Updated: Dec 4, 2022
1. Zona Arqueológica San Gervasio – Mayan Ruins in the Center of Cozumel
A brief historic significance of this sight. The San Gervasio ruins was a sight to worship the diety Ix Chel. She was the Goddess of childbirth, fertility, medicine, and weaving. Mayan women would make a pilgrimage to make offerings to the Goddess at this sight at least once in their lifetime. "The bishop of Yucatán, Diego de Landa, wrote in 1549 that the Maya "held Cozumel in the same veneration as we have for pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Rome, and so they used to go to visit and offer presents there, as we do to holy places; and if they did not go themselves, they always sent their offerings." - Wikipedia
Although smaller that the ruins you’ll find on the mainland it is definitely worth your time to go check it out. Especially for you women, the sight may hold something special for you to feel a part of.
There are several ways to explore this place, but here are a couple of options.
- Tour group ($100 Per Person depending on the group)– This will have transportation, tickets, and guided tours inside the complex.
- Rent a Scooter, Car, or Grab a Cab (Ranges on rental cost, the Cab is about $60 round trip)
The entry Fee is $12 and once you are there you have the option to wander about by yourself or pay $20 to have one of their guides, which makes things pretty simple. I opted to wander around solo and found my experience to be fullfilling. There are markers, to include pictorgrams, detailing the significance of each structure. I also found the App Alltrails very helpful in navigating you from building to building that are in the jungle away from the main central complex.
Note** Do yourself a favor and don’t walk there, the App Alltrails shows a trail that goes that way. Although this is my go-to app and it rarely steers me wrong, most of this walk is on a main road, that is heavy trafficked, with nothing to see along the way and it’s a marathon length round trip.
This almost goes without saying. Everywhere you put your head underwater there are fish ready to say hello. A gambit of sea critters in all colors and sizes, it is truly amazing how there’s a whole other magical world right below the surface. On this trip I was fortunate enough to have done a 2.4 mile swim along the coast, so although I was without a snorkel, the amount of underwater life I got to witness was pretty incredible. I say that to say that a tour is not necessary, grab goggles and a snorkel and hop in the water.
I also did a snorkel trip group to El Cielo. ($40-55 per person depending on your haggling skills)
Pros - There were tons of fish, the water was so beautifully clear, and I even got to see some sea turtles. At one stop there were stingrays and a couple of starfish. The return boat trip was done at sunset which was mesmerizing to watch, so if you can get a sunset boat trip in that would be perfect!
Cons - Boat to snorkel time ratio was the letdown. We had to stay tight in a group, when I really wanted to swim and explore a bit, but I’m sure that was for safety. There were also like 15 groups out there, so it was a bit crowded with boats and you could taste the fuel in the water which was a little sad.
Before I go to number 3 here are a couple of things that may let you down and may not be worth your time. I just wanted to squeeze these in, so we can end the article on a high note!
1. Shopping – Unfortunately, like many tourist towns these days, it is hard to find native handicrafts or artisanal pieces that are authentic. All I was able to find was series of matching mass-produced items, store after store throughout the square and main road. I would have loved to find an artist collective where I could purchase hand made goods in order to support a local artisan.
2. El Aerolito – I feel like at one point this was a popular swimming hole, but when I went for a visit, it just didn’t have the most welcoming feel. I wonder if I didn’t go back into the jungle far enough to find the right swimming hole, so maybe I was in the wrong spot. The first pond you stumble upon has a sign with a bunch of trash piled below it and a half knocked down sign warning of crocodiles. I did get to see a few amazing birds and a ton of buzzards though!
3. Cenote Chempita in El Cedral – The Bat Cave
Online this place gets some pretty mixed to flat out poor reviews, but hear me out. If you like nature the way I like nature, then I feel you will really appreciate this place.
Ways to get there…
- Jeep, Moped, or 4x4 excursion through the jungle that will run you about $75 per person, it is also the most popular way to visit this area.
- How I chose to see this sight…
Cabbed ($18) to El Cedral (it costs $12 to get into the town, but this price seems to depend on the gate keeper) where they dropped me at the trail head. I took in the jungle vibes as I meadered my way to Chempita which was about a half mile trail. I shot photos and spied wildlife along the way and enjoyed the solitude. Once at the Cenote there was no one there, once again I had a VIP solo experience with a sight by luck or good karma or whatever you want to call it. I enjoyed the sounds of nature photographing and filming fish and bats for about a half hour with no competition. I was beyond pleased. Then I heard the heavy stomping and chattering of about 30 plus people in 3 separate tour groups bombarding the location all at once. Clearly a signal that my time here was done. I lingered for a moment, watched some people jump off the cliff and eves dropped on the information of a few tour guides. From here I trekked back to the town, enjoyed some fresh coconut and hailed a cab back to my hotel! ($18)
Pros – So many bats just dangling in a pristine looking little cave in the jungle that was really easy to access. Going by yourself allows you to linger as the tour groups leave creating an opportunity to enjoy the site on your own. I was there at about lunch time, and there was not another human soul present.
