Updated December 2009
There are two competing ferry companies, UltraMar and Mexico Water Jets, that run from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel from the pier at the south end of town, they leave on the hour but not every hour so you should check the day before to see what time they run. Currently UltraMar's schedule for December 2009 is different for even and odd days of the month which seems kind of peculiar. The schedules I found on the internet are useless, they may change from day to day or month to month.
The ticket booths are right next door to each other as you approach the dock area, both in Playa and in Cozumel, the one with the next ferry will be the one that is currently selling tickets. There is no savings to buying a round trip so wait to purchase your return fare to see which ferry meets your schedule better, we bought a round trip and then had three hours to kill, fortunately they refunded our money from UltraMar and we bought tickets on Mexicana. They both take about 35-40 minutes and cost 140 pesos each way (currently $11 US). They only take cash but they take USD or pesos.
There was plenty of room on the ferry going both directions so you don't need advance reservations but get in line early if you want to sit in a particular spot.
They can be rented in many places for an hour to a day or more. The concern to me would be the potential of traffic and locals not adhering to you trying to maneuver around the city, or outskirts. On the other hand, parking and getting around could be easier.
All around the cruise ship docks there are taxis waiting to take you where needed. The cost to downtown was about $7 plus tip from the Carnival Pier which is about 3-4 miles south. they are frequent in downtown area.
Most of the scuba diving that is done from Cozumel is done from small boats. Some dive shops in town pick up at the town pier. Papa Hogs is out on the road to the cruise ship docks, and you can leave from there. Leaving early and taking a small fast boat means that you get to the dive sites before the big 'cattle boats' that leave later. You can also pick up a ride at the cruise ship docks.
Since Cozumel is an island, there are two ways to get there - by air and by boat. I took a little puddle jumper from Cancun. I got a free ticket on Delta to anywhere in North America by taking a voluntary bump. Almost all the flights (BWI to Atlanta to Cancun to Cozumel) were code-shares - most of them were not on Delta. When I went to get on the plane to Cozumel they had a fit and made me take the little open ended wrenches I had for my dive equipment out of my bag - no tools allowed. I had to leave them there - they gave them to the pilot to transport for me. I don't know what they thought I was going to do - take the plane apart bolt by bolt?
The pilot did take the wrenches to Cozumel for me and I retrieved them when I got there.
My husband flew directly in from Miami on AA. I don't think that flight is available anymore. He had an unused ticket from BWI to MIA, so all I had to do was get him a ticket from Miami to Cozumel.
The other alternative is to take a taxi or some land transportation from the Cancun airport to the ferry and then take the ferry over.
Cancun Airport....Playa del Carmen....Bus (operated by ADO or Riviera)...$8 per person one-way.
Cancun Airport....Playa del Carmen.....Colectivo (shared) taxi mini-van...$16 per person one-way.
Cancun Airport.....Playa del Carmen....Private taxi (3 or 4 people depending on luggage)...$50 upwards per taxi one-way.
Playa del Carmen.....Cozumel....Ferry (run by Ultramar or Waterjets)...$11 per person one-way.*
Or else come by cruise ship.
Please don't make our mistake.....we were glad to see the Cancun-Cozumel flights resume recently. The only company is Mayair. Before/during your booking process, they will be curteous, helpful, even friendly.....and will assure you everything is legit.
We paid the $750 for 10 people to fly one-way from Cancun airport to Cozumel. Our first clue on arrival into Cancun airport was that absolutely none of the locals had heard of Mayair. VERY long story-short.....The "14 passenger plane" that they told us about, and even show on their pamphlets/website suddenly didn't exist when we arrived. So they shuttled us in 2 groups on a 6-seater.......and the second group of us waited over 2 hours, then before they would board us....they demanded $400 in cash extra.....at that time of the evening I suppose "they had us." By the way, if you do use Mayair......they are owned by a man, and his son runs it......and as it turned out, nearly everything was a scam.
However, as I guess we are slow to learn....and tend to give "second chances," 6 of our 10 people looked into flying back to Cancun at the end of our week in Cozumel. I went to their downtown office, and as usual, the lady was friendly, etc. etc......but, she didn't know who we were. So suddenly, their are no flights at the times we were quoted previously......AND, they "don't have" a 6-person plane.....only a (you guessed it) "14 person plane."
