We had to decide which island to visit. Holbox, Isla Mujeres or Cozumel. All are situated off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, and each local we met tried to persuade us to go to a different island.
Check out the video from the trip!
‘Isla Mujeres is beautiful, you MUST go.’
‘Holbox is so different and laid-back, that’s the place to be!’
‘Cozumel is my favourite, the ocean there is stunning.’
And then I read that Cozumel has some of the best scuba diving in the world, and has been a diving hotspot since the 1960s when the famous French diver Jacques Cousteu discovered the beauty of the reef system.
I was sold.
“We’re going to Cozumel Dave!”
(Dave often jokes I am his secretary as I organise all our itineraries and he simply follows along.)
Getting to Cozumel
When the day arrived, we crowded onto the ferry dock at Playa del Carmen amongst a hundred other people. Sweat dripped off the tourists, the sun screamed down and the water was a blinding bright blue.
During the one hour journey we were serenaded by Elvis who pranced around the boat, gyrating in time to the boat’s rocking from side-to-side.
On land, we lugged our backpacks down the main drag into the heart of the town, surrounded by the screeching of ‘Amigo, over here, buy two t-shirts get one free!’ and ‘Amiga, you want a scooter!’
Dave’s smile quickly faded, and the man who yelled, ‘Sir, are you mad or are you just married?’ didn’t seem to ease the pain of getting hassled at every step.
Relieved, we arrived at our B&B, checked into our motel-like room complete with kitchenette, cranked the air-conditioning and collapsed on the bed.
We were exhausted and the adventuring hadn’t even begun yet.
5 top adventure activities to do in Cozumel, Mexico
Ride a scooter to the beach
After a one hour nap, we felt brave enough to step outside of the B&B once more. We headed to the beach.
‘Amigos! Rent a scooter from me!’
Dave ignored the tout and walked on by. I paused. Perhaps this scooter thing wasn’t such a bad idea. I jogged slowly to catch up with Dave and grabbed his elbow.
‘Let’s do this scooter thing.’
Dave wasn’t sure. ‘I don’t fancy riding a scooter on Mexican roads.’
Thankfully, secretary won the day and before we knew it we were cruising along the coast, wind blowing through our hair and the two of us laughing with childlike glee.
The roads on Cozumel are perfect for scootering. There’s one main road that loops around the whole island and there’s two sections – one for cars and one for mopeds and bicycles. They’re very well maintained with no potholes.
We parked up alongside the ocean, stripped down to our bathers and went for a dip. Back on the bike, we drove the entire island, watching the sun slowly get closer to the water as the whole of Cozumel was bathed in a pinkish glow.
Drive a speedboat to a deserted island
WOW Excursions picked us up the next morning and we discussed the cruise ship culture of the island as we headed to our next adventure activity.
More than three million tourists visit Cozumel each year via cruise ship. You might think this is good for tourism, but the problem with cruise ships is that the visitors often do one activity and then sail off into the sunset that evening.
The ship’s visitors rarely eat in local restaurants, don’t necessarily buy many souvenirs, and obviously don’t need accommodation so the local hotel industry doesn’t benefit either. In fact, some cruise ship tourists don’t even leave the boat at each location meaning the island sometimes doesn’t benefit at all from the tourism.
Luis, our guide, explained to us, “Prior to 2008 it was great – mostly wealthy people used cruise ships and at least they tipped very well and paid to experience many of the activities. These days cruise ship tourists are more at the budget end of the spectrum and this means a lot less money for our island.”
We were headed to an adventure activity popular with cruise ship tourists – speed boating. I’d never been on a speed boat before, let alone driven one, and could hardly contain my excitement as we hopped into the bright-yellow speed monsters and set off for the horizon.
The motor thundered as Dave zipped around, splashing warm Caribbean water into my face as he pushed the boat full-throttle around a shipwreck.
We pulled up to a deserted beach, cut the motor and spent awhile splashing in the crystal-clear waters to cool off. Palm trees swayed in the distance and we had the white sandy shores all to ourselves. Bliss.
3. Ride a Polaris through the jungle
Swiftly after our speedboat jaunt, we strapped ourselves into a Polaris, ready to bush-bash through the jungle. If you don’t know what a Polaris is (we didn’t) it’s like a dune buggy (Australian term) or a 4×4 that’s housed within a cage like structure and can thunder through large muddy puddles and along dirt tracks.
It has brilliant suspension so you don’t feel all the bumps like you would in a normal car. The advantage of this is that you can throng it over potholes and through shallow rivers to your heart’s content.
We did just that.
4. Go nuts on an ATV
I love hiking through places to get closer to nature. There’s nothing like climbing a mountain to look down on the valley below, feeling sweaty and sore yet a throbbing of achievement. Beauty surrounds you and it’s hard to wipe the grin off your face.
Fanging an ATV around the jungle is a completely different kind of exhilaration but it certainly gets your heart pumping.
On Cozumel, we made sharp turns along the jungle track, winding around trees and bumping over their roots, slamming our tyres back into the earth. It’s not a peaceful way to interact with nature but it is a thrill-seeking way to explore.
Go scuba diving in an underwater paradise
This was by far my most enjoyable part of my stay on Cozumel. I’ve written before about my newly-found love for scuba diving and Cozumel was one of the best locations we’ve dived in to date.
The coral formations loom above you as you navigate your way through the underwater reef system of the island.
Large silvery barracuda eye you curiously as you swim by, angel fish as big as dinner plates flash their brightly coloured scales and turtles ignore you completely as they munch peacefully on algae from the reef.
The scuba diving in itself is worth a visit to Cozumel, and more than one million scuba divers each year visit the island to do just that. I think I’m going to be one of the many that return to the island to explore its underwater paradise for a second time too.
What you need to know:
Scooter hire: We hired our scooter for US$20 for around five hours. Day hire should cost between US$25-30.
Speedboat hire: WOW Excursions offers one hour speed boat hire for US$70 per person. This includes transport to and from the marina, snacks and drinks, and a short snorkelling session.
Polaris hire: With WOW Excursions you can ride the speed boats and take a Polaris tour for US$134 per person. The entire tour takes around five hours and includes snorkelling and lunch.
ATV hire: WOW Excursions offers half-day ATV and beach excursions for US$70 per person.
Scuba diving: We went scuba diving with Scuba Du and I can highly recommend them. They are very professional and their guides make sure you are comfortable on your dive.
Thank you to WOW Excursions for providing us with complimentary tickets for numbers 2 to 5 on this list. As always, our opinions are our own.