Planning a vacation to one of the most diverse and stunning places in Mexico and wondering what to do in Cozumel? This handy guide helps you explore Cozumel’s incomparable natural beauty, rich culture, and delicious cuisine.
It is Mexico’s largest island in the Caribbean Sea, and Cozumel adds its own little charm to give you a unique experience that blends the Mexican identity with a Caribbean flavor.
Well, like most Caribbean islands, Cozumel has no shortage of palm-lined white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. But Cozumel Island is much more than that. It offers a well-rounded destination that can keep you busy and entertained for weeks.
With a size of roughly 30 miles by 10 miles, Cozumel is small enough to visit almost every part of the island, even on a short visit. But, it is large enough to host a vibrant town, San Miguel de Cozumel, and a variety of activities.
So, I’m here to share “what’s so special about Cozumel” and how you can explore it.
These Cozumel tips for travel and frequently asked questions will help you have an epic vacation while you explore Cozumel.
Absolutely! Cozumel offers the most iconic scuba diving and snorkeling spots in all of Mexico. It’s a 45-minute boat ride from the passenger ferry in Playa del Carmen. This makes Cozumel a great spot for a day trip off the Yucatan Peninsula coast.
Cozumel’s crime rate is relatively low compared to its surrounding Mexican regions and parts of Central and South America. But, of course, travelers should always be safe and practice caution when traveling anywhere in the world.
Cozumel is just 12 miles off the coast of Playa del Carmen, which is the closest island hopping point by ferry.
The cheapest way to reach Cozumel is by flying to Cancun’s International Airport and, from there, taking the one-hour ADO bus to Playa del Carmen, followed by a 45-minute Ultramar or Winjet ferry to the island.
I recommend using Bookaway to get the latest and cheapest fares on these ferries.
If coming from Cancun, I recommend buying the combined ADO bus and Ultramar ticket from the airport (or from Cozumel Island when returning). As usual, the ferries and buses are scheduled to connect almost seamlessly.
The latest cost is MX$588 or around $32.00.
Alternatively, you can also fly to Cozumel, but of course, this is a more expensive option – though an easier one.
How Many Days in Cozumel is Best?
How many days do you need in Cozumel? Well, that depends on what you want to do, but I highly recommend staying there for a week (at least) – especially if you’re scuba diving (more on that soon).
Cozumel is a tranquil island, so everything happens slowly. This is the perfect place to relax and have a chill and serene time.
Should you not be able to spend a week there, at least try to stay there for three to four days.
While most travelers visit Cozumel for half a day as part of their cruise ship itinerary, I highly recommend spending more time on the island on a separate trip. This is because half a day is not enough to even scratch the surface of Cozumel Island.
The Best Time To Visit Cozumel
One of the beauties of being in the Caribbean Sea is that you can enjoy long, warm days. Cozumel weather is tropical and pleasant year-round. But of course, as with any destination, there are optimal times.
December through early June are the best months to visit, as they fall outside the hurricane season (June to November). August and September are usually the hottest months.
December to February is the peak of the high season, so March to June is the sweet spot when visiting Cozumel.
For divers, while you can find dive sites open year-round, the best time to go scuba diving in Cozumel depends on what you want to see.
If you’re hoping to see the stunning Eagle ray, you should visit from December to April, when they roam the reefs in the hundreds.
Have in mind, though, that this is when the water is at its coldest (around 73 degrees Fahrenheit) – so you’ll need a 3mm wetsuit during these months.
Having said that, when I dove with ScubaTony in May, I still managed to see an Eagle ray. Lucky, maybe?
Other unique and abundant sea life like Nurse sharks, Hawksbill turtles, Loggerhead turtles, Green turtles, Green moray eels, Blacktip Reef sharks, and seahorses can be seen year-round.
Where To Stay In Cozumel, Mexico
I highly recommend staying at Fulvio Cozumel Rentals. Fulvio’s home, which has been fitted with four rooms for rent, is a very charming and tranquil spot to stay at.
Fulvio is extremely welcoming and helpful in every way possible. His place is just a five-minute bike ride away from the touristy center.
Alternatively, there are plenty of really good Vrbo options you can choose from.
Location-wise I suggest staying in the city center, closer to the waterfront. Still, you could also choose to stay closer to the cruise port if you’d like more “Americanized” amenities nearby.
If you’re looking for some seclusion, there are several guesthouses peppered throughout the island.
I recommend searching on Booking.com for the best deals on guesthouses and hotels.
