If you’re visiting Cozumel as a tourist, you experience the bliss of good food and entertainment, warm weather, friendly locals, and amazing beaches.
I spent most of my days working. But, I was lucky enough to live on this beautiful island for around six years. Whenever I had a day or week off from work, I headed out and managed to see and experience quite a bit of what the island and the Yucatan Peninsula has to offer.
Getting to Cozumel
You can enter the island through local or international flights. There are flights directly from the US, or, if your plane lands in Cancun, it’s only about an hour’s drive from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. Take the 40-minute ferry ride from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel and enter a completely new world.
However, if you don’t have sea legs and don’t want to brave the sometimes rocky ferry ride, you can also take a 20 minute Maya Air flight from Cancun to Cozumel.
Once, I took the Maya Air flight from Cozumel to Cancun. That day there was no co-pilot and the flight was fully booked, so I got to sit in the front seat next to the pilot. Flying in this small propelled plain is already an experience, but this was definitely a first for me! Sitting in the front seat, I felt like a giant and had to be careful not to bump into any steering devices.
When you travel to Mexico the visa requirements vary depending on where you are from. I entered Mexico with a B1/2 US visa and could stay for up to six months (180 days) before having to leave the country again.
Warm Weather All Year Round
The first thing I loved about living in Cozumel is that there is no winter. That’s right – 12 months of “summer”! Sometimes, it is so hot that you have no energy to do anything except dive into the pool or ocean. When inside, the AC’s always running and when the temperature drops below 20°C, everybody’s wearing jackets.
In addition to the warm weather, Cozumel also offers some of the most amazing sunsets you will ever see. Just sit on the beach and enjoy the incredible sky art or go for a jog along the coastline at sunset.
Cozumel Island Tourism
Cozumel is one of the tourist hubs of the Yucatan peninsula – especially for visitors who want the best of all worlds. Are you looking for nice accommodation? They’ve got it. Want to hang out on beautiful beaches, go diving, swim with dolphins, or see crocodiles? They’ve got it. Want to eat amazing Mexican food, or listen to live music? You’ve guessed it – they’ve got it!
And, if you can’t find it in Cozumel, just take the ferry back to the mainland and indulge in whatever you are looking for.
Here are a few deals on activities in Cozumel:
Public Events, Festivals, and Carnival
One thing that Cozumel loves to do is party and dress up. Every couple of weeks there is some kind of occasion happening on the island. They have the annual Carnival in February with street parades, dancing, and costumes. In September, they celebrate Mexican Independence Day with fireworks, parades, and arcade games. These are only two of the big annual events.
In addition, you will also find dance performances in the downtown square and modeling competitions all across town. Every year they host all kinds of sporting events including Iron man. Just another excuse to celebrate and have a party. On a normal day, the island is buzzing, but when there is an event, you can’t believe how many people actually live on the island.
Negotiating with The Locals
Cozumel thrives on tourism and the locals have adapted well to catering for foreigners. Most locals can speak English and they are almost always keen to interact with tourists. That being said, be aware that, like just about anywhere in the world, locals will try to sell and negotiate at every opportunity. Tourism is, pretty much, their bread and butter.
Keep in mind that there is a difference between dollars and pesos. The dollar sign has two lines through the S while the peso only contains one line. I remember the first time I saw a restaurant menu in Cozumel. I thought they were crazy to charge so much for a soup! It wasn’t long until I realized that the prices were in pesos.
Coming from a country with a stronger currency than the Mexican peso, makes you especially vulnerable for being taken advantage of. Before you settle on any street negotiations, walk into the local grocery stores, and make sure to visit official tour operators to get an idea of what prices should be. And, if you don’t like the price, negotiate. Or, simply start walking away and see what happens.
Taxis and Other Transportation
I’ve had both good and bad experiences with taxi drivers on the island. Every taxi driver must have a cost chart with them. Make sure that you ask to see the chart as there are fixed rates depending on the distance you are traveling.
Taxi drivers run the most competitive business on the island. There are stations all across the west coast and downtown areas where taxis line up to receive customers. However, you can also flag down a taxi along the road. But, if you are planning to go to the other side of the island, it is better to have the driver wait for you. There are no stations and the taxis that do pass, already have customers.
