Ferries are the essential (and fun) way to travel between Cozumel island and the popular mainland towns of Playa del Carmen, Cancun, and Tulum. Making the comfortable, 35-minute crossing is a snap, just as long as you know these specifics.
The two Cozumel passenger ferry services are well-maintained, easy to navigate, and have convenient daily crossing times, running on the hour from 7:00 am until 10:00 pm, barring any (rare) weather disruptions. Cozumel ferries are safe, affordable, and pleasant. The boats are equipped with life preservers, good bathrooms, refreshments for purchase, and luggage areas where you can stow any suitcases or larger bags during the 30-40 minute ride.
If you’re coming to Cozumel for the first time, or you need some updates on taking the ferry from Playa del Carmen, you’ve come to the right place.
Car Ferries vs. Passenger Ferries
First off, there are two types of ferries in Cozumel, passenger ferries and car/vehicle ferries. Both offer different experiences and their costs and timetable schedules are much different.
If you need information specifically on the car (or cargo) ferry in Cozumel, skip to the end of this post.
But for now, let’s start with information on the passenger ferry between Cozumel and the mainland town of Playa del Carmen – or “Playa,” as it is called, locally.
Is the Cozumel ferry service back up and running?
During the various service disruptions during Covid-19, all of the local ferry operators continued to run and provide essential services to the island’s residents, businesses, and returning tourists. However, they all curtailed their daily crossings to reflect health restrictions and a far smaller demand.
As the pandemic disruptions eased, the ferry companies added social distancing protocols on the boats and in each ferry terminal, and gradually increased the number of crossing times as health protocols and the market demanded.
As of February 2022, both Cozumel passenger ferries – run by Ultramar and Winjet – are running every day, and have hourly service from early morning until around 10:00 at night.
The two ferry service companies now alternate crossing times, rather than alternating full days.
This is important to note, as you should take care if purchasing a round-trip ticket; there’s a chance your desired return trip might not exactly match the same carrier’s crossing time. For now, it’s best to buy one-way tickets.
Reasons to Take the Cozumel Ferry to or from Playa del Carmen
Not everyone needs to utilize the island’s ferry services. There are several reasons people need to take the Cozumel ferries, but the main ones are:
- You are vacationing in Cozumel, but are flying in and out of Cancun International Airport (CUN)
- You live on the island (or are making an extended visit) and need to get to the mainland
- You are arriving on one of the cruise ships, but would like to do a day trip to the mainland’s Riviera Maya area
- You are staying in Cozumel, but want to do a special day-trip excursion on the mainland, including things like visiting larger Mayan ruins sites (though don’t forget that Cozumel has some of her own!), diving the famous Cenotes (subterranean fresh-water caves), visiting popular nearby towns in the Riviera Maya like Tulum or Akumal, or heading to one of the wonderful family theme parks near Playa del Carmen, like Xel-Ha or Xcaret.
- Pro Tip: for the easiest and most cost effective arrangements to visit Xcaret and Xel-Ha, use this link to the tour service Viator and you can secure all the info and bookings in one simple place.
Safety Concerns on Cozumel Ferries
To answer upfront one of the most common questions from readers: An emphatic YES, the ferry services between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel are very safe.
Once (and I repeat, once) upon a time in 2018, there was a news story about an explosion on one of the ferry boats here in town. Scary, indeed.
The first of two small devices went off as passengers had already disembarked from a Barcos Caribe (this carrier is no longer operating) in Cozumel, and several people were injured.
It was reported that the explosives were set on purpose and specifically meant to damage Barcos Caribe and its owner, a former government official who had previously fled the country after being found guilty of wrongdoing.
Other than this somewhat viral story, the Cozumel ferries safely carry thousands of local workers, residents, and visiting tourists every day, without incident. Rarely does weather cause service disruptions, and all boats are equipped with life preservers and other safety floatation devices for adults and children.
What Companies Provide Ferry Service to Cozumel?
There are two companies providing passenger services (a.k.a. the “people ferry” in Cozumel) between the island and the mainland.
- Ultramar (blue and yellow), and
- Winjet (orange and grey)
Both companies have updated websites with ferry schedule times and ticket information, including widgets to reserve tickets and pay for them online. Ultramar’s website here and Winjet’s website is here.
