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.” But, I also knew that Cozumel was one of the most famous dive spots in the world. So, I reserved a hotel for three nights, at the perfectly-located Suites Colonial, with the intention of snorkeling for a few days. Then, my plan was to head back to popular Playa del Carmen.
But, somehow….I ended up staying in Cozumel for a month.
Cozumel Guide ~ Map of Cozumel
All recommended hotels & restaurants are listed on the map below, as well as Cozumel’s most famous snorkeling spots!
Hotel Mary Carmen
The Money Bar
The Lobster Shack
Why Did I Stay So Long?
Cozumel hit my sweet spot: I arrived in April 2017, & the weather was near perfect ~ mid to high-80’s with balmy nights, perfect for long sunset strolls. Food was to DIE for (i.e. fresh fish & ceviche, caught that morning). I found beautiful hotels for less than $50/night, & met amazing, friendly people: both locals & tourists. Coffee was TO DIE FOR. And of course, the snorkeling was phenomenal (learn where to find an underwater Chichen Itza below)!
All of the above is why I’m writing this Cozumel Guide: I think it’s a seriously underrated spot in the Yucatan Peninsula, & 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. How are criminals going to escape….via the ferry?! In all seriousness, I felt far safer in Cozumel than I did in Playa del Carmen, which is only 45-minutes away by ferry. Playa is dirtier & more crowded than Cozumel, packed with tourists & aggressive touts trying to sell you all manner of things ~ including drugs. Though I didn’t feel unsafe in Playa, I was definitely more on-guard. In Cozumel, I felt completely relaxed & safe nearly 100% of the time, including on my evening sunset strolls. It has a completely different energy than neighboring Playa.
What About Cruise Ship Tourists?
Yes, cruise ships descend like clock-work on Cozumel nearly 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 quiet. And on Sundays, there are very few cruise ships; you’ll mainly find local families enjoying the beach together. So Sundays are great days to visit Cozumel without the cruise ship crowds.
When the ships do come in & you wish to avoid the crowds, do like the locals: avoid the main downtown strip (Av. Rafael E. Melgar). Even walking just a few blocks off the main street will get you relative quiet & cheaper prices.
In the evening, when the crowds have thinned, Cozumel is at its absolute best: it’s charming, quaint, colorful, & filled with smiling locals & beach-going families. And because it faces due west: Cozumel is blessed with absolutely AMAZING sunsets. I strolled the boardwalk every single night, watching the sun go down. Easily, my favorite part of the day.
Who is Cozumel Perfect For?
Cozumel isn’t really a “party town” like Playa del Carmen or Cancun. So if you’re a twenty-something looking to get wasted & stay out all night: Cozumel probably isn’t for you. Sure, Cozumel has Senor Frog’s & Hooters, but they’re not as “wild” as the Senor Frog’s in Cancun. So if partying is your ultimate goal: stay on the mainland.
Cozumel is perfect for anyone who loves the water: it’s a diver’s paradise. It’s also great for families with active kids who enjoy swimming. Many of Cozumel’s all-inclusive resorts are set right on the beach, with access to some of Cozumel’s best snorkeling. Cozumel is also great for couples ~ as there are plenty of adults-only resorts on the island. And finally, Cozumel is ideal for solo travelers (like myself), because it’s so safe & easy to meet people.
Cozumel Guide: Where to Stay
I stayed in all the “Budget” accommodations listed here & LOVED them. So, if you’re a solo traveler ~ know that you don’t need to spend a lot to get a safe, clean room close to the beach. Cozumel hotel prices peak between December to March, start getting cheaper in April as it heats up, & hit rock-bottom 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: 1) Hotel Mary Carmen ($29+/night), 2) Suites Colonial ($45+/night), & 3) Villablanca Garden Beach Hotel ($38+/night). I’d recommend all of them, but especially Suites Colonial.
Mary Carmen is a basic hotel with a cute, central courtyard where they serve breakfast each morning ~ complete with roaming turtles! Mary Carmen is one-block off the main square; you can easily walk here from the Cozumel ferry. It isn’t luxurious, but it’s cute, central, has fast Wi-Fi, & if you’re out diving all day ~ it’s a great choice for a simple, clean room. Price = $29+/night.
Suites Colonial is my personal favorite: it’s located across from Hotel Mary Carmen, one-block from the main square ~ in a perfect location. Rooms are clean, cool, & spacious; with 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 ($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 ~ with a killer ocean view. Average nightly price = $45+/night.
Villablanca Garden Beach Hotel has absolutely beautiful grounds: with a central pool, meandering walkways, & gorgeous gardens, directly across from the ocean. The only problem: you’re about 25-minutes from town ~ so if you want to be right in town, this isn’t the place to go. If you came to Cozumel primarily to dive though, Villablanca is a great choice: there’s a dive shop next door, along with chic restaurants, like Turquoise. Rooms are a little older, but they have charm, & suites are spacious & well laid-out. The main issue is their Wi-Fi: it’s so-so at best. Price = $45+/night.
