Vacation in Cozumel Mexico

Just 12 miles from mainland Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Cozumel feels like a Caribbean oasis surrounded by turquoise, crystal-clear water on all sides.

Most people who visit Cozumel do so on a cruise ship. Spending a few hours exploring a small part of the Island, they barely scratch the surface of the island. Other visitors to Cozumel take part in diving vacations, spending most of their time underwater.

The island of Cozumel is Mexico’s third-largest island and its most populous. It measures 28 miles long and 11 miles wide and is located just above the Caribbean Sea. Coastal vegetation covers the northern tip of the island, and one main ring road traces the lower half of the island’s coastline.

Since Cozumel is so small and has a more laidback pace, it’s easy to understand why some people were confused about what they could possibly do for several days on the island.

Getting There

There is an airport on the island of Cozumel, so you can fly directly into Cancun or into Cozumel. The cheapest route is Cancun – flying directly into Cozumel costs a lot more. Flying into Cancun, you’ll drive an hour to Playa Del Carmen and then take a ferry for 45 minutes to Cozumel.

Besides taking a taxi, there are two main transportation options between Cancun and Playa Del Carmen:

  • Booking a private or semi-private transfer (about $100 USD round-trip)
  • Public transportation (about $10 USD each way). It’s then a 10-minute walk to the ferry from the drop-off point.

There are two ferry companies that you can take to Cozumel; Winjet and Ultramar. Both are fine, and you can buy your tickets on the spot so you don’t have to worry about it in advance.

Top Fun Activities in Cozumel

SCUBA Diving

There is no doubt that scuba diving in Cozumel is one of the favorite things to do on the island for a lot of folks. After all, it is what first brought most divers to the island.

Along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the largest reef in the world second only to the Great Barrier Reef, there are so many amazing dive sites. It is very common to see turtles, nurse sharks, toadfish, green moray eels, and, if you are lucky, spotted eagle rays during certain seasons. The island has several premier dive operators — here is a short list:

Aldora Divers

Aldora Divers is the perfect choice for those who want to dive very long durations and discover dive sites where few others dive. With high-capacity steel tanks, they are able to provide long dives with an average bottom time of over 70 minutes.

Aldora Divers has been a Padi dive center since 1995, providing individualized service and the best diving experience in Cozumel.

Scuba divers can choose from a variety of dive packages and get open water diving certification. A twilight light package including night diving is also available.

They have a dive shop in downtown Cozumel where you can rent dive equipment if you don’t have your own equipment.

Blue Angel Resort and Dive Shop

Blue Angel Resort and Dive Shop is the place for you if you’re looking for a relaxed atmosphere when you wake up and look out at the crystal-clear water from your balcony. The dive shop, hotel, and resort are all on the same property.

After finishing your breakfast in their ocean view restaurant, you jump in your dive gear, and you’re on their fast boat. The vacation of a lifetime awaits you.

There are a maximum of six divers per divemaster, so you will be able to see all the best dive sites in Cozumel. Beautiful coral reefs filled with tropical fish await you as you dive into the coral reefs.

Blue Magic Scuba

Blue Magic Scuba is a great option for backpackers, trendy young crowds, or anyone who is interested in diving but does not have a lot of experience.

Blue Magic Scuba is one of the very few PADI 5-Star Instructor Development Centers in Cozumel. For open water certifications and to become a Dive Instructor, it’s the best place to go.

Just two blocks from the ferry pier, the dive company is located in the heart of downtown Cozumel. First-time divers will find this dive shop to be one of the best on Cozumel.

Deep Xposure

Deep Xposure. It is always exciting to learn something new about diving, and Deep Xposure can help you achieve this goal. They offer an introduction to tech diving, decompression diving, and trimix diving.

The dive shop offers closed-circuit rebreather diving for beginners. In this tour, you will come closer to fishes, moray eels, sea turtles, and sharks than you ever have.

Ocean Nomads Underwater Photography

Ocean Nomads Underwater Photography dive shop is a family-run business in Cozumel with one fast boat and small groups of divers. The company specializes in underwater photography. You’ve come to the right place if you’re interested in taking the best underwater photos.

The instructors will teach you how to identify marine life, capture nurse sharks close up, and use light effectively to take the best photos and have the best experience, regardless of your diving level.