As recommended in our own FAQ page and our related post about big money-saving moves to consider if you’re coming here on vacation (hint: flying to Cancun and taking the ferry is one of them), it is always best to be on the safe side and also double-check the exact ferry times on each company’s respective Facebook pages. So to confirm your planned times, please click through to check at:
Ultramar’s FB page – OR –
These companies both have good websites (links provided, above), but during the pandemic, the travel restrictions and other informative updates were changing pretty rapidly, so their social media channels became the best way to check for the most up-to-date details. That remains true.
Upon arrival in Cozumel, you’ll exit right into the heart of downtown San Miguel, where plenty of taxi cabs will be waiting for your convenience. The main town square (or zocalo) – el Parque del Benito Juarez – is also there to welcome you in, and offer a ton of choices for where to eat, fun shopping, some live entertainment, and plenty of people-watching.
Daily Ferry Crossing Times to Cozumel and Playa del Carmen
The ferry schedules are pretty regular, offering crossings on the hour, going both ways from Cozumel to and from Playa. Until travel restrictions fully cease, it is always best to double-check departure times just before you plan to use the ferry services. That said:
As a general rule, the first daily ferry crossing is at either 7:00 am or 8:00 am from Cozumel to Playa, and at almost the same times if you’re traveling the reverse route. The last passenger boat crossing is typically at 10:00 pm.
Ferry Tickets and Fares (including adults, children, locals)
The ferry services between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen do accept credit cards, though occasionally the windy waterfront conditions may cause signal disruptions for the ticket staff’s mobile credit card terminals. Cash (MXN or USD) is always the fastest and easiest, but credit cards are welcome.
As for the fare prices, you can (and should) also check again before your date of arrival, but the current ferry costs are as follows:
Adults $250.00MXN (approx. $12.00 USD) and
Children $200.00MXN (approx. $10.00USD)
*If you are a resident of Quintana Roo, your resident ID card will get you a discount.
**If you hold the ferry company’s membership card, or “plan locale” card, you will also get a discount on the standard rate, to something closer to $100.00MXN (each way, per adult).
***The local municipality also offers a card for seniors (INAPAM card), and if you have that card your fare will be lower than the standard adult rate.
Each company’s fare information may fluctuate a bit over time, but it is clearly provided on each of the companies’ websites (follow links provided above). Please visit those links above for the most current information.
The operators’ websites now allow you to check the current ferry cost and reserve your tickets ahead of time and then use a QR code on your phone to be scanned for entry when you arrive at the pier.
It’s Easy to Purchase Ferry Tickets in Playa and Cozumel
I personally like to have my physical ticket in hand, and also never know when minor changes to my schedule may occur, so I don’t tend to book a return ticket far ahead of time.
Nevertheless, it is a very welcome service, especially if you don’t want to mess around with cash or the idea of transactions in Spanish intimidates you (though really, please don’t let that get you too worried – most of the staff there, especially at the ticket venues, speak English and the transaction is pretty self-explanatory.
If this sounds like you, then go ahead and reserve your tickets in advance; Just be sure to have a screenshot of your QR code and other pertinent information, just in case you don’t have cell service in Mexico, or can’t find a signal right when you need access to your digital tickets.
The main ticket booth vocabulary words you want to be aware of for purchasing tickets to the tourist ferries are:
- One way trip ticket = sencillo
- Round trip ticket = redondo
- Adult = adulto
- Child = niño
- Cash = effectivo
What are the Cozumel Ferry Services like?
Seating either indoors or outdoors
Both ferry companies have boats with indoor and outdoor seating areas, depending on your preference. The outdoor sections are sometimes in full sunshine, especially if you are seated all the way up top, so be aware of that if you are sensitive to the sun.
Most middle-level outdoor seats have shade and some protection from wind and the potential of sea spray (or rain).
Please note that after the ferry departure, the boat often does a 180-degree turn to face the destination side, so keep that in mind when you’re anticipating areas of sun vs. shade!
The indoor spaces on all of the boats are air-conditioned and have comfortable seats and large windows so you can see out to the ocean and each ferry pier as you approach your destination.
The outdoor spaces are obviously well ventilated and offer a fun experience with wide views of each town’s coastline. The seats aren’t quite as comfortable, but they really aren’t bad.
