MexicoTravel Guides

Cozumel Island Travel Tips, Itineraries, and Best Things to Do

World-class scuba diving, white-sand beaches and Mayan ruins on Mexico’s third-largest island are a quick ferry ride from Playa del Carmen. Cruise ships dot the coastline near the town of San Miguel de Cozumel, while tourists fill up the beach clubs. Divers and snorkelers seek out the famous Mesoamerican Reef that houses some of the most beautiful marine wildlife in the Caribbean Sea.

Why Cozumel

A celebrated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the coral reefs of Isla Cozumel are part of the second-largest reef system in the world after the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. From unblemished shores to enthralling jungle exploits, ritzy accommodations, and untouched beach clubs, Cozumel weaves an authentic tapestry of experiences, away from the rush of its neighbors.

The cruise port here is one of the most popular in the world and the Cozumel International Airport receives flights from across the world. While the Tren Maya does not stop here, you can easily you the ferry to Cozumel from the Playa del Carmen train station.

Less Sargassum

Recent years have seen the rise of an uninvited guest along Cancun and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula coastlines – sargasso, a pesky brown seaweed. Its unpredictable appearances disrupt travel plans, but when you visit Cozumel, especially its west coast facing Playa del Carmen, sargassum concerns are minimal. There might be sporadic sightings around the northern tip and the east coast, but the remainder of the island remains relatively unscathed.

Things to Do

Even if you just visiting Cozumel after debarking from a cruise ship there are many things to around the island. For nature lovers, a taking private boat tour can help you explore the diverse wildlife here. The northern tip and western coast offer up some the the best beaches and for history buffs, the are Mayan ruins too.

Punta Sur

A sprawling nature reserve situated at Cozumel’s southernmost point. Spanning over 1,000 hectares, this ecological sanctuary hosts a mosaic of white sand beaches, serene lakes, and swaying palms. As Cozumel’s largest ecological reserve, it safeguards a rich biodiversity comprising amphibians, reptiles, vibrant avian species, and several mammals.

Visitors to Punta Sur Ecological Park should be on the lookout for the park’s prime attraction: the enigmatic crocodile. You can catch a glimpse from a designated lookout point, or delve deeper with a guided boat tour, an experience woven into your entrance fee. History buffs can marvel at the El Caracol archaeological site, which dates back to 1200-1400. And for a panoramic spectacle, ascend the 133 steps of the Celerain lighthouse. From its peak, you’re treated to an unmatched view of the Caribbean coastline and its sparkling blue waters.

To add a cherry on top, Punta Sur also flaunts an untouched sandy beach, complete with crystalline waters. Despite its pristine condition, it doesn’t skimp on amenities, offering hammocks, seating, washrooms, snorkeling equipment rental, and even a snug snack bar. It’s operational from Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with an entrance fee of $19 for adults and $13 for children aged 4 to 12.


A natural marvel that is a sublime confluence of nature and leisure. A local jewel, this park-cum-beach club is where family memories are minted. Imagine spending a sunrise-to-sunset day here, with an itinerary bursting at the seams.

Plunge into one of the area’s most illustrious coral reefs and let the underwater statues of the Virgin and Christ leave you awestruck. The Chankanaab lagoon’s crystal clear waters beckon, revealing a visual spectacle of 60 types of tropical fish and corals. As if that isn’t enough, embark on a historical journey with 60 replicas showcasing the Mayan, Aztec, and Toltec legacies. And hey, while you’re at it, El Caracol in Punta Sur deserves a peek too. Next, embark on a tranquil journey through the botanical garden teeming with 350 tropical plant species. But remember to wind down on the white sandy beach shaded by palm canopies. For the adrenaline junkies, there’s a zip line overhead, and for the water enthusiasts, kayaking and paddleboarding opportunities abound. Mark your calendar from 8 am to 4 pm, Monday to Saturday, and budget 300 pesos for a cab ride from downtown San Miguel.


An underwater kingdom awaits those wanting to visit the Cozumel National Park Reef, a pivotal part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System – the globe’s second-longest barrier reef. The marine life biodiversity here is nothing short of staggering and full of amazing snorkeling spots. Think sea turtles, a whopping 26 coral species, and a mind-blowing 300 fish species, all in waters renowned for their clarity.

For diving aficionados, from beginners to pros, the island’s sites are renowned: Palancar, Columbia, Paraiso, Punta Tunich, Chankanaab, Santa Rosa, Garganta del Diablo (that intriguing underwater cave), and the haunting shipwreck Felipe Xicoténcatl.


A symphony in sand and sea, Cozumel’s shores of pristine beaches are chart-toppers. Passion Island, a petite private island spanning 2 km, is an orchestra of mangroves, stunning reefs, and seemingly endless white sandy beaches. A brisk boat journey (just 15 minutes from Cozumel) will get you there, but an early bird beats the crowd.

Then, there’s Chen Rio – Cozumel’s well-kept secret, boasting verdant greenery, inviting natural pools with pristine waters, and a local restaurant that does seafood justice. Playa Palancar is another spotlight-stealer, recognized not just for its untouched allure, but also the beach club where the entry costs you nada. Given its scenic beauty and the proximity to Palancar and Colombia reefs, tourists are understandably smitten. The Paradise Beach Club of the West Coast is also quite popular.

