You’re dreaming of an escape to Mexico and you know you want to head to the Caribbean side, but you’re not sure whether to go to Cancun or Cozumel. You’re wondering, is Cancun better than Cozumel, or is Cozumel better than Cancun?
If this is you, you’ve come to the right place! In this comparison of Cancun and Cozumel, we’ll tell you all you need to know to help you choose the perfect spot for your couples’ trip or honeymoon in Mexico.
Both Cancun and Cozumel are gorgeous beach resort areas that offer a tropical vacation vibe. However, while they each have stunning white sands, dazzling turquoise water, tasty Mexican food, and great beach resorts, there are differences between Cozumel and Cancun.
Cancun is more developed, is famous for its party vibe, and can be crowded, while Cozumel is more remote, laidback, and quiet (although it still offers plenty to do).
Read on to learn more about these differences so you can decide for yourself which is better, Cozumel or Cancun.
Cancun vs. Cozumel: Location
Both Cancun and Cozumel are on the eastern, or Caribbean, side of Mexico. Cancun is located on the Yucatan Peninsula on Mexico’s mainland. Cozumel is an island in the Caribbean just off Mexico’s coast, south of Cancun and across from Playa del Carmen.
Is it easier to fly into Cancun or Cozumel?
It is easy to fly into both Cancun and Cozumel. However, you will find more direct flights into Cancun, and you’ll have an easier time getting to your hotel from the airport in Cozumel.
Because Cancun is a popular destination, you can find direct flights from most major U.S. cities including Miami, Los Angeles, Dallas, New York, and more. However, Cancun International Airport is inland from the Hotel Zone and it can take from 20 minutes to an hour to get to your hotel, depending on where you’re staying and traffic conditions. If your Cancun resort doesn’t offer transportation, taxis are expensive.
You can fly into Cozumel’s airport from many U.S. cities such as Atlanta, Detroit, and Chicago, or you can fly into Cancun and then take a connecting 15-minute flight to Cozumel. As Cozumel isn’t very large, it isn’t a long trip from the airport to your hotel.
Another option is to take a bus to Playa del Carmen and then a ferry to Cozumel, but this will take you about 2 ½ hours.
Cozumel vs Cancun: Weather
Both Cancun and Cozumel have tropical climates and great weather much of the year. During the dry season of December through April, average highs are around 82 degrees. There are about 250 sunny days a year.
The rainy season is May to October. High temperatures average around 88 degrees in the hottest month, which is June. Hurricane season in Cancun and Cozumel is from June to November.
Cancun vs Cozumel: Beaches
Cancun has beautiful soft white sandy beaches that stretch for 15 miles along the shore. Since this is where the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean meet, the water is warm, calm, and a vivid turquoise.
Cancun is a great place for those who enjoy swimming and water sports, but it can get crowded, especially in peak seasons like Spring Break. If you want a less crowded beach, you can try Playa Delfines south of the Hotel Zone. Playa Chac Mool is a great Cancun beach to rent paddleboards, kayaks, jetskis, and other watersports equipment if your resort doesn’t offer them.
Does Cozumel have nice beaches too? Yes, it does, although some beaches are a bit rockier than Cancun’s. Cozumel’s beaches are gorgeous and uncrowded, with pristine sand and palm trees. If you like peace and quiet on your beach vacation, Cozumel is the perfect choice for you.
The nicest beaches in Cozumel are on the western side of the island, where the water is calmer. There are some lovely beach clubs on this side that offer amenities like lounge chairs, watersports equipment, beach bars, swimming pools, and restaurants for an entry fee (although some beach clubs are free).
One of the best beach clubs in Cozumel is The Cabana Beach, which has 12 private luxury cabanas along the ocean. This is an excellent spot for snorkeling, as it’s in the Chankanaab Eco Park; guests here get complimentary snorkeling equipment.
Another great beach club in Cozumel is Paradise Beach Cozumel, which offers a huge swimming pool and beachfront restaurant plus watersports activities and fun toys like floating trampolines and inflatable water slides.
