At the beach in Koh Nang Yuan, Thailand

By Norbert Figueroa, an experienced architect, travel writer, long-term budget traveler, and photographer with over 13 years of travel experience in over 139 countries and counting. @globotreks


GloboTreks is reader-supported through affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support! – Norbert

You’re planning a vacation to one of the most diverse and stunning places in Mexico: Cozumel. Congrats! I can tell you from first-hand experience that you’ve made a great choice.

As Mexico’s largest island in the Caribbean Sea, Cozumel has its own charm to give you a unique experience that blends Mexican identity with Caribbean flavor.

Like most Caribbean islands, Cozumel has no shortage of palm-lined white-sand beaches and turquoise waters. But Cozumel 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’s also large enough to host a vibrant town, San Miguel de Cozumel, and a variety of activities.

But where do you even start when deciding on things to do in Cozumel? When a place offers everything from underwater adventures to chocolate making, it can seem pretty overwhelming on where to even begin.

Cozumel, Mexico. Iguana

But there’s no need to fret – you’re on vacation after all! I’m here as your Cozumel insider and have put together this handy guide to help you explore Cozumel’s incomparable natural beauty, rich culture, and delicious cuisine.

So, let’s dive right into all of the best things to do in Cozumel to ensure you make the most out of your island holiday.

15 Best Things to Do in Cozumel: Itinerary Ideas

Here are a few things to get up to in and around San Miguel de Cozumel. 

1. Scuba diving and snorkeling

Scuba diving and snorkeling have to be two of the best, if not the best, things to do in Cozumel. From my experience, I can say that the underwater world in Cozumel is among the most beautiful and diverse I’ve dived so far.

The island has some of the most stunning reefs in the world. In fact, the Mesoamerican Reef (or the Great Mayan Reef) is the second-largest barrier reef in the world (after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia).

Cozumel, Mexico. Norbert Diving
Hello me! On one of my dives in Cozumel.

If you opt to scuba dive, it has to be with ScubaTony – they’re one of the most professional dive shops I’ve experienced to date!

The best part is that they allow you the flexibility of choosing your dive spots (as long as your fellow divers are also up for it). Thankfully, the groups are small, with no more than six divers per boat, which means the odds are likely in your favor.

This is how I ended up checking out the WWII shipwreck known as C-53 or Felipe Xicoténcatl. This was my favorite diving spot in Cozumel, so I definitely recommend you speak up if there’s a specific spot you want to explore.

C-53 - Diving in Cozumel

2. Head to the beach

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.

Cozumel, Mexico. Beach chairs

Usually, the beaches on the West Coast of the island are calmer and cleaner (with no sargassum – that nasty brown type of algae that floats on the water). On the other hand, those on the East Coast get the Gulf currents, so they tend to be rougher, with bigger waves, and some sargassum.

For a day trip, Playa Mia Grand Beach Park is a great spot to visit. It offers a day pass – costing MXN756 (around $44) – for its private beach that also includes complimentary activities.

Alternatively, head over to Paradise Beach on the West Coast ($72 for a day pass). It’s 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 also enjoy kayaking, snorkeling, and grabbing a bite at the restaurant.

Beaches on the rugged East Coast tend to be less crowded, so they’re much better if you want to relax in nature. The beaches north of El Mirador are especially a good choice if you want to lay on the sand and relax.

Cozumel, Mexico. East side beaches

3. Walk the Cozumel City Center

While the main town of San Miguel (downtown Cozumel) is quite big, its touristy city center is quite small, so it’s easy to walk.

The main square, Benito Juarez Park, serves as the epicenter where every tourist goes, especially because it’s located right across the ferry pier. It’s also less than a 10-minute drive from Cozumel International Airport.

Cozumel, Mexico. Isla Cozumel

Snap a selfie at the “Isla Cozumel” sign and its clock tower. Once your Instagram feed has been updated, walk along 5a Av. Nte., where you’ll find several cafes and local shops.

You can also head toward the pier and walk along Av. Rafael E. Melgar (also known as Waterfront Avenue). Here, you can enjoy the esplanade, its shops, cafes, or even a horse-drawn carriage ride.

