Welcome to Your Cozumel Guide!
Welcome to your official Cozumel Guide! I didn’t intend to like Cozumel ~ I’d heard there were just “too many cruise ship tourists” roaming about. On the other hand, I also knew that Cozumel was one of the most famous dive spots in the world. So, I reserved a hotel for three nights, intending to snorkel for a few days, then head back to Playa del Carmen.
But ~ I ended up staying in Cozumel for a month.
Why Did I Stay So Long?
Cozumel hit my sweet spot: I arrived in April 2017, & the weather was damn near perfect ~ mid to high-80’s with balmy nights, perfect for long strolls. Food was to DIE for (think: fresh fish caught that morning). I found beautiful hotels for less than $50/night & met cool people. Coffee was the BOMB. And of course, the snorkeling was phenomenal (think: underwater Chichen Itza’s).
All of the above is why I’m writing this Cozumel Guide: I think it’s a seriously underrated spot in Mexico’s famous Yucatan Peninsula, & it deserves more credit!
Is Cozumel Good for Solo Travel?
Cozumel, in my opinion, is PERFECT for solo travel. And it’s especially great for solo female travel. Why? Well, first off ~ it’s an island. And islands, in general, are some of the safest places to travel. Where are the criminals gonna escape to….the ferry?! In all seriousness, I felt safer in Cozumel than I did in Playa del Carmen, which is only a 45-minute ferry ride away. Playa is dirtier & more crowded than Cozumel, packed full of tourists & aggressive touts trying to sell you things ~ like drugs. Though I wouldn’t say I felt unsafe in Playa, I was definitely more on guard. Whereas in Cozumel, I felt totally safe & relaxed because it has a completely different energy.
What About Cruise Ship Tourists?
Yes, cruise ships descend like clock-work on Cozumel almost every day: but the good news is, they’re predictable. They typically arrive in the morning & leave by afternoon, meaning nights in Cozumel are relatively tourist-free. Sundays there are very few cruise ships in Cozumel; it’s mainly local families enjoying the beach together ~ so Sundays are a great day to visit Cozumel without the crowds.
When the cruise ships come in & you wish to avoid the crowds, do what the locals do: avoid the main downtown strip (Av. Rafael E. Melgar). Even walking a few blocks off the main street will get you relative quiet & cheaper prices.
After the cruise ships leave though, Cozumel is at its absolute best: charming, quaint, colorful, & filled with smiling locals & families. And because it faces due west: Cozumel is blessed with absolutely AMAZING sunsets. Every night, when the tourists were gone, I strolled along the boardwalk to watch the sun go down ~ best part of the day.
Who is Cozumel Perfect For?
Cozumel isn’t a “party town” like Playa del Carmen & Cancun. So if you’re a twenty-something coming to Mexico to get wasted & party: Cozumel probably isn’t for you. Yes, Cozumel has Senor Frog’s & Hooters (where all the cruise ship people go), but they’re not as “wild” as the Senor Frog’s you’ll find in Cancun. So if partying is what you’re looking for: stay on the mainland.
Cozumel is perfect for anyone who loves the water: it’s a diver’s paradise. Cozumel is great for families with active kids who love to swim. Many of Cozumel’s all-inclusive resorts are set on the beach, but also have fantastic pools designed with kids in mind. But Cozumel is also going to be a great choice for couples who don’t want to be around kids ~ there are plenty of adults-only resorts on the island, which are included later in this Cozumel Guide. And as mentioned, Cozumel is also great for solo travelers because it’s so safe & easy to meet people.
Welcome to Cozumel…
So, grab some sunscreen & your snorkel (or dive) gear & take a stroll with me around the island of Cozumel. We’re going to find the best places to stay in Cozumel, the best places to eat & grab coffee, & of course, I’ll take you to the best snorkeling spots in Cozumel. This is your Cozumel Guide ~ let’s go!
Cozumel Guide ~ Map of Cozumel
Your Cozumel Guide needs to start with a map ~ so you can find all the places I’m talking about. All recommended hotels are listed on the map, as well as restaurants, & Cozumel’s famous snorkeling spots.
Hotel Mary Carmen
The Money Bar
The Lobster Shack
Get Your Cozumel Guide
Cozumel Guide: Where to Stay
Where to Stay in Cozumel: I’m putting accommodations in this Cozumel Guide into two categories: 1) Budget (under $50/night), & 2) Luxury ($150+). I stayed in all the “Budget” accommodations listed here & LOVED them. So, if you’re a solo traveler ~ you don’t need to spend a lot to get a clean, safe room close to the beach.
