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Cozumel Travel Tips: Attractions, Weather, When to Go

Snorkeling, Mayan Ruins and Playa del Carmen Offer Quick Highlights
Cozumel, Mexico's largest island, is the fifth most popular vacation spot among the top Caribbean destinations because it is a required stop for all western Caribbean cruises.

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Cozumel is known for snorkeling and scuba diving.
©Cozumel Tourist Board
The island is the second most popular cruise stop of all islands, but it ranks a low 16th as a stopover vacation. No other island has such a high ratio of cruise visits to stopovers.

A visit to the island located 35 miles south of Cancun will make it easy to see why. San Miguel, the island's largest city, comes across as more hot and spare than most other Caribbean cities and towns. Warm temperatures and a low risk of rain during the spring months also make it popular for cruise visitors.

Cozumel is known for its beaches, snorkeling and diving. It also offers a quick ferry ride across the water to the shopping mecca of Playa del Carmen. Because of its location, Cozumel often is a day trip for vacationers in Cancun.

Our own snorkeling experience was moderately good compared to many others -- 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.

See the Cozumel travel information below for more tips.

Cozumel Attractions

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 including Chankanaab National Park.

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 the commercial and political development. Other Mayan sites are available for touring as well.

Visitors with more time may want to take the 45-minute ferry ride from San Miguel to Playa del Carmen. 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.

Tourism / When to Go

Western Caribbean cruises are most popular during the winter and spring months because the region enters a dry season while still offering warm temperatures.

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 stopover tourists. Cruise visitors simply need to have their ship ID cards available when leaving the ship and returning.

Cozumel Climate

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.

Cozumel is much more humid than most Caribbean destinations, which may be one factor in the low number of stopover visitors. 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.

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November 21, 2016

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