Cozumel: Common Questions
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Where is Cozumel?
Cozumel is a small island (approx. 30 miles long x 10 miles wide, or 48km x16 km) off the Eastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, in the Caribbean Sea. It is an hour’s drive, south of Cancun, and a 45 minute ferry from Playa del Carmen.
Best Way to get to Cozumel?
Cozumel has an international airport, the “Cozumel International Airport“ (CZM). There are some direct flights to the island from the US, though there are fewer than in years past.
An easy and cost-effective option is to fly to the Cancun International Airport (CUN), instead – more flights, and often lower fares.
There is a local carrier, MayaAir, that flies from Cancun to Cozumel, for less than $100. *Please note and please plan ahead: baggage restrictions are stricter on these small planes than on larger commercial airlines.
Cozumel is most commonly accessed from the mainland by a 45-minute ferry ride (12 miles / 19 km) out of Playa del Carmen, a popular beach town, about an hour south of Cancun.
It is very common for residents and visitors to find direct flights into Cancun International Airport (CUN), and do what we call the Cozumel “bag drag” – take advantage of the local ADO Bus service just outside of your arrival terminal in CUN for a cheap ticket to Playa del Carmen, walk/drag your bags about 6 blocks down to the ferry terminal, and then buy another cheap ticket, for an easy and pleasant ferry ride to Cozumel Island.
This sounds complicated, but it’s really not – the hardest part is dragging the bags (and there are plenty of bicycle “cabs” that will be happy to help!).
As of 2020, each of these tickets is approximately $10.00USD/$200MXN.
Alternatively, you can opt for a private taxi or group van shuttle to make the drive from Cancun International Airport (CUN) to Playa del Carmen, and then take the ferry. This is a bit faster, but more expensive, but if you are a pair or small group, it may be worth it.
There are currently two ferry services from Playa del Carmen, and typically operate 7 days a week, on every hour, from around 7am – about 10pm. See Ultramar for reliable sample of current times and fares). For more info, please contact us!
PLEASE NOTE: (As of December 2020) Due to Covid-19, the two ferry services are still alternating days, and have more limited scheduled crossings. The most up-to-date information for these days and schedules are found on each of the Ferry companies’ facebook pages, linked here:
Cozumel’s Climate Averages
The weather in Cozumel is excellent. On average you’ll enjoy sunny, slightly humid but breezy weather in the 80s (F) during the day – high 80s (F) from April to October, and lower 80s from November to March (Range from 28-32 Celsius). At night, it (usually) cools off but rarely goes below 70F (21C). (Winter months? Bring a fleece and jeans. And then likely note later that you didn’t need them… )
Like most tropical areas, there is always a chance for brief rain shower – sometimes hard rain, but usually it passes quickly – bring a light rain jacket.
The rainy season is from typically from mid-late August through early October. This corresponds with the regional hurricane season in the Western Atlantic and Caribbean, so rain is more common, with higher totals. Rarely, though, does it rain for full days, unless a storm is moving through. Mosquitoes are more common during this time.
Sun Protection in Cozumel
The sun in Cozumel is strong. You will need sun protection – preferably shades, hats and shirts, or try for reef-safe sunscreen to protect our incredible marine environment.
*My favorite line of quality reefs-safe sunscreens, hair products, and mask de-fog is the Stream 2 Sea range – and they’ve got their research information to prove it.
The state of Quintana Roo is known for a high level of safety, especially in heavy tourist zones. Cozumel is within Quintana Roo, and is especially safe, given that it’s an isolated Island and a popular and lucrative cruise and diving destination. Violent crime in Cozumel is nearly non-existent. Petty theft, pick-pocketing and local robberies are reported sporadically, especially during low tourist season, as more local work/income opportunities decline (Aug-Sept).
Bottom line, as you would anywhere – use common sense to keep your valuable belongings secured and your wits about you. Overall, though, it is far safer than most destinations, and residents and visitors alike report high safety, few (if any) personal threats, and a very friendly, helpful, and welcoming environment.
For more of our Cozumel safety tips, check out this related post, here.
Currency in Cozumel
Cozumel uses the Mexican Peso (MXN), and it is worth your while to exchange some money into the local currency, both for ease and often for favorable pricing. That said, the US Dollar is widely accepted, and even preferred in many of the hotels, dive operations, and busy tourist areas. Change for large bills – whether in MXN or USD – is sometimes challenging, so best to stock up on small bills!
Credit cards are accepted in many places – namely Visa and MC. However, this is not universal, and especially not in more remote areas of the island – like the Other Side. Be it internet connection issues, fees, or whatever, be sure to ask ahead about using credit cards. And when in doubt, plan ahead: Cash is King (of course…).
