Cozumel is a Caribbean island just off the Yucatan Peninsula in southeastern Mexico. It has great beaches, nice people, and safe streets, with prices comparable to other Mexican tourist destinations. It was badly battered in 2005 by Hurricane Wilma, but, with few exceptions, has been completely repaired.
Cozumel has an international airport (Airport Code: CZM) which receives direct flights from Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Halifax, Houston, Miami, and Toronto as well regional flights from Mexico City.
Alternatively, you can fly into Cancun (Airport Code: CUN) which generally has more flights, then take a bus or van south to Playa del Carmen and take the ferry across to Cozumel. A shared van from Cancun airport to Playa Del Carmen will cost around $300 pesos per person one-way, where a bus will be $80 pesos per person one-way.
Also you can take a little plane to Cozumel in Cancun airoport terminal II just 15 minutes trip is an amazing experience $75 USD per person one way.
There are hourly boat rides to and from Playa del Carmen, costing $140 pesos per adult each way. Cozumel is also a favorite cruise ship stop, and can at times have as many as eight cruise ships docked (which have consequently damaged some of the reefs).
A car ferry leaves from Calica, a few kilometers south of Playa del Carmen (pass Xcaret). The car ferry from Puerto Morelos no longer exists! There are 4 ferries each day, but the first at 04:00 AM and the second at 08:00 AM are specially for supply and logistics of the locals and islander. So take the ferry at 12:15 AM and 06:00 PM. From Cozumel back to the mainland you can take all ferries: 06:00 AM, 10:00 AM, 04:00 PM and 08:00 PM. It should be noted that rental cars are not allowed on the car ferry and you wouldn't want to do it in any case as taking the car ferry is a huge hassle involving a lot of waiting on both ends. Not recommended for anyone on a one to two week vacation.
Cruise ships often visit the island. Most dock virtually downtown. If many arrive the same day (usually in "high season"), some may moor offshore and tender passengers to docks also virtually downtown.
Walk, rent a car, or take a taxi; there is no public traffic out of town. The docks are saturated by pushy agencies trying to lure you into car rentals and activities. The younger travelers or anyone who has free time may want to take them up on their offer. Always check first so you are not getting scammed but it is usually just a timeshare offer. You pay about $20 for a jeep rental or a moped for the entire day and you get free breakfast at a five star resort. A regular day car rental is around $55, but speaking Spanish will get you a discount 95% of the places if you ask. For example, the posted price for a VW Pointer at Less-Pay (next to Hotel Barracuda) was $40, without insurance and taxes. As an American who speaks Spanish, you can get that same car for 350 pesos, with insurance and taxes. Even if prices are posted, they can be bargained. Scooters half that (~25 dollars). Alternatively, taxis are always available and will take you to the west-shore beaches for $20 onwards, depending on distance and number of people. Taxis cost between $2 and $3 (30 to 60 pesos) for intra-town destinations. Like the rest of Cozumel, they accept US Dollars at the current exchange rate.
It should be mentioned that the majority of traffic accidents that befall tourists involve scooters (known locally as "motos"). These accidents seem to be due to a few factors:
Some inexperienced riders expect that if they can drive a car, then they can drive a scooter.
Some riders are unfamiliar with driving practices and conditions in Mexico.
Roads are not always in the best condition, and potholes are generally unmarked.
Scooters offer substantially less protection from accidents than anything with four wheels.
Many accidents are also caused by tourists having too many alcoholic drinks and then driving "motos."
Scooters can be a great way to explore the island, but should only be driven by experienced riders.
Most visitors travel to Cozumel to see what is underwater. While there are quite a few beach clubs that offer snorkeling, the main attractions are the reefs offshore and the multitude of dive shops ready to take you there. The main town and dive operations are on the west side of the island, but if you rent a Beetle or scooter then the east side of the island is the place to go. The east side of the island is mostly undeveloped, but there are beautiful beaches, big waves, and rocky outcrops over the ocean. If the waves are sufficient you can find a few small blow holes. You will also find a restaurant on the beach every few kilometers.
Cozumel also offers several Mayan Archaeological Sites. The most extensive vestiges are those at San Gervasio, an inland site several miles north of the Carretera Transversal. Another site is located near the village of El Cedral, inland from the Carretera Costera Sur. In the Parque Punta Sur, at the southern tip of the island, there is the Templo El Caracol, believed to have been used as a lighthouse by the Mayans.
Cozumel Personal Mini Submarine Tour, . A unique new adventure tour in Cozumel, your personal underwater scooter for reef and underwater world exploration. No diving experience is required and scooters are easy to drive. Professional staff and supervision available throughout the guided tour. Good for all ages.
