Cozumel

Destination Location

Cozumel
Hotel reviews summary
5.0

Our guest rating from 1 reviews

Overview

As far back as 2,000 years ago, when the Mayan civilization first discovered and settled the island of Cozumel, this quiet patch of land about 19 km off the eastern shoreline of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula existed as place of rest and rejuvenation.

During the 17th century, pirates like the infamous American buccaneer Jean Lafitte used the island to lay low and to quietly organize clandestine operations. Before that, the Mayans considered Cozumel (or Ah-Cuzamil-Peten, which translates to “land of the swallows”) to be the second-most sacred pilgrimage site after Chichen Itza near Cancun.

Legend has it Mayan women were required to visit the island at least once in their lives to pay homage to Ixchel, the goddess of fertility and childbirth. Not surprisingly, thousands of years later, the Mexican getaway is still a hotspot for honeymooners and families looking for a quiet place to reconnect with nature and with each other.

One of Cozumel’s biggest assets is its size – or lack thereof. Even though it is the largest island in the Mexican Caribbean, it is still less than 48 km long from north to south and 16 km wide from east to west.

The majority of the island’s 90,000 residents live close to the western seaboard, between the north and south hotel zones in the city of San Miguel. It is possible to circle the island by car in less than two hours, making it an ideal destination for travellers who visit each year looking for a safe and manageable getaway.

A side effect of the island’s close-knit quarters is the friendly, laid-back hospitality extended to tourists and locals alike. In Cozumel, it’s often harder to avoid friends than to make them.

Interestingly, Cozumel is not known as a party destination. In fact, most of the hotels on the island have policies deterring spring break crowds.

What it is famous for is diving. The clear turquoise waters on the southwestern part of the island are home to the second-largest reef system in the world. This places Cozumel on the map as one of the top five dive destinations on the planet. Here you’ll find qualified guides and tour operators to help you explore the waters.

Snorkelling, windsurfing, deep-sea fishing, scuba diving and surfing are among the top activities to try during your visit to Cozumel.

Cozumel is a fantastic destination for:

  • snorkelling and diving
  • beaches
  • outdoor adventure

Destination basics

Cozumel’s location east of the Yucatan Peninsula and close proximity to the Caribbean Sea means it is blessed with a steady subtropical climate all year long.

You may notice the humidity the moment you step off the plane – especially during rainy season, which typically runs June through November. If it’s the hotter temperatures you seek, visit between April and September, when temperatures average around 27 C, a few degrees warmer than the annual average of 25 C. The two hottest months in Cozumel are June and July.

Things cool down in the early mornings and late evenings, when the fragrant tropical winds roll in off the waters. It’s not a bad idea to bring along a cover-up of some kind to ward off a chill, if you plan to be out late.

During the hottest part of the year, the coastal waters warm up dramatically, creating perfect conditions for snorkelling and scuba diving. The balmy water teems with colourful fish and aquatic life.

Besides a swimsuit, make sure you bring along a hat with a good-sized brim, sunglasses and sunscreen.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Cozumel

As a culture, the Mayans are known for their peace-loving practices and warm hospitality. In fact, for thousands of years, Mayan women were welcomed to Cozumel so they could pay homage to Ixchel, the Mayan Goddess of fertility and love.

It’s no wonder that Cozumel – an island with a Mayan presence dating as far back as 300 A.D. – is inhabited today by a culture of people who know a thing or two about making visitors feel at home.

Tourism is the main industry, thanks in part to the vibrant cruise-ship industry, as well as the steady supply of professional and recreational divers who frequent Cozumel’s stunning coral reef, ranked second largest in the world. The cruise ships dock across from San Miguel in the west central part of the island, while the two hotel zones sit further out on the north and south sides.

In total, more than 2.5 million people visit Cozumel each year, significantly adding to the local population that hovers around 90,000 permanent residents. Spend a few days visiting the shops and cafes lining the Malecon and don’t be surprised if you end up making a few good friends. The majority of the population is centered in San Miguel.

