If you’ve heard of Cozumel, you may associate it with big cruise ships, or adventurous scuba divers. But living here for the past 5 years, I’ve come to see how kid-friendly Cozumel is, making Cozumel a great choice for a safe and fun family vacation.
Cozumel is a great place for families traveling with kids. Cozumel is an island, so it’s more sheltered and a lot safer than nearby Cancun or Playa del Carmen. Cozumel also has warm, crystal waters, action-filled outings, and fun cultural activities to try, without the added stress. Whether you and your kids are into adventure sports, history, shopping, people watching, trying new foods, or just chilling out by the water, you’ll find something for everyone in Cozumel.
Check out this full, alphabetical “A-Z” list of 26 fun family things to do in Cozumel you might not know about.
If you only think of cruise ships here, think again.
A-Z List of Child and Teen-Friendly Activities in Cozumel
This list of kid-friendly activities will help you plan out your next family vacation.
Alebrijes are delightfully colorful Mexican handicrafts. These painted animal forms, often made of wood or a form of paper maché, have a fantastical quality and represent spirit animals or guides to netherworlds.
You and your kids might recognize them from the incredible Pixar movie, Coco.
Sign your kids up for the Alebrije Workshop at the Discover Mexico Park in Cozumel, and let them unleash their creativity while creating their own alebrije and learning a little more about Mexican culture.
You can also shop for amazingly intricate finished alebrijes at many pretty art and souvenir shops in the downtown area, in and around Benito Juarez Park – the central plaza in town.
Cozumel now has a few bee-related organizations, and this new one is really cute and a great experience for people young and old.
The Mayan Bee Sanctuary on the Transversal Road (at km. 10) is open to the public and offers a neat education on bees, their importance to our ecosystems, beekeeping, hive rescues, and honey production.
You can also taste various honey varieties, and take some with you to ward off allergies, sweeten your tea, or bring home as unique gifts. Try the various honey candies and beauty products, too.
Chocolate Bars – A Cozumel Tradition
Learn the history and importance of Cacao (chocolate) in Mexico, from the Mayans up to today.
There are several places on the island now that offer chocolate tours, including the chance for your family to hand-grind your own beans and craft them into a chocolate bar you can take home with you.
These places also offer gift shops, tastings, and plenty of gifts and souvenirs (or snacks for your hotel!).
(click here to see our related post about Cozumel’s 3 Hotel Zones, if you need more help with planning where to stay on the island)
Super Bonus tip: If you and your family are big chocolate fans, don’t miss the boutique chocolate maker in town, Chocolateria Isla Bella.
This amazing little chocolate shop specializes in carefully sourced organic and fair-trade Mexican chocolate and jewel-like confections, boxed up like a treasure. (located on Av. 5 N, between Calles 2 and 4), a couple blocks North of the clock tower in Benito Juarez Park). Learn more, here.
Discover Scuba Diving in Cozumel
If your kids (or you!) are interested in diving, but not quite ready to commit to an Open-Water Certification course, a Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) class is a great way to safely try scuba in a very controlled way.
DSD classes are run by fully certified instructors (be sure to confirm that!) and the ratio of students to instructor is intentionally kept very low to allow for careful attention and personalized teaching. Try our favorite dive shop for scuba instruction – see here.
By the end of your DSD sessions, you and your kids will understand the diving equipment set up, the basic safety precautions and maneuvers, and your level of comfort when breathing underwater.
From there, you can decide if you want to continue your studies, and move on to enjoying the full diving experience. (We think you will!)
Eating Tacos Like a Local
Everybody loves tacos, right? Well, when in Mexico…you must try some delicious local tacos.
Head downtown and sample some of your favorites, like chicken (pollo) or beef (res, or arrechera). But also be sure to try at least one of Mexico’s best – “tacos al pastor.”
Tacos al Pastor are made with roasted pork, a little mild chile kick, and diced pineapple on top.
Vegetarians can look for tacos frijoles (beans), nopales (cactus), or head to one of my favorite joints, Cuatro Taco (5th Street, just off Melgar Ave) for their special tacos filled with chiles relleños (stuffed peppers), or their portobello mushroom tacos. Yum!
For more detail on regional tacos, check out our related Tacos: Order Like a Local post, here.
Finding Clues around San Miguel
Families now have another great experience in recent years with Cozumel’s own Amazing Race.
This activity is full of fun clue solving, friendly competition, and a good amount of walking (or running) around town.
