Like all the stores recommended on this site, Muebles de la Santa Cruz (LEFT) has better prices than you'll find on the waterfront. And it's owned by a local Cozumeleno. 'Santa Cruz' is an easy stroll inland from the ferry on Avenida 15 between Calle 2 and Juarez.
There's a variety of interesting shopping opportunities in downtown. But if you stick only to those on your cruise ship's "approved list" (read stores that kick back a sizeable percentage of sales) , you'll miss a lot of bargains and one-of-a-kind merchandise and crafts. You'll also find yourself being herded into the worst of the "downtown cruiseship scene." as the locals call it.
If you want to avoid the Sidewalk Shuffle on San Miguel's waterfront when the cruiseships are docked downtown, bring a good sun hat and walk on the ocean side of the street .
ABOVE, A segment of San Miguel, Cozumel's waterfront shopping district as seen from a boat.
Cozumel's most concentrated shopping area centers around San Miguel's zócalo (Plaza del Sol) and extends for about 8 blocks along the waterfront and for several blocks back into the town.
Good buys can be found on Yucatecan hammocks, leather goods, embroidered and lace clothing and table linens, silver jewelry, ceramics and decorative metalwork and carved wood.. You will also find high-quality handicrafts from all over Mexico--but because of the cost of importation to the island, you may find slightly better buys on these on the Mainland.
If you like to shop--you could spend several days working your way through the combination of upscale and funky shops in the downtown tourist district.
Downtown Cozumel has everything from high-toned waterfront jewelry stores like Van Cleef & Arpels to little holes in the wall crammed with hand-painted batik hangings, carved wood crafts and papier mache animals.
But, although San Miguel's downtown waterfront is lovely, you will generally not get the best prices if you shop here. You'll have a far more rewarding shopping experience both in terms of prices and ambience if you avoid what the locals call "the sidewalk shuffle" and head off on your own.
Venture up the backstreets of downtown where you'll find more one-of-a-kind items. And people are actually ready and willing to bargain. For tips on this, check out The Art of Bargaining.
LEFT, tiny Bugamillias, mid-block on Avenida 10 just behind the plaza carries hand-embroidered and woven clothing & linens.NOTE: This shop has moved 4 doors south, changed the name but owned by same company.
We just think these are fairly-priced, fun places to shop. They don't have the bucks to advertise and promote themselves. So we're doing it for them as a way of giving something back to the community we love. But it's also a service to you. Because these really are excellent little places. Just because a shop doesn't appear on this list, doesn't mean its not good. This is just a sampling of some of the better places you'll find if you venture off the waterfront as little as ten steps to up to about 8 blocks.
Note that where appropriate we've made suggestions for nearby restaurants and cafes that are clean and well run and which will offer welcome respite to Tired Tootsies.
Waterfront north of the plaza on the corner of Melgar & Calle 8.
Large, rambling waterfront store with crafts from all over Mexico, reliable jewelry, nice boutique section in the rear. TIP:In the very back at the end of the store they have a 50% discount section. There's a lovely courtyard restaurant in this store, Panchos Backyard and a tequila bar for sampling a wide assortment before you buy. This is a fun place to shop. Not the cheapest prices in town but probably the best and widest selection and the buyers have really good taste.
Muebles de la Santa Cruz
Avenida 15 between Calle 2 and Juarezthis is an interesting store crammed full of furniture and accessories in the wrought iron and carved wood rustico style that's so popular on the island. Although it would be impractical to take one of
Habbie's ornately carved wooden bed frames home, there are plenty of small things from which to choose including talevera, wood and wrought iron lamps, picture frames, etc. Reasonably priced and just a fun place to browse.
On the Waterfront 3 blocks north of the ferry pier.
This little gem of a museum is a must-see. There's a pretty restaurant upstairs on a gallery overlooking the Yucatan Channel that's open for breakfast, lunch and drinks. And the small gift shop has some nice items that aren't rip off prices.. There are often sales in the lobby that can include anything from salsa CD's and books to original art work by Cozumeleño artists.
Two colorfully dressed ladies take a break from shopping and sit along the stone wall outside El Museo which has a nice little, moderately-priced gift shop.
No Name Hammock Shop
Avenida 5 one block north of the pedestrian-only plaza across the street from Zermatt's Bakery
There are plenty of hammocks and hammock swings for sale on the island. If you speak a bit of Spanish you can try to buy from the elderly gent who makes them on the front porch of his house. Even if you don't speak Spanish, you can bring a pad of paper to write down prices. See our article on How to Buy a Hammock also.
Shops & Vendors in the Pedestrian Only Plaza
Spray Paint Artists
Located close to the waterfront near the ferry pier. Look for the Couch fountain and Las Palmeras restaurant.
