Cozumel at Night: Your Guide to Fun After Dark

Cozumel at Night: Your Guide to Fun After Dark

Many assume that Cozumel “must be a ghost town” when the cruise ships leave port each evening. They ask, is there anything to do in Cozumel at night?

The idea that Cozumel virtually shuts down after the cruise ships leave or the sun has set is funny to me – and could not be further from the truth.  While Cozumel is not a wild spring-break booze-fest (yay!), there’s a wide variety of fun things to do at night, and for all ages.  Here’s a glimpse at tons of cool places for cocktails and dining, plus a guide to live music, salsa dancing, free public shows, seasonal events, street fairs, planetarium shows, sunset sails, turtle rescues, and of course…night diving.  

The daily sunsets in Cozumel are spectacular, and that’s just the beginning. 

There are loads of fun things to do at night on Cozumel Island, so let’s take a look at just some of what you can get out and do once the sun goes down.

Evening Entertainment in Downtown Cozumel

The heart of all of the nightlife in Cozumel is in downtown San Miguel.

This town center, frequently just referred to as “Centro,” is a busy hub during the day and stays quite lively at night.

Right downtown you’ve got the central plaza, Parque Benito Juárez (a.k.a. the one with the clock tower). 

As the town’s central plaza (“zócalo”), the park really wakes up at night as a gathering spot for visitors and local families. It’s a great place to walk around in the early evenings, and depending on what’s happening, stick around for a few hours. 

All along the waterfront, you’ll see families, couples, and all sorts of people strolling along the waterfront promenade (“malecón”), or perhaps splashing around in the shallow beach waters to cool off after a long day. People of all ages, relaxing after work or getting ready for a night out.  

And like any spot along Cozumel’s west coast, everyone knows a beautiful sunset is coming!

There are countless restaurants right along the waterfront, where you can enjoy an early dinner or beach-side cocktails along with a beautiful view of the horizon. 

Very often the plaza becomes the venue for free outdoor music and dancing events sponsored by the city’s Cultural Department, especially on Sunday nights. 

Another evening, you might catch a demonstration of the ancient Mayan Ball Game by players in full Mayan garb and equally authentic intensity.  

Mayan ball game reinactment

The next night could be an open-air flea market to browse and chat with some Cozumel craftspeople and artisans who live and make their unique products in town.  

And just like during the day, all the blocks surrounding the plaza also have a ton of places to eat and drink. Try a traditional dish at Casa Denis, one of the oldest restaurants in town featuring traditional regional Yucatecan food. 

Or go a bit more contemporary with Le Chef’s famous lobster sandwich. Perhaps some more foodie-minded Mexican at the always delicious Kinta bistro (or any of Kinta’s fantastic sister spots, like Kondesa or La Clasica). 

To get your drink on, try some finely crafted cocktails along the waterfront at El Palomar, or jump right into an astounding frozen margarita at Wet Wendy’s. 

If you want to catch the big game – and some good food – try Dick’s Dive or Kelley’s. 

A few bars and clubs in town also have fun Salsa nights. Come early to ease into it, and stay for the amazing scene of local couples with major dancing chops.  It’s awesome to watch so many people out having a great time – if you can stay up late enough! 

The popular hot spots seem to ebb and flow as time passes, but at the time of writing this, they’ve been happening on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  Pro tip: Just ask a local friend for the scoop on the best salsa nights, once you arrive.  

The Municipal Plaza / Palacio

A few blocks to the south of Parque Benito Juárez is another lively public park in front of the City Hall, here called the Palacio Municipal.  This park is officially named Parque Quintana Roo, but more familiarly called “el Palacio.”  

The park at el Palacio has a large open area for events and receptions, a children’s playground area, and 2 large performance stages.  

It’s also adjacent to a quiet street that’s often blocked off to allow for street fairs, carnivals, and food vendors – and these fairs and events happen a lot, so it’s worth checking out. 

Many special events take place here. 

It typically serves as the main stage to many of the pageants and competitive performances in the run-up to the annual Cozumel Carnaval.  

Carnaval festivities start weeks early here and build until the huge, nighttime parades in San Miguel.  It’s an amazing spectacle of fun and fancy costumes.