A beautiful unspoiled beach in Cozumel is Punta Sur Ecological Beach Park. Once you pay the inexpensive entrance fee to the park, you have access to a long stretch of white sand fronting sparkling turquoise water. You can swim or snorkel here, lie in the sun and relax, or explore the park’s protected lagoons and wildlife habitats. There are restaurants and lounge chairs on one part of the beach in case you get hungry or want some shade.
You can also take a short trip to an idyllic beach in Cozumel. Isla de Pasion is an island connected to Cozumel by a sand bridge that features swaying palm trees, lounge chairs and umbrellas, and a restaurant. You get here by taking a 45-minute boat ride from the Punta Langosta cruise terminal. If you make sure there aren’t any cruise ships docked when you go, you may have the place mostly to yourself.
Cancun vs. Cozumel: Diving and Snorkeling
Both Cancun and Cozumel offer good scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities. The world’s second-largest reef, the Mesoamerican Reef, lies offshore between the two. The difference between scuba diving in Cancun vs Cozumel is that Cozumel is closer to the reef, and Cozumel also offers plenty of other amazing scuba diving and snorkeling sites.
Another difference between Cancun and Cozumel is that you can snorkel from the beach in Cozumel.
Cozumel was called one of the world’s best places to dive by none other than Jacques Cousteau. The water around Cozumel has great visibility. You can see amazing coral and vibrant marine life all around and in Cozumel Reefs National Park.
Scuba divers can choose from a wide assortment of dive sites around Cozumel, including the Palancar Reef which has giant caverns you can swim through. Other excellent snorkeling and diving sites in Cozumel are Santa Rosa Wall, Colombia Shallows Reef, El Cielo, Villa Blanca Reef, Dzul Ha Reef, and Punta Sur Shallows, Two Boats, Chankanaab Park (which has two underwater sculptures), and Paradise Reef.
Cancun has interesting diving and snorkeling as well. In Cancun you can also explore the amazing Underwater Museum of Art, which features hundreds of huge statues; take a boat tour to snorkel with whale sharks; and swim or dive in cenotes, magical natural swimming holes that have formed in the jungle.
The water around Cancun and Cozumel is warmest from May to September, but even in the winter, it averages about 78 degrees.
Cancun vs. Cozumel Food
Cancun offers a wide assortment of cuisines throughout the hotel zone and the downtown area, including international, Mexican, Asian, seafood, steak, and more. Restaurants range from casual spots to fancier fine dining. Local spots open after 2 p.m. and serve meals until midnight.
While savoring Cancun’s cuisine, be sure to try typical food from the region, such as marquesitas, castacan, salbutes, and panuchos. As Cancun has tons of all-inclusive resorts, most hotels offer breakfast and lunch, and many have multiple restaurants to choose from onsite.
You can also find a range of restaurants in Cozumel, from casual spots serving authentic Mexican dishes and fresh seafood to innovative pizzas at a microbrewery to Italian specialties. If you visit Cozumel, you’ll want to sample local dishes like frijol con Puerco and papadzules. Restaurants in Cozumel are mostly found in the downtown San Miguel area, at resorts, or at beach clubs.
Cozumel vs Cancun: Resorts
There are more than 300 hotels in the Cancun area. The most popular place to stay in Cancun is in the Hotel Zone, a 15-mile area along the beach. There are all types of places to stay in Cancun, from small hotels to luxury all-inclusive resorts.
Beachfront resorts in the Hotel Zone can be quite expensive, but are usually all-inclusive. Less expensive hotels in Cancun can be found in the downtown area.
You can find luxury all-inclusive resorts in Cozumel as well, in addition to reasonably priced boutique hotels, traditional hacienda style hotels, villas, and dive resorts as well as budget hotels. Choose from beachfront, jungle, or in-town properties.
In both Cancun and Cozumel, you can also find Airbnb condos and apartments.