Several of these artists work at night down on the plaza behind the conch fountain. It's fun to watch them in action. Boy are they fast. One reader suggests taking your own blank license plate along. They'll spray paint if for you with your choice of design. Makes an excellent souvenir. As to the regular paintings. Check them out.
This is a family of artists that have been specializing in these fine paintings on feathers for years and years now. They make a great a one-of-a-kind present to take home. Also extremely light to pack!
You can find a display of their work in a kiosk behind the clock tower on the downtown plaza. And they have a store on the north "wing" of plaza as well.
Many stores sell some hammocks. But this store which is in the little rabbit warren of small shops behind the Plaza del Sol Building specializes and there's a good selection of both cotton and nylon hammocks in a variety of sizes.
Prices are marked but they will make a deal. Read Bargaining Tips if you're not already a vet. And also How to Buy a Hammock. This is a tiny, stand-alone building with glass doors back in the center area of Plaza del Sol on the main plaza. It's almost directly behind the clock tower but you have to take an alley back behind the Plaza del Sol Building to find it.
Shops Directly Back from the Pedestrian Only Plaza
This charming little art gallery is run by Americans including a glass artist from Seattle whose lovely work is on display and for sale in the store.
They also sell a super underwater video of Cozumel that's very popular. In addition you'll find the original art of a number of talented Mexican artists here. Friendly, pretty little place. Avenida 10 between Salas and Calle 1. One block inland from the edge of the downtown plaza
Located right next door to Bugamillias. (See above.) We think this shop keeper has excellent and eclectic taste. All kinds of interesting, handcrafted objects for sale here.
You'll find beautiful paper & polished gourd lanterns, hand carved and painted wooden figurines and much more.
. Between this shop and Bugamillias right next door (see above) the discerning shopper should have a lot of their bases covered without having to venture further afoot--if the 'foots' in question are sore by this stage of the game.
This is one of those places where you can bargain -- if you're patient. Best to plan to come back several times if you want to do that. In fact, if you're a shopping hound, consider staying downtown where you're very convenient walking distance to almost all of the shops mentioned in this article.
Really unusual gifts at this store on the corner of Juarez and Avenida 15. The specialty here is musical instruments from all over Mexico.
A fun place to visit and a great place to pick up unusual gifts you'll not find anywhere else in town.
If you're a musician--particularly a drum or guitar player--this is a must see for your list for the many antique instruments Alfredo has on display in his store. Drums and guitars, too. Lots of 'em. This guy is famous in Mexico, just so's ya know. They've even done a documentary on him.
The Talevera Store
There's no name on this open-air store. But the colorful merchandise spilling out onto the sidewalk in front makes it easy to spot.
Large selection of hand-painted Mexican pottery in a store just goes back and back. Some of the stuff is pretty kitchy but there's also a lot of really tasteful authentically hand-painted Talevera style pottery. And prices are a lot better than you'll see for similar quality items down on the waterfront. On Calle 1 between Avenida 20 and 25. Put your back to the flag pole on the waterfront and walk back into town. You'll see it on the left, middle of the 5th block back from the water.
Shops South of the Plaza
If you have teen-age girls in your group, or if you're fairly thing yourself, you'll love this store which is located 1 block south of the pedestrian-only downtown plaza on the corner of Avenida 5 and Calle 3.
Very interesting and unusual clothes in styles you won't see in the US so you can take them home and start your own trend. Lots of Gothic and Victorian jewelry mostly imported from Turkey, I believe. Very cute shoes. This isn't the cheapest place to buy clothes. But if you're into your rags, you may find something special here it's worth spending the extra bucks to have. My 19 year old daughter hits this place every trip down from school.
American Drug Store
A surprising number of drugs that are only available by prescription in places like the US and Canada can be purchased in Mexico without one.
The prices are often, but not always, considerably cheaper, too.
Viagra, Retin-A and just about any antibiotic are just a few samples of drugs that are available here without a prescription and much cheaper than in the US. You can buy these drugs in the grocery stores (which all have pharmacies) and at stand alone pharmacies all over town. The problem is you have to know the Spanish name and the Spanish pronunciation in order to tell the pharmacist what you need.
That's where this little shop comes in. It's owned and run by Americans so you can go in and chat them up about what drugs they can sell you and the price it would be. You'll pay a bit more than you would at a farmacia. But if you don't speak Spanish, it's very convenient and definitely a way to save some bucks.
Miguelon Y Hijos
A jewelry artist friend of ours put us on to this local Cozumeleño artist who works out of a small an unassuming shop on Calle 5 three blocks back from the waterfront.
This artist specializes in finely carved shell work that, as you can see from the photo above, is very cameo-esque in style. His work is often on display at the musuem but you can go right to his workshop where he has other pieces displayed. Turn in from the ocean on Calle 5 next to MacDonalds on the waterfront.) Walk back 2 blocks and then start watching for the little open doorway on your left in the middle of the block between Avenida 10 and Avenida 15.