If you’ve never had a warm mug of Mexican hot sipping chocolate or a fresh churro with rich chocolate sauce, then those might be first on your shortlist of essential things to do in Cozumel.
But another must on your best of Cozumel activities list should be a visit to one of the island’s very popular Mexican chocolate tours.
A chocolate tour in Cozumel is less of a tour, so much, as a fun, guided experience with a bi-lingual local expert chocolate maker.
You’ll discover the true origins of chocolate from the cacao plant, and then try your hand at some traditional Mexican culinary tools used in the making of chocolate bars – culinary tools like the metate (a stone hand grinder) and the molinillo (a beautiful wooden frothing utensil).
And of course sample some of the delicious results.
Chocolate originated in pre-Columbian Mexico from the cacao plant, and held historical significance in rituals, trade, and political power. Modern Mexican chocolate remains a staple culinary life, used in sipping chocolate, decadent sauce for churros, and a key ingredient in the premier savory dish in Mexican cuisine – the complex masterpiece of molé sauce.
Both the Mayans and Aztecs believed the cacao bean had magical, or even divine, properties, suitable for use in the most sacred rituals of birth, marriage and death.Smithsonian Magazine
As a former owner of a small tour company here on the island, I often recommended newcomers make time for at least one of the Cozumel chocolate tours if they had any love for chocolate whatsoever. (And really, who doesn’t?)
But aside from a tour, I strongly encourage all visitors to Mexico to go much further than that.
Explore the local shops and cafes in town for some real-world chocolate experiences.
You can smell, eat, and drink some modern-day recipes and treats made in some of Cozumel’s best restaurants and artisan shops using this amazing local cacao product: everyone’s favorite Mexican chocolate.
Chocolate Tours Are a “Must Do” in Cozumel
It’s a great idea to start your introduction to Mexican chocolate – and the Mexican cuisine it inspires – by attending one of the island’s signature chocolate tours.
Especially if you are looking for even more wonderful kid-friendly activities for a family vacation here on the island.
The best high-quality chocolate venues on the island give small groups fun and fascinating introductions to the cacao plant, its discovery, and how it was traditionally cultivated and processed.
After that brief intro to the background of Mexico’s cacao plant, you’ll get right to some hands-on fun by getting in there and grinding some cacao seeds using a traditional Mexican grinding stone tool known as the metate.
Similar to a mortar and pestle (which, btw, is known in Spanish as a molcajete, and used more specifically to grind spices and make guacamole), the Mexican metate is used to effectively scrape and pulverize cacao beans into a nice smooth paste.
It’s a bit of work! But don’t worry.
After you get a feel for it, your tour guide will eventually take pity on you after a short while and let you switch to a hand-cranked metal grinding mill to complete the grinding process, or just observe as they finish the job themselves in an expert demonstration.
At least that’s what they did for me and my group at the most popular chocolate tour in town, the Kaokao Chocolate Factory (see more about Kaokao, just below).
With my newbie, awkward metate skills, we otherwise might’ve been there all day…
Once everyone gets a turn, you proceed through a few more steps in the production process until each person gets to wrap up their own homemade chocolate bar to take home.
Overall, these Cozumel chocolate workshops are a fun way to try some local tastes and have some hands-on experience of a traditional Mexican creation rich with history – and flavor.
The workshops are perfect if you’re traveling with kids, and in fact made our A-Z list of 26 great things to do with the family, here in Cozumel.
They’re fun, hands-on interactive experiences, and might leave your children with an even better sense of the work that traditionally went into bringing our beloved chocolate treats from field to bean to bar.
Best and Most Popular Cozumel Chocolate Tours
The Kaokao Chocolate factory is probably the best chocolate experience venue in Cozumel and has been in the business of carefully producing delicious single-origin chocolate and opening its doors to educate and entertain the public since 2007.
Offering fun, hands-on chocolate workshops, as well as a beautiful gift shop full of their handmade products to try – or take home as gifts and souvenirs – Kaokao, is a lovely place to visit in a charming setting in the heart of downtown Cozumel.
Kaokao has been a visitor favorite and an award winner from Tripadvisor for years.
You can also find Kaokao chocolate bars in various stores throughout the island, including on your departure from Cozumel and Cancun airports (in case you eat the ones you buy in their gift shop!)