Every year the annual blow-out is typically in late February, but it’s timed like Mardi Gras – it culminates in the week right up until Fat Tuesday. (So, the night before Ash Wednesday, and the start of lent.)     

El Palacio is also the place for fireworks on holidays like New Year’s Eve and Mexico’s Independence Day celebrations (September 16th)

This park is sometimes set up as the finish line and media area for the annual Cozumel Ironman triathlons (both the Ironman Half in September and the Full Ironman in November – which extends into the nighttime.)   

Even if no major event is happening, I love walking through the Palacio park in the evening.  If you’re close, swing by – on so many evenings the park is full of families with young children. They play at the playground, but the real fun is watching different kids delight in operating the small electric novelty cars that are for hire in the park. 

When you’re ready to move on, perhaps stop at one of the street carts for fresh churros or a local specialty – a marquesita (a Yucatecan filled crispy crepe).  

The Palacio is also adjacent to Cozumel’s main Police Department. So if you’re at all cautious about being out at night in a foreign land (not that you need worry), this might make you more at ease.

Happy Hours and Fancy Feasts in Cozumel

Cozumel has an amazing amount of variety in types of food and a seemingly endless number of high-quality and reasonably priced places to eat.

But since this post is more about “nightlife” I’m going to focus on a few of the places that stand out for some slightly more glam cocktails and fancy meals. 

As mentioned above, El Palomar along the waterfront is a really pretty place, and their bar has been getting a good deal of buzz surrounding their more high-minded cocktail game.  

For a special dinner, try Shi Fu or Buccanos – both located at Buccano’s northern perch, right on the water. Both are run by the same family, and with such quality and grace, they’ve become standard-bearers for fine dining in Cozumel.  

I also love the romantic setting of Rolandi’s waterfront area for delicious Italian with top-notch service. And definitely save at least one night for everyone’s old favorite, Guido’s, a beautiful dining experience where you’ll never have a bad meal.  

Live Music Favorites in Cozumel

If you’re into music and want to get out and have a great night on the town, many of Cozumel’s favorite places frequently feature live bands.  

There are lots of options, but let’s run through a few of the places that seem to always have a band in the mix.  

Money Bar, especially at weekend happy hours. The Money Bar is a very popular night spot, located in the southern zone, just across the street from the Landmark condos. It’s right along the waterfront and you can also snorkel there if you so choose. 

But it seems some of the real adult fun happens at sunset.

The views at sunset are spectacular, although that may be helped by the fact that their happy hour offers 2 for 1 giant drinks whether you order two or not.

Especially known for their fresh Mojitos – and a huge menu of good food – the Money Bar also has a live band nearly every Friday and Saturday night. 

Another current favorite is the beachy outdoor bar, Turquoise. 

Turquoise is a relative newcomer to Cozumel and has a spectacular spot on Melgar just south of Centro.

Turquoise has a really cool vibe and is another place to get some well-made cocktails. They have an upper seating area on the street level and a lower area near right near the water. Bands here are varied, but often crowd-pleasing to tourists, with rock and roll and some classic rock standards, all with Mexican soul.

Rock band at Woody's

Woody’s bar and grill right in the center of the Benito Juárez plaza in town, is a perennial favorite for meals and live music.

I don’t know if I’ve ever walked past Woody’s when there wasn’t a performance happening.  Often they’ll have a band at night, and an acoustic musician during the day.  

Woody’s is in such a great central location, you can probably swing by there on your way out to another meal, or stop by there last on your way back to your hotel to see who’s playing.

These are far from the only music venues you’ll find, so stay tuned here, or check out the cool Facebook page “Cozumel Music” to stay up to date and follow along with who’s playing around town.

Go to a Movie in Mexico

You might not think you came all the way to Mexico just to go to a movie.  But sometimes, trust me – after days in the bright hot sun and nights getting your sweaty salsa on, a few hours in a cool, crisp, comfy movie theater might be just what the doctor ordered.  

And they’re affordable here!  Most movie tickets are hovering around $5 USD, at this point – and even less for kids or seniors. 

