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On the west coast of the Mexican island of Cozumel is its largest town, San Miguel de Cozumel, the arrival point for most visitors. Confusingly, it’s usually just called “Cozumel”, or “el Centro”.

While Cozumel is rightly famous for its pretty beaches and majestic reefs, San Miguel also has a lot to offer. Great shopping, good restaurants, and lots of history provide something for everyone to enjoy.

The quiet, walking-friendly streets are lined with pretty one- or two-story buildings. They tempt you to slow down, talk to the people you meet, and really enjoy your time here.


Benito Juarez Park

Isla Cozumel sign in Benito Juarez Park, San Miguel de Cozumel

Benito Juarez Park

This spacious plaza has shops on three sides, opening out to the ocean on its fourth. The colorful “Isla Cozumel” sign here is an almost obligatory stop for visitors wanting to snap that selfie for Instagram.

There are lots of benches, shaded by native trees, to rest shopping-tired feet, or just enjoy people-watching. A central dancing water feature, very popular with kids, and plenty of good ice cream shops help with the cooling process.

Another landmark is an orange clock tower, which makes this a good meeting place for groups (ask for “El Zócalo”—or “The Plaza”—if you’re lost). The official visitor guides around here can also help you with ideas for your next stop.

Read: Things to Do in Cozumel with Kids

Cozumel Crafts Market

Souvenirs at a market in Cozumel

Souvenirs in Cozumel

On the east side of Benito Juarez Park, this lively market is a colorful place to discover the best in local crafts. It will be very hard to resist buying a hammock here.

Prices are usually flexible for those who know how to haggle, although items imported from the mainland are more expensive. Look for ceramics, papier-mâché fruit, silver, blankets, and souvenir clothing.

Cozumel Museum

Yellow facade of Cozumel Museum

Cozumel Museum Photo by David Stanley on Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you are not in San Miguel, Cozumel for its exciting Carnaval, you can still enjoy a taste in this museum. One room is dedicated to flamboyant costumes from the event’s 150-year history.

The rest of the museum covers island history from pre-Maya times to the present day. Temporary exhibitions and events such as cooking lessons offer deeper insights into local culture.

One of the most interesting rooms deals with the history of chicle, once harvested here as the base for chewing gum. Cozumel’s first hotels (of which the museum was originally one) were built in the 1920s and 1930s to house chicle buyers.

Upstairs, there is a gem of a restaurant with great sea views. The interesting gift shop is complemented by craft sellers in the lobby and local art for sale.

Monumento Al Mestizaje

View of the Monumento Al Mestizaje in San Miguel de Cozumel

Monumento Al Mestizaje

This monument celebrates Mexico’s mix of Indigenous and Spanish peoples and cultures. You’ll find it towards the northern end of the Malecon, backed by the Yucatan Channel.

It is dedicated to Gonzalo Guerrero, a shipwrecked Spanish sailor who was adopted into a Yucatan Maya community. He refused later Spanish offers to leave his Maya wife and three children, the first documented “mestizo” children in Mexico.

Mercado Municipal

Bell peppers at a market in Cozumel

Bell peppers

Who doesn’t love a lively local market full of colorful tropical fruit and interesting people? San Miguel’s market is a great place to sample fruit juices, eat fish tacos, or even find a few handicrafts (but do bring your pesos, not dollars).

There are also homeware stalls and even places selling things like cheap sunglasses, should you need an emergency pair. The building, dating to the 1970s, is very functional, but the market is a real look into everyday Cozumel life.

San Gervasio Park

Historic site of San Gervasio Park

San Gervasio Park

These Mayan ruins were once the major center of Maya pilgrimage that brought women from all over the region to Cozumel. The complex was dedicated to Ixchel, the goddess of fertility and motherhood.

The site lacks the grandeur of places such as Chichen Itza, but a good guide will easily bring it to life. These pyramids, temples, and other structures, built from 250 CE onwards, were still in use when the Spanish first arrived in 1518.

Smallpox brought by the invaders devastated the whole island and by 1600 it was almost completely abandoned. It was the 1840s before outsiders first saw the site again and the 1980s before it was excavated.