Best Things to Do in Cozumel: Itinerary Ideas
Here are a few things to get up to in and around San Miguel de Cozumel.
As you noticed, I included a diving mention in the “when to visit” section because scuba diving is one of the best, if not the best, activities you can do in Cozumel.
The island has been blessed with some of the most stunning reefs in the world, which are part of the second-largest barrier reef in the world (after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia), known as the Mesoamerican Reef or the Great Mayan Reef.
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef extends over 600 miles from the north of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, at Contoy Island, to the Bay Islands in Honduras.
Most of the Mesoamerican Reef in Cozumel is, in fact, part of the Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park, so they are protected and kept as pristine as possible.
From my experience, I can say that the sites in Cozumel are among the most beautiful and diverse I’ve dived so far.
As I mentioned previously, I dove with ScubaTony, which I highly recommend as they’ve been one of the most professional dive shops I’ve experienced to date.
Not only are they excellent at what they do, but they also allow you the flexibility of choosing your dive spots if your fellow divers are also cool with the idea of diving in that particular spot.
This happened to me on one dive when I really wanted to do the WWII shipwreck known as C-53 or Felipe Xicoténcatl.
I asked my divemaster if we could do it, and he told me to share it with the group to get a consensus. Once I did, everyone was happy with the idea. It ended up being one of my favorite diving spots in Cozumel.
But, since ScubaTony groups are small, not more than six divers per boat, the odds will probably be in your favor.
And small dive groups are much better than huge ones, especially when you’re diving in one of the many caves, tunnels, and swim-throughs found all over the Reef National Marine Park.
One last thing, I did eight dives with ScubaTony, and while all their staff and dive masters are excellent, I highly recommend diving with Mark.
He’s funny, extremely professional, and one of the best people to dive with (no matter if you’re an amateur or a pro).
Naturally, going to the beach is one of the best things to do in Cozumel.
Many pristine beaches are available for public use, as well as private ones reserved for beachside businesses, resorts, and beach clubs. You can access these by either being a customer or getting a day pass.
Usually, the beaches on the west side of the island are calmer and cleaner (with no sargassum). While the ones on the east coast get all the gulf currents, so they tend to be a bit rougher, with bigger waves, and in some cases, with some sargassum.
Actually, most white sand beaches in Playa del Carmen, Cancun, and Tulum, among others, are full of sargassum, especially during the summer months (April – August).
This makes the west coast of Cozumel sort of a hidden gem thanks to the currents that keep the sargassum away from this coastline.
Paradise Beach (on the west coast) is a really nice one to visit.
It is part of the Paradise Beach Club, where you can relax at the beach and the pool and have a fun day at the floating water park. You can enjoy kayaking, snorkeling, and grabbing a bite at the restaurant.
You can buy the fun pass in advance to have an all-inclusive experience there.
Normally, beaches on the rugged east coast tend to be less crowded, so they’re much better to relax, mostly by yourself in nature. The beaches north of El Mirador are really nice to lay on the sand, relax, and swim if the water is calm.
Walk The Cozumel City Center
While the main town of San Miguel (downtown Cozumel) is quite big, its touristy city center is really small, so it’s easy to walk.
The main square, Benito Juarez Park, serves as the epicenter where every tourist goes, especially because it is located right across the ferry pier. It is also less than a 10-minute drive from Cozumel International Airport.
Take a selfie at the “Isla Cozumel” sign and its clock tower, then walk along 5ta Avenida Norte, where you’ll find several cafes and local shops.
Also, you can walk along the waterfront avenue, where you’ll enjoy the esplanade, its shops, cafes, and even a horse-drawn carriage ride.
Take A Road Trip Around Cozumel Island (Or Do A Quad Tour)
I highly recommend renting a motorbike or a car to move around the town and the beaches and to do a road trip around the island.
Outside of town, Cozumel has mainly a loop road that circles two-thirds of the island. This road takes you to some of the best white sand beaches as well as really cool bars and beach clubs that are off-the-beaten-path.
They are located along the beach on the east coast of the island, which makes them much more secluded and relaxed than the beach bars on the west.
At El Mirador, you’ll also see some beautiful rock arches and formations carved by the sea over millennia. It’s a stunning place to relax without the crowds, which are usually found on the western side of the island.
On this road trip, you can also visit the San Gervasio Mayan Ruins, the Punta Sur Eco Beach Park, as well as many other beaches.
Alternatively, should you not want to rent a motorbike or car, you can do a guided Jeep tour that’ll take you to some of the best beaches on the island. Do a tequila tasting, and have a delicious taco lunch.
