Shopping in Cozumel: Authentic Treasures vs. Tired Trinkets

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Cozumel is a super fun place to shop if you know what to buy. Don’t just settle for that Hard Rock Cozumel t-shirt! (though if you’re into 80s retro? It’s a score.)  

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some cute and kitschy souvenir shopping. It’s just not the best – and certainly not the most authentic of your shopping options in Cozumel.   

Cozumel is a fun place to shop for popular souvenirs, like T-shirts and hats, but more authentic products and artistic keepsakes are also found in thoughtful shops nestled in San Miguel’s side streets. Great buys in Cozumel include hand-crafted silver jewelry, leatherwork, art, embroidered textiles, Mayan hammocks, small-batch chocolate, natural vanilla, chic accessories, and more.  

The older wiser I get, I prefer digging a little deeper when I travel and finding the neat indie spots for more unique, artistic, and unexpected gifts and souvenirs. 

This guide to some legit local Cozumel shopping will get you past the novelty, and lead you to some special and more personal gifts and souvenirs for yourself and your friends and family. 

Here’s my updated favorite list of the island’s fresh, fun, and fashionable shopping spots. 

**Each best of what to buy in Cozumel section below is organized by category and then offers up some gift suggestions on who these are perfect for, and where to go shopping to find them on the island. 

Cozumel’s Handmade Artisan Keepsakes 

Craftsmanship and creativity infuse all of Mexico, and Cozumel is certainly no different.  

Hammocks and Other Favorite Souvenir Suggestions

Most lists of ‘best things to buy in Cozumel’ include: 

  • hand-woven Mayan hammocks (hamacas)
  • guayabera shirts (a.k.a. Yucatan shirts)
  • Talavera pottery
  • woven palm leaf baskets

These are excellent examples of typical local craftsmanship that are still fresh, and make wonderful gifts to bring back from your trip.

Each is useful, light, and easy to pack (except larger pottery pieces), as well as rich with local tradition.  

Mexican woven hammock chair, with tortilla baskets and embroidered table runner.
Who they’re perfect for: 

I have bought several hammocks for our home here in Cozumel (and they get a lot of use), and also for friends and family members back in the U.S.

Hammocks have also long been my signature wedding gift and/or housewarming gift over the years. (I mean, who doesn’t love a hammock session? But it’s often not something we buy for ourselves.)

Mayan hammocks 

Traditional hamacas Mayas in Cozumel come in various sizes – the two most common single and ‘matrimonio’ (or double) – and are made either in 100% cotton (soft and traditional) or nylon (light and durable, especially for outdoor use). 

The hammocks you’ll find here are relatively small and wonderfully colorful, very light to pack, and pretty easy to hand wash and line dry from time to time. 

By the way, if you’re interested in other deep traditions and roots of Mayan culture here, be sure to visit Cozumel’s Mayan ruins and the newly renovated Museum of the Isla.

Talavera pottery 

Talavera pottery from this general region of Mexico is gorgeous and colorful, and a nice gift to lend some color to someone else’s home decor.  I like to look for fun pieces as gifts like house numbers, or maybe a lightswitch plate, since these can be incorporated into collections as a nod to Mexico, without necessarily competing with someone’s other pieces. 

Image of store with nice wide range of Talavera style Mexican painted pottery in all different motifs and colors.

Mexican basketry

I also have several locally woven baskets in many sizes, but find the very common “tortilla warmer” basket size (about 6”/15cm in diameter, and 3”/7cm high) to be super useful around the house. 

They come in neutrals or in colors, have matching lids, and beyond using them for actual tortillas in the kitchen, these handy baskets are perfect and interesting little containers for things like headphones and USB drives on your desk, lip balm and charging cables on your bedside table, and small items in the bathroom. 

Small baskets are inexpensive and add virtually no weight to your suitcase on your return trip.

Where to buy them in Cozumel: 

The Municipal Market in Centro – Av 20-25 at Calle Rodolfo Salas. 

Google maps image of Cozumel with arrow pointing to Municipal Mercado at Salas and Av. 20

There are lots of stores to find baskets, shirts, hammocks, and some other typical local treasures around the island, but to start with, try the Mercado Municipal, or municipal market – Cozumel’s central daily market.  

A trip to the Mercado is just cool anyway.  Be sure to poke around for other finds, like typical daily-use Mexican pottery, inexpensive woven market bags (great souvenirs in and of themselves!), and maybe take a break for a fresh-squeezed juice to keep your shopping energy up, while you’re there.  

You’ll get bonus points if you arrive ready to eat, and take the opportunity to have some of San Miguel’s most popular awesome local tacos at one of the bustling lunch counters in the Mercado.  

Try the ever-popular Taqueria Molina and order whatever looks good that day. 

