Top 15 Dos and Don’ts for Cozumel, Mexico
1. Rent a scooter to tour the reef side & the ‘wild side’ of the island.
Drive it around the road that encircles the island so you see both the reef-side (the inhabited eastern side) and the ‘wild side’ (the western side of the island that faces the ocean where crazy waves and riptides crash into cliffs and blowholes). The wild side is a long stretch, broken only by a few beach bars (be sure to stop) and a restaurant/hotel called Coconuts.
2. Rent a bicycle
And ride it around the Ironman bike trail (in the photo above) that circles the island (it foll ows the road). Only do this if you’re in great shape and can handle the heat…
3. Snorkel or scuba.
Pay for one of the tours that takes you to Palancar Reef, Columbia Reef & El Cielo (a shallow sand bar out from shore where lots of star fish hang out). There are some party tours, and most provide booze and food.
4. Snorkel Dzul Ha.
Stop along the road at Money Bar Beach Club and push out from the dock. You can snorkel lots of shallow coral formations from the shore, then get out and grab a beer. You also can snorkel some formations out from Paradise Beach, if you wake up and get there before the throngs of people arrive.
5. Stay until dark on the ‘wild side’
You won’t regret hanging out here at one of the beach bars until sunset. Caveat: Don’t do this on a scooter, because driving at night on a scooter isn’t a great idea – take a taxi to the wild side then walk until you hit a bar for sunset. Usually a local that works at one of the beach bars will offer to give you a ride back to the east side for a fixed price that is cheaper than a taxi (they will often provide local tips and booze on the ride as well).
6. Hang out at Palancar Beach.
It is the most beautiful beach on the island (IMHO). You can walk down the beach past the bar where there is nothing but jungle on your left and clear Caribbean sea on your right. Plus the place has a bunch of wild peacocks… You can also rent kayaks, jet skis and other fun water toys there (you could even try to reach Palancar reef on them…).
7. Don’t search for local food.
It will probably make you sick (even the locals say it makes them sick occasionally).
8. Don’t pack nice clothes.
You will spend most of your time wet from the sea, your sweat and rain. Beach clothes work everywhere.
9. Take water shoes.
You will want these everywhere. You’re swimming in coral reefs…
10. Take goggles.
The water is extremely clear everywhere but the wild side. You definitely want to see all the cool things swimming around you.
11. Take a hat and very high SPF sunblock (and sun clothes).
The sun is intense – to state the obvious.
12. Take a bag for coral when walking the wild side (Editor’s note: I wrote this before the reefs were in as much danger as they are now, so perhaps skip this tip or take sparingly…).
It’s the coolest souvenir you’ll find and giant chunks of it are all through the rocky shore.
13. Wake up early; go to bed early.
For most of the year, the sun rises around 5 AM and sets close to 5 PM. Get up and moving – you can start drinking at 9 AM. Don’t waste precious daylight sleeping.
14. Go into the city and take free beers.
Most places along the main strip offer free beer if you go inside and check out their goods (or a shot). Take advantage, at least once!
15. Do one (or more) longer trek(s).
Depending on how long you have in Cozumel, you should check out some of the more difficult to reach places. You can:
- Rent a car and explore the Mayan ruins in the center of the island (be forewarned – the jungle dirt road to them is long, full of potholes and floods quickly);
- Take a boat or attempt to drive or hike out to Punta Sur (most rentals say you forfeit your insurance if you drive to Punta Sur), the tip of the island with a lighthouse and unspoiled beach;
- Take a jungle tour to modern day Mayan-like colonies; or
- Take a boat to tour a pearl farm…
These are only four of the many options!