Isla Cozumel or Cozumel Island lies 12 miles off the coast of Playa del Carmen in the Yucatan Peninsula. Meanwhile, Cancun, which is best known as the party destination in Mexico, is just 45 miles from the island.
This makes Cozumel the perfect alternative for those who want to stay in someplace quieter than the party town of Cancun. In fact, you can reach this island by taking a ferry from Playa del Carmen which will take around 30 to 45 minutes.
When to Travel to the Island of Cozumel?
Although you can travel to Mexico all year round, the best time to make your way to this gorgeous island is from March to June. These months are before the hurricane season. Usually, the hottest months are from July to August along with the hurricane season that lasts until November. Meanwhile, the busiest months for this island are from December to March.
How to Get to Cozumel
Although there are direct flights to this island, most tourists will arrive via Cancun International Airport. From here, you can hire a private shuttle to bring you to Playa del Carmen. You can also opt to ride the bus, taxi, or a rental car instead. All of these are good options as they provide convenience to guests.
Of course, booking a private shuttle is the most convenient and comfortable way of getting to the ferry station. Once you reach the ferry terminal, it will take half an hour to 45 minutes to reach Cozumel and the adventures waiting for you there.
Meanwhile, if you have booked a flight directly to Cozumel Airport, I suggest that you opt for a private shuttle. This is much cheaper than having to haggle with taxis at the airport. After all, they can charge you up to $50 or more, especially if you are staying in downtown Cozumel.
Once you are on the island, you can either rent a car or a scooter. This way you will be able to explore Cozumel at your own pace.
What to Do While in Cozumel
The Caribbean Island of Cozumel has plenty to offer its guests from beautiful beaches to impressive dive grounds. Aside from them, the island also has nature parks, ancient Mayan ruins, as well as its lively capital, San Miguel de Cozumel. It will not come as a surprise that you will want to explore the wonders on land and in the sea.
The question now is what activities can you do white in Cozumel? Let’s find out!
- See Punta Sur Ecological Park
If you are looking for the best beach on the island, this is it. A trip here is absolutely one of the best things that you can do while you are in Cozumel. Located south of the island, the Punta Sur Eco Park covers 2,500 acres of land and is home to plenty of flora and fauna. Among these are exotic birds, sea turtles, and crocodiles, as well as gorgeous beaches. If you are a nature lover, then you will have a great time here.
In fact, one of the main attractions here is the Celerain Lighthouse. It was built to warn off sailors from getting too close to the southern part of the island. Today, it is part of the maritime museum and is also the best spot to get a great view of Cozumel. You can do this by climbing 133 steps up the lighthouse. If you are lucky, you will also see Cuba from a distance. The eco-park entrance fee already covers the cost of visiting the lighthouse.
You can also explore the marshland with a 40-minute boat tour. There is no guarantee that you will see crocodiles on your trip here, but you will be able to spot plenty of exotic birds. Aside from that, you can also visit El Caracol Ruins. It is best that you arrive at Punta Sur Eco Beach Park early in the day to make the most out of your trip here.
- Rent a Jeep and Go Explore the Island
One of the best ways to enjoy the island is to rent a jeep and explore the island at your own pace. After all, there is no public transport here so either you walk, rent a taxi, or drive a rental car to get around. I prefer the latter since I get to explore at my own pace. And since there is only one main road encircling the island, it won’t be difficult to reach your destination. Fortunately, renting a car here is affordable. This means that you will be able to visit archeological sites and other beaches easily.
You can book a rental car in advance for a cheap price. Although it is possible to rent a car in person, expect to pay more. Also, car rentals can be fully booked during the high season when cruise ships drop by Cozumel. Being able to drive around whenever you want means that you can explore the island’s cuisine too.
- Visit Playa Mia Grand Beach Park
Meanwhile, families can also visit Playa Mia Grand Beach and Water Park while in Cozumel. This is an ethical beach park which makes it the perfect spot for adventure for tourists of all ages. If you are one of those individuals who prefer a beach park minus animals in captivity, you’ll definitely love this place. After all, there are tons of activities that you can do here. You can go snorkeling, kayaking, and paddleboarding.
Aside from that, you can also try their swimming pools, waterslides, and even their volleyball courts if you are looking for some action. As stated before, this is an ethical park which means that there are no animals kept in cages here. There is an entrance fee of $30 which is not a bad price considering the number of activities that you can do here.
