Our Hits and Misses of Booking Excursions Outside of Our Cruise-Line
This past December we booked a last-minute cruise with Royal Carribean that turned out to be one of the funnest trips I’ve ever been on. Even though Cozumel is a fairly popular place for most people, the things we did there were more off-the-beaten-path. Since we booked so late, there weren’t any great excursions left to book when we looked online, so we got creative with activities. (We later found out AFTER Cozumel that you can go to the front desk on the ship and find more excursions that are even better than the ones offered online, but it was too late.) Maybe you’ve been to Cozumel before, but you’re looking to try new things there. If so, next time you might want to try some of the things we did.
Using a Travel Agent: We booked our horseback ride through a travel agency called Cozumel Tours. They were super polite, friendly, and easy to talk to. They booked us with a company on the island called Plantaris y Jardines that does one hour jungle rides for only $42 per person which is WAY cheaper than most cruise excursions. They communicated with the cruise terminal and the horseback riding company for us, so all we had to do was pay and show up. I definitely recommend them for a stress-free experience booking outside the cruise.
Horseback Riding through the Jungle: At Plantaris y Jardines, the guide set us up with our two horses who were already tacked and ready to go. There were two guides on the trip, a cowboy for the horses and a farmer who owned the property who was really knowledgeable in the local plant life. We were told it would be a “jungle ride”. The travel agent didn’t LIE, but he wasn’t very transparent about just how much wild jungle we’d see. Basically, the ride took place on a trail through the farm where there WERE jungle plants, trees and a small amount of wildlife, but it was more like a guided trail ride through a tropical farm. The farmer guide with us spent the whole ride teaching us about some really interesting plants on the property. He taught us about the poisonous and medicinal varieties of the chechen tree, how the Mexican people find cenotes by examining the root system of a certain tree, showed us his orchid garden with over 20 varieties of orchids, and even let us try some of the fresh cilantro and other herbs for cooking that he had on the farm. I have to say, the “jungle ride” we were expecting was not quite what was delivered, but it was a very satisfying excursion considering the unexpected education we got out of it. Plus the horses were really relaxed and well-behaved. I would recommend this to anyone looking for something new and fun to do in Cozumel.
Exploring Mayan Ruins: This one was kind of a miss, not because it wasn’t interesting, it’s just not what I would recommend for Cozumel. The place we went was only about 5 minutes from the farm and it was only $9 per person to get in. There were tons of ruins on the property, but if you’re looking for the huge temples and pyramids, you have to go to mainland Mexico for those. We still had a nice time at the ruins, but we only got to see foundations of the large structures that once existed. It was kind of a let down, and we ended up only spending about an hour there. I think this is a great filler activity, but I wouldn’t recommend making it your only plan for the day.
Renting a Car Instead of Taking Cabs: We thought that taking cabs around the island would be costly and we wanted to be able to freely explore the island/escape from sketchy places if we ran into any, so we rented a car. Cozumel is one giant loop, so it was easy to navigate once we got a handle on where we were on the map. The biggest challenge is that we had no GPS or cell phone service, so we had to rely on a tourist map for directions to specific places. If you decide to rent a car in a different country and you will not have cell service while you’re there, I fully recommend downloading an offline map from Google Maps which is what we had to to get around without wasting time getting lost. If you are in need of internet while on the island, you can drive to the Cozumel airport and use theirs for free. The car itself was only $40, but with optional insurance it was $100. If you rent the car, PLEASE GET THE INSURANCE. This may not seem like a huge deal, but people in Mexico do not drive like they do in the United States. Cars will cut you off. Bikes will try to weave around you. Children and dogs are everywhere. It’s a miracle we didn’t get in a wreck. If you are a nervous driver or you get road-rage easily, I would recommend sticking with the cabs as opposed to this option.
Going to The Beach: Most of the beaches, if not all, in Cozumel are private. Our idea was to go find a beach after the Mayan ruins and relax for an hour or two before heading back to the boat. What we didn’t realize is that the nice beaches have cover charges and close in early afternoon around 3-4, so we opted to go spend our last time in Cozumel on the boat relaxing by the pool. My suggestion to you if you want to be on the beach in Cozumel is to book the beach as your main activity of the day through either the cruise or a travel agency and do this in the earlier part of the day.