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The Essential Cozumel Travel Guide

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When you're looking for a destination that has mangrove forests full of birds and mammals, deep water filled sinkholes just waiting to be explored, and a tropical climate that never dips below 18°C/64°F every month of the year, then Cozumel is the island for you!

Located on the Yucatan Peninsula, in the state of Quintana Roo, Cozumel is Mexico's largest Caribbean island. This cruise port is famous for its stunning beaches, historic adventure tours, and an abundance of both family-friendly and adult activities. You'll be able to walk or take a horseback ride to discover beautiful parks and sandy beaches on the island. Or you could take the ferry from San Miguel to Playa del Carmen on the mainland, hire a car or scooter, and visit Riviera Maya for the day.

Our Cozumel travel guide will give you the essentials for planning your trip. Just remember to bring your camera – you’ll come home with some spectacular photos!

How to spend a day in Cozumel (or more!)

Cozumel is a popular cruise port and vacation spot, and a lot of visitors spend their time on silvery white sandy beaches, enjoying swaying palm trees and an azure blue ocean. Others spend their days at all inclusive resorts and easily fill two weeks with activities. However long you’re spending here, you can find plenty of things to see and do, for all ages and interests. (Hint: One of them is scuba diving!)

Tip: If you only have one day in Cozumel, many of these activities can be done on your own or by booking a private guide. DIY tours are less crowded and often cheaper than cruise ship shore excursions.

1. Visit the Punta Sur Eco Beach Park (Faro Celerain Eco Park)

Want to see crocodiles and exotic birds, explore the El Caracol Mayan ruins or simply relax in a hammock on a stunning white sand beach? If you’re a nature lover, then 2500-acre Punta Sur ecological reserve is a must, with crystal clear water and a reef that is perfect for drift snorkeling. Or perhaps you’d like to visit the Faro Celerain Lighthouse, which contains a small maritime museum – you can climb to the top to admire the view!

Punta Sur Eco Park is one of four parks on Cozumel (the others are Chankanaab, San Gervasio, and Museo de la Isla).

Water and hill at Punta Sur Eco Park in Cozumel

2. Spend a day at the beach

Most beaches offer sand and surf, and some even offer a beach bar, which is basically food and drinks with a view. Cozumel beach clubs kick the beach experience up a notch with a ton of additional amenities.

Features vary by club, but, a day pass gives you access to such things as free WiFi, food, and drinks, aquatic sports and tours. Imagine snorkeling to your heart’s delight, or having an expert guide teach you how to paddleboard and then take you on an underwater adventure before you relax with a book at the pool or chill out at the beach bar.

Tip: For adventure lovers traveling with beach bums, there's even a beach club at Chankanaab National Park. 

Lounge chairs on sandy beach sheltered by thatch umbrellas

3. Zipline through the jungle

Many theme parks have zip lines where you can get an adrenalin rush as you fly through the air. Shelved platforms and thousands of feet of lines make this experience a blast.The one at Chankanaab offers a variety of lines and you can challenge yourself to fly over the jungle and the lagoon on a zip line and walk on the suspended crocodile bridges.

Closeup of man ziplining through the jungle

4. Explore ancient Mayan ruins

You can either visit on your own or arrange a guided tour through the historic remains – and learn all about the ancient culture. Professional guides know all about the authentic Mayan world and will take small groups for a personal experience.

Three of the best Mayan ruins in the Yucatan are:

  • Chichen-Itza – a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the center of the Yucatán
  • Tulum – perched on cliffs overlooking the Caribbean
  • Coba – one of the few Mayan sites that allow visitors to climb the ruins

5. Join the turtle conservation program

Cozumel is blessed to be the nesting site for thousands of sea turtles each year, and even Cozumel’s Municipal Department of Ecology has a Turtle Program. Depending on the time of year, you'll be able to watch turtles making nests and laying eggs or guide the baby sea turtles to the sea after hatching.

Tip: Some private Jeep tours offer customizable itineraries and add additional activities, such as the San Gervacio archaeological site, a tequila tasting or the above, a chance to release a turtle into the wild.