It gives kids and families the chance to see the downtown, meet some awesome local (bi-lingual) tour guides and clue-givers, and learn a little about the history of Cozumel – all while having some good, healthy fun.
The Race winds up at a fun local outdoor restaurant, where teams can enjoy a cold drink and some snacks, and compare notes from the day.
There is usually an (optional) snorkeling portion mid-way through so you can jump in and cool off. Again – optional.
Check out the Amazing Race Cozumel here, and read all their great reviews. Try it!
Get Your Mermaid On
Even if your kids don’t want to try scuba, they might want to pretend to live ‘beneath the sea’ from time to time.
One little known activity in Cozumel is the Mermaid Experience, with DeLille Sports.
DeLille Sports is truly the best shop for learning to Kiteboard and SUP, so your more extreme sports lovers might prefer those. But for the mermaid experience, they have a fun session.
Meet at their shop, and get your kids sized and suited up. And then make like mermaids, and hit the water. Action mermaid photoshoots are available!
Check out their website, here.
Hunt for Cozumel’s Crocodiles
Cozumel is sweet and safe, but don’t tell that to our resident crocodiles.
There are indeed crocodiles here on the island, and occasionally they’ve been seen poking out of the jungles and mangroves where they live.
But don’t worry – they don’t normally like saltwater, so you won’t see them at the beach or when you’re out diving. (well, almost never…)
But there are some places where you can see them on purpose, and see their amazing anatomy and slightly scary behavior.
One of the best places to try and spot a Cozumel crocodile in the wild is at the observation tower at Punta Sur Eco Park, one of the public beach and nature parks, run by the municipality.
At the far south point on the Island, Punta Sur Park also has a lighthouse museum where you can climb to the top, as well as a beach, a mangrove boat tour, and plenty of places to stop for a snack or to get Mom and Dad a cold one.
Ice Cream, Cozumel Style
Need I say more?
Cozumel has ice cream shops all over the place!
All around town you’ll see shops called “Michoacana,” usually either painted orange or pink-and-white. They are usually located on a corner. Each is different, but all have a wide selection of ice creams, fruity popsicles, shakes and smoothies.
There’s also a few pushcart vendors with hand-made ice cream in Benito Juárez park (central plaza with clocktower) – people rave about the home-made coconut ice cream cones.
Jumping in the Cozumel Plaza Fountain
Parque Benito Juárez also features a dancing water fountain feature where kids of all ages love to cool off and play around.
Join the local munchkins and let your little ones jump in and play around.
There are plenty of shaded benches nearby to sit and keep an eye on the fun. And do some serious people-watching in one of Cozumel’s pleasant and safe public parks.
Kite Surfing in Cozumel
DeLille Sports, as mentioned above, is a seriously cool and fun surf shop that teaches Stand-up Paddleboarding (SUP) and Kite-boarding in Cozumel. Run by a Mexican wind-surfing champ, DeLille has a great staff and quality equipment to set you up right.
Kite-surfing is not easy to learn, so book ahead for their multi-day package if you have a serious intent. Or let them start you out on a SUP, either for your first time, or experience boarders can take one of their specialty tours – including one at night, with lights on the bottom of your board.
The kids don’t get to try that every day!
Lighthouse Tours of Cozumel
There are historic lighthouses at the Northernmost and the Southernmost tips of Cozumel island. Pick one, or try to check out both!
The lighthouse in the Northern point, called Punta Molas, is harder to access. These days, your best bet is to join one of Cozumel’s new Lighthouse Project razor tours to the lighthouse.
You can ride these fun off-road vehicles to get there and do some beach-cleaning on the way, to give back to this precious environment.
Once you’re at the lighthouse, enjoy some swimming, a snack, and the views.
The South lighthouse, called “Celarain,” is within the grounds of the Punta Sur Eco Park, run by the Cozumel municipality.
Punta Sur is an awesome way to spend the day, with the lighthouse just being one stop (see above for more info).
Climb to the top of Cozumel’s Celarian lighthouse for an amazing view, and learn about its working history in the cute museum on the ground floor.
Mayan Ball Game in Cozumel
Kids of all ages love seeing this reenactment of an ancient Mayan Ball Game, called “Pok-ta Pok” in the Mayan language.
Demonstrated by trained historic performers in exciting and elaborate Mayabn warrior garb, a large, hard rubber ball is moved around a walled court by the players’ feet, legs, and hips.
It is thought by some to be the direct precursor to modern-day futbol, or soccer.
