On our family’s recent trip to Cozumel, Mexico, we enjoyed a variety of activities, on land and in the water. We stayed in town, as well as got off the beaten path. Here are some of the most popular things to do and see in town.
Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park
The closest thing Cozumel has to a theme park is also the most popular local attraction — Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park. You can easily spend an entire day here, enjoying activities on land and in the water. We took a guided tour of Mayan ruin replicas to learn more about this major part of the local history. There is also a crocodile exhibit, sea lion shows, gardens, a spa, and even a tequila–tasting exhibit for adults.
You can cool off in the pool, or in the calm saltwater inlet. Cozumel is known as a scuba diving destination for a reason, and you can get a better look at its beautiful underwater marine life here by renting snorkel equipment, or taking a guided scuba diving or “snuba” excursion.
Chankanaab Park is home to more than 20 bottlenose dolphins, and there are several daily dolphin shows included in the admission fee. However, for an additional fee, you can also cross “kiss a dolphin” off your bucket list by participating in the dolphin encounter, managed by the onsite Dolphin Discovery.
This experience was easily the highlight of our entire trip. We were separated into small groups, and Gustavo, one of the dolphin trainers, brought us onto a submerged platform within one of the dolphin pens where “Noel” and “Chek” were swimming. He provided a lot of facts about dolphins in a way our 7-year-old daughter would understand. They average 500 pounds, and have about 78 conical teeth they use to grab onto their food, although they swallow it whole. They can swim up to 25 mph, and make a variety of sounds through their blowholes.
There are different levels of “experiences” at various price points. For younger children, you may want to try the “Encounter.” The dolphins will let you rub their bellies and give them kisses. During the “Swim” experience, you get to hold on to the dorsal fins of dolphins to your left and right, and let them pull you through the water. Our daughter was just old enough to do this, with a life jacket and a lifeguard in the water nearby. You can also let them push your feet up and across the surface of the water while you balance upright for the ride of your life! Our 14-year-old loved this.
Cozumel Island Museum
I think it’s important on any family trip, even when we’re visiting a leisurely tropical island, to work in some educational attraction so my kids can appreciate the local history and culture. The Museo de Isla Cozumel (Cozumel Island Museum) in downtown San Miguel is a small, two-story museum in a beautiful historic building. The exhibits, with signage in both English and Spanish, include the island’s history, from Mayan to present time, as well as work by Mexican artists. The section my kids enjoyed the most was about the native eco-system, and featured a wide, black light diorama of underwater marine life.
You’ll only really need about an hour here, and plan for the morning or late afternoon when it’s still relatively cool, as there’s no air conditioning in most of the building. The museum also includes an onsite café with specials, so you can have lunch or dinner there.
From the museum, you’re just a few blocks away from San Miguel’s main plaza. From the square with its historic yellow clock tower, several good shopping streets fan out in all directions. You’ll find all types of arts and crafts, silver jewelry, apparel, local specialties like vanilla and habanero hot sauce, and all the typical souvenirs. You can pay in either U.S. dollars or Mexican pesos. On slow days, when there are no cruise ship passengers in town, the market vendors may be willing to negotiate prices with you.
– Traci L. Suppa
Traci L. Suppa drags her small-town family to see a quirky array of the world’s largest, longest, or tallest things, and blogs about it at Go BIG or Go Home.