This small, close-knit island has an incredible advantage in regards to safety. After all, it’s hard to be a bully when everybody in town knows your business (besides the fact Cozumel is known for its exceptional and helpful police force, and for its overall safety).

Another advantage is the small-town vibe and ongoing presence of local people in everyday street life. If you want to hang out like a local, all you have to do is ask one where to go. Generally speaking, locals are more than happy to share any information to enhance your visit and make you want to return.

The Mexican peso is the official currency in Cozumel. Canadian currency and travellers cheques are not widely accepted, and most stores in Mexico do not accept debit cards, so using pesos for purchases is usually simplest.

To exchange your Canadian cash or travellers cheques, stop by one of the many banks, exchange kiosks or your hotel front desk. Just don’t forget your passport – it’s required to cash your travellers cheques. You can also withdraw cash from ATMs found in banks, grocery stores and hotels.

Although American money is widely accepted, regulations are now in place to limit the amount of U.S. cash both residents and visitors can exchange in Mexico.

By regulation, the maximum visitors can exchange per month is US$1,500. Many financial institutions have imposed additional rules, limiting this amount further to US$300 per transaction.

As for using American money for purchases, local businesses will only accept a maximum of US$100 per transaction; however, there is no limit on the maximum number of transactions per customer. You should also keep in mind that many businesses in Mexico have chosen to forgo accepting U.S. money altogether. The best way to pay is therefore with Mexican pesos or credit card.

Mexico's largest island, Cozumel, is a heady mix of cosmopolitan restaurants, hotels and shops set amidst astounding natural beauty. It has become famous for its superb scuba diving, and also as a cruise ship destination where stylish amenities are offered in a simple island atmosphere.

San Miguel de Cozumel
Cozumel's only town, San Miguel, has a laid back elegance combining the charming remnants of colonial Mexico with the conveniences of modern life. Its heart and soul is the center plaza, known officially as Parque Benito Juarez, but often referred to as the zocalo, or simply as Plaza Central. Shops, restaurants and hotels surround the plaza, and since the whole area is blocked off to traffic, it can become quite crowded. Still, the area is a pleasant place for a paseo (walk), particularly on Sunday evenings when the locals gather to enjoy the free open-air concerts and dances. The main stretch, Avenida Rafael Melgar, is lined with high-end jewelry boutiques, souvenir shops, department stores and restaurants.

Running parallel to Avenida Melgar is the malecón, an ocean-side boardwalk decorated with sculptures commemorating events in Cozumel's history. Follow it north to the tidy Museo de la Isla de Cozumel to learn more about the Maya. Downtown San Miguel is also the place to find family-owned hotels with lower prices and a more Mexican atmosphere. When the plaza or main streets get congested from cruise ship traffic, walk east from 25 Avenida A onwards into the more residential neighborhoods, where the small tiendas (stores) and markets charge local prices.

Costera Norte
North and south of San Miguel are where the luxurious hotels and beaches start. The Costera Norte (North Coast), informally called Zona Hotelera Norte, begins just past the airport road. Much of its beachfront has been taken over by posh resorts with their grand lobbies and pools. The longest beach is Santa Pilar Beach, followed by San Juan Beach. Here the north road ends and you must take a boat to reach the pristine north coast lagoons, such as Laguna Ceiga or the uninhabited Passion Island.

Costera Sur
The Southern Hotel Zone, located along Carretera Chankanaab, and also known as the Costera Sur, offers the best beaches beginning at Corona Beach and ending at Palancar Beach. The famous coral reef running parallel to this part of the coast is a protected zone called Parque Marino de Cozumel.

The first attraction along the way is the popular Chankanaab Park, a park with a landlocked lagoon connected to the sea. Just off the fine sandy beach is excellent snorkeling where you can spot tame fish, underwater statues, a sunken ship and a pirate cannon.

