If you’re basing yourself in Playa del Carmen but want to see what all the Cozumel buzz is about, you’re in luck—taking a Playa del Carmen to Cozumel day trip isn’t only possible, but it’s a popular choice because of the proximity of these destinations and how easy it is to travel there independently.
Nevertheless, you’ll need to keep some things in mind before taking a day trip to Cozumel.
I’ve taken the Playa to Cozumel day trip three times without a tour. I learned several (sometimes costly) lessons along the way.
So, read on to learn from my mistakes and takeaways.
Accessiblity Note: If you’re a wheelchair user, check out our articles on accessibility in Cozumel and Playa del Carmen.
How To Get From Playa del Carmen to Cozumel
The best way to get to Cozumel from Playa del Carmen is by ferry.
It’s the only way, actually.
The ferry from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel departs from the muelle (pier) that sits a block from Parque Los Fundadores and the Paseo del Carmen shopping mall.
In layperson’s terms for those who haven’t arrived in Playa yet, that’s smack-dab in the tourist center.
The ferry ride takes about 45 minutes, and you might see flying fish along the way. More on that soon.
14 Tips for Your Playa del Carmen to Cozumel Day Trip
Below are some must-know tips for taking a day trip to Cozumel.
If you still want to see Cozumel after reading through these tips (and my guess is that you will), I’ve included a chart with the Playa to Cozumel ferry times at the end of this article.
Tip #1: Plan Your Day Trip Around the Weather
If you’re staying in Playa del Carmen for at least a few days, it’s best to wing the travel date of your day trip to Cozumel.
That way, you can monitor the weather, seeing what day has the least chance of rain and wind.
Don’t worry about getting your ferry tickets in advance; it’s unheard of for them to sell out.
Of course, the time of year you travel impacts the likelihood of encountering poor weather. January through April are the driest months in Cozumel, so those are your best bet for a smooth ferry trip.
Aside from the inconvenience, what’s the big deal with the weather, you wonder?
The ferries between Playa and Cozumel can’t run in inclement conditions, which leads us to our next tip.
For more details on what to expect weather-wise, check out my article on the best time to visit Cozumel.
Tip #2: Don’t Visit Cozumel Before a Flight…
…or bus ride, for that matter.
I contemplated putting this tip first, but now you have more context for understanding it. If you visit Cozumel on the day of your departure from Playa del Carmen, you risk missing your transportation if the weather is bad.
It’s common for the Cozumel ferries to undergo short to moderate delays due to poor weather conditions (20 minutes to a couple of hours).
But in worst-case scenarios, the ferries can’t depart at all, forcing travelers to spend the night in Cozumel.
You can imagine the headache and expense that would incur if you’re supposed to catch a flight home.
The silver lining is that you have a good deal of control over preventing this worst-case scenario; by monitoring the weather before and during your day trip to Cozumel, you can determine whether taking an earlier ferry back is best to avoid an overnight delay.
Tip #3: Ferry Tickets Are Flexible
Two ferry companies run the route between Playa and Cozumel—Ultramar and Winjet. They alternate departure times at one-hour intervals.
In both cases, the ferry companies offer flexible departure dates and times with their tickets.
So, you’re welcome to embark on your Playa del Carmen to Cozumel day trip at any hour and return at any time, even if you chose a specific time when you booked your ticket.
The advantages of this are twofold; you can get an earlier or later start to your Cozumel trip, depending on how much you partied it up in Playa the night before, and you don’t have to rush your visit when returning.
Just remember: The later the ferry you take from Cozumel to go back to Playa, the higher the risk of overnight delays if the weather is bad.
Of course, you’ll be able to get on the next available ferry without paying extra if you’re forced to stay longer in Cozumel.
Should you buy your ticket in advance and the weather looks bad on the day of your Cozumel trip, you’re welcome to hold off traveling until another day. Ultramar and Winjet’s tickets are valid for use on any date and time within six months of your purchase.
Tip #4: Pack Food If You’re on a Budget
Visiting Cozumel for a day is far cheaper than making it your vacation base.
But it’s still expensive.
You can expect a meal to start around $15 – $20 before drinks and appetizers. That’s in dollars, not pesos.
I enjoy treating myself to a meal when I’m on a day trip. But I had trouble swallowing the thought of paying so much money for what appeared to be mediocre food when I could get much more for less in Playa.
So, I turned 7-Eleven into my “restaurant,” purchasing some snacks and eating them by the water to tide me over until I returned to Playa.
Even then, they were expensive for 7-Eleven standards.
So, the bottom line is to buy food in Playa and bring it with you to Cozumel if you don’t want to spend a fortune on meals.
Tip #5: The Ferries Alternate Schedules
Regardless of when you take your day trip to Cozumel, you’ll be able to catch a ferry; they operate 365 days a year from Playa del Carmen.
But the ferry company you travel with will vary depending on the time of day.
Ultramar and Winjet alter their schedules so that there’s a one-hour time departure difference between them.
The advantage of this is that you have more departure times for starting your trip.
If you already bought your ticket and just missed your ferry, you’ll likely have to wait two hours for the next departure. That’s because Ultramar won’t accept a Winjet ticket and vice versa.