Sometimes the city of Cozumel also puts on live demonstrations in the main central plaza, or you can plan a day at the cultural theme park Kun Che in Cozumel, and see a live ball game as part of your daily ticket.
Advisory: Some themes of this can be a little scary, depending on your child.
To get a full sense of this Meso-American ball-game ritual, check out this helpful video from the Smithsonian Institution, so you’ll know a little more about the game’s history and likely symbolism.
Night Observation at the Cozumel Planetarium
Completed in 2016, Cozumel’s planetarium, named Cha’an Ka’an, is a sharp new facility in the southern hotel zone area.
Cha’an Ka’an offers planetarium shows and a rotating program of evening movies in the dome. They also have various observations at night or during special astrological events.
Check out the Planetarium’s website using this link here before your arrival and make some plans to visit this neat cosmic addition to Cozumel.
Open Water Scuba Class in Cozumel
If you’re a family of divers or aspiring divers, and your kids are at least 10 years old, you can start the process of becoming a certified Open Water Diver.
Ideally, in our educated opinion, you should start the eLearning knowledge portion of the class at your local dive shop before you arrive. That way no one feels rushed, and you can make sure everyone is comfortable and taking the time to absorb all of the important information.
But there’s no place like Cozumel to take or finish the open-water scuba diving class, or do your first “check out” dives for certification – or just your first certified dives as a proud, new C-Card holder.
Pizza Party on a Cozumel Beach
If you poke around our Food & Restaurant posts on the blog more, you’ll see that we take our pizza pretty seriously. Luckily, so does Cozumel! There are now at least 10 solid pizza joints on the island – and that number is growing!
So, no matter what style you like or where you’re staying, you can have a break from nachos and have a family pizza party any time you want.
Check out our full post on our picks for the best pizza places in Cozumel.
Take your pick. Most have dine-in and take-out options.
Quintana Roo Park at Cozumel’s City Hall
Quintana Roo Park is a great park right in front of Cozumel’s “town hall”, El Palacio.
The Park has a main bandshell area, famous for hosting the spectacular annual Carnaval competition events early each year, as well as the Independence Day party and fireworks (September 16th).
This park also serves as the finish line and recovery area for the Cozumel Ironman in the Fall, and many other public parties and exhibitions, year-round.
Don’t miss it if you’re in town around Christmas time.
There are also frequent street fairs with midway games and rides at this location, so no matter when you’re in town, take a peek or ask your hosts about what public events are going on in town that week.
Chances are, there will be some fun kid stuff in Quintana Roo Park.
And if not, on regular evenings the park almost always has some families there with very little ones playing on the playground, or trying out the pint-sized electric vehicles. It’s adorable and open and free. Make some new friends.
Riding Electric Bikes Along Cozumel’s Shores
Electric bikes are a blast! Easy to learn for anyone who can already ride a bike. Super fast and fun to glide along on, but way lighter and far safer than a moto or moped.
The first time I tried the Beach Bum Bikes tour of the East Side of Cozumel island, I was hooked. (now I have my own)
Their friendly bilingual young guides ride with you the whole time, and there’s a support vehicle to make sure everyone’s bike is in fine riding shape.
They also have tours of Punta Sur Eco Park, which is my favorite of all the municipality’s beach parks, and it’s great for families – see the “Lighthouse’ entry, above! Maybe it could be a combo.
Snorkeling Heaven in Cozumel
Cozumel is nothing if not an amazing scuba diving locale, and if you don’t dive, snorkeling is the next best thing.
There are many tours that include snorkeling, as well as boat outings that can get you to some of the prime – but still shallow – reef sections a little farther offshore.
If you’re staying at a resort or other water-front hotel, they’ll surely have snorkeling gear for you to try, and you can take an easy look around right off the beach.
Or head to one of many beach clubs that have great snorkeling reefs.
A large Cozumel-run beach and water park, like Chankanaab is good for an entire day packed with fun activities, definitely including some snorkeling.
There are also smaller beach clubs that have good snorkel spots, and gear on loan. Try someplace like Sky Reef or Corona Beach if you’re in the south part of the island, or Playa Azul in the north.
Grab a beach-side lunch and then snorkel around to take a look at what critters you can spot in the clear blue waters just off the beach.
Turtle Nesting and Hatching Program
The East Side of Cozumel island and the Punta Sur shores are wild and wonderful. One of their many special qualities is that these areas are the nesting sites for thousands of green, hawksbill, and loggerhead turtles every year.