A divemaster will show you the marvelous toadfish hidden under the rock, as well as the green moray eel. You can also take pictures of spotted eagle rays showing off their beautiful patterns during the winter months of November and December.

Divers who are more advanced may be interested in Ocean Nomads’ blackwater dives; a night dives away from the reef. Several big strobe lights are attached to a rope, which provides you with an orientation line as well as allowing you to see. Blackwater dives may reveal underwater creatures that can’t be spotted during daylight dives.

Punta

Punta Sur Divers is the team you can count on if you’re looking for flexibility and surprises. The dive company was founded by two experienced instructors who also advocate for coral reef conservation.

They have a friendly and relaxing atmosphere on their fast boat, Keiko. It is not crowded and you will appreciate being in a small group as a scuba diver. Surface intervals between dives are long, and you will never feel rushed. This dive operator is right for you if you are looking for another perspective on Cozumel’s dive sites.

Scuba Life Cozumel

Scuba Life Cozumel, located at the Marina Fonatu, is well known for its small groups. In addition, they offer excellent valet service and will take proper care of your equipment as well.

The small fast boat at Scuba Life is well-maintained, and it has amenities to ensure that you have the most enjoyable possible diving experience. A dive master will lead your group. Whether you are a new diver or a more experienced diver, they offer excursions to suit your needs.

This dive center is a PADI dive center that offers diving certifications from Open Water to Discovering Diving. You can also do your advanced certification and rescue dive with their instructor if you wish to extend your knowledge.

Scuba Tony

Scuba Tony. There are many dive shops in Cozumel, but Scuba Tony is one of the oldest and most popular. The company does not have a physical storefront. The company’s entire business is conducted online. Conveniently located at Marina Fonatur, the dive company offers valet service.

Although they are not the cheapest, their quality is worth the extra expense. The dive center has years of experience and provides dives for small groups. A diving adventure like no other awaits you whether you dive shallow or dive deep. You are sure to see tropical fishes and sea turtles for the best scuba experience.

If you’re interested in a unique underwater experience, the Scuba Hunt Cozumel is a great place to start. You can have a lot of fun doing it if you are mentally and physically prepared.

Dining

Restaurants abound in Cozumel. Cozumel offers a wide range of food options, from street tacos to lamb chops paired with Brunello. No matter if you’re a local or a newcomer to the island and want some recommendations. Cozumel’s best restaurants are listed here.

Breakfast
  • Corazon Contento serves one of the most delicious breakfasts on the island (the food is excellent at any time of the day). You might want to try their Mayan Huevos Motulenos (fried Yucatecan tortillas with black refried beans and a fried egg on top, served with tomato sauce) or Mexican breakfast enfrijoladas (corn tortillas dipped in beans, served with cheese and cream). Try it with chicken and 2 eggs on top.

  • El Maple is actually in two locations, but most people go to the one on 5 and 6 just north of the downtown plaza. This restaurant is small and cozy, with only 5 tables inside and 2 outside. During peak times you might need to take it to go or share a table. It’s the only artisanal bakery on the island and they have delicious cinnamon rolls and croissants filled with Nutella.

  • Isla Cafe opened recently and has been extremely busy. The relaxed atmosphere and outdoor seating in the garden are favorite parts of eating there. There have been no disappointments so far. All the food has been exceptional, as well as the coffee.

  • Jolly Coffee & Late Breakfast, located in the downtown area, is another newish breakfast establishment. This restaurant closed during the pandemic and reopened afterward. They are a truly unique place. They serve excellent coffee and probably have the most delicious waffles in Cozumel.

  • La Cuisine offers healthy breakfast options in Cozumel. There are a variety of cold-pressed juices, smoothies, and mushroom coffees available. There is something for everyone there. The classic Mexican dish, Chilaquiles, is as popular as their scrambled egg dishes, pancakes, and quesadillas. La Cuisine is a great choice for breakfast or lunch. Their location is near the Mega next to EGO gym. The best restaurant in Cozumel is definitely La Cuisine.

  • La Monina is one of the best restaurants for breakfast on the water in Cozumel. And you probably want to stay near the water when you visit an island in the Caribbean. For a twist on eggs benedict, try their Huevos Xcatic. The sauce has a similar flavor to pablano compared to hollandaise.

