Cozumel is a wonderful place to vacation, or to visit for the day. — Photo courtesy of Laura McFarlin
The island of Cozumel, only about 60 miles south of Cancun, is known for amazing scuba diving and Jacques Cousteau is to thank for that. In the early 1960s, after scuba diving on the reef, just off Cozumel's southwest coast, he said it was one of the best places, in the world, for scuba diving. His statement put Cozumel on the scuba diving map, so to speak, and tourism has been big business for the island, ever since.
Today, scads of divers still flock to Cozumel, but people also visit the island to find a bit of peace and tranquility. Cozumel is only 12 miles from the mainland (ferries run between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen), but nothing like Cancun or Playa del Carmen. It is much more laid-back and relaxed than either of those places. Windsurfing, kite surfing, parasailing, deep-sea fishing, and snorkeling are also popular activities on the island.
From Cancun, it's easy to visit Cozumel for the day. You simply make your way to Playa del Carmen, which is approximately one hour south of Cancun, and from there, you take the ferry over to the island of Cozumel. Two ferry companies operate that route and the ferries run almost every hour of the day, from 7:00am until 10:00pm.
The fare is slightly more than $12 US, each way. It's best to only buy a one-way ticket so you aren't tied to one ferry company. That way, when you are ready to head back to the mainland, you can just buy a ticket from the ferry company that is leaving next, instead of possibly having to wait for a particular company to operate its next ferry.
Cozumel is known for incredible scuba diving, with colorful fish and coral and clear water that allows for high visibility. — Photo courtesy of Marine-Expeditions.com
Once on Cozumel, you will find plenty of activities to keep you busy, or you may prefer to just kick back and have an icy-cold cerveza, with your toes in the sand. If you wish to see the sights, however, you'll have plenty of things to do, to fill your day.
Renting a Jeep and touring the island, with the top down, is a great way to see the island, on your own pace. Along the way, you can stop and snorkel at Chankanaab National Park. In addition to world-class snorkeling, the park has sea lions, manatees, and dolphins. When it's time to relax, you can enjoy the park's hammocks, palapas, beach chairs, and swimming pool.
Another "must see", on Cozumel, is the San Gervasio archaeological site of Mayan ruins. Like the island of Isla Mujeres, which is just off of Cancun's north shore, Cozumel was a sanctuary for the Mayan goddess, Ixchel. She was the goddess of love and fertility. The San Gervasio ruins are the most important archaeological site on Cozumel and it is open daily, from 9:00am until 4:00pm. Admission is only $8 USD, per person.
One of Cozumel's pristine beaches. — Photo courtesy of MotherTrip.com
Punta Sur Park, at the southern tip of the island is another great place to visit. Inside the park, there is a lighthouse, a tower where you can see exotic birds, pristine beaches, and a small museum. Park visitors may opt to take a boat ride in the lagoon, where crocodiles and marine birds can be seen. You will see untouched, virgin beaches filled with conch shells. It's an incredibly beautiful place.
Near the entrance to Punta Sur Park, you'll find a seaside Reggae bar. This is a fantastic spot to stop for a drink and to take in the scenery. The bar is located on Cozumel's "wild side", where water is very rough and the shoreline is lined with rocks that look similar to lava tubes that are found in Hawaii. The untamed feel of that side of the island is a stark contrast to the calm waters on the western side of Cozumel.
Adventurous travelers will find the off-road ATV tour, through the jungle, to be quite fun, but other travelers may prefer to book a fly-fishing excursion instead. And, if you aren't keen on snorkeling or diving, you can still enjoy Cozumel's spectacular under-sea world by taking a ride on a glass-bottom boat or on Aqua World's Sub-Sea Explorer. The Sub-See Explorer is a boat, but the hull is made of glass so tour participants can see all around, as if they were scuba diving or snorkeling.
Before heading back to the mainland, finish out your day on Cozumel by shopping for souvenirs, or have delicious, authentic Mexican food, in the town square, which is just a few blocks from the ferry dock.