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Cozumel is the most popular cruise destination in the Western Caribbean Sea, noted for its tropical weather, fishing, abundant diving and snorkeling opportunities and Mayan ruins. It is the proverbial fishing village in paradise with all of the creature comforts that anyone could want. Recently, Cozumel has exploded with growth and is somewhat hectic with congestion, noise and aggressive street vendors. Remember to be friendly and respectful and you will have a great time. Many days it is not uncommon to have tens of thousands of visitors in a town that was built for the occasional fisherman.
 
If you're looking for a beautiful Caribbean-style cruise vacation within Mexico, then look no further than Cozumel cruise port. This lovely hideaway is Mexico's largest island, yet remains somewhat undiscovered by Mexico's twenty million annual visitors. Cozumel is located twelve miles offshore of the city of Playa del Carmen, but only 3 percent of its land has been developed, making it an ideal place to explore the region in its pristine and nearly unaltered state.
 
Cozumel's history is centered on its importance to the Mayan culture as one of three ceremonial centers in the region, and this link to the past can be further explored by paying a visit to one of forty archaeological sites still present on the island. When the Spanish took over the island in 1519, Cozumel became a pivotal trading center in salt and honey. A small pox epidemic in the late 16th century ushered in nearly three hundred years of obscurity to this Caribbean land; yet it has recently flourished as a popular cruise and travel destination, luring people from across the globe to bask in its wonderful weather, amazing diving locations, and friendly people.
 
Cozumel, although not nearly as developed as its northern neighbor Cancún, still contains all the resources necessary for the ultimate cruise destination. Shopping is prevalent, and duty-free stores, selling everything under the tropical sun, invite the seasoned bargain hunter. Cozumel has been consistently rated the best spot in the world for scuba diving and snorkeling. Restaurants on the island are world-class as well as affordable. Finally, its proximity to the popular excursions of Xel-Ha Lagoons, the Mayan ruins at Tulum, and Playa del Carmen solidify its position as one of the top cruise destinations in the Caribbean. 
Today Cozumel is Mexico's largest Caribbean island (and its most populated), it wasn't until the 1960's that this once-sleepy fishing village became a tourist attraction in its own right, following a documentary in which Jacques Cousteau declared it one of the most beautiful areas in the world for scuba diving. These days, Cozumel is a major cruise port that welcomes more than one million cruise passengers each year and as many as eight ships per day.
 
Docking & Local Transportation
There are actually three different pier locations. Punta Langosta is located right downtown and after leaving the ship and walking towards the city down the dock, you will go over an overpass into a shopping mall. You are right in the heart of downtown Cozumel. Cruise ships dock at either the International Pier, located south of town near the La Ceiba Hotel, or the new Puerto Maya, which is a bit farther south on the Island.
 
The International Pier is about a 10-minute taxi ride south of town (you can walk it in about 30 minutes right along the coast line, but if it is hot, take a taxi.) The third pier (Puerto Maya) is just beyond the International Pier and has the same dynamics. Finally, when there are too many ships in port, some ships will anchor outside and tender into the Punta Langosta pier. Taxis can take you directly to San Miguel, the main city on the island, for approximately $10.The developed areas of Cozumel are fairly centralized; therefore, walking is the preferred way to get around the island. However there are a couple other options if you would like to explore the more remote beaches and sites.
 
Cozumel is the most popular port in the Western Caribbean.On average, cruise passengers will enjoy between 8 and 9 hours on shore in Cozumel. In 2015, Cozumel is slated to host 3,039,000 passengers sailing on 1,021 ships, down 3% and 4%, respectively, from 2014.
 
Getting Around depending on your pace, downtown San Miguel is at least a 45-minute walk from the International Pier. It can get very hot, so most passengers opt to take a taxi into town or hop aboard a horse-drawn carriage. Once there, downtown San Miguel is very walkable, with most shops, bars and restaurants clustered around the waterfront.
 
