Planning a trip to Mexico? We share these Cozumel travel tips including a Cozumel diving guide, so you can plan the perfect trip.
If you are planning to scuba dive Cozumel then you have already made an excellent choice! Here on Isla Cozumel, you will find world-class diving, fantastic accommodation, and some pretty amazing places to eat.
It can be difficult to navigate any new place, so in this diver’s guide to Cozumel, I’m going to share with you some local knowledge and tips that will help you make the most of your Cozumel dive vacation by ScubaTony in Cozumel.
How to get to Cozumel
First thing’s first, you need to get here. Well, it’s pretty easy as Cozumel has its own international airport. This offers international and domestic flights with Southwest Airlines offering plenty of affordable options.
You can also find flights into Cancun. You can take a comfortable ADO bus right outside the terminal for $2 to Playa del Carmen. They run frequently. Then from the ADO bus station, you walk one block to the ferry. If you have a lot of luggage then ask a guy with a cart to take your bags. Don’t be worried when they go downstairs through a separate area with your luggage while you have to go upstairs to get screened. Ferry tickets are around $20 round trip and take about 40 minutes. They run on top of every hour from 6 am to 11 pm.
How to get around Cozumel
When you are on the island you have 3 options: taxis, car rental or scooter rental. If you want to be free to explore the island (and get to the dock to dive easily) then renting a car is your best option. I recommend dealing with ISIS car rental service. Margarita has been running an honest operation for many years. They are also one of the only companies that don’t charge you a small fortune in deposits! Their rates are fixed and fair.
Another option is renting a scooter while you are here. This is a fun and economical way to get around the island. However, it’s best if you have experience riding motorcycles or scooters as it is a bit more dangerous. If you choose this option, be sure your travel insurance covers you… just in case!
Taxis are everywhere on the island. Hopefully, one day Uber comes but I am not optimistic. Service can be a tad frustrating though the taxis are everywhere. Always ask how much the fare will be before you get in and accept the fare.
Where to stay in Cozumel
Most people who come to the island either stay in a resort or are just visiting for a day on one of the cruise ships. Although many of the resorts on the island are great, there are many Airbnb options that are fantastic as well.
The two biggest things to consider are which location is more suitable for your style of travel. Do you want to be picked up by boat every day for your dives or do you want to be close to the restaurants that Cozumel has to offer?
We dive in a protected marine park in the South part of the island. Mostly in the South are large resorts. I recommend staying at The Presidente or Fiesta Americana if you are a resort type of person. They are positioned at the top of the marine park and will allow you to dive all of the dive sites in the marine park.
Being located outside of the marine park means that you will need to get back and forth from our marina which is located at the top of the marine park. Cozumel is a pretty safe place and there are no ‘bad areas’ to stay in.
Being downtown will allow you to experience a bit of what Mexico is all about, which you miss out on when you stay in the South.
Our friends Greg and Silvia just expanded their small 2-room guest house into a small boutique hotel-style place located in downtown Cozumel. They are super hosts. Check out Stingray Villas.
If you want somewhere for 4-8 people, Casa Phoenix is a great choice. It has ocean views to die for, a hot tub on the balcony, it’s a 5-minute walk to downtown, and there are 2 supermarkets close by.
Where to eat in Cozumel
You won’t find a shortage of great food in Cozumel. The whole of the Riviera Maya is known for its foodie culture, and Cozumel is no exception. There are so many places to eat, but here are a few of my personal favorites:
For breakfast, there is one place that I always take my friends and family to, and that’s Corazon Contento. Known locally as the Content Heart. They have a wonderful local vibe and you can find anything from french toast to chilaquiles and enfrijoladas.
For lunch, my favorite place to eat is at Buccanos beach club. They have a wide selection of well-prepared food, and they even have a gourmet hotdog stand! But most importantly they are located right on the beach. If you eat there you are free to use the beach club which includes a swimming pool and shower facilities, so you get a two for one.
For your evening meal, there are a lot of different options available in Cozumel. I love having sunset drinks at Palomar and eating their sopecitos. There is also a hidden gem of a restaurant near downtown that’s called Casa Tomas. They have delicious Antipasto apps, lamb chops, and a pork knuckle that I just keep going back for.
Another of my favorite options is Buccanos at Night, although if you’re feeling like some Asian fusion try their new restaurant called Shii Fu. Both restaurants are excellent and on the same site.
