I recently had the opportunity to spend an entire day at port in Cozumel. This is definitely a popular cruise location, and I had the chance to see why as I drove around the entire island and explored a few little great places along the way.
As soon as my wife and I got off the boat and onto the port there were people all around us wanting us to rent scooters, jeeps, go on excursions etc. And the port was set up so you HAD to walk through all the shops before you could even go exploring. So it felt a little bit like a circus when we first got on the island, but there are some nice shops. It’s sort of set up like an outdoor shopping mall, at least the port we were at.
Cozumel is a popular cruise destination and so there were about 6 other cruise ships there at the same time, and they use different ports for some of these ships so your experience might be different. Our cruise was on the MSC Poesia, but the Oasis of the Seas was there as well. But even with all those ships in port that day, it still did not feel crowded once you got away from the ports themselves.
My wife and I decided to rent a scooter for the day (which costs us about $50) and we had the entire day to drive around and see the sites. Some people rented jeeps as well which is about $100 for the day, but it can be more if you want insurance etc. It was a great idea to rent a vehicle though. There are so many great beaches along Cozumel and it’s great fun hitting each one.
Check out our video of Cozumel and watch us scooting around the island:
We brought out own snorkel gear and asked around for the best place to snorkel at Cozumel. A local told us about a beach on the west side of the island called Playa Corona. It’s about 5 miles from the port and it’s one of the free beaches. We were pretty much the only ones there and we bought a coke from the guys there. The water was perfectly clear and there were fish everywhere. The coral was pretty good too. Not extremely colorful, but there was a lot of it. Fish of all sizes were coming up to us and it was a great experience. After about an hour and a half of snorkeling I was getting pretty burnt, but I highly recommend hitting Playa Corona if you want to snorkel at Cozumel. If you don’t have your own gear you can rent it right there on the beach too. I’m sure you can pay for an off shore excursion where there is nicer coral, but if you want to save some money this is the way to go. There are plenty of hammocks there to relax in as well.
We then “scooted” around the entire island, which if you don’t stop, could take less than 2 hours. But we stopped whenever we saw some beach that we liked. The west side of the island is mostly calm and good for snorkeling but once you get to the south and east side of the island you will notice the surf pick up a lot. There are sandy beaches that stretch for miles and there are rocky beaches as well, all mixed in. And even with all of those boats in port, the beaches were pretty much clear.
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By the way, the roads you are driving on have a few pot holes here and there so you want to watch out for that if you are on a scooter especially. But the road that goes around the island is separate from the main road and is very pleasant to and fun to drive on, as you can see in the video.
Along the island there are all kinds of places to stop for a bite to eat or to buy a souvenir as well. Closer to the ports you will find some resorts which have private beaches and very elegant restaurants on the water and some of them will allow you to use their amenities for a fee.
There are several ancient Mayan ruins on the island that we did not check out since we already went to Costa Maya. Most of these are to the north of the island. I recommend you get a map of the island before you head out. Most scooter or jeep rental places will give you a map as well. After all, they WANT to get their jeep back and that won’t happen if you get lost. But really, it’s almost impossible to get lost at Cozumel. The streets downtown can be a little confusing, but it’s not a huge downtown area.
As we started heading back to the town and heading west across the island you we began to see more civilization. You see, along the south part of the island and along all of those beaches, it is pretty much just wilderness as far as you can see. This is something I really liked about Cozumel.
But back in town there is everything you can imagine. There is even a Starbucks, McDonalds, Burger King, and I think I saw a Subway as well. My wife and I decided to get some authentic Mexican food and at a local restaurant called Costa Brava, which was right next to our scooter rental place called Sol Y Mar. The food was excellent and had a really nice atmosphere too.
There is plenty to eat downtown and plenty of transit opportunities to get you around as well. We were approached several times by taxi drivers wanting to take us around the island before you decided to rent the scooter.
Parts of Cozumel may seem run down, but we really enjoyed driving around to see the entire island. It’s a wonderful place to go if you want to relax and if you love sandy beaches. We can’t wait to go back.