Cozumel is a fabulous place for having fun with your kids. First of all, it’s one of the safest vacation destinations in the world. Violent crime is almost unheard of on this tiny, friendly island, quite unlike some other destinations in Mexico and the U.S.
Secondly, Cozumel offers such a variety of activities–from fun in the sun activities to explorations of the ocean, the jungle and , last but not least, the culture. So, if you’re considering a vacation in Cozumel and wondering whether to bring the kids along, our advice is: Do It!
TIP: Vacation Rentals are perfect for family vacations here. Picky eaters can snack from the fridge. And there’s plenty of room for children to roam safely around the grounds and from room to room. Reliable babysitters are very inexpensive & daily maid service cleans up for you!
Here’s some ideas on fun stuff you can enjoy with your family. We’ve divided up our suggestion into age appropriate categories. For other ideas and more details, also check Things to Do Index for More Ideas and Details.
Cozumel is one of the top 5 dive destinations in the world and boasts spectacular coral reefs full of sea life. There’s plenty of close-to-shore snorkeling too, making Cozumel a great place to introduce children to the beauties of the undersea world.
Best choices for snorkelers include the Money Bar, good shore snorkeling, easy in/out access. Nice bar for you, too and the food is good family fare including burgers and fajitas.
The East side of the island also offers many opportunities to enjoy and discover the seashore and the ocean. Deserted except for a few ramshackle but pleasant restaurant/bars, the “other side of the island” faces the open Caribbean.
The prevailing easterly winds mean this side of the island is wilder than the sheltered west side with its reefs. You’ll find beautiful white-sand beaches and crashing surf here as well as blowholes, tide pools and exposed coral shelves cut into arches by the sea action.
Chen Rio beach with it’s knee-deep, close-to-shore tide pools is a particularly good choice for younger kids. Explore the rock caves. Riptides and powerful undercurrents make this side of the island best for playing in the shallows. Do NOT swim out.
Exploring the Ocean with Kids Summary
West Side of the island
Chankanaab National Park Admission $21 US for adults & $14 for kids ages 4-12. This is the best place for a swim with the dolphins (or manatees) activity and you can sign up for this in advance or at the park. The park hours are Monday-Saturday from 8am-4:30pm
The Money Bar– -snorkeling for adults and older kids. Located about a mile north of Chankannab.
Far South Beaches like San Francisco or Playa Palancar–soft, sand beaches and gentle waves here are good for swimming and splashing in the light surf.
Punta Sur National Park– $14 per adult & $8 for kids (ages 4-12). Climb a cool lighthouse, snorkel, feed the croc’s, and bird watch on a pontoon boat in Columbia Lagoon. More on this under Jungle Explorations on Page 2 of this article. The park hours are Monday-Saturday from 9am-4pm.
Buccanos Beach Club–There’s a $12 per person admission charge (save your ticket and they will deduct it from your bill). The food is amazing and the bathrooms are extremely clean. There’s a nice ocean side pool with a shallow end for small children. Or you can sit at the open air restaurant and watch the kids swim. They also have a nice sandy beach area for building sand castles or playing in the ocean. The drift snorkeling is pretty good and easy enough even for non-swimmers.
East side of the island:
The beaches here are lovely and wild. With children, however, stick to Chen Rio because there are little tide pool areas to play in. Undertows can be serious business on this side of the island so we don’t advise taking kids swimming elsewhere on the island’s east coast.
Other Recommended Ocean Activities for Kids
Of special note for families with kids young to learn to dive is the Atlantis submarine tour which has 4 or 5 runs per day leaving from their little terminal half a mile from downtown San Miguel. We also highly recommend the Cozumel Sailing trip for kids 6 and older.
WHAT TO BRING:
Masks, snorkels, fins, snorkel vests, “sports cream” (non-oily sun screen as the oily kind is very bad for fish), surf booties (a good investment for everyone because the best snorkeling is near rocks and iron shore.) Basic snorkel equipment may be rented at Chankannab and the Money Bar for approximately $5/person.
Exploring the Jungle
Cozumel island is still more than 96% wild, untamed jungle and there are several local outfits on the island that specialize in tours into the island’s interior.
Here you can view bat caves, swim in cenotes (natural ponds formed in the limestone) and view lots of wildlife from the ubiquitous iguana to white owls to coatis, armadillos, foxes, and crocodiles. You can even catch a Mayan ruin or two while you’re at it.
If you want to get a taste of the jungle on your own, stroll the San Gervasio ruins. They aren’t grand like many on the mainland. But they’re worth a trip just for a chance to see the jungle areas as they must have been back when Mayan women from all over the Yucatan made the pilgrimage to Cozumel to present fertility gifts to the gods.
If you don’t have young kids who get tired walking more than a block or two, be sure to catch the ruin that’s a couple blocks down the road to your right from the central ruins area. Most people never make it out there and it’s the prettiest one.
Your family is also sure to enjoy an excursion through Chankanaab Park’s lovely botanical gardens with over 700 tropical plant species and many opportunities for close looks at some pretty enormous (and proud) iguanas.
There are jungle and beach horse-back riding tours available. The beach riding will be a very short trip. The jungle tours are better but avoid May through October when the jungle will be pretty sticky and with plenty of bugs.
Our favorite recommendation for interacting with horses, however, is the wonderful Cozumel Horse Sanctuary, Rancho Universo Cozumel. Here rescued and abused horses are rehabilitated and used for Horse Assisted Therapy for disabled children and adults. There are also volunteer opportunities here and private classes in horsemanship, horse care etc. are also available on request.
What to Bring for Jungle Exploration:
Bug repellent, sports sandals (Tevas or equivalent), tennis shoes (, long pants (if you plan to ride), sun screen, a hat with a nice big brim that ties securely under the chin.