The two largest beaches, San Francisco Beach and Mia Beach, are popular spots with the cruise ship crowd that swarms both beaches by early afternoon. On Sundays, San Francisco Beach is the gathering spot for Mexican families who come to enjoy the beach and bring along their music, games and family picnics. You may want to visit Mr. Sancho's for its free admission, laid-back beach atmosphere and good Mexican cuisine. Crowds and noise aside, both beaches offer excellent swimming and snorkeling. Those in search of more tranquility can follow the highway west to where Costera Sur takes a northern turn becoming the Costera Este (Eastern) Highway. Here the beaches are wild, wind-swept and, for the most part, deserted. Along the way is Cozumel's original settlement founded in 1847. El Cedral is now a charming farming community known for its country fairs. Beside its modern church are the remains of the oldest Mayan structure on the island. Signs along the highway will point you in the right direction.

Parque Punta Sur to Punta Molas
Just as the highway turns north you will find Punta Sur Park, a national wildlife refuge. Inside the park is the ancient Mayan lighthouse, El Caracol, which was built as an early hurricane warning system. At the southernmost tip is Celarain Point Lighthouse, a historic lighthouse that has been transformed into a navigational museum.

Paradise Beach is the first beach just outside of the park's entrance. Close to Chen Rio Beach are two smaller Mayan ruins, El Mirador and El Trono. The best beaches for swimming are found at the crescent shaped Chiqueros Point cove and at San Martin Beach. If you are on this beach during the full moon in May or June, you may see giant sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. Further north is Morena Point, which is popular with surfers and boogie boarders because of its pounding surf.

Punta Este has a blustery beach, perfect for beachcombing, and is the final stop before the paved highway turns west and becomes Avenida Benito Juarez, leading back into San Miguel. An unpaved road continues north, leading to some of the most unspoiled beaches: Ixpal Barco, Los Cocos, Hanan Reef, Ixlapak and Playa Bonita are all what you would expect from a Caribbean beach. Along the way is the Mayan ruin of Castillo Real. The roads end at Mola Point Lighthouse, the island's most northern point. A tour is recommended to explore this extremely rugged area.

Ixchel's Ceremonial Center
Located in the lush sub-tropical forest, the serene San Gervasio ruins were once a ceremonial center where Ixchel, the Maya goddess of fertility and childbirth, was worshipped. Believed to have been occupied from 300 to 1500 CE, San Gervaiso has many excellent examples of Classic and Post-Classic Mayan architecture. Guides are available at the site, but you can also buy an excellent guidebook at the museum in town.

Mainland
Cozumel is 11.5 miles (18 km) from the mainland and Carmen Beach, one of the largest cities along the Riviera Maya coastline, is a 45-minute ferry ride away. From there it's a one hour bus ride south to the Mayan ruins of Tulum, or north to the mega-resorts of Cancun. Other nearby attractions include underground caves, snorkeling at Xel-Ha, and the unashamedly commercial Mayan theme park, Xcaret.

As one of the world's premier vacation destinations, Cozumel offers visitors a variety of things to see and do. In addition to a vibrant nightlife, visitors can entertain themselves by shopping, dining, playing mini-golf, visiting ruins, sunbathing, surfing, bird watching, fishing, horseback riding and, of course, scuba diving and snorkeling.

Nightlife
Most of Cozumel's nightlife is in its only city, San Miguel. There is no nightlife on the east coast since the few restaurants there close at dusk. Downtown bars open until the wee hours include the Hard Rock Cafe with its great music and bar along with Carlos 'n Charlie's and Fat Tuesdays. Both open-air bars are known for their loud, party atmosphere. Cactus Bar and Restaurant is a recent additon and has quickly become a popular spot to check out the party with its large dance floor and live music. Smoke Cuban cigars while listening to hot jazz at The Havana Club. Enjoy the Sunday Fiesta at Plaza Central, a live open-air concert with Mexican or Caribbean song and dance. The island's oldest disco Neptune Dance Club is opened on the weekends and is quite popular with the locals as well. The laid'back Mariac Hi Bar and the Stadium Sports Bar are both excellent places to people watch or to become aware of the latest sports scores. For those with a more cultivated sense of culture can go to the posh Arrecifeco and listen to live classical guitar.

