You can walk to most destinations in town, and it's very safe. Getting to outlying hotels and beaches requires a rental car, moped, or taxi.
Car rentals are about $50 for a VW bug and $90 for a Jeep Wrangler. Avis (tel. 987/872-0099), Dollar (tel. 987/869-2957) and Hertz (tel. 987/871-6783) have counters in the airport. Other major rental companies have offices in town, including Thrifty (tel. 987/869-2957) at Juárez 181, between avenidas 5 and 10 Norte. Rentals are easy to arrange through your hotel or at any of the many local rental offices.
Moped rentals are readily available and cost about $30 for 24 hours, which includes a helmet but not insurance (that will add another $15). If you rent a moped, be careful. Riding a moped made a lot more sense when Cozumel had less traffic; now it involves a certain amount of risk as taxi drivers and other motorists have become more numerous and pushier. Moped accidents easily rank as the greatest cause of injury in Cozumel. Before renting one, inspect it carefully to see that all the gizmos—horn, light, starter, seat, mirror—are in good shape. I've been offered mopeds with unbalanced wheels, which made them unsteady at higher speeds, but the renter quickly exchanged them upon my request. You are required to stay on paved roads. It's illegal to ride a moped without a helmet outside of town (subject to a 300 peso fine).
Cozumel has lots of taxis and a strong drivers' union. Fares are standardized -- there's no bargaining. Here are a few sample fares for two people (there is an additional charge for extra passengers to most destinations): island tour, 800 pesos; town to southern Hotel Zone, 100 to 200 pesos; town to northern hotels, 50 to 70 pesos; town to Chankanaab, 120 pesos for up to four people; in and around town, 50 pesos.
Neighborhoods in Brief
San Miguel is the island’s dining, shopping, and business center, with endless choices in one-story buildings on streets branching off the main plaza. Avenida 5N and Av. Juárez are closed to traffic for a couple of blocks around the plaza and are perfect for strolling and dining at sidewalk cafes. Residential neighborhoods and local businesses pack the streets from Ave. 15 inland.
South of town the main road is lined with hotels and tourist-oriented businesses to the International and Puerto Maya Piers. Buildings give way to undisturbed rocky coastline with a few businesses from here to the northern tip of the island. Shore diving and snorkeling is good in this area, but there are few sandy beaches. At the far south is a cluster of al-inclusive resorts. North of town the coast is lined with more hotels facing shallow, clear water good for swimming and snorkeling.
The wild west coast is undeveloped except for a few rustic seafood restaurants and one hotel. Beautiful long beaches face rough seas—swimming is discouraged when the water is the least bit rough.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.