So, check the ferry schedule for the day you want to travel to get an idea of your departure choices with each company.
There’s little difference between the Ultramar and Winjet ferries other than their color. Both ferries offer an air-conditioned indoor area on the first floor and seating on an outdoor upper deck.
Tip #6: Look for Flying Fish
No, you didn’t read that wrong; flying fish live in the water between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel.
Despite their name, flying fish don’t technically fly. Instead, they spread their pectoral fins, which serve as wings that keep them airborne for a short period as they fly suspended in the air over the water’s surface.
You’ll need to keep your eyes peeled for them and your fingers crossed for a dose of luck, though. Of the six times I took the ferry, I only saw flying fish once.
But it was worth the wait. I couldn’t believe how long the fish stayed in the air, and I got lucky that they were flying parallel to my ferry.
It wasn’t until I did some research that I learned flying fish can glide in the air for up to 650 feet, helping them evade airborne predators.
Travel Tip: Don’t try photographing flying fish on your Cozumel day trip from Playa del Carmen. It’s hard to see their silvery body through a lens, so you’re better off enjoying the moment camera-free.
Tip #7: Forgo Biking
I had the (not so) bright idea to rent a bicycle during my first day trip to Cozumel. I had a rough idea that Cozumel was big, but I arrived energized and before the sun had turned the island into a sauna.
Long story short, I biked around a fraction of the island. And that’s a generous description of how far I went.
There were three issues I realized during my bike ride:
- You only have time to see one, maybe two, attractions.
- The roads become too desolate for comfort (from the perspective of a solo female).
- There’s little shade to shelter you from the heat.
Needless to say, my first Playa del Carmen to Cozumel day trip was a flop due to overambition and a lack of research.
The bottom line?
If you’re staying in Cozumel for more than one day, renting a bicycle can be fun to do as an activity within your trip, not as the highlight of the trip itself.
Taking a day trip limits your time. So, do yourself a favor and rent a scooter or car so that you can see as much of Cozumel as possible.
Tip #8: Street Taxis Are Safe
This was a hard one for me to wrap my head around, given that everyone says never to hail a taxi off the street.
But in Cozumel, this rule pretty much goes out the window.
I use “pretty much” because one can never guarantee that nothing will happen when a stranger drives you around. But the taxis in Cozumel are notorious for being registered and regulated, making many people feel comfortable hailing one off the street.
The taxis are white with red markings. Your driver will be able to tell you the fare in advance if you ask, showing you a standardized list of prices.
So, if you’re in Cozumel for a day and want to focus on sightseeing rather than driving, using street taxis is an excellent option.
Just be prepared to shell out wads of pesos. Nothing in Cozumel comes cheap, and taxi rides are certainly no exception.
Travel Tip: Uber and other rideshare apps don’t operate in Cozumel. So, don’t waste your precious day trip time trying to use them.
Tip #9: Plan Your Route in Advance
If you’ve already spent time in Cancun, you might know that you can wing a day trip to Isla Mujeres and leave the island feeling like you’ve pretty much seen it all.
Not so with Cozumel.
Cozumel is nearly 185 square miles, making it impossible to see all its main attractions in a day. So, I encourage you to make a list of your Cozumel must-sees and plan your route around them.
Some popular sites of interest you can visit during your day trip to Cozumel include:
- Punta Sur Eco Beach Park
- San Gervasio Ruins
- Chankanaab Beach Park
- San Miguel de Cozumel
You can also choose from one of many beach clubs to use as a base for sunbathing, snorkeling, and diving.
Taking a catamaran tour or participating in other water-based activities are other popular things to do in Cozumel.
Tip #10: Know When San Miguel de Cozumel Comes to Life
Catching the earliest ferry for a Cozumel day trip from Playa del Carmen isn’t wise if you want to arrive when things are open on the island.
Yes, you read that right—I’m giving you the okay to sleep in (but just a smidge).
That’s because most shops, restaurants, and attractions in and around San Miguel de Cozumel (where the ferry port is) don’t open until 9:00 am at the earliest, with things truly kicking into full tourist gear at 10:00 or 11:00 am.
If you arrive in Cozumel before 9:00 am, as I did during my first visit, you’ll encounter mostly empty streets and essentially nothing open except good ‘ole 7-Eleven.
There’s beauty in visiting Cozumel in its desolate state.
But it’s a matter of setting expectations; if you were hoping to book a tour on the spot or arrive early at a beach club, you’d have to wait if you take one of the first ferries.
Tip #11: Don’t Explore Desolate Beaches
Before I took that fateful bike ride “around” Cozumel, the well-meaning man whom I rented my bike from gave me a warning I heeded: Stay away from desolate beaches.
Thieves hide out in these areas, he informed me. They wait for unknowing tourists to arrive giddy at a beach that they think they have all to their own and then steal their belongings.
Cozumel is underdeveloped, especially compared to Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
So, you can stumble upon many desolate beaches as you drive or take a scooter during your Playa del Carmen to Cozumel day trip.
There’s nothing wrong with slowing down and snapping some photos from your scooter or car window; I even did so from my bike. The photo above is an example (I hightailed it back to town shortly after).