At first, many people from the States and Canada are concerned that the movies will all be in Spanish. Oddly, most new release movies are actually shown in English with Spanish subtitles, especially in the “prime time” evening showings. Just check the listings to confirm.  

Families, though, please note that the children’s movies – including Pixar animated blockbusters from the U.S. – are (almost always) shown in Spanish here, obviously for the benefit of the littlest Mexican moviegoers.

Cozumel currently has two modern, premier movie theaters to choose from. Both Cinepolis and Cinemex also have really good mobile apps that you can install on your phone, so you can search out what’s playing and pre-order your tickets (though that’s not usually necessary).

Cozumel’s Night Sky

Cozumel also has a new modern Planetarium!  

Opened in 2016, Cha’an Ka’an Planetarium (a Mayan name meaning “to observe the sky”) has a bilingual website, is housed in a beautiful building located very close to the Southern cruise ports.    

They have daily observation hours but are also open for evening observations, and a rotating series of projected Dome Shows, at night. 

The dome shows cover different topics of space, Mayan astronomy, films about the coral reefs, etc. They’ve even had some psychedelic laser music shows!  Be sure to check out their website when you get here, linked above.  

Cozumel Night Diving – Open After Dark

You’re in Cozumel after all, don’t forget the night diving!

Most scuba divers in Cozumel will find themselves scheduling a night dive at least once during their stay. Dive shops usually try to have at least one per week, based on demand, so ask at your dive shop and try to drum up some other buddies.  

If it’s your first time night-diving here, make sure you bring or rent a good scuba diving light so you can see how the whole coral reef scene changes after dark. 

Expect to see our awesome aqua-blue octopuses out and about, along with huge lobsters and crabs, big green moray eels unfurling through the dark, parrotfish going to sleep in their protective bubble shields, and nurse sharks gliding along in the dark looking for snacks. 

And if you’re lucky, the endemic Cozumel Splendid Toadfish. These unique fish hide during the day, but sometimes you have a better chance to see more of them at night.

Cozumel Splendid Toadfish
Cozumel Splendid Toadfish / R. Schreck

Night dives are also a great chance to glimpse a giant basket star!  These amazing animals are hard to spot during the day, as they curl up in gorgonian corals (as shown below), and wait to unfurl at night. 

Giant basket star during day
Giant Basket Star / R. Schreck

Once night falls, they open up and catch their nutrients from the currents along Cozumel’s reef chain.  It’s an amazing sight for those dedicated night divers. 

Non-Diving Water Activities at Night 

Even if you’re not a scuba diver, you can enjoy the water at night, whether on a private sunset cruise, or one of Cozumel’s signature activities. 

Seek out DeLille Sports and book a twilight stand up paddleboard (SUP) tour.  They attach lights to the underside of the paddleboards, so you can glide along while peeking in on the marine life activity in shallow coral clusters or the sandy bottom, just offshore.

The Pirate Ship cruise is another iconic boat around Cozumel that also offers really popular evening cruises, with full seafood and steak dinners. And some Jack-Sparrow shenanigans. 

Disclaimer – I have not tried this one, yet!  But these cruises have a consistently good reputation, especially if you like to mix and mingle with an open bar and fun ice-breakers and dancing. Even those who’ve gone thinking it was too touristy for them, usually come back with a smile on their face.  And a full belly (the food is said to be spectacular.)    

Cozumel Sea Turtle Rescue

Perhaps the best for last: Sea Turtle Nesting. This one I have done, and it’s near and dear to my heart. 

You can volunteer and observe with the Cozumel Ecology Department during the months of April – October.  

Typically, mature sea turtles start returning to the islands East coast to lay their nests of eggs in April – June.  Volunteers in these months can help mark the new nests and record them, and keep the area clean of litter or other hazards. 

Then from July – October, approximately, eggs will have matured and volunteers will join the Ecology staff as the sun sets to find hatchlings that are ready to bust out and make their run for the open ocean.  

You get to witness our newest sea turtles and make sure they don’t get tangled in seaweed or other obstacles as they make their way to the water for the very first time. 

This is truly a special experience, so if you’re here during the right months, try to set aside some time to sign up and help out.  

 

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