By Taxi: Taxis from San Miguel to the southern tip of the island, the average taxi fare will be $8 - $20. From downtown to the northern areas of Cozumel, expect to pay anywhere from $20 - $40. You can arrange for a driving tour of the entire island for approximately $60. Call 987/872-0236 to arrange for taxi service when in Cozumel. Taxis line up at the entrances to the piers and cost about $5 per ride. Rates to the beaches can cost $10 to $15; to avoid being ripped off, be sure to settle on a fare before departing. Word to the wise: Some drivers aim to overcharge for longer trips, so bargain carefully. Also, if you give the walk a try and decide midway that you've made a mistake, it is easy to grab a cab. Just wave when the driver toots his horn. Settle on a fare before he takes his foot off the brake.
 
Renting a Car: There are a number of reputable car rental agencies with offices within 5 blocks for the Punta Langosta pier. Some passengers who don't take one of the shore excursions and want to travel on their own might want to rent a Jeep or four-wheel-drive vehicle. Beware of additional charges for insurance and gas. Hertz (three locations: 800-654-3131) and Avis (six locations: 011-52-987-872-1923) are among those with offices at the piers.
 
By Moped: : Moped rental agencies are extensive in Cozumel and cost approximately $35 for twenty-four hours. Be sure to read all the fine print before renting a moped in Cozumel. You may or may not be insured for damage and theft of the bike. In addition, be aware that helmets, by law, must be worn at all times. This is a popular and inexpensive way for one or two people to get around Cozumel, although many cruise ships warn against doing so because of the dangers of an accident while navigating among reckless drivers. Hidden stop signs and stretches of severely potholed roads also present hazards.
 
By Fun Car or Scoot Car: These automatic-transmission buggies, resembling souped-up golf carts, are another possible option. They're able to reach speeds of 45 mph, and you can find the rental booth on the ground floor of the Punta Langosta shopping arcade.
Things to See and Do
There are many great attractions on the island of Cozumel in addition to its beautiful coastlines and coral reefs. The Museo de la Isla de Cozumel (Avenida Melgar, 987/872-1434) showcases endangered species native to the area, the geological origins of this Caribbean island, and wonderful natural history exhibits on local flora and fauna. Head upstairs and learn all about the cultural history of Cozumel, highlighted by displays of archaeological finds from the Mayan and Spanish Empires. It is open daily from 9am to 5pm.
 
Chankanaab National Park (987/872-2940) is the natural gem of Cozumel and is certainly worth paying a visit. Chankanaab translates to "little sea," and the park features a land-locked pool connected to the Caribbean Sea via underground water tunnels. The pool is surrounded by pristine beaches, which are a sunbathers delight. Enjoy the surrounding botanical gardens with a myriad of tropical plants and flowers. It is open daily from 8am to 5pm
 
A great way to spend an afternoon exploring the island of Cozumel is on horseback. Rancho Buenavista (987/872-1537) guides will take you and your family on guided, four-hour horseback riding adventures to the interior of the island, including Mayan ruin sites and excursions through the surrounding jungles.
 
If you have some extra time to spend exploring the surrounding regions of Cozumel, than a side trip to Playa del Carmen is in order. Water Jet Service (987/872-1508) will ferry you there in forty-five minutes. Once you arrive, enjoy a laid-back hideaway with beautiful beaches, colorful and inviting architecture, and a main street, Avenida 5, which allows only pedestrians. It is a charming little town that is sure to leave lasting memories.
 
San Miguel, Cozumel's one and only "big" city (some refer to it as a large town), owes its economic well-being to the growth of the cruise industry, which has transformed this once-sleepy fishing village into a tourist outpost, crammed with stores selling every imaginable souvenir. While many restaurants offer Mexican fare, others favor American tastes, with several U.S. fast-food chains represented, along with such notable names as the Hard Rock Cafe. Most shops stay open until 5:30 or 6 p.m. -- or whenever the last cruise ship departs.
 
