A Walking Tour of San Miguel, Cozumel
El Malecón (The Waterfront Promenade)
One of the things the founding families of Cozumel really did right was to build a broad sidewalk along the waterfront next to the sea wall.
The seawall which is frequently white washed and trimmed in aqua has cement benches built into it. These make comfortable places to sit in the evenings to watch the sunset and passersby. The málecon is also great for exercise walking.
The best time on the waterfront is early morning when its cool and sleepy or at sunset or beyond. Get lucky with the cloud action and you could end up with a breath-taking sunset. But even when the sunset is just its lovely average, you’ll still get the benefit of the evening coolness and the fresh sea breeze coming off the water.
It’s safe to stroll downtown San Miguel in the evenings — even for unaccompanied women. Just be self aware and practice standard safety precautions.
All the shops and restaurants will be open and welcoming and you are likely to run into plenty of local Cozumeleños out enjoying the same fresh air as you. If your schedule doesn’t allow for this, however, just be sure to take a good hat. The tropical sun is nothing to mess around with. If you want to avoid the Sidewalk Shuffle on San Miguel’s waterfront when the cruise ships are docked downtown, bring a good sun hat and walk on the ocean side of the street .
Don’t misses on the San Miguel waterfront besides the málecon boardwalk itself
El Museo, the Cozumel museum is in a gracefully-designed building on the corner of Calle 6 and the waterfront. This airy, attractive structure is one of the island’s oldest. (It used to be a warehouse.) You’ll find several small but well-presented and informative exhibits. There’s also a Nice gift shop and a fun gallery restaurant upstairs serving decent food at inexpensive prices and a view of the Yucatan channel to die for. TIP: Check out the original art on the walls of the upper and first floor lobbies. They’re original works from island artists and are often for sale.
Los Cinco Soles: A block north of El Museo, stop in at Cinco Soles, a rambling, pretty store that has some great buyers. They bring in wonderful stuff from all over Mexico. The displays are beautiful with little signs that explain where an item was made, for example. Not the cheapest prices in town but not the highest either. And their selection is outstanding. This is a reliable place to buy fine silver and other high quality jewelry. The owner here is hard-working and honest.
El Zócalo (The plaza)
No tour of downtown would be complete without a stroll through this oasis of stone and shade on the waterfront across from the ferry pier. The freshly remodeled plaza offers a water feature, the iconic Cozumel sign for taking pictures, and several places to sit and socialize. The water feature in the center is perfect for the kids to cool off during the day and it lights up to a magical water show at night (usually starts at 8:30pm). A great place for relaxing and people-watching.
You won’t encounter many tourists up in the center of the plaza. Many, we believe, are afraid they may be accosted by barkers, have their pockets picked or worse. We can’t emphasize enough how unlikely it is that this will happen. The zolaco is a place of rest and respite for anyone who cares to take advantage of it. And any kind of commercial activity is strictly forbidden!
Back Streets and El Mercado
f you want to escape the tourists completely and check out where real Cozumeleños shop and work, put your back to the ferry pier and walk straight up into town on Benito Juarez Avenue. You’ll pass dress stores, pharmacies, baby and pet stores, ice cream parlors– all places where locals do their own shopping.
There are a couple of great little off-the-beaten-path stores back in this neighborhood. Check Shopping for more information on these.
If you’re heading back this way, you’ll definitely want to make a stop in at the island’s oldest market, El Mercado. As you walk back from the waterfront on Juarez, count 5 blocks. When you get to Avenida 25, hang a right. The big mercado building with its rabbit warren of little shops and restaurants behind begins 1/2 block up Avenida 25. As shown on the Cozumel Map.
El Cementerio (The Cemetery)
At the south end of downtown’s El Centro neighborhood, a 7 block walk from the downtown plaza and ferry pier, you’ll find the old cemetery. Walk down the waterfront to the Post Office. Turn up Calle 7 and walk one block up to Avenida 5.
With your back to the ocean, turn right on Avenida 5 and, down the street, you’ll see the big iron gates of El Cementerio. It’s always interesting to see how the various crypts are painted and decorated.
And if you’re visiting at the end of October during the Day of the Day holiday, you’ll see families sweeping out the family crypt, lighting votary candles and bringing in fresh flowers.
And if you happen to be on the island on a Sunday evening, try to hit the downtown, pedestrian-only plaza between 8 and 9 PM. There is often some kind of free event going on here on Sunday evenings. Sometimes its live music and dancing, other times a beauty pageant, a children’s show. A religious pageant. You just never know. But it’s a great place to people watch and mingle with regular Cozumeleños who come out in droves.