Cathedral of Corpus Christi

View inside the Cathedral of Corpus Christi

Cathedral of Corpus Christi

The distinctive twin bell towers and pale yellow walls of Corpus Christi are a prominent landmark in Cozumel. Standing opposite Parque 3 de Mayo, it dates to the turn of the 20th century.

The clean neoclassical design blends indigenous and European influences. Inside the white-columned interior, rays of colored sunlight from the tall stained glass windows add to the restful, airy feel.

Things to Do in San Miguel de Cozumel

Stroll Along Avenida Rafael E. Melgar

View while strolling Avenida Rafael E. Melgar

Avenida Rafael E. Melgar

The waterfront strip of San Miguel is Avenida Rafael E. Melgar, but everyone calls it “El Malecón” (breakwater). Like the famous one in Havana, Cuba, it’s a place to enjoy cool ocean breezes on hot days or evenings.

Walk the seaward side to take in the incredible Caribbean views. On the landward side, you’ll find shops, hotels, cafés, and restaurants.

Here is where you will find most of the high-end shopping in Cozumel. If you are looking for an exquisite silver bracelet or a brand-name watch, this is the place to be.

Discover Downtown

Street view of San Miguel de Cozumel's Downtown


Off the Malecón, San Miguel’s downtown streets, many of them pedestrianized, are lined with pretty pastel-colored houses and independent shops. Here you can find lots of handcrafts and discover the Mexican love of food.

From yogurt shops to taco stands, the colors and smells will entice you in. Photographers will also love the images created by the blend of Mexican and Spanish architecture.

The area is very safe to walk, often with children playing and families enjoying themselves. You can also rent a bike or e-bike and join a walking or food tour.

Search for Street Art

Street art in Cozumel

Street art in Cozumel Photo by Sharon Hahn Darlin on Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Admiring street art is one of the best things to do in Cozumel, as it is lucky enough to have almost 60 large public murals by notable international contemporary artists. Many are the legacy of the Seawalls: Artists for the Oceans festival that has been hosted here twice.

You’ll find these murals throughout the town by following a guided or self-guided walking trail. Pick up a map at a tourist office or ask one of the official city guides.

Along the way, you’ll discover plenty more street art, some political, some just beautiful. You will also find many private art galleries, showcasing everything from traditional beadwork to glassware.

Take a Cooking Class

Cookery class in Mexico

Making guacamole

If you haven’t fallen in love with Mexican cooking before you arrive in Cozumel, you will before you leave. Taking a cooking class provides a memory of the island that you can revisit in your own kitchen anytime.

You can learn how to make guacamole, prepare tacos, or tackle more ambitious dishes. Besides food, you can also find classes that concentrate on cocktails, such as margaritas.

Most classes start at a local market, where you pick the fresh ingredients and learn a little about them. Then it’s back to your host’s home or another venue to have a hands-on experience in the kitchen.

Photograph Playa Caletita Lighthouse

View of Playa Caletita Lighthouse in San Miguel de Cozumel

Playa Caletita Lighthouse

The Ultramar car ferry jetty in the south of San Miguel is marked by a tall white lighthouse, bearing a very photogenic “Cozumel” signage. At its foot is the tiny Playa Caletita, one of the few seaside places in San Miguel where public access is still open.

Popular with local people, this Cozumel beach is well served with places to eat and drink. Its rocks make for good snorkeling, sheltered by the ferry jetty.

Snorkel at Stingray Beach

Stingray spotted moving across the sand


For those with limited time to discover Cozumel’s underwater wonders, this is an ideal spot. It gives you a chance to snorkel with both stingrays and gentle nurse sharks.

Afterwards, there is chocolate and tequila tasting for some added fun. You’ll find it a few minutes south of San Miguel, next to Playa Caletita.

If you have more time, you’ll want to join a glass-bottom boat tour, which will bring you to some great snorkeling spots in Cozumel. If you are a scuba diver, the Cozumel Barrier Reef is an unmissable sight. There are plenty of dive shops around.