Another way to enjoy the island is to go on a catamaran cruise. This will take you to the Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park where you can explore the waters. In addition, you will also get to visit Playa Mia Grand Beach Park.
- Go Scuba Diving
Thanks to Cozumel’s location near the Great Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, this island is one of the best diving spots in Mexico. Here you will find a wide array of marine life from sharks to sea turtles and other tropical fish living among the coral reefs. Aside from that, there are plenty of diving spots here that are perfect for divers of all levels.
For example, Palancar Reef is ideal for beginner divers while Devil’s Throat is more suitable for advanced divers. The good news is that there is no shortage of diving shops on the island. Not only do they offer diving classes, but they also offer tours of where the best diving spots are. Among the diving stores that you should check are Scuba Tony and Deep Blue Dive.
- Explore Archaeological Sites
Would you believe that there are ancient ruins on Cozumel? If you travel to the northern part of the island, you will find the San Gervasio archaeological site. Yes, the ruins aren’t as astounding as that of Chichen Itza or even Tulum Ruins, but it has their own characteristics. If you are looking for off the beaten-path type of adventure then this is one of them.
You can drive to the San Gervasio ruins on your own and from there, hire a tour guide to show you around. The total entrance fee here is $10, but if you are going to add a tour guide, it will be $20. You will then explore the ruins for 1.5 hours where your guide will bring the ruins to life with their knowledge.
- Visit the Stars in El Cielo
Meanwhile, a trip to see the stars in El Cielo is a must. This marine park is the best spot to go snorkeling to see numerous stars at the bottom just a few feet from you. In fact, the shallow area is the best spot to see these amazing creatures. All that you have to do is to don your snorkel gear and swim up to them.
Make sure that you do not touch these marine creatures or any other denizens of the water. This is especially true when you see a stingray around. In fact, you should keep in mind that this is their home and you are just a guest. Showing them respect can go a long way to enjoying your snorkeling adventure here.
- Take a Trip to the Cozumel Pearl Farm
One of the best places that you can visit in Cozumel is Pearl Farm. This family-owned and operated pearl farm is only accessible by boat. You will be taken to an uninhabited part of the island since the farm is secluded.
The tour consists of two parts. The first one is where you will be given a demonstration of the different techniques in pearl farming. Meanwhile, the second part of the tour is all about exploring the pearl hatchery. Here you can go snorkeling to see where the clams are as well as the life-size statue of the Virgen de Guadalupe statue.
Once the tour is done, you can relax and unwind on the beach. Go swim in crystal-clear water or have your lunch on the beach.
- Shop Until You Drop at San Miguel
Meanwhile, if you are itching to do a bit of shopping, I suggest that you head to San Miguel de Cozumel. You will find it on the west coast of the island where there are rows of shops and local restaurants for you to check out. In fact, the city is quite popular among cruise passengers. This means that the area can get pretty busy when a cruise ship comes by.
San Miguel is the perfect place to buy souvenirs as there are plenty of shop owners selling their crafts. Aside from that, make your way to San Miguel’s Central Park or Zocalo. This is the main town where you can relax while having some churros or marques itas while people-watching. There are free events here and live music too every Sunday which is a plus.
- Visit the Mayan Cacao Company
Chocolate lovers definitely need to visit the Mayan Cacao Company. It is just 15 minutes away from downtown Cozumel and is beside Playa Mia Beach Club. If there is anything that you will learn about the Mayan culture is that they were the first ones to produce chocolate from cacao beans. Once the cacao beans have been fermented, dried, and roasted, they are then grounded to create a paste. After adding hot water, they created a chocolate drink.
I highly recommend that you join the 70-minute tour. Not only will you get to try ancient Mayan recipes, but you can also bring home their chocolates. Book a ticket prior to travel so there will be less hassle on your part.
- Explore El Mirador
Another example of off-the-beaten-path things that you can do is to head to El Mirador. It lies on the east side of the island and is just half an hour away from downtown Cozumel. You can rent a scooter, ride a taxi, or drive your rental car to see some spectacular views.
After all, this natural spot has been carved by the sea into the shape of an arc. Head to the top to see some amazing views of the ocean and the nearby coast. This is actually a great place to hang out if you want some peace and quiet.
