4 Days in Cozumel – A Travel Guide

4 Days in Cozumel – A Travel Guide

April 26, 2019 Plan 8

Cozumel is a Mexican Island in the Caribbean, just a short 30-45 minute ferry away from Playa Del Carmen. Known as a popular cruise ship port and place to scuba dive and snorkel, Cozumel offers visitors a different experience than the rest of the Yucatan Peninsula. In this post we share information about our 4 day stay on the Island of Cozumel to help you decide if you want to spend a day or more here.

View of the jungle from the Weston Cozumel

View of the jungle from the Weston Cozumel

Why Cozumel?

Having been to Playa Del Carmen, Tulum, and Cancun, we were interested in trying something different, especially since the beaches on the Yucatan Peninsula have been affected by Sargassum seaweed the last few years quite unpredictably which makes it hard to enjoy water activities. We also heard Cozumel is a lot quieter than Playa Del Carmen and since we’re not into the party scene on and off the beach, this was appealing to us.

Playa Del Carmen Beach on December 30, 2018

Playa Del Carmen Beach on December 30, 2018

Due to a flight deal and a new Westin opening up on Cozumel, it was also the most economical place we could go around New Year’s after having to book 2 months in advance, which is quite late for peak holiday travel.

Getting to Cozumel – Flights:

As Canadians, we decided to fly on WestJet’s red-eye flight from YVR – Vancouver into CUN – Cancun Airport and take a shuttle to Playa Del Carmen to spend 2 days there, before hopping on a ferry to Cozumel. For more information about how to take the ferry, have a read through our detailed post.

Tip: If you get seasick, take some Gravol or wear a Seasickness bracelet before taking the ferry as many people get sick.  

Jason on the Ultramar Ferry

Jason on the Ultramar Ferry

It is also possible to fly directly into CZM – Cozumel Airport from YYZ – Toronto on Air Canada Rouge, YUL – Montreal on Air Canada Rouge, ATL – Atlanta on Delta Airlines, IAH – Houston on United Airlines, and from DFW – Dallas on American Airlines. In Addition, Interjet, MAP Linhas Aeras and MAYAir offer flights from Mexico City and Cancun. This is not an exhaustive list and only includes the most common routes/airlines.

Where to Stay:

Cozumel has a wide-range of accommodation options; from AirBnB, hostels, all-inclusive hotels, western chain hotels, and vacation rentals at varying price points. The most popular hotel-style accommodations are:

As for Airbnb in Cozumel, there doesn’t appear to be any regulations guests have to worry about when booking and they seem to vary from small rooms, to entire cute little apartments, to condo units, and full houses.

 

Where We Stayed – The Westin Cozumel:

We chose to stay at the Westin Cozumel because we could redeem points to offset the $400USD ++ price tag per night.  We were hesitant to stay here based on the negative reviews when the hotel opened but since the reviews improved as time went on and we also wanted to escape the seaweed on the beach in Playa Del Carmen, we decided to give it a try.

The Westin Cozumel

The Westin Cozumel

Overall, we were pretty disappointed with our stay because of how they fail to meet basic standards;

  • Our room wasn’t ready until 1.5 hours after check-in.
  • Housekeeping did not service our room twice.
  • Our safe was broken and we had to call the front desk 3 times to get it fixed.
  • They just didn’t service common areas (gym never had towels and water in the morning and the rooftop pool had the same dirty dishes there for 3 days).
  • They also charge a resort fee but don’t tell you want it includes and while dubbed as a resort, they don’t have any water activity gear other than snorkels.
  • The hotel also ran out of cold and hot water for 30 minutes and when it did come back, it was brown for about 30 minutes.
The rooftop pool at the Westin Cozumel

The rooftop pool at the Westin Cozumel

It just seemed as though the hotel did not have enough staff to operate the hotel during a high occupancy time and that they are struggling to meet Westin brand standards overall. Had we paid for our stay, we’d be even more disappointed and angry. You can read our full review on TripAdvisor as we will not be posting a full review of our stay at the Westin Cozumel on the blog.

Had we had IHG points, we would have stayed at the InterContinental Presidente Cozumel Resort Spa: because it has been recently renovated, gets great reviews, has a nice stretch of sandy beach, and access to snorkeling a lot easier than the Westin.

Getting Around:

The island of Cozumel of about 10 miles wide and 30 miles long, which makes it quite small and easy to explore via taxi, vehicle rental, bicycle, and walking. Other than certain spots, the island is also largely undeveloped. We had considered renting bikes but that would have limited us from riding from our hotel to town and perhaps a bit further, so we opted to rent a moped/scooter. Bikes, scooters/mopeds, and vehicles (jeeps and cars) can all be rented in the center of town very easily, either as a walk-in client or pre-reserved. For more information about renting a moped/scooter, have a read through our detailed post.

