In truth, any month is a good month to visit Cozumel, but when planning your vacation you want more detail, right? This guide to What Cozumel is like in December and January is part of a by-demand series to help people know what to expect – no matter what time of year you arrive.
December and January in Cozumel are the height of high-season, and great months to visit the island. The weather is warm and sunny, averaging about 81F (27C) by day, and 71F (21C) at night. Cozumel diving conditions are ideal, with water temperatures in the low 80sF (27C) and clear visibility. January is also the height of Spotted Eagle Ray season in Cozumel. Tourism activity on the beaches and in town is lively, without overcrowding, except perhaps at some of the most touristy beach clubs and IF many cruise ships are in town.
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, 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 can have fun with jeans or maybe a long sleeve shirt 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 storm, any showers are typically light, quick, and painless. Bring a rain jacket, especially if you’ll be out all day or on a dive boat.
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 school breaks, as well as a break from the freezing cold climates to the North and West, this time of year finds Cozumel full of tourists and winter “sunbirds,” alike.
This might cause some 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 might not 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 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 Kelly’s, 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).
As mentioned, the main attraction of winter diving here is the arrival of the Spotted Eagle Rays that come through and hang out on the Cozumel reefs during the months of December, January, and February. These creatures alone are worth diving here in the winter months.
They are known to show up in November and Stay around in March, as well, but the prime season coincided with our high season.
The water conditions are starting to cool down a little to about 78F (25C) at the lowest, but generally, the water 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, barracuda, huge Caribbean lobsters, stingrays, octopus (mainly on night dives), macro sea slugs and shrimp varieties, and much, much more.
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.
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 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! These processions have the right of way!
January in Cozumel – New Year’s & Three Kings’ Day
New Year’s eve is celebrated in Cozumel 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 hopefully find a place to try the traditional cake of Three Kings Day, known as the 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 the Candlemas Day on February 2nd – where you also need to make and offer all the homemade tamales for your friends and family!
Special Foods to Try in Cozumel in December & January
The main special foods at this time are mentioned here – the Christmas and Three Kings celebrations.
Many restaurants, however, also try to offer formal and festive menu options for locals and guests alike and often 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.
And finally, it’s always a good time to have tacos, right?
Check out our other post here, all about where to go, and what to order to get a great, local taco experience.