Municipal Mercado in Cozumel:  Av. 20 – 25, and Calle Rodolfo Salas

Fashionable Cozumel Accessories 

All around San Miguel you’ll encounter family-run leather and textiles shops, where many of the beautifully crafted items are made by family members on the mainland and brought to market, in a sense, to the busier streets of Cozumel.  

Some have workshops right on-site, as well, speaking to the authenticity, traditions, and care put into the local craft traditions of the region.  

Be on the lookout for hand-woven textiles, one-of-a-kind needlework via embroidered blouses, wallets, and accessories, and various types of macrame-style accessories for the home, or your next outfit!

Who they’re perfect for: 

I’m particularly fond of embroidered goods for myself and as gifts and have had great reactions from my sisters, nieces, and (primarily) female friends. 

A small pouch or change purse always comes in handy, and the beautiful ones you’ll find made in Cozumel will add a level of color and meaning.  These also weigh nothing, are easy to pack, and non-breakable! 

Leather items are a staple of shopping in Cozumel and depending on your taste and style, you could score intricately constructed cowboy boots, a uniquely beautiful and long-wearing leather handbag, a handsome belt trimmed and finished to size, or a simple wallet or bracelet cuff. 

Macrame is not for everyone, and I didn’t think it was for me until I came here and started seeing these fun and useful woven belts around town that grabbed my attention.  

Colorful woven macrame belts from Mexico.
Macrame belts for sale at Mexican craft market

They can be used for everything from decorative waistbands to cinch a dress, guitar straps, a spare strap for a tote or dive bag, and of course for holding my jeans up!  (this is especially great when traveling since they have no metal buckle for the airport metal detectors) 

Now, I not only have several of these cool belts in interesting colorways, but I also picked up a lovely macrame clutch bag at one of the neat indie boutiques listed in the next section, below. 

Where to buy them in Cozumel: 

Look for beautifully made leather goods, silver, and hammocks at Deja Vu boutique (see below) on Melgar Avenue, a few blocks south of Punta Langosta cruise pier (and diagonally across the street from Mega supermarket). 

For embroidery and macrame, and more leather, stroll the various artisan stands in the yellow open marketplace area called “Plaza del Sol” just behind the iconic orange clock tower in downtown Cozumel’s central plaza park, a.k.a. Parque Benito Juarez.  

Plaza del Sol in Cozumel northeast corner of main artisan area.

Continue in concentric circles if you still have energy, hopefully finding another of my favorite gift stores: 

  • El Unicornio gift shop, located on one of the plaza’s southern side alleys, next to the small hotel Mary Carmen.  

The Unicorn has a great selection of embroidered goods, Talavera pottery, delightful wooden painted alebrijes figures (read a little more about those in our A-Z Guide to Kid-Friendly activities), and small collections of interesting and affordable works by local artists and artisans in a side room of the shop.  

They also have a good array of Cozumel t-shirts, Mexican toys, and other fun little souvenirs.  

Other special local boutiques worth the trip to shop for pretty and fashionable accessories by local makers: 

Boutique at El Encanto Villas and Hotel.
Photo: courtesy of El Encanto Villas and Hotel

Local Artworks – Paintings, Glasswork, and Huichol Beading

When my S.O. and I travel now, we always look for at least one special piece of art we can bring home and hang or place somewhere in our home.  It’s such a fun vacation activity while we’re exploring a new place, and it adds even more memories and stories to our home and our shared history of travel.  

You should try that here! 

Cozumel is bursting with creativity – you can see that simply by taking walks throughout downtown San Miguel and seeing the various street art, large scale Sea Walls murals, and photos, paintings, crafts, and textile work throughout of all the homes, hotels, shops, and restaurants around town

Whether you want to just enjoy some art, or consider adding to your personal collection, I encourage you to add a few of these stops to your list: 

Fun Local Marine Life Paintings

This is my sentimental favorite these days, by far!  

If you’re into scuba diving in Cozumel, I think these will be right up your alley, as well.

Folk art painting of a brightly colored triggerfish on recycled wood cutout substrate.
Image courtesy of RecyArt Cozumel

In the last few years, these delightful paintings of Cozumel’s marine life (all on upcycled substrates) are some of the freshest and most unique items I’ve seen in a while.  I was instantly crushing on the pieces from RecyArt Cozumel, and have sent several diver friends to go take a look – and they seem to agree, as a few of these folk-art masterpieces have already headed back to various homes as gifts and keepsakes. 

There are pieces in all shapes and sizes, from small trunkfish and pufferfish, to medium-sized lionfish and sea stars, to large sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, and sharks.

Bonus: they are extremely affordable!  

Double bonus: You can browse these and let your favorite make itself known to you while also enjoying one of the island’s best new restaurants and only craft brewery.

Where to buy them in Cozumel: 
  • Punta Sur Cerveseria on 10th Av. between Calles 2 and Salas has been displaying Recycle Art’s work for a little over a year, now, and the pairing seems perfect.  