Adults-Only Luxury Hotel in Cozumel
If you want adults-only luxury, Secrets Aura Cozumel is the way to go. It’s perfect for couples, honeymooners, & essentially anyone who doesn’t want kids around. It’s a good choice for those who prefer being out-of-town (about a 20-minute drive), with more peace & quiet. If you just want to relax on the beach, dive, snorkel, & enjoy the sun & sand: this is a great place to do it. Rooms are modern & spacious. Price = $209+/night.
Family-Friendly Luxury Resort 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 it, & it’s a top pick in nearly every Cozumel Guide. And, it’s family-friendly: so if you’ve got kids who enjoy swimming & snorkeling: stay here! 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 too, in case you’re ready for a massage. Price = $400+/night.
Where to Eat & Drink in Cozumel
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 ~ 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 ~ just like marijuana. Right next to Casa Mexicana on the main drag, the name alone tells you: they’ve got great food for hangovers. Their Eggs Benedict is delicious, as are their burgers. You’ll find more American-style food here, & the people-watching along the main boardwalk is excellent.
Best Tacos in Cozumel: Cuatro Tacos. Hands-down. Cuatro is right next to the Lobster Shack ~ & both are rated in Trip Advisor’s Top 10 Best Restaurants. Which means you’ve GOT to go. Try Cuatro’s Al Pastor tacos (to DIE for), their guacamole, AND their coconut margarita. Heavenly. $7 for 4 tacos.
Best Italian Food in Cozumel: Guido’s. It’s sooo yummy…but not exactly bikini-friendly! And it’s great for romance: 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 great book, 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 convenient to most hotels & the main square, with great ocean & sunset views ~ but it’s a busy area & can be touristy. 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. Just north of town, set in a beautiful white house with a wrap-around porch, lies El Palomar. They serve breakfast, lunch, & dinner ~ with a great bar that opens right up to the ocean, which makes it my top choice for chic drinks & a nightcap in Cozumel. It’s slightly off-the-beaten path & not in every Cozumel Guide, making 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 around & hearing the sounds of “The Eagles.” Food is average, drinks are good, & sports is on at the main bar ~ but music is the main event here after 5PM.
Best Place for a Sunday Fun-Day in Cozumel: The Money Bar. About 10 minutes south of town by taxi is where locals go to drink, dance, listen to live bands, & even to snorkel (it’s one of the island’s best snorkel spots)! They’ve got a full bar & large menu, & tons of table spread out in the sand. PERFECT for watching the sunset! Though their food is average, this gets my vote for Sunday Fun-Day because of the vibe, the music, the setting, & the drinks!
Cozumel Guide: Best Snorkel Spots
Why is Cozumel so famous for diving? Because they have 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 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 terrible. 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. Definitely don’t swim alone over there. Bad idea.
Best Snorkel Spots in Cozumel
1) El Cielo: The most popular snorkeling in Cozumel is at El Cielo, & accessible only by boat. If you want to see starfish ~ GO to El Cielo!! A tour costs around $45+, & most leave from the main dock. From San Miguel, the ride to El Cielo takes about an hour.
2) The Money Bar at Dzul Ha: The Money Bar is a local’s favorite restaurant & bar in Cozumel ~ where you can get drinks, lunch, & snorkel all in one afternoon. They’ve got tables & lounge chairs set on the waterfront, with easy access for snorkeling via a ramp or ladder into the ocean. The Money Bar is a 10-minute taxi ride south of town, & there’s no “minimum” purchase here.
3) Palancar Reef: Located in Cozumel National Coral Reef Marine Park, Palancar is exciting because it features awesome caves, ledges, & drop-offs that will leave you in awe. I loved free-diving here, & personally found it much more exciting & diverse than El Cielo (which you can see on the same boat tour). 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 to snorkeling ~ head to Hotel Cozumel & Resort. Their Beach Club has an excellent lunch buffet that’s reasonably priced, good drinks, & an oceanfront with chairs, hammocks, lockers (for divers), & great snorkeling. There’s even an underwater Chichen Itza about 20 yards away from their dock!
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 see several restaurants with palapa roofs; some have rocky shores with good snorkeling. So simply grab a bike, head north, & look for rocky shores & other snorkelers! **But it’s a GREAT idea to bring diving booties for these rocky shore climbs ~ otherwise it’s pretty tough on your feet!
That Concludes our Cozumel Guide!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to eating & drinking well in one of my absolute favorite places in Mexico! If you plan to do a lot of snorkeling…make sure to bring dive booties. Those rocky shores are SUPER rough on your feet. Reach out to me in the comments below & let me know what your favorite Cozumel haunts are!
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