Cozumel hotel prices peak between December-March; start getting cheaper in April-Aug as it heats up & humidity gets higher; & will hit rock-bottom pricing between September-November, during rainy/hurricane season.
Best Budget Hotels in Cozumel
Best Budget Hotels in Cozumel: All hotels in this category are less than $50/night ~ & sometimes, cheaper than that. I have three top picks in this category: 1) Hotel Mary Carmen, 2) Suites Colonial, & 3) Villablanca Garden Beach Hotel. I’d highly recommend all of them, but especially Suites Colonial.
Mary Carmen is a more basic hotel with a cute, central courtyard where they serve breakfast in the mornings ~ & where you’ll see turtles roaming about. Mary Carmen is one block off the main town square; you can easily walk here from the Cozumel ferry which is about four blocks away. Mary Carmen isn’t luxurious, but it’s cute, central, has fast Wi-Fi, & if you’re going to be out diving all day ~ it’s a great choice. Location on map above. Average nightly price = $29-35/night.
Suites Colonial is my personal favorite of these three: it’s located across from Hotel Mary Carmen, one block from the main square ~ so the location is perfect. Rooms are very clean, cool, & spacious; fast Wi-Fi, hot showers, & excellent daily maid service. But the best part about Suites Colonial is their breakfast! Walk three blocks over to their sister hotel, Casa Mexicana (where rates start at about $78/night), for one of the best breakfast buffets in town. SO GOOD!! They have an omelette station, a juicer, & basically anything you could want ~ not to mention, a great ocean view. Average nightly price = $45/night.
Villablanca Garden Beach Hotel has absolutely beautiful grounds: there’s a central pool, meandering walkways, gorgeous flora & fauna, & the hotel is directly across from the ocean. The only problem: you’re about a 25-minute walk from town ~ so if you want to be right in the middle of the Cozumel action, this isn’t the place to go. If, however, you came to Cozumel primarily to dive, Villablanca is a great choice: there’s a dive shop literally right next door. And it’s across the street from several restaurants, including Turquoise, which means you don’t need to go into town to eat. Rooms here are a little older, but they have charm & their suites are spacious & well laid-out. Wi-Fi here is so-so. Average nightly price = $45/night.
Best Luxury Hotels in Cozumel
Best Luxury Hotels in Cozumel: All hotels in this category are over $200+/night. This category is for people who want the best of the best in Cozumel, & prefer the all-inclusive experience. I’ve narrowed it down to two of the best luxury hotels in Cozumel: 1) Secrets Aura Cozumel, & 2) Cozumel Palace. The Cozumel Palace is quite close to downtown Cozumel (10-minute walk), while Secrets is further south (about a 20-minute drive).
Adults-Only Luxury in Cozumel
If you want adults-only, Secrets Aura Cozumel is the way to go. This place is perfect for couples, honeymoons, & basically anyone who has the money & doesn’t want kids around. It’s also a good place for people who don’t want to be in town, because town is going to be about a 25-minute drive. If you just want to relax on the beach, dive, snorkel, & enjoy the sun & sand in Cozumel: this is a great place to do it. Rooms are modern & spacious. If you want to see how far Secrets is from town, check out the map above. Average nightly price = $209+/night.
Family-Friendly Luxury in Cozumel
Cozumel Palace is THE luxury hotel in downtown Cozumel. If you’re looking for all-inclusive, oceanfront views, & top of the line everything ~ this is your place. According to Expedia, 95% of guests recommend this place, & it’s a top choice of nearly every Cozumel Guide. It’s family-friendly, so if you have kids & want them to have a great time either at the pool or snorkeling: this is a great choice. Cozumel Palace is about a 10-minute walk south of downtown Cozumel, so it’s easy to get around on foot or by taxi. The food here in particular is praised, & they have a spa as well in case you’re ready for a massage. Average nightly price = $400+/night.
If none of the above hotels in this Cozumel Guide look right for you, click here for a more comprehensive list of hotels in Cozumel.
Cozumel Guide: Where to Eat & Drink
Best Places to Eat in Cozumel: No Cozumel Guide would be complete without listing the town’s best restaurants ~ & Cozumel has NO shortage of them….I ate sooo well in Cozumel! All places listed below can be found on the map of Cozumel above, so that you can easily navigate. So, let’s eat….