Location: The Kaokao Chocolate Factory is located on Calle 1 Bis and Av. 80 Bis (you might need a Cozumel taxi driver to help you on this one).
The Mayan Cacao Company
The Mayan Cacao Company is another fun place to immerse yourself and your family in the origins of cacao and chocolate, especially as it relates to the incredible Mayan civilization in the region.
The Mayan Cacao Company is located further south along the southern coastal road of Cozumel, adjacent to the popular Playa Mia beach club. This location makes it perfect for Cozumel guests who are staying in some of the hotels and resorts in the southern hotel zone, as well as for families who want to make a day of it by visiting the Cacao experience and then kicking back in the Playa Mia pools and beach facilities.
The Mayan Cacao Company offers a standard tour, but also offers a special experience more geared towards adults, with its “Chocolate and Margarita Workshop” offering (though I’m sure whoever is in your group the staff there will make it appropriate for all to have a great time).
Location: The Mayan Cacao Company is located just in front of the Playa Mia beach club parking area, on the southern coastal road at Km 15
+Cacao, or “More Cacao Chocolate Shop” (and a.k.a. MASCacao) is a relative newcomer in Cozumel’s chocolate scene, but it is worth a stop-in, for sure.
I visited +CACAO the other day – unannounced – and was warmly greeted and treated not only to a video presentation on the history of the cacao plant, the various beans, and processing methods but also to an array of tastings to help me understand the different varietals and finishing techniques of various chocolates.
Honestly, like the growing trends in coffee appreciation, and our long-standing obsession with wine cultivation, chocolate is obviously having a moment.
+Cacao is an excellent place to purchase brownie mix, chocolate chips, and different chocolate bars from some of Cozumel’s local chocolate artisans – including Kaokao and others.
It’s also a wonderful stop for a house-roasted and freshly brewed espresso or other coffee drink, courtesy of their shared space and partnership with one of our favorite coffee houses, El Coffee to Go (an annex of one of Cozumel’s beloved downtown location of El Cozumel Coffee – as featured in this related article on some of Cozumel’s best coffee shops, seen here.
Location: +CACAO (a.k.a. MasChocolate) is located in El Coffee to Go on Avenida 30, between Calles 10th and 12th Streets, North end of Centro.
Don’t Miss These Other Cozumel Chocolate Experiences
Once you’ve finished a Cozumel chocolate workshop – or even if that kind of tour or excursion just doesn’t suit your traveling style – it’s time to move on to some fantastic foodie finds at the many restaurants and best coffee shops on the island.
There are many other Mexican chocolate cuisine items you just have to experience on your trip to Cozumel.
If you’re a foodie traveler to Mexico, or just know a good-tasting chocolate treat when you see one, here are some of the very best ways to experience authentic local Mexican cuisine in Cozumel – all with a chocolate twist.
Top 7 Mexican Chocolate Treats in Cozumel
Hot Mexican Sipping Chocolate
Mexican hot chocolate is legendary, and some of the richest, most delicious hot sipping chocolate you’ll ever have – provided you go to the right places.
For the best introduction to this luscious drink, head to the Chocolateria Isla Bella.
Isla Bella stone grinds organic cacao in small batches and brews up a delicious mug of Mexican hot chocolate, infused with their signature flavors.
Lots of restaurants and bars in Cozumel like to mix it up with their mixology, so you can find yummy chocolate-infused cocktails all over town.
As mentioned above, though, the Mayan Cacao Company dedicates a whole workshop to their signature chocolate margarita, so it must be worth trying!
Also, don’t miss the famous margaritas at Wet Wendy’s in the town plaza – a little birdy told me there’s one featuring chocolate and peanut butter…two great tastes that taste great together…
Chocolate-infused Stout Ale
One of the coolest new places to eat and to belly up to the bar in Cozumel these days is the Cerveseria Punta Sur on 10th Av.
The only microbrewery facility here on the island, this fun place run by fun people churns out delicious wood-fired pizzas (high on this site’s Top Pizzas List, here), empanadas, and more.
But of course, their focus is on the hand-crafted beers, including their Eagle Ray dry stout, with notes of coffee and – of course – chocolate.
[Punta Sur is also the home to some of our favorite authentic and artistic souvenirs from the charming RecyArt – check out more cool local artisan shopping next in this bookmarkable post, here…]
Chocoholic’s Mexican Churros
I was (stupidly) skeptical about churros when I first moved to Mexico.
