12 Hours on Cozumel

Real Talk…this is an almost guide.

Half of the island is crammed with tourists while the other half remains wild and free; an extreme divide for just one small island. Welcome…to Cozumel, Mexico.

We took the ferry to Cozumel from Playa del Carmen early in the morning. I had previously researched which parks to visit and what types of activities were available so I felt pretty well prepared for our visit. However, as soon as our ferry hit the docks in Cozumel, the entire plan crumbled. Instead of grabbing a taxi to Chankanaab like I had planned, I was coerced into renting a questionable jeep from a sketchy guy I met on the streets while my friends were in the bathroom.  I’d like to say I am surprised, but that tends to be how my life works. Yah gotta be flexible. Moving on…

Our jeep; she was red, she was a lady and we called her “Lindsay”. We squeezed ourselves into her, turned the key and… “pffft pffft pfft”… “Don’t worry” our new friend and reputed owner of “Lindsay” the jeep, said as he waved us on, “just keep trying… she will start”, he ensured. Ok, sure…well eventually she did. Without further hesitation, we crossed our fingers and rolled out as at this point we all felt pretty committed. She had no gas… step one…get gas. As if we wanted to have to start her up again.  Don’t worry it all worked out, as long as we stayed out of fourth gear…and third…and second. It was really a first to fifth kind of day. I saved my Linsday snapchat story for you guys at the bottom of the page, you will see what I mean.

Well, now that we had wheels we were no longer limited to walkable or cab-locatable tourist destinations. We had free range of the island. So let’s get to it, after lunch though. First things first, we stopped at one of the lovely restaurants downtown which had a live band playing for a rather enjoyable snack of nachos.


Things to do in Cozumel

Our initial plan was to hit Chankanaab National Park before cruise ship tourists arrived to take all the good spots. This park is just a taxi ride from downtown Cozumel. It is a private park with swimmable beach access. Here you can access a family friendly area, complete with snorkeling, scuba diving, zip lining, nature trails, and of course, a tequila factory. With a 385 Peso admission ($21 USD), this park includes a dolphin and sea lion show and is perfect for families who are looking to hangout all day. Interested in the park? Check out some useful tips for visiting Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park.

Check one, we are not a family. Check two, we now had a trusty jeep, so we decided to skip this tourist hot spot and went for something off the grid.

Cozumel Beach

To San Gervasio Ruins we went. While I say this is off the grid, it is not impossible to get to. Tour companies do offer trips to the ruins, but I guess when people visit Cozumel they are more interested in a fun in the sun spot and not so much a learning location. I know this because of the lack of people in this rather large and open archeological site. I truly believe that the San Gervasio Ruins are an example of Mayan archeology not to be missed, like a mini Chichen-Itza.

Pan of San Gervasi ruins entrance

San Gervasio was a hub where women would travel to make offerings to the goddess Ix Chel, deity of the moon, childbirth, fertility and weaving. For 90 pesos ($5USD) you can enter the ruins and spend at least a half day enjoying them. As it is fairly spread out, there are a number of beautiful jungle walks to appreciate while you traverse from site to site. Here you will find typical Mayan pyramids, as well as locations for offerings, and abodes where the visiting women of the time would stay. The archeology was in great condition which made visiting these ruins very pleasant.

San Gervasio Ruin pyramid

Back in “Lindsay”, with fingers crossed that she starts without a push. It was like a dream, one turn over only and “vroom, vroom” off we went.

Our original plan had us visiting Faro Celerain Eco Park next. It is located on the southern tip of the island and is one of Cozumel’s top destinations. This park, also known as ‘Punta Sur’, includes a 2,500 acre ecological area which protects a variety of indigenous species including birds, crocodiles and sea turtles. Here you can also find an archeological area called Caracol Mayan Ruins as well as an old lighthouse which can be explored. Lastly, within the park there is Laguna Colombia, a calmer, swimmable area complete with hammocks. Again this would be another great spot for families to enjoy. Admission into this park was 255 pesos ($14USD).

