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A Guide to Cozumel - (Unplanned) weekend escape from loud Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is a proper digital nomad hub in Quintana Roo, Mexico. It's bursting with vibrant nightlife, a long-city beach, sunny weather, plentiful bars, coffee shops, and restaurants attracting many tourists and remote workers escaping the winter.

We were not an exception. We lived in Playa del Carmen for a couple of months during European winter. Our apartment had a beautiful rooftop pool and chill area with a fantastic sea view and an island on the horizon. We have been looking at the island Cozumel in front of Playa Del Carmen for a long time, and we finally decided to visit it for a weekend. A trip to Cozumel can also be a nice day trip, but we decided to spend at least a weekend there. We used an opportunity to explore while our friends were visiting.

Here are some quick facts about Cozumel island, in case you are not familiar with this area of Mexico:

🏝 Cozumel is a 181 square miles island located in Mexico off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.

👥 About 100,000 people live on the island and are economically dependent on tourism.

🌆 Main and largest settelment is San Miguel de Cozumel.

☀️ With its tropical climate, Cozumel is considered a year-round destination for scuba divers.

🇲🇽 Cozumel is one of the three largest islands in Mexico, besides Isla Tiburòn and Isla Ángel de la Guarda in the Gulf of California.

🏛 Cozumel's original Name comes from the Mayan name "Ah Cuzamil Peten," which translates to "Island of the Swallows." Swallows are the symbol of the island.

🐠 Cozumel is located by one of the largest barrier reef systems, about 700 miles long Mesoamerican Reef, stretching from the Yucatan peninsula to Honduras. The coral reef is home to various exotic fish, dolphins, sharks, turtles, and so on. This makes Cozumel one of the best diving destinations.

🌊 While places like Tulum, Cancun, and Playa del Carmen struggle with the sargassum seaweed every year, Cozumel doesn't have this problem. For that reason, many travelers go to Cozumel instead of staying on the mainland of the Mexican Caribbean during the seaweed season.

Map of Cozumel

How to get there and around?

We took the ferry from the port in Playa Del Carmen. Two leading ferry companies Winjet and Ultramar go there about every hour.

Here is the timetable:

Cozumel Ferry Schedule
Image Credit: playadelcarmentours.com

We bought tickets at the counter; there is no need to purchase them beforehand. We came about 10min before the ferry's departure, and we still had enough time to buy the ticket and get to the boat.

The ride is enjoyable and short. During the ferry trip, the eager salesman will try to sell you everything from t-shirts to souvenirs. We decided to spoil ourselves with beer and a cocktail (the Pina Colada was terrific). Even the waiter was very business-oriented and managed to sell us the drinks for 10 pesos more than we (later) saw on the menu. 🤑

The ride is just enough to finish the drink, about 45 mins. When we stepped into Cozumel, there was the first strip of bars that were a bit louder and more touristy. But as soon as you leave the main road and enter San Miguel town, you get a nice feeling. The houses are tiny and colorful; you get this local feeling. At the beginning of the Cozumel experience, even before reaching our Airbnb apartment, we met Sergio, a guy who can fix you with anything. In a quick chat, he hooked us up with drinks and food, got us scooters for the next day's trip, and ensured that our guy was. He runs a small grocery shop, but for us, he looked more like a local mayor with powerful connections everywhere. 

He gave us a good idea of renting the scooter and exploring the island in that way—the perfect way to spend our Saturday.

In the evening, we wanted to explore the local nightlife vibe and visited probably the most tourist bar on the island - The Thirsty Cougar for some cocktails. Again, the place lived up to the expectations as many cougars were there.

On Saturday morning, late due to the cocktails, Sergio took us to where we could rent scooters.

We initially agreed on 25 USD per scooter, but of course, there are some additional charges and taxes that Sergio forgot to mention, so the final price was a bit higher than expected. However, we were satisfied with the service so we can recommend it. Just make sure to confirm the prices before.

< Name of the renting place>

We headed to La Cuisine for a great breakfast and started our journey south of the island. I love exploring the islands or any areas with scooters. It's so freeing and enables you to reach many great and remote places you would never see otherwise. Not to mention the fresh breeze when driving next to the beach.

Cozumel is, as mentioned, a small island; the roads will lead you south from the San Miguel along the coast to the south part of the national park Punta Sur Eco Beach Park. In the park, you can visit a lagoon with Mayan ruins or crocodiles for the brave ones. The fee for a daily visit is 18 USD for adults, and 11 USD for 4 to 12 years old. We hadn't seen the park that day, as it was no longer allowed to swim. We assumed that due to the turtles gathering there in the afternoon.

Next to the entry to the park, you can relax in a Bob Marley reggae bar. It's a huge chill-out place next to the sea, where you can sit down, relax, and enjoy a cold beer or cocktail in the style of Marley. This was our next stop. The sea was quite wild that day; it was also already on the open ocean side, so only men went in, while girls enjoyed the drink and the view.

Bob Marley bar
Seaside

Fully refreshed, we continued our journey on the east part up north, but our trip stopped after 2 mins of a drive as we saw a road bar with a shiny sign, Best Mojito ever. This was Sergio's recommendation, so we had to give it a try. I must say, they don't lie. This was indeed one of the best mojitos I ever had.

Best Mojito Ever bar

We continued North and slowly came back to our town San Miguel. Cozumel is a small island, so that you can drive around it with a scooter in a day. However, if you go with the scooter, you will not be able to drive through the most northern part of the island, as this part is reachable with the 4-wheel vehicles.

A view from the scooter

A boat and beach during the sunset

We came to Cozumel without any planning or preparation; we arrived there relaxed and easy-going like the island's inhabitants and had a great time. Sometimes unplanned trips like this give turn out for the best.

A trip to Cozumel is a beautiful and colorful escape from loud Playa Del Carmen. You get a pleasant feeling of living in a small village where everybody knows each other and people are willing to help you get the best experience. Next time, we will spend more time there than just a weekend. 

Friends and a parrot on a beach

FAQs

Is Cozumel worth visiting?

Yes. No matter if you are looking for beautiful beaches, escape from a loud Mexican mainland, a perfect diving location, or want to spend some time on a colorful island, Cozumel is a good choice.

What is the best month to visit Cozumel?

March to June.

How many days do I need to experience Cozumel?

Cozumel is perfect for a day trip from Playa del Carmen, a weekend trip, or a longer stay.

Is Cozumel safe?

Yes, Cozumel is very safe compared to other Mexican or US destinations. 

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