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Posted On 10/23/2018 17:15:20
Trip Date 10/26/2017
Destinations | Cruises | Mexico | Cozumel | Independent Shore Excursion in Cozumel | Cozumel Rental Cars | Driving a VW in Cozumel | DIY Tour in Cozumel
Have you been to Cozumel? Perhaps like many people who cruise the Caribbean, you've been there many times and are looking for something different and adventurous, yet not too strenuous for your next visit. Take a look at this post as we have just the answer!
Renting a Volkswagen Convertible
Over the last six years, we have rented a Volkswagen (VW) convertible to drive ourselves around the island. Driving a VW with an old stick shift is definitely an interesting experience, but also really fun at the same time. The VWs are old and rusty ... and most of the features don't work on the vehicles. That's the fun of it - the cars can be turned on or off and they will stop and go. Other than that, usually nothing else works - often including the speedometer and odometer! But really, how often do you look at your speedometer at home? You can pretty easily judge your speed based on the cars around you.
When in Cozumel for just one day while on a cruise, we've rented our car from ISIS Rentadora - you can even pick up your car just outside of the cruise port. The rental car can be driven anywhere on the island, as long as it is on a legal road. You just have to make sure that you return it with just as much gas as you left with at your prearranged time so that you can be back on board your ship with time to spare.
Where to Go in Your Rental Car
Because Cozumel is an island, it is quite a bit safer than the Mexican mainland. There are usually a large number of cruise ships and tourists on the island, and you can easily communicate in English and make most purchases in US dollars. It is easy to get around the island and you can make stops anywhere you want including the beach and even a beach bar for a refreshing drink.
Ontheworldmap.com has a great map which shows the layout of the island:
We usually drive counter-clockwise around the island, and have made stops at El Cedral, Punta Sur, Punta Morena or any other place that looks interesting.
Punta Sur Beach
In addition to souvenir shops, El Cedral has some Mayan ruins (not much to speak of really) and a local church. On our most recent visit we had to pay a $2.00 "admission fee" when driving into El Cedral. While some might think that this is highway robbery or local corruption, I just recommend that you enjoy your day and think of this fee as helping the locals. If the fee bothers you, just skip the visit to El Cedral - there are many other places on the island to explore.
Small Mayan Ruins
On one of our first visits, we took photos with the iguana at El Cedral.
Stacy and the Iguana
The Iguana with Scott
We usually find a beach restaurant near Punta Morena and have a cold drink with nachos or something else to munch on.
Memories of Cozumel That We'll Never Forget
On one of our visits, Stacy and I were driving around Cozumel. Late in the afternoon when we were almost all of the way around the island and back into the city, the sky got really dark and there was a tremendous downpour. Luckily, our green convertible VW with open windows (that couldn't be shut) had a small covered area over the front seats. Soon after returning the car, the clouds passed and we made our way back on to the ship. The storm was certainly a surprise, but not a terrible end to our day. (Because of the rain, there was a longer line of vehicles trying to get back to cruise ship ports, so make sure that you plan enough time for last minute issues!)
VW Convertible with Stick Shift
On our most recent rental, we had our first ever mechanical problem with our vehicle. When I rented the VW at the ISIS office, the older lady who was checking out the cars could, of course, only speak Spanish. I looked over the standard rental agreement, made my payment and picked up the car which we called our "pink cadillac" from the lot in the back. Before leaving with the car, as always, I took a few photo's of the car - just in case there is some sort of problem. I don't worry about it too much because these VWs are crap and they have problems everywhere!
On this fateful day, I picked up my wife and her 82 year old mother for a drive around the island. We made several stops on our Cozumel journey without a problem. When we were almost back around to the city, I drove around a corner and BANG - the car back-fired (which you don't really hear anymore). After that, the car stalled and we coasted to a stop. After 15 minutes (or perhaps more), I could not restart it. It seemed like it was flooded, but wouldn't restart using the typical techniques for an old car.
I finally decided to call the rental office and the same Spanish speaking lady that I rented from earlier in the day suddenly spoke English and was very helpful. She sent out a technician and driver right away. When he opened the engine hood (in the back), we both realized that the problem was the distributor cap - it had lost all of the clips that were supposed to hold it on and that's why the car wouldn't run. The driver took us back to the rental office where a portion of our rental fee was refunded (plus we never had to refill the gas tank). He then offered to drop us off wherever we wanted to go near our cruise ship - great service, great fun until the breakdown, and we'll always remember our day. Nearly a year later, Stacy's mom still talks about that day! (We chose to get dropped off at Mega-Mart, similar to a Walmart but smaller and near the cruise port. The store is probably most frequented by the locals, but if you need something that isn't typically found at a souvenir shop, then perhaps you might want to check out Mega-Mart!)
Other DIY Options for a Port Day in Cozumel
We got started with this rent on our own activity in 2012 when we spent a day in Cozumel. We took a group tour that was independent of the cruise ship. The tour was a self-driving follow-the-leader tour using VW convertibles. We made several stops including one at a snorkel spot, some photo stops and a lunch stop at a beach bar. We realized that we could do the same "tour" on our own, and at a much lesser cost which we have now done several times. If you are uncertain about driving around in Mexico on your own, check out Omar's Ultimate Cozumel VW Buggy Island Tour.
On another visit to the island, we did a group tour where each couple drove their own Jeep partly off-road through the jungle, through some mud holes and to some Mayan ruins. It was great fun and similar to driving a VW, but off-road. Check out the Cozumel Jeep Adventure Excursion if something like this appeals to you.
Looking for Something Less Adventurous in Cozumel?
If you prefer to do some surfing (the internet kind) and maybe a little shopping or drinking or snacking, you can get off your ship and spend as little (or as much) of your time and money as you would like. Check out our post No Snorkeling with Starfish for Us in Cozumel! to learn more.
Cozumel Shore Excursions
Since most western Caribbean cruises make a stop in Cozumel, there's always someone looking for something different yet exciting to do during their port day. What has been your most exciting way to spend a day in Cozumel?
Created On 10/13/2018 22:57:25
Updated On 10/23/2018 00:15:20
Scheduled On 10/23/2018 00:15:20
Posted On 10/23/2018 17:15:20
Last Editor Stacy
Location punta langosta pier, cozumel