Cozumel in December and January: Festivity and Fine Diving

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This guide to Cozumel in December and January is part of a seasonal series to help people know what to expect – beyond just the weather – no matter what time of year you arrive.  December and January in Cozumel both have a lot to offer, whether you’re coming here for the famous scuba diving, or just looking for a hot holiday destination to get out of the snow and have some fun. 

December and January in Cozumel are the height of high season, so tourism activity on the beaches and in town is lively, without overcrowding. Cozumel diving conditions are ideal, with water temperatures of about 80F (27C) and clear visibility. It’s also the height of spotted eagle ray season in Cozumel, so the diving is extra special in the winter months.

Cozumel’s weather on land during December and January is warm and sunny, averaging about 81F (27C) by day, and 71F (21C) at night.

December and January also have lovely Mexican holiday traditions, including Our Lady of Guadalupe Day (December 12th), Christmas, New Year’s, and Three Kings Day (January 6th).

Overall, you can’t go wrong visiting at this time, but we all have things about traveling and vacation that we prioritize, right? 

So below, we’ll break it down for you a bit more, and give you some insider insight into things to do in Cozumel in December and January. 

Cozumel Weather in December & January

Dry and warm in the mid-80s F (29C), but getting a bit cooler at night.  If you’re used to the weather here, you could find yourself wearing those jeans or maybe a long sleeve shirt, but only in the evenings.  

Guests escaping the northern winter areas, though (like from CDMX, the US or Canada) are usually very happy with shorts and a T-shirt or a light dress, with maybe an extra scarf or light shirt or sweater at night.  

Rain is always a possibility, but as usual, barring a freak storm, any showers are typically light, quick, and painless.  Bring a light rain jacket, especially if you’ll be out all day or on a dive boat. 

For more on what to pack for Cozumel’s weather, see our full recommendations box at the end of this post.

Cozumel Crowds in December & January

There’s no getting around the fact that December and January are really the height of our high season. 

With people coming for their winter holidays and families on vacation during school break, it’s also a perfect time for a break from the freezing cold climates to the North and West, making this time of year finds Cozumel full of tourists and winter “sunbirds,” alike.  

This might cause some light congestion on main roads during typical ‘rush hour’ times when people are trying to get to work, and visitors are starting their days trying to get to their tour start or their dive boats.  

But compared to other destinations, this is really a mild “crowding” situation, and only at rush hours. 

If you’re in town on vacation, you won’t even notice it, except for very specific spots – like just outside the main cruise ports, and right downtown by the ferry and Benito Juárez Park. 

In the evenings, you may need reservations for a few, certain popular restaurants, but I don’t think I’ve ever had trouble reserving or been turned away.   

One interesting exception is if you plan to spend Superbowl Sunday in Cozumel. Kelly’s Sports Bar (R.I.P.) used to book up well in advance! 

So if you’re hoping to go out to catch the Superbowl – or any other really singular sports events, like the World Cup Final, especially – it’s good to plan ahead, and make reservations at a few of the known sports bars in town.  (Some great bars to catch a variety of games and matches, currently, are The Pub, Dick’s Dive, No Name Bar, Hooters, and Casa Cuzamil.)  

If you have a large group, of course, just make plans with some advance notice to be on the safe side, and you’ll be fine.

People in Cozumel will surely try to help accommodate you.  If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s top-notch service.  

And if you’re traveling with children, you may want to review our A-Z list of family-friendly ideas – some are seasonal, but most are year-round choices for safe, family fun. 

Cozumel Diving in December & January

I obviously love diving here all year round, but conditions and certain marine life encounters do vary a little by season.  Each month here has far more pros than cons. That said, whenever we go diving, it’s good to know what gear to bring, and what we can hopefully see on our dives.  

But December and January? During these months, the scuba diving in Cozumel might really be the best of the year (and that’s saying something). 

Eagle ray underwater in Cozumel
Eagle ray season in Cozumel

As mentioned, the main attraction of winter diving here is the arrival of Cozumel’s Spotted Eagle Rays that come through and hang out on our reefs during the months of December, January, and February.

These creatures alone are worth diving here in the winter months. 

Eagle rays are known to show up in November and stay around until March, as well. Sometimes we luck out and see one here and there during the summer months, but the prime season coincides with our high season. 

The December and January ocean water conditions are starting to cool down a little to about 78F (25C) at the lowest, but generally, the water in Cozumel stays around 80F (26C) and with super clear visibility. 

You’ll see many sea turtles, including green turtles, hawksbills, and when lucky, one of our handful of resident loggerhead turtles.  

Though the turtle nesting on the east side of Cozumel Island in the last several years has had record-breaking numbers of nests, including green sea turtles and loggerhead turtles, so likely we’ll have more hanging around.

