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Cozumel Island, Mexico

Great Destination:

Value for Money:

Total Stars:

Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • President Lincoln investigated purchasing Cozumel as a home for freed slaves.
  • The Spanish conquest and smallpox left the island virtually uninhabited by 1600.
  • Hernando Cortes began his 1519 conquest of Mexico by making his first landfall at Cozumel.
  • There are up to 250 species of tropical fish in Cozumel’s waters.
  • Cozumel’s airport was a U.S. military base during World War II; frogmen trained in the island’s waters.

Divers’ haven (or heaven)

Cozumel is a Caribbean island 12 miles off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, which means visitors have access to Cancun, the Riviera Maya and important Mayan ruins. Or, they can make Cozumel a retreat, not just from busy careers at home but from the demands of all mainland living.

Mostly, the island’s visitors want a retreat. That doesn’t mean every Cozumel guest wants the same thing, and the island earns its positive ratings by delivering a variety of travel experiences.

For one thing, divers choose the destination because — with access to the hemisphere’s largest reef system — it has some of the world’s best diving. In the early 1960s, Jacques Cousteau, the underwater explorer and filmmaker, brought Cozumel’s wonders to the world’s attention. After decades of development, the island now entices with numerous choices for water sports. Nowadays, active travelers pursue a menu of diversions, which include, besides diving, deep-sea fishing, kayaking, parasailing, sailing, windsurfing and more.

Other visitors define retreat differently. They take to the beaches or the golf courses and find their way to the shopping areas. They rest their psyches in a resort spa and in cozy restaurants in central San Miguel, the island’s only town.

There are some things this island is not good for, which is OK with Cozumel’s clientele. There are no mountain activities or the scenery that mountains might provide because the terrain is flat.

Restaurants and bars in town offer entertainment as do the inclusive resorts, but there are no discos and there is not much in the way of culture. Cozumel isn’t the place for spectator sports either.

Although the island was once a place of pilgrimage for the Maya, there’s not much left to show for that. Tourists put on their sightseeing hats and call at San Gervasio and maybe El Cedral, but the most rewarding Mayan sites for tourists are on the mainland.

Visitors can make of this retreat what they want, but they are not alone, especially in winter and/or when cruise ships come calling. When two or more ships are docked, eateries and shops are crowded.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Schedule one or several dives and allow yourself to be awed by Cozumel’s extensive reef system and colorful fish.
  • Water sports aren’t all about diving. Vary your schedule with kiteboarding or windsurfing. Or make that parasailing.
  • Charter a sailboat for a day’s outing.
  • Cross to the Yucatan Peninsula on Mexico’s mainland for a day trip to a major Mayan site such as Chichen Itza or Tulum.
  • Rent a kayak or an electric bike to create your own sightseeing route in the Punta Sur Ecological Park.
  • Take a jungle tour on horseback. Or get a look at the jungle on a high-flying zipline.

Things to do for Centrics

  • In winter, take a catamaran trip to the Colombia Lagoon to do your bird-watching. View crocodiles, too.
  • Take scuba diving lessons. Or, for nondivers, Chankanaab Park offers alternatives: Snuba lets you descend 20 feet while connected to air hoses, and sea trekking lets you walk on the seabed 25 feet under water while decked out in a helmet (looks like part of a spacesuit) with its own air supply.
  • Come to Cozumel for Carnival, which is described as more family oriented than many such annual events.
  • Get married on a Cozumel beach.
  • Fish in the deep waters near the mainland’s Playa del Carmen. Marlin must be tossed back, but other big catches will be yours. (Fishing is not allowed near the protected reefs.)
  • Taking advantage of on-island access to some Mayan ruins, explore the San Gervasio archaeological zone with a guide.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Go swimming. Spend one swimming session with dolphins at Dolphin Discovery.
  • Play golf on the island’s Jack Nicklaus-designed course.
  • Rent snorkeling gear for your watery sightseeing. The most accessible site for this is Chankanaab Park, dubbed a natural aquarium.
  • Check for a free Sunday-night concert in San Miguel’s Plaza del Sol.
  • Sample the services in your hotel’s spa facilities.
  • Shop for local handicrafts at the Plaza del Sol. Shop for some crafts and spices at El Mercado, as well.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Cozumel Promotion Board at