How to Have the Time of Your Life at Carnaval in Cozumel, Including Where to Stay and Eat

Some of the most fun I’ve had in my entire life involves dancing atop a float in the Fat Tuesday Parade at Carnaval in Cozumel.  And to think this serendipitous opportunity presented itself with no prior planning or arrangement.  I was literally walking along the parade route, looked up and saw my husband waiving at the crowds from his perch of glory.  So I did what any fun-seeking reveler would do – I jumped on, too!  Regardless if you desire to bask in the spotlight atop a Carnaval float, or mingle in the crowds on the sidelines, please find my pointers for how to make the most of your time at Carnaval in Cozumel, including highlights of where to eat and stay.

How to Have the Time of Your Life at Carnaval in Cozumel, Including Where to Stay and Eat

Carnival in Cozumel. The Island of Cozumel invests tens of thousands of dollars into their Mardi Gras celebration, making it one of the best in Mexico.
Carnival in Cozumel. The Island of Cozumel invests tens of thousands of dollars into their Mardi Gras celebration, making it one of the best in Mexico.

Quick Links for How to Have the Time of Your Life at Carnaval in Cozumel

The Basics of Carnaval in Cozumel
How to Make the Most of Your Time at Carnaval in Cozumel
How to Get to Cozumel for Carnaval From Playa del Carmen
Where to Stay in Cozumel for Carnaval
Where to Eat in Cozumel for Carnaval

Map of Carnaval in Cozumel
Map of Carnaval in Cozumel

The Basics of Carnaval in Cozumel

With over 140 years of history, the Carnaval in Cozumel ranks as one of the oldest and most popular in all of Mexico.  Without a doubt, the energy, color and pizzaz creates one of the most fun-filled week-long extravaganzas.  In my opinion, it’s an event not to be missed.

Even though Carnaval lasts a week, the real fun culminates during the Fat Tuesday parade beginning at 6pm on the Cozumel waterfront.  Starting on the south end of the boardwalk at the Municipal Plaza, the parade meanders north past the ferry terminal, and then turns around and heads back in the other direction.  A myriad of fantastic floats, extravagant dancers and creative costumes pass by in technicolor brilliance. 

From almost any point you can partake in the party.  So grab a drink, don that pink wig and become one with the action.  Because whatever you give in terms of energy, laughter and engagement, you’ll get back from the crowds two-fold.

Cozumel Carnaval Information: +52 987 872 9800, website.

Carnaval in Cozumel.  Mardi Gras means"Fat Tuesday" in French, referring to overeating fatty foods on the last night before lent.
Carnaval in Cozumel. Mardi Gras means”Fat Tuesday” in French, referring to overeating fatty foods on the last night before lent.

How to Make the Most of Your Time at Carnaval in Cozumel

Essentially you want to be in Cozumel in time for the Fat Tuesday parade.  The exact dates vary each year, so please check online for the prior schedule.  As long as you are along the parade route between 6pm and 11pm, you’ll have a front row seat for the spectacle.

If you lucky like Allan and me, you may even get to be on top of a float.  Now that is where the real fun begins.  Literally I can’t recall being so animated and truly in the moment, as I was dancing a top that float.

Basically to get on a float there are a few options.  The first and easiest is to watch the parade, and find a float with almost no one on it.  Then you need to ask permission from the driver to get on.  And once you’re on, you now are the emperor of your own domain, and can entertain the crowds as you wish!  That is what we did, and it worked perfectly.  And I can’t wait to do it again next year!

Carnaval in Cozumel.  Fat Tuesday marks 40 days before Easter, and the beginning of Lent.
Carnaval in Cozumel. Fat Tuesday marks 40 days before Easter, and the beginning of Lent.

Another option to get on a float is to either bring your own or rent one.

At the present time there is no cost to registering your own float in the parade.  You just need to pass a security inspection and commit to the 3 day event.  Otherwise, there are groups that will rent floats and decorate them for you, or even help you to build your own.  The Cancun Cultural Center can help provide all the resources you’ll need to partake in the parade.