Cozumel, Mexico. San Miguel Town

3. Take a road trip around Cozumel Island

I highly recommend renting a motorbike or a car to do a road trip around the island.

Alternatively, you could also do a guided Jeep tour that’ll take you to some of the best beaches on the island. You can also stop off for a sneaky tequila tasting.

Cozumel, Mexico. Aerial shot

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.

Outside of town, Cozumel has a main 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 beach bars and beach clubs that are off-the-beaten-path.

El Mirador (located on the 10th floor of Hotel Paso Del Norte) and Freedom in Paradise Reggae Beach Bar are two of my top recommendations for your road trip.

Cozumel, Mexico. Reggae Bar

Located along the beach on the East Coast of the island, they are much more secluded and relaxed than the beach bars on the west.

You’ll also find a secluded beach or two along the way, which is perfect for stopping off for a quick dip.

4. Visit the San Gervasio Mayan Ruins

As small as it may be, Cozumel played an important role in the Mayan Empire back when it ruled this region.

Located just a short 22-minute drive from San Miguel lies the ruins of San Gervasio. Named after its location in the former “San Gervasio” ranch, this archaeological site is considered the center of pilgrimages, where the Mayans worshiped the goddess Ixchel.

Cozumel, Mexico. San Gervasio Mayan Ruins

While San Gervasio is much smaller compared to Chichen Itza and other major sites, it’s arguably the most significant pre-Hispanic site in Cozumel. It offers an interesting insight into how the Mayans developed their religious and administrative centers, as well as how they lived their daily life.

After paying an entrance fee of around $14.50, you can opt for either a guided or self-tour of the ruins. If you want to really understand the history of this gorgeous place and get the most out of your visit, I’d recommend going for a guided tour.

To bag a tour, you can enquire at their visitor kiosk, where one of their friendly staff will help you out.

5. Go to the Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park

For a small island, Cozumel has a decent amount of beach parks you can visit. But, since we’re talking about the best things to do in Cozumel, I have to mention the popular Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park.

You’ll do a lot more than just hang on the beautiful beach here. Think tequila-tasting tour, peering at an underwater world of statues, snorkeling, diving, ziplining – you get it, there’s a lot to do here. The best part is that you can bring along the whole family for a day filled with activities.

Cozumel, Mexico. Chankanaab

One of the coolest things they offer is the SeaTrek helmet-diving tour. For $79, you can wear a fully enclosed helmet from your shoulders up that allows you to walk on the ocean floor. It’s a bit like a cross-over between diving and moonwalking.

Chankanaab has an entrance fee of $39, but trust me when I saw that it’s worth it. You can even skip the line by purchasing your tickets online.

6. Enjoy Nature at the Punta Sur Ecological Park

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. Located in southern Cozumel, it’s a bit of a drive to get there (47 minutes from San Miguel), but it’s a must for nature lovers and bird watchers.

Here, you can see crocodiles and sea turtles in their natural habitat, snorkel coral reefs, and even relax on a hammock.

Cozumel, Mexico. Punta Sur

Once you’re done with your relaxing, make your way to the lighthouse for 360-degree views of the entire beautiful island of Cozumel – you’ll just have to climb its 127 steps to get to the top.

The park also has ancient Mayan ruins, called El Caracol, which is a former Observatory Building used to monitor changes in the sky. The site features a unique snail-like structure atop a myriad of stairs.

To access Punta Sur Eco Park you’ll need to pay a fee of $14. But, as you can see by all that’s offered here, you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Side note: If you want to add a bit more adventure to your experience, rent an e-bike to tour this part of the island.

7. Go on an adventure to Jade Cavern

Does the thrill of driving off-road into a jungle to find jade-colored water, decorated by stalactites, excite you? Well, then this is one of the things to do in Cozumel that you need to add to your itinerary.

In the heart of Cozumel, after a 30-minute off-roading adventure, you’ll find Jade Cavern. This natural sinkhole, surrounded by rock formations and lush vegetation, is absolutely breathtaking (and not because of all the excitement of getting here).

To make the most of your time here, I’d suggest floating on the water with a water tube, snorkeling under the formations, and even jumping 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.

8. Explore the ocean on the Atlantis Submarine

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. Yep, that’s right, you can go exploring in a real-life submarine.