- See Mexico Park
Meanwhile, a trip to Mexico Park is one of the most underrated activities that you can do in Cozumel. Aside from being close to the cruise terminal, it is a great option to consider if you want to learn a thing or two about the historic landmarks in Mexico. After all, there are replicas of the historic sites in the country displayed here.
In addition, there is a botanical garden inside the park which is also worth visiting. Here you will find exotic birds, iguanas, and other wild animals that are native to the island. Also, there is a folk art museum where you can learn more about the island’s history.
- Have Fun at Playa Chen Rio
There is no doubt that Cozumel has some of the best beaches in Mexico. In fact, one of them is Playa Chen Rio! For starters, it is a protected area that boasts shallow waters suitable for swimming and even snorkeling. In addition, Chen Rio lies on the east coast which is away from the busy section of Cozumel. This means that you can go here and just relax and unwind.
Take note, however, that the waters on the east coast of Cozumel have strong currents. It is best to be cautious when getting in the waters. I suggest that you pay attention to where the locals swim the most since they know where the good spots are.
You can do various water activities here such as swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. Aside from that, you can even have a picnic on the beach. Bring the whole family here for some much-needed rest and relaxation away from the crowd.
- Try Temazcal in Cozumel
Meanwhile, if you are looking for a unique experience in Cozumel, I suggest that you try a Temazcal ceremony. Yes, you can do this in Cancun too, but it’s worth trying here as well. The Temazcal begins with you entering a brick hut that is already warmed using volcanic rocks. A shaman will greet you and make you feel comfortable inside the hut. Think of this as a traditional sauna during the Mayan times.
In this ancient ritual, your body will undergo cleansing, relaxation, and purification. The last part is where you get to enjoy a cooling swim in the nearby cenote. If you haven’t tried a temazcal, I suggest that you do so here. It is a spiritual experience, unlike anything you have tried.
- Check Out Beach Clubs
Of course, you can’t be in Cozumel without checking out the beach clubs here. After all, they are one of the reasons why this small island is among the popular destinations in Mexico. You can find most of them on the west coast which is on the opposite side of Playa Chen Rio. One reason why you should look for a beach club is because of the calm, turquoise waters here.
There are beach bars and clubs here where you can take advantage of their amenities. Among these are their sunbeds, unlimited drinks, and even parties. Not only that but you can also rent snorkeling and kayaking equipment from these clubs. Some of the clubs here require you to pay for a day pass. Others, like Money Bar, let you use their facilities for free as long as you purchase something from them.
- Go on a Catamaran Tour
One of the unique things that you can do in Cozumel is to go on a catamaran tour. This is a good idea if you are already tired of seeing captive animals in parks. You can relax on board the catamaran or go swimming and snorkeling to see marine life in their natural habitat.
The good news is that there are plenty of catamaran tours to choose from in Cozumel. In fact, you can opt for a private tour if you want a more personalized trip. You can even customize your trip if you like. The most popular option here is the clear boat tour. This lets you see underwater without getting wet.
- Enjoy a Chef Food Tour
Foodies, listen up! Whenever you go someplace new in Mexico, make sure you try their local cuisine. In fact, you should join a food tour to learn more about Mexican cuisine. While in Cozumel, you should consider the Chef Food Tour which will take you to several restaurants on the island.
What’s great about this food tour is that you will be taken to an off-the-beaten-path type of restaurant. Basically, you will be eating like a local which is great! After all, they know where the best foods are found so you better pay attention. In fact, even if you are a vegetarian, you will still be able to enjoy your food trip. Your tour guide will ensure that you will have a great time exploring the local food scene on the island.
- Go Deep-Sea Fishing
Cozumel is a popular place for deep-sea fishing enthusiasts with good reason. There is plenty of marine life here that you will want to reel in. Among these are triggerfish, barracuda, and mahi-mahi to name a few. Tuna is also available year-round while blue and white marlin as well as sailfish frequent Cozumel’s waters from March to July.
Even if you are not a fisherman or angler, you will still enjoy your time out in the open sea. Your captain will show you the ropes on how to catch big game fish. In fact, they will supply you with all the gear you will need to catch fish. Aside from this thrilling experience, you also get to admire Cozumel from a different perspective.
- Explore the Beaches of Cozumel
As I have stated before, Cozumel has some of the best beaches in Mexico. In fact, you can spend the next couple of days visiting one beach to the next. Just imagine white sand with clear waters waiting for you to swim in them. Although most of the beaches on the west coast are more developed, the eastern side of the island appears to be more or less untouched.
