A beach on Cozumel island’s east coast.
When all the tanning, drinking and wild nights on the Maya Riviera get too much head for the Playa del Carmen dock and take a ferry to Cozumel island for a dip in the deep end. Scuba is one of Cozumel’s speciality – after catering for the vast cruise ships that barge into Port San Miguel in tiresome numbers.
Cozumel is 30 miles (48 km) long and 10 miles (16 km) wide island, very flat and just 12 miles (20 kms) from the Mexican mainland at Playa del Carmen and 36 miles (60 kms) south of Cancún.
Snorkelling and scuba diving are two of Cozumel’s main attractions due to its lively coral reefs, especially those in the south part of the island. Photo by Serge Melki.
The main town, San Miguel, and some dive operators are on the west coast but if you have wheels then the east coast is better, less developed, scenic beaches, larger waves and plenty of beach restaurants every few kilometers.
There are quite a few beach clubs that offer snorkeling over the reefs offshore and the multiple dive shops and operations are always ready to take you there.
Cozumel’s coral is hanging in there in spite of fin overload, with colorful displays and high coral spires that are a major wow factor but there’s also a mass of diverse fishy life forms to complement the coral. Scuba diving in Cozumel
A cruise ship in Cozumel’s San Miguel port. Photo by Roger Wollstadt.
San Miguel de Cozumel port
This port hosts hundreds of massive cruise ships every year, as well as ferries from Playa del Carmen.
A deep sea pier was built in the 1990s for ships to dock in Cozumel’s town of San Miguel, causing great damage to the reefs; San Miguel is now a regular stop on Caribbean cruises and the local jewellery shops are booming while the coral gets chewed by ship’s screws and attacked by varied unpleasant contaminants.
Cozumel also offers tourists a couple of unimpressive Maya sites, swimming with dolphins and the usual marine activities.
Cozumel has an international airport receiving direct flights from regional airports in USA and Canada as well flights from Mexico City but most visitors fly into Cancun and take a bus or taxi south to Playa del Carmen and the ferry across to Cozumel.
There is no public transport outside San Miguel so consider renting your own wheels to get around. The problem will be choosing your agency as visitors are inundated with car and bike hires. Use Spanish to get the best deals and negotiate like crazy. Agents will massively reduce their charges if you are presistant. Scooters are about half the price of cars, but taxis are also avialable if you don’t want to drive.
Scooters (aka motos) are an excellent way to explore the island but also the best method of losing a lot of skin quite suddenly; statistically two-wheelers have more accidents than four. Way more, partly due to inexperience on two wheels and partly to driving with a bellyful of tequila.
The default position for PEMEX gas stations on Cozumel island is that tourists are rich and stupid so the standard practice is to try a scam. Keeping your eyes open and using a credit card is the best protection.