Exploring Cozumel by Car
Touring Cozumel by car is a very doable option. The island is as flat as a plate and the roads quite well maintained. It’s also a very safe place for exploring on your own. A car jacking, for example, would be completely unheard of on this friendly, sunny little place.
As we’ve already seen in Part 1 of this article, although a rental car is handy, it’s certainly not a necessity. There are plenty of good beaches, shops and restaurants you can reach via taxi (or on foot if you stay downtown San Miguel.)
The nice thing about having a car is you can go places that will be expensively to reach by taxi. You also have the flexibility to check out several places until you find the ones that best suit your mood and inclinations.
If you’re a snorkeler for instance, you might want to cruise several shore snorkeling areas you can read about in our Snorkeling Article. You’ll also enjoy a car if you decide to sample several different beach clubs until you find the one with the atmosphere that pleases you best. For more info on this, check out Beaches.
Here are the other attractions that we recommend you consider visiting on days when you have a car.
- El Cedral
- Punta Sur National Park
- San Gervasio
- The Wild Side of the Island
This small village with one church, a tiny police station and several shops was the first Mayan settlement on the island and is reckoned to be at least 150 years old. At the start of May there is a week-long festival here that you may want to check out if you’re there at this time. But even if you come at another time, this peaceful little place so full of flowers and bird song is a lovely place to drive through slowly with your windows down.
Punta Sur National Park
Pristine and magnificent Punta Sur National Park encompasses the southern tip of Cozumel. You’ll encounter rugged, wild side beaches, sand beaches with gentle wave action, a great, climbable lighthouse and museum and large Columbia Lagoon which teems with nesting birds at some times of year and always has its share of crocs which, the rangers assure us, do NOT like people.
This is not a place to explore totally on your own because of its size and the long stretches between each attractive stopping point. Instead the rangers have set up a variety of vehicles including a two story pickup truck, some army trucks and something that looks a bit like a trolley car.
These roam the roads and take you from point to point so you don’t have to slough long distances in the sun. And you never have to wait more than 15 minutes for your ride to the next stop. Besides, the wait is never very bad. Because wherever you are will be utterly lovely.
You can buy beer, soft drinks and Pringles potato chips at many of the stops but if you want something else to eat, this is a good place to bring a lunch in a cooler. Eat it at one of the picnic tables in the shade by the stop that’s across from the lagoon. Beautiful view of the ocean, comfortable seating. You’ll like it. Then consider taking a shaded pontoon ride of the lagoon for an additional $3/person.
These small but very picturesque Mayan ruins are located in the center of the island half way along the cross island road that bisects Cozumel. For centuries San Gervasio was a mecca for Mayan women from the mainland who made the pilgrimage to the island by dugout canoe to worship at the shrine of Ixchell, Mayan goddess of fertility.
The San Gervasio ruins lack the spectacular location of Tulum and the monolithic construction of Coba both of which can be toured in one day from your Cozumel base. However, it is lovely and peaceful here in the jungle making it easy to imagine just what it must have been like back in, say 1750.
If you’re any kind of walker, be sure not to miss the temple that’s about 1/4 mile down the road to your left as you face the first ruins you come to. This is our favorite and most people don’t seem to find it.
The Eastern “Wild Side”
Since Hurricane Gilbert wiped out the electricity on this side of the island back in 1988, they’ve never rebuilt. As a result this side of the island is wild and nearly deserted.
The only habitation you’ll find is a few beach bars. that can make for a memorable way to spell away a few vacation hours drinking up the beautiful blue water, the sand and the salt spray.