For families yearning for the ideal beach day, Playa San Francisco is your best bet. The beach club here is a hub of water activities – kayaking, paddleboarding, jet skiing, and snorkeling. The piña coladas are also worth every sip. Lastly, for those craving tranquility, Playa Encantada is your refuge. Nestled close to the south, near Punta Celarain lighthouse and the El Caracol archaeological site, this golden-sanded beach promises serenity in spades.

El Cielo

Your journey kicks off with a snorkeling escapade at the Palancar Reef, followed by a mesmerizing experience at El Cielo, where the waters are so clear that they stand just 1m deep. Here, rays, turtles, and a smattering of starfish captivate your attention. The comprehensive El Cielo tour even offers a pick-up service from your Riviera Maya hotel, inclusive of snorkeling gear, snacks, and a refreshing mix of beers and margaritas.

Jungle ATV

For those with a penchant for thrills, navigating the jungle on an ATV offers an adrenaline cocktail. Your day’s itinerary teases with a tequila tasting, a sojourn to a Mayan village, the thrill of cave exploration, and a refreshing dip in a cenote adorned with magnificent stalactites. A pro tip: pack an extra outfit because things are bound to get muddy!

San Gervasio

Echoes from the past abound in this premier archaeological marvel in Cozumel, Mexico. Though its expanse open to visitors might seem modest, especially when sized up against giants like Chichen Itza, Tulum, and Coba, its historical gravitas is undeniable. Long before the conquistadors set foot, San Gervasio was a beacon for pilgrims, paying homage to Ixchel, the fertility goddess. Its significance to the Mayans paralleled that of Jerusalem.

Beyond its spiritual allure, this site also played a pivotal role in trade and politics. Today’s visitors can traverse structures spanning from the 7th to the 17th century, encompassing buildings, plazas, and temples. While roping in a guide can add layers to your understanding, ensure you carve out time to explore uncharted territories within the site on your own. Operational hours span from 9 AM to 3 PM every day, and the entry fee stands at 188 pesos or $10.50. Kids under three get a free pass!

Food Tour

Veering away from the trodden path, a great food tour is a culinary passport to the heart of Cozumel. With a guide leading the way, you’ll wander through markets and cozy nooks untouched by tourism. Dive deep into Mexico’s history and culture, strike up conversations with the locals, and tantalize your taste buds with the island’s gastronomic delights.

Cozumel Museum

A small treasure that chronicles the island’s history, cultural tapestry, and rich ecosystem. Alongside the permanent exhibits, two rotating showcases spotlight local and international artists, with a dedicated space celebrating the Cozumel Carnival.

Once you’ve had your fill of history, the museum’s second-floor restaurant offers vistas of the sea and passing boats. And if you’re in the mood for souvenirs, the in-house store boasts surprisingly wallet-friendly prices on jewelry. Pop in between 10 am to 2 pm or 4 pm to 8 pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Entry is pegged at $11, but toddlers under three can waltz in for free.

Pearl Farm

A heartening family endeavor that is tucked away from the typical tourist radar. Cozumel’s Pearl Farm has its roots in researching and sustainably farming the Pinctada Radiata – an oyster with the prowess to yield pearls. As their journey unfolded, the family decided to offer immersive tours to a select group of 8 individuals at a time.

Your adventure begins with a 45-minute boat ride leading to the farm, nestled on a pristine white sand islet bridging the Caribbean and the Bahia Ciega lagoon, to the north of Cozumel. On arrival, a detailed rundown awaits on the farm’s mission, cultivation intricacies, and research undertakings. Post this enlightening session, it’s time to snorkel through crystalline waters, observing the oysters and mesmerizing reef formations.

Once you’ve had your fill of the underwater world, a serene beach with cozy hammocks beckons, complete with beer and a sumptuous hamburger. For those charmed by the pearls, a quaint jewelry store offers select pieces for purchase. And for the truly adventurous, overnight camping options are available. Do remember, given the exclusivity of the tours (limited to 8 participants per day), bookings are essential.

Mia Grand

An aquatic playground suitable for a half-day splash or an all-day aquatic marathon, Beyond the usual allure of its pool bar, beach, and restaurant, the water park tempts with a pirate-themed kiddie pool, exhilarating slides, a floating park, and a plethora of watercraft rentals, including kayaks and catamarans.

An added twist at Mia Grand Beach Park is submerged Mayan replicas, sitting 5 meters deep, just beckoning snorkelers. And for those who prefer staying dry, there’s no shortage of activities, ranging from ping pong to volleyball and soccer. Adjacent to Playa Mia stands The Mayan Cacao Company, a sanctuary for cacao enthusiasts. Dive deep into the world of chocolate with tours, tastings, and workshops that even blend the magic of chocolate with margaritas.