San Miguel revolves around its two landmarks: the "zocalo" (town square), known as Plaza del Sol, and the downtown pier. Easily the most distinctive and fabulous store on Cozumel is Los Cinco Soles (we've easily lost a whole day there), which sells gorgeous Mexican crafts (plenty of the unusual along with more common items), silver jewelry and fashions. There's a tequila bar, and the shop wraps around the wonderful Pancho's Backyard restaurant. Also of interest to shoppers: Adjacent to the Plaza del Sol is the modern Villa Mar Complex, an air-conditioned mall with several notable silver shops. (Be sure to look for the 925 stamp, indicating quality silver.) Among the best buys in the mall are hand-woven hammocks, shell and black coral jewelry, and local handicrafts. You'll also find many duty-free items, such as perfumes and watches.
 
Glass-bottom boat tours provide a glimpse of the reefs for those who might prefer to stay dry in the comfort of a boat; some of these tours also stop occasionally for snorkeling breaks.
The Museum of the Island of Cozumel, located three blocks from the San Miguel ferry dock, is one of few options for culture vultures. It features interesting exhibits on underwater life and the reef ecosystem, as well as displays on Mayan and colonial life.
 
San Gervasio, the best of several small Mayan ruins sites on Cozumel, is located approximately seven miles from San Miguel. During its heyday, San Gervasio served as a ceremonial center dedicated to the fertility goddess Ixchel. The oldest site is El Cedral, about three miles from San Miguel, though little remains there except a Mayan arch and a few small ruins.
Playa del Carmen: Accessible via fast ferry, this mainland resort town is a fantastically bustling place that's chock full of shops (some of the tacky touristy variety, others, particularly in a conclave just off the ferry dock, much more upscale) and cafes. Better known to Europeans, the town owns an indefinably foreign air, so you'll feel a million miles away from Cozumel. The "Mexico Water Jet" ferries passengers back and forth between Playa del Carmen on the Yucatan peninsula and Cozumel. The ferry operates continuously, and the crossing takes approximately 45 minutes; depending on sea conditions, the ride can range from super-smooth to extremely bumpy. Be prepared with cash for the each-way fare.
 
Playa del Carmen is also the jumping-off point for the region's best-known Mayan sites. Try a daytrip to the ruins of Chichen Itza, the Yucatan's most renowned, which contains a mix of temples, pyramids and carvings dating to the 7th and 8th centuries. Other Mayan ruins are located at Tulum, situated on the coast 35 miles south of Playa del Carmen. The site features several Mayan temples -- including a stunning temple right on the coastline -- government buildings and a beach below the ruins. Daytrips to both Mayan sites can be booked through local tour operators. Three of the most reputable tour operators are Caribe Tours (011-52-987-872-3100), Intermar Caribe (011-52-987-872-1535) and Turismo Aviomar (011-52-987-872-5445).
 
Note: Independent travelers should know that an excursion to Chichen Itza spells a long day -- about a three-hour bus ride in each direction; don't forget to factor in the ferry ride from Cozumel. This is one of the times we actually recommend taking this trip as part of your ship's shore excursion program because the logistics are so complicated.
 
Xel-Ha, a lagoon that was considered sacred by the Mayans, is just a short ride from Tulum. It has been converted into an ecotourism underwater park, featuring an aquarium and areas for swimming, snorkeling, sunning and dining.
 
Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve lies on a limestone flat, just south of Tulum. The 1.3-million-acre reserve is home to endangered manatees, crocodiles, jaguars and turtles and features more than 1,000 varieties of plants, 350 species of birds and 70 different mammals. More than 1,000 Mayan people live within the reserve.
 
Chankanaab National Park makes for a fascinating daytrip. The nature preserve is home to a beachfront area with a bar and grill, botanical garden and archaeological park. The park's Dolphin Discovery program features captive dolphins that visitors are permitted to swim with for a fee.
 
Punta Sur is another ecotourist park for visitors interested in learning about Cozumel's native flora and fauna. The park encompasses mangrove jungles, white-sand beaches and reef formations. Visitors can watch a 20-minute video at the information center to learn about the different ecosystems, reefs and native birds, along with other wildlife inhabiting the area, such as turtles and alligators.
 