Some of the amazing beaches that you will find on the west side of the island are Playa Uva Sur and Chankanaab Beach. Expect these beaches to be crowded during peak season. Meanwhile, Playa Chen Rio, Punta Morena, and Playa Bonita are on the east side. What you’ll love about them is that they tend to be quieter compared to the ones in the west.
- Go Snorkeling
One of the fun things that you can do on this island, and one that you will not get tired of doing is go snorkeling. That’s right! There are dozens of places here where you can explore the clear waters. In fact, there is no shortage of snorkeling tours here so you will want to try them all. Choose between snorkeling out in the open waters or nearer the shore.
If you can, bring your own snorkel gear with you to save money. But don’t worry. There are rental shops where you can get your snorkeling gear from. Playa Casitas is the closest snorkeling spot to the city center that you can head out to. Just make sure that you have a floating dive flag with you since there is plenty of boat activity around here. Another option is near the Love Cafe. Here you will find two shipwrecks that are suitable for the experts.
- Enjoy the Sunset
After having a good time exploring the island, what better way to end the day than by watching the sunset? If you are looking for the best spots to watch the sunset, I suggest El Palomar Restaurant and Bar, La Monina, and Hemingway. In fact, you will find El Palomar just 5 minutes from the ferry port. Indulge in a margarita on the porch while admiring the view.
You don’t need to be in a restaurant just to watch the sunset. In fact, you can head to the Malecon or the main square or the beach even overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Watching the sunset doesn’t come at an extra cost on this island. In fact, it is one of the best free activities to do here.
More Activities to Try in Cozumel
It doesn’t matter if you are part of a cruise line disembarking on a cruise port or traveling to Cozumel by plane, visiting this island is a must. Of course, you will want to stay in one of the best hotels here which you will find mostly on the west side of the island. Pick any hotel and for sure it will have a swimming pool and several amenities that will keep you comfortable throughout your stay. I suggest that you check if they do accept credit cards as payment.
Once you are settled, you can head out to explore the island! Aside from the activities mentioned above, there are a few more that I would like to add.
- Visit Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park
If you are looking for more areas to go snorkeling or diving then I suggest that you head to Cozumel National Park. After all, most of the coral reefs that you will find on this island are connected to this national park. This means that they are protected so you will need to adhere to the rules set in the park. You can join a snorkeling tour here where you will be taken up close to these amazing reefs.
- Go on a Submarine Tour
Don’t worry if you are not adept in snorkeling or scuba diving. It is possible to see the denizens of the sea without getting wet. One way to do this is through strong currents to go on a submarine tour. That’s right! This special tour puts you inside a compact submarine that will take you around the waters of Cozumel.
- Try Horseback Riding
Going on a boat ride is common on an island. But if you are looking for something unique, how about horseback riding on the beach? This tour will take you around tourist attractions on the island before ending on the pristine beaches. You will find something similar in Isla Mujeres in Quintana Roo so this is an activity you will want to try here too.
- Enjoy Various Water Sports
What’s great about Cozumel is that water activities are not limited to swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving. In fact, you can also go kayaking, paddle boarding, jet skiing, and others. Ask the concierge in your hotel about the water sports that they are offering. It is always fun to experience something new out in the waters so keep your eyes peeled!
Cozumel is one of the best spots to visit in Mexico if you want to avoid the crowd in Cancun. This island is more laid back compared to other beach towns which is a plus for those who are traveling with their family or prefer a quieter place to hang out. Since this is a small island, everything is accessible on foot. If you are not a fan of walking, you can rent a scooter or a car to get around. There are taxis too but it tends to be more expensive compared to renting your own vehicle. Not only that but you will be able to explore the island at your own pace when you book a rental car.
Although the island is small, it packs a punch when it comes to activities. Just imagine swimming in one of the several beaches here during the day. You can also explore ancient Mayan ruins too. If you want to immerse yourself in the local way of life on the island, then join the food tours here. Not only will you get to sample local cuisine, you will also learn how to cook them too.
If you are looking for a unique adventure on your vacation, I suggest that you visit Cozumel. This island is a must-see for anyone who is looking for a tourist hotspot that is not as crowded as other parts of Mexico. The best part is that it is accessible from different beach towns in Mexico making it a great alternative in case you want a quiet place to hang out.
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