Located along Mexico’s pristine Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen is a popular destination for visitors. Playa del Carmen offers plenty of things to do like visiting nearby cenotes, but you can also take a weekend excursion or a day trip from the city. Day trips from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel are one of the most popular options.
Cozumel is an island on the Mexican Riviera Maya that stretches 34 miles long. With jungles and untouched shores, the island is largely undeveloped in comparison to the mainland.
Tourism isn’t about partying, playing beach volleyball, and shopping for designer clothes. Instead, it’s a time to disconnect and relax.
The island of Cozumel offers many activities besides the beach. San Miguel is a laid-back city surrounded by unspoiled nature on the eastern and southern shorelines. Our guide to Cozumel covers everything from things to do on the island to when to visit.
Best Time to Visit Cozumel
The average temperature in Cozumel does not vary much. The humidity often makes it feel hot for most of the year. Generally, it is a pleasant climate with occasional showers. In comparison with tourist destinations around the world, the area has a relatively temperate climate – equal to the 55th percentile.
If you enjoy sweating, Cozumel is hottest in August, July, and June. The temperature stays around 89°F from early to mid-August, with nighttime temperatures rarely dropping below 75°F.
January, February, and March are the best months to visit Cozumel if you prefer dry weather. Precipitation is at its lowest in early January. The wettest period of the year is late June.
Tourism is at its highest throughout the year in January, February, and March. This is reflected in the prices for accommodations and tours.
Is it worth it to visit Cozumel for the day?
The day trip to Cozumel is well worth it if you’re visiting the Riviera Maya or the Yucatan Peninsula.
The most iconic snorkeling and diving trip in all of Mexico is just a 40-minute boat ride from Playa del Carmen. There is little room for travel hiccups or mishaps on a Playa del Carmen to Cozumel day trip.
In part due to Cozumel’s easy accessibility, you can see a lot in just one day, from the ancient ruins of San Miguel to Cozumel’s bustling center.
How to Travel from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel
Cozumel can only be reached by boat from Playa del Carmen since it is an island. Passenger ferries usually take about 40 minutes to reach the island. It costs between 210 and 290 MXN ($10 to $14) for an adult to take the ferry one way. There are also round-trip tickets available. Local rates are only available to Mexican residents.
Playa del Carmen Ferry Pier
The ferry terminal in Playa del Carmen is located right in the middle of downtown, about one and a half blocks from the main square and Plaza Playacar. Several parking lots, including a garage and two street-level lots, are within walking distance of the ferry pier.
For both ferry companies, there are kiosks at the ferry pier. Reservations are not common – most people get on the next boat leaving.
There are round-trip and one-way tickets available. Purchasing one-way tickets and buying another one when you return is the best way to go. Then you won’t have to rush to the ferry pier or wait in line.
Ferry Companies Servicing Playa del Carmen and Cozumel
Playa Del Carmen boats depart between 8:00 am and 10:00 pm, and Cozumel boats depart between 7:00 am and 10:00 pm for both companies. If you have made a reservation, make sure to check their respective websites for seasonal hours or cancellations. Remember, reservations are not needed!
As far as experience and price are concerned, both ferries are pretty similar, so it really comes down to what time the next boat leaves. Restrooms and food are also available on both ferry lines. Ferry interiors are air-conditioned, and both offer ample deck space for taking in the fresh, salty air outside.
Cozumel Ferry Pier
You will find bathrooms, snacks, taxis, and plenty of tour operators at the Cozumel Ferry Pier once your journey to the island is over.
It’s important to do your research before renting a car or going on a dive tour, as there are so many different companies that offer these services. Renting a vehicle is especially important. You’ll avoid scams, be able to check reviews, and know how much things should cost.
Getting Around the Island of Cozumel
The island of Cozumel may be Mexico’s largest, but it is mostly uninhabited. San Miguel in Cozumel is definitely walkable and pedestrian-friendly if you are not interested in renting a moped or a car.
Car and moped rentals are available on the island if you don’t feel like walking or plan to explore some more remote areas. A VW Bug costs about $50 USD per day, while a Jeep Wrangler costs around $90 USD per day.
You can rent mopeds, but I would not recommend it unless you’re confident driving one. Cozumel’s traffic has increased dramatically as mopeds have become increasingly popular. Motorists often collide with tourists on mopeds.
Moped rentals start at around $30 USD per day, including a helmet, with insurance added at $15.
Taxis are widely available and inexpensive as well. The prices of rides are set and cannot be negotiated. Cozumel’s taxi drivers are union members, making their jobs very valuable – you won’t be ripped off. Cozumel’s drivers are largely bilingual and friendly, and many are also trained as tour guides, showing visitors around the island with a lot of pride.
Snorkel or Dive
Snorkelers and divers alike enjoy Cozumel’s waters, and it’s easy to see why.
Within minutes of the shore are several underwater attractions, including coral reefs, submerged vegetation, and drifts. It is even possible to explore shipwrecks!
Divers of all experience levels can explore Cozumel’s waters. There is a drift dive site at the Santa Rosa Wall for PADI-certified divers. Overhangs and ledges punctuate the 15-meter-high wall, which is populated with sponges, spotted eagle rays, and pelagic fish.
Palancar Garden, which is accessible to snorkelers and divers of all skill levels, is the perfect place to see parrotfish and butterflyfish.
Sharks can be seen off the coast of Cozumel between November and March by open-water divers. You can rent snorkeling equipment at most beaches, but if you know you’ll be using it frequently, bring your own!
Punta Sur Ecological Park
One of Cozumel’s best beaches is located in Punta Sur, Cozumel’s largest eco-park. It features a lighthouse, a lagoon, and the largest forest in the Caribbean. Beachgoers enjoy laying out on the sand, lying in hammocks, and diving into the perfect waters, while basking in the sun. If you’re taking a day trip from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel and have no idea what to do, grab a day pass to Punta Sur.