Cozumel’s main tourism attraction has long been its proximity to the Great Maya Reef, the world's second-longest barrier reef.  Diving and snorkeling are both excellent from the shore or by boat. For island tours, ruins tours on and off the island, evening cruises, and other activities, go to a travel agency such as Proviajes, Calle 2 Norte 365, between avenidas 15 and 20 (www.proviajescozumel.com; tel. 987/869-0516). Office hours are Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm, Saturday from 10am to 3pm.
 
Boat Trips
Travel agencies and hotels can arrange boat trips, a popular pastime on Cozumel. Choose from evening cruises, cocktail cruises, glass-bottom boat cruises, and other options. A real submarine tour is offered by Atlantis Submarines (tel. 987/872-5671; www.atlantisadventures.com). The tour includes 40 minutes at up to 30m (100 ft.) beneath the surface of the Chankanaab protected marine park (total excursion time is 1 1/2 hours). It costs $105 per adult, $65 for kids ages 4 to 12. Children under 4 are not permitted to take the tour.
 
Fishing
The best months for fishing are March through June, when the catch includes blue and white marlin, sailfish, tarpon, and swordfish. The least expensive option would be to contact a boat owner directly. A reliable operator offering deep-sea fishing and bonefishing in Cozumel is  Tres Hermanos (www.cozumelfishing.com; tel. 987/107-0655). The cost for an 8-hour excursion is $450 for up to eight anglers. Half-day trips are also available. Another option is to try the website GetMyBoat.com, which lists competitive pricing from a number of operators.
 
Beaches
Along both the west and east sides of the island you'll see signs advertising beach clubs. A "beach club" in Cozumel can mean just a palapa hut that's open to the public and serves soft drinks, beer, and fried fish. It can also mean a recreational beach with the full gamut of offerings, from banana boats to parasailing. They also usually have locker rooms, a pool, and food. The biggest of these is Mr. Sancho's (tel. 987/112-1933; www.mrsanchos.com), south of downtown San Miguel at Km 15 on the main road between the Reef Club and Allegro Resort. It offers a restaurant, bar, massage service, and motorized and nonmotorized watersports. Quieter versions of beach clubs are Playa San Francisco (no phone) and Paradise Beach (www.paradise-beach-cozumel.com), next to Playa San Francisco. All of these beaches are south of Chankanaab Park and easily visible from the road. Several have swimming pools with beach furniture, a restaurant, and snorkel rental. They cost about $12 to enter. If you’re driving the coast looking for a club, stay away from those with large tour buses parked at the entrance—they’re sure to be packed with day-trippers from the cruise ships.
 
Once you get to the end of the island, the beach clubs become simple places where you can eat, drink, and lay out on the beach. Paradise Cafe is on the southern tip of the island across from Punta Sur Nature Park, and as you go up the eastern side of the island you pass Playa Bonita, Chen Río, and Punta Morena. Except on Sunday, when the locals head for the beaches, these places are practically deserted. Most of the east coast is unsafe for swimming because of the surf. The beaches tend to be small and occupy gaps in the rocky coast.
 
Golf
Cozumel has an 18-hole course designed by Jack Nicklaus. It's at the Cozumel Country Club (tel. 987/872-9570; www.cozumelcountryclub.com.mx), north of San Miguel. Greens fees are $134 for a morning tee time, including cart rental and tax. Afternoon tee times cost $89. Tee times can be reserved 3 days in advance. A few hotels have special memberships with discounts for guests and advance tee times; guests at Playa Azul Golf and Beach Club pay no greens fees, but the cart costs $25.
 
Snorkeling & Scuba Diving
Cozumel is the number-one dive destination in the Western Hemisphere. Don't forget your dive card and dive log. Dive shops will rent you scuba gear but won't take you out on a boat until you show some documentation. If you have a medical condition, bring a letter signed by a doctor stating that you've been cleared to dive. A two-tank dive trip costs about $70 to $90; some shops offer an additional one-tank dive for a modest additional fee. A lot of divers save some money by buying a dive package with a hotel. These usually include two dives a day.
 
