Exploring Cozumel by Car

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Exploring Cozumel by Car

Car Rental Tips
There are 3 gas stations on the island making it easy to fill your tank without long waits in line or going far out of your way. Gas prices are quoted in liters (close to a quart). Always ask for a fixed amount -- say $200 pesos rather than saying to "fill 'er up". Also get out of the car and check the meter to be sure the attendant has reset it to zero before he starts pumping. For honest service, tip the attendant a few pesos.
It's important to be sure you take personal liability insurance. Why? Because if you injure a third party, you will be hauled to the police station where you will be required to pay damages in CASH. Credit cards aren't accepted nor are foreign credit cards. So always take this coverage which is often, but not always included in your basic charges. Whether to take collision insurance or not is a personal matter. But be aware that the prices for collision insurance appear to be quite high at all the rental car companies we've checked.
Choosing a Vehicle

Unlike in the states where rental cars generally have that "new car smell" there are no such standards here -- even when you rent from American franchises. So look the car over carefully before agreeing to take it. Also look for personal recommendations on discussion groups and websites like this one.

If you shop for deals online, make sure you're comparing apples with apples. Often additional costs like insurance, taxes, airport surcharges and charges for additional drivers will not be included in the price you see on the internet.

We also advise not renting scooters. They are dangerous. And the passenger may get gnats in his or her teeth. Fork out a few extra bucks and get something safer. VW convertibles can be had for as little as $25/day.



When driving in town, watch yourself until you get the layout straight in your mind. Cross island streets generally have a stop sign on every corner. Streets parallel to the ocean generally have the right of way. Roads generally also alternate one way. We'd advise ordering a map from the Cancun Map Company and studying it ahead of time.

Watch for moped drivers that like to blind side you by coming up on your right when you least expect them.

Be sure everyone in the front seat is wearing seatbelts when you are heading south out of town towards Chankannab or out of town towards the east coast on the cross island road. There are police roadblocks along both these stretches designed to catch people not wearing their belts.

CLICK HERE to Read Our Current Car Rental Company Recommendations.



Drive your rental car to the "wild side" of the island and stake out your own beautiful place in the shade. For the price of a couple drinks or lunch, you can hang out at places like Chen Rio for hours at a time. Just you, the sand and sea and a discreet waiter back at the bar waiting to take your order.

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

El Cedral

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.

LEFT bougainvillea & frangiapani (known locally as "flora de maya" decorate the gate of this private home in El Cedral center.


Photo of the lighthouse at Punta Sur courtesy of Don Householder. It's worth the climb for the superb view!

Punta Sur National Park

Pristine and magnificen,t 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, softdrinks 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.

San Gervasio

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.


he San Gervasio ruins lack the spectaular 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 198?, 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 little ramshackle 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.

Pictured above, a palapa at Paradise Cafe right by the entrance to Punta Sur National Park. At left, view from the bluff at Coconuts a beach bar with a million dollar vista. Other favorites include Chen Rio, which is good for families because of its protected cove and Mezcalitos known for their great shrimp.

WARNING: We do not advise swimming on the island's east side. There are rip tides and undertows and a number of people have drown here some of whom were strong, experienced swimmers.


Part 3: A Walking Tour of San Miguel