Buzzin’ Around Cozumel in our VW Bug

Beyond diving, the highlight of any visit to Cozumel is jumping into one of the island’s convertible VW Bugs and driving the southern loop road.

You might assume that world-famous Cozumel is loaded with perfect white-sand beaches. Bizarrely, it’s not. Quite apart from the mainland, much of western Cozumel is dominated by narrow, grainy, gold-sand beaches, rocky coast, and mangroves. Those postcard moments are spread out around the island and you have to drive if you want to see them.

With the wind in our hair, we bounced from beach to beach and explored some of Cozumel’s very modest Mayan ruins. Portions of Cozumel are plagued by development designed to intentionally block access to legally public areas making it hard to get to many of the western beaches. (Boo, greedy developers and resort magnates!!!) There are a few highlights in the west, including pretty Playa Palancar with its raccoons and coatis, but those who want a more Caribbean experience will have to go that extra mile.

Stunning beach in Faro Celerain Eco Park Stunning beach in Faro Celerain Eco Park

Buzzing away in our Flintstones jalopy around the southern tip of the island, we were focused on finding those moments of perfection. Unquestionably, the highpoint of any driving trip is the stunning Faro Celerain Eco Park located at Punta Sur. It costs $12 US per person to enter, but it’s definitely worth every cent to protect this valuable stretch of undeveloped beach and mangrove swamp, which doubles as a crocodile and bird preserve. The park features a small yet interesting Mayan construction, bird and croc watching boat tours, elevated walkways and wildlife viewing towers, and one of the most perfect beaches along the Mayan Riviera.

Do you see the crocodile? Do you see the crocodile?

Do you see it now?
Do you see it now?

Hilariously, while I was desperately trying to get a shot of some distant pink spoonbills from the top of a wildlife viewing tower, I dropped my lens cap into the grass a few yards from a resting crocodile. I was determined to get it back, so I had Thomas keep watch while I hopped off that walkway and fished around through the high grass. He was not happy and kept insisting I would never locate it, but – HOORAY – I did find it AND managed not to get eaten in the process. I was quite the attraction as many of the tourists shifted their cameras from the crocodile and the spoonbills to me. 🙂

Thomas enjoys the isolated beach at Punta Sur Thomas enjoys the isolated beach at Punta Sur

Beyond Punta Sur, the east coast of Cozumel is lined with undeveloped white-sand beaches, but since they face the open ocean, waves and undertows make swimming dangerous. Much of northern Cozumel is either too inaccessible or overdeveloped; however, those who hike around and slip in between the hotels can find some nice spots, including some tidepool areas and a couple of nice coves. There is also reasonable snorkeling off several of the hotel beaches.

Watch out for iganas and crocs crossing the road!!! Watch out for iguanas and crocs crossing the road!!!

Tony enjoys the view over the East Coast of Cozumel from the lighthouse at Punta Sur Tony takes in the view over the east coast of Cozumel from the lighthouse at Punta Sur

Mayan ruins at Punta Sur Mayan ruins at Punta Sur

Thomas enjoys a giant tide pool in northern Cozumel Thomas enjoys a giant tide pool in northern Cozumel

Cove in northern Cozumel Cove in northern Cozumel

Cruise ship departs San Miguel de Cozumel Peak season Cozumel gets up to 35 cruise ships a week!!!

Warning about Cozumel

We feel the need to add some additional warnings about Cozumel. The pictures in this post are not representative of most Cozumel beaches. Make sure you understand the differences between Cozumel and the mainland. Don’t get me wrong, Cozumel still has a very devoted Margaritaville following. And the wall diving is considered some of the best in the Caribbean. But as a beach destination, it really can’t compete with those along the coast between Cancun and Tulum.

Additionally, the transportation situation makes visiting the island difficult for those on a budget. Getting to San Miguel de Cozumel is easy, but once you are on the island, you really have to have a car/scooter to get to any of the attractions. When renting a car, almost everybody in-the-know heads straight for Rentadora Isis, which has a reputation for being honest and great value. That reputation also means that you should book well in advance because they are often booked out. Unfortunately, there are numerous complaints about Cozumel rental agencies stealing credit card numbers and playing games with prices (even big name agencies). We went with Smart Rental and had no problems.

6 responses to “Buzzin’ Around Cozumel in our VW Bug”

  1. avatar Robert M. says:

    Great photos and some good and some bad information regarding Cozumel.
    One item, for example, ¨Much of northern Cozumel is either too inaccessible or overdeveloped¨, as far as being over developed much of the mainland is much worse.
    As far as the search for the search for the lens cover, that was just stupidity. Forutunately, the outcome was OK:

    • avatar Tony says:

      That’s true that over-development is often worse on the mainland, but the mainland isn’t nearly as good at blocking access to the beach and the mainland as WAY more usable beach. And as for the crocodile, that was more of a joke than a dangerous situation. You had to see it to understand that.

  2. avatar KT says:

    We are planning to be in Cozumel with our two kids 6 and 9 years old. We want to wander the island and see some tide pools and the not so populated side of the island what recommendations do you have?

    • avatar Tony says:

      Hey KT,
      Most of the tidepool/snorkeling was along the eastern side, which is more developed. The giant tidepool in the picture was in a stretch of undeveloped land between hotels in the north. Much of Cozumel’s undeveloped coast is not kid friendly because of the strong tides.

      Kids would probably most enjoy the park we mentioned in the south because of the good beaches, the light house and the crocodiles in the wetlands.

  3. avatar Dave Horvath says:

    You guys are a great looking couple. How on earth do you afford to live your dreams like that? So envious of you guys.

    My wife and I are headed to Cozumel via a cruise in 10 days. You mentioned the VW bug and I’m currently trying to rent one through Rentadora Isis. In your experience, how difficult would you say it is to get from the cruise port into town to pick up one of these cars? Is a taxi recommended?

    • avatar Tony says:


      It’s quite easy to get from the cruise terminal to Rentadora Isis on foot. Getting a taxi might be a bit of a challenge with all the people getting off the ship.

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