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10 Best Tours & Excursions from Cozumel

Written by Meagan Drillinger
Mar 4, 2021

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Just off the coast of Playa del Carmen is one of the most beautiful islands in Mexico. Cozumel has long-been one of the biggest cruise destinations in the world - and it's no surprise why. The lush, jungle-covered island is wreathed in sugary sand, surrounded by the deliciously warm and sparkling Caribbean Sea. With so much natural beauty, and so many cruise passengers docking each year, travelers can expect an abundance of tours and excursions from Cozumel.

The island of Cozumel has been important throughout Mexico's history. It started as a sacred place for Mayans, women in particular, who would make the journey from the mainland to worship Ix Chel, the goddess of fertility. As it grew and developed over the centuries, it became a hot spot for cruise ships, honeymoons, and day trippers from Playa del Carmen, who were drawn to its energetic capital town of San Miguel, as well as the gorgeous beaches.

Today it is truly an idyllic island paradise teeming with all sorts of adventures and activities, both on land and at sea.

From snorkeling the crystalline waters of the protected marine park to cruising the coast on a self-drive buggy tour, and even a submarine experience, here are the best tours and excursions from Cozumel.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Explore the Ruins at Tulum

Tulum
Tulum

While you may be staying on the island of Cozumel, you are just a stone's throw from the magnificent sites and ancient ruins of the mainland. A visit to Tulum must be on your itinerary if you're staying in Cozumel.

Ancient Tulum is a city perched on a 12-meter-high cliff that overlooks one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico. It is the only fortified Mayan town by the coast, and its main tower is an iconic image recognized all over the world. The city dates back to the year 1200, though many of the buildings were not constructed until the 15th century.

To explore Tulum, this Tulum Mayan Ruin Exploration Tour fits the bill to get you from Cozumel to Tulum and back again. The 5.5-hour tour makes it simple, including ferry transfer to Playa del Carmen. From Playa del Carmen your guide will take you to the Tulum archaeological site, where you will have a walking tour to learn the history of the magnificent, historic place. Bring a bathing suit if you're interested in taking a swim in the stunning waters below the ruins. After the tour, you will be transported back to the ferry terminal for the return trip to Cozumel.

Note: This is a great tour option for visitors who are stopping in Cozumel on a cruise, as well.

2. Horseback Ride on the Beach

Horses on the beach in Mexico
Horses on the beach in Mexico

What can be more romantic than a horseback ride on the beach? A horseback ride on the beach in Cozumel, of course. With a backdrop as picture perfect as these sugary shores and Instagram-worthy water, all that's missing, really, is a horseback ride.

This 30-minute Beach Horseback Riding Tour is exactly what is in order. Saddle up for the equine adventure down the powder-soft sand. First, riders are matched with a horse that pairs with their skill level, so all riding levels are welcome and accommodated. The tour begins at Mr. Sancho's Beach Club. From here, riders follow the guide into the jungle and mangrove forests, past the lush foliage and open farms on the island. Finally, the tour reaches the beautiful shoreline of Cozumel, complete with bleached sand and endless shades of blue.

Bring your bathing suit for a refreshing dip in the warm, shallow waters at Mr. Sancho's, which is included with your ticket. Riders have the option to choose a morning or afternoon departure, as well.

3. Swim with the Fishes

Turtle and angelfish in Cozumel
Turtle and angelfish in Cozumel

Sunny Cozumel is one of the top diving destinations in the world. Believe it or not, it's ranked up there with the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Cozumel sits at the northern end of the Mesoamerican Reef, which stretches down the Caribbean Sea touching Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Cozumel is surrounded by the Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park, home to 26 coral species and more than 500 species of fish. But even if you're not a certified diver, you use simply a snorkel mask for an equally mesmerizing experience. Snorkelers looking to make the most out of a vacation to Cozumel will want to book this Cozumel Snorkeling Tour, which visits the Palancar, Colombia, and Cielo Reefs surrounding the island.

The four-hour tour begins on a glass-bottom boat, which departs from the pier. The first stop will be El Cielo, which is one of the most spectacular spots not only in Cozumel, but in all of Mexico. El Cielo translates to "Heaven," and soon it will be obvious why - one look into the shallow waters will reveal a white, sandy floor strewn with hundreds of beautiful starfish.

From El Cielo, the tour heads to Colombia Reef, known for its visibility, sea turtles, barracudas, eagle rays, and many more types of multi-hued fish. Lastly, cruise off to Palancar Reef for a glimpse at nurse sharks, lobsters, moray eels, and so much more.

After four hours frolicking in the crystalline waters, snorkelers hop back aboard the boat for refreshments before sailing back to the pier on Cozumel.

4. Drive toward Adventure

Punta Sur Eco Beach Park
Punta Sur Eco Beach Park

Did you know that more than half of the land surface on Cozumel is protected? That means more than half of the island is still blanketed in undeveloped jungle. A single road circumvents the part of the island that permits development, taking visitors from the tourist-heavy west-facing side of the island, to the more rugged, untamed eastern coast. The best way to get around? Behind the wheel of a jeep, of course.

This combination jeep and snorkel tour is a great way to get the best of what Cozumel has to offer all in one. Get behind the wheel of a Jeep Wrangler and set off on the roads of Cozumel to get the lay of the land.

The tour takes you from Punta Sur Eco Beach Park for a bit of snorkeling and enjoying the powder-soft, picturesque beaches. It also includes a visit to an archaeological site, crocodile exhibits, lunch, and more. Swim the shores of Playa el Cielito, part of the El Cielo Biosphere. Snorkel equipment is provided to discover the Chankanaab Reef, as well. Guests are picked up and dropped off near the cruise port.

