Our friends recommended Cozumel to us, and we are glad they did! We only had two days, so here is our brief Cozumel travel guide to help you make the most of your time there.
Cozumel is a popular stop for cruise ships, and its easy to see why. The island is home to beautiful beaches, dramatic coastlines, adventure activities (including some of the best scuba diving) and some amazing places to eat. Best of all, if time is tight, you can get around the entire island in less than a day!
We spent 2 days in Cozumel and here is what we think you should do to make the most of your time! (You can see our short video of all the action here).
- 1 Scuba Diving in Cozumel
- 2 Rent a Jeep and drive around Cozumel Island
- 3 Cozumel Carnival
- 4 Was Cozumel Gay Friendly?
- 5 Where to stay in Cozumel?
- 6 Getting to Cozumel
Scuba Diving in Cozumel
Home to the start of the second largest coral reef in the world, the great Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, Cozumel is a mecca for scuba diving.
It is well known that Cozumel has beautiful, bright coral, a diverse range of stunning marine life and crystal-clear waters. After our visit, we could not agree more.
Back in 2011 we completed our PADI Open Water qualification in Koh Tao. This meant we could do what is known as a fun dive (your equipment is set up and you just follow the dive master).
We completed two dives during our stay and can definitely see why people make a special effort to come and dive in Cozumel instead of diving from Cancun or Playa del Carmen.
The water was truly crystal clear, you could see straight down to the bottom (about 22m) from the boat. We saw multiple loggerhead turtles, lionfish, beautifully coloured parrot fish, and most exciting of all, 3 eagle rays.For those who have not seen an eagle ray, they can grow up to 18ft in wingspan and glide elegantly through the water as if they were flying. They were absolutely stunning. Divers go to what’s locally called ‘Ray Alley’, because you have a high chance of seeing them. On some days our instructor had seen up to 30!
This was an easy dive as it was a ‘drift dive’. This means that you can float along with the current and don’t need to put too much effort in (unless you want to go back against the current!)
Cozumel Diving Companies: Who did we use?
We used Salty Endeavours.
We have dived many times with many different dive schools. This was by far the most professional, friendliest and easiest company we have used.
Our dive master Aries did an excellent job of providing all the information we needed making us feel 100% comfortable.
Water, towels and snacks were provided between dives. Equipment was less than a year old, clearly good quality. Best of all, we didn’t need to do anything in terms of set up. Just wait in the boat, put on your equipment and in you go.
We had a great experience and would definitely recommend Salty Endeavours to anyone who goes to Cozumel to dive (or to learn to dive)!
Rent a Jeep and drive around Cozumel Island
During our stay in Cozumel I (Sion) had my birthday.
I have always wanted to drive an open top jeep, with music blaring and people stood up in the back dancing. So that’s exactly what we did. Except it wasn’t people dancing, it was just Ben!
I chose an open top red jeep (details on how we rented and who we used below) and tentatively pulled out of the parking lot into the small streets. The Jeep felt huge to me and I am not very spatially aware. For the first hour of the journey all you would hear is ‘how close am I, will I hit that bike/person/car/dog and so on’.
Our Route driving around Cozumel
Once we were out of the main town we headed south along the west coast. The roads here are wide and quiet and very easy to drive along. We were aiming to drive around to the east side of the island.
The east side of the island is known for its beaches, wild seas and stunning scenery. All of which we can attest to! We thought we might be able to swim, but it was too rough and there were red flags everywhere to signal danger.
There were different places along the way to stop and relax or eat. We stopped at Senor Iguanas which served your standard Mexican food, right on the beachfront.
Next, we then took the road directly across the island from east to west, overshot the town and went up to the north hotel zone.
If you are looking for beautiful beaches to swim at, this is the place to be. We stopped off at Playa Azul. We saw a sign in the parking lot that said for clients only but we were told we could use it. After the sun burning down on us all day it was a relief to jump into the clear, still water. Afterwards we had a snooze on the beach.
We found that the actual drive around the island took no more than 2 hours, with extra time depending on how many stops you make.
Car Rental advice for Cozumel
Car rental is hugely popular in Cozumel. This can be overwhelming because you have so many companies to choose from and unfortunately we have heard too many horror stories about car rental scams abroad (not just here). So how to choose?