Cancun vs. Cozumel: Activities
While Cancun may be known for its beaches and nightlife, it is also close to some awe-inspiring cultural sites. The well-known ruins of Chichen Itza, which was the capital of Mayan civilization, are just 3 hours away for a great day trip. The ruins in Tulum (which are smaller but are beachfront) are 2 hours away, to the south.
Other activities in Cancun include visiting Isla Mujeres, going to the Xcaret adventure park, exploring the Nichupte Lagoon nature reserve, and ATV tours. You can also go snorkeling and scuba diving in Cancun. For shoppers, Cancun offers upscale shopping malls such as La Isla and Luxury Avenue.
In order to explore the Cancun area, you’ll need to either rent a car, take a taxi or bus, or book a tour. The Hotel Zone is about 15 minutes from the downtown area, and there can be a lot of traffic.
Cozumel is easy to get around with a rental moped, bike, or Jeep and you can explore some wild, remote spots of beach and jungle. You can also take a taxi if you prefer. The downtown area of San Miguel is easily walkable and offers interesting shops and restaurants to check out. As a less developed and less touristy spot, there’s a more authentic cultural vibe here.
Historic sites on Cozumel include the El Cedral Mayan ruins and the Zona Arquelogica San Gervasio, which has 9 temples connected by stone paths. And of course, probably the most popular activities in Cozumel are snorkeling and scuba diving. In addition to the amazing Mesoamerican Reef offshore, there are plenty of other great dive and snorkeling sites in Cozumel Reefs National Park such as Palancar Reef, Colombia Shallows Reef, El Cielo, and Paradise Reef.
Nightlife in Cancun vs. Cozumel
Cancun is famous for its nightlife, which is one of the reasons it’s so popular with Spring Breakers. An array of bars and clubs offer dancing and drinking all night long. You can also go on bar hopping tours. Coco Bongo, Señor Frogs, The City, and Mandala are some of the most popular nightclubs in Cancun.
Cozumel also has nightlife options, including a Señor Frogs, but it’s not as crowded. There are also some intimate and laidback cocktail lounges. Most of the clubs and bars in Cozumel are in downtown San Miguel. A fun thing to do in Cozumel is to go dancing at a salsa club.
When to visit Cozumel vs. Cancun
The best time to visit Cancun is between December and April, when weather is warm but not too hot. It’s a peak season so crowds will be larger and prices higher, but flights can be cheap. The dry season in Cancun is February through April.
Between mid-March and early April, Cancun is packed with tourists coming for Spring Break, so don’t travel here at that time if you want to avoid crowds. The cheapest time to visit Cancun is May to June or September to October. June, September, and October are the rainiest months in Cancun.
The best time to visit Cozumel is between March and June. The weather is warm and dry during these months. (The full dry season in Cozumel is January through April.) The rainy season in Cozumel is late summer and early fall. September and October are the rainiest months on Cozumel. Winter is peak season in Cozumel, so prices will be higher then, especially around Christmas.
Hurricane season in Cozumel and Cancun is June to November, so this is not the best time to visit either one. However, prices will be a lot lower during these months.
Which is more expensive Cancun or Cozumel?
While Cancun can offer some good deals, especially in the offseason, the rates at its luxury resorts can be quite high. Prices for meals, drinks, and activities in Cancun also tend to be higher than those in Cozumel (making it a great place to stay at an all-inclusive resort). If you are headed to Cancun for the nightlife, most clubs have sizeable cover charges.
Cozumel has luxury resorts as well, but rates tend to be less expensive than in Cancun. Overall, Cancun is usually more expensive than Cozumel.
So what do you think about Cancun vs. Cozumel? Is Cozumel worth visiting? Is Cancun the best destination for you? Let us know which one you choose in the comments below! (And if you just can’t choose, remember that you can stay at both Cancun and Cozumel in one trip, since they’re so close!)
If you chose Cancun, be sure to check out our articles on Cancun honeymoons and how to plan a Cancun destination wedding. If you chose Cozumel, check out our article on fun activities in Cozumel. Either way, we hope you enjoy your Mexican beach vacation or honeymoon!