Pueblo del Maiz

A Mayan Time Capsule that stands as a living testament to the pre-Hispanic tapestry of Mayan culture, history, and customs. An ideal destination for families, especially those with curious kids, this theme park is a realm of interactivity. Guests journey through the Mayan universe, acquainting themselves with vibrant rituals, dances, music, and the paramount significance of staples like corn, cacao, and henequen – the agave that brought prosperity to Yucatan in the 19th century.

A standout experience here is the Mesoamerican ball game, a pivotal ritual sport that resonated across various Mesoamerican cultures. A ticket priced at $16 ensures a one-hour guided tour, dotted with engaging activities and palate-pleasing tastings.

Atlantis XII Submarine

Imagine descending 30 meters below the ocean’s surface without even getting your feet wet! This submersible vessel carries you through Chankanaab Reef – a part of the world’s second-largest coral reef. As you sit comfortably inside, the clear windows reveal vibrant fish, majestic manta rays, stately turtles, intricate corals, and the shipwreck of Felipe Xicotencatl.

With bilingual commentary in English and Spanish, you’re in for an educational treat on this submarine tour. Suitable for kids as young as four (as long as they’re at least 3 feet tall) and the elderly, this is for everyone who wants a deep-sea experience without the full plunge.

For safety, the submarine is also annually certified by the American Bureau of Shipping and manned by a pro crew in touch with the surface world. Spaces are limited, so book your spot early.

Mexico Park

An expansive open-air museum, featuring scale models of Mexico’s iconic landmarks: Chichen Itza, the Tulum ruins, Mexico’s Grand Cathedral, and more. Among these, the Voladores de Papantla performance stands out – a dizzying dance ritual recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage performance. When in Cozumel, this place is a quick course on Mexico’s cultural pride and joy.

Cha’an Ka’an

Meaning to observe the sky, the name says it all. This planetarium serves up an immersive 360° show, narrating the universe’s wonders and the Mayan interpretation of the cosmos in both English and Spanish.

More than just stars, it has interactive zones, activities tailored to encourage children to gaze at the stars, and an affordable, tasty restaurant. Conveniently located near the ferry, it’s an air-conditioned refuge if you’ve time to kill before departure. Pricing details: Adults at 157 pesos, while kids aged 4-12 get in for 131 pesos. For the 3D aficionados, keep in mind, that it’s for ages 6 and up.


Day trippers typically just want to explore the main town, the dive sites, and the surrounding reef or hit up the many beach clubs. Vacationers who take time to visit Cozumel typically want to enjoy island life or the best all-inclusive resorts this small island has to offer.

1 Day

Time-crunched in Cozumel? Fear not. Dedicate your solo day to some of the finest diving spots around. The El Cielo tour comes highly recommended, encompassing a hotel pick-up, a hearty lunch, and dives at both Palancar Reef and The Sky, renowned for its starfish spectacle.

2 Days

Blessed with a 48-hour window in Cozumel? Submerge yourself on a snorkeling adventure on Day 1. On Day 2, set your sights on Punta Sur. Think about ramping it up with a jeep tour that not only covers Punta Sur but also the Celarain lighthouse. The day wraps with more snorkeling, beach leisure, a meal at a beach club, and a tequila tasting to seal the Cozumel memory.

3 Days

Those with a little extra time on their hands can obtain beach bliss as they explore Cozumel. The first two can have the same itinerary as above or you can mix and match the days. On your third day, cast your gaze on the island’s scenic beaches and endless supply of beach bars. Places like Passion Island, Chen Rio, Playa San Francisco, and Playa Encantada beckon with their gorgeous sands, tropical-colored waters, and delicious food. And if you’re someone who leans towards a bit more luxury, beach clubs like Sky Reef and Palancar roll out the perfect carpet of comfort. Families vacationing in Cozumel, take note: Chankanaab Park is your one-stop destination. Whether it’s snorkeling, beach lounging, zip-lining, or a stroll through a botanical garden, this park promises a bouquet of activities.

Where to Stay

Unlike many who pop over to Cozumel just for the day, choosing to spend your nights here can elevate your island experience. Dive into some stay suggestions:

Mi Casa Tu Casa

A bed and breakfast in a hacienda-style abode that is a burst of Mexican authenticity, complete with vibrant hues. A dip in its outdoor pool, relaxation in the jacuzzi, delectable traditional breakfasts, and warm hospitality make it a must-stay.

Villas El Encanto

If you are prioritizing comfort, these accommodations won’t disappoint. Be it their air-conditioned apartments or bungalows, each space is equipped with a kitchenette and terrace. The premises also feature a serene garden, swimming pool, hammocks, and lounge chairs for those lazy afternoons.


Tailored for families, this all-inclusive haven sits on San Francisco beach. From beach volleyball, yoga sessions, snorkeling, and kayaking adventures to dedicated zones for children – playgrounds, kids’ club, and three swimming pools (yes, one does have slides!) The Allegro Cozumel has a lot to offer.


Cozumel: For souls seeking peace and tranquility, this is your spot. Another all-inclusive gem, the hotel offers guests their private beach slice, rooms many of which boast ocean views, a rejuvenating spa, and two pools. For those who appreciate an adults-only space, Meliá Cozumel has a dedicated pool with a bar.