The Casa de la Cultura offers local programs of music, dance, theatre and art. Every Thursday evening at the Feria Mexicana there's a folkloric dance performance. If you are lucky enough to be on the island during Carnaval(mid-February to March), you are in for an explosion of music, dance, parades and parties that fill the streets.

The largest movie theatre on the island is now the Cinepolis Complex, just minutes away from downtown San Miguel. It shows the latest Hollywood blockbusters with Spanish sub-titles. Two other, older theatres named Cine Cozumel and Cinel Cecillo Borge, also show English movies.

Shopping
Shoppers can get easily get their fix at a variety of stores selling Mexican handicraft art, souvenirs, clothing, diamonds and gold or silver jewelry. There are plenty of bargains to be found at the open-air markets just off the square. Los Cinco Soles is a popular souvenir stop, especially with the cruise ship crowd. Cozumel is famous for its jewelry stores. Among the most visited are Diamonds International and Rachat and Romero, which offer excellent choices in diamonds, gold and silver jewelry. Because Cozumel is a duty-free shopping zone there are some great bargains to be found on luxury items.

Outdoor Fun
With 285 days of sunshine a year, Cozumel offers endless hours of fun in the sun. There is something for everyone to enjoy on the island.

The Atlantis Submarines adventure is an amazing exploration of the reef, but is very expensive. A more reasonable alternative is a trip aboard the glass-bottomed Principe. Both Natural Adventures and Rancho Buenavista offer horseback riding through the jungle. Tours that explore the island's northern end on ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) can be arranged with Wild Tours or Tarzan Tours.

Deep-sea fishing is also a popular activity. Scuba divers will find plenty of underwater sites to explore. The most popular reefs are on the southwestern side of the island. Paradise Reef, Chan Kanaab Reef, Villa Blanca Wall, Santa Rosa Wall, Palancar Reef and Plane Wreck are just a sampling of what you can expect to find beneath the turquoise waters. There is no shortage of scuba diving companies and tours. There are also none that could be considered inexpensive. Aqua Safari, Caballito del Caribe and Eagle Ray Dive School are some of the more experienced companies on the island.

On the mainland, popular tourist attractions include the famous Mayan ruins of Tulum and Chichen Itza, the natural aquarium Xel-Ha and the 250 acre, eco-archaeological park Xcaret.

Two inexpensive attractions are the San Gervasio ruins and Parque Punta Sur. You will find the most expensive part is the transportation out there. Chankanaab Park is an excellent bargain since your entry fee includes an archaeological park, botanical garden, a museum, a free dolphin show and great snorkeling. A fun family evening can be had at Cozumel Mini-Golf, an 18-hole miniature golf course. For a more educational family experience visit Museo de la Isla de Cozumel, which has historical and natural exhibits about the island. For those on a budget, there is still plenty to do in Cozumel, provided you bring your own snorkel gear. You don't have to pay any entry fee to get onto the beaches since all beachfront is Federal Property with free access to everyone. Plaza las Glorias allows visitors to snorkel as long as they buy something at the bar. Corona Beach has few crowds but good snorkeling. For lots of action you can visit San Francisco Beach or Playa del Sol. You won't find as many swimmers along the eastern beaches due to much heavier surf and a strong undertow. Surfers like to gather at Punta Morena, where the waves are high and burgers are cheap. (Families should take their children to the west coast beaches where the surf is much calmer.) You can also hike along the northern road that starts where the Costera Este Highway ends. The beaches there are wild and beautiful and camping is permitted.

Windsurfing, kayaks and jet skis are available on most of the beaches. However, renting them turns free fun into expensive fun.

