The indigenous people of Cozumel are Mayan. The island has many indigenous sites to visit with unique beauty and history. Most people who live there today are Mayan and are guides at the various sites. As we toured, they told the history of their ancestors and dispel common misconceptions. One of my take-aways was how the Spanish brought illness to the island and killed almost all of the Mayans but the survivors were able to repopulate. There is so much more information but I don’t want to spoil it for you.
Cozumel is a port city with both an airport and two cruise ports. Cruise ships dock in a downtown area that has nice places to shop and eat but you must have a vehicle to leave that area and get to the historic sites. For those who are able to walk around for about one to three hours, the downtown area just beyond the port shopping is fun to see. One word of caution; at the larger port, the street you must cross to get downtown is very busy and the only safe way to cross the street is at the pedestrian crossing that has a police officer directing traffic. The smaller port is within walking distance down the same street but is much less busy so while I still suggest crossing at the pedestrian crossing, there is no officer directing traffic. At the smaller intersection, there are often local vendors directing traffic; give them a moment of your time or a tip for their help.
Disabled access notes- the roads are as bumpy as average United States roads and the sidewalks downtown are as uneven and bumpy as U.S. sidewalks as well. This makes adventuring out whether walking or in a wheelchair close to impossible for most disabled people. Unfortunately the downtown is so small, I don’t think it’s practical to pay a car to drive you around downtown.
Transportation options- walk around downtown, pay a taxi to take you around the island, pay for a ride share/ bus situation, rent several different types of vehicles. Any of these choices are perfectly safe; I had absolutely no apprehensions around an of the people or areas in Cozumel.
There are limited free wifi spots in Cozumel in the cruise ports. A couple places I found access were outside of jewelry stores and a couple busy bars. My suggestion is to always be careful when using free wifi. The most important is never to do anything that requires a password or that contains sensitive information like accessing your bank while on free wifi in or outside the U.S.; you never know if the hotspot has been set up to phish. Margaritaville’s have free swimming pools and advertise free wifi but I have found in some countries they require purchase.
I previously mentioned I love to patronize street venders. While I’ve never heard any buzz that the souvenir shops in the downtown area are run by foreigners (as I’ve heard in other countries/cities), all of the vendors are those who can afford to pay for store space. There is a similar set up at the most Mayan historical sites. To access smaller vendors, you have to visit the absolutely beautiful beaches on the island.
What I did- My husband and I have been to Cozumel four times in the past three years. My favorite thing to do the first time I visit a place is to see historic sites. So we visited a few different historic sites. I’ve also walked around both cruise ports; if you fly in, you generally won’t be able to access cruise ports because they check for ship keys for added security. We beach hopped; shopped and at small beach business and took pictures. There are breathtaking rock formations on some of the beaches; just be super careful climbing. We only visited public beaches; parking is free. We’ve also walked around the whole downtown area and visited the island’s McDonald’s and Sam’s club just for fun.
Take with you- Take cash. Cozumel is small so follow my advice about downloading a good map before you go; it’ll be useful and is really easy to follow. Be sure to wear whatever shoes make you comfortable. I’m most comfortable in sandals not sneakers/ trainers but ruins are very rocky so wear closed toed shoes if you plan to visit those. ALWAYS wear sunscreen. If you are going to ruins or parks wear bug repellant. I love this combination sunscreen/ bug repellant. I also always take a cheap poncho because you never know when it might rain in the Caribbean.
Special notes: There are two great photo opportunities in downtown Cozumel. (they are both on the same major street though they sound like they aren’t) One is outside of the larger cruise port in an area accessible to the public. There is a huge thatched roof and a beautiful Cozumel sign that people sit on and take pictures. The other is inside a shopping courtyard filled with local vendors (Mayan Plaza); there is an outdoor mall with corporate stores and a Carl’s Jr./ Hardee’s (not that one) across Calle 31 Sur. Mayan Plaza also has a beautiful Cozumel sign where you’re allowed to sit and take pictures. Local vendors will offer to take the picture for you; be sure to tip if they do.