Living in Cozumel: Epitome of Caribbean Paradise
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What if you could live in the Bounty candy bar tropical paradise commercial? Chilled coconut in hand, warm crystal clear Caribbean waters tickling your feet, palms swaying in the breeze…
Welcome to Cozumel.
The island of Cozumel is a world-class vacation destination, especially among cruise ship aficionados. But enamored with picture-perfect island living and realizing the investment potential, vacationers rush to join the 80,000 permanent residents and set up shop. If you are intrigued, here is everything you need to know about living on Cozumel Island.
How Do I Get to Cozumel?
Cozumel sits only 12 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and is easily accessible. The Cozumel International Airport receives direct flights, but flying into Cancun is usually cheaper. From Cancun, you will embark on what is locally known as the bag drag route involving swapping a few transportation methods before finally arriving on Cozumel island.
You can drive, take the bus or taxi from Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen ferry port, which takes 45 minutes, then hop on a 40-minute ferry ride to Cozumel or an hour on a car ferry. The route is quite the adventure and can be a hassle when traveling with kids or many suitcases. Unfortunately, there is no ferry service from Cancun, but another option is to take a puddle jumper flight from Cancun airport to Cozumel.
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What is It Like Living on Cozumel Island?
Weather and Seasons
Cozumel’s year-round tropical climate is a draw for many people. The winter months are cooler and busier with holiday vacationers. The island winds down during the low season from May to October, which coincides with the hot and humid hurricane season.
The local currency is the Mexican peso. While you can pay by card at large supermarkets and most restaurants, we recommend having cash on hand in case card payment is unavailable and for tipping, which is generally expected.
Prices on the island are higher than on mainland Mexico, so occasionally, residents hop on the ferry to Playa del Carmen in search of specific goods or services at a more accessible price.
Health and Safety
Cozumel is much safer than its neighbors Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. There is no major crime, and everyone knows who is a local, keeping an eye on anyone lurking around. Having said that, being aware of your personal belongings and setting up a proper security system for your property or business is advised.
General health and safety suggestions include using bottled water for drinking and cooking, staying protected from the sun, and wearing mosquito repellent, especially in the morning and before sunset.
WiFi and Working Remotely
With the influx of digital nomads in Mexico, Cozumel is constantly developing and upgrading its facilities, WiFi connection stability included. So, if the WiFi at your accommodation does not satisfy your needs, head over to one of the many venues that offer a perfect working environment for remote working. But maybe steer clear of the sea-facing rooftops if you want to get any work done.
Getting Around Cozumel
In the first days of your arrival, take your time greeting the island and getting to know it. Go out for a few drinks around town at sunset, and get chatty with locals. The next morning, start early with a lap around the island to get the lay of the land.
Cozumel is small – about 30 miles long and 10 miles wide and it takes around 45 minutes to drive around the entire island without stopping. El Centro is pedestrian-friendly, but when exploring the surroundings, you may prefer some sort of transportation. Luckily you have a few options.
The best way to get around the island is at a biking pace. The bicycle route around the island offers jaw-dropping views. Try not to fall out of your seat! There are shops in the city center where you can buy or rent bicycles, or you can find used bikes for sale on Facebook Marketplace.
If you prefer to sightsee at a faster pace, rent a scooter, which is also widely available downtown. Alternatively, you can take a taxi or rent a car, which is ideal if you plan to take the ferry back to Playa del Carmen to discover the treasures scattered along the Riviera Maya.
Neighborhoods on Cozumel
Cozumel is much more tranquil than its neighbors Playa del Carmen and Cancun. The main town, San Miguel de Cozumel, is also the heart of the island. It’s buzzing with tourists on scooters, cruisers browsing gift stores in packs, and residents kicking it back in restaurants by the beach. Staying close to El Centro (city center), you’ll have the best shopping and dining options at your fingertips. The further out of the center, the more peaceful will be your island retreat.
There are many options on the island – from roadside fruit stands and small convenience stores scattered around San Miguel to large modern stores stocked with imported goods like Mega Soriana and Chedraui. And if you are a seafood lover, there is an infinite supply of only the freshest produce.
Activities and Sports
The community on the island is very active, and the event calendar is packed with fun things to do for every taste all year long. There is live music almost every night of the week, fishing tournaments, turtle conservation programs, parades, and colorful Day of the Dead and Carnaval celebrations.
Sporty visitors have over 20 gyms to choose from in case your apartment condo doesn’t have a private gym. And aside from the plethora of water activities, the loop around the island is perfect for running and cycling and is used to host triathlons, marathons, and Iron Man competitions annually.
Do I need to Know Spanish to Live on Cozumel?
You will get by without knowing Spanish as most locals are bilingual. Because of the thriving ex-pat community and tourism, many locals speak English, and communicating with doctors, lawyers, or tour agents won’t be an issue. But to smoothly transition, it’s best to brush up on your Spanish. Knowing numbers in Spanish will make your grocery runs more comfortable, and exchanging basic phrases with restaurant staff make eating out more enjoyable.
Amazing Things to Do on Cozumel
Living on a small island like Cozumel may have you wondering about “island fever”. Surprisingly, there are so many things to do on Cozumel that there is never a dull moment. And if you ever start to feel it creeping in, the mainland is just a short ferry ride away.
Discover the Magical Underwater World
Cozumel is home to the second largest reef in the world, so the number one activity on the island is exploring the magical underworld. Go reef snorkeling and observe corals and marine life floating by, or discover deeper waters by scuba diving. If you are new to scuba diving, there are many schools available on the island.
Marine life lovers will be delighted to encounter sea turtles, nurse sharks, and green moray eels at the world-class snorkeling and scuba diving spots around Cozumel. For the most unforgettable experience, head to Palancar and Colombia reefs, Playa Mia, Punta Eco Park, Paradise Beach, and Sky Reef.