Many of the restaurants on Cozumel serve Mexican fare that focuses on seafood. However, visitors can also enjoy French, Italian, Cajun and Yucatecán cuisine. Fast food chains, including KFC, Subway, Burger King and Baskin Robbins, are in abundance in downtown San Miguel. Street vendors sell everything from corn on the cob to fresh orange juice. If you are really lucky you may come across one selling homemade hot tamales.

Cozumel is not a late-night town, since most of its visitors are up bright and early to enjoy the sights or dive the reef. What little nightlife there is on the island is confined to San Miguel. Restaurants along the east coast tend to close at sunset since many do not have electricity. But downtown party goers keep things hopping from the late afternoon until midnight. A few clubs and bars stay open until 2am, along with an elite handful that cater to die-hards and stay open all the way to 5am.

San Miguel
As the only city on Cozumel Island, San Miguel sees a lot of tourist traffic. During the day the city's numerous restaurants and bars are packed with tourists, many from the cruise ships docked at the international pier or day-trippers from the mainland. Reservations are recommended at those places that accept them. It is a good idea to arrive early at those restaurants that do not accept reservations. Lunchtime, particularly if a cruise ship has arrived, can be the most hectic meal of the day. Most of the fine dining restaurants do not open until the evening and do not cater to the cruise ship crowd.

Avenida Rafael Melgar is the most heavily traveled street in San Miguel, so naturally the most popular restaurants are clustered here, many with waterfront views. Jeanie's Restaurant offers hearty breakfasts until 3:30p. Pizza lovers will be happy at Nino's Pizza or at Guido's, where the pasta is also fresh and delicious. Java drinkers and people-watchers frequently stop in at Coffee Bean or Rock and Java Café to enjoy a cup of coffee, delicious pastries or a quick bite.

The island's Italian ex-patriots hang out at La Cucina Italiana (that includes the chef). Be sure to check out Pancho's Backyard for its delightful Mexican menu. Those who like to get off the beaten track will enjoy the innovative cuisine of La Cocay. This small restaurant is considered the best on Cozumel.

Casa Denis, La Choza and El Turix are all recommended for the adventuresome who would like to try Yucatecán dishes like pollo pibil (chicken in banana leaves) or poc chuc (pork steak marinated in a sour orange sauce) and tikinchic (fish in a sour orange sauce). These regional delicacies are world-renowned and shouldn't be passed by.

As for bars, Carlos 'n Charlies is generally the most popular as it is in the center of the downtown party circuit. Margaritas and frozen daiquiris are the most recommended beverages at Fat Tuesday, another open-air bar that has a DJ who keeps the joint rocking. The Hard Rock Cafe is part of the Cozumel party tradition, where having a good time is priority number one and T-shirt buying has become a routine custom. Los Dorados De Villa is known for its impressive tequila selection and generally stays crowded until closing. Neptuno Dance Club is another great place to go dancing. For those who would like listen to hot jazz and smoke Cuban cigars, The Havana Club is just the place.

North Hotel Zone
Just north of San Miguel, there are several fine restaurants worth the 15-minute drive. The Palma Azul beachfront restaurant offers a laid-back atmosphere and casual dining. It's located in the Playa Azul Hotel. Half a block away is the kitschy La Cabana del Pescador, a lobster lover's haven.

South Hotel Zone
For a laid back option to enjoy Mexican food , there's the Hogtown Café.

Eastern coast
When leaving San Miguel, follow the Costera Sur Highway until it turns north into the Eastern highways. Right at the crossroads is the funky Paradise Café, where margaritas and reggae are a way of life. A few miles further at San Martin Beach is Coconut's Bar and Grill. Located on the island's only hill, it has a spectacular view and offers light fare that is popular with divers and casual diners. The highway ends at Mezcalitos Bar & Restaurant, the quintessential beach restaurant on the dramatically beautiful beach of Punta Este. From here it is a short haul back to San Miguel.