6. Take part in the Amazing Cozumel Race

The Amazing Cozumel Race is a unique, self-guided tour of San Miguel – part obstacle course and part scavenger hunt. The aim is to be the winner as you follow clues to solve mysteries as you run through San Miguel streets onto the beach.

Each new clue will lead you to a new location. You’ll need your wits, energy, and spirit of fun as you race against the clock and other competitors. The fun doesn't stop when the clues run out, either. The race ends at a local cantina – complete with prizes – and everyone is treated to snacks and beverages.

If you don't want to race, you can just walk – and shamelessly ask the locals for help!

Fiew from the water of the shoreline of San Miguel, the largest city in Cozumel Mexico. Buildings line the water.

7. Go scuba diving

In Cozumel scuba diving is really popular. That's due to the Yucatan Peninsula’s crystal clear waters and unrivaled coral reefs, all teeming with diverse marine life.

Five favored Cozumel dive sites are:

  • Santa Rosa Wall – providing divers with caves and tunnels to swim through with an array of marine life on the descent deep into the Caribbean sea
  • Columbia Wall – this is over 30 meters tall with coral pillars as high as 20 meters. Sea turtles, barracudas, and eagle rays can be spotted on the dive
  • Palancar Reef – this reef located in a calm sea is ideal for beginners and offers views of multi-colored corals and sponges
  • Barracuda Reef – only for experienced divers as the currents can be dangerous, but the marine life sightings of sharks, rays, and barracudas make this a truly memorable experience
  • Punta Tunich – is renowned for its white sandy dunes with ridges of coral rising up to 18 meters, where grunt and snapper fish reside.

You’ll love the prices too – starting from about £120 for a single dive. Prices normally include transportation to and from the dive site plus the equipment rental – this covers your wetsuit, boots and flashlights (torches). Cenote entrance fees and certified guides are also often included. Here is a good dive company to go with.

Tip: If the open water doesn't appeal, maybe another unique activity would be more to your liking: scuba diving in cenotes. These are water-filled caves, and you have a whole range of diving locations to choose from.

Three divers with coral reef and caribbean fish in the foreground

8. Become a certified scuba diver

A scuba diving certificate confirms that you know all about the risks involved in diving – and know how to stay safe underwater. Open water classes will teach you the basic skills at beginner level, then you can progress onto more advanced courses. Here is one you may like.

Once you've got all the required skills, you'll be able to take part in tours exploring cenotes with mysterious underwater caverns. Why not go on a crocodile night dive, or a whale shark tour? Bull shark diving and lionfish hunts are another two adventures you could go on – all making your vacation in Cozumel the holiday of a lifetime.

Sea Closeup of sea turtle and two French angel fish just above some coral

9. Take a food tour

One of the great joys of travel is discovering local foods, and a food tour is the perfect way to do it. On a food tour, your guide will bring you to small, out of the way eateries far from tourist mainstays, where you'll taste the authentic dishes of the Yucatan. You'll have an opportunity to taste a wide variety of dishes, ranging from traditional street fare to regional Yucatan cuisine. And your guide will ensure that you won't need to worry about Montezuma's revenge or fret about dietary restrictions because you can only eat vegetarian food.

This is a great experience for adventurous food lovers.

Read more: Vegetarian Mexican Food: What You Need to Know as a Tourist

10. Enjoy a cruise

Hopping aboard a catamaran is one of the best ways to enjoy Cozumel. You have your choice of cruise styles, too. There are Pirate cruises, dinner cruises, and other cruises where you just relax on board enjoying drinks and snacks. Others take you to snorkel on the reef so you can check out all the abundant sea life.

Picture yourself on the water with your loved one, enjoying a Margarita while watching the fiery sun touch the horizon as the stars come out. Few experiences could be more romantic.

When is the best time to visit Cozumel?

The best time to visit Cozumel is between March and June, before the hurricane season and heat set in. You'll likely score a great hotel deal in San Miguel. Technically, hurricane season in the Atlantic runs between June 1st and November 30th, but most hurricanes occur August through October.

Tip: The best precaution you can take, just in case a hurricane does occur, is to purchase trip insurance.

December to February/March is Cozumel’s busiest period, thanks to cruise ships. Expect crowds and premium hotel prices, especially during Christmas and spring break.

