Tours on Cozumel: Things to do on Cozumel island
A warm welcome to Cozumel, the biggest island in the Mexican Caribbean. The tropical island of Cozumel in Mexico is just a stone’s throw away from the popular Riviera Maya coast. The attractive island is known for untouched nature, stunning beaches and the famus underwater world. The ferry crossing takes only 40 minutes.
First you arrive in the charming town center of San Miguel de Cozumel. After just a few minutes of driving, you reach the natural coastline. The coastline is made up of white sandy beaches combined with rocky beaches, whose limestone formations magically protrude from the water. It is said that the water has up to seven distinct shades of blue. From light turquoise above a sandy bottom to deep navy blue, where the reef falls off into a steep wall. An incredible underwater world is protected by various national parks and nature park projects.
On our page Cozumel Shore Excursion we provide special information for cruise ship guests with destination port Cozumel.
On our page Costa Maya shore excursions we provide special information for guests of cruise ships with destination port Costa Maya.
Located in the east of Mexico, Cozumel is the first to be kissed awake by the sunshine. In the evening, the island enjoys an incredible beautiful sunset. Despite the 100,000 residents, Cozumel has lots of uninhabited nature. The tropical environment, the white sand beaches and beautiful Cozumel coral reefs are among the main Cozumel attractions. Many come for a day and would like to stay longer because there are so many things to do on Cozumel. On our pages we give travel recommendations about the island of Cozumel in Mexico, including tourist attractions, interesting information for day trips to Cozumel from Playa del Carmen and for Cozumel cruise ship guests.
This page is about:
- Ideas for tours and excursions on Cozumel
- San Miguel, the capital of Cozumel
- The coral reefs of Cozumel
- The history of the Maya on Cozumel and the arrival of the Spaniards
- Cruise ships on Cozumel
- Beaches on Cozumel
- National Parks on Cozumel
Things to do on Cozumel
Cozumel is the ideal destination for a day trip from mainland Mexico or for cruise ship guests with a day on Cozumel. The ferry connection between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel is good, the crossing takes about 40 minutes. There is a lot to see on Cozumel in Mexico, many sights and attractions can be combined in just one day.
All of our excursions are carried out in small groups and English speaking guides. On request we also offer private excursions.
Private Jeep-Tour Cozumel: Island Tour and National Park
Cozumel excursion private Jeep Tour: Around the island Cozumel with National park and beach
Isla Cozumel Snorkeling: Starfish, colorful fish, sting rays
Isla Cozumel Snorkeling: See starfish, all kind of colorful fish and maybe even a sting ray
Excursion to Tulum: Mayan ruins, Cenotes and beach
Excursion to Tulum: Combination of Mayan ruins, cenotes and beach
Private Boat Tour Cozumel Isla Passion (Lagoons)
Private Boat Tour Cozumel Isla Passion (Lagoons)
Cozumel ATV Tour: Jungle, caves and cenotes
Cozumel ATV Tour: Using ATVs, travel through jungle, caves and cenotes
Cozumel Mayan Ruins and Beach
Cozumel Mayan ruins and beach
Learn to surf on Cozumel: Surfing on Cozumel
Learn to surf on Cozumel: Surfing on Cozumel
Island Tour Cozumel: Punta Sur lagoons and beach
Cozumel Island Tour: Punta Sur lagoons and beach
Who comes from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel, first arrives at the Cozumel public port. It is in the city of San Miguel de Cozumel. But after only a few minutes driving, you are in the nature, beaches with bright white sand alternate with rocky beaches whose limestone formations magically protrude from the water. It is said that the water has up to seven different shades. From light turquoise with a sandy bottom to deep navy, where the reef falls off a steep wall. An underwater world that is second to none. Natural beauty, protected by various national parks and nature park projects.