Check out the art while eating some lionfish pizza at one of our favorite Cozumel pizza joints.   (And maybe pick up one of their T-Shirts, too, for another real souvenir.)

Other Art Galleries in San Miguel

There are many other resident artists in Cozumel, as you’ll see once you start walking around town. 

You’ll likely stumble on your own favorite gallery or vendor, too, as you stroll around – in addition to fun and surprising street murals, the perfect backdrops to take some cool (and free) street-art vacation selfies.  

Street mural of a graphic sea turtle and stylized lotus flower.

To get you going on your Cozumel art studios treasure hunt, try these: 

Galleria Azul on 15th Av. between 8th and 10th streets

Galo Art Studio visit their new location a few blocks beyond the Mercado, at Av. Gral Felipe Angeles and Calle 3 Sur

Cozumel is a Jewelry Lover’s Paradise

Full of jewelry of all sorts, the local stores and shops can be overwhelming in their sheer number and variety.  

In addition to the many large cruise-sponsored gemstone/diamond/high-end watch emporiums, there are loads of nice shops with pretty pieces made from Mexican silver, various gems, pearls, and beads, and specialty shops with baubles made from old silver coins.

The jewelry and silver shopping in Cozumel is suitable for everything from your engagement rings to simple stocking stuffers.

High-Quality Silver Jewelry

If you’re primarily interested in the best Mexican silver and silver craftsmanship on the island, please be sure to review our fully detailed companion post on the best Cozumel silver jewelry HERE

But jewelry is often something that needs to speak out to you, so browsing through many of the plaza’s shops and small boutiques on the local side streets is time well spent.  

Cozumel Welcome Checklist
Cozumel Welcome Checklist

Plus, it’s a fun and fascinating way to spend the day.  

Interior of boutique store in Cozumel featuring glass hearts and macrame items.
Photo: courtesy of Here’s My Heart Boutique in Cozumel
Who it’s perfect for: 

I’ve brought numerous happy friends to shop for small gifts of stud earrings, ocean-inspired silver charms, beaded bracelets, and more. 

I’ve also visited a couple of favorite jewelers on the island to have custom pieces made for me, including some I had made from my mother’s sterling silverware (in this case, Deja Vu did an incredible job).  

Some stalls in the plaza also have lots of pretty but perhaps more wallet-friendly items to shop for, like leather wrist cuffs, woven personalized friendship bracelets, semi-precious gem earrings, glass and crystal pieces, and more.

Where to buy in Cozumel: 

For fine silver: 

*Again, please be sure to also visit this companion post, for more detailed information on each of these shops, and about shopping (smartly) for silver in Mexico. 

Side note on seemingly aggressive sales styles along the main shopping streets

Tourist towns in Mexico are sometimes known for shop workers that shout out and encourage you to enter and shop in their stores. Of course, this is quite different from the cultural norms we’re used to in some other countries like the United States, Canada, etc.

But just try to remember that this is a typical strategy, and not that unusual around the globe.  Plus, it sometimes works among other visiting tourists! 

If it’s not your style or makes you uncomfortable, just move on – try not to let it sour your opinion of the place. 

A friendly and polite “no gracias” usually keeps any salespeople at bay, and unless the individual person really can’t take the hint, they’ll leave you alone quickly and let you go about your browsing. 

And if you really need a break, that’s easy – just sidle up to any one of our best local watering holes for a cold beer or frosty cocktail.

In Cozumel, this is not nearly as big a problem as you might experience in Playa del Carmen, Cancun, or other larger tourist areas.  Again, just try to let it go and continue to shop for those things that catch your eye, and politely move on from those that don’t – or anyone who feels overly pushy or insistent.  

Most of the time it’s all done with a wink and a nod – and again, there are those that get a kick out of it (believe it or not…it’s not my thing, either, trust me.)   

In the end, most higher quality shops with pride in their work do not do this, to a large extent, so those might be the ones you will be drawn to, instead. 

Let’s Do Some Cozumel Shopping

Now you’re ready (for day 1…) Bookmark this list, put on some comfortable walking shoes, and hit the closest excellent Cozumel coffee joint, and get out there to find some good buys.

Follow this link for more on what other goodies Cozumel is known for, and other places to check out when you’re walking around in downtown Cozumel. Get out there and enjoy it!

Cozumel Shopping Pro Tip:

You’ll be in and out of all these fun little stores, but the sun is strong here in the Caribbean. Be sure to wear a hat, shades, and use some reef-safe sunscreen to keep you safe, and keep our famous (but fragile) reefs safe, too.

**Come prepared: check out this related post on great walks to take in Cozumel for a full lineup of simple but good quality walking gear to pack.

If you’re in the market for some reef-safe sunscreen, etc. try Stream2Sea – it’s really nice stuff, and gets a lot of good press for being legit, and a smart woman-owned company. I’m an affiliate “ambassador” for them, so you can use promo code “COZINFO” at checkout for 10% off.

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