COZUMEL TRAVEL GUIDE
Where to Stay - Click here for price key
For inexpensive accommodations a block from the beach, try Hotel Aguilar ($$, Calle 3 #98, tel. 987/872-0307). This downtown hotel is owned by one of Cozumel’s first families. There’s a pool and restaurant; rooms have a/c. Nothing fancy.
We absolutely loved our brief stay at Hotel B Cozumel ($$--$$$; Carretera Playa San Juan Km. 2.5, tel. 987/872-0300, www.hotelbcozumel.com). Opened in 2011 at Saasil Beach (north of downtown near the airport), this moderately priced low-rise faces a beautiful little cove. Its décor is modern and fresh; rooms with a/c have balconies facing the sea. Overlooking the ocean are a hot tub, infinity pool, open-air yoga space, and chairs for chilling or having a drink. Restaurant, bar, dive shop, yoga classes. When we stayed, internet signal was in the restaurant and lobby only.
An oceanfront all-inclusive that won’t break the bank, El Cid La Ceiba ($$$$; Carretera a Chankanaab Km. 4.5, tel. 987/872-0844 or toll-free in Mexico 01800/670-3277, www.elcid.com) has a swimming pool, sauna, Jacuzzi, dive center, and lighted tennis courts. European and breakfast-only plans are other options.
Golfers gravitate to Playa Azul ($$$$; Carretera San Juan Km 4, tel. 987/869-5160, www.playa-azul.com). The all-inclusive plan includes unlimited green fees, drinks, and buffet or a la carte meals; the European plan includes breakfast, but neither includes taxes. Not a bad bargain.
The elegant Cozumel veteran, Presidente InterContinental ($$$$; in the southern hotel zone, just north of Parque Chankanaab, tel. 01800/904-4400 in Mexico, www.intercontinentalcozumel.com) was totally restored and renovated after Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Contemporary furnishings and all the trimmings of a five-star resort property, with dive shop.
Where to Eat - Click here for price key
According to our well-informed local guide, the island’s best bakery is Panaderia Zermat, at Calle 4 Norte at Avenida 5 Norte.
Open after 6PM, El Pique ($--$$, Ave. 30 between Calles 2 and Juárez, by the gas station) specializes in pork and beef tacos, quesadillas, and other snacks.
Locals and visitors fill Restaurant Museo de Cozumel ($$, Ave. Rafael E. Melgar between Calles 4 and 6 Norte, three blocks from the ferry landing, tel. 987/872-0838) for breakfast and early lunch.
Coconuts ($$$, windward side at Km 43.5, on the bluff above Playa Chumul) is open between about 10AM and sunset. With great views and breezes, this casual venue offers seafood cocktails, Mexican dishes, burgers, and snacks, as well as a bar with mixed drinks and cold beer.
Frequented by locals, tourists, politicians, and allegedly, the occasion movie star, the absolutely unassuming El Moro ($$--$$$, Calle 75 Bis Norte #124 between Calles 2 and 4, tel. 987/872-3029) has been around forever and serves a variety of seafood, Mexican, and international dishes. Closed Thursdays, otherwise open after 1PM.
Another island icon is Pepe’s Grill ($$$, Ave. Rafael E. Melgar at Adolfo R. Salas, tel. 987/872-0213) for steaks, seafood, and other international and Mexican dishes. Diners are serenaded with romantic music most evenings.
La Mission ($$$, Ave. Rafael E. Melgar at Adolfo R. Salas, www.lamissioncozumel.com) is an established restaurant serving Mexican snacks and entrees, including seafood. You can get the surf-and-turf with potatoes or rice. Open daily 4 to 11PM.
What to Do
Cozumel Museum (Ave. Rafael E. Melgar between Calles 4 and 6 Norte, three blocks north of the ferry landing and main plaza), has interesting displays of island history, geology, and ecology. Open daily 9 to 5. Its restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch, 8AM to 2PM.
At US$12 per person, entrance to Punta Sur and Faro Celarain (Carretera Costera Sur Km. 27) seems a bit steep to cheapskates like me. But the beach is beautiful and you’ll see various ecosystems, including mangroves, lagoons, beaches, and reefs. Admission price includes a visit to the old lighthouse museum. Guides can be hired ahead of time or on site for snorkeling or kayaking trips or other activities. A car is handy for exploring the area. Open daily 9 to 4.
Frequented mainly by cruise ship passengers, Isla de la Pasión (www.isla-pasion.com) is actually a peninsula on the leeward side of the island. This private retreat features a Mexican buffet with open bar under an open-air palapa at the shore. Guests can play volleyball, shop for souvenirs, take a walk along the beach, swim, peddle a paddle boat, or just recline in a hammock with a cool drink in hand. Massage available at additional cost.
San Gervasio Archaeological Site (Carretera Transversal Km. 7.5) does not compare to mainland archaeological sites, but it’s an interesting intro to Maya history. Open daily 8 to 4.
For movies, visit Cinépolis six-plex (at Plaza Chedraui, Ave. Rafael E. Melgar #1001, between Calles 15 and 17 Sur, tel. 987/869-0799, www.cinepolis.com.mx), about eight blocks south of the main plaza.
