Cozumel is one of the gorgeous islands in the Caribbean Sea at the Mexican coast. The island is mostly undeveloped aside from the town where most cruise ships dock and where the Cozumel ferry arrives.
Most tourists visiting Cozumel arrive on the cruise ships and only have one day to spend. Other travelers arrive with the ferries from Playa Del Carmen in the mainland of Mexico, as we did.
Many activities in Cozumel need to be booked with an agency, but there are quite a few Cozumel excursion you can easily do on your own. This guide to Cozumel is about how to spend a magical time on the island and do Cozumel excursions.
Rent a car to start your excursion for one day in Cozumel
Renting a car in Cozumel is necessary in order to get away from the town and see the deserted beach along the shoreline of the island. You can either rent a car at the ferry dock, at the cruise ship dock, at the airport or in the town itself.
We recommend taking care of your car rental before you arrive or you’ll be waiting a long time before actually getting your car. If you take care of renting the car before you arrive, you’ll have more time to explore Cozumel instead of waiting for your car. This waiting time takes away from your time travel around the island.
Cozumel has a few fine rental agencies like Hertz and Avis at the airport. If you want to get your car ready at the cruise port, consider renting a car with Alamo.
Start discovering Cozumel
With the city center as your start, we’d recommend to start driving counter-clockwise around the island in order to be able to drive a cool road without breaking one-way rules! Let’s start driving the Quintana Roo C1 and leave Cozumel town behind for an interesting Cozumel day trip!
Take a side road - Self-drive Cozumel!
A few minutes out of town, you can take a side road on you right side. This is a one-way street, so be careful with your itinerary. This road takes you to the beach front and past ‘the Money Bar’.
Snorkeling at the Money bar - Cozumel excursions on your own
At the Money Bar, you can park your car across the street and have a break to get a drink or do some snorkeling. There’s a pre-set trail you can follow with a rope to keep you on track. In the best case scenario, you have your own snorkel gear and this first Cozumel excursion is free!
Continue along the same road in the same direction to get some more scenic views. After a few kilometers, the road will join the main road again and the big tour of the island can begin. Don’t worry if you lose sight of the ocean for a while, the other side of the island is the best part of the trip!
Punta Sur will take up a few hours of your time and it can take even longer if you enjoy it. We stayed around for an hour or 4 to see everything slowly. There is a lot to see!
Punta Sur Eco Beach Park has an entrance fee of 12€ per person. Prices are best if you pay in local currency! You’ll get a map of the area in order to plan your visit. After paying the entrance fee, you can drive into the park and stop at different attractions.
Birds and Crocodile observation tower
This is a nice deck and watch tower to have a great view over the area. If you’re in luck, you might see a crocodile somewhere. We had to lie on our tummy and gaze through the deck in order to see the nose of a crocodile.
I’m not sure if there’s a feeding time when chances on seeing these massive predators are higher. It feels a little weird to walk through the bushes towards a watch deck to see crocs. How certain are they that these killer animals aren’t just waiting in the bushes for tourists to pass by. Luckily there was a guard with a machete to protect us!
Lighthouse and Navigation Museum
Climb the lighthouse to get a 360 view of the surrounding area. We climbed up and saw how beautiful the beaches and the ocean where. Punta Sur Eco Park is actually on the Southernmost tip of the island and it’s definitely worth climbing up!
The navigation museum is fun. It’s included and it’s an enjoyable place to walk around a learn a thing or two. The museum is at the lighthouse, where you can also find a few souvenir shops.
If you continue deeper into the park, you’ll be driving further away from the Southern tip, but you’ll get a few beaches to visit. At these beaches, it’s possible to have a drink or have lunch, but prices are pretty high. We decided to have lunch outside the park, where you’ll find another restaurant with a great view.
Sea Turtles Protection
These workshops are only available from June to October. Since we were there in November, we didn’t get a chance to do these. If you want to see the baby turtles, book your trip accordingly.
Drive the East Side of Cozumel
The East side of Cozumel is the most scenic and the road is hugging the ocean at all times. A lot of places offer the option to stop your car and get out to dip your toes into the ocean.
This side of Cozumel is just fantastic and we actually stopped multiple times to descend to the beach. There are also quite a few bars and restaurants along the way.
A little past halfway the island, the road turns inland and your return towards Cozumel town begins.
Be careful when driving here, because police officers are taking their job serious and they’re targeting tourist who are driving too fast. Somewhere right after turning inland, there should be a speed sign telling you to slow down. We didn’t see it, but it’s obviously there! Just slow down and avoid paying a massive speed ticket.
If you have a few hours to spare, which you probably do, get dinner in town and take a few minutes to walk around at the main square and the surrounding souvenir shops. There’s also a ‘Cozumel’ sign for the Instagram pictures and a fountain for too cool down a bit. We enjoyed walking around and finding some cool graffiti on the walls of Cozumel. Don’t linger too long if you want to catch an impressive sunset!
Sunset at the West Side
Before dropping off your car, drive up to the main road where the day trip started. You can either choose to drive to the Money Bar or just stop somewhere at the side of the main road to catch this magnificent sunset!
Getting to Cozumel
If you’re not arriving in Cozumel with a cruise ship or airplane, it’s still very easy to reach it in the same way we visited the island: take a ferry from Playa Del Carmen.
Tickets are around 8€ each way, but they’re cheaper if you buy a return ticket at once.
Don’t buy your tickets from people who sell them on the streets. Buy your ticket inside the ferry port at the desk. That’s where the price is correct!
Visiting Cozumel Independent
Whether you’re visiting Cozumel with a cruise or on your own, it’s always fun to be able to do Cozumel excursions on your own, without being part of a tour group. If you only have one day to spend on the island, you should probably be very picky with the things you want to fit in.
This one day of Cozumel excursions on your own is still quite relaxed and it shows you the best of Cozumel.
But of course, there are many more things you could do on the island. Many backpackers visit Cozumel to go scuba diving, which we didn’t try. The water is super clear and you get to see the most interesting sea creatures!