Cozumel vs Cancun: Best Vacation Spot in Mexico 2021

If you are trying to decide between Cozumel vs Cancun for your next vacation destination, there are a number of factors you should take into consideration. Although Cozumel and Cancun are located only 50 miles apart, the two municipalities are quite different, and the right choice for you will vary depending on what you want to do on your vacation. Here are the main factors you should take into consideration when deciding between Cozumel vs Cancun.


Cozumel vs Cancun - Diving Beach at Cozumel
Cozumel vs Cancun – A Diving Beach at Cozumel

Although Cozumel and Cancun are located in close proximity, there is a big difference between the major attractions in both locations. The main attractions on Cozumel are snorkeling and scuba diving. Cozumel is located right near the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which makes it one of the best diving destinations in the world. The vibrant reefs located just off the island are teeming with tropical fish, sea turtles, sharks, rays, and sponges. The island was said to be a favorite diving location of Jaques Cousteau, and remains extremely popular to this day among experienced divers and novices alike.

Although the island sees millions of tourists each year, it is less developed than Cancun, but it is still very far from “off the beaten path.” Divers who prefer secluded locations may be put off by the amount of tourists on the island. That being said, the popularity of the island means Cozumel has a lot to offer aside from diving, including a vibrant nightlife, great restaurants, museums, and shopping centers. 

The island is also home to numerous Mayan ruins, including the site at San Gervasio, which is the most famous on the island. Other attractions include Laguna Chankanaab and the National Marine Park, Punta Sur Eco Beach Park, and Stingray Beach.

The beaches on Cozumel are not the island’s main attraction, but it does have a number of white sand beaches surrounded by calm, turquoise water, which are perfect to relax on, especially after a long day of snorkeling, diving, or exploring.

The major attractions in Cancun, on the other hand, need no introduction. Cancun is famous around the world for its beautiful white sand beaches, non-stop nightlife, great food, and all-inclusive resorts.

The beaches in Cancun are widely regarded as among the nicest in the world, standing out even among Caribbean beaches. The long stretches of sandy beaches bordered by cool, turquoise water are perfect for swimming, relaxing, or strolling, and most of the most popular resorts in Cancun have direct beachfront access. 

Aside from the beaches, the biggest attraction in Cancun is the nightlife. Cancun is full of popular nightclubs and bars that cater to all ages, and are open until 4am or later. The nightlife makes Cancun an extremely popular destination among spring breakers and college students going on summer vacations.

Other popular activities in Cancun include watersports, like snorkeling, scuba diving, boating, parasailing, and fishing; visiting the local waterparks; golfing; TV tours; and going on day trips to the nearby Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá, El Meco, and El Rey.


Cozumel vs Cancun - Crown Paradise Club in Cancun
Cozumel vs Cancun – Crown Paradise Club in Cancun

One of the most important factors to take into account when considering Cozumel vs Cancun is the accommodations. The resorts in Cancun are hard to beat in terms of luxury. The most popular resorts are almost all located in a 15 mile strip known as the “hotel zone,” and all offer beachfront access, all-inclusive packages, and are close to the major shopping centers and other tourist attractions, including waterparks and spas. 

The area where Cancun is currently located was almost empty, with only a small fishing village of around 100 people living in the area in 1970. The 70s saw the Mexican federal government invest extensively in development of the area, constructing nine hotels, and contributing funds to develop the rest of what would become the city of Cancun. 

Because the city was built specifically to accommodate tourists, the resorts and hotels in Cancun have a long history of excellent service, and the city as a whole is designed for tourism, with easy access to all the major attractions right from the resorts. 

Historically, Cozumel has avoided much of the more tourist-friendly development that Cancun has seen, although this is changing, and today Cozumel does have a number of luxury all-inclusive resorts. 

The average hotel on Cozumel, however, is smaller and more bare-bones than the Cancun resorts. But don’t mistake that to mean the hotels are lacking in any way. Even the smaller Cozumel hotels are extremely luxurious, with beautiful suites that offer stunning views of the ocean, and include pools, beachfront access, and easy access to nearby restaurants, shopping, and bars.


Cozumel vs Cancun - A View From a Plane Flying into Cancun
Cozumel vs Cancun – A View From a Plane Flying into Cancun

Cozumel and Cancun are located in close proximity to each other, with Cozumel only about 50 miles south of Cancun. For this reason, there is no significant difference in terms of flight length, like there would be if you were considering resort cities on Mexico’s west coast. One thing to consider in terms of accessibility is the frequency of flights. Cozumel receives flights from many major US and Canadian cities, including Miami, Dallas, Denver, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, and Toronto, but Cancun receives flights much more frequently. 

One option for getting to Cozumel is to fly into Cancun, then take a bus to Playa del Carmen and take the ferry over to Cozumel. You can also land in Cancun, then take a flight in a small plane from Cancun airport to Cozumel, which takes about 15 minutes.


Cozumel vs Cancun - A Beach in Cozumel
Cozumel vs Cancun – A Beach in Cozumel

In general, Cancun is significantly more expensive than Cozumel. With more developed infrastructure, tourist attractions, and accommodations that consist mainly of large, all-inclusive resorts, Cancun can get very expensive, very quickly. Cancun is also the much more popular vacation destination, so competition drives up the price of everything, from accommodations, to restaurants, to the local attractions. On average, Cancun is the most expensive city in Mexico, and requires careful budgeting while planning a trip.

Cozumel, as the less popular tourist destination, is much less expensive than Cancun. The average vacationer can easily vacation at Cozumel for 3x cheaper than they would be able to at Cancun. Factoring in accommodations, food, activities, etc. Cozumel is significantly less expensive, but it is also important to take into account that Cancun’s more developed tourist infrastructure means it has more to do overall, so some travellers may feel that they get the better “bang for their buck” in Cancun.

The Bottom Line

Cozumel vs Cancun - A All-Inclusive Beach in Cozumel
Cozumel vs Cancun – An All-Inclusive Beach in Cozumel

When considering Cozumel vs Cancun for your next vacation, the main factors to consider are what you are interested in doing, what sort of accommodations you want to stay in, how accessible the area should be, and the cost.

If you are interested in snorkeling, scuba diving, experiencing nature, and avoiding the crowds and touristy atmosphere of Mexico’s major resort cities, Cozumel is the easy choice for you. If you prefer a vacation at an all-inclusive resort that gives you easy access to beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife, and great food, Cancun is the better choice. If budget is important, and you are looking to keep your vacation on the less-expensive side, Cozumel will generally be the better choice.

See Also: Cabo San Lucas vs Cancun 2021: Which Vacation Destination Should You Choose?

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