Cozumel Shopping

There are almost as many souvenir stands as dive shops in Cozumel. Most have similar items at similar prices.  Some of the smaller shops might be willing to bargain but at the larger stores, the price is the price..

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Unicornio, on the Ave. 5 mall just south of the Square, has lots of Mexican Arts & Crafts with fixed prices. In the same area are several other small shops with interesting pieces from Mexico and Guatemala. In some of these you will be able to bargain.

Viva Mexico is a large fixed price store on the waterfront at the corner of Rosado Salas with a good selection of both the tacky souvenirs Mexico is famous for as well as some nicer pewter and ceramic pieces. Clerks here are dressed in traditional attire and perform folk dances gratis on a regular schedule.

Another store with fixed prices and a very good selection is Los Cinco Soles located on Ave. Rafael Melgar at Calle 8 Norte. In addition to the usual tourist souvenirs, this place also sells furniture and art work. The selection of premium tequilas at Los Cinco Soles is impressive and they will have some brands you might not find in other local outlets but for most brands, you can the same bottles at less expensive prices in some other stores on the island.

Just a block down from Cinco Soles at the Corner of Ave. Rafael Melgar and Calle 10 Norte are the Forum Shops.  This is a collection of shops with all manners of items for tourist.

If you are interested in buying tequila to take home with you, you can always hit the duty free store at the airport.  However, if you know what you want, you can usually find a better price (and have the advantage of being able to pack it in your luggage) by shopping in town.

If you don’t want to chance the duty free not having your favorite brand or for drinking while you’re in Cozumel, there is a wine and spirits shop on the corner of Melgar and Av 11 virtually next door to Mega that had lower than duty free prices the last time we shopped there. You can also try the open air Covi Liquor store just north of the San Francisco Asis Supermarket at the corner of 30th Ave and Calle 2. We find they usually have good prices on all the popular brands and on occasion will have a good price on premium brands as well. The Mega, Chedraui and San Francisco Asis Supermarkets also have a good selection of popular brands at reasonable prices (actually lower than at the duty free shop at the airport) and you can also check at the smaller SSI grocery store that is on the waterfront at the corner with the airport road. On occasion, they will have a special price on a premium brand or two. Mega and Chedraui also offer a decent selection of wines including imports, as well.

For some of the lowest prices on Talavera pottery and wood made handicrafts, visit Pech Artesanias. It’s located nest to a lumber yard on Ave. 30 between Calle 8 and 10.

You can find very nice locally made hammocks in a small house on the corner of Ave. 5 and Calle 4 Norte.

The Punta Langosta shopping center at the cruise ship pier near downtown is primarily home to chain stores and chain restaurants. Typically you’ll see the same prices you would find in the same stores anywhere else in the world except for some of the restaurants where prices will be higher than you would find in the U.S.

There is another shopping center complete with a multi-plex theater where many first run American movies are shown in English located behind the Chedraui Supermarket.  This theater is sometimes kept VERY cold so dress accordingly.

If you drive out 11th past Av 65 you can now find not only a Sam’s Club but also sharing the same parking lot is Bodega Aurrerá; owned by and virtually identical to Walmart. They not only have groceries and produce but also general merchandise. When we went in search of a component cable to connect a new TV to a new DVD, I found it there.

You’ll see a lot of stores with signs advertising “Duty Free” wares or special discounts for cruise ship passengers. Don’t believe them. The prices there won’t be any better (and in fact, probably higher) than you can find all over town.  One exception to this rule is the Pama store on Ave. Rafael Melgar in the central area of town where you can find a good selection of perfumes at a good price.

If you traveled to Cozumel some years ago and come back now for a visit, one of the most obvious changes in town is the proliferation of high priced jewelry stores in general and diamond stores in particular. The number of diamond, emerald and tanzanite stores on Ave. Rafael Melgar is overwhelming and the high rents they are willing to pay have forced many long time businesses to either close or relocate.

And question we ask is; “WHY?” Diamonds are not mined on Cozumel. Very little jewelry is actually made on Cozumel. The stores really aren’t “duty free.” What in the world makes anyone think that Cozumel is a great place to buy diamonds, emeralds or other precious stones? And the answer is “cruise ship entertainment directors.”  Cruise entertainment directors tells passengers that bargains are to be had at these stores. They are told that the ship has negotiated special discounts with these stores for the ships passengers. Our advice is: Be very, very careful when making a significant jewelry purchase in Cozumel. If you know what you are doing, go ahead and spend away. But if you are relying on advice from people who are telling you that Cozumel is a great place to get a big bargain on diamond jewelry, think twice before you hand over your credit card.