With Linsday the jeep working well we drove the perimeter of the island following the ocean on the way to Faro Celerain Eco Park. This was one of my favourite parts of the day; with no top on our jeep, the warm wind blowing and the sun shining, how could that not be enjoyable? Along the way we decided to stop for a quick walk on one of the extraordinary beaches as to enjoy an introspective look out into the ocean. Ok…back on track.

We arrived at the Eco Park late in the day. Too late as it were. The park was closing at 4:00. Where had the time gone? Oh well, I guess that’s the spirit of travel, to enjoy the moments that are offered.

We decided to hit Palancar Beach instead, to enjoy a swim and grab a bite to eat. This beach is popular among cruise ships as a destination for scuba diving, kayaking, and all other water sports. Here it is easy to charter a dive boat to transport you to a reef which is considered excellent for divers and snorkelers of all levels. We however, decided to just take in the sun and swimming here.

After enjoying some time to work on our tans, we headed to the famous Albertos Restaurant (there are 3 on the island) for some good seafood. Yes it was good and yes it was fresh. Who doesn’t like to top off the day with some garlic grilled shrimp and some fish fresh from the sea. We enjoyed our meal on Palancar beach, dusted with beautiful white sand wearing no shoes and with Shakira and Carlos Vives playing in the background providing auditory ambience. For the boys, there were beers!

As the sun was about to set we headed back to our trusted “Lindsay”, the jeep to drive home. This was the closest call yet. “Lindsay” seemed a little sick. She coughed, and coughed and coughed. Enough to cause some concern, but then, a few minutes later, trying the key once again, she sputtered to life. Back to Cozumel we went.

Our day on the island was ending. What a better way to finish it off than to enjoy some drinks at the beautiful Turquoise Beach Bar and Restaurant. With a steady stream of island reggae, we ordered their special Turquoise margaritas and watched the sunset from 3 perfect swings over -looking the views provided by Cozumel herself.

It was time to return “Lindsay”, the jeep, to her rightful owner. One last time she started up for us and we parted ways. As we walked to catch the ferry back to Playa del Carmen, I reviewed my day on the popular island of Cozumel and found it truly enjoyable.  By renting a vehicle we were able to explore both heavily tourist oriented areas as well as to enjoy our own surprising, less popular destinations. This was a day where I was not once overwhelmed by the rumoured hoards of cruise ship patrons but instead was able to enjoy interesting sites, hot sun, and great food. Thank you, “Lindsay”, the jeep! (Don’t forget to check out her story at the bottom of this page).


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cozumel story pinterest pin


  1. Hi Kimberly,
    Thanks for this post. I enjoy seeing 12 hour or 1 day rushes through places. I suppose if you’re popping off a cruise this is the choice given. Great choice with getting Lindsay though. I’m glad to have stumbled upon this article. Good to know that research is needed especially with times and venue/site closures.

  2. We, too, had a brief visit to Cozumel when we were on a cruise years ago. I loved it! I took the opportunity to take a scuba lesson so that I could dive the reef. Lots of gorgeous fish to see!

  3. Cozumel is just one of those places to enjoy, relax, drink and have a chill time. Not the most adventurous place but I love going to Senor Frogs there (mostly because I use to work at the one in Orlando!) so I knew a lot of the managers there. I took a scooter around the whole island bar hopping and returned it before I got too drunk haha. Those sunsets are insane!

  4. Thanks for the tips to get away from the tourist hordes and get both some beaches and “learning locations” in! Not sure I’d have been brave enough to drive more than a few miles away with “Lindsay”, but sounds like she did the trick! hah

  5. Loved the story of Lindsay the jeep – the real star of the piece! Seriously, though, great and informative article on Cozumel, which I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t even realise was an island (I really have to stop writing Mexico off as too touristy and give it more thought!). I love your writing style too – just the right amount of humour. Now I’m off to daydream about garlic grilled shrimp…

  6. This looks like a great way to see Cozumel. I’ve never been but the beaches and sunset look amazing. I don’t know how to drive, so I wouldn’t be able to take Lindsay for a spin myself. But hopefully I would be able to get off the beaten track like you did a little bit.

