Plate of chiles en nogada for Mexican independence day tradition in Cozumel.

Cozumel in August and September: Independence and Ironmen

Celebrate Mexico’s independence and enjoy low Cozumel crowds and plenty of tranquility during these two awesome months to visit Cozumel Quintana Roo Mexico.

Despite it being Cozumel’s low tourism season, there are lots of benefits and fun things to do if you’re visiting Cozumel during August or September.  

Cozumel in August and September has warm and sunny daytime air temps in the 90s and the mid-80F water temperatures make for perfect diving without that bulky wetsuit in your luggage. It’s the peak time for the annual whale shark migration and baby sea turtle hatchings on the island. September also welcomes the annual Cozumel Ironman 70.3 event, and Mexico celebrates its independence with fireworks and special culinary dishes. 

This is a fun time of year to live here and to visit.  Tourism is at its lowest, so you’ll be enjoying an even more remote tropical island feel while knowing you’re also doing a huge part to keep the local businesses humming through the quieter months.

But quieter is often awesome for travelers!

You’ll experience all the great Cozumel things to do, and the countless great restaurants and cafes that people rave about, without worrying about crowds.  

Everyone will be very happy to welcome you with that Cozumel hospitality it’s so well known for.  

You don’t need a reservation and you won’t have to get there early.

Except maybe for the first-morning ferry…

Cozumel in August and September – Heat is Up

It gets hot in Cozumel during August.

And I mean hot.  (see below for some tips on what to pack…)

Of course, it does – it’s the sunny blue Mexican Caribbean coast! Things could definitely be worse.

The good news is that this island has an almost constant beachy breeze, and there are great places to swim everywhere you look.  Even on hot days, there are also places you can cool off in the shade with a nice light wind. 

A shady nap in a beach-side traditional Mayan hammock, perhaps…

Women in blue hammock with sun hat and tropical cocktail at the beach.
Hamaca time – traditional Yucatan hammocks are standard in Cozumel

The water temperatures in Cozumel are also very warm during August and September, so Cozumel scuba diving is even more liberating.

Even those of us who get cold while diving can finally ditch the heavier wetsuit and use a dive skin or rashguard (for me, a lighter 3mm wetsuit). 

But I’ll take it – it’s so nice to forego my typical warmer layers of thermal diving gear.  

For more on what wetsuit you’ll need for diving in Cozumel, check out this post, next.

Cozumel nurse shark (and remora) in September

Beachgoers will love the bright sun and warm water for swimming or snorkeling – just be sure to wear even more protection from the strong summer sun.  

On that note:  Reef-safe sunscreen, like the high-quality ones from the Stream2Sea range, is critically important to the health and survival of coral reefs and the sea creatures that live in them.  

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Even more important and effective than sunscreen, I swear by physical protection from the sun.  

Namely, I’d recommend you wear an SPF sun hat, invest in good quality, UV-rated, and truly polarized sunglasses to protect your eyes over time.  

I also always travel with at least one light, quick-drying, protective camp shirt, like these from Colombia (via Amazon).  

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I use these camp shirts on the dive boat, between dives to protect my arms, neck, and chest from the strong sun. 

It’s a great, easy thing to throw in your beach bag or sight-seeing tote for use as a cover-up or just a versatile sun-blocking item to cover your head and face, legs, or whatever part needs it – all the while knowing it can get wet, will dry quickly, and can generally take a beating.  

It can also work as an added layer on the airplane to protect you from all that AC. 

They come in handy and come in a lot of cool colors.  They’re also super easy to hand wash and they dry in a very short time.

For more on suggested items to pack for fun on the dive boat, check out this post.   

Whale Sharks Near Cozumel in Late Summer

Cozumel diving in August and September is really nice for other reasons, beyond just extra warm water temps. 

You’ll have many marine park dive sites virtually to yourself at times.

That is, aside from the year-round populations of local sharks, tropical reef fish, various moray eels, stingrays, sea turtles, and tons of colorful shrimp, and other macro marine life that Cozumel is well known for.   

August is also the peak of the Whale Shark migration season in nearby Isla Mujeres, MX.  

Many Cozumel divers and ocean enthusiasts take a short day-trip for the whale shark excursions.

From personal experience, I can say it’s really worth it – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity if you’ve never gotten to swim alongside these amazing marine creatures. 

Ask your hotel, or book through the same dive shop I use when in Playa – Yucatek Divers at this link

You’ll take an early ferry over to Playa del Carmen, and then a shuttle van up to Cancun where you board your snorkel boats and head out to see hundreds of whale sharks.  

Whale shark up close in blue water of Isla Mujeres, off of Cancun Mexico.
Whale sharks off Isla Mujeres, MX

It’s a long, full day, but it’s fun and exhilarating to see the whale sharks up close and personal.  

