If you have only one day on Cozumel, here is your guide. Although many folks prefer the convenience of paying for a small, personalized tour of one sort or the other, we are here to tell you that if you do desire to get out and explore on your own, Cozumel is a perfect place to try it.
Be sure to order a Cozumel map from the Cancun Map Company ahead of time, then rent a car for the day and hit the road. This is a small, very flat island with paved, fairly well-maintained roads and light traffic.
If you do not feel like driving, you can still go it solo. Taxis are everywhere. They provide reliable, economical transportation. Provided you plan an itinerary that focuses on the mid-south snorkeling beaches and Chankanaab Park with, perhaps, an afternoon trip to town thrown in for shopping, people-watching and lunch. Figure around $16-$20 USD taxi fare from the cruise ship pier to the national park or other good snorkeling beaches and $15 USD for a trip into town from the International or Puerta Maya pier. If your ship docks at Punta Langosta, you are already right downtown.
Below are some suggested itineraries for exploring Cozumel on your own. We have divided these up into two sections. One for folks who do not want to rent a car and another for people who do.
Best Options if You Do NOT Want to Rent a Car
Part 1, The Beaches
If your ship arrives early enough to beat the crowds, whip out to the taxi stand and head for this beautiful park. Admission is $21 USD for adults and $14 USD for children (ages 4-12). Definitely worth the $$$ and a lovely way to spend the day. Restaurants, snorkel rentals, gardens and a little museum. The park hours are Monday-Saturday 8am-4:30pm
There is a protected lagoon that is perfect for young children. The snorkeling is usually not as good here as at some nearby spots. But it is still worth it for the view, ambience and nice facilities.
Tip: Get to Chankanaab National Park as early as possible. There are plenty of shaded lounge chairs on the long beach but this is a popular attraction and all the good spots will be taken by 11ish — particularly in high season
Free Snorkeling Beaches
If you are looking for the best shore snorkeling the island has to offer, we would suggest you give Chankanaab a miss this trip and head for one of two cute, close-in beach clubs we like. Both The Money Bar and Corona Beach Club perch on a section of rocky iron shore that provides some of the best shore snorkeling on the island. And both can be reached via taxi for less than the cost of renting a car for the day. For more info see Beaches.
The Money Bar and Corona Beach Club are free but you are expected to purchase beverages and/or food while you are using the facilities. You may want to spend the whole day here. But if you get your fill of the snorkeling and staring at the beautiful Caribbean, hop another cab into town.
Note: If you cannot get to these beaches by 11 AM, we suggest you head into town first for a few hours and then come back to these clubs around 3-3:30 PM. That way you will miss the high season crowds you may run into from around 11 to 3.
Part 2, Fun Things to Do in Downtown San Miguel in Half a Day or Less
When you have had enough snorkeling and sun for the day it is time to hop a cab or jump in your rental car and head for downtown San Miguel, a shopper’s paradise if you know where to look and a very friendly place to stroll around taking in the local culture.
You’ll be treated with politeness no matter how you act, but if you want to make friends and be an Ambassador of Good Will for your country, you might want to check out our article on How to Be More Than Just Another Tourist.
Fun Things to Do Downtown in half a day or less:
Sampling Yucatecan Cuisine
A Walking Tour of San Miguel
Click Here to Read About Touring Cozumel on Your Own with a Rental Car