Starting in the late Spring, usually in May, mature turtles start to return to these Cozumel beaches and lay large nests full of turtle eggs.
Each mother turtle digs a deep hole, lays her eggs, and then covers them up, in a painstaking process. Then with no fanfare, she turns and returns right back into the ocean.
Then, about 90 days later – so starting in August and going through September or October – these nests of eggs hatch.
Clusters of tiny young hatchlings struggle their way out of the deep nest and then flipper and waddle their way down the sandy Cozumel shores, and right into the open surf.
And off they go.
The annual turtle nests are carefully marked, recorded, and monitored by Cozumel’s Department of Ecology throughout the whole season.
Volunteers can pitch in at both ends of the process. Fees to participate are really donations, used to pay staff and keep the program alive.
Please note: Volunteers are encouraged to seek out the official Ecology Department’s program if they’d like to help. Please don’t opt for a “tour” run by a cruise ship or other non-scientific entity. Ask your hotel concierge for help contacting the Ecology Dept. and/or the Parks Department to reserve your spot.
Underwater Submarine Ride in Cozumel
Maybe the kids aren’t ready for diving, or maybe you have no intention of breathing underwater. At least not from a tank! Well, what about aboard a submarine?
The Atlantis Submarine is a local family favorite. It’s operated by a dedicated and experienced Cozumel crew and captain who’s been at the helm for years.
Typically, there is an orientation session, and then an exciting ride down to see a deep reef wall and a nearby shipwreck.
You can experience diving down along incredible coral formations, and of course have a chance to see some Cozumel marine life, including eagle rays, stingrays, nurse sharks, turtles, colorful tropical fish, and sometimes divers!
I have seen the submarine come along a few times when I’ve been diving the shipwreck site! It’s fun to wave!
There aren’t age restrictions for the Cozumel submarine experience, but children must be at least 3 ft tall, to meet the size requirements of their safety equipment.
Voladores Fly High in Cozumel
The Voladores (meaning ‘flying men’) demonstrate a death-defying ritual dance from an ancient Meso-American tradition. But this dance is performed atop a tall “pole” towering at least 18 meters / 40 feet in the air (or higher).
To the beat of a steady drum and flute melody, the voladores ‘fly’ in circles around this pole, attached by fabric wrapped around their waists and legs. Their fearless and graceful dance is done to honor the natural elements and appeal to the gods for fertile lands.
These acrobatic performers are incredible, and you should really try to see them in person in Cozumel if you can.
You can catch them throughout the day at the beach in Playa del Carmen, or at Cozumel’s southern cruise pier area – both free of charge (times vary).
Or as shown in the video, you can see this group as part of your entrance into Discover Mexico Park – which as a whole is a great way for a family to spend a few hours.
There is a gallery of impressive artwork from across the country (including the alebrijes mentioned above, and other exhibits on Mexico’s history of architecture, and some fun activities to get hands-on.
The Voladores also perform in the plaza near the southern cruise ports, and in the main park upon your arrival in Playa del Carmen, so if you go over to the mainland, you might catch them there, too.
Wildlife on Land – Cozumel Mangroves & Jungle
Besides the crocodiles and marine life you’ll see either diving, snorkeling, or on the submarine, Cozumel is known for land-based wildlife, too.
Cozumel is a well-known spot for bird watchers, with records of hundreds of local and migrating birds being spotted, including the endemic Cozumel Emerald hummingbird.
There are lots of large iguanas that you are sure to see around town, lazing in the sun.
Cute little gecko lizards that you will probably encounter on sidewalks, and maybe even on an indoor wall or two. But be glad! They help us keep the mosquitos at bay.
There are other furry friends on land, as well. Cozumel has wild deer, pigs, and small endemic raccoon-like animals called coati.
The coati can be seen all over, but are especially known to hang out at a lot of beaches along the southern shore of the marine park, like at Palancar Beach, Nachii Cocom beach club, and at Punta Sur Eco Beach Park (see above).
Xcaret Theme Park via Cozumel Ferry
If you’re in Cozumel for a week, or even more, you might want to take a trip to the mainland at least once. Maybe just to see the Voladores in Playa del Carmen…or to go do some major shopping.
For families with kids, one of the best reasons to cross over on the ferry to the “Riviera Maya” is the large theme park known as Xcaret.
Xcaret park is a full day and evening’s worth of stimulating fun. Learn about archaeology and traditions in Mexico, from Meso-American customs through more modern history and culture.