However, if you are anything like Szilard, and don’t like to sit still on the beach for too long, there is plenty to do off-shore.
Visit the Faro de Celarain lighthouse and cruise through Laguna Colombia, climbing its 135 steps for a spectacular view.
Take a look at the lagoon and count how many crocodiles you can find. Don’t forget to watch out for the vultures, pelicans, and iguanas that live there naturally.
Swim with Whale Sharks
When done appropriately and with the right tour company, swimming with whale sharks in Cozumel is a minimally invasive, ethical experience.
During their annual migration, whale sharks visit the waters near Cozumel and Playa del Carmen every year. Tours to see whale sharks can usually be booked between June and September.
If you’re wondering whether a certain tour company offers ethical encounters with whale sharks, these are some factors you should consider:
- There should be no guarantee of sightings (this generally means feeding the whales, which is not minimally invasive)
- There should be a requirement for reef-safe sunscreen
- Whale sharks should not be touched
- Keep a respectable and safe distance (16 feet)
- There will be no flash photography allowed
Explore a Shipwreck by Submarine
Would you like to explore under the surface of the water without getting wet? A submarine tour underwater might be the perfect choice for you.
Prices at Atlantis Submarine start at $125 USD per adult.
Visit Cozumel’s underwater world with Seatrek’s helmet diving tour. In Cozumel, the Seatrek tour descends to a depth of 20 – 25 feet with the assistance of a helmet, which is attached to a breathing tube. This may be a great option for you if you’d like to experience diving without the training!
Walking along the seafloor is almost like walking on the moon; it will make you feel as if you are an astronaut.
Spend Time on the Water
Boat tours are a great way to discover Cozumel’s reefs. These reefs are home to a wide variety of wildlife including manta rays, sea turtles, starfish, pufferfish, sea eels, and turtles.
On this side of the island, when the north wind is calm, the seas are calm, and many of the tours include snorkeling gear and allow you to go diving right in.
Visitors can explore the tropical reefs of Paradise Reef, Villa Blanca, and Dzul-Ha from glass-bottom boats, while sunset cruises provide the epitome of a dreamy day in paradise. We love Clear Boat Tour with Enva Tours which is pictured.
Are you interested in exploring the island from off-shore but don’t want to take a boat tour? Whether you rent a kayak or paddleboard, you can explore the island on your own.
San Gervasio Archeological Site
Beaches and reefs aren’t the only attractions in Cozumel. Additionally, the San Gervasio ruins hold a great deal of cultural significance to the Maya. It is one of the most popular choices for a Playa del Carmen to Cozumel day trip.
This complex dates from around 1,500 years ago during the early Classic period, and it is dedicated to the goddess Ixchel, goddess of childbirth and fertility.
All Mayan women, therefore, made a pilgrimage to the site once in their lifetimes and offered a sacrifice at the site.
The largest structure on the site, Ka’na Nah, appears to have been used for sacrifices, while “Central Plaza” consists of a cluster of buildings around an elevated central altar.
There is a small admission fee of approximately $9.50 USD, and the ruins are open daily from 8:00-15:45. There is parking for free, a snack bar, and souvenirs for sale at the venue.
Learn About Pearl Farming
Visitors from all over the world have visited Cozumel Pearl Farm since 2012. This isolated spot in the north is only accessible by boat, similar to Isla Pasión nearby. There is a pier at San Miguel from which boats depart.
It is recommended you leave this activity to those who’ve already experienced quite a bit of Cozumel (or who are really into culturing pearls)! While you’re there, you’ll learn all about culturing pearls, take a snorkeling trip to the beach, eat and drink, and browse for pearl jewelry.
Adults pay 110 USD for lunch and drinks. If you really want to feel like a castaway, you can spend the following night on a deserted beach. Adults can experience the overnight experience for as low as $225 USD.
The Cozumel Pearl Farm is open from 10:00 to 17:00 Monday through Saturday, closed on Sundays.
Experience a Temazcal Ceremony
Take part in a Temazcal Mayan ceremony in Cozumel for a truly unique experience. In addition to cleansing and purifying your body and soul, a Shaman will provide a very spiritual experience for you.
Ancient Mayan ceremonies take place in small brick huts that are very hot and dark inside. There’s nothing more intense than the intense heat and darkness of a temazcal. Cool off by taking a swim after releasing yourself from the muggy hut.
Though it is quite intense, it is a unique experience that you should not miss when in Cozumel.
Sample Exquisite Mayan Chocolate
Despite being a typical tourist trap, the Mayan Cacao Company has local souvenirs and gifts for sale, but it’s (at least) educational. For a day trip to Cozumel from Playa del Carmen, it’s a great option. And… chocolate!
An outdoor museum and a chocolate shop portray the role of cacao in indigenous cuisines are incorporated into the design of this attraction, which is styled as a Mayan village.
The museum displays a collection of Mayan vessels and figurines. Additionally, you can view videos of cocoa being harvested and information about cocoa trading routes.
Enjoy a chocolate sauce-smothered tortilla and learn about ancient farming practices.
Before you purchase anything, you will be able to sample different chocolate and chocolate drinks during the tour.
Explore San Miguel
Discover the laid-back personality of the island in San Miguel, Cozumel’s ‘capital’ and major town. Cozumel visitors are almost guaranteed to pass through San Miguel at least once during their trip.
There are many interesting things to see and do in San Miguel. Sunset walks along the boardwalk are particularly enjoyable. Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular activities, and there are many dive shops or tour operators from which to choose.