Getting from Cancun to Cozumel: A traveler review

Whether you’ve spent time partying it up in Cancun or want to head to quieter shores the moment you touch down at the airport, you can easily travel from Cancun to Cozumel in a day. I did this route starting from the Cancun International Airport and will offer you insight based on my experience. Ready to explore Mexico’s largest Caribbean island? Let’s begin!

Truth or myth: Taking a ferry from Cancun to Cozumel

It’s a common assumption that you can take a ferry from Cancun to Cozumel (speaking from experience here!). However, the only way to travel to Cozumel by ferry is from the Playa del Carmen pier. I’ll walk you through how to do that in this guide, but let’s first start with your departure from Cancun.

Cruising from Cancun to the Playa del Carmen pier

It takes about an hour to drive from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, and you can either take an ADO bus or book a private transfer. I took a private van with BDExperience, which is a nice option if you’ll be getting off a long flight so you can get a faster start to your Cozumel vacation.

When I arrived at the Cancun airport, BDExperience was waiting for me at their outdoor kiosk. Their kiosks are mobile, so I can’t guarantee you’ll find it in the exact location that I did, but the staff shared this little tidbit with me—their kiosks are always outdoors near the terminal exit.

There’s no need to worry about changing terminals to find BDExperience; they have a kiosk at every terminal exit, and since they’re red, they’re hard to miss.

When I arrived at the kiosk, a man with excellent English briefed me on my itinerary. He also introduced me to BDExperience’s app, which I promptly downloaded. 

The app asks for your reservation code (they’ll give it to you if you don’t have it on hand) and asks whether you want to share your location with them. The advantage of location sharing is if you have trouble meeting up with your guide in Cozumel, he or she can locate you using the app. Out of curiosity, I reached out to their 24/7 support chat. Within ten minutes, I received a helpful, friendly response.

Traveling by van

I took a private van designed for eight passengers. The van had two benches with three seats each and two spots in the front beside the driver. There was plenty of room in the back for luggage, and legroom was decent. The van wasn’t fancy, but it was clean, well maintained, and had an essential Yucatán amenity—air conditioning!

You’ll be on a highway the whole time, so there aren’t any unique views aside from a few resort entrances. Feel free to sneak in a guilt-free nap if you’re so inclined, and save up your sightseeing energy for the ferry ride.

A walk through Playa del Carmen 

My driver dropped me off in front of the Paseo del Carmen Mall in Playa del Carmen. He got out of the van and introduced me to my next guide, who showed me to the Playa del Carmen ferry pier.

The walk took less than five minutes, and along the way, my guide gave me my ferry ticket and explained how to meet my next and final guide in Cozumel.

All aboard! The ferry to Cozumel

Next, I hopped on the beautiful Ultramar ferry from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel. The three-story catamaran has an indoor, air-conditioned first floor, an open-air second floor with a roof, and a fully open-air roofless third floor.

Ferries from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel run every hour or two. So, depending on the time of your pickup in Cancun and how much traffic you encounter on the road, you might get to squeeze in some time to explore Playa. If the timing works out for you, I recommend strolling down 5th Avenue; the 5-mile pedestrian boulevard is packed with restaurants and tourist shops.

Below is a chart of Ultramar’s ferry schedule, so you’ll know in advance whether or not you’ll have free time in Playa.

Ultramar ferry schedule:Departure times from Playa del Carmen
8:00 am
10:00 am
11:00 am
12:00 pm
1:00 pm
3:00 pm
5:00 pm
7:00 pm
10:00 pm

The ferry ride is around 35 minutes, although delays can happen when bad weather or other unforeseen circumstances pop up. My ferry departed ten minutes late—not bad! The time will go by fast since you can move between the ferry floors and grab something at their café or bar.

All ferry seats are equipped with a charging port. There isn’t WiFi onboard, but in my opinion, your time is better spent keeping an eye out for Cozumel’s infamous flying fish than looking at your phone.

Arriving in paradise

Have your camera ready as you approach the Cozumel port since see-through turquoise water will welcome you. The Cozumel terminal is small but packed with tour agencies trying to entice ferry goers to rent a scooter or book a snorkeling tour. Beyond them, a smiling BDExperience employee held a sign with my name on it.

Most tour agencies use Cozumel’s taxi system to move their clients around the island. Cozumel taxis range from cars to sprinter vans, so they can accommodate larger groups. My taxi was comfy and clean. On the short drive to my hotel, the BDExperience employee briefed me on things to do in Cozumel and made sure I had the company’s contact information if I needed anything during my stay.

Got your snorkel gear ready?

A trip from Cancun to Cozumel is an easy addition to any Yucatán itinerary. Although you could technically visit Cozumel in a day from Cancun (my trip took around 3 hours one way, including waiting for the ferry), I recommend spending at least one night in Cozumel. That’ll give you time to enjoy the Mesoamerican Reef, which is the second-largest coral reef in the world, and to explore Cozumel’s colorful downtown district.

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