Diving in Cozumel is drift diving, which can be a little disconcerting for novices. The current that sweeps along Cozumel's reefs, pulling nutrients into them and making them as large as they are, also dictates how you dive here. The problem is that it pulls at different speeds at different depths and in different places. When it's pulling strong, it can quickly scatter a dive group.Generally, however, the current makes for an effortless diving experience if you just relax and let the scenery drift by. Photographers must adapt to the current and resist grabbing the coral in order to stop to take a photo—killing the coral in the process.
 
The role of the dive master becomes more important, especially with choosing the dive location. Cozumel has a lot of dive locations. To mention but a few: the famous Palancar Reef, with its caves and canyons, plentiful fish, and sea coral; the monstrous Santa Rosa Wall, famous for its depth, sea life, coral, and sponges; the San Francisco Reef, with a shallower drop-off wall and fascinating sea life; and the Yucab Reef, with its beautiful coral.
 
Finding a dive shop in town is even easier than finding a jewelry store. Cozumel has more than 50 dive operators, including: Aqua Safari, which has a location on Av. Rafael Melgar 429 at Calle 5 (tel. 987/872-0101; www.aquasafari.com). Dive Paradise (tel. 987/872-1007; www.diveparadise.com), next to the Naval Base at 602 R.E. Melgar, has been in business over 25 years and offers dive training at all levels. Liquid Blue Divers (tel. 987/869-2812; www.liquidbluedivers.com) arranges tours by appointment and provides high-quality service to small groups. Scuba Du (tel. 987/872-9505; www.scubadu.com), based at the Presidente InterContinental resort, offers excellent diving excursions, refresher courses, and all levels of diving certification.
 
Warning: Cozumel has many excellent dive shops (like the ones mentioned above) with experienced divemasters and high-quality gear. But, as in all popular dive destinations, some run “cattle boats,” packing way too may divers on a boat and supplying sub-par gear. It pays to do a bit of research, checking out websites and recommendations. Try to stop by the shop before signing up for trips and check out the gear and boats. Most of my Cozumel dives have been fabulous, but I have been on unfortunate outings, made more disappointing by my experience with the island’s excellent shops.
 
There are many great spots on the island of Cozumel to enjoy your passion for diving and snorkeling. Among them are the Santa Rosa Reef, San Francisco Reef, Chankanaab Reef, and the Yucab Reef, scuba diving and snorkeling are the top priority for many visitors. Along with Grand Cayman, Roatan and Belize, Cozumel offers the best diving and snorkeling sites in the Caribbean. In some areas, visibility reaches 250 feet, and prime sites for "divehards" include Palancar Reef (part of the nearly 700-mile-long Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-longest reef system in the world, behind Australia's Great Barrier Reef), Chankanaab Caves and La Ceiba Reef. At La Ceiba, the underwater universe contains a sunken airplane that came to rest after being blown up for a Mexican disaster movie. A word to the wise: Keep an eye out for dive operators who post C.A.D.O. stickers in their windows; these are considered the island's most reputable dive establishments. Operators are located up and down the main road along the waterfront, between the International Pier and San Miguel.
 
Cenote Diving on the Mainland -- A popular activity in the Yucatán is cave diving. The peninsula's underground cenotes (seh-noh-tehs) -- sinkholes or wellsprings -- lead to a vast system of underground caverns. The gently flowing water is so clear that divers seem to float on air through caves complete with stalactites and stalagmites. If you want to try this but didn't plan a trip to the mainland, contact Germán Yañez (www.germanyanez.com; tel. 987/113-7044), based at 60 Avenida 117, between Calles 2 and 4 North. He offers all-day cenote tours as well as cave dive training. The cenotes lie 30 to 45 minutes from Playa del Carmen, and a dive in each cenote lasts around 45 minutes. Dives happen within the daylight zone, about 40m (131 ft.) into the caverns, and no more than 18m (59 ft.) deep. Open water certification and at least five logged dives are required. For those without diving certifications, a cenote snorkeling tour is also offered.
 