Cozumel

State: Quintana Roo

Country: Mexico

Cozumel by the Numbers
Population: 86,000
Elevation: 1 meter / 3 feet
Average Annual Rainfall: 149.1 centimeters / 58.7 inches
Average January Temperature: 22.9°C / 73.2°F
Average July Temperature: 27.2°C / 81°F

Quick Facts
Electricity: 110-120 volts AC, 60Hz; standard North American two-pin plugs

Time Zone: Central (GMT-5)

Country Code: +52

Area Code: 987

Did You Know?
The Mayans were the first to occupy Cozumel, settling on the island in the 1st millenium BCE. They considered the island to be sacred and dedicated it to Ix Chel, the Moon Goddess. Many temples were built here and were places of pilgrimage, especially by women seeking fertility.

Cozumel is one of the top destinations for SCUBA diving and snorkeling in the world.

Orientation
The island of Cozumel is located just off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in the Caribbean Sea. It is about 19 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of Playa del Carmen.

Cozumel is located on the eastern side of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and is the largest island in the Mexican Caribbean. It is the most populated island in the country.

It takes less than two hours to completely circle the entire island by car, since the actual land mass is only 48 km from north to south and 16 km from east to west. The island is divided in half by a transversal road running to the Caribbean Sea.

From the sky, it is easy to see how the majority of the island’s commercial development and infrastructure is centered close to the city of San Miguel, located in the northwest quadrant of Cozumel Island.

Further north, you find one of two hotel zones – home of the island’s only golf course, the Cozumel Country Club, as well as the family-owned and operated El Cozumeleno Beach Resort, the first all-inclusive property to open in the area back in the 1970s.

The other hotel zone is along the shoreline south of San Miguel, close to the cruise ship terminals and not far from world-famous Chankanaab National Park. Follow the road south past popular beach clubs and public beaches until you reach Celarain Lighthouse, located at the southernmost tip.

The east side of the island is home to tiny beach cafes and rugged, windswept beaches popular with surfers and locals who want to escape the crowds.

Cozumel is known for its clear blue waters and Mesoamerican Reef. The island also happens to be a popular habitat for the birds and waterfowl that make their homes in the mangrove jungles and marshlands populating much of the interior.

Cozumel has a history that spans three epochs and three different cultures. During the time of the ancient Maya, the island was known as Ah-Cuzamil-Peten—Land of the Swallows. From 300 CE until the arrival of the Conquistadors in the 15th Century, Cozumel was an important trade and religious center. Merchants came to buy the salt and honey produced on the island. The Maya considered salt and honey more valuable than gold. Historians believe the El Caracol ruin was built as an ancient lighthouse to guide these travelers safely ashore.

Cozumel was also the religious center for Ixchel (Lady Rainbow), the Maya goddess of fertility, pregnancy and childbirth. Ixchel is one of the most important gods in the Maya religious pantheon as she is the mother of all other gods and rules not only over life and death but the moon and bodies of water. Every woman in Mesoamerica was required, at least once in her life, to make a pilgrimage and place an offering on Ixchel's altar. Pilgrims departed the mainland from what is now Carmen Beach and Tulum, making the treacherous channel crossing in open canoes. Today, the remains of Ixchel's altar and ceremonial center can be seen at the San Gervasio ruins.

The island was first discovered by Spanish conquistadors in 1518 when Juan de Grijalva who was blown off course on his way back from Cuba. Grijalva's present to the island can still be viewed in the Church of San Miguel. He mentioned the island to Hernán Cortés, who arrived the next year in search of gold. Instead he found two shipwrecked Spaniards. Geronimo de Aguilar and Gonzales Guerrera had been living on the island with the Maya for over 15 years, first as slaves but finally as citizens of the community. Legend has it that de Aguilar was so happy to be rescued that he jumped from shore and started swimming towards the Cortès' ship when it was still 20 miles away. Guerrera chose to remain on the island with his Maya wife and family. Aguilar, bitter about his treatment by the Maya, helped the Conquistadors set up a military base on the island to wage war on them. Guerrera, on the other hand, died defending his adopted community. It is interesting to note that while de Aguilar is considered a hero in Spain, it is Guerrera who is revered in Mexico. His offspring, known as the Mestizo, are considered the founders of the Mexican race. By 1570 most of the Maya population were dead, murdered by the Conquistadors or killed off by disease. By 1600 Cozumel was abandoned.