Since these coral reefs are so rich and alive, you’ll see hundreds of marine life on your 45-minute journey, including tropical fish, a few turtles, sharks, stingrays, lobsters, and so much more.

Cozumel, Mexico. Atlantis Submarine

It’s a bit on the pricey side at $99, but it’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that you’ll be bragging to your friend about as soon as you get back home.

9. Hope aboard a catamaran tour

If your idea of a holiday involves sipping on cocktails and indulging in a lobster dinner, all while cruising around the coast of Cozumel, then this activity is for you.

Along the way, you can even swim and snorkel in some of the best shallow coral reefs, while you spot stingrays, turtles, as well as plenty of other marine life.

This is one of those things to do in Cozumel that just screams luxury and relaxation.

But, there are many catamaran trips that are more focused on a fun day at sea, exploring the reefs, and snorkeling with sea life. These are my kinds of catamaran trips and the ones I highly recommend to get the Cozumel vibe. I recommend checking out this catamaran trip for that fun day at sea.

10. Go to a chocolate farm

For those who didn’t know, the Mayans were the OG’s of chocolate making. And, luckily for you and me, the Mayan Cacao Company still keeps this chocolate-making tradition alive.

If you’ve ever wondered how this sweet treat is made, take their tour to see the entire process first-hand, from fermenting the beans to grinding them into a paste and more. And, of course, you’ll also get to taste the original Mayan chocolate recipe.

Maya Chocolate Making Process in Belize

And if you’re looking to add a little pizazz to the experience, you have to do their chocolate and margarita workshop. Not only will you learn about the process but you’ll also get to make your own chocolate bar to pair with your chocolate margarita (a match made in Willy Wonka heaven).

11. Gaze at the stars at the Cha’an Ka’an Planetarium

If you’re looking for things to do in Cozumel that the kids will also enjoy, you should check out Cha’an Ka’an (which means “to observe or enjoy the sky” in Mayan). This is the first 3D full-dome planetarium in Latin America where you can enjoy celestial images 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.

12. Go deep-sea fishing

I’ve mentioned diving and snorkeling but, as expected, there are also top deep-sea fishing locations for fishing enthusiasts. While Cozumel does have protected marine parks, all fishing is done outside of these areas to safeguard the stunning reefs west of the island.

Depending on the season, you can expect to reel in the likes of Mahi Mahi, triggerfish, barracudas, tuna, Blue marlins, and many others.

Speaking of the season, April to July is generally considered to be the high season for deep-sea fishing and will give you the best chance to reel in your biggest catch yet.

13. Wander around the Sea Walls street art

Curious about all the beautiful street art all over the town of San Miguel de Cozumel? Well, they’re all part of Sea Walls — a global public art initiative that gives the ocean a creative voice.

Cozumel, Mexico. Sea Walls art market

In 2015, 44 artists from 13 nationalities painted 35 massive public murals all over Cozumel’s town center – and they did this all within five days.

Following the launch of the project, Cozumel then invested in various community outreach programs to educate the local community and tourists on how to be more ocean-minded. Pretty impressive, right?

Every two years, Sea Walls invites dozens of local and international artists to create some more stunning street art to continue shining the light on ocean conservation.

Cozumel, Mexico. Sea Walls art
My favorite Sea Wall art

The best part is that this is one of those things to do in Cozumel that is absolutely free – all you have to do is wander around town!

Side note: You have to check out one of my favorites next to the Mega Soriana Supermarket – you won’t be disappointed.

14. Enjoy delicious food

I may not be a foodie, but I can certainly say the food in Cozumel is delicious! You’re also quite spoilt for choice when it comes to options but I do have a couple of must-tries.

For breakfast, I highly recommend going to Maple Bakehouse Panadería, where you can get fresh local pastries as well as some international favorites.

Alternatively, head to Corazón Contento. This one is a bit of a hidden gem but it has tons of charm, super friendly staff, and fantastic food.

Cozumel, Mexico. El Pique Tacos
El Pique Tacos!

For dinner, you need to check out Taqueria El Pique. You know a restaurant is a hit when it’s filled with locals, and this taqueria is no different. What I love most is that not only is the food delicious but it’s affordable too. Just make sure you go hungry because you’ll want to try all their traditional tacos made with corn tortillas.

