How Do I Get From Cancun to Cozumel?

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There is no direct ferry service from Cancun to Cozumel.
There is no direct ferry service from Cancun to Cozumel. (Image: agustavop/iStock/Getty Images)

Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula tempts tourists with its soft beaches, water caves, ancient ruins, rich culture and clear, turquoise waters -- often rife with sea life such as rays, turtles and colorful fish. It's also known for lively night life, delicious cuisine and expansive nature. Many of the larger coastal towns such as Playa del Carmen and Cozumel contain cruise ports and have a heavy influx of foreigners at all times. The beach city of Cancun, somewhat synonymous with spring break debauchery, is also regularly frequented by tourists. Depending on your Yucatan itinerary, you may find yourself wanting to travel from Cancun to Cozumel, and luckily you have a few options.

Do It Yourself

Those flying into Cancun or traveling overland through Mexico may want to consider renting a car. Cancun airport has the most English speakers as well as a good number of internationally recognized companies such as Enterprise Rent-a-Car. From Cancun, drive south down Highway 307 toward Playa del Carmen. From here you can catch a ferry to the island of Cozumel. The journey should take only about an hour, so feel free to make stops along the way or grab a bite to eat in Puerto Morelos if your schedule allows.

Leave the Driving to Someone Else

If renting a car is not an option, you can save money and foreign road anxiety by catching a taxi from Cancun to Playa del Carmen before jumping on the ferry to Cozumel. Taxi prices are negotiable but still much higher than what you would pay for a shared ride van, or combi, as they are known. These vans are how the locals travel longer distances between cities and, unlike buses, do not run on a specific schedule. Typically, there are unmarked places where the vans pick up. You can also flag one down along the road, and rides are on a space available basis. Although they tend to stick to the main roads, the driver will get you as close to your destination as possible. While both of these are reputable options and there are no widely-known reports of danger, always be cautious when entering an unmarked vehicle.

Ferry Me Over

Since Cozumel is an island, the only way to reach it from mainland Mexico is by boat. While there are rumors that ferries run directly to Cozumel from Cancun, at time of publication, this is not true. Instead, travelers in Cancun must make their way to Playa del Carmen and catch the ferry there. While the ferry schedule is subject to change without notice, they tend to run from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. on the hour. The ferry itself is a modern, safe vessel with an indoor area and room on the bow for riders to take in Caribbean sea views and air.

Bus it, Baby

Another great option for getting to the Playa del Carmen ferry from Cancun is by hopping a bus. Buses to Playa del Carmen leave directly from the airport as well as from a bus depot in town. While there are a few different companies, ADO buses remain convenient, clean and comfortable -- often playing a movie, although in Spanish, during your journey. There is no bargaining over bus prices, and you must be sure to check timetables and ticket class before purchasing. Most buses have air conditioning, but double-check to be sure; the Mexican sun can be punishing. Also be aware of any national holidays, strikes or other reasons for delayed or canceled service.

All Aboard the Cruise Excursion

Unfortunately, there are no commercial ports of call in Cancun, but most Western Caribbean cruises that make it to Mexico do stop in Cozumel. These carriers include Royal Caribbean, Disney, Carnival and Princess. The good news is that, while they may not stop directly in Cancun, depending on the specific cruise, they will almost always offer a day trip or excursion from Cozumel to Cancun. While this only benefits travelers taking a cruise, it is an easy, stress-free way to spend time in both towns.

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