SCUBA diving — Cozumel is one of the premier scuba diving destinations in the Western Hemisphere. The island abounds with dive shops, most willing to give you a pseudo-resort certification and take you out, but for an added price. A certified boat dive (two tanks) will set you back around $70, plus any equipment rental fees. Most dive locations are located well south of the city proper, as are a number of dive shops if you want a short boat ride. Most diving in Cozumel is drift diving, where you are dropped off by the boat at the beginning of the dive, are carried along the reef by the current, and picked up at the end of your dive by the boat. There is some shore diving, but it is limited. Due to hurricane Wilma in 2005, much of the reef was damaged. For example, the sunken ship, Felipe Xicotencatl (great dive by the way) was severely damaged, ripping a major part of the hull because of the waves, despite being 70 feet underwater. As you can imagine, the reef is not what it used to be two years ago.
Aldora Divers — training, certification and fast 6 person boats with high capacity steel tanks and long surface intervals, usually at Palancar Beach Club. Rental equipment. Night Dives. Nitrox available. Villa Aldora room and suite rentals.
Aqua Safari — training, certification and two types of daily dive trips (fast or large boat). Good company but they tend to pack more people on a dive trip (up to 16 on the big boats). When the wind is blowing and the small boats cannot go out, their seaworthy boats often still can provide service. They also have a 8 person fast boat available. 1 tank afternoon dives are a very good deal. Night dives Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. Nitrox Available. Hotel packages with Safari Inn, Cozumel Palace and several other hotels.
Blue XT~Sea Diving — training, certification, equipment rental, and nitrox are available from this dive op. Personalized service, max 6 divers per fast boat. They'll keep and clean your dive gear (except wetsuit) if you wish and have it on the boat the next morning. Night and Afternoon dives based on demand, and hotel packages with decent savings are offered.
Bottom Time Divers — training, certification and 6 pack diver fast boat are available from this very popular family run dive op that focuses on maximizing your bottom time. Owner/instructor with excellent local knowledge offers personalized service, beach SI's and dive gear overnight wash and rinse etc. Private groups accepted. Check our website for client testimonials.
Deep Blue — training, certification, nitrox, technical and known for fast boats. At most 8 divers with 2 divemaster or as few as 4 divers with 1 dive master. Rental equipment. Night Dives. Hotel and dive package is available through numerous hotels. Dive shop is located in town across the street from La Choza. Divers are usually called the day before diving to arrange dive location and possible divemaster.
Dive Paradise — training, certification and two types of daily dive trips (fast or slow boat). Night dives. Numerous dive / hotel packages. Several dive shops. Rental equipment. In Cozumel since 1984.
Beach lounging — most of the calm western side of Cozumel has rough rocky beaches not suitable for swimming or sun bathing. The areas that are suitable have been turned into small parks. Some charge entrance fees which includes a beach chair and umbrella as well as access to the washroom and shower facilities; others are free to use, and offer many of the same amenities, while relying on visitors to purchase food or drinks. Playa San Francisco is located 20 minutes by taxi south of town and has a restaurant on site.
Glass Bottom Boat Tour — a twist to snorkeling. You visit about two or three reefs, which are small parts of the second largest coral reef in the world. It costs at the most about $40 a couple but you can get it a little cheaper depending on where you buy your tickets. While heading to the snorkeling sites you have the privilege of looking through the glass bottom of the boat to see all the sea-life you pass on your way. Very fun to do as a couple or a family.
Snorkeling — logically enough, the second most popular activity after diving. Many beach-side dive shops rent equipment for $7-10. Even though all beaches in Mexico are public some require fees to enter and use the facilities. Beaches with a rocky limestone shoreline on the west coast are the best for snorkeling or shore dives since less sand is disturbed so visibility and coral growth are better.
The "Other Side" — the beaches on the east (windward) side of the island. Sandy surf and large waves alternating with rocky limestone coastlines on the east side of the island are beautiful but can be dangerous for swimmers. The roaring surf creates strong breakers and undertows in many areas. Never enter the water alone. There are now many areas where flags are displayed showing the level of safety for a particular area. Despite the potentially dangerous swimming conditions, these beaches are stunning and serene for enjoying sunbathing, long walks or playing in the water very close to shore. These beaches are popular with surfers and kite surfers, and with locals on the weekends.
Chankanaab National Park , 7am - 5pm daily, About 9km south of town, The park includes a beach, restaurant, bar, changing rooms, walking trails, and a lagoon with a large iguana population. Activities include snorkeling & diving, swimming with the dolphins, snuba, and Seatrek. $2 coupon and packages available at their website.
Local restaurants, most fairly good and fairly similar to each other, are plentiful in and around the city's "downtown" main square.
Casa Mission, Corner of Avenidas Benito Juarez and 55, . Casa Mission offers superb food, however the real attraction here is not the food, but the setting. Located off the beaten path, the restaurant is the veranda area of a large hacienda style Mexican home. It is surrounded on all sides by an extensive garden that combines perfectly with the colonial hacienda ambiance. There are no longer any lions or monkeys, but there still are a number of beautiful caged birds. One of the most romantic spots on the island for cocktails or dinner. One margarita is sufficient.