Cozumel Cultural Center: + 52 (987) 869 47 72, email: cultura@islacozumel.gob.mx

Carnaval in Cozumel.  Most events occur at the Parque Quintana Roo, where the parade begins.
Carnaval in Cozumel. Most events occur at the Parque Quintana Roo, where the parade begins.

How to Get to Cozumel for Carnaval From Playa del Carmen

From Playa del Carmen hop on the Ultramar Ferry which runs every hour from 7am to 11pm and takes about 45 minutes.  I recommend purchasing tickets from only the official booth at the ferry terminal.  Otherwise, you may get ripped off.

If you already have a vehicle in Playa del Carmen, you may consider instead taking the car ferry out of Calica, just south of Playa.  For the price of a one day car rental in Cozumel (about $1,000 pesos) you can purchase a round trip car ferry ticket, which also includes transport for one car and its passengers.  Since taxis tend to be expensive on the island (roughly $500 pesos or $25) for where ever you want to go, bringing your car may be the least expensive and easiest option.

Ultramar Ferry: +52 (987) 564-8267, website
Transcaribe (Car) Ferry: + 52 (984) -141-4031, website

 

Where to Stay for Carnaval in Cozumel

By far Casa Mexicana is the best option in terms of price and location. The Fat Tuesday Parade passes directly below the hotel.  Therefore you can watch the spectacle from the comfort of the hotel’s second floor terrace, without even having to leave the lobby.  And if you want to mingle with the crowds, you simply have to take the escalator down one floor. It’s super convenient.

With rates typically under $100 USD per night for double occupancy with free breakfast, it’s hard to find a less expensive and more convenient option.  Indeed every year a group of us books a set of rooms at Casa Mexicana, only to find we are surrounded by other groups of people we know.  This is because many expats living in the Riviera Maya stay at Casa Mexicana because it’s the best option.

Casa Mexicana: Av. Rafael E. Melgar 457, Centro, 77600 San Miguel de Cozumel, Q.R., +52  (987) 872-9090, website.

Carnaval in Cozumel. It is believed the first Maya settled in Cozumel around the beginning of the 1st millennium AD.
Carnaval in Cozumel. It is believed the first Maya settled in Cozumel around the beginning of the 1st millennium AD.

Where to Eat for Carnaval in Cozumel

My favorite restaurant in all of Cozumel is an Indian place called Bindiya.  It’s literally the best Indian food I’ve had anywhere on the planet.  Actually, Mona, the owner, imports all her spices from India, making her menu that more authentic and delicious.  Plus, Mona’s gracious personality adds warmth and camaraderie, creating a welcoming atmosphere.

Whereas Bindiya is laid back with no frills, Guidos, my second favorite eatery on the island, is more upscale and romantic. Please make a reservation, and be amazed by the Swiss-Italian food selection. 

Binidya: 20 avenue Sur between Calle 3 and Calle Dr Adolfo Rosado Salas, Cozumel, + 52  (987) 869-2018, website
G
uidos: Ave. Rafael E. Melgar #23 Between 6th & 8th Street, Cozumel,+52 (987) 872-0946, website

Carnaval in Cozumel. The name Cozumel originates from the Mayan "Cuzamil" or "Ah Cuzamil Peten", meaning "the island of swallows".
Carnaval in Cozumel. The name Cozumel originates from the Mayan “Cuzamil” or “Ah Cuzamil Peten”, meaning “the island of swallows”.
 

READ MORE ABOUT MEXICO

 Top 15 Hidden Gems in Playa del Carmen.

Top 5 Playa del Carmen Rooftop Bars

An Enchanting Day in the Rich Hippie Enclave of Tulum

Follow:
Matt Weatherbee

Hi, I’m Matt.  In 2008 I quit my job, sold everything and drove from Boston to Mexico to start a business.  Now I live and work in the Carribean, and spend my free time traveling the globe.  Learn more.

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *