Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Cozumel is regaining popularity as a digital nomad and expat hotspot. 10-20 years ago people only talked about Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Cozumel. Everybody talked about Cozumel and nobody knew about Playa del Carmen or Tulum. Even 30 years ago Canadians were buying vacation homes in Cozumel. Going a bit further back, the Mayans have long considered the island sacred. There are several Mayan ruins on the island. There are several decent coffee shops with wifi, good restaurants, and bars. You could spend a week here.
The economy of the island today is 100% dependent tourism. Cozumel is a major cruise ship port. Cozumel also has an airport and there are direct flights to Cozumel from Mexico City. There are hourly ferries to Playa del Carmen and Cancun. It is important to note that Cozumel is the island and San Miguel de Cozumel is the city. The city faces inwards to towards the mainland, facing Playa del Carmen. Cozumel is famous for the scuba diving and snorkling. The beaches in Cozumel are definitely good, but no better than Tulum or elsewhere on the mainland. People come to Cozumel specifically for the scuba, marine life and closer access to the coral reef.
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NOMAD & EXPAT COMMUNITY IN COZUMEL
Cozumel is very touristy. You are going to see a lot of foreigners here. You are also going to meet Mexicans from all over Mexico, who have come to live in the sunny Caribbean. There are retirees and gringo families that have maintained houses on the island for 20+ years. The expat crowd here is an older crowd than the expat crowd in Playa del Carmen. The cruise ships introduce a lot of people to the island. The ferries from Playa del Carmen and Cancun allow thousands of visitors to visit Cozumel every single day. People love coming to Cozumel as a day trip. After the last ferry back to Playa (around 10pm) you’ll notice that the town becomes much more tranquil. There is a fair amount of housing stock, and the city could actually sustain more growth without too many growing pains. There are also tons of foreigners working here in tourism, as scuba divers or on the cruise ships. Tons of Mexicans from Veracruz, Chiapas, and other states come to work here for better pay and a beachfront lifestyle.
WHERE TO STAY IN COZUMEL
In the center! Cozumel is sleepy enough that you won’t have issues with noise. You’ll want to be in a walkable area because the taxis can be infrequent. The best place to stay in Cozumel is close to the centro so that you can be close to the ferry, the restaurants, cafes, and culture.
WHEN TO VISIT COZUMEL
The best time of year to visit is between October and April. During this time you will experience drier, cooler weather that is much more tolerable. Cozumel is definitely a seasonal destination, with most people leaving in the summer. You will also be avoiding hurricane season and rainy weather. December to March is high season in Cozumel. That’s when Cozumel is liveliest. Prepare to book in well advance if you are coming in this time frame.
DAY TRIPS & THINGS TO DO IN COZUMEL
Go snorkling. This is an awesome activity because all you need is a $5 pair of goggles or snorkle. The snokling in Cozumel is amazing and you’ll be surprised at the colorful fish you’ll see as soon as you look underwater.
Visit Playa El Cielo, an amazing white sand beach at the southern point of the island. The water here is vividly clear and the location is endlessly instagrammable.
BEST CAFES & COWORKING IN COZUMEL
Cozumel has a surprisingly high number of good cafes for a city of its size. The community here is so accustomed to digital nomads and travelers that they know exactly what we need. You are for sure going to see other foreigners working remotely in the cafes.
Antique Coffee Shop: Bookstore vibes with good coffee and wifi.
COZ Coffee Roasting Company: Big space, free wifi and good prices.
The Coffee Cozumel: Popular spot with a huge menu.
Aqui + Ahora Coffee Bar: This place is legit. Great views of the water and great food.
Coco Cafe: Located out of town, this quiet cafe has wifi and great tables for getting work done.
BEST BARS & NIGHTLIFE IN COZUMEL
Cozumel is sleepy, but that doesn’t mean nothing is going on. You just have to find it. Cozumel receives a lot of visitors and everybody wants to go for a little drink. That being said, this isn’t a nightclub type of place. There aren’t many ‘stand-up’ bars for mingling. In Cozumel you have restaurants that stay open late for margaritas. You have a few watering holes. There’s a Señor Frogs.
Bars in Cozumel that My Latin Life recommends:
Cerveceria Punta Sur: Awesome bar, relaxed vibe. Pizza is good too. You can spend your whole night here.
Woody’s: The most legendary bar in Cozumel.
Agave Cocktail Bar: Upscale bar, good for dates.
No Name Bar: Good spot for day drinking, food, and a good place to sit down.
COST OF LIVING IN COZUMEL FOR NOMADS AND EXPATS
Cozumel is touristy but not very expensive relative to Playa del Carmen. Food is often cheaper here, but with more limited options. You can rent a place here for much less than in Playa del Carmen or Tulum. If you want to be in the Riviera Maya and be near the beach without breaking the bank, Cozumel is a good place to do it. The island’s economy is 100% based on tourism, and all of those workers live on the island. If you live and eat near the working Mexican population (it’s not that bad) you can live very cheap in Cozumel.
IS COZUMEL SAFE FOR NOMADS AND EXPATS?
Yes, Cozumel is safe for all travelers. Much safer than Playa del Carmen. I wouldn’t fall asleep on the beach here, but that’s pretty much it. In Cozumel you can walk around any time of night. It’s not that heavily policed on the island compared to the mainland, which is a good thing. Cozumel is a big island, almost six times larger than Roatan, Honduras. At the ferry terminals in Cozumel and Playa del Carmen, there are metal detectors and airport-like security before boarding the ferries.
HOW TO GET TO COZUMEL
Cozumel is a very well connected island. There are a lot of ways to get to Cozumel. The most common way might be by cruise ship! The second most common way to get to Cozumel is to take a ferry from Playa del Carmen. The ferry costs around $10 and takes only an hour. There is also a ferry directly from Cancun to Cozumel, which probably comes less frequently and is a longer journey by water. There is a small airport on Cozumel, with infrequent flights to CDMX in a scarily small plane. This plane is for the Mexico City upper class. Cozumel is also a major port for cruise ships, and the government is talking about building even more cruise ship ports.
IS COZUMEL OVERRATED?
At this point Cozumel is probably underrated. It went through a popularity cycle. In the competition for tourists and tourist dollars, Cozumel certainly lost ground to Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Cozumel is cool to visit if you visit by cruise ship. Cozumel is also a great day trip from Playa del Carmen There is some pretty cool activities you can do here. The vibe is chill as well and just feels right. Everyone you meet is in a good mood. The island has a certain calmness and zen to it.Cozumel is a large island and you can’t do it all in one day.
Cozumel is a great location for digital nomads and expats. Cozumel is a big, sacred island and everybody that comes here enjoys their time on the island. The population of expats and remote workers should continue to grow here. Digital nomads could spend a week or even a month here, but it probably too sleepy for most people. It’s a seasonal location that is best visited in the winter. That makes Cozumel an excellent location for retirees and older expats. The island is much safer than the mainland and really has everything you need. Cozumel only has around 100,000 people right now, but that number could easy 5x.