And cross your fingers, because many times at this time of the season there are some large, gorgeous manta rays that also show up and join the party, especially in August. 

The Cozumel Ironman 70.3 is Annually in September

Cozumel has been hosting Ironman triathlon events for many years now, and the first annual one is the Cozumel “half” Ironman, or “The 70.3,” which is held each year in September. 

Thousands of amazing triathletes descend upon the island for a couple of weeks, and the course is set up to take advantage of some of Cozumel’s natural venues for the three segments of the triathlon.  

One of elite runners crossing the finish line of Cozumel Ironman 70.3 event.
My POV volunteering at the Cozumel Ironman Half

The swimming portion usually kicks off at the Chankanaab Beach Park, and then racers attack the biking and running courses that loop around the island and back through downtown San Miguel

You can easily watch the race, and get an especially great view of the finish line, which is typically set up in the Quintana Roo Park (Parque Quintana Roo), right in front of the Cozumel Palacio, or our city hall.  

If you plan to be here before and after the race, consider volunteering for the event and really become part of the action. 

Cozumel Celebrates Mexico’s Independence Day each September 16

Mexico celebrates its independence annually on September 16.  

If you’re in town for Cozumel independence celebrations, be sure to check out downtown San Miguel de Cozumel’s famous parks and plazas for all the annual festivities.

Typical traditions include displaying extra Mexican flags, evening fireworks in town, and some special national culinary dishes served – the most famous of which is called Chiles en Nogada

Chiles en Nogada – Cozumel Foodie Tradition of Mexican Independence

Chiles in Nogada was one of my absolute favorite new Cozumel foodie discoveries during my first September living here (besides all the local tacos…).  

Plate of large chile en nogada (or walnut) sauce with red pomagranate seeds on top.
Chiles en Nogada dish served in Cozumel for MX Independence Day

The traditional dish of Chiles en Nogada is a legendary piece of Mexican culinary history, dating back to 1821 and Mexico’s independence from Spain.

Prepared in Puebla at a celebration to honor military commander Agustin de Iturbide – who had recently signed the treaty of independence. 

The dish of Chiles en Nogada combines seasonal Mexican produce including green poblano peppers, a creamy white walnut sauce, and bright red pomegranate seeds to honor the green-white-and-red colors of Mexico’s sovereign flag. 

It sounds easy enough, but this traditional recipe is pretty complex.  I can’t claim to have tried to make this myself, and now I’m way too into going out and trying creations from the experts around town.  

Luckily, many local Mexican restaurants in Cozumel honor the tradition and make a limited amount of chiles en nogada every September – so if you’re lucky enough to be in Cozumel in September, definitely try to take advantage of your timing and try it. 

Cozumel Restaurants Serving Chiles en Nogada

When September rolls around, several local restaurants include the chiles en nogada dish as a special. 

For the best of the best?

Try these Cozumel Mexican restaurants that locals flock to for this once-a-year tradition, the most: 

  1. Colores y Sabores – this adorable and delicious cafe bursting with traditional decor and hearty home cooking is located right near the International Hospital on Calle 5, just off Melgar.  
  2. Rock’n’Java – a favorite spot for great meals, great service, ocean views, and lots of menu items – including seasonal and cultural specialties, Rock’n’Java rolls out the chiles en nogada every year and serves them up…until they run out!   Located on Melgar, a couple of blocks south of Punta Langosta cruise terminal.
  3. Cielito Grill – right in the heart of Centro on 5th Av. and Calle 3, Cielito is a charmer with a nice menu of  Mexican comfort foods, including a permanent place on the menu for chiles en nogada. 

Cielito gets additional points, in my book, as they have chiles en nogada on their menu all year round.  

I appreciate that the dish is meant to mark a very particular season – and seasonal ingredients – but I also appreciate that Cielito Linda celebrates this cool foodie find whenever you’re able to visit.  (And it was my first one ever!)  So I also hold this place, and this dish, dear as one of my memorable rights of passage into living in Mexico. 

If you’re still deciding whether to visit during Cozumel independence holidays, try a few of our other month-to-month posts, like this one covering October and November.

Any time of year is an awesome time to come, honestly, especially if you’re into scuba diving.

And don’t let the general threat of “hurricane season” put you off of August or September! Of course, it could happen (it could always happen).

But if you insure your flights for peace of mind, the odds are in your favor that it will just be run-of-the-mill weather here in Cozumel, which basically means bright sunny blue skies, warm weather, and clear blue water.

(with a slim chance for occasional brief rain showers. it just kinda comes with the tropical territory.)

Read more on the best rain gear to pack to keep you – and your phone and other valuables – safe and dry.

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