The largest island in Mexico’s Caribbean, Cozumel is one of the best destinations in Mexico for diving. Tourists from all over the world come to Cozumel to see the Great Mesoamerican Reef and its incredible marine animals such as turtles, manta rays, and all sorts of fish.
But Cozumel (also known as Isla Cozumel in Spanish) is so much more than just a place for diving! The island boasts many pristine beaches, protected areas with rich biodiversity, and even Mayan Ruins! A trip to Cozumel is a perfect adventure whether you want to just chill on the beach or explore the hidden corners of this beautiful island.
Cozumel is also a popular stop for cruise ships, but you can easily escape the busy part of the island by taking a quick car (or scooter) ride. The island offers a different taste of Mexico’s Rivera Maya as most people come here to dive, enjoy nature and relax.
Where is Cozumel located?
Cozumel sits just 12 miles away from Playa del Carmen and about 45 miles south of Cancun, the main destination in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
Cozumel is a perfect alternative to these busy tourist hubs as it attracts a different type of travelers – those who are looking to spend time in nature and enjoy water sports -whether it’s diving, snorkeling, paragliding, or something else.
If you want to catch a ferry from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel, head to the boat terminal near the main square of Playa del Carmen.
Make sure to check the Cozumel ferry schedule online as it can have slight changes depending on the season. The two companies that serve the route between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel are Ultramar Ferry and Winjet Ferry.
How to get to Cozumel
Located in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, Cozumel requires a boat ride from the mainland part of Mexico. Cozumel can be reached via a 30-minute boat ride from Playa del Carmen.
Private transfer from Cozumel Airport
If you are taking a flight to Cozumel airport, it’s a good idea to book a private transportation to your hotel. Taxis at the airport charge premium prices, and you could spend up to 50 USD on a short ride, or even more, if your hotel is away from downtown Cozumel.
How to get around Cozumel
You could spend a few days enjoying some of the best things to do in Cozumel, but to reach them, you will need to rent a car. Another option is to rent a scooter, which is cheaper, but less convenient and takes more time to get from place to place.
I recommend DiscoverCars for your trip to Cozumel, a company that has a great inventory of many vehicles.
Best hotels in Cozumel
Most hotels in Cozumel tend to be located in or around San Miguel, the capital of the island.
Big resorts and hotels in Cozumel are located around the coast within 20 minutes of driving from downtown. I recommend Hotel B Unique, a sustainable property with gorgeous design about 15 minutes away from Playa San Juan. Iberostar is one of the best all-inclusive hotels in Cozumel that boasts gorgeous rooms, on-site restaurants, pools and wellness facilities. Kinta Kan is a cozy boutique hotel that is perfect for budget travelers who only need basic accommodations.
Things to do in Cozumel:
1. Explore the island at your own pace
This way you can tour this gorgeous island for a few days and enjoy some of the best things to do in Cozumel without relying on taxis, which can be pretty pricey. If you are going to visit Cozumel during the high season from December through March, make sure to book your car ahead of time, as you can overpay a lot for a simple vehicle on the spot.
To save the money, book your car online ahead of your visit. I recommend DiscoverCars, a rental car company that I’ve used several times, and that boasts a good inventory of vehicles for many price points and sizes.
PRO TIP: If time is short and you still want to enjoy some of the best things to do in Cozumel, book a private tour that includes some of the highlights of the island as well as tequila tasting.
2. Enjoy nature at Punta Sur Eco Park
One of my favorite things to do in Cozumel, Punta Sur Eco Park is a nature lover’s paradise that covers a whopping 2,500 acres. The largest eco-park in Cozumel, Punta Sur is home to some of the best beaches in Cozumel, and also has many points of interest.
One of them is the historic Celarain Lighthouse (or Faro Celarain) which was built on the southern end of the island back in the day to guide the sailors around the island. Now the lighthouse is part of the museum and can be accessed via a 133-step climb to the top. The entrance to the lighthouse is covered by the general admission fee to the park.
Also, beautiful Laguna Colombia can be explored by boat ride. Keep your eyes open during your ride on the lagoon – you can spot numerous crocodiles here! This is not a guarantee, however, but there are many other cool things to watch out for, such as birds and reptiles!
Punta Sur Eco Park also boasts Tumba del Caracol (or El Caracol Ruins) that were named after the snails that adorn the temple of the ruins. (El Caracol means a snail in Spanish).
After enjoying the adventure, head to the white powdery beach on the northern side of Cozumel where you can have a lazy afternoon in a hammock with a Pina Colada, take a relaxing swim, or do some snorkeling.
