Nice beach front in Cozumel with lounge chairs and palm tree.

Cozumel’s 3 Hotel Zones: Choosing Where to Stay in CZM

Living in Cozumel Mexico for the last 7 years, I get asked a lot, “Where’s the best place to stay in Cozumel?” I usually answer that question with this question, namely: What’s your ideal Cozumel vacation experience? 

When deciding on where to stay in Cozumel, it helps to understand the island’s three main tourist areas, or “hotel zones” – the North, the South, and “Centro,” or the downtown San Miguel area. All three areas have a range of accommodation styles at various price-points to suit your budget. They also have unique characters. Generally speaking, Cozumel’s North hotel zone feels secluded and quiet, Centro is busier and full of sights and sounds of life, and the South hotel zone is breezy and beachy.  

This overview of how to choose among all the great hotels and resorts in Cozumel focuses first on Cozumel’s three main hotel zones and each hotel zone’s unique characteristics, which can help steer your decision on choosing a Cozumel all-inclusive resort, hotel, hostel or home rental.

But rest assured, there’s really no “bad” choice about where to stay in Cozumel.

First, let’s give some thought to your perfect vacation experience here in Mexico.  

Where to Stay in Cozumel Mexico?

Cozumel has three main hotel zones: North, Centro, and South.

All three of Cozumel’s hotels zones are nice, and have their pros and cons.

We’ll walk through the three hotel areas on Cozumel Island, but first give some thought to how you want to spend your time. What sort of vacation do you really crave this time?

Your Ideal Vacation Helps Determine Where to Stay in Cozumel 

On my own visits to Cozumel for the first 10 years, all I cared about was scuba diving.  We’d wake up early, have an awesome day of diving, hang by the pool, eat dinner, crash early, repeat. 

Therefore, my “perfect hotel” meant it was a real Cozumel divers’ hotel.

In my case, that meant the criteria were that it was steps away from my favorite dive shop, clean, and had a nice, friendly staff. 

I didn’t really care about views, or access to the unbelievable array of excellent restaurants, cafes and bars on the island, or any kind of Cozumel nightlife that required more than t-shirts and flip flops.

Luckily, my first – and still favorite – hotel  in Cozumel had those basic requirements and a whole lot more. A nice pool, amazing sunsets, good food, and a wonderful staff that’s truly top-notch.  

The point is, those coming to Cozumel to do some hard-core diving will have different priorities than those who crave a secluded ocean view with spa services and valet parking.  Or a family of 5 with active childrens who wants casual food options and a beach club with jet-ski rentals. 

Or a solo traveler who craves one of Cozumel’s lovely boutique hotels full of charm, traditional architecture, and smart amenities.

Others still might want to spend their mornings exploring San Miguel’s vibrant street life, eating lunch with the locals at the bustling Mercado Municipal, and their afternoons at a friendly beach bar, watching the sunset with new friends, fresh margaritas, and live music.  

Sometimes it’s less about the specific Cozumel hotels, and more about what type of hotel you prefer, and where it is located, that will help you get the most out of your hard-earned vacation. 

Northern Hotel Zone in Cozumel Mexico

The northern hotel zone in Cozumel is the one main hotel area that lies to the north of Cozumel International Airport (CZM), so by geography and roadways, alone, it is somewhat set apart from the rest of the place.  

If that sounds nice and secluded, well…it is!  

In fact, if you arrive directly to Cozumel Airport (CZM), you could be quickly whisked away to your beach-side retreat for pure R&R – never even seeing the relative hustle and bustle of Centro.  This is where to stay in Cozumel if you want nice views, pool lounging, and perhaps some afternoons at the spa.

To me “The North” has that really quiet and private vibe.  It’s known for several large, upscale hotels, the Cozumel Country Club with a full Nicklaus-designed golf course (*currently shuttered, but we hope it reopens), and a few of the finest restaurants on the island. 

These high-rise hotels are mixed with more luxurious apartment complexes and stately private homes along the north shore, all offering stunning views of the ocean.  

In many ways, Cozumel’s  Northern hotel zone has kind of an older, more established feel to it, including one of the oldest restaurants – a cool, unique joint called the Lobster House. (Try the original Lobster House for a Caribbean lobster tails – their specialty.  You’ll be a convert!) 

Since I’m frequently trying to “get my steps” in Cozumel, I can also say that one of the nicest features of the northern stretch is a beautiful, semi-shaded walking path where you can walk and jog in peace.  

It is quite a walking distance from downtown San Miguel, though.  While doable, most people would probably prefer to take a taxi or have a rental car for use on the island, to get around to various beach clubs, check out our local Mayan ruins, or just make that cool drive over to “the other side.”

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The northern zone is also the farthest from Cozumel’s National Marine Park, i.e., all of our renowned diving sites.  

