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Cozumel: The Best Activities & Destinations on Mexico’s Little Caribbean Paradise

Snorkel

Cozumel Day Trips – I’ll Show You Mexico’s Famous Caribbean Island, Uncovered.

In This Mexico Article You Will Discover:

  • The Top Six Destinations/Activities on Cozumel
  • How to Take Advantage of a Your Trip to Cozumel
  • Tours, Activities & More on Cozumel

I stroll off the idling ferry, now parked at San Miguel’s main terminal, on to the dock leading towards Cozumel’s busy main town and into the island’s hub of activity. Hawkers are everywhere, promising the lowest rates on scooter rentals, surf lessons, scuba diving tours and T-shirts. No problems for me, though; there are so many tourists to pick from, none waste their time on the disinterested.

It all catches my attention, though, even if my skyward gaze doesn’t betray it. I have escaped the confines of my all-inclusive mainland Mexico resort, and ferried to Cozumel, Mexico’s famous Caribbean vacation island. Now what?

San Miguel

Mexico Night Life

Make sure to take in Mexico’s famous nightlife during your stay in San Miguel.

Whether you flew in direct or ferried from nearby Playa del Carmen, on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, San Miguel is where you will find yourself first. This is a good thing — because under the chaotic traffic, aggressive street vendors and throngs of tourists lies information, tour operators and accommodation choices to help you make the most of your time on the island, whether it’s a day or a month. First tip: if you plan on renting a scooter or motorcycle, keep in mind prices in town will be lower than you find at the airport or marina. (In fact, this applies to pretty much everything.) Furthermore, adventurous souls who are visiting the island sans reservation can no doubt find accommodation to suit any taste or budget simply by roaming the streets of San Miguel. Shopping (head to the Forum Plaza or Punta Langosta), dining, cold cerveza and people-watching galore awaits.

Surfing

Surfing on Cozumel

The surf breaks on Cozumel’s windward side suit beginner through intermediate surfers.

The Mexican Caribbean is not well known as a surfing destination, unlike the famous beaches on the Pacific side. However, Cozumel is a fantastic place for beginner and intermediate surfers to catch some waves. Surf tours can be found in San Miguel, and run about $100 (US) for a day’s tour, including transportation around the island, equipment, lessons and sometimes lunch. Perhaps the best thing about surfing on Cozumel, though, is the fact that it’s off-radar. Beaches on the windward side of the island, where the waves crash, are all but empty, as the tourist hoards tend to stick to their resorts and pools on the other side of Cozumel. Find your own tour company, or visit www.cozumelsurfing.com.

Snorkeling/Scuba Diving

Snorkel

Cozumel is well-known for its snorkelling and scuba diving.

This is what Cozumel is really known for: its world-class underwater realm. Whether you choose to simply bob about with a snorkel stuffed in your mouth or venture offshore for some coral reef scuba diving tours, Cozumel will satisfy. For the former, it couldn’t be easier. The west-facing side of Cozumel is literally one big coral reef, and there are several spots where self-guided snorkelers can simply wade into the sea and have a look around. Just remember: south shore (near San Miguel) currents are much safer than north shore currents. If you’re not a strong swimmer, stay south. While the snorkel spots are numerous, put-ins include Playa Caletita (look for the lighthouse), south of San Miguel on the main road, and the Snorkel Center just to the south of that. (More avid explorers will want to organize a tour, and these run about $40 US or so). For scuba diving, you’ll want to hire a tour. In fact, you can even learn and dive for your first time (www.deepbluecozumel.com). In any case, divers come from around the globe to marvel at the island’s abundant fish life, bright coral and even… gulp… sharks.

Two-Wheeled Touring

Scooters

A scooter tour of Cozumel with fellow vacationers is not to be missed!

Cozumel is tiny — intrepid super-marathoners have been known to jog around the island, but let’s be honest, you’re here on vacation, not to sweat through your clothes in the 35-degree Celsius-plus Caribbean sun. While many choose to either stay in their resort, or hire a taxi to get around, a self-guided, two-wheeled tour of Cozumel could be the highlight of your trip. There are essentially three choices: bicycles, scooters and Harley Davidson Sportsters. A bicycle tour of the island will be tough work, as the road around Cozumel is about 30 km, and it’s hot and humid, but you can explore smaller routes without as much commitment. Scooters are by far the most popular choice, as rentals are cheap and abundant (always negotiate a better rate than the operator’s first offer), they are easy to ride and move about just fine for the small island. Tips: check out the condition of the scooter before you ride; if it seems in disrepair, go elsewhere. Also, make sure the rental price includes fuel, or at least negotiate the fuel surcharge — these scooters will only use a couple of dollars worth of petrol in a day, so pay accordingly. Renting a Harley Davidson seems like the “coolest” option, but truth be told, the roads on Cozumel are so short that a 50 cc scooter is more than adequate, and the price of a Harley rental is considerably pricier. Finally, no matter what type of two-wheeled transport you choose, make sure you take the outer road (“scooter road”) around the island. It’s for two-wheeled vehicles only, making it safer for scooterists, and is also far more scenic.

Freedom In Paradise

Freedom in Paradise

Stopping for a break at Freedom in Paradise Reggae Bar, southeastern Cozumel.

This will be a stop on your two-wheeled tour (or hire a taxi) and it’s not to be missed… Freedom In Paradise reggae bar! Found on the southern windward side of the island, in the middle of nowhere on a desolate, crumbling asphalt road, Freedom In Paradise is a true taste of the Mexican Caribbean. It is a friendly, breezy, open air bar that serves grub and booze for cheap (stick to the bottled beer) while patrons enjoy endless vistas of the Gulf of Mexico. Bob Marley posters adorn the walls and his music pumps out through the stereo; hammocks swing in the breeze; a couple of free-roaming pigs may stop by; and you can even pick up some unique gifts at Rasta’s, a gift shop and eatery across the road (which is equally chilled-out and funky). It’s as far away from your luxury resort as you may ever get on Cozumel, and worthy of half-a-day in itself.

Deep Sea Fishing

An angler battles a hard-fighting, toothy barracuda near Cozumel, Mexico.

Deep Sea-Fishing

Much like Ernest Hemingway, Zane Grey and the other old-school outdoorsman writers of yore, in Cozumel you can take to the blue water in the Gulf of Mexico to pursue the mighty billfish. Marlin larger than yourself, toothy barracuda and more await – if you choose your guide wisely. Fishing operators abound, and the visitor might be tempted to go with the first one he meets or the cheapest he finds. Be wary and take your time – you could have the best fishing experience of your life if you ensure your guide uses sharp hooks and gear in good repair. Ask around and find a guide who comes recommended from multiple sources. Then warm up your reeling arm, because an 800-pound blue marlin awaits you. (Rates run about $500 per boat, per day.)

What’s your favourite thing about Cozumel? Comment below!

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About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

4 comments… add one
  • nxyohook Mar 2, 2012

    I’m genuinely enthusiastic about communicating with you all with reference to fishing.
    Gday people. I determined that I really should present myself here.

  • Nicolas May 18, 2010

    Super post, tienen que marcarlo en Digg
    Gracias

  • David Webb Apr 22, 2010

    No… we surfaced a couple and caught one barracuda. Not a very lucky day, actually.

  • BigRod Apr 22, 2010

    Did you catch a marlin or what?

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