Additionally, if you’re visiting on a cruise with family, you could do a shorter version of this road trip on an electric bike! This could be a fun Cozumel shore excursion with teens.
As small as it may be, Cozumel played an important role in the Mayan Empire back when it ruled this region.
The ruins of San Gervasio, named after its location in the former “San Gervasio” ranch, are considered the center of pilgrimages where the Mayans worshiped the goddess Ixchel.
Since Ixchel is the goddess of fertility, medicine, and weaving, the Mayans – especially women – visited the complex to make offerings at least once in their lives.
San Gervasio is a small Mayan ruins complex compared to Chichen Itza and other major sites. But it offers an interesting view of how the Mayans developed their religious and administrative centers, as well as how they lived their daily life.
For a small island, Cozumel has a decent amount of beach parks you can visit, but one of the most popular ones is the Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park.
Chankanaab is an eco-archaeological park by the beach where you can do a tequila-tasting tour, hang by the beach, see its underwater statues, snorkel, dive, and ride its zipline. You can also do the SeaTrek and other family-friendly activities.
The SeaTrek is a helmet-diving tour. In it, you wear a fully enclosed helmet from your shoulders up, which allows you to walk the bottom of the ocean at around 20 to 25 feet in depth. It’s almost like diving. You can book your tour here.
The good thing, though, is that you can do the SeaTrek as an independent activity outside of Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park.
Chankanaab has an entrance fee, but it is worth it. You can actually skip the line by purchasing your tickets online.
Something about Chankanaab, I must mention, though, is that the park has a sea lion show as well as dolphins and manatees you can swim with.
I personally don’t condone tourism activities that involve animals or promote their captivity, but I’d still visit the park for its other activities.
The Punta Sur Eco Beach Park is a reserve with over 1,000 hectares filled with a variety of fauna, flora, and a lagoon system. This park is ideal for nature lovers and bird watchers.
There you can see crocodiles in their natural habitat, snorkel its coral reefs, see its sea turtles, and even relax on a hammock.
The park also has a lighthouse that offers spectacular 360-degree views of the entire island of Cozumel – you’ll just have to climb its 127 steps.
The park also has ancient Mayan history. Its ruins, called El Caracol, are a former Observatory Building used to monitor changes in the sky by the Mayans. The site features a unique snail-like structure atop a myriad of stairs.
Punta Sur Eco Beach Park also has an entrance fee, but again, worth it. You can purchase your tickets online to skip the line.
Some travelers also like to combine Punta Sur with an e-bike tour of the island to add a bit more adventure to their experience.
Head to the heart of the island and enjoy exploring Cozumel by visiting the Champitas Cenote and Jade Cavern.
You’ll get the thrill of driving off-road vehicles in the jungle for about 30 minutes until you reach the Jade Cavern. Here you’ll see this natural sinkhole filled with beautiful jade-colored water and decorated by stalactites and other rock formations.
You can relax and float on the water with a water tube, snorkel under the formations, and even jump off the 20-foot cliff. I recommend this tour if you want to do it with a Jeep or this tour if you want to do it with an ATV.
Remember the C-53 shipwreck I mentioned above? Well, if you’re not a diver, you can still see it and many of the beautiful coral reefs bordering Cozumel, thanks to the Atlantis Submarine.
Since these coral reefs are so rich and alive, you’ll probably see hundreds of marine life, including fish, a few turtles, sharks, stingrays, lobsters, and more. At the moment, it departs at 10 am, 12 pm, and 1 pm. You can buy your tickets in advance here.
Do A Catamaran Tour Or Sail on A Small Cruise Ship
Hop aboard a catamaran or a small cruise ship and relax while you enjoy drinks, snacks, and in some cases, even a lobster dinner.
Along the way, you can swim and snorkel in some of the best shallow coral reefs, where you can spot stingrays, turtles, as well as plenty of other marine life.
The Mayans were excellent at making chocolate, and fortunately, Cozumel still keeps this chocolate-making tradition alive in its Mayan Cacao Company.
You can take their tour and get to see the entire process of making chocolate, from fermenting the beans to grinding them into a paste and more. And, of course, you will taste the original Mayan chocolate recipe.
Go To The Cha’an Ka’an Planetarium (If Traveling With Kids)
Cha’an Ka’an in Mayan means “to observe or enjoy the sky”, so why not do that, especially if you’re traveling with your kids? This is the first 3D full-dome planetarium in Latin America where you can enjoy a celestial image in real-time.