By the early 17th Century pirates had discovered Cozumel. The dashing Henry Morgan used the island as a stopover during his raids around the Caribbean between 1658 to 1688. Another legend on the island has Jean Lafitte, who caroused the waters near Cozumel between 1814 and 1821, hiding from his pursuers in the safe harbors of the Passion Island. Both pirates were responsible for sinking a number of cargo ships, some of which can still be seen in the briny depths just off the northern shore close to Molas Point Lighthouse (northern lighthouse). Cozumel remained uninhabited until 1847, when 20 families fleeing the Spanish backlash over the Maya rebellion during the War of the Castes settled on the island and founded El Cedral. Many of their descendants are still living on the island. Cozumel soon settled into a forgotten island community.

In the late 19th Century a new candy put Cozumel back on the map. In 1880, a Mexican general, Antonio Lopez de Santa, imported a ton of chicle to the States after noticing the natives of Mexico and Central America chewing this gummy sap from the zapote tree. He gave it to Thomas Adams who tried to create rubber with it but instead came up with chewing gum. When Frank and Henry Fleer coated their gum with sugar and called it "Chiclets," chewing gum became the most popular candy in America and the demand for chicle reached an all time high. Men called chicleros were hired to find the zapote trees and process the sap into gum that was shipped to chewing gum factories in New York. Cozumel again became an important port, with ships stopping to pick up the chicle gathered from all over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Guatemala, Belize and Costa Rica.

When the Chicleros began clearing Cozumel's jungle, they discovered long forgotten ruins. Soon archaeologists began visiting the island to document the new discoveries. When the market for chicle crashed due to the invention of the airplane and synthetic chewing gum, Cozumel went back to being an almost deserted island. Its only export became copra - the dried kernels of coconuts that contain coconut oil. More on Cozumel's trade and shipping history can be seen at the navigational museum in the Celarain Point Lighthouse.

During World War II, the American military landed on the island and set up a submarine base and airfield. Unfortunately, in the process they dismantled most of the Maya ruins without realizing what they were destroying. In the 1950s Cozumel became a resort town for wealthy Yucatecans who came to the island to fish, sunbathe and escape the heat. A display in the Cozumel Island Museum outlines the history of the founding families and the very first luxury hotels.

In 1961, Jacques Costeau did a dive along the reefs and came away so impressed with what he saw that he introduced Cozumel to the world on his popular television show. In 1974, when Cancun was being built and Quintana Roo was finally a state of Mexico, rather than a territory, Cozumel became a popular dive destination. And after that — as they say — the rest is history.

Cozumel may be the biggest island in Mexico, but it’s still only 16 km wide and takes well under two hours to cross by car. This makes it a safe and manageable chunk of land to explore with the help of a rental vehicle. There are many options for getting around the island.

Public buses are virtually non-existent, so most locals rely on mopeds and bicycles, which can be rented at shops and kiosks throughout town. It’s a fun and carefree way to get around, but be forewarned that road rash (or worse) is a souvenir you don’t want to be bringing home with you. Make sure to learn the rules of the road before heading out on your own.

Other transport options include Jeeps, small sedans and even dune buggies. You will be amazed at the bizarre and colourful vehicles coasting up and down the main roads.

Those who prefer their creature comforts can rely on the good old-fashioned taxi system. Drivers are everywhere and easy to spot. Just make sure to ask for a price before heading out. Also note that fares on the island are fixed. There is absolutely no need to tip the drivers – in fact, locals discourage the practice.