(No offense to the vendors in NYC, but a bag of random day-old churros for sale on hot and dingy Times Square subway platforms? Not exactly drool-worthy…)
Well, well, well… A few dinners at Cozumel’s delicious and charming Kondesa restaurant and a few encounters with our beloved bicycle-riding neighbor, Javier (“the churro guy”) have set me straight.
Look for Javier making his daily rounds pedaling up and down Melgar Avenue, always armed with a fresh container of cream- or strawberry-filled churros, ready for the asking. (Or send him a WhatsApp! I don’t want to give out his personal info, but you can find him pretty easily on Facebook via a couple of well-known Cozumel pages).
And if you can’t find him? Head to Kondesa for a delicious modern Mexican meal, and be sure to end it with their chilango style paper bag of piping-hot fresh churros and some of the most delicious chocolate dipping sauce you’ve ever had.
Fine Cozumel Artisanal Chcolate Confections and Bonbons
I must bring up the Isla Bella Chocolatier shop again, as it’s one of the prettiest and finest confectioners in Cozumel.
In addition to its signature sipping chocolate, Isla Bella creates a beautiful array of gorgeous chocolate truffles, with classic flavors like espresso or caramel, to some interesting ones including key lime and lavender.
They’re as good-looking as they are good tasting, and perfect for a nice chocolate fix if you’re out shopping, very suitable for a hostess gift, and a great souvenir for a friend back home (if you can resist eating them first).
Cozumel’s Most Famous Chocolate Mousse
If you’ve been to Cozumel before, you very likely know about one of the island’s most beautiful and highly respected Italian restaurants, Guido’s.
What some don’t realize, is that Guido’s is specifically of the “Swiss-Italian” tradition.
That becomes very apparent when you indulged in their signature chocolate mousse for dessert.
Seriously – don’t miss this one (though you might need to share it!)
Molé Sauce: Quintessential Mexican Chocolate Cuisine
No list of chocolate in Mexican cuisine could be complete without a grand bow to Molé negro – arguably the most iconic of all Mexican culinary masterpieces.
Mole sauce is a complex sauce made of various ingredients, including various dried chiles, ground seeds, and of course: Mexican chocolate.
Many of us have some familiarity with Mexican molé sauces, including a good chance we’ve sampled Doña Maria brand molé sauce, a jarred version that’s for sale in the States, Canada, and other countries.
And Doña Maria is pretty good! But please do yourself a favor, and try some of the exquisite homemade Mexican molé dishes you can find throughout Cozumel.
Great Places to Try Molé Dishes in Cozumel
The options are endless, but here are three of the top places in Cozumel to get a great molé experience:
El Moro is a Cozumel institution, beloved by newcomers but has earned legions of repeat customers, and friends. The place is run by a full family, and it shows. Get the enchiladas! You won’t be sorry.
El Moro is located on 75 Bis near Calle 2 – a little tucked away, but well worth it. You’ll probably need a cab or directions trst time you go.
El Cielito Grill Bistro
El Cielito is in the heart of downtown, on Calle 3 on the corner of Av. 5 – easy to find
La Gloria is a bright, pretty little cafe with serious traditional home cooking.
Located right around the corner from the Municipal Mercado on Av. 20
Try them All!
Seriously, though. Just take a stroll around downtown San Miguel and pick any place that looks cool, or that’s full of happy customers. Maybe it’s La Choza, or Colores y Sabores (excellent), or Pancho’s Backyard.
Take a chance! It will soon become one of your favorite local restaurants you’ll probably visit time and time again.
And chances are they have at least one dish featuring molé, and chances are even better that it was made with love by some excellent cook in the family.
Eat Your Way Through Cozumel
OK, so as you can see, if you like chocolate, Cozumel will hook you up. 😉
And if you don’t? The other food and drink options are nearly endless.
Check out our overview of all kinds of cuisines the island has to offer in this full Guide to Cozumel Restaurants, right here.
And if you just want a safe (but good) “go-to,” here’s a good roundup of the island’s Top Pizza Joints.
And of course, let’s not forget about the best tacos in Cozumel…
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Maybe cram some Spanish vocab?
Porfa and mucho gusto go a long way, but having a little basic Spanish will make your Cozumel vacation that much easier and safer.
Skillshare is free for 7-days and has a bunch of online lessons to get a quick hit of frequently used words and polite expressions.