A Wheelchair User’s Guide to Accessibility in Cozumel
Cozumel is an excellent destination to visit as part of your Yucatán vacation—it’s far less crowded than Cancun and is home to the Mesoamerican Reef, which is the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. Wheelchair accessibility in Cozumel is good thanks to the island’s mostly flat terrain, cobblestone-free paths, and accessible taxis. In this guide, I’ll cover how to navigate Cozumel as a wheelchair user and the best wheelchair accessible places to visit.
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Getting to Cozumel
You have two options for arriving in Cozumel: plane or ferry.
Since Cozumel is the largest island in Mexico, a number of international flights operate out of it including direct flights from Dallas, Houston, Miami, and Charlotte. You can also take a domestic flight from mainland Mexico to Cozumel. The Cozumel International Airport is wheelchair accessible.
If you’re already in the Yucatán, taking a ferry to Cozumel is an excellent (and your best) option. The ferry to Cozumel only leaves out of Playa del Carmen.
While you’re at it, you might want to spend a night or two in nightlife-friendly Playa. You can check out our post on Wheelchair Accessibility in Playa del Carmen for more details.
Wheelchair Accessibility at the Ferry Ports
Both the Playa del Carmen and Cozumel ferry ports are wheelchair accessible. As a wheelchair user, you’ll have priority boarding on the Ultramar ferry.
In Playa del Carmen, you’ll need to descend a long but gradual slope down a brick pedestrian path to arrive at the Playa del Carmen ferry port. Manual wheelchair users may need a push going back up on the return, if you won’t be flying out of Cozumel.
The Playa del Carmen terminal is a bit larger than in Cozumel, but both are easy to get around. You’ll travel down a long cement path in order to board your ferry.
Below are photos showing the journey:
To reiterate, you can drive right up to the Cozumel ferry port. In Playa del Carmen, you’ll need to park a block or two away and then descend a sloped pedestrian path to arrive at the Playa del Carmen ferry port.
Wheelchair Accessibility on the Ferry to Cozumel
Ultramar was the only ferry company operating between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel when I visited, so this section refers to the services they offer.
When you arrive at the ferry port, the person scanning your tickets will point you to the priority line. The ferries tend to park at the far end of the boarding dock, so you’ll likely get to enjoy a nice stroll with stunning ocean views before catching your ride. Just be aware that there isn’t shade, so prepare yourself with sunscreen and perhaps an umbrella.
You’ll board your ferry via a ramp. The ramps have raised wooden strips every few feet, so it’s not the most pleasant experience to get on the ferry, as your wheels will likely catch on them. The ramp also doesn’t always come down flush with the ground.
Once you hit the small outdoor entrance to the ferry, they’ll set up a small wooden ramp so you can pop into the first-floor indoor area of the ferry.
Ultramar offers accessible spaces at the back of the ferry so you don’t have to transfer out of your wheelchair. Unfortunately, none of these spaces offer an ocean view.
Only the first floor of the Ultramar ferry is wheelchair accessible. Aside from heading outside to use the restroom, there isn’t sufficient space to hang out and enjoy the views from an outdoor deck (those are located on the second and third floors).
I recommend using the accessible restrooms at the ferry port in Playa del Carmen or Cozumel before getting on the ferry. However, if nature calls during the 30-minute ferry ride, there’s an outdoor accessible restroom you can use.
The indoor portion of the ferry where you’ll be hanging out has air conditioning and snacks for purchase. If you’ll be traveling with young children, you’ll be pleased to know that the family section will be right behind you. If you’re not, I’ll cross my fingers with you that there aren’t any kids on your ferry.
General Accessibility in Cozumel
The highest point in Cozumel is a whooping 49 feet. Most of the tourist areas are completely flat, including San Miguel, which is the downtown tourist center of Cozumel.
In addition to exploring the accessible shops in Cozumel, you can also visit the main square in San Miguel. If you get lucky, you might catch a cultural show. The benches in the square have space beside them so you can park your wheelchair next to any able-bodied people you may be traveling with.
I’d estimate that around 50% of the shops and restaurants in downtown San Miguel are either fully wheelchair accessible or have a small enough ledge that you can easily pop over. Of those that aren’t accessible, many offer accessible outdoor shopping or restaurant seating.
Therefore, you can expect to have access to the majority of shops and restaurants in some capacity as a wheelchair user in Cozumel.
