specific time. He dropped us off at the 3 Hermanos shoe store which we like and then walked to the square picking up a few magnets and souvenirs. We stopped for a beer at one of the many sidewalk cafes here.
We then went to Restaurant Palmeras – a place we returned to so you know it must be good. I’m sure there are better but this has a great location for people watching and is a cool open air place. And the cleanest toilet facilities anywhere! And well air conditioned! There are strolling musicians around but if you don’t want them at your table it is easy to say no. They are just trying earn a living and are all very pleasant and not at all pushy.
We ordered a shrimp cocktail for Pesos 190 and quite frankly it is once again one of the best shrimp cocktails either of us have ever had. Chips and salsa come with your drinks or meal too. Of course we had to have a cold Tecate Light – excellent beer I will add. They do accept credit cards and the waiters are excellent as is the shrimp cocktails.
A stroll around the town and more shopping will fill your afternoon – the six blocks around the square are filled with lots to see and buy – from inexpensive shoes and clothes to souvenirs and Mexican crafts. Along the waterfront are the typical cruise port shops selling the various -zite jewelery and we found a shop selling black coral too. The waterfront is filled with men welcoming you to their shops but you can get off the main road and experience a bit more authentic Cozumel relatively quickly and easily.
Our taxi back to the ship from the town centre I think was USD 8 and our driver stopped at the Mega Supermarket and waited for us. This is a great place to shop for souvenirs and interesting things you cannot find in your home country. We purchased some great sauces and some Mango jam along with some citrus flavoured biscuits and some Paracetamol tablets which we can’t get in the states. And as quick as that, we were going through the tourist village filled with duty free and souvenir shops at Puerta Maya.
Get out and explore, have fun and don’t be afraid to find a more authentic experience.
For cruises that call in to Cozumel consider the following cruise lines. We’ve provided the links to those cruise lines that we’ve traveled on:
Carnival – New Orleans, Galvaston, Tampa, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Port Canaveral
Disney – Galvaston, Miami, Port Canaveral
Holland America – Fort Lauderdale
Costa – Miami
Celebrity – Fort Lauderdale,
Royal Caribbean – Fort Lauderdale, Galvaston, Port Canaveral, Tampa
Norwegian – New Orleans, Miami, Tampa
MSC – Miami
Princess – Bayport (Texas)