La Choza, Calle Adolfo Rosado Salas #198, at Avenue 10. Phone: 987-872-0958 Great homestyle, local Mexican food served in a relaxed atmosphere. Fish is excellent, tasty fajitas and guacamole. Only one Margarita needed here!
El Capi Navigante, Avienda 10 between Calles and 5 Sur. One of the oldest seafood restaurants on the island and still going strong by reputation! Nothing bad to be had here. Get them to finish off your meal with one of their flaming desserts!
Prima Trattoria, Adolfo Rosado Salas between Avenidas 5 and 10. Northern Italian style cuisine offered along with wonderful salads ~ try the blue cheese salad! Excellent pasta and seafood, they know how to prepare it properly and it’s super super fresh. Try the surf and turf for a mix or the seafood liguine combo, both will suit you!
Pepe's Grill, At the corner of Avenida Megler and C Salas, Steak and Seafood.
El Morrito III, 6th Street North between Rafael E. Melgar Avenue and 5a North Avenue. This tiny restaurant is located in a Mexican home off the beaten path. If offers cheap (cheap for Cozumel, although expensive compared to the rest of Mexico) authentic Mexican food. Tacos are ok (again, not as good as other places in Mexico), and cost about $1.25 apiece. The atmosphere is unbeatable though!
Senor Frogs, , Located right above Carlos 'n Charlies, Senor Frogs is a hotspot for young people and tourists. A very laid back atmosphere with very little rules. There is a bar incorporated with tire swings; just to have fun while you drink. Also, they have a dance floor and a stage for the live music they sometimes provide. If there is not a band, there is always a DJ to keep the party going. Prices vary depending on the drink.
La Cocay 3/3/2010, Off the beaten path but worth the finding. La Cocay is Mayan for the Firefly. The food is presented extremely well and was delicious.
Downtown, bottled liquor prices seldom vary, though you'll find some dropoff the farther you get from the center of the city. Don Julio Tequila runs $45-50 at the tourist shops, but if you have time find a local grocery and get it at half price. Kahlua runs $10.
Bars seldom monitor customers for age or drunkenness, so take care driving or walking as the evening wears on.
DelMar Aquatics , +011 52 987 872-190, Carretera a Chankanaab Km 4, has two reasonably priced and convenient hotels and dive shops located near all of the major dive locations, The Casa Del Mar is Generally less expensive than La Ceiba
El Cid La Ceiba Beach Hotel , 011-52 (987) 872-0844, Carretera A Chankanaab Km 4.5,, A member of El Cid Resorts, this beachfront hotel on the southern shores of Cozumel Island features private balconies, all inclusive plans, ocean view swimming pools, an oceanfront restaurant,and snorkel and shore diving.
Villa Anna Maria, +52 (987) 869-1925., +52 (987) 869-1925., 65 bis Av. 171, between 1 y Rosado Salas,, Bed and breakfast place run by a Scotsman and a Mexican.
Occidental Allegro Resort , +52 (987) 872 9730, Kilómetro 17.5, Carretera Sur, A five star resort located on the beach offering all-inclusive packages. 3 on-site restaurants, still included in your stay, a snack bar equipped with a buffet for lunch and late-night snacks. They also have a swim-up bar, direct access to the beach and docks for any snorkeling or scuba diving.
Beachouse Hostel Cozumel , +52 1 987 872 62 85, +52 1 987 872 62 85, Lote 36, Cozumel, Country Club Estate, Zone North, The Beach House Cozumel is mixed in a warm, traditional Mexican style with European quality and a few personal touches. You can also enjoy our private swimming pool and the beautiful garden. Just a few steps away is our fantastic white sand beach, which offers some of the best kite boarding conditions in Mexico. The Beachouse organize Diving-,Snorkel- and Fishing Tours.
Casa Don Rosa , 877-421-6367, Corpus Christi, 15th Ave between 15th and 17th Streets, The Don Rosa is a roomy 2-story villa with lots of creature comforts including large private swimming pool/patio, central air, TV/VCR and plenty of space. Recently completed, the Don Rose is tastefully decorated with interesting elements, like the natural timbers used decoratively in the kitchen/living area and set into the concrete in the patio area.
Silver is cheaper here than in the U.S. but be sure to look for the .925 stamp as some places do sell fake silver jewelry. Tip: to avoid being caught out, carry a small magnet when you shop. If the silver sticks to the magnet then it is NOT sterling silver.
Sergio's Silver and More, Two locations on the island. Very low key approach to sales. Selection is good and prices more than fair.. Service is the best. Can size rings and very patient with novice buyers of silver. Between Avenidas 10 and 15 past Palmira's and The Square.
Xcaret in the Mayan Riviera
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