Cozumel Guide for Food
Best Coffee & Breakfast in Cozumel: Coz Coffee & Maple Bakehouse. I couldn’t pick just one! Both of these coffee shops are pretty much perfection. At Coz, you can get a nice, dark roast & scrambled eggs, & get some work done as you people-watch ~ plus the owners are super cool. Maple Bakehouse makes the best fresh pastries daily, has delicious coffee, & offers breakfast & sandwiches all day. Both are located in downtown Cozumel.
Best Greasy Breakfast for a Hangover in Cozumel: Mar y Juana. Yup ~ that’s just like marijuana. You got it. Right next to the hotel Casa Mexicana on the main drag, with an ocean view, the name should tell you: they’ve got great food for hangovers. Their Eggs Benedict is delicious, as are their burgers ~ you’re going to find more American-style food here, & the people-watching right along the main boardwalk is excellent.
Best Tacos in Cozumel: Cuatro Tacos. Hands-down. Cuatro is right next to their other restaurant: the Lobster Shack ~ & both are rated in Trip Advisor’s Top 10 Best Cozumel Restaurants. Which means you’ve GOT to go. Try Cuatro’s Al Pastor tacos which are to DIE for, as is their guacamole & coconut margarita. Heavenly. $7 for 4 tacos. YUM.
Best Italian Food in Cozumel: Guido’s. It is soooo yummy though not exactly bikini-friendly ~ & their garden courtyard is one of the most intimate places to eat on the island. Great for romantic dinners or even solo travelers ~ I brought a good book to Guido’s, sipped my margarita, & enjoyed some kick-ass pizza. Great salads, pasta, & lasagna.
Best All-Around Menu with Mexican & American Food in Cozumel: Palmeras. The bad news is: it’s right across from the Cozumel ferry. And the good news is: it’s right across from the Cozumel ferry. Meaning: it’s super convenient to most hotels & the main square, has great ocean & sunset views ~ but is a busy area & can be touristy. If you’re sitting along the boardwalk, you may get hassled by street vendors. But, aside from that ~ you’ve got a great menu with pretty much all options. Large portions.
Best Place for a Night Cap in Cozumel: El Palomar. El Palomar is just north of town set in a beautiful white house with a wrap-around porch. They serve breakfast, lunch, & dinner ~ & have a great bar that opens right up to the ocean, which makes it my top choice for chic drinks & a nightcap in Cozumel. But it’s slightly off-the-beaten path & not in every Cozumel Guide, which make it less touristy & more intimate. Thumbs up.
Best Place to Watch Live Music in Cozumel: Woody’s. Every night of the week, the little beach-y tavern Woody’s, right off the main plaza in Cozumel, is rockin’ & rolling. We found it simply by strolling by & hearing the sounds of “The Eagles.” Food at Woody’s is average, drinks are good, & they’ve got sports on at the main bar ~ but music is the main event here after 5PM. Woody’s should be in every Cozumel Guide as the best place to watch music.
Best Place for a Sunday Fun-Day in Cozumel: The Money Bar. About 10 minutes south of town by taxi is where all the locals go to enjoy bands, dancing, & snorkeling (the Money Bar is one of the island’s best snorkel spots). They’ve got a full bar & large menu (food is mediocre), & tons of table spread out in the sand. PERFECT place for watching the sunset! Though the food is average, this gets my vote for Sunday Fun-Day because of the vibe, the music, & the drinks!
Cozumel Guide: Best Snorkel Spots
No Cozumel Guide is complete without a list of the island’s best snorkeling spots. Why is Cozumel so famous for diving? Because Cozumel has the largest barrier reef system in the entire Western Hemisphere! Jacques Cousteau, the famous French oceanographer, “discovered” Cozumel back in the 1960’s & declared it one of the most beautiful diving areas in the entire world.
You’ll find white sand beaches in Cozumel, turquoise water, & great underwater visibility (100-200 feet, depending on the season). In other words: Cozumel has ideal diving & snorkeling conditions. Here’s the general rule of thumb: if it’s a white, sandy beach ~ the snorkeling & diving will be shitty. If it’s a rocky, dark shore ~ it will likely be great for snorkeling. Inconvenient, but true. Also, NEVER swim or snorkel on the east side of the island!! The current is very strong & there can be dangerous rip tides. And definitely don’t swim alone over there. Bad idea.