Indulge in Chocolate

Chocolate tour in Mayan Cacao Company, Cozumel

Mayan Cacao Company

The Maya used chocolate for centuries before the Spanish arrived to help spread it around the world. Their version was bitter, flavored with chili and served cold as a ceremonial drink.

You can find out about their ancient recipes and other modern variations in the Mayan Cacao Company, about 20 minutes south of San Miguel. You can even taste that Maya chocolate, handmade with a grinding tool called a metate.

After seeing the chocolate making process, you’ll learn how to mix a chocolate margarita. Don’t leave without Maya chocolate bars, fresh cacao, or a “molinillo” whisk.


There is no shortage of good places to eat in San Miguel de Cozumel, whether it’s a busy taco stand or upscale fine dining.

Azul Madera

With a strong emphasis on fresh Caribbean seafood, this atmospheric restaurant is earning a great reputation. There is a lovely courtyard, great cocktails, and service is excellent.

Dishes are well presented and the menu has an interesting modern twist on old favorites such as slow-cooked pork belly. A brick oven also produces the likes of goat cheese pizza.


Blue tortillas on a pan

Blue tortilla

Open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 9pm, this taqueria ensures you are never without your Mexican food fix. From handmade blue corn tortillas to smoked pork tacos, their food is freshly made, with love, in front of you.

Family-run, this is one of the busiest restaurants in town for good reason. It’s also vegetarian-friendly with its imaginative taco options.

Wet Wendy’s Margarita House

The clue is very much in the name here of this party bar. After you’ve had a Jalapeño or Strawberry Margarita or two, you’re practically guaranteed a good time.

The food covers everything from pulled pork sliders to hickory bbq wings and cheese steak. It’s in the heart of the pedestrianized shopping district on Fifth Avenue, making it a good pit stop for the thirsty traveler.


This Swiss-Italian serves great pasta, lasagne, and other hearty Italian fare. Its wood-fired pizza is also a popular choice.

To that it adds a sure touch with Mexican food, particularly seafood. The rustic garden setting is very romantic at night, but still a lovely place by day.

Bajau Steakhouse & Seafood Grill

Would it surprise you to hear this upmarket restaurant specializes in steak and seafood? It’s near Los Cinco Soles on the waterfront, so has great sea views, to which it adds attentive service.

The menu offers Mexican cuisine with an imaginative twist. Dishes such as blackened skirt steak or octopus are perennial favorites.

Travel Tips

Best Time to Visit

Street view of San Miguel de Cozumel

San Miguel de Cozumel

The best time to visit Cozumel is from late November through April. Although Cozumel is rarely affected, the hurricane season runs from September through November.

Summers are hot, peaking in July and August, when it is very humid. May to October is Mexico’s rainy season. It will still be warm but frequent tropical downpours will clear the air. You may also encounter seaweed on the beaches during the summer months.

What to Pack

Snorkel mask in a luggage

Snorkel mask

Dress as for any tropical destination with lightweight clothing, sun hat, and sunglasses. Reef-friendly sunscreen and your snorkel mask (usually a better fit than the rental ones) are also essentials.

Don’t forget your water shoes, as most beaches near San Miguel are rocky. For evenings or air-conditioned restaurants, a light sweater or jacket is also a good idea.


Shops in Cozumel accept US dollars and credit cards, but the official currency is the Mexican peso (MXN). On the east coast, lack of cell coverage means card machines don’t usually work, so bring pesos in cash.

What to Buy

Street view of Downtown San Miguel de Cozumel


Handcrafts are usually the first to catch your eye in Cozumel. These include gorgeous Talavera pottery, bright papier-maché fruit, tempting silver bracelets, and ornate wood carvings.

Woven goods include hammocks, of course, but also handbags, hats, and items such as tortilla warmers. Clothing includes Guayabera shirts for men and Huipil tops for women (or vice versa).

For food items, chocolate and vanilla extract are top of the shopping list. You’ll find all of these and much more in Cinco Soles, a large waterfront shopping landmark.

View of the Monumento Al Mestizaje

Monumento Al Mestizaje

Are you tempted to explore San Miguel de Cozumel for yourself? Then why not browse our Cozumel itineraries to find the perfect cruise?

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Free Vacation Planning Services