Take a Trip to the Past at the Mayan Archaeological Site
Cozumel Island used to be a sacred place for Mayans. Women, in particular, would go on a pilgrimage to the island to worship the Mayan moon goddess of fertility. The San Gervasio ruin site was the sacred temple where women would come to pray. These ruins may not be as impressive as Chichen Itza, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, located on the Yucatan Peninsula, but the stunning views are breathtaking.
El Cedral is a much smaller but older ruin site on the opposite side of the island and used to be a ceremonial site for the moon goddess. Knowledgeable guides will shed light on the life of the sophisticated Mayan civilization through fascinating stories.
Explore Punta Sur Eco Park
Just as you thought Cozumel couldn’t get any dreamier, Punta Sur Eco Park comes along to prove you wrong. This giant natural reserve is located on the southern side of the island. Spread over 1,000 hectares, it is brimming with native flora and fauna, birds, and animals. Here you can relax at secluded beaches, climb a lighthouse museum, bird-watch, observe crocodiles in their habitat, kayak, and hike.
Watch the Sunrise and the Sunset
You can be one of the first in Mexico to see the sunrise from the eastern beaches of Cozumel. And for a sunset treat, head to the western side of the island where the port is located. Pick a restaurant with an unobstructed view, order your favorite beverage and kick back to watch the colors dance reflecting off the sea.
Learn How to Surf or Go Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Cozumel is the perfect place for beginners to learn surfing. The Caribbean waves are soft and gentle, which means there are no crowded lineups and plenty of space to practice.
If you are not a fan of surfing, you can glide across the calm Caribbean Sea on a Stand-Up Paddle Board by joining a sunset tour along the coast.
Set Out on a Mission to Capture Cozumel’s Murals
In 2015, Cozumel commissioned an art project called Sea Walls to decorate the city with 36 vibrant murals that communicate the importance of ocean conservation. Most artwork is concentrated downtown in San Miguel de Cozumel, and the best way to discover them is on foot or by bicycle. The murals cover entire building walls and even shipwrecks! Start early to avoid the midday heat and photograph them to keep track and admire them later.
Family Day at Playa Mia Grand Beach Park
For families, Playa Mia Grand Beach Park will be the perfect retreat. A large water park in front of the sea with swimming pools, attractions, and restaurants, where parents can spend their day lounging and kids shooting down slides.
Best Beaches on Cozumel
One thing Cozumel doesn’t lack is beaches – nearly the entire island is wrapped in them. Rocky limestone shores with lazy iguanas, glistening white sand stretches, or fully outfitted beach clubs for loungers, take your pick. But which side of Cozumel has the best beaches?
The western side of the island, opposite Playa del Carmen, has calmer and shallower waters, with more facilities, perfect for families and those looking to relax with a good read. But since it’s close to the port, the beach clubs dotting this side of the coast tend to be more crowded, getting most of its footfall from cruises and day-trippers coming from the Riviera Maya.
The east is covered with long stretches of pristine and secluded beaches. This side is less developed, so bring an umbrella, plenty of water, and snacks and beach-hop the coast avoiding the crowds. There are restaurants along the way where you can grab a proper meal.
Best Day Trips from Cozumel
Visit El Cielo
El Cielo means heaven, and this spot, exactly as the name suggests, is heaven on earth. It’s a sandbank only accessible by boat, where the water is so clear that you see straight to the bottom. Exploring in a glass boat or snorkeling is the best way to meet the local starfish and friendly stingray residents.
Watch the Underwater Spectacle at Colombia Reef
Colombia reef is possibly the main reason most make the journey to Cozumel. Discovering the local underwater life in the second largest reef in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, is a bucket list experience for many. Seeing the reef with a guide on a boat tour is the best way to learn about the diverse ecosystem.
Take an ATV Tour to a Cenote
This day trip takes you on an adventure through the jungles of Cozumel on a guided ATV tour with Jade Cavern cenote as the final destination. A cenote is an underground cave filled with emerald water unique to the Yucatan Peninsula. Jumping off the cave walls or through holes in the rock ceiling into the refreshing water is the ideal way to beat the jungle heat.
Treasures of the Riviera Maya
With the Riviera Maya, just a stone’s throw from Cozumel, your day trip options can quickly extend into unforgettable road trips. A quick ferry ride will take you to the bustling Playa del Carmen for shopping and dining, nightlife in Cancun, ruins and boho-chic luxury in Tulum, awe-inspiring cenotes and archaeological sites like Chichen Itza, and so much more! The Yucatan Peninsula is the jewel in the Mexican crown and is right at your fingertips when living in Cozumel.
Best Restaurants on Cozumel
With nearly 500 venues to choose from, Cozumel has a restaurant scene tailored to every budget and taste. And thanks to the international visitors that frequent the island, there are new cuisines constantly being added to the mix. The dining venues clustered around the port or facing the sea tend to be pricier. But the further out of the city center, the more budget-friendly they get.
For breakfast and scrumptious desserts, head to Sucré Salé café. With a lovely ambiance and decent WiFi, it’s also an excellent place to get work done. At lunchtime, satisfy your craving for good quality Italian food at Koo’ban Lab, Cozumel’s hidden gem. This authentic Italian bistro serves up delicious gourmet dishes fast! For a laid-back dinner, check out the microbrewery Cerveceria Punta Sur and sample their homebrewed craft beers accompanied by wood-fired pizza. Celebrate a special occasion at the sea-facing Buccanos with stunning views, atmospheric torches, and a rich seafood selection.
The thriving tourism industry keeps the infrastructure on the island ever-evolving. Offering amenities and comforts you are used to at home as you adjust to living a slow but purposeful life on Cozumel island, the epitome of Caribbean paradise.