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Cozumel and Playa del Carmen

Cozumel is a Caribbean island near the eastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula in southeastern Mexico. It has great beaches and it is a popular cruise ship port of call famous for its scuba diving along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.

Cozumel is the largest island in the Mexican Caribbean; it has approximately 100,000 inhabitants. Cozumel is about 28 kilometers (17 miles) from Playa del Carmen on the mainland. It takes approximately 40 minutes to go by ferry from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel.

Cozumel map

If you are staying in Cancun, you can book a tour to Cozumel that includes either snorkeling or a ride on a glass-bottom boat. The tour will usually include lunch after the boat ride and some free time to explore the island.

View from the ferry terminal
View of Cozumel from the ferry terminal

Touring Cozumel on a horse buggy
Touring Cozumel on a horse carriage

Cozumel is a small island with a width of 15 kilometers (9 miles) and a length of 44 kilometers (27 miles). The city of San Miguel, where most of the population lives, has an area of only 4 by 4 kilometers.

Maya Memorial
Monuments in Cozumel celebrate Mayan culture

Cozumel has been developed largely as a tourist destination, but it was occupied by the Maya in pre-Hispanic times. The name Cozumel means island of swallows. There are still remnants of some small Mayan temples on the island, but many of them were destroyed by hurricanes and twentieth century urbanization. Two Category 5 hurricanes struck Cozumel directly in 2005.

Main Street in Cozumel
Main Street in San Miguel de Cozumel

Many resort towns in Mexico have establishments that cater to American tourists. Cozumel is no exception. The main street in San Miguel has a Hard Rock Cafe and a Starbucks, but as shown on the photo above, you can also see street vendors selling corn on the cob from their tricycles.

Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular activities in Cozumel
Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular activities in Cozumel

The reefs near the shores of Cozumel harbor many species of tropical fish. The clear shallow water allows divers to see the variety of creatures that live among the coral. The cruise ships that anchor here allow the passengers to participate in snorkeling and scuba diving activities.

Some tours to Cozumel include lunch
Some tours to Cozumel include lunch

The tour that I booked included lunch at La Mission. This turned out to be a nice Mexican restaurant with a live marimba band and very tasty fajitas garnished with refried beans, rice and guacamole.

Fajitas - sliced skirt steak stir fried with peppers and onions

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is a beach town with about 150,000 inhabitants located 1 hour south of the Cancun International Airport. It is the main stopping point for passengers who take the ferry service to Cozumel. The main area for tourist activity, La Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue), is a long pedestrian walkway a few blocks from the beach with hundreds of shops, bars, restaurants and small hotels. People who want to get away from the big resorts in Cancun come here to enjoy a slower pace of life.

Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen - turquoise seas and white sand beaches.

Playa del Carmen bronze monument
Playa del Carmen bronze monument

The city of Playa del Carmen unveiled a beautiful bronze monument in December 2012 to commemorate the end of a Mayan Calendar cycle. The structure is entitled Portal Maya (Mayan Gateway) and portrays a man and a woman holding hands while being pushed upwards by a spiral of wind and water.

International shopping at Playa del Carmen
International shopping at Playa del Carmen

Although Playa del Carmen maintains the reputation of a small fishing village, it has very sophisticated shopping centers.

Shrimp coctail
Shrimp cocktail in spicy sauce with cilantro

There are some nice seaside restaurants where you can enjoy the sea breeze and a nice meal with many special seafood dishes, such as octopus.

Grilled octopus
Grilled octopus

Excursions and Tours to Isla Mujeres

© Copyright  - Antonio Zamora

Cabo San Lucas
Chichen Itza
Isla Mujeres
Puerto Vallarta