The island of Cozumel is 40 miles long and 10 miles wide. The road network covers only about two-thirds of the island. This means the north is accessible only by boats or SUVs. 85 percent of Cozumel are uninhabited, outside of San Miguel de Cozumel huge haciendas and jungle dominate the picture. About 20,000 people on Cozumel still speak Maya Yucateco, the language of the natives. Spanish is the official language. Many residents of Cozumel work in tourism and speak English, about 10,000 people from America live on Cozumel.
Cozumel attractions: San Miguel, the capital
The only city of Cozumel in Mexico is San Miguel de Cozumel. Almost all of the 100,000 inhabitants live in this city. Located directly by the sea, the pretty town center is opposite the ferry that arrives from Playa del Carmen. The main square Benito Juarez is named after one of the most important presidents in Mexico and is lined with numerous restaurants and market stores.
One of the main attractions on Cozumel is the beautiful clock tower on the main square. You cannot miss it and it is illuminated at night with different colors. It is the oldest building on Cozumel Island and so far, it has survived all tropical storms which it has battled. The clock tower was built in 1910 to mark the 100 year anniversary of the call to arms of the Mexican War of Independence (Spanish: grita de independencia), which began in 1810. The, approximately, 800 inhabitants of Cozumel had to contribute to the construction of the tower, either with materials or labor. The buildings behind the clock tower are also of historical value. In the former town hall is now home to the BBVA Bank and the SevenEleven was once the village school.
During the day, guests of the cruise ships and day trippers from Playa del Carmen stroll through the market stores. In the evening, the city center belongs to the locals. When the heat cools down, cultural events, performances and dances take place here. At small stalls, tasty snacks are sold, while for bigger appetites , you can be satisfied in one of the many appetizing restaurants around.
Other Cozumel attractions in San Miguel are located in the Museo de la Isla de Cozumel. It is an interesting museum about the history of the island of Cozumel and Mexico. It also has an exhibition of the underwater world and archeology. The museum is closed until 2019 due to renovations.
If you follow the beach promenade further north, you get to some beautiful beach bars. Here is one of the most spectacular Cozumel attraction: Fantastic sunsets, accompanied by Mexican margaritas.
Cozumel attractions: The coral reef
The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the most famous coral reef. But few know that off the coast of Mexico and Cozumel is the second largest barrier reef in the world. This important Cozumel attraction is close to the island and easily accessible by boat.
The Cozumel reef became famous when, in the 1960s, the marine biologist and underwater photographer Jacques Cousteau was invited to dive on Cozumel. He described the Cozumel reefs as beautiful dive sites, among the best in the world. So Cozumel became popular with American and Canadian divers. Now they did not have to travel all the way to Australia or Asia for a diving vacation, but had the Cozumel reef almost in front of their country borders. There are many tours on Cozumel available that go to the reef. We recommend Cozumel Snorkel Tours, Private boat tours and Cozumel Dive excursions.
Cozumel attractions: Ancient Maya and 500 years Spaniards
The history of Cozumel goes back to the time of the ancient Maya. Many fascinating Mayan ruins are important Cozumel attractions and testify to the old Mayan history with powerful religious influences. Long before the arrival of the Spaniards, the Maya knew about navigation and used canoes to cross from the mainland to Cozumel Island. They wanted to make pilgrimages to their mother, the goddess Ix Chel, and bring her offerings. At those times, Cozumel was dedicated to the important Mayan god Ix Chel (pale lady) who was responsible for the moon and fertility. As a result, Cozumel became an important pilgrimage site of the ancient Maya. One of the main attractions on Cozumel is located at the ruins of San Gervasio, where the shrine and the oracle of the Mayan goddess Ix Chel is located. Certified tour guides wait at the entrance to offer their services for a Cozumel tour through the archeological site of San Gervasio.
The pre-Columbian history of Cozumel came to an end when the Spanish arrived. Exactly 500 years ago, the first Spanish boat arrived Cozumel under the command of Spanish navigator John Grijalva. For more details on the fascinating history of Cozumel Island and historic sights on Cozumel, see our History of Cozumel section.