I snorkeled all over the island & asked every local I met for their top snorkeling spots, which are listed below! Some places are free, but most of the great snorkeling spots in Cozumel are attached to a hotel or restaurant (people in Cozumel aren’t dumb!), so there will be a charge involved. The best thing to do is tack snorkeling on to lunch or a meal to get your money’s worth.
Best Snorkel Spots in Cozumel
The Cozumel snorkel spots I’m listing below are ranked in order of popularity. Meaning El Cielo, which is listed #1, is the top most recommended snorkel spot by locals.
1) El Cielo: The most popular snorkeling spot in Cozumel is El Cielo, & accessible only by boat (meaning, you need to take a tour there). If you want to see starfish ~ GO to El Cielo. A tour should cost you around $40, & most leave from the main ferry dock. You can go in a glass-bottom boat, & the ride takes about an hour (bring a jacket, it can get cold).
2) The Money Bar at Dzul Ha: The Money Bar is a favorite locals-hangout in Cozumel, & is a great place to make a day of it ~ you can get drinks, lunch, & snorkel all in the same afternoon. The Money Bar has tables & chaise lounges all along the waterfront, & easy access for snorkeling via a ramp & ladder entrances. Great place to take the kids (& adults) snorkeling. It’s about a 30-minute bike ride south of town, or a 10-minute taxi ride, & they don’t have a “minimum” food purchase (like many other oceanfront snorkeling spots do). So the Money Bar is one of the most cost-effective snorkeling spots in Cozumel.
3) Palancar Reef: Located in Cozumel National Coral Reef Marine Park, Palancar is exciting because it features awesome caves, ledges, & massive drop-offs that will leave you in awe. I loved free-diving here, & personally thought Palancar was more exciting & diverse than El Cielo (which I saw on the same boat tour for $40). Sharks & barracudas like to hang out by Palancar, & the best way to get there is by boat.
4) Hotel Cozumel & Resort Beach Club: If you’re in town & want to walk somewhere to snorkel in Cozumel ~ go here. Hotel Cozumel’s Beach Club is where we spent many great afternoons. They’ve got an excellent lunch buffet that’s reasonably priced, good drinks, & a whole oceanfront with chaise lounges, hammocks, lockers for divers, & great snorkeling. You enter the water via a ladder which makes it easy to get in & out ~ & as soon as you dip in, about 20 yards away is an underwater Chichen Itza! No one told us about it, & it absolutely took our breath away. Locals I met had never even heard of it! Beyond that, follow the shoreline for some spectacular snorkeling. No minimum purchase on drinks & food, & a great place to watch the sunset.
5) North of the Museum on the Ocean Side: Find Cozumel’s museum ~ Museo de Cozumel. Keep walking north toward the airport, along the ocean side. You’ll start to see several restaurants with palapa roofs; some of these have rocky shores that make for good snorkeling. The best of these spots that I found was north of all the restaurants, on a huge rocky black shore. I could see several other people snorkeling there, so I locked up my bike & ventured out. It ended up being one of my favorite snorkeling experiences in Cozumel, & it was totally FREE. There are great reefs along the shore with tons of fish, & further out, a wild kelp forest that was breathtaking & vast. So you don’t need to spend money to find off-the-beaten-path snorkeling spots in Cozumel: just grab a bike & look for dark, rocky shores & other snorkelers.
Other Notable Mentions: Most of Cozumel’s oceanfront hotels will offer snorkeling right on their shore ~ which makes it easy, especially if you have kids. Sky Reef Cozumel is a popular place to snorkel (especially for cruise shippers) ~ but I’m not a fan because they charged a minimum $49 fee to enter, meaning you can’t just hop in the water & snorkel for an hour. It just wasn’t what I was looking for.
That Concludes our Cozumel Guide!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this Cozumel Guide, & I hope it has you eating & drinking well, slumbering & snorkeling well while you’re in Cozumel ~ one of my absolute favorite places!
But if you’re staying in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, there are SO many other fantastic places to go. You’ll want to swim in the Yucatan’s best cenotes, & take amazing Instagram shots at the Pink Sea. And while you’re in central Yucatan you’ll want to stop by that World Wonder called Chichen Itza. Then there’s the party town of Playa del Carmen, world-class spas & partying in Cancun, & the laid-back beach resorts of my personal favorite, Tulum. You can’t go wrong in the Yucatan. Take it all in….& make sure you bring your cutest swimsuits….
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