If you are here for diving, it’s not a deal-breaker, but just know that you’ll have to travel quite a bit farther each day either by car or on your dive shop’s boat (if they are allowed to pick you up at your hotel pier) to start your diving day. 

In summary, the northern zone is lovely, and likely best for people who want a tranquil escape. From waterfront views, hotel spas, and the occasional beach-front yoga session, it has more of an exclusive vibe.  

There is far less traffic in the North, so you can enjoy the scenery, some seclusion, and a handful of wonderful restaurants a short walk away.  And of course, you can always grab a cab to go check out downtown or to get to your dive shop’s marina in the mornings.

Most Popular Cozumel Hotels in the Northern Hotel Zone

  • Melía
  • The Westin Cozumel
  • Playa Azul
  • Hotel B
  • El Cozumeleño
  • The Coral Princess

You can also find apartments for rent, as well as at least one of Cozumel’s economy hostels.

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Cozumel “Centro” – Where to Stay in Downtown San Miguel de Cozumel

San Miguel de Cozumel is the busier, central “city” area of the Island, and the downtown portion it is familiarly known as “Centro.”

Centro San Miguel de Cozumel is where to stay in Cozumel if you like trying great local restaurants, shopping, and people watching, among other things.

Centro radiates out from the Benito Juárez Park, San Miguel’s central plaza – right across Melgar Avenue from the mainland passenger ferry terminal.  

The central plaza is also home to the famous Clock Tower – one of the town’s primary landmarks and meeting spots – along with dancing water fountains, and the (now ubiquitous) Cozumel sign for photo ops. 

Cozumel Colorful phot op sign in the central plaza of San Miguel, shown with kids climbing and posing for pictures.
The COZUMEL sign for a good family photo op in the center of San Miguel de Cozumel

Centro is likely where you’ll also find the greatest variety of Airbnb rooms or homes for rent, as well as a variety of delightful boutique hotels, villas, and guesthouses.  

Depending on your preferences, you can seek out places with some home-cooked meals included or perhaps your own kitchen, and usually a small pool in an interior courtyard. And a hammock.  

Definitely go for the hammock.  

Centro also has plenty of larger, full-service hotels of varying price points, as well as a crop of hip, new economy hostels aimed at the 20-something diving and artist crowd, many of whom are also keen on good WiFi and doing a little remote work while they’re here.  

It’s also close to a few large supermarkets and various convenience stores, so if you’re renting a pad with a kitchen, you’ll have an easy time getting some supplies, all on foot. 

There’s really something for everyone, and staying in the downtown area has obvious benefits. 

You’re steps away from the recently renovated Cozumel Museum, countless restaurants and bars of all types and stripes, a wide array of shopping, and some of the best people-watching on the whole island.  

Centro is also a quick cab ride out to San Gervasio Mayan Archaeological park, the most significant site of Mayan ruins on the island.  Home to the seat of goddess Ixchtel among others, the site was an important pilgrimage for the Mayan people and a fascinating way to spend a few morning hours.  

Image of Mayan Ruins buildings at San Gervasio site in Cozumel Mexico.
San Gervasio Mayan site in Cozumel Mexico

Stroll along the malecón (main, waterfront drag), also known as Melgar Avenue, and you’ll encounter all ages of people sitting on public benches and chilling out.  It’s a great place to watch the local fishing boat traffic, occasional cruise ships and Navy vessels, kids playing in the park, and a bustling scene of travelers and locals.

If you’re staying at one of the Cozumel hotels in Centro, you’ll never have trouble finding a taxi if you need to meet up with your dive boat each morning, or if you want to spend the day at one of island’s nice beach clubs in the North or the South.  

If you’re into really experiencing the culture of a place, while still having plenty of access to diving and beaches, Centro might be perfect for you.  Especially if this is your first visit! 

Most Popular Cozumel Hotels in Cozumel: Centro San Miguel de Cozumel

  • Hotel Mexicana
  • Cozumel Palace Resort
  • Flamingo Hotel
  • Mi Casa Cozumel (a very cool and unique boutique hotel)

You may want to consider one of the lovely and unique boutique hotels in San Miguel de Cozumel, or one of several beautifully designed guest houses like Baldwin’s or the Tamarindo.

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Southern Hotel Zone in Cozumel Mexico

Leaving the downtown San Miguel de Cozumel area, and traveling further south on Melgar Avenue for about 3-4 miles, you’ll gradually reach what is known as Cozumel’s Southern hotel zone. 

At first, the northern end of this zone is characterized by views of the large cruise ships that often port at the two more recently built cruise ship ports in the south – the International Pier, and Puerta Maya, the latter of which was finished around 2015, to give you some reference.  

The relatively new port complexes have created almost a second ‘downtown’ area in Cozumel – at least during the daytime. 

This is to say, traveling down to the Southern area will get a little busy again with a cluster of hotels, dive shops, shopping strips, and waterfront eateries.  

