Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Cozumel Travel Tips: Hotels, Attractions, Weather

Cozumel isn't known for its beaches, but it does have plenty of them. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Cozumel isn't known for its beaches, but it does have plenty of them. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Cozumel is much more popular as a cruise port than a beach vacation for a week or longer. But that shouldn’t stop anyone from staying at the island’s hotels and resorts.

Mexico’s largest island is the fifth most popular vacation spot among the top Caribbean destinations because it is a common stop for nearly all western Caribbean cruises.

The island is the second most popular cruise stop of all the Caribbean destinations. But it ranks a low 16th as a place to go for hotel and resort vacations. No other island has such a high ratio of cruise visits to overnight visits.

Still, hundreds of thousands of people stay at hotels and resorts in Cozumel every year because of its beaches, entertainment and access to popular tourist attractions.

Hotel and Resort Tips

Cozumel Map

Hotel and resort visitors have a couple of interesting options for going to the island. They can fly directly into Cozumel International Airport. They also can fly into Cancun, which is 35 miles north of Cozumel. From there, they can drive a rental car south to Playa del Carmen and take a ferry over to Cozumel.

Is the second option worth the hassles? It depends on the travel plans. Flying into the larger Cancun airport usually is a little cheaper than flying into Cozumel. The Cancun option gives travelers a chance to see or stay at both Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Both have plenty of their own appeal.

Regardless of which option visitors choose to get to their hotels, they also have to decide how much they want to use a rental car or even if they want one at all. They need a car if they want to explore this island of 250 square miles. Otherwise, they can do without. Taxis are plentiful.

Nearly all of the hotels and resorts line the western side of the island. Many of them are near the cruise port and capital city of San Miguel.

Hotel prices commonly run $200 to $300 a night, although some lower-end hotels may cost as low as $100 a night or less. All inclusives may cost $400 a night or more.

Tourist Attractions

A visit to the island will make it easy to understand its popularity. San Miguel, the island’s largest city, comes across as more hot and spare than most other Caribbean cities and towns. But it is quite geared toward tourism with plenty of attractions, shore excursions, shopping, dining and entertainment.

Hotel and resort visitors may want to take the 45-minute ferry ride from San Miguel to Playa del Carmen during their stay. Tickets are about $10-12 one way depending on the company offering the ferry. The city has a major pedestrian shopping district on Fifth Avenue along with many restaurants and some live entertainment. We thought it was one of the best and biggest tourism districts in the Caribbean.

Cozumel snorkeling
Cozumel is known for snorkeling and scuba diving. © Cozumel Tourist Board

Because of its location, Cozumel is often a day trip for vacationers in Cancun or vice versa. The drive from Playa del Carmen to Cancun on Route 307 is straight and easy.

Road signs are in Spanish, but anyone with minimal knowledge of the language should have no trouble getting to Cancun. Mainly, you just need to follow the speed limits.

Snorkeling Appeal

Recreationally, Cozumel is known for its beaches, snorkeling and diving. Our own snorkeling experience was moderately good compared to many others. It was not as good as Haiti, St. Thomas or Jamaica, but better than St. Kitts, Barbados and diving in Dominican Republic.

It is worth saying that diving and snorkeling experiences vary greatly in part based on luck, so our experience in Cozumel should not be taken as a recommendation one way or another.

A major attraction with a combination of fun activities is Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park, which offers snorkeling, diving, ziplining and swimming with dolphins, among other things to do.

Visitors who aren’t interested in snorkeling or diving the reefs can go more into the center of the island to experience the jungle and lagoons.

Punta Sur Ecological Reserve has Punta Celarain and its historical lighthouse, along with the Colombia Lagoon, which has endangered species such as marine turtles.

Cozumel also has Mayan ruins such as San Gervasio, known as a sacred Mayan center and also for its commercial and political development. Other Mayan sites are available for touring as well. But anyone who is interested in major Mayan ruins should consider taking an excursion to Tulum, which is south of Playa del Carmen.

Tourism / When to Go

Western Caribbean cruises are the most popular during the winter and spring months because the region enters a dry season while still offering warm temperatures. It’s also a good time for hotel visitors to go to Cozumel, especially during the warmer months of March and April.

Oddly compared to other islands, Cozumel is least popular during the year in January and most popular in February. But again, this is a major western Caribbean cruise stop, so the cruise schedule is the overriding factor.

Vacation planners should avoid the fall months because of much higher than normal rainfalls during the Caribbean hurricane season.

Passports are required for U.S., U.K. and Canadian overnight tourists. Cruise visitors simply need to have their ship ID cards available when leaving the ship and returning.

Vacation Weather

Cozumel monthly weather
© 2021 Scott S. Bateman

Cozumel climate has an average annual temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit and the average annual variance is only 7 degrees.

Average daytime temperatures reach the mid 80s Fahrenheit or high 20s Celsius during the winter. But nighttime lows may bring water temperatures down to the point of being chilly.

The average high temperatures reach 90 Fahrenheit or low 30s Celsius from April to September. But rainfall starts to climb in May as the island enters a rainy season that lasts until November. January through April are the best times to visit Cozumel for low risk of rain.

Cozumel is much more humid than most Caribbean destinations, especially in the summers. Be aware that it lies in the path of its share of hurricanes, including Dean in 2007.

Currency / Tipping

As a part of Mexico, the island currency of course is based on the Peso, but U.S. currency and major credit cards are widely accepted. U.S. coins are generally not accepted.

Tipping is much like the U.S. with the typical range being 15-20 percent for hotels, restaurants, dive guides and taxi drivers. Taxis do not have meters. Confirm taxi prices before getting into one. Taxi drivers should have a fare schedule available to show.

Culture / Geography

The official language is Spanish. We found English well spoken in town, but not well spoken outside of town.

Regardless, we were able to get by because tourism dominates the Cozumel economy.

Sources / More information

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
January 23, 2024

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