Things to do in Cozumel
You can’t spend your entire vacation under the sea so when you do get some surface time here are a few other things you should try and do on the island:
1. Visit the Mayan Ruins – San Gervasio is nowhere near as impressive at Chichen Itza. But it does make a fun visit, plus if you get there early (before the cruise ship groups) you will have the place all to yourself. The significance of this site to the Mayan people was a fertility shrine to their god of fertility, Ixchel, and they would make the long trek here from all over to worship Ixchel.
2. Go surfing – Yep that’s right we have a few surf schools over on the other side of the island. You will need a car to get there but it’s a great way to spend an afternoon.
3. Enjoy the beach – Cozumel is a diamond in the rough now that the mainland has been having problems with the algae bloom and sargassum has been littering the beaches. Cozumel has a west-facing coast that is sargassum free making it a safer choice if you want a beach vacation in the Riviera Maya.
4. Enjoy a pint – Did you know Cozumel has its very own microbrewery? Well now you do, and the beer is pretty great. They have an excellent selection of locally produced beer, plus the best pizza on the island.
5. Go SUP-ing at sunset – What better way to watch the sun setting on the west of the island than while enjoying a Stand-Up Paddleboarding session? There are several places where you can rent boards, some hotels even let you use them for free.
6. This should probably be number 1. Finish your day with a sunset. Cozumel has spectacular sunsets since we face the west.
Where to relax in Cozumel
Whenever I need a day relaxing in Cozumel I head to the beach club at Buccanos, obviously, I’m a regular there. Their minimum spend is low and the food and service are excellent.
If you want something a bit more lively The Money Bar is a tourist and local favorite. They have an area you can sunbathe as well as access to the water so you can swim.
Another good option is Paradise Beach which is a little further south.
Ps, we pick up from both the Money Bar and Paradise Beach for dives.
Where to dive in Cozumel
We at ScubaTony would love to take you diving in Cozumel. Decisions on where to dive in Cozumel are always made with you once everyone is on the boat. Often the weather and sea conditions are perfect, but from time to time they will be taken into consideration and change where we dive due to Scuba Regulations. We also need to check everyone’s skill level and we always dive to the weakest diver’s ability.
But putting all of that aside here are my top 3 choices of diving spots in Cozumel. There are about 27 amazing dive sites within the marine park and picking three is extremely difficult.
Palancar is a section of reef in Cozumel that hosts 4 dive sites. Palancar Bricks, Palancar Caves, Palancar Horseshoe, and Palancar Gardens. Any of these 4 dive sites are tied for my number 1 dive site in Cozumel.
My second favourite dive site in Cozumel is La Francesa. It’s a shallow dive and you can find seahorses here. It also has one of the longest swim-throughs in Cozumel.
Santa Rosa Wall
My third favourite dive site in Cozumel is Santa Rosa Wall. It’s famous for being one of the best wall dives in the world. There are plenty of incredible swim-throughs and it’s teeming with sea life. I like to dive on top of the wall sometimes and look for pipe horses.
When to dive into Cozumel
Cozumel diving is good all year round. From May to November the water is warm, like a heated pool. You can dive for sixty minutes in a rashguard and shorts and not get cold. Water temperatures in Cozumel during this time stay around 84 degrees F or 29 C.
The winter months are considered the high season in Cozumel. From December to April the water temperature is cooler and I recommend diving in a long 3 mm wetsuit during these months. The water temperature will drop to a low of 77 F which is 25 C. The best part about this cooler water is that an eagle ray migration passes through Cozumel. During the winter months, it’s much more likely to see eagle rays.
What animals will you see when you dive in Cozumel
Cozumel is most known for its massive reef structures and beautiful underwater views. Cozumel has an average visibility of 100-120 feet, and 35-40 meters.
During your dives, you will likely see hawksbill turtles, nurse sharks, and eagle rays. Loggerhead turtles make an appearance from time to time as well. Seahorses, pipe horses, and nudibranchs are some of the tiny creatures that you can find here. There are a lot of fish, crabs, and lobsters. Schools of barracuda and some triggerfish. You can find free swimming green moray eels and spotted eels as well. If you want to see the Caribbean octopus then book yourself in for a night dive and be prepared to be amazed!
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What to pack
- No matter where we travel, I always take these trusty hand sanitizers and a mini first aid kit.
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- I still struggle not to overpack so stick to using an expandable suitcase like these and always take my trusty luggage scales to avoid being charged at the airport.