Arrival

During your flight into Cozumel International Airport, you’ll receive two forms to fill out. One is your Customs Declaration Form. The other is your Multiple Migratory Form for Foreigners or FMM for short. One Customs Declaration Form needs to be filled out per family, while each guest must complete an FMM.

In Mexico, there is a tourism tax of US$20 per person. For your convenience, when you fly WestJet, this tax is included in the price of your airfare

Upon arrival in Cozumel, a Mexican immigration officer will ask you for your passport and photo ID and for your FMM. The immigration officer may ask you a few questions as to the purpose of your trip, how long you will be staying and if this is your first time in Mexico. The officer will then stamp the card and return a portion of it to you.

Keep your FMM in a safe place – you will be asked for this document when you depart Mexico.

After passing through immigration, you will collect your bags and proceed to customs. A customs agent will ask you for your Customs Declaration Form and ask you to press a button on a device that looks like a traffic light. A green light means "pass through without inspection" and a red light means "your baggage will be inspected." If you get the red light, you will have to open your bags for a quick inspection.

If you’ve booked hotel transfers with WestJet Vacations, look for a friendly Fantasy Travel Experts representative holding a WestJet Vacations sign once you depart customs. Be sure to identify yourself as a WestJet Vacations guest.

Do be aware that there are timeshare sellers who may try to stop you to chat as you make your way out the glass doors. Unless you’re looking to purchase a timeshare, feel free to walk past these individuals.

Departure

When departing Cozumel, you’ll need to provide officials with your signed FMM card. Lost FMMs can be replaced at the airport or at the immigration office before you check in for your return flight. However, there is a fee to obtain a replacement card.

Vaccinations

Be sure your routine vaccinations are up to date. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Malaria, typhoid and tetanus are commonly recommended. The Public Health Agency of Canada also recommends that all travellers to Mexico get vaccinated for the H1N1 flu virus before leaving Canada.

Mexico uses the North American standard plug, however some properties have only two-pronged receptacles in the room rather than three-pronged receptacles.

Famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau put Cozumel on the map back in the 1960s with the discovery of the island’s chain of coral reefs at the south end of the island. This eventually turned the tiny fishing community into an internationally recognized dive destination, now ranked as one of the top five scuba diving areas in the world.

By the 1970s, the population had grown to 10,000, exploding over the next four decades to reach its current status of more than 90,000 people. Most are employed or live on the island as a direct result of tourism, Cozumel’s biggest industry.

As is the case with most islands, there is a laid back, casual charm that won’t necessarily be found on the mainland. With a special police force in place just for tourists, and a built-in safety net that comes courtesy of being such a small island and close community, Cozumel is extremely safe – even late at night.

People come here for the low-key, friendly vibe evident in the warm hospitality and genial nature of the Cozumel people. These are traits associated with the early Mayans who first inhabited the island. It’s not uncommon for visitors to make long and lasting friendships with the locals.

Families and couples looking for a perfect sun vacation appreciate Cozumel for its reputation as a friendly, welcoming destination. Only two resorts on the island are adult-only facilities, and almost all of the hotels have policies in place to deter and discourage spring break party crowds.

In Mexico, there is a tourism tax of US$20 per person.

The Mexican peso is the official currency in Cozumel.

Cozumel may be the biggest island in Mexico, but it’s still only 16 km wide and takes well under two hours to cross by car.

Departing from:

^Total price one-way per guest. See terms and conditions.

*Prices are per guest, based on double occupancy and are limited; may not reflect real-time pricing or availability. See terms and conditions.

Explore our world.

or find your dream vacation with our Vacation Finder

AM Resorts
Barcel Hotel Group
Hard Rock Hotel. An all-inclusive experience.
Melia Hotels & Resorts
Palladium Hotels & Resorts
Sandos Hotels & Resorts
Cancun
Ixtapa Zihuatanejo. One trip. Two Paradises.
Los Cabos. visitiloscabos.travel
Riviera Maya. Paradise is Forever.
Puerto Vallarta. Riviera Nayarit.
Mexico - a world of its own.