But don’t linger. And definitely don’t leave your mode of transportation to take a stroll down the beach.
Psst! For more safety tips, check out my guide, Is Cozumel Safe?
Tip #12: Beach Clubs Are a Thing
Beach clubs in Cozumel aren’t only for people looking to party it up with their toes in the sand. Instead, they’re also a popular choice among families and other low-key Cozumel goers.
I’m inclined to believe that the reason for this has to do with beach safety.
Beach clubs are a safe place to spend your day in Cozumel lounging on the sand and swimming. These clubs offer lockers and have staff that runs a tight ship to ensure that only paying customers enter.
Most beach clubs offer the option to either pay for a day pass or pay your way to use their facility by ordering a minimum peso amount of food and drinks.
Cozumel’s beach clubs also offer one or more of the following:
- Snorkel gear
- Beach chairs
Since you’ll only be in Cozumel for a day, you likely won’t want to spend your whole time at a beach club.
But if lounging on the beach is on your bucket list, then going to a beach club is the safest and most comfortable way to do so.
Hey, there! If you’re on the fence about where in the Yucatan to pitch your beach umbrella, read my guide on the best Yucatan beaches. There’s a bonus in there you won’t expect.
Tip #13: Avoid Seaweed Season
This tip isn’t just for taking a day trip to Cozumel—seaweed season is an issue in coastal areas across the Yucatan Peninsula. And other countries in the Caribbean, for that matter.
Sargassum is the culprit of seaweed season, which arrives in excessive amounts on Cozumel’s eastern shores from May to October. This microalga that’s beneficial in small quantities, providing food and shelter for marine life.
The issue is that agricultural runoff and rising ocean temperatures are causing sargassum to reproduce in damaging amounts.
So, if you travel to Cozumel from May to October, you can expect to see a thick blanket of these brown algae in the water when you’re visiting the east side of the island. You’ll also encounter mounds of it piled on the shore in areas where locals don’t haul out the sargassum via wheelbarrow or bulldozer.
But the truth is that even bulldozers aren’t enough to nix the smell of rotting eggs that sargassum releases as it decomposes.
As a silver lining, sargassum isn’t harmful to human health. It’ll just make you want to steer clear of swimming or spending time by the water.
The good news is that if you decide to travel to Mexico from May to October, Cozumel is one of the best places to do it.
Due to its position, the island’s eastern side serves as a net, catching much of the seaweed. That leaves Cozumel’s western beaches mostly untouched by sargassum.
Tip #14: Plan Around Daylight Hours
Since Cozumel sits relatively close to the equator, there’s only a small amount of fluctuation in daylight hours throughout the year.
You’ll enjoy the longest daylight hours in Cozumel on June 21st, which has sunrise around 6:08 am and sunset at about 7:30 pm. That makes for approximately 13 hours and 22 minutes of daylight for your Cozumel day trip from Playa del Carmen.
In contrast, December 21st has the shortest amount of daylight in Cozumel. The sun rises at approximately 7:19 am and sets around 6:12 pm, a total of 10 hours and 53 minutes of daylight.
I encourage you to check this table to see the sunrise and sunset times during your Cozumel day trip dates.
It’s best to get all your beach time and ruins sightseeing in during the day. Then, you can enjoy the nightlife in San Miguel de Cozumel or at a beach club before hopping on an evening ferry back to Playa del Carmen (provided the weather is good, of course).
Travel Tip: If you’re still on the fence about where to stay, check out my guide on Cozumel vs Playa del Carmen.
Ferry Schedule for Your Cozumel Day Trip
I hope these tips have gotten you excited—and better prepared—for visiting Cozumel. So, if you’re ready to embark on your Playa del Carmen to Cozumel day trip, below are the ferry schedules.
Remember, two ferry companies run this route: Ultramar and Winjet.
I recommend checking their websites or visiting their office in person when you’re in Playa for the most up-to-date information about ferry departure times; they sometimes change according to the high and low tourist seasons and the day of the week.
Playa del Carmen to Cozumel Ferry Schedule
Below are the approximate Playa del Carmen ferry departure times for a day trip to Cozumel. Keep in mind that the journey takes about 45 minutes.
Cozumel to Playa del Carmen Ferry Schedule
After you take your Cozumel day trip from Playa del Carmen, you’ll be able to return to Playa via these approximate ferry times.
Ready to Visit Cozumel?
Flying fish, Mayan ruins, barrier reefs, and a vibrant downtown scene are all things that await you during your Playa del Carmen to Cozumel day trip.
Personally, I love using Playa as my base when I visit Cozumel. For starters, I save tons of money. And while Cozumel is stunning, I appreciate the more backpacker/digital nomad vibe that makes up Playa del Carmen.
If you have questions about taking a day trip to Cozumel from Playa, leave a comment and I’ll be happy to help.
I’d also love to hear about your experience in the comments section after your trip.
Psst! If you’re planning on exploring the Riviera Maya, check out my guide on the Riviera Maya vs Playa del Carmen. And if you’re thinking about island hopping, learn the differences between Cozumel vs Holbox.