12 Things You Should Know Before Visiting Cozumel
Cozumel is well known as one of the most chilled places in the Caribbean. With miles of stunning beaches, world class food, excellent shopping and an expansive jungle, there’s a good choice for all travellers. It’s also one of the busiest cruise destinations in the world, meaning when the cruise ships are in it can be a busy place. There really is so much to do on Cozumel, so plan ahead to make the most of your time there.
Cozumel has some of the best snorkelling in the world
The Mesoamerican Reef site just off the coast of Cozumel. This amazing reef, the second largest in the world extends over 150 miles and is home to a huge variety of see life. The tunnels running through the reef create perfect conditions for a wide variety of tropical fish. You can take tours out to the reef, offered on most of the western beaches and by the hotels, or you can book with your cruise line if you’re arriving by cruise ship. You can also snorkel directly from the beach; most beaches will rent you the gear and you can swim in the shallow waters and still get to experience underwater Cozumel.
You NEED bug spray
Like a lot of the Caribbean, mosquitos can be a problem. A large part of the island is rainforest and you’re never far from water. Mosquitoes can be particularly bad after rainfall, so we highly recommend taking some insect repellent and give yourself a spray whenever you go outside. When the mosquitos are really bad, a lot of restaurants will offer you a spray if you want to sit outside. There’s no Malaria in Cozumel, however Dengue fever, which can also be transmitted by mosquitos, has been reported in Mexico and there have been isolated cases in Cozumel, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
It does rain (sometimes)
Cozumel is generally dry and sunny, and being further south, gets less rainfall than other Caribbean islands, but it does have a rainy season. October and November see the most rainfall, with December to April being the driest. Even in the rainy season, you’ll still have plenty of dry spells so it won’t impact your holiday too much, but if you only have a few days on the island, opt for the new year to maximise your chance of avoiding the rain.
Watch out for hurricane season
Hurricane season is August to November like the rest of the Caribbean, so it is best to avoid these months if possible. Although the island is experienced at dealing with hurricanes, in 2005 hurricane Wilma cased a huge amount of damage, and residents had to be evacuated to the mainland while the islands infrastructure was repaired.
For Beaches, West is Best
The beaches of Cozumel extend right around the island, with the most popular on the west. If you are after something quieter and chilled then there are some secluded beaches on the east that offer fewer amenities, but fewer people. Check out our Cozumel beach guide for the full list of the island’s best beaches. You can get to most beaches on the west in under 20 minutes by taxi from San Miguel. If you plan to head out east, it is best to hire a car.
Beach flags tell you where to swim
The public beaches in Cozumel display flags showing tourists where it safe to swim. The waters around the island can be strong, and there are underwater currents that can pull you out to sea. The waters on the east are generally choppier so you should exercise extra caution if you are heading over there. Make sure you swim in view of a lifeguard, and familiarise yourself with what the flags mean: * Green - Safe to swim * Yellow – Exercise caution * Red – Dangerous conditions * Black – Highest warning level. Do not swim
Don’t drink the water
The water in Cozumel isn’t safe to drink and can cause digestive problems. Bottled water is used in food preparation and when making ice in all the hotels and restaurants. The locals also don’t drink the water, opting for bottled water instead which is a big cluse as to the water quality!
You’ll need a passport (unless you’re on a cruise)
Wherever you’re travelling from, you’ll need to take your passport with you unless you’re on a ‘closed loop’ cruise, a cruise beginning and ending at the same port in the USA. If you are o a closed loop cruise, you’ll still need photo id so keep your driving licence with you when you get off the ship. Come people still choose to take their passport with them when they get off the ship, but most cruise lines recommend keeping the passports in the safe in your stateroom and taking out photocopies just in case.
Cozumel is easy to get to, and from
Cozumel is only a 45-minute ferry ride from mainland Mexico and is a popular day trip for people holidaying in Playa del Carmen. You can also fly directly to Cozumel airport from a number of cities in the US, including Miami, Houston and Dallas. You can connect from Europe at any of these airports, or through Mexico City. Or if you prefer, you can join the 4 million other people who arrive in Cozumel by cruise every year! If you're arriving on a cruise, check out our Cozumel port guide for the inside info. If you’re staying a while in Cozumel, consider heading over to Playa Del Carmen for a day to experience the Mexico party scene or take a full day trip to Chichen Itza. It’s a long day, and you don’t get to spend a lot of time there, but it is one of the new 7 wonders of the world and well worth the trip if you have the time to spare. Check out our guide to Cozumel in a day to see how to get there.
You can use US dollars (but we recommend pesos)
Dollars are widely accepted in Cozumel, though you will likely get your change in Pesos. Although convenient for visitors form the US, the exchange rate used won’t be favourable, so you should take pesos with you if at all possible. Confusingly, the sign for the Mexican peso is $, so you will likely see $ prices (peso) and ‘$USD’ used for US dollars. Credit cards are widely accepted in Cozumel restaurants and hotels, but smaller shops, street vendors and taxis won’t take them, so you should keep plenty of change handy.
English is widely spoken
Although not an official language, as the island hosts over 4 million international visitors every year, English is spoken right across the island. You can expect to converse with fluent, and almost fluent English speakers in hotels, restaurants and in all the tourist destinations, and even locals not working in tourism will understand a lot of English. As a visitor to the country, it’s polite to attempt to converse in the local language so learning a few Spanish phrases will always be appreciated.
You can have an adventure
Cozumel is considered a chilled and relaxed destination, with holidaymakers from Playa Del Carmen heading over to enjoy a break from the hectic party scene. There are however a lot of adrenaline fuelled activities you can try. You could go ziplining at the Riviera Maya adventure park, scuba at the 2nd largest reef system in the world, try a jet ski or go parasailing, or hire a jeep and head out to the Mayan ruins at San Gervasio.
You can circle the island in 2 hours
Although you can see plenty of this island without hiring a car, to see everything, we recommend hiring a car and heading off to explore the island. There’s only really a single main road that goes round the island so getting lost is difficult. If you’re on a cruise, you’ll easily be able to make your way round in a few hours, stopping off at Mayan Ruins or a serene part of the rainforest, before heading back west to enjoy some beach time before jumping back on the ship. If you're headig out by car, take a look at some of the best things to do in Cozumel to get some ideas.
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