The island’s simple but charming main church, la Parroquia San Miguel, is located at Avenida 10 at Ave. Juárez (tel. 987/872-1087).
Parque Chankanaab (Carretera Costera Sur Km. 9) is situated on a gorgeous lagoon. Rent snorkel or dive gear and explore the rocky shoreline, see manatees and sea lion shows or just swim in the pool or lie on the beautiful beach ordering drinks and snacks. Activities with extra price tag include SNUBA diving and interacting with dolphins at Dolphin Discovery (toll free in Mexico 01800/713-8862, www.dolphindiscovery.com). Open daily 9 to 5.
For diving and snorkeling adventures, contact Aqua Safari (www.aquasafari.com).
Hit the links at the Cozumel Country Club (Carretera Costera Norte Km. 6.5, tel. 987/872-9570, www.cozumelcountryclub.com.mx), an 18-hole, 72-par course designed by Jack Nicklaus.
You’ll find chain restaurant-bars like Carlos’n Charlie’s, Hard Rock Café and Señor Frogs plus some homegrown places to relax or get up and dance. Locals recommended La Abuelita (popular with both locals and tourists, and serving good micheladas); La Palapita (for salsa dancing); and Room Service: a dance club with electronic and Latino music.
Tiki Tok (Facing the water between Calles 2 and 4, second floor, tel. 987/869-8119, www.tikitokcozumel.com) has food (Italian, international, and Mexican) as well as drinks and on weekends, a live salsa band for dancing.
Dubai (Ave. Rafael E. Melgar at Calle 11) is open Thursday through Sunday 10PM to 5AM. Their Facebook page advertises loud music: house, electronic, rock, hip hop, salsa and Mexican ballads, with intervals of karaoke.
Facing the waterfront, Avenida Rafael E. Melgar is Cozumel’s shopping street. Boutiques, jewelry stores, and souvenir shacks line the street both north and south of the main plaza. The town market is found at Calle Adolfo R. Salas between Avs. 20 and 25 Sur.
Cinco Soles (Facing the water at Calle 8 Norte, tel. 987/872-0132, www.loscincosoles.com) has been around forever and has a good selection of quality folk art. They have shops at the cruise ship piers also.
Ron Jon’s Surf Shop (Ave. Rafael E. Melgar at Calle 4 Norte) has quality ball caps, flip flops, and T-shirts that make good souvenirs.
Near the international cruise ship piers, Punta Langosta Shopping Center (Ave. Rafael E. Melgar #599, www.centrocomercial-puntalangosta.com.mx) has fast-food restaurants, clothing boutiques, and high-end jewelry stores.
The Tourism Office (Upstairs at Plaza del Sol, Ave. 5 between Calle 1 Sur and Calle Juárez, at the main plaza, tel. 987/869-0211 or 987/869-0212) is open weekdays 8-3. Booths at the ferry landing and elsewhere in town give out official tourist information.
The island’s official website is www.cozumel.travel.
Getting There, Getting Around
In the downtown area, streets parallel to the water are called Avenidas and those that cross them (perpendicular to the ocean) are called Calles. Calles south of the square are marked “Sur” (South); those to the north are labeled “Norte.”
Passenger ferries make hourly crossings from Cozumel’s downtown pier across from the main plaza to Playa del Carmen. Two different ferry lines alternate days, and you cannot use a ticket purchased by one line on the other. Therefore it’s usually best to purchase the ticket the day you plan to use it. At this time the first ferry leaves Playa del Carmen at 6AM and the last sailing is at 10PM. For more info contact Water Jets (tel. 987/872-1508) or Ultramar (tel. 987/869-3223, www.granpuerto.com.mx).
To bring your personal vehicle (not a rental car), use Trans del Caribe (at Puerto de Calica, Punta Venado, 15 minutes south of Playa del Carmen on the Riviera Maya, www.transcaribe.net). There are usually four departures per day and travel time is about 1.5 hours.
Cozumel’s small regional airport can be reached at tel. 987/872-0485 or 987/872-2081. Mayair has one or two flights per day to Merida for less than US$100.
Airlines serving Cozumel include:
American Airlines: tel. 987/878-4310
Continental: tel. 987/872-5995
Delta: tel. 987/869-0287
Interjet: tel. 987/872-3716
MAYAir: tel. 987/872-1595, www.mayair.com.mx
United Airlines: tel. 987/869-0682
Taxis Taxi stands are located at the cruise ship piers, the ferry landing, and other strategic locations around town. Hailing a taxi is a snap, too. To call a taxi, dial 987/872-0041 or 987/872-0236. For limo or taxi service, contact Taxi Cozumel (tel. 987/872-1130, www.taxicozumel.com).
There are car rental agencies on the island, as well as places to rent motorcycles, golf carts, and scooters near the main plaza. Tropical Rent (Ave. Rafael E. Melgar Km. 2.9, tel. 987/872-6555), next to the OXXO, rents cars, jeeps, and motorbikes.