Cozumel is a Mexican island in the Caribbean Sea that blends beautiful white-sand beaches with a dense jungle interior. It has all the luxury resorts and lively nightlife one would expect of a Caribbean island, along with the excellent food and endless Margaritas that come with travel in Mexico. There are also interesting Mayan ruins on the island itself, and the dramatic Mayan city of Tulum is situated just across the water on the mainland. And Cozumel is especially well-known for its diving and snorkelling, with easy access to some of the most spectacular underwater terrain and marine life in the Western Hemisphere.
Cozumel has an international airport with major flights from Atlanta, Chicago, Toronto, Miami, Mexico City and many more. Visitors can also fly into Cancun and then take a bus to Playa del Carmen, where a ferry service runs between the city and the island.
Cozumel is among the Western Hemisphere’s best scuba diving destinations, with miles of crystal clear water containing a myriad of marine life. This sealife is particularly concentrated among the giant reefs situated just offshore, including a stretch of the 175-mile-long Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, possibly the second-largest contiguous coral reef in the world. Many companies offer tours out to such spots, but more accessible alternatives such as snorkelling are also widely available.
Also see Hopper's article on the top five hidden travel gems in Mexico to discover other cool, lesser-known destinations in Mexico
While Cozumel may in places appear to have been swallowed whole by resorts and tourism, relics from its Mayan past have been preserved. Perhaps the most interesting on the island itself is San Gervasio, a collection of ruins including a temple dedicated to Ix Chel (‘she of the rainbow’). Ix Chel was the goddess of fertility and some combination of water, medicine, and the moon, depending on who you ask. Either way, it’s an evocative site that women from throughout Mesoamerica would pilgrimage there to ask for support in childbirth and subsistence farming.
Also read about visiting the nearby Chichen Itza, which was named the number 3 reason to visit Cancun in our top 10 reasons to visit Cancun
Chankanaab National Park, on Cozumel’s west coast, encloses a patch of path-threaded jungle, Mayan ruins, an inland lagoon and a stunning stretch of shoreline. It offers many activities, from guided tours into the jungle to botanical gardens with over 350 species of tropical plant. But perhaps the most popular is the opportunity to swim, snorkel and dive with dolphins – as well as sea lions and manatees – on a tour operated by the long-established Dolphin Discovery company.
Hopper included Cozumel on its list of the five best day trips from Cancun along with some other cool Yucatan destinations
Situated high on a headland overlooking the ocean, Coconuts is one of Cozumel’s most recognizable eateries. It’s a funky venue, the utterly laid-back atmosphere enlivened by super-strong cocktails and spicy Mexican and Caribbean food, but really it’s the view and the ambience that keeps people coming back for more.
Cozumel Palace offers sultanate luxury to its guests. Its 175 rooms overlooking the Caribbean Sea bring together modern amenities with a not-too-kitsch attempt at traditional Mexican architecture. There are four swimming pools, including an infinity pool and swim-up bar, as well as diving platforms into the ocean. There are also four restaurants offering Mexican, East Asian and Italian cuisine. And the Palace is a great base for watersports of all forms, and scuba diving in particular.
On the fence between vacationing in Mexico or Jamaica? See Hopper's Destination Battle: Mexico vs Jamaica