For the best experience, arrive at Punta Sur by the opening time. This way, you can enjoy the uncrowded park before most visitors arrive.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Price: 14 USD
Address: Autopista Km. 30 Sur, Matamoros Norte-Centro-Sur, Guaycura
3. Go Diving
Located minutes away from the Great Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, Cozumel is one of the best destinations in Mexico for diving thanks to its incredible array of marine wildlife such as turtles, sharks, and all sorts of fish. The island boasts many advanced diving sites for experienced divers such as Devil’s Throat near Punta Sur, Barracuda, and Maracaibo, and easier scuba diving sites such as Palancar.
There are many diving shops in Cozumel that offer diving schools and daily tours to many diving sites around the island. I did my dive with Deep Blue Dive and had a great experience with them. Another great diving shops in Cozumel are Scuba Tony.
4. … Or Snorkeling
If diving sounds too complicated, and you are not ready to take the PADI course, join a snorkeling tour. There are many great sites for snorkeling around Cozumel, and you can join a group tour with many local tour operators. It’s an excellent way to see the beautiful corals and the colorful fish.
5. Enjoy a jeep tour of Cozumel
One of the best ways to explore Cozumel is by joining a private Jeep Tour which includes stops at several places around the island, as well as lunch, some Margaritas, and snorkeling. This tour has a local guide who can show you some of the best-hidden gems of the island and customize your trip upon request.
The tour includes private transportation and can be booked online ahead of your visit. If you are short on time and want to see the highlights of this beautiful island, consider this amazing activity.
6. Check out the beautiful stars in El Cielo
A protected area, El Cielo is a Marine Park in Cozumel where you can snorkel to see the incredible stars at the clear sandy bottom just a few feet away from you.
This is a shallow area that is perfect for taking photos and videos if you are a professional photographer. Remember not to touch the stars or any other marine animals that you see here – occasionally there’s a stingray or some fish, and whenever you see them, you should always be respectful – after all, you are visiting their home, not the other way around.
7. Take a relaxing trip to Isla Pasión
Located off the northern coast of Cozumel, Isla Pasion is a small private island that can be accessed only via a boat ride from the island. Isla Pasion offers pristine beaches and a tranquil lagoon which is perfect if all you need is to relax and unplug. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.
Isla Pasion also offers opportunities for kayaking, paddleboarding, and taking a jeep ride.
8. Shop and dine in San Miguel, the capital of Cozumel
San Miguel is the capital of Cozumel located on the west side of the island where you can find many stores, restaurants, and tour operators. San Miguel is particularly popular with cruise passengers who come to Cozumel, which means it can be busy at times when cruises are in the port.
Here you can also buy many souvenirs from local vendors who sell their goods along the main drag.
The main part of Cozumel boasts a nice Central Park (Zocalo) where you can relax and grab some street food such as marquesitas and churros. You can also watch some cool free events here on a Sunday night.
9. Paddle board around Cozumel
Cozumel is a perfect place for paddleboarding, whether you are a newbie or experienced in this water sport. Many companies around Cozumel offer paddleboarding tours on the west side of the island, and you can easily book a paddleboarding tour online.
10. Explore San Gervasio Ruins
A hidden gem of Cozumel, San Gervasio Ruins is one of the best things to do in Cozumel, if you are looking to get away from the busy touristy places.
San Gervasio Mayan ruin site is located right in the middle of the island. This is a smaller archeological area divided into 4 sections spread over 2 square miles.
Before the arrival of the Spanish, San Gervasio served as a pilgrimage site for the goddess Ix Chel, and it’s believed that area was a religious Mecca for the Mayans. Many statues of Ixchel were found in this area and today, you can find an altar leading to the ceremonial route.
One of the most interesting features of San Gervasio Ruins is the Temple of The Hands where you can find several small red handprints (Las Manitas) on the wall. Other notable features of the San Gervasio Ruins include the reconstructed arch, Ka’na Nah (Tall House), Nohoch Nah (Big House), Los Murcielagos, and Central Plaza.
If you are spending a couple of days in Cozumel, you can easily visit San Gervasio either by car or by taxi. You can also visit San Gervasio Ruins as part of an organized tour, if you don’t have a car rental.
Entrance: 193 Pesos (has to be paid in cash)
Hours: 8 a.m.-3:45 p.m.
Can you climb the ruins: Yes
11. Taste chocolate at Mayan Cocoa Company
If I told you that one of the best things to do in Cozumel resolves around tasting chocolate, would you go there right away?
The Mayan Cocoa Company is located about 15 minutes from downtown Cozumel and sits right near Playa Mia Beach Club, so you can easily combine these two destinations into the same trip. The Mayan civilization that populated Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula thousands of years ago was well-known for its production of chocolate.