They also have a Mayan Room where you can learn about Maya astronomy as well as many other topics.
Note: The Cha’an Ka’an Planetarium is closed on Mondays.
As expected, fishing enthusiasts can enjoy one of the top deep-sea fishing locations in the Mexican Caribbean. It is done outside of the protected marine park safeguarding the stunning reefs west of the island.
You can catch Mahi Mahi, triggerfish, barracudas, tuna, Blue marlins, and many others, depending on the season.
Curious about all the beautiful street art all over the town of San Miguel de Cozumel? They are all part of Sea Walls — a public art initiative that gives the ocean a creative voice.
Every two years, Sea Walls invites dozens of local and international artists to create some stunning street art that brings awareness. It shines a light on the pollution and overfishing that are killing our oceans. Wander around town and spot your favorite art.
I love many of them, but one of my favorites is the one next to the Mega Soriana Supermarket.
Enjoy The Delicious Food in Cozumel
I may not be a foodie, but I can certainly say the food in Cozumel is delicious! For breakfast, I highly recommend going to Panaderia El Maple, where you can get fresh local pastries as well as some international favorites.
Corazon Contento is another excellent spot for a more wholesome breakfast.
Taqueria El Pique, on the other hand, is my favorite for dinner. Locals mostly frequent this taqueria, so its food is both delicious and cheap.
It has a wide variety of traditional tacos served in both wheat and corn tortillas. Try their chicken tacos and tacos Al Pastor, among many others.
Lastly, Cerveceria Punta Sur offers delicious pizzas and a selection of locally brewed and foreign beers. This is another great spot for dinner.
Start your night at El Palomar, where you can watch the sunset while enjoying a drink. El Palomar is located just five minutes north of the ferry pier.
Agave Cocktail Bar (located in the main square) and Viva Mexico are also worth visiting for a drink and live music. For Viva Mexico, I recommend you go on a Saturday night and reserve a table ahead of time to get a good seat.
Lastly, for a more casual hangout, head to Wet Wendy’s, where you’ll enjoy live music and huge margaritas almost the size of your head.
Dick’s Dive has a similar ambiance. In fact, they are located just across the street from each other on 5ta Avenida Norte.
Final Thoughts on Visiting Cozumel & Beyond
As you can see, Cozumel might be small, but it is packed with tons of things to do for a fun, active, and relaxed trip.
This picturesque island off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is known for its turquoise waters, with tropical fish and vibrant coral reef — making it a world-class diving spot.
And just because you’re on an island doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some of the best sights in mainland Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
Cozumel is close enough to Playa del Carmen and Tulum that you can do a day trip to the Tulum Mayan Ruins and to the cenotes.
If you’re still unsure about what to do in Cozumel, Mexico, just know that it is a great vacation destination that’s jam-packed with adventure.
Essential Info: Logistical Tips and Tricks to Book your Trip to Cozumel
BOOK YOUR FLIGHT
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Kayak. These are two of the sites I use the most due to their exhaustive search on several websites and airlines around the world. They usually bring the cheapest fares.
BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION
If you’re looking to save money by staying at a hostel, HostelWorld has the largest inventory of hostels. On the other hand, Vrbo offers a wide variety of rooms and apartments at affordable prices.
DON’T FORGET YOUR TRAVEL INSURANCE
Travel insurance with comprehensive coverage will protect you against unexpected events like theft, cancellations, injury, and illness. I use HeyMondo and highly recommend it.
If you’re a nomad and travel often or long-term, then SafetyWing could help you save a lot of money on travel insurance.
FIND THE BEST TOURS AT THE BEST PRICES
If you’re looking for the best day tours and cheapest ticket entrances to local attractions, I recommend checking Viator, as they have the largest selection of attractions, passes, and activities all around the world.
BOOK YOUR LOCAL TRANSPORTATION AHEAD OF TIME
Bookaway offers the easiest and most accessible way to book overland transportation with local operators; be it by bus, train, ferry, plane, mini-van, or even private transfers.
OTHER TRAVEL AND MONEY-SAVING TIPS?
Lastly, check out my resources page for some of the best products and companies to use for your trip. If you like saving money (like I do!), then this page will help.
Like this article? Pin it!
LET ME HELP YOU TRAVEL MORE BY GETTING ADDITIONAL TIPS AND INSPIRATION VIA THE MONTHLY NEWSLETTER.
Plus, receive a short e-book with 15 Beginner Tips and Tricks to Start Travel Hacking!