Another great dinner spot is Cerveceria Punta Sur. This is actually the only microbrewery on the island, so you’ll be treated to a wide selection of craft beers. For food, they offer the likes of wood-fired pizzas empanadas, and various salads.

15. Experience Cozumel’s nightlife

It’s clear that there are plenty of things to do in Cozumel during the day, but don’t underestimate its roaring nightlife – it’s when this small island really comes alive.

Cozumel, Mexico. Sunset

Located just a five-minute walk north of the ferry is El Palomar. I suggest you start your night here as it’s the perfect spot to watch the sunset with a cocktail in hand.

Then, make your way to Viva Mexico or Agave Cocktail Bar just down the road (both located in the main square). Both offer live music, an even livelier atmosphere, and fantastic drink options.

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 (you need to see them for yourself).

Cozumel, Mexico. Wet Wendy's
Wet Wendy’s

Alternatively, Dick’s Dive just across the road offers a similar laid-back ambiance with live music and yummy food.

Final Thoughts on Visiting Cozumel

As you can see, it might be small, but there are still tons of things to do in Cozumel that will satisfy any type of traveler.

Whether you go diving, hit a beach club, make your own chocolate bar, or go on a jungle adventure, Cozumel has it all and is ready to welcome you.

So what are you waiting for? Your itinerary is sorted, so all you need to do now is pack your bags and catch your flight to this vacation destination that’s jam-packed with adventure.

Palancar Caves - Diving in Cozumel

FAQs

Is Cozumel worth visiting?

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 it a great spot for a day trip off the Yucatan Peninsula coast.

Is Cozumel safe?

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.

How do you get to Cozumel?

Cozumel is just 12 miles off the coast of Playa del Carmen, which is the closest island hopping point by ferry.

Cozumel, Mexico. Ultramar Ferry

The cheapest way to reach Cozumel is by flying to Cancun airport. From there, take 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.

You can also fly to Cozumel, but this is a more expensive option.

How many days in Cozumel is best?

How many days you should spend in Cozumel depends on what you want to do. I highly recommend staying there for a week (at least), especially if you’re scuba diving.

Alternatively, at least try to stay there for three to four days.

Cozumel, Mexico. San Miguel Street

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.

When is the best time to visit Cozumel?

December through to early June are the best months to visit Cozumel, 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.

When is the best time to go diving in Cozumel?

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.

Tormentos Diving - Diving in Cozumel

Keep in mind, though, that this is when the water is at its coldest (around 73 degrees Fahrenheit) – so you’ll need a 3 mm wetsuit during these months.

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 is the best place to stay in Cozumel, Mexico?

Staying in the city center, closer to the waterfront, is usually the best area to stay in when visiting Cozumel. 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’ve always found booking.com to be an excellent source for finding budget-friendly accommodation in the best areas possible.

Alternatively, there are plenty of really good Vrbo options you can choose from.

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.

For hotels, guesthouses, and other types of accommodation, I also recommend Booking.com. They usually have the cheapest fares for guesthouses and hotels. I always book my hotels with Booking.com.

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.

Everything You Must do to Experience the Best of Cozumel, Mexico

Images 1, 2, 9, 13, 16, 17, 18, and 23 from Flickr Creative Commons.

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10 Comments

  1. Cozumel looks like a great spot to relax. And the beach and the sunsets would draw me in for sure.

  2. This post has zero credibility when it’s opening statement is inaccurate. Mexico is in Nortb America, not Central.

    1. Hello, everyone yes, Mexico it close Central America Belize near by and Guatemala. next El Salvador Get out of cold venga a visitar Mexico y Central America WELCOME !!!!

  3. I’m Going to Cozumel Dec. 4, 2020
    This is my 1st time going, So PLEASE tell All the fun places to go…

  4. Just came back from Cozumel. Was their foe 12 days. Beautiful fun place. My friends went scuba diving. They said it was the best. Shopping and restaurants are great. Good prices Weather was beautiful. Little rain. Meet many nice people who lived there and people from other places. Great time. Favorite spots in Mexico are Cozumel and Acapulco!!