5. Take a Submarine Ride

Atlantis Submarine in Cozumel
Atlantis Submarine in Cozumel | Cyndi and Dave / photo modified

It's not surprising that the majority of tours and excursions from Cozumel tend to involve the water. When it looks this gorgeous and is teeming with such exquisite wildlife, it's hard to not be in, on (or under) the water at all times.

Speaking of underwater, one of the best tours and excursions from Cozumel is to board a submarine for a unique perspective beneath the waves. This Atlantis Submarine Expedition takes travelers underneath the water's surface to depths of up to 100 feet to discover the marine life that lives within the Chankanaab protected park.

The tour begins with a short cruise along Cozumel's coast to the dive site, where visitors will board the U.S. Coast Guard Certified submarine and head beneath the waves. The submarine cruises along the ocean bed revealing parts of the reef typically only seen by scuba divers. Keep your eyes peeled for parrotfish, grunts, and grouper fish.

6. Try a Cozumel Buggy Tour

Mayan site El Cedral
Mayan site El Cedral

Ready for a different kind of adventure? How about exploring Cozumel from the driver's seat of an adventurous buggy, made to handle the rugged, twisting terrain of the island?

With this half-day, self-drive buggy tour of Cozumel, guests are in control, driving the four-passenger vehicle all over the island. The tour begins when you meet your guide near the cruise port to pick up the keys to your buggy. In a caravan-style train, you'll follow the pack to the first stop at El Cedral, which is a Mayan ruin site on the island. Here, you'll spend an hour exploring the archaeological site, learning about the Mayan history and presence on Cozumel. (Fun fact: Cozumel means the "Island of Swallows" in Mayan.)

After the ruins, the buggy tour continues around the island to scope out the different beautiful vantage points. Break for a fresh, delicious lunch before donning your snorkel gear and diving into the water at Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park and SkyReef.

This tour is 4.5 hours and includes snorkel equipment, lunch, and refreshments.

7. Cruise in a Glass Bottom Boat

Fish viewed through a glass-bottom boat tour in Cozumel
Fish viewed through a glass-bottom boat tour in Cozumel | Roger W / photo modified

Short on time but still want to see all the secrets beneath the waves in Cozumel? A stress-free boat tour in a glass-bottom boat may be the perfect option.

Great for first-timers who are there on a short timeline, this glass bottom boat tour visits three shallow reefs within Cozumel's Marine Park. Gaze through the clear bottom of the boat for a chance to spot the colorful fish, starfish, coral, and other wildlife that lives in the warm, crystal-clear waters around Cozumel.

For those who want to jump in the water, there is plenty of time for a quick dip for snorkeling. This allows visitors to get even more up close and personal with sea turtles, stingrays, and other wildlife.

The entire experience is roughly two hours, and guests can choose from a variety of departure times, making it one of the more flexible experiences to do on the island.

8. Explore the Jungle on Four Wheels

ATV on the beach in Cozumel
ATV on the beach in Cozumel

It may be hard to pry yourself away from the sugary shores of Cozumel (it does have some of the best beaches in Mexico, after all), but a tour through the jungle can be just as exciting, especially when it's on an ATV.

ATV tours are highly popular on Cozumel, especially ones that combine a little bit of everything. This ATV Adventure to Jade Cavern is a five-hour tour that offers guests several different Cozumel experiences in one.

The tour begins on a web of foliage-covered trails deep within the jungle, which lead to a cenote tucked within the caves on the island. Dive right in for a refreshing swim and marvel at the spectacular stalactites above.

After a dip, the tour continues back on the ATV to a beautiful coral cave, where your guide will teach you all about the Mayan community that used to call this part of Cozumel home.

Bear in mind that this is an adventurous tour, so expect to get a little dirty. Closed-toe shoes are a must, and bring your bathing suit if you want to experience the cenote.

9. Take a Sunset Cruise

Sunset cruise in Cozumel
Sunset cruise in Cozumel

To visit a beach destination in Mexico and skip a sunset cruise would be a grave error. What could be more gorgeous than catching a spectacular tropical sunset while out to sea? Fortunately, Cozumel doesn't disappoint when it comes to sunset catamaran cruises.

While every sunset cruise may be slightly different, most leave from San Miguel de Cozumel, the island's main city. Some cruises are more intimate in size than others, and each has a different vibe. All typically have great music and traditional food.

If it's more than snacks you're after, consider booking a dedicated dinner cruise, which will serve full courses. And, of course, all cruises come complete with gorgeous sunsets that illuminate the sky in brilliant swaths of pink, orange, and purple.

10. Embrace the Local Cuisine

Delicious tacos in Cozumel
Delicious tacos in Cozumel

One of the best parts of visiting Cozumel is to discover the local cuisine. Traditional Yucatan cuisine is only offered in this regional part of Mexico, and, especially on Cozumel, is some of the freshest and most authentic you can find. A food tour is a fantastic way to explore the many flavors that have come together in the Yucatan. It can also double as a city tour, so it's almost like you're getting two tours in one.

Food tours tend to take travelers off the beaten path to local eateries and food stalls to sample everything from empanadas to tacos and everything in between. If hands-on is more your speed, consider booking a Cozumel cooking class. These are typically small classes and focus on traditional Yucatan dishes and ingredients. Some even include market tours, where your guide will show you how to select the freshest ingredients to make these wonderful, traditional recipes.

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