Cozumel known especially for its amazing coral displays. There are many outfitters on the island that offer organized diving tours and equipment rentals. If you are an experienced diver, then make sure to carry your dive card with you at all times. Contact Aqua Safari (Avenida Melgar 429, 987/872-0101, www.aquasafari.com) for more information regarding rental rates and planned dives.
 
Most resorts offer snorkeling equipment, and many dive shops do, as well. Even though you won't see a lot of the more delicate structures, such as fan coral, you will still see plenty of sea creatures and enjoy the clear, calm water of Cozumel's protected west side. When contracting for a snorkel tour, stay away from the companies that cater to the cruise ships. Those tours are crowded and not very fun.
 
Snorkelers can find outfitters in this area, too, or simply drop into any of the multiple beachside bars and restaurants for a beer, tortilla chips and a day of exploring the reef right off shore. We enjoyed refreshing stops for a snorkel (and beers) at restaurants Tikila and Tio Jose during our walk back and forth between the International Pier and San Miguel. Both are located on the coastal road, and the beach is the "ironshore" kind, typically best for snorkeling, but water shoes are recommended for tender feet.
 
Best for Privacy: Playa Escondida on the western shore offers few amenities, but that keeps the crowds away from this sanctuary. Another peaceful option is Playa Chen Rio, on the eastern side of the island.
 
Best for a Beach Break: Nachi Cocom Beach Club, about 10 minutes south of the San Miguel area, offers waters sports, a swimming pool, hot tubs, a bar and a restaurant. You can even get a massage. Visitors can buy all-inclusive passes for $55 each.
 
Eating Out
The island offers a number of tasty restaurants in all price ranges. The restaurants on the waterfront are tourist oriented for the most part; you’ll find more Yucatecan and Mexican spots farther inland. Tiny taco restaurants and stands serve up cheap, tasty meals. Morning tacos of cochinita pibil are served at El Amigo Mario (tel. 987/872-0742), on Av. 5 Sur, between Francisco Mújica and Avenida 35. The doors close at 12 pm. El Foco (tel. 987/107-4108) on Av. 5 Sur between calles 5 and 7 Sur is the best spot for the late-night munchies—it’s open daily 5pm-2am. Zermatt (tel. 987/872-1384), a longstanding little bakery selling homemade breads and desserts, is on Avenida 5 at Calle 4 Norte. It’s open Monday to Saturday from 7am to 8:30pm. On the island’s windward side, Coconuts on Carretera Oriente (Km 43.5) serves decent Mexican and American dishes in a funky, rock ’n’ roll setting beneath a large palapa. Open daily10am–dusk. Two restaurants at Punta Bonita on the windward side serve fresh ceviche, whole fried fish, and other seafood to tables on the sand.
 
After an exhausting day of diving, horseback riding, fishing, or sunbathing, enjoy some of Cozumel's fine dining and nightclubs. Acuario on Avenida Rafael Melgar, features delicious seafood and beer in a beautiful, aquarium filled setting. Or, check out El Moro (987/872-3029) on Calle 75 Norte, not known for its décor, but rather for its fabulous food, popular among locals and guests of Cozumel. When it's time to wet your whistle and get down to dancing, head on over to Avenida Melgar to the Hard Rock Café (987/872-5271), the Hog's Breath Saloon, and several other bars and clubs located in the area. Food is Cozumel is rich with cultural traditions and fresh ingredients. You'll find plenty of pork, chicken and seafood offerings and dishes that draw heavily on Mayan culture in the Yucatan region. (That means plenty of corn tortillas, beans and rich sauces.)
 