To learn about the Mayan technique of chocolate production that involved fermenting and drying cocoa beans before creating a chocolate paste and making a hot drink by adding hot water to it.
The Mayan Cocoa Company offers guided tours to its visitors to learn the ancient Mayan technique of making chocolate and taste the famous hot drink. It’s a great cultural experience, whether you have a sweet tooth or not!
12. Kun Che Park – Mayan Park
Another hidden gem on Cozumel, Kun Che Park is a Mayan Sanctuary in Cozumel that is located near the oldest settlement on the island, El Cedral. Kun Che is a perfect place to learn about the Mayan culture through performances, tastings, Pre-hispanic dances, and even the famous Mayan ball game.
If you want to get off the beaten tourist track and immerse yourself in the Mexican culture, this is one of the best things to do in Cozumel.
Address: 5h Avenue between 30 Street and 35 Street
13. Discover Mexico Park
One of the best under-radar things to do in Cozumel, Discover Mexico Park is conveniently located near the cruise terminal. This is a perfect stop if you want to learn more about famous landmarks in Mexico through mini-replicas and get a glimpse into the Mexican culture as well the history of the Yucatan Peninsula.
The park is also home to the botanical garden where you can spot colorful birds, iguanas, and other animals native to this part of the country, as well as a folk art museum.
Address: Carretera Costera sur km. 5.5, Zona Costera Sur
14. Playa Mia Grand Beach and Water Park
If you do a quick research on Cozumel, you will quickly find out that there are many parks on the island where you can enjoy outdoor activities like zip-lining, kayaking, and snorkeling and get close encounters with marine animals.
The Discovery Nut does not support this type of activity, and as a travel blogger, I can’t recommend you any places where animals are kept in captivity to entertain people.
I hope you stay away from these places too, as supporting places them is simply not a good idea. Taking a catamaran tour around Cozumel or booking a snorkeling tour is a much better idea, as you will be able to see so many incredible animals in the wild.
If you would like to visit a water park, I recommend Playa Mia Grand Beach Park, an ethical adventure park that has no captive animals. At this park, you can enjoy many pools, waterslides, kayaks, and paddleboards.
Price: $30 per adult
Address: Carretera Costera Sur Km 15, Playa Mia Grand
15. Eat at best restaurants in Cozumel
Cozumel is one of the most popular destinations in Mexico and has many restaurants for any taste and price point. As a vegan traveler, I found many great restaurants in Cozumel that offered plant-based food. Mexican cuisine is my favorite, and I had no problem finding delicious staples like tacos, burritos, enchiladas, as well as yummy street food like marquesitas and churros.
Best Restaurants in Cozumel
- Cocinando Experiencias – Located near Hostelito Cozumel, Cocinando Experiencias is a small restaurant that offers a menu with plant-based and non-plant-based options such as burritos, tacos, and burgers.
- Nutty Treesome – Whether you are a vegan or not, you will love Nutty Threesome! Often called one of the best vegan restaurants in Cozumel, this place boasts yummy food, a great atmosphere, and friendly staff.
- K’inam – the best tacos in Cozumel. Not only do vegans love them!
- La Cozumeleña – best breakfast and brunch place in Cozumel. Has good vegan and non-vegan options such as omelets, açaí bowls, and traditional Mexican staples.
- Ix Cool Mayan Restaurant – under the radar but excellent food and atmosphere. Located inside a shopping about 10 minutes from downtown Cozumel and has some of the best Mayan food I’ve ever tried.
16. Participate in a Temazcal ceremony
No trip to Mexico’s Yucatan is complete without doing a Temazcal ceremony.
An ancient ceremony that takes its origin from Mexico’s indigenous cultures, Temazcal means “the house of heat,” and is considered one of the most important spiritual ceremonies in Mexico.
Temazcal ceremonies are usually led by a spiritual leader or shaman who is saying chants while participants gather in a dark sweat lodge. The ceremony usually lasts about two hours and is believed to have health and therapeutic benefits.
It’s a great way to learn Mexican Mayan culture and get a therapeutic treatment in the middle of the jungle.
If you are visiting Mexico’s Rivera Maya, you can book Temazcal ceremony online and get picked up at your hotel.
17. Chill on Cozumel Beaches (East and West Coastline)
You could spend a day touring Cozumel beaches without noticing how quickly the day is going to go by. The west side of the island is buffered by the reef and boasts more mild swimming conditions than the east side that is home to more rugged beaches with strong currents.
Eastside Cozumel beaches
Eastside beaches on Cozumel boast incredible turquoise waters and are perfect if you are looking to escape the crowds. Keep in mind that not all beaches on this island are good for swimming, because of the rip tides, so caution is strongly recommended.
