At least since Cozumel in Mexico became known as a diving paradise by Jacques Cousteau, the island has been a popular destination for visitors from all over the world. Many arrive as day tourists on cruise ships or by ferry from Playa del Carmen, but Cozumel with its island ambience and the charm of a small Mexican town has a lot to offer even for a longer stay.
Quick travel advisory for Cozumel in Mexico
What to expect
The island of Cozumel has been known throughout the world as a diving paradise since the days of Jacques Cousteau. Water sports is therefore the focus of many activities. The city of San Miguel de Cozumel has the typical ambience of a small Mexican town and is well equipped for visitors. On Cozumel there is much to discover for a small island. And no need to say, you can discover many great beaches.
Climate: Pleasantly warm at around 30°C / 80 °F, high humidity all year round.
Rainy Season & Hurricane Season: June – October. Mostly only short but intense showers.
When to visit: High season December – April.
Language: Spanish. Many locals work in tourism and speak rather good English.
Currency: Mexican Peso.
Credit cards: Most shops and restaurants do not accept credit cards. Better rely on Mexican cash. There are banks and ATMs on the island.
Safety: Island Cozumel is very safe for tourists. You can also walk at night without worry if you know how to use your common sense. As everywhere else, however, you should pay attention to your valuables.
How to get there: Cancún airport. Then take the public bus, a cab or a shuttle service to Playa del Carmen. From there, take the ferry to island Cozumel.
Getting around: The town of San Miguel de Cozumel can be easily explored on foot or by e-bike. For an island tour you can rent a car.
Location of the island
Cozumel in the state of Quintana Roo is the third largest island in Mexico and is located east of the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Cozumel lies about 16 km from the mainland (Playa del Carmen), about 80 km south of Cancun.
Island Cozumel is just over 45 km long and 16 km wide and runs roughly from north to south. The terrain of Cozumel is flat and covered by dense vegetation. Almost all of the island’s approximately 70,000 inhabitants are living in the island’s capital, San Miguel de Cozumel.
The island has its own airport and a good ferry connection to the mainland, the crossing from Playa del Carmen takes about 45 minutes and costs around 25 dollars. Island Cozumel is also approached by many cruise ships.
The name Cozumel comes from the Mayan language and means place of swallows. Cozumel was already an economic and religious center of the region at the time of the Maya, around the year 1000 AD.
The island was sacred to the Maya and dedicated to the goddess Ixchel, who was the patron of the water, the rainbow and the pregnant women. The temples of Cozumel were often visited by women who wanted children. Legends say that the goddess sent her favorite bird, the swallow, to the island from which the name of the island derives.
At the time of the Spanish conquest, about 40,000 Maya lived on the island. They have been almost completely eradicated by the smallpox introduced by the occupiers.
Several ruins on the island still bear witness to their presence. Unfortunately, the largest buildings were blown up and levelled during the Second World War to build a runway for aircrafts. The ruins of San Gervasio and their cenote in the center of the island are the greatest surviving witnesses of those days.
Nature of Island Cozumel Mexico
Since Jacques Cousteau made the island famous with his reports about diving in the coral reefs in the 1960s, Cozumel has become a popular travel destination. Cozumel borders the second largest coral reef in the world, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef with about 1000 km in length. The reef is largely a UNESCO World Heritage Site and strictly protected.
Of course, on Cozumel it is all about diving and snorkeling. You will find hundreds of species of colorful tropical fish, and some of them only live here. Especially well-known dive sites can be found in the National Park Arrecifes de Cozumel. And if you want to plan your snorkeling trip on the island, we have put together a list of the most beautiful beaches of Cozumel for you.
Cozumel is also the home of the Nelson nose bear or Cozumel nose bear, a species that only exists here. This species has developed much smaller than its mainland relatives due to the isolation on the island.
A large variety of birds such as frigate birds, pelicans and cormorants are living on the island, and attentive observers will also discover tree frogs, crocodiles and iguanas in the dense vegetation.
Hotels in Cozumel
On the island of Cozumel there are hotels of all sizes, from fashionable all-inclusive resorts to small typical Mexican hostels. Many hotels are located on the west and south coasts of the island, away from the wind. The cheapest accommodation can be found in San Miguel de Cozumel downtown.
Restaurants in Cozumel
Most restaurants on Cozumel reflect the relaxed lifestyle of the island – open locations with a very pleasant ambience and warm-hearted service, casual clothing is usually suitable and reservations are rarely necessary. The typical dishes of fish and seafood are probably unmatched in their freshness.
Some restaurants offer very creative cuisine, but many are more traditional Mexican-oriented. If you are looking for restaurants with reasonable prices, it is worth visiting the small family restaurants in the silent corners of San Miguel de Cozumel.
The taxi drivers in Cozumel are specialists in restaurant recommendations… their tips can be worth gold, but keep in mind, however, that they usually receive commission for towed guests from the restaurants. Not all restaurants accept credit cards, so don’t forget to take cash with you!
Nightlife on Island Cozumel
Of course, the nightlife in Cozumel is not as vibrant as in Cancun or Playa del Carmen, but it still won’t be boring. Since there are not so many locations on Cozumel, there is always something going on in the trendy bars.
Of course, the start of the evening is a nice walk by the sea including breathtaking sunsets. Many shops are still open and you can stroll in peace. Cozumel island is small and safe enough to take a walk even in the dark.
Since many visitors to Cozumel do sports during the day, the evening starts in the late afternoon in the cafés and restaurants with live music, good food and delicious drinks. When these locations close, you just move along to the bars in the center, where you can celebrate all night long.
Things to do on Island Cozumel
Of course, you can only spend your days on Cozumel sunbathing. But if you want to experience even a bit more of adventure, we have compiled a list of the best activities on the island for you.
If you prefer to check the things to do on Cozumel island by yourself, we recommend GetYourGuide. They offer great excursions on fair prices. Their service and cancellation / rescheduling policies are state of the art.
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