Cozumel features great diving, snorkeling and beaches, marine-life encounters, botanical gardens, trails and shopping in the town of San Miguel. The nearby mainland is home to Tulum, Mayan cliffside ruins overlooking the Caribbean.
Cozumel , should not be compared to Cancun, the splashy resort just 40 mi/65 km to the north and one of its nearest neighbors. In the past, Cozumel had a laid-back, sedate atmosphere, and its superior fishing, snorkeling and diving gave it a definite edge.
Today, Cozumel retains its unique vibe and remains a better choice for those who don't like planned resorts, but the island is no longer an escapist's paradise. The snorkeling, diving and fishing are still great, but no one would mistake present-day Cozumel for the sleepy backwater it once was.
One reason is cruise ships. Cozumel is the most popular cruise stop in Mexico and can host as many as four large ships simultaneously. When more than one ship looms on the horizon, Cozumel's restaurants, bars and shops fill with day-trippers. Everyone, from shopkeepers to bartenders, gets a bit stressed by the crowds.
Still, Cozumel can be fun, especially for travelers interested in exploring its coral reefs on scuba and snorkeling outings. The island's only town, San Miguel, has retained much of its pleasant, small-town atmosphere. Those with enough time for a day trip will find the Mayan ruins of Tulum and Chichen Itza, on the Yucatan mainland, within striking distance.
Don't miss the opportunity to explore the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Tulúm, majestically perched above the turquoise Caribbean. The site was occupied as far back as 600 A.D. However, it was most densely populated around 1200 A.D. You will be struck by the pyramid-shaped El Castillo, which dominates the city from atop a forty-foot cliff. The nearby Temple of the Descending God provides equally excellent insight into the architecture of the Mayan people, who gained considerable achievements in the arts and sciences, only to decline and vanish for no apparent reason.
Regarded as the "St. Thomas of the Western Caribbean," Cozumel has become one of the world's best duty-free shopping ports. Cozumel offers unbelievable prices on diamonds, colored gemstones, jewelry, watches, gold, sterling silver, and even Oriental rugs as well as Mexican housewares and handicrafts. You can find designer jewelry pieces and watches from C2K, Caribbean Hook, Honora, House of Tanzanite, John Hardy, Kabana, La Nouvelle Bague, Starnight, White Diamonds, Cartier, Concord, Maurice Lacroix, Michele, Movado and more.
Mexico's currency is the peso (MXN). The $ sign is used to refer to pesos, so don't be shocked at the price tags. Any prices in U.S. dollars are listed as US$ or USD. Many hotels, restaurants and shops also accept major credit cards, which usually offer you a good exchange rate.