Cons – The tour groups change the experience and the appreciation I feel lies with a quiet connection with the sight. Although people jumped in the water, there is no way I would enter water where boat loads of bats are dangling and pooping. Bats carry disease and swimming in there feces just doesn’t sound like the right thing to do.
4. Xtun Caverns
The part of the Xtun cavern that our guide took us to, began at the Xibalba Entrance, which is part of a network of caves and cenotes, in the Yucatan. Although This cave is Called Xibalba, Xibalba is also the sacred underworld of the Mayan which is found in the Popol Vu (Text outlining the myths and history of the Mayan people). You will not see ruins on this tour as many of the structures are only accessible by diving. Divers have made discoveries in these caves that reveal Mayan ruins and some of the oldest human remains of the Americas. These findings show the significance the underground caverns had for their culture.
I would recommend going early in the morning, like many of these sites, there are less people, the early bird gets the worm as they say. We got incredibly lucky, and it was just the four of us in our tour group, no randoms, and crazily no other people going through the cave at the same time as us. We got a full hour inside Xibalba in what felt like a VIP experience.
Tour Excursion that I opted to do (Our Tour cost $112 USD per person)
Pros - We met our guide at the ferry in Cozumel and they had the transportation, food, wetsuits, water shoes all squared for us, all we had to do was show up and follow. The water in this cave is very clean and clear, compared to some of the other Cenotes I visited on this trip. The geological formations are incredible.
Cons - Much of your day is in transit, you are following a relatively strict timeline, but the ferry ride is beautiful and an adventure in its own and the drive to the jungle is enjoyable as well. In fact, a ferry ride should be in my top to do, they play live music, there is a coffee shop, and you get excellent views of the sea!
5. Take a Wandering Walk or Jog Around the Town
This is always one of my top things to do at any location, but whenever you are doing some “serious” tourism if you spend your time hurrying from main attraction to main attraction you miss the chance to capture a hidden jewel along the way. These are some of my hidden finds in photo form.
6. Have a Swank dinner and Try the Local Fare at one of these Places
Los Tacotales –On point tacos full of flavor, the hot sauces were delicious, and the best part is the tacos are as cheap as they are tasty!
(Found images I went strait to eat my tacos and forgot to photograph them!)
Azul Madera – When I looked at reviews before going someone stated, “The best plate of Seafood on the Island”. They were not lying, yes, your meal is not going to be cheap, but if you do a splurge night this is where you should put your pesos.
Ix Cool – Local fare at its finest. A must go if you want to know what the native food is truly like… no more to say other than it is fairly priced as well!
The Thirsty Cougar – This is the spot for your touristy tequila cocktails, people watching, and downtown experience. My travel companions loved this spot!
7. Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park
I don’t have a lot to say about this place, but this one is for you families out there. The reviews are amazing, and although I didn’t do many of the amusement activities, there are tons of activities to keep yourself and your children entertained all day. I did get to see the dolphins in the morning practicing routines with their trainers, which many people were enamored with to include myself. The fun part for me is to swim around the enclosure a few times which was super cool to see the dolphins while you were floating on by.
Pros – Not too costly, tons of activities and a unique experience with dolphins.
Cons – Lots of people about and the dolphins are captive, which is a personal dislike.
If you have the time, go to the mainland and see Telum or Chichen Itza. I am doing these on a separate mainland trip, but many of my friends have told me these are totally worth doing as a day trip from Cozumel. The downside of doing these trips from the island is that most of your days is sucked up in transit instead of spending your time at these sites. As most tour guides suggest being there when they first open or when they are about to close for sight privacy these day trips will put you there during the busiest hours. As always, it’s what you have time for and what you hope to get out of travel.
In conclusion, I very much enjoyed my time in Cozumel, I can’t wait to go back to Mexico to visit the Yucatan Peninsula and dive into the history and caves it is known for!
Also, if you have some favorites in this region tell our readers about them in the comments below! Many of the places I visited was because of word of mouth and from fellow travelers. As always thanks for Joining us on our Journey!