If you arrive at Cozumel airport, you will also find that there are no taxis there. Instead, there are shuttle busses that will drop you at pretty much any location you wish. They do, however, pick up quite a few tourists and it may take a while before you get to your destination as there are a lot of stops along the way. If you’d like to take a taxi instead, you must walk into the downtown area.
Besides taking a taxi, you can also book a shuttle bus or rent a scooter, car, or bicycle. You will find tour operators and rental agencies all across downtown and at every cruise ship or ferry pier.
The road-side car rentals aren’t very strict and some cars aren’t in the greatest condition. But Cozumel has some scary laws when it comes to road accidents. If you cause an accident, you are arrested until you can pay off all the damage caused. That means you need to pay for the damage to your car. And, you are also responsible for the other person’s damage and medical costs.
Diving in the Caribbean
Cozumel is especially great if you plan to go diving and many tourists make diving their main purpose for visiting the island. You can arrange a diving trip from any hotel, or go through some independent dive shops. I did my certification with Carlos at Scuba Xoc and it was a fantastic experience. He is safe, professional and loads of fun to be around.
Cozumel has some of the most amazing reefs and underwater sights that you can access by boat or from the shore. Just google “Diving in Cozumel” and you will see why it is one of the top diving destinations in the world.
Cozumel is Super Safe
Yes, you will find isolated events of crime, but I felt extremely safe while living on the island. Sometimes, I would even go walking by myself at night and never once had to look over my shoulder – especially if you stay closer to the touristy areas. Like anywhere in the world, there are some dodgy areas, but it’s completely safe to wander around downtown and the western shores by yourself.
Being surrounded by water, Cozumel offers some amazing beaches – from Paradise beach on the Northern tip, to Punta Sur in the South. The west coast of the island is scattered with beach hotels and public beaches with still, clear waters.
The eastern coast is quite a bit rougher with quieter beaches and stormy seas. This side of the island is also a nature reserve, so you won’t find any hotels or houses. There are a few restaurants along the way though.
There are also no taxi stations or lifeguards and you should be very careful when swimming in the ocean due to rip currents. But, it’s totally worth it if you play it safe and go in a group. Remember to take a snack and lots of water and either rent a car, scooter, or bicycle or ask your taxi driver to wait for you.
Restaurants and Food
If you come to Cozumel by cruise ship, you will find restaurants and souvenir shopping opportunities on the pier. Many cruisers don’t even venture outside of the port as they can find the touristy necessities right there. But, there’s so much more to see beyond the pier.
Arriving by ferry brings you right to the center of downtown Cozumel. Simply cross the street and walk straight into the square and you find yourself surrounded by great local and international restaurants within a few blocks. A few of my favorites include Woodys, Wet Wendy’s, Dick’s Dive, The Thirsty Cougar, and The Pub. These are a little more touristy, but they offer great food and live music almost every day. If you are looking for something a little fancier, try La Casa Del Habano, Kinta Mexican Bistro, La Cocay, Sorrisi or Guido’s.
There is absolutely no shortage of restaurants along the main road. These are only a few that I would recommend, but there are just too many to mention.
You can find anything from authentic Mexican food to other international dishes. For the best burrito in town, go to Crazy King Burrito. For ceviche, go to Wet Wendy’s. If you like hunting for craft beer, I would totally recommend Cerveceria Punta Sur. Feast on corn taco’s, fajitas, quesadillas, lobster, shrimp, pico de gallo, and guacamole at just about every eatery. And, there’s an ongoing battle between restaurants across the island for the who’s got the best margaritas in town.
If you have a sweet tooth, you should definitely stop at the street side vendors for a Nutella and cheese-filled Marquesita or tasty Churros.
Cozumel has no shortage of talented musicians. You will find live music at restaurants, bars, and hotels all across the island. And, they are super friendly too. I’ve had the chance to get on stage and perform with some of the local musicians on many occasions.
All they want is to have a great gig and an energetic, interactive audience. These guys (and gals) are there for your entertainment, so don’t forget to show your appreciation with a tip.
A Life Worth Living?
Absolutely! I left Cozumel in 2018 and although I don’t miss work, I definitely miss the Island. I will never forget the experiences, scenery, and the wonderful people I met while living in this Caribbean paradise.
Check out the map below for pins on some of the places I would recommend when visiting Cozumel. Also, remember to follow me on Instagram @onkeytravel.