January is the coldest month and June is the hottest. The rainiest months are from June to November.

Annual events

February/March – Carnaval (February-March)

April/May – El Cedral Festival

May – Boat Rodeo and Fishing Tournament

June – Festival of San Pedro and San Pablo

September – Cozumel Independence Day

November – Ironman Cozumel

December – Fiesta of the Virgin of Guadalupe

What to wear

Even in mid-winter, it's generally hot in Cozumel, so dress light. Cool, casual resort wear is acceptable everywhere.

Remember to pack a sweater or lightweight windbreaker for cool evening breezes and frigid air-con.

Tip: Walking around in your swimwear is frowned upon. If you’re planning to both sightsee and spend time at the beach, we recommend wearing your swimsuit beneath your clothes.

Where to stay in Cozumel

If you’re looking for the best places to stay – here are some recommended places. Read their reviews on booking.com.

  • High end. All-inclusive hotels will suit you if you've got the means as luxury resorts have views of the ocean from private terraces. Park Royal, Allegro Cozumel, and Hotel Cozumel are in high demand.
  • Mid-range. If you're on a middle of the road budget, you can opt for accommodation close to amenities in the down-town hotels. Suites Colonial and Casa Mexicana offer great rates and breakfast buffets!
  • Budget. The island also boasts a boutique hostel catering to travelers on a low budget. Recommendations for the Villablanca Garden Beach Hotel and the Hotel Mary Carmen are also very favorable.

Tipping guidelines in Mexico

It is customary to tip between10% to 20% in Mexico.

  • Tour guides: Good tour guides – 10% to 20%.
  • Bars. Bartenders / waiters – $1 per drink or 10% to 15% of the total bar tab.
  • Restaurants. Wait staff – 10% of the total bill, more if you have received good service. BUT some restaurants add a 10% service charge, so check your bill before automatically leaving your tip.
  • Luggage. Hotel porters / taxi drivers – 10 pesos per bag.
Inspired?
Here are some ideas to help you plan your own trip. If this article was useful, you can thank us by using these links to make your plans. Some of these companies will pay us a referral fee, at no extra cost to you.

Plan

  • Trip ideas: Visit the official travel websites: Go-Mexico and This is Cozumel.
  • Lodging: Read reviews and check prices at HotelsCombined or Booking.
  • Transportation: This website shows how to get anywhere by plane, train, bus, ferry and car.
  • Currency: This website will help you calculate currency exchange values.
  • Travel insurance: Lost bags, cancelled flights, and family emergencies happen. It’s happened to us. Travel insurance doesn’t cost that much, but it sure pays off when you need it. Take a look at Alllianz.

Tickets and tours

Get Your Guide offers a long list of tours, day trips, skip-the-line tickets, and more, all vetted for quality. Plus, you can read reviews and get itinerary ideas.

We use them ourselves, which is why we've chosen to affiliate ourselves with them. Find a list of Cozumel tours here.

See

Want to see more of this destination?

  • For more sightseeing, check out our Cozumel photo gallery.
  • Get a bird’s eye view on Google Maps here. Zoom, scroll around and explore!

Read

If you’re traveling to Cozumel, you may be interested in:

We have a whole series of river cruise articles here on As We Saw It, both tips and individual cruise stops, such as:

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Travel guide to Cozumel including cenotes, diving, and other things to do

The essential Cozumel travel guide - get things to do, where to stay, and other travel tips for this Mexico cruise port.. Includes useful resources to help you plan your own trip. #cozumel #mexico #travelguides #adventure #beaches #trips #holiday #traveltips #cruise #portguide

Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages has inspired her to create As We Saw It with her husband Dan, a professional photographer. Her goal is to make travel easier for others and to offer a brief escape to another land.

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6 thoughts on “The Essential Cozumel Travel Guide

  1. Cozumel looks absolutely stunning! I love the blue water. Perhaps I wouldn’t any of the activities suggested, because I’m such a lazy-bone 🙂 I’d just like to laze around on a recliner or a hammock and be lost in my reveries.

    1. Thanks for the resource, Harry. We recommended the Tulum cocmpany because, in our limited experience, we found Cozumel to be more touristy and pricey than the mainland.

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