Accessibility and Mobility on the ferries
Passengers who use wheelchairs, mobility scooters, walkers, or other forms of mobility assistance, are accommodated on the Cozumel ferries, though be forewarned that it is not necessarily a completely seamless experience, and there are slightly different (but effective) accessibility modifications in place.
Given the fact that one needs to board each ferry boat via a short gangway that is not firmly tethered to the dock, there is often the need for the individual to be lifted or physically assisted here and there.
Once off the boat, the ferry piers are wide and smooth, fine for wheels.
Each ferry terminal also has an upper floor that is accessed primarily via stairs or an escalator, but those who need to can stay on the ground level the whole time, allowing for full access.
Luggage and bags on the ferries
Many people using the ferries in Cozumel are traveling to or from the Cancun airport to reach their island destination, or they’re going back and forth to the mainland, sometimes to dive the cenotes, or do a day trip to an attraction like Xcaret park or the Chichen Itza Mayan ruins site. (Check here on Viator for ideas and bookings).
The point is, you can absolutely travel on the ferries with luggage and dive gear. Larger suitcases and oversized items like baby strollers are tagged and stowed by the crew before you board, and are to be collected – with the numbered ID ticket you were given! – as you disembark.
If you are traveling with scuba diving gear, let them know. They stow the dive bags in a certain area, for safekeeping. (And believe me, all of the crew members are very familiar with diving gear and bags).
Also, the baggage team will often ask you if you have electronics and ask you to keep those bags with you on board. So it’s best to keep all of your sensitive electronic equipment – laptops, tablets, etc. – gathered in one backpack that is easy to carry on board and keep with you on your lap or in the seat with you.
Cozumel Ferries have Food, Drinks, and Entertainment
Once aboard, you can usually purchase coffee, soft drinks, and beer, along with some snack options – typically individual bags of chips. Certain boats stock full bars, and some have an onboard Starbucks concession, which is handy on the early ferry crossings.
But don’t forget to familiarize yourself with some of Cozumel’s local (and awesome) coffee shops, and you might be wise to get your coffee fix before you board.
Each Ferry Pier and Terminal is Nice and Comfortable
This is good because you will likely have to wait in line for at least a little while before boarding each ferry.
The ferry pier in Playa del Carmen is a wonderful place to wait, especially after you’ve made a long journey via Cancun Airport and down to Playa del Carmen!
The beachfront town is cute, lively, and has all the amenities you could want after a long trip, including tons of food and refreshment choices, public bathrooms, a warm ocean breeze – and one heck of a view – all within easy walking distance.
Cozumel’s ferry port is smaller, but also modern and well-appointed with nice clean bathrooms.
Both ferry terminals are open-air but covered in the event of rain. They both have security checkpoints you’ll pass through with your bags and escalators for those who need them, as the waiting areas are on the upper floors. I don’t believe there are elevators in either ferry terminal, however. But not to worry – for any passengers in a wheelchair, both sides are accessible from the ground floor level, so you’ll be able to navigate to your boat on solid ground.
How do I get to Playa del Carmen if I arrive at the Cancun Airport?
When landing at Cancun International Airport (CUN), it is easy to get to Playa del Carmen using one of the many transport services in the arrivals area. It takes about 1 hour, roughly, depending on your method.
You’ll be greeted by many shuttle van operators, private taxis, or the public ADO bus ticket windows.
All of these are great options, depending on your budget, your time, and your preference regarding sharing a vehicle with other people.
Quick/rough cheat sheet on times/costs from Cancun to Playa del Carmen:
1. ADO Bus – easy, comfortable, but slower (about 1:15mins). Least expensive at about $10.00USD ($200MXN)
2. Private taxi – you can negotiate, but you’ll likely pay around $75.00USD for a clean, private car taxi. This is usually the fastest method as you can leave immediately (rather than waiting for the next bus) and your taxi may have more maneuverability in traffic on the main highway. Still, you should figure at least an hour.
3. Collectivo or Shared shuttle van services – these can take somewhere in between the above methods, depending on highway traffic. Typical costs range from $25.00USD – $50.00USD.
This trip is familiarly known as the Cozumel “Bag Drag” since the hardest part is dragging your suitcases a little further.
For the full, step-by-step instructions on how to do the bag drag to Cozumel, please check out this related post, next.
Taking the Ferries if you tend to get seasick
For the most part, the ferry crossings are pretty stable and comfortable rides.