Once you proceed south and through a few busier intersections, you’ll feel things open up again. The air cools a notch, and you cruise along to the remote and picturesque southern hotel zone, along Cozumel’s original west coastal road, or the “Old Beach Road.”  

The Cozumel National Marine Park also stretches along this southwest coast portion of Cozumel. It starts just below the two cruise ports and extends all the way down to the southernmost point on the island, known as Punta Sur.  

Young Hawksbill in Palancar Gardens, a popular diving site in Cozumel's national marine park.
Hawksbill turtle at Palancar Gardens dive site in Cozumel Mexico

If you’re here primarily to scuba dive, you’ll very likely want to stay at one of the many Cozumel hotels, condos or home rentals along this southern stretch.  

This is where to stay in Cozumel if you want to have the quickest trips to your diving sites, and more time on wide sandy beaches at your resort hotel or longer term rental condo.

In some cases, your hotel will have a dive operation, or you can simply get picked up at your hotel’s pier by your favorite dive shop – just arrange everything in advance.  

If not, from the south it’s a much quicker and easier drive or cab ride to meet your boat at their designated spot in the Fonatur Marina. 

Many of the hotels Cozumel has in the southern zone are perfectly situated to cater to scuba divers and to offer them a quick and easy routine in the mornings to get them out the door and onto their dive boat with a minimum of fuss.

This zone has a lot of the large, all-inclusive resorts in Cozumel that are much further away from town.

Some of the lodging opportunities in the Southern zone are set up as Cozumel long-term rental condos where you can rent a home or apartment for a week or more. Many others are full-service Cozumel resort hotels where you can relax in the lap of luxury.  Some are child and family-friendly, and at least one is an adults-only setup (Secrets).  

The southern hotel zone is also a great location if you tend to like to explore the other side of the island. Continue a bit further south on the one main road and it travels down and around the southern tip of the island and all the way up the “the Other Side”, or Cozumel’s eastern “wild side.”  

The eastern shore of Cozumel Mexico with wide open spaces, known as the other side of the island.
The ‘Other Side’ of Cozumel island

The east coast of the island is a windy and dramatic coastline with beautifully deserted beaches and a few lovely places to stop for lunch or a nice cold beer. There are even a couple of spots for surfing lessons if the weather is right. 

The Other Side of Cozumel is also the shore that welcomes thousands of mature sea turtles for their annual nesting ritual

Mature females arrive in April – July to lay their deep nests full of eggs, and the hatchlings typically start to break out of their shells, struggle from the nests and scamper toward the water in the early fall months of August through October.  (the months cited are averages).  

Of course, you can reach The Other Side by car from anywhere you stay, but the Southern Hotel Zone is closer and has another gem nearby – the Punta Sur Eco Park.  Punta Sur is a wonderful day trip for spying crocodiles, enjoying a beautiful sandy beach, spotting wild birds in the wetland mangroves, and the island’s southernmost Celarain lighthouse and museum.

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In general, the Southern zone has more of a full-on remote beach and diving vibe, with tons of places to pull over and have lunch and a Cozumel snorkelling session, and more large and lively day-pass beach clubs and beach-front eateries.  

The area has the farthest drive to get in and out of San Miguel for a night on the town but does have several fun family-oriented venues including Punta Sur, Chankanaab beach park and the Mayan Cacao Company for a hands-on lesson and some tastings. 

Most Popular Cozumel Hotels in the Southern Hotel Zone

  • Casa del Mar Dive Resort and Hotel (my fave)
  • Grand Park Royal Resort
  • El Presidente Intercontinental
  • Sunscape Sabor
  • Dreams Resort by Hyatt (new to Cozumel as of 2022)
  • Secrets (adults only)
  • The Allegro Resort
  • Iberostar Resort
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No Wrong Choice on Where to Stay in Cozumel 

Just like there are no stupid questions, there are really no wrong choices when it comes to planning out where to stay in Cozumel.  

If you’re intent on doing very specific activities here, namely diving or cultural exploring, then your accommodation’s location might make it slightly more convenient or cost-effective.  For example, you might be interested in these posts, next:

If you spend a little time envisioning what it is you would like to do every day, considering each of these three zones and their characteristics, it might help you land in the ideal place for your perfect Cozumel vacation.

Then, choose the type of hotel you prefer, and select one in your budget range, you can be sure that you’ll enjoy wonderful service, clean accommodations, and plenty of sunshine and relaxation.  

If it’s your first time on the island, or you’re here to do remote working in Cozumel, I might recommend leaning a little towards the Centro area.  This way it’s much easier to explore downtown San Miguel, to sample Cozumel’s excellent restaurant options, and to get a really good feel for the place, and for the people and way of life.

Once you know your way around and get your bearings, first hand, then you’ll know where to book your stay on your next visit!  

Because be forewarned – it does seem that people who come to Cozumel end up coming back again. And again. And again

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