  7. Great photos, great post, this makes me want to visit! I have been many places in Mexico but never Cozumel! I always been to nervous to drive in Mexico but this sure makes it seem like a good option to avoid some crowds and get to see great stuff! I love the idea! Yay for Lindsey! Sounds like you had a blast! Cheers! =)

  8. I’ve been to Cancun but not Cozumel. I have heard great things though!!! I had no idea we could have taken a ferry from playa del Carmen!!! I’ll keep this in mind next time!! I’m glad you all enjoyed yourselves!!

  9. It sure looks lovely and that you have managed to do a whole lot of things in one day. The pictures look amazing and it is worth taking the trip if you find yourself there. Love how you have depicted your “interactions” with “Lindsey”!

  10. I didn’t visit Cozumel when I was in Mexico and have been kicking myself about it ever since. Your post and stunning pictures are not helping the matter! The San Gervasio Ruins are new to me but they look and sound like they’d be a lovely place to spend an afternoon. Chichen Itza was amazing, but I really wish I’d gone out of my way to visit some lesser known (and less-crowded!) ruins too.

  11. Haha love the story about the car! And although Lindsay doesn’t sound like a reliable friend, I am glad she brought you guys back safely. Renting a car gives you so much freedom, even when it’s just for a day so it’s a great tip! You get the option to go to different places (like the archaeological site) rather than just the standard sites.

  12. Never actually heard of Cozumel before and now after reading this, I want to check it out. What also sold me to this is the fantastic photos posted on this post, I really gotta check out this place.

  13. Great info. I have only visited Cozumel as a cruise port, so I haven’t seen much outside of the touristy areas. I’ve always been amazed by the beautiful color of the water, but will definitely venture out more next time.

  14. Lindsey sounds like a blast;) And Cozumel looks stunning – great there are off the beaten track parts where you can escape, but the swings looking out to sea look like a great way to end the day.

  15. Good to know that there are some cultural and historic treasures to explore in this region outside of beach and dining options. I love exploring ruins like this.

  16. I am curious about Cozumel and appreciate the insight – it sounds like off-the-grid is the way to go. Loved reading about how “Lindsay” made it through the day. Cheers!

  17. Cozumel is one place which seems to be pretty chill and exciting to visit!…I would definitely rent a scooter or a car when I visit this place.!!…Plus the photographs attached were beautiful!!!

  18. You sure made the most of your 12 hours here. The Mayan ruins would have been on my 12 hours too, and then that ending with the lovely beaches. Perfect!

  19. After reading this post I am so upset with all the thing so I didn’t do when I was in Cozumel. Granted this was pre-travel blogging days and I was there for the day as I was on a cruise. After reading this post I am inspired to return.

  20. I would prefer the side of the island which is wild and free too, so thanks for the great tips on things to do – sounds like the best way to get around is with a jeep – sorry to hear you got to the Eco Park too late, but it sounds like it was because you were having too much fun everywhere else before hand!!

  21. Cozumel looks amazing! Playa del Carmen is since forever on my list, so I think once I get there I will follow your footsteps. The nature is absolutely amazing and I am happy for you that you managed to see the less touristy places.

  22. It’s such a popular spot for cruise ships, did you see any while you were there? I’m sure it’s much more fun to drive around on your own though. Looks like a fun spot.

  23. This sounds like my sort of travel. Research and plan a day but don’t get caught by time constraints. Turn on a dime and change it to what suits. Hiring that jeep was the best “adjustment” to your itinerary.

  24. Sounds like a perfect day of adventure, fun and good food! So cool that you can rent a jeep there. Cozumel looks awesome! Good to know there are two sides to the island. I would love to explore San Gervasio and hang out at Palancar Beach.

  25. You are right, having a car gives you the flexibility you need to tour and find the non-touristy spots. Sound like you had a perfect adventure, filled with lots of new discoveries. Never been to Cozumel and it looks awesome. Fun times!!

  26. I would have loved visiting the Mayan ruins — it’s something I haven’t had the blessing of doing yet. Must have been just fascinating! When we travel, we also like the freedom that having a car gives us to explore and be on our own schedule. Nothing worse than relying on public transportation and their schedules!

  27. You really made me want to go back to Cozumel! I visited it back in 2007 and stayed for about 10-12 hours, too, but I’d really love to go back!

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