If you're not into the beach scene, one of the best things to do in either Playa del Carmen or Cozumel is to take an excursion to the Mayan ruins. You will probably have a choice between Tulum and Chichen Itza. Tulum is closer, and is the only set of such ruins right on the coast, so it's a pretty setting. Likely to be crowded if there are lots of ships in port. Chichen Itza is larger and more impressive, but is about 1 1/2 hours drive (one way) from the port, so it makes for a long (and hot!) day. However, either would be educational (perhaps what parents want for their kids? ) Because of the distance and time involved, I recommend using the ship's shore excursions for these trips, rather than trying to do it on your own. And you should be aware that getting there from Cozumel will involve a ferry ride to the mainland (be sure to take seasickness precautions). I did the Tulum trip on a cruise some years ago, including the ferry, and enjoyed it.
Xel-Ha is a wonderful place for snorkeling and all types of watersports. The water is beautiful. You could do a half and half tour, half day at Tulhum and half day at Xel-Ha. We went to Chankanaab park and did a swim with the dolphins pre-hurricane that was totally awesome. The posts on this board have stated that although Chankanaab is open again, it is not back to the way it was before the hurricane. There have been a lot of posts stating that Paradise Beach is nice as well. The bathing suits will be on in Cozumel or Playa del Carmen, they may be skimpy, but they will be on. All of the places we've visited there were family oriented. I'm sure there are some that are for adults only, but that is not what they cater to for the majority of the cruise ship passengers. We've done quite a few snorkel trips there that have been great. We book the tours through the ships. We've been there with Princess, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Hope this helps a little. By the way, there's some good shopping as well.
I have to say that we went to the Mayan Ruins in september with my new fiance' and He loved The mayan ruins exspecially the beach area where Topless girls were running around every where. The people there say it is very common to see topless girls on that beach. Just so ya know. I don't know if this is a new thing there or what, but there were at least 10 girls walking around topless while we were there, and there were plenty of guys taking "scenery" video footage while there too. (like no one knows what they were really taping) whatever! thought you should have a heads up. If you have teenage boys they would love that beach. IF you just stick to seeing the mayan ruins you will be fine, everone there is dressed. Just don't go down the steps to the beach, that is where we seen the topless girls.
We just got back and did a 4x4 mini jeep in Isla Sur, Cozumel. We drove the mini jeeps to the park which ended at a beautiful and peaceful beach. Lots of hammocks if you prefer to relax, and snorkling is available. Our tour included the mini jeep drive, and snorkling. I only saw families at the beach, and it was not crowded at all. I was also at Tulum two years ago, but didn't see any topless visitors.
I would suggest Xcaret it is a full day tour
with enough stuff to see and do without topless beach or drunken party. It was reported as still being what it was before last years hurricane, a great waterpark.
Playa del carmen is great for tourists with the pedestrian 5th ave full of shops, resturants, and bars...you can find many souvineers there and it can take half a day to explore the area, all it costs is $20 for the ferry from cozumel, the shops get cheaper the farther you shop from the ferry pier. with a tourist zone 5 blocks deep and tons of local flavor it's a good time. but shopping probably isnt as exciting as a waterpark to teenage boys...xcaret is only about 30 min cab ride south...you pay about the same to do it on your own as for the ship tour, so i'd go with them to make it easier.
We just returned from Calica Friday. We did the jeep/caverns tour. There were about 12 jeeps. I drove ours, I was the youngest of our group, at 58, and we had a 78-year-old with us too. We went to the beach first and had a buffet. I did not see any topless folks, but I was not looking either. The beach was beautiful. Three in our jeep had massages on the beach, very decadent, at $35.00 each. The food was fab. Then we caravaned to the "jungle/cavern" and walked through the jungle to the caves where some of the folks swam in the underground river. It was great. We all had a wonderful time. The tour was chosen to be video taped and it showed all over the ship on Thursday. My other family members said we were the stars of the tape because it looked like we were having the most fun!
Carnival Fascination November 2006
Pacific Princess December 2007
Monarch of the Seas - April 2008
Sapphire Princess September 2008
Wow Calica Jeep Tour sounds great! We agree with Penny, as usual Xel Ha Marine Park and Tulum Ruins combo tour is fantastic. We didn't get down to the beach at Tulum, never heard that was topless. Certainly not a party beach. Xel Ha is theme park, no partying. The snorkeling there is totally awesome, loads of fish everywhere. The boys will really love that.