They are large, stable boats that don’t sway all that much under normal conditions, and people have the options of sitting outside for nice fresh air and a clear view of the horizon line, OR indoors in cool air-conditioning. Cooler temperature is known to keep some motion sickness at bay.
That said, many people are naturally susceptible to getting seasick. Also, sometimes the weather here creates rougher seas, so the ferries will rise and fall on the waves to a greater degree.
If you are sensitive to that, please plan ahead with whatever method works best for you.
Some people find relief with one (or a combination) of these common motion sickness remedies:
- Over the counter medications like Dramamine or Bonine (links to Amazon)
- Motion / Sea Sickness acupressure bracelets like this
- Ginger candy like this is known to ease mild seasickness
If all else fails, the crew on board often has sea-sickness bags available to hand out to passengers, and it is advised that you sit on a lower floor and head to the rear corners of the boat if you need to vomit. PLEASE be aware of the wind direction! Any up-chuck or spit will fly in the same direction as the wind is going, so void having it blow back into your face – or onto anything or anyone else, if you can help it.
The Cozumel ferry boats also have nicely equipped bathrooms, but it is best not to be sick in the toilets if you can safely avoid it. But afterward, you’ll be able to clean up and get sorted in a comfortable environment.
Ferry Passport Requirements
As a general rule, you are not asked to show your passport when making the passenger ferry crossing from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel, and back. However, it is always a possibility and security requirements sometimes change quickly, especially after any weather, crime, or health-related incidents.
During the pandemic, for example, Covid-19 numbers may suddenly fluctuate again, and the operators might need to adapt to new regulations or health standards. (Just as one very fresh example.) Or there may be spot checks for travelers with illegal substances. This is quite atypical, but anything is possible.
It’s best to always have your passport with you while in Mexico, especially when making any significant day trips.
Are there Cozumel ferries to other mainland ports?
Very common questions include: “How do I take the ferry from Cozumel to Tulum?” or “Is there a Cozumel ferry to Cancun or Isla Mujeres?”
As it stands, both of these questions are not applicable.
The ferry from Cozumel goes to Playa del Carmen, and that’s it.
From Playa, people can take public buses (ADO bus service is cheap and cheerful), private taxis, or collectivo van services to Cancun, or any of the other mainland attractions like the town of Tulum, various Mayan ruins sites, and the fun theme parks mentioned, above.
Once in Cancun, you can take a separate ferry to Isla Mujeres.
What else do you need to know?
Please link to our own FAQ page and review more information, there, if you have further questions.
Or feel free to shoot us a note via our “Contact” page form, and let us know what other information about the Cozumel passenger ferries would be useful. (see link in the top menu)
Cozumel Car and Cargo Ferry Services
Is there a car ferry to Cozumel?
There is a car ferry, but it runs slightly south of downtown San Miguel and has far fewer crossing times.
Do the Cozumel Car Ferries Use the Same Piers?
No, the Cozumel car ferries use a small ferry port south of San Miguel, and upon arrival in Playa del Carmen, you will also be a little bit south of downtown Playa, at a pier referred to as “Calica.”
How much is the ferry service with a car?
The cargo ferry between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen is currently $650MXN for a passenger vehicle, or about $32.00 USD. (always check the current prices at the ferry webpages, above. These prices are from the Ultramar company in February of 2022).
How long does it take to get from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel
The car ferry crossing time is a bit longer, so plan about an hour to get across the channel, plus time on either end to arrive early, queue into a line, boat loading time, and a longer unloading time at the arrival.
Once safely on the island of Cozumel, there are tons of fun things to do right in downtown San Miguel and, of course, many other forms of local transportation to get you around town and safely to your hotel.
Don’t Neglect the Travel and Trip Insurance
Cozumel and her ferries are safe. But the value of travel insurance is huge – for the peace of mind, alone. I’ve learned my lesson enough, so now I always buy it on my own trips, and recommend it to friends and you dear readers.
There are plenty of high-quality carriers on the market, so just see what your homeowners insurance company might have to offer, or compare travel-specific policies that include things unique to traveling, like adventure activities or diving equipment.
If you’re a SCUBA diver be sure to join up with DAN, the Divers Alert Network, for the best dive-medicine expertise and diver-related insurance coverage on the market. Worth its weight in gold! Go do it now – use this link HERE.