Unless you want to stick around your hotel or downtown San Miguel for your whole stay, you’ll do well to rent a car. Most worthwhile sites, such as the island’s Mayan ruins and pristine windward beaches, are readily accessible only with wheels. Taxi fares can be astronomical, and after just a few trips a rental car is clearly a better deal.
San Miguel is Cozumel's only town. Wait until the cruise ships sail toward the horizon before strolling the malecón, or boardwalk. The waterfront has been taken over by large shops selling jewelry, imported rugs, leather boots, and souvenirs to cruise-ship passengers, but the northern end of the malecón, past Calle 10 Norte, is a pleasant area lined with sculptures of Mayan gods and goddesses that draws more locals than tourists. The town feels increasingly traditional as you head inland to the pedestrian streets around the plaza, where family-owned restaurants and shops cater to residents and savvy travelers.
San Miguel's heart is the plaza, where families gather Sunday nights to stroll, snack, and dance to live music around the central kiosko, or bandstand. There are plenty of benches for watching the action. Facing the square is an artisan's market, a good stop for souvenirs. Renovated in late 2014, the plaza has lost some of its rustic charm but remains a place to see and be seen.