We did this a little back to front. We talked to a lot of companies, chose one and then got home to find terrible reviews online. So, we started again but finding some good reviews and then approaching those companies.
We used HTL Rentals. This cost $900 (Mexican pesos) for an open top jeep including liability insurance but not the collision damage waiver (which you could purchase for an extra $20USD). This can be confusing as its different between companies. In summary, this meant if someone else’s car was damaged we were covered, but for damage to our jeep we were not covered. Please make sure you ask lots of questions and fully understand what you are signing up for!
We decided to circumnavigate this, and used RentalCover.com. For £9.01 we were fully covered. In the email policy from them they even provide specific reassurance for Mexico:
‘’At the rental desk you will be offered an equivalent product to this one but it will have less inclusions at double the price. Some rental companies will aggressively sell their policies.’’
An American lady overheard us telling the company about our insurance and she said our insurance would not work. She did not understand we had explicitly taken out insurance for Mexico.
We returned the Jeep with no incidents and also no ‘pretend damage’ which is one of the scams we had heard about. All in all, an easy and trouble-free experience with HTL Rentals.
This was a surprise during our stay! Cozumel has its own Mardi Gras in February each year!
Events run across the week and you can expect an extravaganza of parades, dancing competitions, costume contests and the coronation of the Carnival Kings and Queens.
We attended the opening event and the first parade along the Oceanfront.
The Carnival Kings and Queens were crowned at the opening event (which had been voted for the month beforehand). The outfits were elaborate, colourful and a work of art. There were many different categories for Kings and Queens but what we were happy to see was the Diversity category. The award celebrated sexual diversity and it was great to see this being embraced by the local community.
The parade was a huge procession of more colourful outfits, lots of dancing and upbeat music. This really brought life to the oceanfront and we could not help but to dance along a little. The parade started at six and went on until sunset.
If you are lucky enough to visit Cozumel during Carnival make sure to take a look at the website to find out what is going on.
Was Cozumel Gay Friendly?
There is no gay bars in Cozumel or gay beaches as its such a small island, however it is a common stop for the Atlantis gay cruise each year where the island is flooded for one day with hundreds of gay men!
Where to stay in Cozumel?
There are plenty of options for where to stay in Cozumel, we recommend taking a look at:
The Landmark Resort of Cozumel
The Landmark Resort is perfect if you deserve a treat. It has incredible ocean views in the early morning and at sunset. The hotel is immaculate with beautiful decor and a very luxurious feel! You also have access to a beautiful pool, hot tub, tennis court, and exercise area.
Prices: c$390 per night depending on season, look out for offers.
Presidente Inter-Continental Cozumel Resort & Spa
The Presidente Inter-Continental Cozumel Resort & Spa is up there with the best hotels in Cozumel. It has recently had a $25million refurbishment so you can expect very stylish decor and facilities. It also markets itself as being somewhere for both adventure and relaxation as it has plenty of activities on offer such as snorkelling, but also a very luxurious spa on site.
Prices: c$270 per night depending on season.
Casa Mexicana Cozumel
At a slightly more reasonable price than the other two, Casa Mexicana Cozumel is a beautifully designed hotel near the main pier in Cozumel with great staff and a good breakfast.
Prices: c$100 depending on season
Getting to Cozumel
Cancun to Cozumel
Cancun to Cozumel is one of the most common routes people take to get to Cozumel.
Cozumel does have its own airport and you can fly from Cancun directly in 20 minutes. Fares vary throughout the year from as little as $100 to $300+.
The second and cheapest option is the ADO bus from Cancun airport (or town) to Playa Del Carmen. This takes about 1.5 hours and costs c$10 (book online or buy at the desk at the airport).
At Playa Del Carmen you then need to get a ferry across to Cozumel. The ferries are very regular and cost between $7-$10 one way depending which one you choose (fast 20 minutes or slow 40 minutes).
You can also get a taxi to Playa Del Carmen from Cancun, take a look at what you should pay here.
There you have it, not somewhere that was on our plan, but completely worth it. That’s why we love travelling and ”planning to have no plans” which was one of our top tips. We hope you found our Cozumel travel guide useful!
For more about Mexico and Central America, check out:
- Tulum Travel Guide: 4 Days in Tulum
- Arena Festival – Playa Del Carmen (LGBT Festival)
- Costa Rica: Packing List
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