Mexico’s largest island, blessed with world-class reefs and other dive sites, has always featured diving as its first appeal. But beach hotels have also existed there, and as the entire Mexican Caribbean tourism industry has grown, so has Cozumel’s.
The island has its own unique personality, apart from everything you find on the mainland. Things are just a little bit different here.
Cozumel is reachable by air, by major U.S. carriers from Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta, and on local flights from Cancun; ferries sail from Playa del Carmen on the Yucatan coast.
Cozumel is also a popular cruise port of call, included in practically every Western Caribbean sailing currently offered, by almost every cruise line.
Hotel options on Cozumel include the Presidente InterContinental Resort; the Melia Cozumel all-inclusive; and the Hacienda San Miguel in the main town on the island.
Not To Be Missed – The Cozumel Golf Club was designed and built by the Jack Nicklaus folks, but being on this quiet island, tee times are generally much easier to get than on the mainland.
Imagine a sun drenched Mexican island where you can relax and enjoy life as time rolls by. That’s Cozumel! You can sun on the beach, explore the island in your jeep or on your scooter, eat, drink, snorkel, dive, and otherwise be merry here. Although not far away from the hustle and excitement of Cancun, Cozumel seems to be worlds away nonetheless.
Located off the Yucatan peninsula, Cozumel is known as a diver’s paradise for its great underwater visibility. Because of the current, most of the diving is drift diving – not really my favorite, but many diving enthusiasts prefer it.
The only town on Cozumel is San Miguel. San Miguel faces west, while the main road on the island runs north-south. Most of the hotels on Cozumel are along this road. In the center of San Miguel is a lovely plaza where you can eat, shop for souvenirs, or simply enjoy whatever activities are underway at the moment. This is quite a place to be at night – if you like to take in the local color – and should not be missed during your stay. Another fun activity is taking the ferry over to Playa del Carmen for an afternoon or evening of shopping and eating.
I traveled to Cozumel with my wife, Judy, her instructor, and a divemaster for Judy’s open water certification dives. If there ever was a testament to the the argument that “scuba is for everyone”, then it’s Judy. After some reluctance and anxiety about being under the water, she has fallen in love with scuba diving. She felt the sight of barracuda, rays, parrotfish, angelfish and more were truly awe-inspiring. Right now, she’s happy to be what I call a “35 foot diver”, but we’ll see after she gets a few more dives under her weight belt. If not, then that’s fine, too. We’re definitely not the macho types who want to prove that we are the next Jacques and Jane Cousteaus. Scuba is an activity that can be enjoyed by anyone and is tailored to each person’s experience and comfort level.
For our dives, we were at Santa Rosa Reef (a great wall with some cool tunnels), Paradise Reef, Tormentos Reef and Chankanab. Of these, Tormentos offered the best visibility while we were there at over 100 feet and was our favorite after Santa Rosa.
Hotel Presidente: We stayed at the Intercontinental Presidente. This hotel was the most luxurious property I visited. It’s just a few miles outside of San Miguel and is just minutes by car. The long drive circles to an open air lobby for check in. Beautifully maintained, the Presidente had two very good restaurants, a pool, a scuba shop, a pretty beach, a tour desk and more. If you are going to spend much time on the island and can afford a few more dollars, this is definitely the place to stay.
Hotel Fiesta Americana: Another beautiful property on Cozumel, the Fiesta American has recently undergone some extensive renovations. It is about 10 minutes further from San Miguel than the Presidente. The beach is across the road from one of its pools – which may be a little inconvenient. There is a pedestrian overpass to get to the beach. The property has three restaurants, a dive shop and various other shops. The rooms were very nice. Some toward the rear of the hotel and the casitas have magnificent views of the jungle which cover most of the island.
Fiesta Inn: A popular choice amongst divers, this hotel is just on the edge of San Miguel. It is not an oceanfront hotel. The beach is accessed by a pedestrian underpass. This is a more moderately priced property than the Presidente or Fiesta Americana. The rooms were adequate, but could have used some updating. The pool here is reputed to Cozumel’s largest – a claim I don’t doubt. There is a small restaurant on property reminiscent of a Denny’s. If you don’t mind a little hustle/bustle (which on Cozumel is not much anyway) and you plan to spend a lot of time diving or at the pool, and you want to save a few dollars during your stay, this property is certainly good enough.
Plaza las Glorias: Across from the Fiesta Inn, this property is very similar in class to the Fiesta Inn. It is an oceanfront hotel with views that make for some good chillin’ out time. However, there is no beach here and the surf is rough for swimming. You’ll be better off at their small pool. For the same money, I’d stay at the Fiesta Inn.
Reef Club Beach Resort: The Reef Club is an all inclusive (including alcoholic beverages) low rise complex outside of San Miguel located on a nice beach. There are two pools here. Both are very active during the daytime. This property also has a Kid’s Club for children 4 – 12 years of age – nice when parents and kids need an occasional break from one another. The staff here works on a show and is involved with the guests. The restaurant and menu on site seemed adequate, but not spectacular – which is pretty typical for Cozumel. If you are looking for a place where you can pay one price and not worry about much else, the Reef Club should be considered.