Don’t miss Cozumel’s endemic Splendid Toadfish – ask your divemaster to try and find one for you, if you aren’t familiar with where to look.  These cool little bearded beauties typically hang out just out of sight, in tiny, low caves along the reef and/or where the reef meets the sandy bottom.  

Divers will also encounter loads of Cozumel’s usual marine life, including nurse sharks, moray eels, rainbow parrotfish, sea stars, huge Caribbean lobsters, stingrays, octopus (mainly on night dives), macro sea slugs and shrimp varieties, and much, much more. 

If you’re coming to Cozumel to dive, you should also check out this full guide to Cozumel’s fantastic scuba diving scene.

December in Cozumel – Holidays and Holy Days

Christmas is a big thing here in Cozumel, but most families reserve the special night of Christmas Eve for their primary celebrations. 

In the weeks or so before Christmas, you’ll notice pretty decorations popping up in town, in major stores, and along the main streets and the public parks in downtown San Miguel.

The park at the Palacio Municipal, for example, often has lights and banners, as well as a large, festive “village-like” scene set up for kids of all ages to gather and enjoy. 

There’s also lovely, quiet decor on many of the homes throughout town – try to take a drive through some of the neighborhoods at night to see some sweet Christmas charm.  

Prior to Christmas is one of the truly major Catholic holidays here, Our Lady of Guadalupe Day, on December 12. 

It is a notable day in Mexico for honoring the Virgin Mary.  Many churches and other entities gather to create processions that make their way through town, and to their various places of worship.  

Pro- tip! Plan ahead during the day of December 12, just in case, to avoid potential traffic slowdowns! 

The Lady of Guadalupe processions in Cozumel have the right of way.

January in Cozumel – New Year’s & Three Kings’ Day

Cozumel is known for celebrating New Year’s Eve in much the same way it is elsewhere – a nice dinner, perhaps dancing, and lots of cocktails and cheer.  Though many make a special effort to get to the East Side of the island to see the sunrise on New Year’s Day. 

Three King’s Day, on January 6, tends to be even more special for kids (and getting gifts) than Christmas day is in the U.S.  Celebrating the story of the Three Wise Men who encountered the child Jesus on this day, and provided gifts and offerings. 

And you can surely find a nice place to try the traditional cake of Three Kings Day, known as the Rosca de Reyes.  

Rosca de Reyes cake with cup of hot chocolate. Rosca de Reyes is like an Epiphany cake in European versions of this holiday.
Epiphany cake, Kings cake, Roscon de reyes or Rosca de reyes

This special cake is similar to an “epiphany cake” of European traditions. It is oval in shape to represent the eternal nature of God and has a small doll or prize hidden inside.  

If your piece of cake contains the figurine (be careful of your teeth!), tradition states that you take care of it until Candlemas Day on February 2nd – where you also need to make and offer all the homemade tamales for your friends and family! 

See this related, link-filled post for more info on Cozumel foods and sweets.

Special Foods to Try in Cozumel in December & January

In addition to these Christmas and Three Kings traditions mentioned here, many local restaurants also offer formal and festive menu options for locals and guests alike.

Often these holiday menu items feature family traditions from Mexico, the Yucatan area, and also those of visitors from the U.S. and Canada.  

This is a time when making reservations would be wise if you want to celebrate at one of Cozumel’s many popular restaurants

And finally, it’s always a good time to have tacos, right? 

Show up primed and ready to order with this post on the best and most “local” of local tacos.

Shopping for Holiday Gifts in Cozumel

If you are having your own holiday party here and plan to do some gift shopping in Cozumel, be sure to review our updated guide to authentic and artistic local shopping.

From stocking stuffers to fun and/or beautiful keepsakes, poking around finding clever and cool treasures is half the fun.

After you’re back from scuba diving, that is!

Cozumel Packing Advice: Rainy Any-Day Gear

These are top water-friendly things to pack for your trip to Cozumel (or anywhere!): 

Light, high-quality rain jacket with a hood.  (this is an Amazon link to my favorite one, but any good waterproof jacket will do).

These jackets don’t take up much room in your bag, but provide great protection from sudden showers, sun (especially on a dive boat), and can even serve as a warm layer on the airplane.  

Truly waterproof dry bag(s) for your phones, wallets, and important papers. 

All-terrain sandals or tennis shoes that pack easily, and can take you from walking around town to snorkeling in the water, and then back to lunch at a cool cafe. 

Water-tight dry box for your phone, keys, and wallet, especially if you’re diving and might find yourself on a small fast boat, without tons of protected space on board.  Look for a crush-proof box that will withstand immersion – that’s of course the worst-case scenario, but then you’ll know it’ll be absolutely fine with some rain. 

(I think of it as a pretty cheap insurance policy for my iPhone…and all the information that’s on my iPhone!)