And since we were only 6, and it was "low season," we'd have to pay $75 x 14 for them to fly us to Cancun.
I could go on, but you get the point......take the Cancun shuttle to Playa del Carmen, and the Ferry to Cozumel.
Gracias for listening....and I hope this helps someone is our situation.
To get the best price for a taxi ride, ask before you get in what the fare will be. We took several trips from our hotel (the Melia Cozumel) into San Miguel and the fare varied from $8-14 each time! If you asked first, you were given a rate of about $8-10. If you just said where you wanted to go and hopped in, you'd pay around $10-14. If they quote you a rate that you feel is too high, just keep walking, they're very competative!
you really should rent a vehicle so that you can drive around the island....the "other" side of the island is VERY different from the main side and it's worth the drive....the waves are killer over there....and what better way to see the whole island than with the top down and the wind in your hair...AHHHH!!!! the smells are wonderful on an island...
It was not until our third trip to Cozumel that Karen and I rented a car. It was so easy we wish we had done it earlier. Several car rental agencies have offices at the main dock so the prices are competitive. On the recommendation of my brother-in-law, who has rented automobiles in Cozumel before, we chose Avis. It was quick and less expensive than hiring a taxi or taking a bus tour. I recommend that a person get the full insurance when renting a car in Mexico - just in case.
Getting around the island is easy and traffic was never heavy. However, in the city itself we did get temporarily lost because of very limited street signs. A four-wheel-drive car or jeep is your best bet if you plan to take any of the unpaved backroads.
As of January, 2008, gasoline on Cozumel was about $4.00 US per gallon. In our little Ford Fiesta we drove all the way around the island on a couple of gallons.
There are literally thousands of taxis waiting outside the Cozumel cruise terminal. Fares are determined by destination, and are reasonably priced.
A ten minute ride for four to the dolphin encounter and back was $20. Prices go up a bit for large parties, but are still reasonable.
We took a scuba tour and a tour bus drove us to the ferry that got us to Cozumel. It was very convenient not to drive and enjoy the coach bus, however, we had to be back at a certain time, which was a petty. The island turned out to be very interesting - there was much to see and browse around after all the scuba diving was done. Hence, I would recommend driving and taking a ferry on your own schedule.
Hired a colourful VW beetle from Executive Car Rental for the day. Was $58 for the day including insurance. It was an old car with a dodge brake, yet a pleasure to drive. Its worth driving around the island and exploring some of its beaches etc.
I received some comments from people on the street yelling "I love your car, man!", and several people taking photos.
Across the street from the cruise port, there is a place to rent jeeps and ATVs. If you are going to spend a day in Cozumel, I recommend you rent one of these. Some of the best places to explore in Cozumel are along dirt paths and roads - and you will need a 4X4 to access some of these roads.
Cozumel is an island, so there is no "one if by land". You either fly or you come by water. The water route can be a big ship like a cruise ship, or by ferry, or if you have your own boat you can use that.
But most people who are coming to Cozumel either fly or come on a cruise ship. Cozumel built a cruise ship dock in the late 90s, but Hurricane Wilma in October 2005 really laid waste to the island including destroying the cruise ship docks. But the people of Cozumel got to work and were ready for more cruise ship visitors within a month or so. At first the passengers were brought ashore by tenders, using the ferries. One year on, the island's mayor says the town has completely recovered.
Two cruise ship piers have re-opened and work is under way on the third - Cozumel is still able to receive many cruise ships with ease. Downtown is 100 per cent recovered and better in many ways - new stores, new gardens and new entertainment (but the same old smiles).
If your cruise ship is stopping in Cozumel, the times you see listed for arrival and departure will be in local time which is CST -- same as, say, Texas and one hour earlier than, say, Florida.
...don't talk to anyone until you find your hotel transport. We were shuffled off to a long sales pitch as were others on our same van. Next time I won't even bother with the 'hotel transport' just go directly outside and get a cab. 2005 - $10