Language in Cozumel
Cozumel is officially Spanish-speaking, though you’ll find many people – especially in the taxi and tourism businesses – that speak excellent English. There are also many international travelers and expats to lend a hand. Learn some intro words and phrases, though! It’s fun, and way more friendly.
Wi-Fi and Cellular Service.
Wi-Fi coverage has come a long way, and now one can find Wi-Fi connections all over town – and most hotels, restaurants and other venues offer free Wi-Fi to their guests – just ask! Likely you’ll get the password right away.
Cellular plans for visitors are very common now, too. US-Mexico-Canada plans seem almost ubiquitous now, and are way less expensive than they used to be. Or add a temporary cell plan just for the dates you’ll be in Mexico – these days, it seems reasonable and well worth it for the convenience.
What should I do if I need help in Cozumel?
When calling to any of the following numbers do not forget to dial first…
From Mexico: +52 (987)
Outside of Mexico: + 52 1 (987)
Emergencies: dial 066
Fire department: 872-0800
Police department: 872-0409
Migration department: 872-0071 or 872-0226
U.S. consulate: 872-4574
International Hospital & Hyperbaric Medicine (Centro, near ferry. 5th Street (South) and Melgar Ave)
Médica San Miguel (Centro, near ferry. 6th Street (North), b/w 5th and 10th Avenues)
CostaMed Cozumel (“CMC”) (1st St. near 50th Avenue. Further into town, great modern facility, another hyperbaric chamber, modern.)
Cruz Roja (Red Cross) (Centro, near ferry/main square. 20 Av.& Adolfo Rosado Salas)
Accommodations in Cozumel
Chances are you already have a place to stay if you’ve gotten this far, but please let us know if you need assistance.
The first big decision is which of Cozumel’s three main hotel zones to stay in. For help with that, check out this article for the pro’s and con’s of each hotel zone.
There are several high-end resort hotels in Cozumel, but also many many lovely, private hotels, excellent private condo rentals, home rentals, efficiency rentals, small cheap-and-cheerful rooms for the budget traveler, and even accommodations to camp out in the jungle (but with a roof. And a bathroom and shower.).
Cozumel Land Transportation
Taxis are the main mode of transportation in town, and maintain a very strong union. There are taxis everywhere you look, and the drivers are helpful, friendly, and often tour guides, themselves. Rates vary depending on the length of your trip – ask your hotel if they have a current rate grid, ….
Another good option, especially if you’ll be visiting for a while, is to rent a car. There are many places to rent from, and you can choose standard sedans, or get a little more fun with convertibles or jeeps, etc. Rates are good, and it gives you more freedom to explore.
Always get the local rental car insurance. Always.
There are also public bus/van routes, known as “collectivos.” These are run by the Uniper bus company, and are reliable, and super economical, but a little tricky to figure out for the casual visitor. If you want more look for Uniper’s very good app for real-time van times and routes.
From the CZM Airport: Please keep in mind that the Cozumel Airport has its own transport rules and regulations. Typically you must arrange an airport transfer with your hotel directly, or seek out a shuttle service there once you are in the airport to take you to your destination, upon arrival.
Best Cozumel Food Options
Cozumel has awesome food! The local Mexican food is terrific, and usually highlights a lot of Yucatecan regional specialties, but you will recognize many of your old favorites.
There is a great range from fine, high-end Mexican restaurants, to casual spots with good deals, and then many local cooks opening their homes, sidewalk counters and carts for you to try some of the best home cooking around. (Give this a try! You won’t be sorry.)
The restaurant scene here extends well beyond strictly Mexican cuisine. There are several impressive Italian restaurants, a growing pizza presence (and this New Haven/New Yorker says…it’s getting close!), incredible Indian food, wonderful grill and smoke joints, several excellent bistros and cafés, a growing number of vegan and vegetarian options, Greek and Middle-Eastern spots, and more.
There are also many grocers and fun public markets (try El Mercado Municipal in the “Centro” area) to poke around in, shop, and grab some snacks for your hotel or rental.
We have many posts about the Cozumel Food Scene on our blog here – check this overview article, along with many others drilling down on local tacos, pizza, coffee, and more.
Shopping and Stores in Cozumel – the essentials
There are small mom-and-pop convenience stores and pharmacies all over town, as well as several large, well-stocked super markets.
For general needs or something you forgot to pack, visit one of our two large department stores: La Mega or Chedraui (shed-ra’-wee). These 2 are centrally located in San Miguel’s “Centro” area, right on the main drag – Melgar Avenue. They’re both similar to, say, a Target or Kmart, where you can find everything from groceries, snacks, and beer/wine, to sunscreen, cleaning supplies, beach toys, and clothing.