Max on the Honda Dio

Max on the Honda Dio

Taxi Tips:

  • Payment: Taxis only accept cash and you can pay in Mexican Pesos or US Dollars.
  • Price: A taxi ride from the ferry terminal to the Westin Cozumel is 95 pesos, it’s a set fare. Confirm the price before entering the taxi and have exact change as they will not always give you change for larger bills.
  • Other Passengers: Be prepared to share your taxi as it is common for some driver’s to pick-up other passengers along the way and charge them the set fare. Jason and I were in the taxi when a solo traveler was also picked up; we paid her 95 pesos and he paid her 75 pesos; it wasn’t a “share the fare” arrangement.
Driving towards Playa Palancar

Driving towards Playa Palancar

Beaches:

The island of Cozumel’s beaches range from calm to rugged. Unless you’re a professional surfer, the beaches on the East coast are to be avoided in favor of the calmer ones on the West coast. The West coast beaches are rocky to the north of town and sandy to the south. Unless you’re staying on the beach, you’ll need to use a beach club for access. The beach clubs range from all out amusement parks to simple chairs on the beach or tables to enjoy food and drinks. There are plenty of options for those looking just to laze around on the beach and those who want to snorkel, dive, or jet ski.

Max by the cove

Max by the cove

Since we were staying at the Westin, we were able to use the beach there as our launching point for snorkeling and there were quite a few beach clubs around too. One thing we did notice is that due to the tides and the relentless convoy of large cruise ships, the weaves were quite big in the morning which was not favorable to snorkel; it was better after 11:00.

Tip – Sun Protection: Even if it’s now the law, wear reef friendly sunscreen. The sun is also very strong in Cozumel and so you may want to wear a long sleeve rash guard if you plan on being in the water and exposed to the sun for 60 minutes or more.

Tip – Ocean Safety: We saw many sea urchins in the rocks by The Westin while we were snorkeling; do not step down onto rocks or sand without seeing what’s there or else you will be in a lot of pain.

We also stopped in at Playa Palancar to see what that was all about. The beach was nice and sandy but as it is starting to face east, there was some seaweed on it. We decided to have a beer and keep moving on instead of going for a swim. They did have change rooms, showers, and bathrooms here though. There is no WIFI, they only accept cash, and make sure to tip the parking lot attendant.

Playa Palancar

Playa Palancar

Playa Palancar

Playa Palancar

Punta Sur Eco Beach Park is very popular but we decided to skip this as you need to pay $16USD per person just to enter.

Another popular excursion is going to Playa El Cielo, a submerged sandbar only accessible by boat. Most tours will take you there and let you snorkel for an hour before coming back. Some tours also stop to let you snorkel at the Palancar reef and Colombia reef. We did not take this tour but would like to if we go back to Cozumel.

Tip: Most tours include the entry fee but not the $3USD per person Marine Park fee so make sure to have cash.

Where to Eat in Cozumel:

Cozumel’s food scene isn’t as developed as Playa Del Carmen’s or Tulum, as a lot is geared to transient cruise passengers just stopping in for the day but there are some gems and good places to visit beyond the cheesy Senor Frog and similar bar/restaurants. Unfortunately, many of them were closed on New Year’s Day so we didn’t get to try all of them. For more information about where we ate and what we recommend, .have a read through our detailed post.

Trio of ceviche at Cielito Lindo

Trio of ceviche at Cielito Lindo

Seafood skewer at Buccano's

Seafood skewer at Buccano’s

Final Thoughts:

Compared to Playa Del Carmen, we really enjoyed how peaceful and quiet Cozumel was but also missed the more diverse and vibrant food scene found in PDC. We did enjoy the beach in Cozumel but if there is no seaweed, the long stretches of white sand and azure blue waters in PDC and Tulum are more to our liking. That being said, anyone who likes to snorkel or dive will enjoy Cozumel more and should spend at least a day here. We also feel that our negative experience at The Westin Cozumel affected our overall visit to the island of Cozumel.

Mayan statue in San Miguel town

Mayan statue in San Miguel town

Compared to other more touristy spots in Mexico, Cozumel does provide what appears to be a safer and less trashy atmosphere often found in some beach destinations in Mexico. During times when the cruise ships dock, it gets super busy and traffic can be a nightmare so the island is best enjoyed before and after the thousands of cruise ship passengers are there (nothing against cruise ships and their passengers, just stating a fact).

Beach in Playa del Carmen Mexico

Beach in Playa del Carmen Mexico

Overall, we enjoyed our 3 days exploring Cozumel and if the right deal came up, we’d definitely go again but at this time, there are other places in Mexico we are more interested in returning to (Sayulita, Mexico City, and Cabo) or new places to visit (Puerto Escondido, Huatulco, Isla Holbox, Isla Mujeres, Guadelajara, and San Migeul de Allende).

Have you been to Cozumel? Did you enjoy it? Is there anything I am missing I this guide?

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