Pancho's Backyard is a great place for margaritas and wonderful Mexican specialties. You can sit inside on the terrace and cool off beneath whirring ceiling fans while listening to the soothing sounds of trickling fountains. Pancho's is attached to one of the best shopping venues on the island. (Av. Rafael Melgar 27 between calles 8 and 10; open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m., closed Sunday)
 
La Choza offers some of Cozumel's best home-cooked cuisine (particularly for breakfast). This family-run restaurant in San Miguel prepares specialties like pozole (corn soup), pollo en relleno negro (chicken in blackened sauce) and their signature avocado pie. This is a favorite for cruise ship crewmembers, so it gets busy during the afternoon. The fish tacos and mango margaritas are highly recommended. (Rosada Salas 198 at Av. 10 Sur; open from 7 a.m. daily)
 
Guido's is considered the island's best Italian restaurant. Choice tables are located on the patio out back. Av. Rafael Melgar No. 23 between calles 6 and 8; open Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m., closed Sunday
Casa Denis is a solid option for atmosphere and tradition. It has been on Cozumel since 1945 and features some amazing historic photos on the walls, including one of a young Fidel Castro. (Open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily
 
Of course, no visit to Cozumel would be complete without a visit to "Carlos and Charlie's" It has relocated to the new shopping center at the foot of the Punta Langosta pier, but is still the same outrageous party scene, as found in its former location.....be sure to bring Advil for your headache when you leave.
Carlos 'n Charlie's is the island's cornball, always-crowded tourism hot spot, specializing in ridiculously huge tropical drinks and bar food. Many tourists like the raucous frat-party atmosphere, and, after more than one libation, you'll be lucky to stagger back to your ship. (Av. Rafael Melgar #11 on the waterfront; open from 10 a.m. daily)  if you visited Cozumel and did not enter Carlos and Charlie's  that you missed a major attraction.
 
La Mission serves phenomenal, authentic Mexican food at exceptionally reasonable prices. The open-air surrounds provide respite from the heat, and menus are available in Spanish and English. We highly recommend the tortilla soup. Just off of Av. Rafael E. Melgar, the main street that runs in front of the pier; open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily
 
Las Palmas will provide you with a truly cultural experience that was recommended to us by a local. The outdoor patio "cocina" eatery specializes in authentic Mexican food, but be warned: The staff doesn't speak English, so bone up on your Spanish before visiting, and be prepared to point at what you'd like from the menu. Av. 25, between calles 3 and Jose Maria Morelos; open until just after dinner
 
Shopping
There are no true malls or shopping centers on Cozumel, which in many ways add to its natural appeal. Nonetheless, there are many terrific shopping opportunities. Head down Avenida Melgar in downtown San Miguel and feast your eyes on fabulous selections of clothing, artwork, and jewelry. Duty-free stores are prevalent in downtown San Miguel as well. The cruise companies want you to shop from their "recommended list" because each and every one of these recomendations kicks back a sizeable commission on their sale to you.
If you're looking for silver jewelry or other souvenirs, go no farther than the town's coastal avenue, Rafael Melgar. Along this road, you'll find one store after another selling jewelry, Mexican handicrafts, and other souvenirs and duty-free merchandise. The most impressive of these is Los Cinco Soles (tel. 987/872-0132; ), on the waterfront at 8 Norte, adjacent to Pancho's Backyard restaurant. There are also some import/export stores in the Punta Langosta Shopping Center in the southern part of town in front of the cruise-ship pier. Prices for serapes, T-shirts, and the like are lower on the side streets off Avenida Melgar.
 
There is an extensive shopping center at Puerto Maya and along the street fronting both out-of-town piers, but for unlimited, non-stop shopping one must go downtown. The new mall at the foot of Punta Langosta is a large multi-story mall full of shops, stores and boutiques. The downtown area along the ocean front street is loaded with boutiques, shops, stores, restaurants, bars and just about everything you could imagine. Behind, and to the right (looking inland) of the town's main plaza is an extensive local crafts market. If that is not enough, there are many local "mercados" on the sides streets leading to Cozumel's interior. Everything Mexican and then some. Jewelry, art work, duty free shopping, Mexican crafts, blankets, liquor, leather goods, simulated Mayan artifacts, onyx carvings and lots more.












 
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