  • Rock N Java is located on Melgar across from the Mega and is always busy. It is especially popular with ex-pats and cruise ship crews because of its proximity to Punta Langosta. The staff is always friendly, the menu is available in English and Spanish, and everyone speaks fluent English. It offers ocean views, refillable coffee, and a casual vibe.

    The eggs benedict they serve on Sundays is delicious. Those who enjoy biscuits and gravy might enjoy Johnny Lee’s Cowboy breakfast. There are delicious specialty coffees like vanilla and chocolate bang if you like your coffee a bit fancier. Don’t forget to order dessert if you come here in the evening – the ice cream brownies are amazing.

  • Sucré Salé Café has amazing coffee and some of the most fantastic desserts. In addition to being really friendly, the staff doesn’t mind if you hang out for a while. Many of the tables even include plug sockets, making it easy to charge your phone or computer. Breakfast is served until 1 pm daily and they have a broad selection.

Budget Restaurants

If you’re in Cozumel looking for some budget food, then you need some tacos. Apart from tacos, there are several other options. For some tasty cheap eats, there are other local places to consider.

  • Buccanos is a great place after scuba diving and, if you are a foodie, then don’t miss eating at Buccanos at Night. The beach club closes at 5 pm and the evening restaurant opens at 6 pm. Ocean views and good food, what more could you want? They also have an Asian Fusion restaurant next door which is equally as good.

  • Cerveceria Punta Sur, which is also a microbrewery, serves lionfish, a fish you can eat without worry. Cozumel has a few restaurants that serve lionfish.

  • Chilaquiles is a chic but extremely unassuming restaurant right next to Chedraui (think a Mexican version of Walmart) that might be otherwise overlooked. But it’s worth checking out. You will be delighted when you receive giant portions of colorful pancakes, chilaquiles, and iced coffee.

  • Crazy King Burrito has two locations. The first is located downtown on the corner of 5th and 4th north of the plaza. Another one can be found on the southeast corner of 30 and 15 (Xel-Ha) in Corpus Christi.

    They have some delicious burritos including the Asada (steak) burrito, a crowd favorite that keeps coming back over and over again is the Asada (steak) burrito.

  • Kooben Laab is the go-to Italian restaurant for a lot of visitors when they’re in town. It’s so delicious! There’s nothing pre-made here, and everything is very affordable! You won’t believe how delicious their daily bread is. They also have a great menu that’s like a spreadsheet. This menu has all the different kinds of pasta and the other has all the different kinds of sauce. The possibilities are endless here. You must also try the Chocolate mousse cake. Spending $6-$8 will leave you stuffed and satisfied.

  • Mister Taco has some really tasty Pastor Tacos if you have never tried them before. Al pastor meat looks like Turkish kababs, so you will be able to recognize it. The good news about Mister Taco is that you can get pretty much any taco you want here for a reasonable price.

What Budget?

You should blow the budget at least once while on vacation here. Although Cozumel is a small island, it has some pretty amazing options for fine dining, like the rest of the Riviera Maya. These are just a few of the pricier restaurants.

  • Alfredo Di Roma Trattoria is an excellent Italian restaurant located in the Presidente Hotel in the south end of town by the marina. The restaurant serves delicious food and wine and the service is excellent, plus you will appreciate the ambiance in this restaurant. Reservations are recommended.

  • Del Sur Parrilla Argentina is an Argentinian steakhouse near the plaza that has been keeping visitors excited lately. Del Sur has been really enjoyable for visitors lately because it’s not easy to find delicious steaks on the island.

Burgers

Sometimes you just need a yummy burger, no matter where you are! For burgers, forget about Mcdonalds, three different places in Cozumel come highly recommended.

  • Caribe Burger doesn’t get 5 stars from TripAdvisor for no reason. It’s a small place with a local vibe away from the main tourist area, but close enough to walk to. Both the burgers and onion rings are excellent.

  • Pancho Burger is located just across the street from Westin on the north side of the island. It’s the coconut shake that’s their secret weapon. Try the coconut shake instead of the burger. The next day, you’ll crave the coconut shake even more.