Things to do on Cozumel: Long, wild beaches
After just a short drive you leave the town of San Miguel de Cozumel behind. Then you are amongst nature, over 90% of the island are uninhabited. To get to the Cozumel beaches, you need a rental car on Cozumel. Alternatively, taxis are available or a .
Limestone formations alternate with beautiful sandy beaches. While all of the beaches on the east side of Cozumel are open to the public, many of the most beautiful beaches on the west side are part of a hotel or beach club. Here, you pay admission or can use the facilities as a customer.
Cozumel beaches on the east side
The beaches on Cozumel’s east side are a bit rougher than on the protected west side. That’s because these Cozumel beaches are exposed to the open ocean. There is more wind and waves on this side. When the temperature rises, many locals enjoy the fresh breeze on the beaches of the Cozumel east side. The waves offer good opportunities for surfing on Cozumel. If you see red flags on the Cozumel beaches, swimming is prohibited as there are strong currents towards the open sea and swimming is often dangerous. There is an indescribably beautiful and wild nature waiting to be experienced.
In the summer months, there is also the phenomenon of brown algae in Mexico, which can be seen on the beaches of the Cozumel east coast. Although theoretically all beaches on Cozumel can be affected, the currents predominantly flush the algae to the east side.
Cozumel beaches in the south
The beaches on the south side of Cozumel are accessible via the Punta Sur Eco Park. They are among the most beautiful beaches of the entire island of Cozumel and are protected in the most part, from wind and waves, by their location
Since the Punta Sur Eco Park is located in the very south of Cozumel, it is not easily accessible. Our private lagoons and beach tour or our private jeep tour are beautiful guided trips to this Cozumel National Park.
Cozumel beaches in the west and north
Most Cozumel beaches in the west side have a hotel or beach club that provides their facilities for an entry fee or for customers. While the southern beaches are gorgeous, sandy beaches, the more northerly beaches are more suitable for snorkeling. Most of the times, beaches on this side of Cozumel are protected from winds. Only if the wind comes from the north will it be windy and wavy.
Cozumel attractions: Shore excursions from cruise ships
Many guests visit Cozumel with a cruise ship. Cozumel is one of the biggest cruise ship ports in the Caribbean. One day is already enough to visit many Cozumel attractions during a Cozumel shore excursion and get to know the tropical island life on land and sea.
The cruise ships on Cozumel give an impressive sceenery. The largest cruise ships in the world stop here on their way to the southern Caribbean. Especially in the dark the cruise ships on Cozumel are beautifully illuminated in the dark. On our Cruise Ship page, we provide important information about Cozumel shore excursion.
Ports for cruise ships on Cozumel
Cozumel has a total of three ports for cruise ships. Up to seven large ships can dock there. On days with many ships in Cozumel, the port of call may change at short notice. The cruise ship crew may update you a few days before your arrival. The three cruise ports on Cozumel are about 4 miles apart.
Cruise Port Cozumel Punta Langosta
Punta Langosta is the only cruise port on Cozumel right in the city center of San Miguel de Cozumel. Two cruise ships can dock here at the same time. Punta Langosta Cozumel Cruise Port is just a few minutes walk to the city center. The ferry to Playa del Carmen on the mainland is about the same distance.
Cruise Port Cozumel International Pier SSA
The Cozumel Port International Pier can hold two cruise ships. It is located just outside the city center, about 5 kilometers south. If you want to go to Playa del Carmen, you have to take a taxi to the ferry station, which is about 5 miles away, the journey takes around 10-15 minutes depending on the traffic.
Cozumel Puerta Maya cruise port
Puerta Maya is right next to the International Pier. Depending on the size of the ship, three to four cruise ships can dock here.
What is better on Cozumel than in Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen in in a construction boom and it is the fastest growing city in Mexico.The city has a population of more than 300,00 people. Almost the entire coast from Cancun to Tulum is closed with resorts. Public beach access is rare. Especially among American and European partygoers, ‘Playa’ is popular. If you are looking for quiet with Caribbean flair, you are better off on Cozumel.
