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Cozumel offers a wide variety of attractions that continue to draw in particular tourist markets. The island has been welcoming visitors for decades longer than Cancun or the Riviera Maya, its glitzier neighbors on the mainland. While much of Mexico’s marketing muscle has shifted away from the island, present-day Cozumel is still a compelling choice for target markets, especially divers, families and budget-minded travelers. Cozumel offers a more relaxed vacation experience than Cancun and is a more compact destination than the Riviera Maya.
Cozumel’s main center of action is the port town of San Miguel. Here, visitors will find boutique hotels, blocks of shopping and nightclubs and more than 90 restaurants and cafes. Cozumel’s duty-free zone offers great buys in everything from sterling silver and gold jewelry to high-quality watches. San Miguel is also the place to go if you want to mingle with the locals, especially on Sunday afternoons.
Beaches of Cozumel
Cozumel beaches fall into two categories. The west side beaches are more tourist friendly, while the beaches on the east side of the island tend to be rocky and rugged. Most travelers opt for staying at a beachside resort with its own stretch of white sand and turquoise sea.
The island also has numerous beaches that function as beach clubs. A small fee grants entry and access to beach facilities, such as lounge chairs, palapas for shade, restrooms and showers. Some of the most popular beach clubs are Playa San Francisco, Playa Mia and Paradise Beach. The beach clubs are also popular with locals and cruise passengers visiting for the day.
What to Do in Cozumel
Scuba diving is probably Cozumel’s biggest draw. The destination has crystal clear waters, amazing coral reefs and over 40 established diving sites, including a sunken Spanish galleon. The larger resorts have their own on-site dive operators and the island itself has over 50 certified operators. Novices can take PADI certification courses that will get them exploring undersea in no time. The island even holds an annual Cozumel Scuba Fest each December, which draws a huge number of international divers.
Non-divers can opt for exploring Cozumel’s colorful reefs aboard a U.S. Coast Guard-certified Atlantis Adventures submarine ride. The sub descends 100 feet for a 40-minute excursion to the inland coral reef of Chankanaab National Park. There are also opportunities to swim with dolphins at Dolphinaris Cozumel and interact with stingrays at Stingray Beach. Passion Island is also a popular aquatic excursion. After a 15-minute boat ride, travelers can spend a day relaxing on the beach or exploring the small island by Jeep. Boats for Passion Island depart from the dock in downtown Cozumel.
Cozumel has equally appealing dry land-activities. Visitors can tee off at the Cozumel Country Club’s championship 18-hole, par 72 golf course, designed by Jack Nicklaus; go horseback riding at Buena Vista Ranch on the east coast; and explore Cozumel’s ancient Maya site of El Cedral, a rugged site best explored via four-wheel-drive vehicle or on horseback.
Visitors can reach the island by flying into Cozumel International Airport or boarding the ferry that departs from Playa del Carmen, which is a pleasant 35-minute ride. There are not many familiar brand name hotels and resorts on the island, but a few that might ring a bell include Secrets Aura Cozumel, an AMResorts adults-only property; the 306-room Iberostar Cozumel; and The InterContinental Presidente Cozumel Resort Spa, an upmarket property with the largest wine cellar in Cozumel.