Accordion Panel Title

Pizza is readily available in Cozumel, but here are 4 places with the finest pizza on the island. So forget about Domino’s and Pizza Hut and try one of these instead.

  • Punta Sur Cerveceria makes excellent specialty personal pizzas in their wood oven and brew their own beer. What else is there to say? The most delicious combination is beer and pizza. You should try Lionfish Pizza, it’s delicious.

  • Torinos Pizza opened late in 2020. Using only the freshest ingredients, they opened a wood-fired oven Naples-style pizzeria. They can be found in Corpus Christie near the park and church on 17 and 25.

Explore San Miguel

The morning is perfect for getting your bearings in San Miguel, the main town center in Cozumel. With tons of restaurants and shops around, San Miguel has just about everything you could want. A cute and very hip coffee shop called Coz Coffee Roasting Company served us coffee for breakfast, and we ate at Jeanie’s on the waterfront.

You can find many artisan shops catering to tourists and cruise shippers along Avenida Rafael Melgar (the main road parallel to the water). Be open-minded as shop owners will be pushy, but this is their livelihood, so they just want to share what they know! The colorful Isla Cozumel sign, which is hard to miss, is a must-see on your trip to Plaza Central.

Colorful Isla Cozumel sign

Following your walk and photo taking, check out Habaneros Bar & Grill on Avenida Rafael Melgar. It’s a touristy but really fun bar with swings for seats, ice-cold beers, and a clown serving balloon hats — lots of fun.

Dancing

After sunset, the island pretty much clears out, as most cruise ship passengers are only there for the day while their vessel is in port. Therefore, if you’re staying for the weekend, you have the island to yourself after dark.

In town, at a restaurant called Kondesa, you may find that you are the only people dining there. You will find yourself having a great experience at the restaurant, the service is fantastic, and the musician who has just finished up for the evening may start playing again just for you.

You will want to dance and enjoy the nightlife scene after dinner. You should try out a salsa bar called Tiki Tok Restaurante Lounge. It will be full of locals, and you are sure to have the most memorable time of your live, whether you dance or not. Even just watching people and listening to live music is an enjoyable experience. Dancers should be aware that things really begin to heat up after midnight.

Surfing / Kite Boarding

Cozumel is a terrific place to enjoy surfing. It will, however, require you to go to the other side of the island. This is another reason why you should rent a car in Cozumel. Having not done this yet, I cannot make any recommendations.

Kite boarding in Cozumel

Drive Around the Island

Renting a car is the best way to explore the island. In Cozumel, taxis can be quite expensive, so doing it this way can actually save you quite a bit of money. It is imperative to be cautious when renting from a company, as some of them like to scam tourists. I recommend sticking with well know brands such as Alamo, Avis, Hertz, etc. Besides being international, they are also trustworthy. Upon returning the vehicle, your deposit is refunded on your credit card. Moreover, they will deliver and pick up your rental car from your accommodation.

View the Street Art

There is an abundance of street art in Cozumel due to a project called Sea Walls that was commissioned a few years ago. A map is available which is difficult to read, but not impossible. You can easily spend several hours looking for all the pieces on it. For more information, check out this post. Be sure to pace yourself, and start early so the heat won’t be too oppressive.

Street Art in Cozumel (Photo: Brendan J)

Visit el Cielo

El Cielo means heaven in Spanish. You will understand the name El Cielo Cozumel when you take a tour there. The experience is truly amazing. This is the bluest and clearest water I have ever seen. Get your snorkel gear and GoPro Dome ready because El Cielo is known for having an abundance of starfish. Only a boat tour can provide an opportunity to see El Cielo – getting there by car is impossible. Additionally, it’s quite far away, so you’ll need at least half a day to travel there.

Starfish at El Cielo, Cozumel

Glass Boat Tour

If scuba diving is not your thing and you’re not a snorkeling fan but curious to know what lies beneath the surface of the sea, then Cozumel’s small fleet of completely clear boats is just for you. It’s incredible and a lot of fun. If you want, you can take a short or longer tour to el Cielo. The activity is fun for friends but also enjoyable for families.

Glass Bottom Boat, Cozumel, Mexico (Photo: Marilyn/Flickr)

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