The downtown area of Cozumel also offers good seaside accessibility. At the Cozumel ferry port, there’s a sidewalk that expands out on either side of the ocean. It’s a bit narrow, but manageable, and there are drop curbs at all crosswalks there.
At certain points along the way, you’ll come across cement ramps that jut out into the ocean (like the one pictured in the first photo of this article). They’re a great opportunity to get up close to Cozumel’s crystal clear water. Just make sure your breaks work well since there aren’t any railings!
If you end up exploring outside of the main touristy area of downtown San Miguel, you’ll encounter a more typical Mexican scene: crumbling sidewalks and objects blocking the way. In that case, there’s a bike path that follows the road near the ocean for a while that could make things a bit easier.
However, your best bet for getting around Cozumel is hiring an accessible taxi or renting a car and driving around the island. You can easily cover the entire island that way, and you can park and explore the accessible tourist sites.
Wheelchair Accessible Parking in Cozumel
Accessible parking is limited but present in Cozumel. When visiting San Miguel, I recommend getting off at the accessible area of the ferry port and do your exploring from there while someone else parks the vehicle.
You’ll also find accessible parking at various beaches throughout the island.
As mentioned earlier, Cozumel offers wheelchair accessible taxis. As you can imagine, they’re limited, especially when cruise ships are in town. However, they’re arguably the best way to get around the island since your driver will know all the accessible hot spots to take you to.
I highly recommend booking your accessible vehicle in advance. This is Cozumel offers wonderful transportation options for wheelchair users, including a real-time availability chart.
Wheelchair Accessible Beaches in Cozumel
While you can spend the day cruising around the island, the unfortunate reality is that there aren’t many beaches that offer great wheelchair accessibility.
With only about a third of Cozumel being developed, there are a lot of empty beaches around. However, your best bet at finding good accessibility is to spend the day at a beach club (or your hotel—more on that shortly).
Below are some accessible beaches in Cozumel:
- Playa Azul Beach Club
- Money Bar Beach Club
- Buccanos Grill & Beach Club
- PalMar Beach Club
Each beach club requires a fee to enter, but once you’re there you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into paradise. Waiters will bring the food and drinks you order to your beach spot, and you might even be able to manage accessible snorkeling.
Accessible Restrooms in Cozumel
It likely comes as no surprise that accessible restrooms are hit and miss in Cozumel. Below are some trusty options you can rely on.
- Money Bar
- Cozumel ferry port (only if you’re taking the ferry)
Accessible Restaurants in Cozumel
There is no shortage of wheelchair accessible restaurants in Cozumel, and this is largely due to the fact that so many have outdoor seating.
When you’re strolling around downtown Cozumel, you’ll have your pick of cute and quirky restaurant options. If you’re taking a day trip to Cozumel from Playa del Carmen, be prepared for sticker shock. Nothing about Cozumel is cheap, but it’s so beautiful that it’s worth the splurge.
Accessible Hotels in Cozumel
Planning on spending one or more nights in Cozumel? Lucky you! The hotels below offer accessible rooms and beach access.
Playa Azul Hotel: Offers an oceanfront ground floor room with a roll-in shower, handrails near the toilet, accessible clothes rack, and a ramp off the patio.
Cozumel Hotel & Resort: This is a Wyndham property for people preferring the reliability of chain hotels. They offer a large accessible private beach with plenty of palm trees for shade if you get toasty in the sun.
Intercontinental Presidente: They have one accessible pool view room and one accessible beach view room. The ramp leading from the hotel to the beach is fairly steep.
Wheeling Around the Yucatán?
If so, we’ve got you covered with our guides on the following destinations:
With the help of accessible taxis and flat terrain, wheelchair accessibility in Cozumel is decent enough so you can enjoy much of what the island has to offer. Should you encounter accessibility issues, friendly locals will likely come to your side to lend a hand.
Do you have questions about accessibility in Cozumel? Leave a comment and we’ll see if we can help. Alternatively, if you’ve already traveled to Cozumel as or with a wheelchair user, we’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section. Your advice will help everyone here!
Laura’s love for traveling started with a trip to Jamaica. Since then, she’s spent over five years living in Latin America and four years wandering the globe. She’s an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she’s befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister. You can learn about their accessibility endeavors here.