Most of the beaches on the East Side of the island offer free parking, roadside shops, and minimal amenities, although some beaches, like Playa Chen Rio, also have onsite restaurants. Many of them feel like a different island, as you don’t see all the cruise ship crowds that are common in many beach clubs on the west side of the island
- Playa Chen Rio
- Playa San Martin
- Playa Bonita
- Playa Box
- Punta Morena
Westside Cozumel beaches
Westside beaches on Cozumel that are facing Playa del Carmen are generally more crowded than east side beaches because they offer better conditions for swimming. The upside is that the calm waters on this side of the island offer some of the best snorkeling in Cozumel.
- Playa Palancar – one of the most popular beaches in Cozumel, Playa Palancar has a private beach club where you can rent a sun lounger, have a meal, and have friendly service. It’s one of the best beaches in Cozumel if you are looking for a combination of turquoise waters hugging the shore and great amenities.
- Playa Uvas
- Playa San Francisco
- Playa Azul
18. Try Seatrack
Sea track is a relatively new thing in Cozumel, so there’s a chance you haven’t heard about it. A perfect alternative to diving and snorkeling, Sea track is a way to explore the waters of Cozumel by wearing an enclosed helmet that allows you to breathe while walking along the bottom of the Caribbean Sea. To book your adventure with Sea Track, visit their website.
19. Take a catamaran tour
Taking a catamaran tour of Cozumel is a perfect alternative to timed parks with captive animals that have to perform tricks for humans. You can either relax and have a drink and some food or go for some snorkeling which will allow you to see some incredible marine wildlife in its natural habitat.
There are tons of options when it comes to catamaran tours in Cozumel and you can even take a private catamaran tour and customize it however you want.
A super popular option is the clear boat tour which allows you to see the marine underworld while you are on a boar.
20. Watch the sunset
There’s nothing like watching the sunset in Cozumel! Not only it’s one of the best free things to do in Cozumel, but it’s also an unforgettable experience, as you will be able to see the sky light up in a myriad of colors. Cozumel beaches on the west side of the island are perfect for watching the sunset, but you can also do it with a margarita in hand at one of the restaurants.
Frequently asked questions about Cozumel
Is Cozumel safe?
Although petty crimes like pickpocketing and bike theft do occur in Cozumel, the island is overall perfectly safe for visitors. To make sure your visit goes well, always keep an eye on your belongings, and stay around major tourist areas, especially if you travel by yourself.
Although Cozumel is safer than Cancun and even Tulum, it comes with certain caveats: The eastern side of the island is known for its rough waters, and it’s a good idea to avoid swimming in certain locations, for safety reasons. Additionally, the sun can be really strong here, and you should always keep a reef-safe sunscreen in your bag to avoid a bad sunburn.
What is the best time to visit Cozumel?
When it comes to weather, the best time to visit Cozumel is from December through March. The weather is the best during this time, and the chances of rain are minimal. The downside is that this is also the busiest time in Cozumel, and prices tend to be hover on hotels, car rentals, and tours than during the low time.
Consider visiting Cozumel during the shoulder season which is from November through early December or April through May when visitation is lower, and prices are more budget-friendly. June through October is the hurricane season in Cozumel with frequent rainstorms, which can affect your travel plans, but the upside is that prices are the lowest during this time.
How many days do I need in Cozumel?
It’s extremely tough to fit all the amazing things to do in Cozumel such as diving, visiting Mayan ruins, exploring beaches, and sampling endless tacos in just one day, that’s why I recommend setting aside no less than 5-7 days for your trip to enjoy this island. Some visitors come to Cozumel for only a couple of days to do a quick diving or snorkeling trip, but oh boy, do they miss out so much!
Why visit Cozumel?
Cozumel is one of the best islands to visit in Mexico with tons of cool activities and unparalleled landscapes. It’s also very easily get to, unlike some other less discovered islands in the country. Located a short distance away from Playa del Carmen and Cancun, Cozumel is a great place to escape the party atmosphere and relax in nature.
The final word on visiting Cozumel
Cozumel is an incredible place to visit. From cool adventures in the water to Mayan ruins and history, this island has a little bit of everything! I recommend you check it out on your next trip to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
Your travel resources for Cozumel
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GetYourGuide.com – Thinking about booking a tour while in San Luis Obispo? Get Your Guide is my favorite platform that offers awesome tours and top-notch guides in many destinations across California.
DiscoverCars.com – There’s nothing like exploring the incredible California Coast at your own pace. Consider renting a car at Discover Cars if you want more freedom exploring this part of the United States.
CheapoAir.com – One of the best platforms for saving money on flights within United States and beyond.
Booking.com – a popular website with tons and tons of options for accommodations of all sorts.
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