Cozumel has an ocean view in every direction. Spectacular Cozumel sunrises and even more magical sunsets are among Cozumel’s major attractions. The sunsets on Cozumel are famous as it is one of the few places on Mexico’s east coast where you can see the sun go down in the sea.
Those who like to dive or snorkel in the sea, would enjoy Cozumel more than the mainland as the reefs of Cozumel are much nicer and more spectacular than those in Playa del Carmen. Unfortunately, the coral reef in Playa is almost completely destroyed through the coastal development.
More about Cozumel and Mexico
Cozumel has summer temperatures all year round. The best travel time is between November and April, because in summer it can get very hot and humid. Tourist high season is at Christmas and Easter vacation. Flight and hotel prices are noticeably higher in these periods. In the months of December to February, the average temperature is 22-28 degrees Celsius (71-83 Farenheit). This is wintertime. When the wind turns and blows from the north, it can get fresh at night. Therefore, you should bring a jacket.
During the months of March and April is our dry season. The humidity is not too high and it is pleasantly warm. From May, the temperatures rise to 30 – 35 degrees Celsius (86-95 Farenheit), and it can be very humid. It rains every now and then, but usually not more than an hour. These rains are very pleasant. The summer months are perfect for beach vacations.
For Mexico you do not need a visa, but the passport should be valid for 6 months after arrival to the country. On the plane, the Tourist Card FMM is issued with a validity of 180 days. Together with the tourist card, you will receive a form indicating whether you plan to import food or plant or animal products into Mexico. Also, more than $ 10,000 USD in cash must be declared. These forms can be filled out on the plane. Therefore, it is advisable to pack a pen in your hand luggage.
Both forms must be handed in upon entry. The tourist card is required by the immigration officer. The lower section is stamped. This remains as a copy in the passport. Do not lose it, otherwise you will have to pay a fine of 500 pesos (~25 USD).
After going through immigration, the luggage can be picked up. Before leaving the airport, suitcases are x-rayed. There you will have to hand in the paper indicating what is being imported. Occasional random checks verify that all information is correct.
The official currency is the Mexican pesos. In the tourist areas of Cancun, around Playa del Carmen and also on Cozumel, there are currency exchanges everywhere that exchange euros and dollars into pesos. The dollar is also widely used as a payment means. In the big supermarkets you get a very good exchange rate when you pay with dollars. In the tourist souvenir shops, bars and in taxis, the exchange rate is very bad. There you are better to pay with pesos. In many places Euros are also accepted. However, coins cannot be changed in the banks.
Basically, it is not necessary to exchange dollars in Europe. Many travel agencies recommend this, but you pay twice the exchange fee. First you have to change your home currency to dollars and bear the costs for the exchange. And then then in Mexico, the dollar has to be exchanged for pesos. You can just as easily change Euros into pesos almost everywhere. Also, pesos can be easily withdrawn with all major bank cards at the ATM. For security reasons, use ATMs in large supermarkets, or in banks.
If you are on a cruise, you might want to bring dollars, as you can use those dollars in virtually every country.
Mexico has no vaccination requirements. Nevertheless, it is advisable to take a look at the vaccination certificate before traveling. The tetanus and polio protection should be checked, and for stays in more remote areas, the timeliness of the typhoid and hepatitis vaccines. Malaria is not common on the east coast of Mexico, but cases of dengue or Zika can occur, albeit very rarely. Therefore, a mosquito repellent and long, light clothes for the evening are recommendable. Mosquito repellent can also be bought everywhere on Cozumel.
You should not drink tap water in Mexico as it is only suitable for showering and washing. Bottled water in bottles or from a canister (20-liter container) is suitable for drinking. Ice cubes are made from drinking water. Medicines can be bought in pharmacies without a prescription and are cheaper than in Europe.
The time difference between Europe and the Riviera Maya is 6 hours in winter and 7 hours in summer. There are no time changes or daylight savings on the Mexican Riviera Maya, which means there is no summer and winter time. However, one should take into account when booking flights that, due to the time difference, the return flight sometimes arrives the next day in Europe.