You’ll encounter exhibits featuring natural environments, like a coral reef aquarium or an aviary, as well as areas featuring music, art, and various dining venues.
There’s also just pure vacation fun on underwater river rides, swimming and snorkeling in their lagoon waters, and more. In the evening, you can choose to stay for dinner and their cultural performance shows.
Just be sure to leave enough time to catch the last ferry back to Cozumel!
Yucatecan Food – Pride of Cozumel
Traveling often opens us up to regional food specialties, and the Yucatan Peninsula has some specialties that you have to seek out and try.
Beyond the coconut ice cream and fresh fruits we’ve mentioned, there are certain foods that are specifically from the Yucatan.
The region has an interesting food history, as it’s geographical position and history has led to a variety of cultural blends and culinary fusion.
Cochinita Pibil is perhaps the most indicative of this cuisine and has become one of the most known and sought after.
Basically, cochinita is a tasty and tender slow-roasted pulled pork specifically from the Yucatan, flavored and seasoned with a local twist of tart orange citrus tang and mild chile heat.
Cochinita is a Sunday tradition in Cozumel, and delicious eaten family-style, loaded up on tortillas with pickled red onion and fresh cilantro.
Or try the local chicken soup, Sopa Lima. Nice simple soup and more familiar to kids, but with a nice bright kiss of fresh limas (closely related to the lime).
There are also yummy little panuchos – like pint-sized tostadas loaded with beans, cheese and various meats and toppings. Kind of like a new spin on nachos, and great for adventurous little hands.
Finally, even if you have some shy or picky young eaters, most can’t turn their nose up at a fresh local street-food favorite – the “marquesita.”
These made-to-order sweets are like warm, slightly crunchy crepes, filled with caramel, nutella, or fruit jams. Look for a cart near El Palacio / Parque Quintana Roo, or down near the clock tower in Parque Benito Juarez.
And if all else fails, don’t forget some Cozumel chocolate. Or coconut ice cream.
Zócalo, Where Cozumel Comes Alive
In Mexico, due to a curious history of the original ‘zócalo” in the center of Mexico City, the word “zócalo” is the common word to reference a city’s “main square” in the center of town.
Cozumel’s zócalo is the busy, central plaza officially named Parque Benito Juárez, after one of Mexico’s most famous and beloved presidents.
(Trust me – now that you know, you’ll see his name everywhere).
For our last recommendation for traveling family fun in Cozumel? Just show up in the zócalo!
Whatever free time you have, when in doubt, take a walk around Juárez Park and just see what’s going on.
Have a meal at Casa Denis, a famous Yucatecan spot that’s also one of the oldest restaurants in town.
Catch some music at Woody’s. Shop for your alebrijes or other beautiful handicrafts, like Talavera pottery, or leather goods.
Get that ice cream, jump in the dancing water fountains, take your picture at the iconic “Cozumel” sign.
And then just hang out for a while. You’ll very likely catch a performance. Or watch an artist at work.
People-watch all the different characters of daily life in town, or those arriving off of the ferry from the mainland each hour. Watch the various boats come in and out of port.
And if you’re lucky enough to be in town at the time of a seasonal holiday, like Christmas week, Carnaval, Mexico’s Independence Day (September 16th) or Mexico’s Day of the Dead (November 1-2), and many others, the zócalo will be especially alive with regional decor and displays.
(Please, poke around the rest of the blog for some of our other posts on visiting Cozumel during specific holiday months.)
The Cozumel municipal cultural board sponsors lots of live shows in the Plaza square, as well.
Weekly free concerts or dance performances are usually on the schedule – traditionally on Sunday evenings. (*N.B.: once the COVID virus crisis clears, these will resume.)
There are also frequently small street fairs in the Zócalo plaza, with handmade jewelry, arts and crafts, local honey or baked goods, and more.
Also keep your eye out for non-holiday current events, like the Cozumel Ironman triathlons or the annual GFNY bicycle road race.
When those races are on, the Plaza is typically a cool spot to watch the race or poke around at booths and tables with info and products for sale.
Cozumel is a Real Family Town
Cozumel is a great place for traveling families with kids because Cozumel is a lovely town full of working families with kids!
You can feel it wherever you go.
Take some time to just meander and visit in town – especially the zócalo.
Give your kids the time to look around, notice the local people and their peers. Let them see and experience how they live and play. And have them try some of their foods and entertainment.
It might just be the most memorable activity of the whole trip. I know it always is for me…still!