One of the few options on jewelry that actually is produced in Cozumel is black coral that is collected from the local reefs and then worked into pieces by local artisans.   Virtually all of the mature black coral has been picked from what is generally considered to be recreational diving depths so pieces of size that you might see in local shops will likely be either picked from locations of great depth or imported from some other location.

Some caution should be exercised when buying inexpensive black coral in Cozumel as what is presented as cheap black coral may turn out to be expensive black plastic.  The simplest test to determine is to apply heat.  If you don’t think you can tell the difference, look for the trademark “Cozumel Black Coral” when buying black coral jewelry and art pieces.

Some of the best black coral objects in Cozumel come from Luis Calaca’s Black Coral Factory on Ave. 20 between Bonito Juarez & Calle 2.  All of his coral works will come with the trademark and a certificate of authenticity.  His shop is also a good source for locally produced silver as well. Telephone 872-4735.

Cozumel Grocery Shopping

Options for grocery and general merchandise shopping in Cozumel have gone through some amzaing changes in the past few years. There is parking out front as well as in a covered lot in the back (that also serves a small shopping mall and the Cineapolis movie complex) of Chedraui (pronounced Shay drah wee) on the corner of Ave. Rafael Melgar and Calle 15. This is a large food and general merchandise store with very good prices and a good selection. There is an on site bakery making cookies, cakes, pastries as well as corn tortillas. There is a hot food section for take away and a wide selection of liquors, wine and beers. While there is a wide variety of produce, we still find that some of smaller stands and the Mercado (see below) are a better bet.

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The newly opened Mega on Ave. Rafael Melgar just north of Calle 11 is even larger and offers a greater selection in a more upscale design than Chedraui. We haven’t done a scientific comparison but our impression is that prices are slightly higher at Mega than at Chedraui but that can easily be made up by taking advantage of the very attractive dollar to peso rate that is offered. (Tip: Use dollars here for a lower out-of-pocket price and a good exchange rate on the change.) On our last visit, using dollars to pay for our favorite Gran Centenario Añejo tequila at Mega got us a price that was $6 USD cheaper than at the airport duty free shop. This store is extremely Anglo friendly with several check-out lines marked as “bi-lingual” and English speaking aides walking the floor looking for confused gringos to help. There is a nice coffee shop inside the store as well. Mega has a relationship with Costco and in addition to other brands, stocks some of the Kirkland branded products.

There are two other relatively large supermarkets on the island from the San Francisco Asis chain. One is on the southern end of Ave. 65 and the second location is on Ave. 30 just north of Calle 2.

The old Super Maz on Ave 30 between Calles 6 and 8 has been renovated into a larger store owned by the Soriana group. Soriana is one of the larger retailers in Mexico and is expanding it’s locations in eastern Mexico. Soriana typically offers an excellent selection of imported (American) products as well as an extensive selection of gourmet items. .

There are other smaller stores scattered around town including SSI on the waterfront at the corner with the airport road and on more than one occasion, we have found incredible deals on liquor there.

For the best quality on produce you must go to where the locals shop. In Cozumel, El Mercado (The Market) is located on Ave. 25 and Rosado Salas. Even if you don’t buy anything, a morning walk around the market is worth the trip. You’ll also find the widest assortment of unrefrigerated meats and fish in town here.

If you find yourself in need of watch repair, shoe repair or a copy of a key, you’ll find a wide range of services in the same area as El Mercado.

Most people consider Bakery Zermatt to be the best bakery in town. It’s on the corner of Ave 5 and Calle 4 Norte and offers a wide selection of breads, pastries and pizza by the slice.

On the corner of Ave 30 & Calle 15 is Fruiteria Milpa, a small fruit and vegetable stand that offers a variety of fresh squeezed juices at very reasonable prices. On our last visit, a liter of orange juice was $15 pesos.

El Maharaja is a well stocked fruit and produce store on Av. 65 just north of the intersection with Calle 11. We love golden champagne mangos and have been able to find them at El Majaraja even when out of season and not available anywhere else in town.

If you find yourself in need of a specialty battery for your camera or dive computer, try the Fuji store across the street from the Pemex and beside the San Francisco near Av 30.  There is another Fuji store in  the Plaza Leones shopping Center on Ave 30 between Rosada Salas and Calle 1 where we recently found the right battery charger for our Cannon camera.